by Jennifer O'Brien

CIO50 2017 Ones to Watch: William Payne

Nov 21, 2017
Technology Industry

Boral CIO William Payne is astutely concerned about the customer. With only eight months under his belt at Boral, Payne has helped the company move the company’s IT support into the “current century”, according to divisional chief executive, Joe Goss.

“From the first day that he arrived in the business he started talking with everyone about ‘customer,’” Goss says. “The funny thing was that he was not talking about internal customers but he was talking about the customers that actually buy our products and services. This came as a shock to my leadership team because we have a long history of being good at making things. Why is the IT guy interested in the customer if it is not important to us?”

With a view to maximising value to the customer, Payne moved the old IT systems (now called the Boral Digital Solutions) to an agile platform for working.

Having joined Boral in January 2017, the initial months of his CIO tenure has been focused on transforming the underperforming traditional ‘ICT’ function into a future-ready digital capability. He says this has been achieved through a complete redesign and reimplementation of the IT organisation from the top down.

“The structure has been flattened and approach changed to be outcome orientated, every role has been redesigned, a new leadership team installed (50 per cent of which are new external hires), a ‘spill and fill’ recruitment campaign launched, a migration to 100 per cent agile/devops started, and an accompanying culture code developed,” he says.

Additionally, he has developed a new digital strategy that has been endorsed by the organisation from the board down. Two of the three core outsourcing contracts have been renegotiated to align with the future strategy.

Meanwhile, implementation has commenced on new cloud-native platforms for application integration, content management, workforce productivity, application design, CPQ, and IoT. As well, new core partnerships with digital-native organisations have been established to support the execution of the digital strategy. “Boral’s IT capability, now rebranded ‘Boral Digital Solutions’ is well established on the pathway to execute on both the business strategy including its respective digital agenda,” he says.

“The transformation has required extensive engagement across all levels of the business from the board to front line operations in order to sell the future capability and our teams ability to deliver it. This included breaking down significant barriers that had been established between the business and IT over a number of years. Extensive, open and honest dialogue was key both within the IT team and across the business stakeholders.”

With the foundation platform for true digital innovation well established, he said work is now underway on a number of key strategic projects mostly utilising machine learning and IoT.

“These include manufacturing plant optimization (efficiency, asset management) through IOT and advance cloud analytics (partnering with startups), safety hazard reduction through deep analytics, customer experience enhancement through mobile applications. The pace of additional projects will be increasing rapidly in the next six months as the agile delivery approach delivers iterative improvements across the business at speed.”

Lessons learned

Payne, who has worked with outstanding business leaders all over the world and admits he has faced many challenges along the way, says his biggest lesson learned is that business engagement, at all levels of the organisation, is critical to making a difference.

“This is not just meetings and presentations, but relentless site visits and face to face discussions that are focused on understanding the challenges and opportunities from their perspective, and critically their customers perspectives. Understanding technology is a given, understanding where it can add real business value is the key and this only comes from deeply understanding your business and its customers.”

Jennifer O’Brien