by George Nott

CIO50 2017 #20: Francoise Russo, Toll Group

Nov 21, 2017
Technology Industry

Toll is seven months into a three year transformation of its IT strategy and operating model. Grappling with a large, complex legacy environment the IT function was falling short in delivering the level of services our business needed to compete on a global scale.

The logistics industry is changing. With the rise of new market entrants and rapid advances in technology, the company knew its IT function needed to rapidly step up and partner with the business if Toll was to remain competitive. The Toll 2020 strategy identifies IT as a key business enabler, and the success of the strategy requires IT to operate in a different way.

Francoise Russo joined the company in August last year following seven years with British American Tobacco. Her effect on the company has been huge.

In September 2016, with the support of the Toll executive leadership team, Russo began a complete rethink of the IT function, what it does and how it could best deliver maximum value to the organisation.

Work commenced with the development of an IT strategy and design of a new global IT operating model. The objectives were to stabilise the IT foundations to simplify, standardise and improve Toll’s IT landscape and to implement building blocks for transformation to deliver a higher level of value to the customer.

Now a three-year, $420 million investment in technology covering seven ten programs of work that will transform everything from Toll’s core systems to its customer-facing channel has begun, in what Michael Byrne, managing director Toll Group has called “Toll’s largest ever investment and single biggest endeavour in technology”.

Key changes already undertaken include the significant re-structuring of the IT function, centralisation of core global IT capabilities, and refreshing the existing talent pool. More than 60 per cent of the IT leadership team has been replaced this year alone.

To date these changes have enabled a reduction in duplication, the implementation of a standard set of IT offerings, and improvements in service provision. Additional changes will focus on defining a pipeline of value adding technology investments, implementing global technology solutions and improving Toll’s customer offering.

This is not the first time Toll has attempted to transform its IT function. Previous efforts had, by the company’s own admission had “mixed results”. Lessons learned from the previous transformation attempts have been applied to the new transformation journey, the current IT transformation program is widely supported by Toll and has delivered significant progress to date.

As important as the technology is, it is people that will make the transformation a success, Russo says.

“People, not technology are the most important factor to delivering an effective and relevant IT function. A shared vision, personal engagement and connecting to the business are what makes a successful CIO and should not be compromised by delivering technology for technology’s sake,” she adds.

Warehouse of the future

As well as the restructure and continual maintenance of its legacy environment, the company continues to innovate in its ways of working and technology offerings.

Toll is establishing four Centres of Excellence covering digital and e-commerce, customer solutions, BI and analytics, and integration and internet of things (IoT). The centres are designed to explore opportunities to “exploit and harness the benefits from areas of technology that Toll has not traditionally invested in,” Russo explained.

The centres are already having an impact with two innovative programs underway.

Located in Singapore, 3km from the new Tuas Port, which in 2027 will consolidate all of the country’s current container operations in one terminal, Toll City is the company’s flagship warehousing facility, designed to accommodate industry specific technologies and automation for safer, more secure and faster throughputs and increased productivity.

Toll IT implemented a range of semi and fully automated technologies including warehouse mobile computing, pick-to-light, carton flow and routing, voice picking, intelligent building management and security systems.

“The combined focus on established and emerging supply chain solutions has enabled Toll to better collaborate with clients to deliver customised, efficient technology solutions and to easily scale to meet changing customer needs,” Russo said.

“Toll City reflects the increasing convergence between IT and OT (operating technology). By combining these technologies, Toll IT is able to support core logistics business functions and deliver data-driven insights to achieve effective business decision making and improve the customer experience.”

A pilot is also underway which provides employees with wearable technologies and a gamified health app aimed at identifying the connections between health and well-being, and safety – part of a broader initiative to achieve zero fatalities by 2020.

Following the completion of the program the biometric data collected was analysed to explore the connection between rest and mood and safety incidents, the impact of sleep and activity patterns on the overall health and wellbeing and the effect of coaching in mindfulness on better management of distraction.

“Implementing pockets of innovation such as the technologies deployed at Toll City and rapidly trialling new technologies such as wearables provides the opportunity to test new technologies and demonstrate their value before they are rolled out to a wider user base,” Russo explained.