Having the right level of paranoia helps keep the focus on the right things, is what Caltex Australia CIO Viv Da Ros believes.
Da Ros said he adopted the underlying mantra of the need to be paranoid in the role of CIO after reading Intel’s founder and former CEO Andy Grove’s book Only the Paranoid Survive.
“Thinking the worst and ensuring mitigation actions are in play during a crisis are two lessons I have learnt from experience,” says Da Ros.
“I am a strong believer in having the right people in the right roles. It keeps the IT train on track.
“My professional successes have been enjoyed from having the right people ‘on the bus and in the right seats’ and I believe the IT team I am surrounded by at Caltex are all on the right bus.”
Da Ros joined Caltex in December 2016 and has since focused on implementing three types of innovation: mindset, physical and product.
Within mindset innovation is ensuring Caltex’s business partners can trust the business, particularly when it comes to cyber security.
To achieve that, Da Ros introduced CalSec into the enterprise technology team. CalSec is combined into the Integration Centre of Excellence (ICoE), which drives secure, timely and sufficient data services across Caltex’s entire IT landscape.
“Our business partners need to know they can trust us and increasingly cyber security is a key part of that,” he tells CIO Australia.
CalSec also integrates into Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which has helped drive operational efficiencies and data accuracy and integrity across the business.
“In the past two years we have introduced 29 robotic process automations into Caltex, which deliver efficiency through automating high volume, repeatable, clerical work that frees up our human workforce to focus on more value-add tasks,” Da Ros says.
Fuel pricing data transfers have also been completely overhauled, enabling price changes to be applied faster.
On the physical innovation, one of the initiatives set specifically to attract the right digital talent include the 2018 launch of C-lab. Located in the Sydney Start-up Hub, C-lab is the home of Caltex’s digital team and has the intent to deliver innovative solutions focused on customer experience and operational efficiency. C-lab allows for Caltex’s IT team and business to launch digital initiatives.
There were some challenges that followed as this is a separate office to Caltex’s but Da Ros says the distance has been overcome “by living the Caltex values of ‘connect to win’ and ‘find new ways’”.
The space has also been used to host innovation sessions which are open for all staff as well as for workshops with different teams and divisions across Caltex.
These initiatives have supported Da Ros’ team to deliver product innovation together with Caltex’s business partners. One example is the FuelPay app, described by him as “the first” implementation of number plate recognition for fuel payments in Australia, which includes a self-checkout function for fuel and product and partner fuel discount platforms.
Another solution is its DaRE (data and reporting enablement) platform supporting Caltex’s data integrity. The platform has also helped to develop the capabilities of the teams and new skills.
“Our ability to move quickly to prototype and trial has meant that our internal customers can see the product and have assurance in our integrity of delivery,” says Da Ros.
Other changes under Da Ros’ leadership include a test lab launched in the Caltex head office in September 2018, centralising test teams into one location and placing them close to developers and testers and closer to customers.
“Both the C-lab and the test lab are examples of physical innovation, creating operational and cultural changes to the ways of working, especially around having a higher focus on agile, human-centred design.”
Innovation ideas are not only locally driven, according to Da Ros, who says his experience living in Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Mumbai and Jakarta, on top of working in 18 countries in the past 19 years, also helps.
As a member of the business leadership team, Da Ros also has the privilege to participate in “innovation visits” with the Caltex board and leadership team to China and Israel.
Leading a team of more than 100 people is not a simple task – that’s why Da Ros ensures continuous coaching opportunities.
He also explains that, as a member of the executive leadership team, he has regular opportunities to present, collaborate and discuss with peers on how technology can play an enabling role to deliver greater business value in Caltex’s operational businesses.
“Through monthly IT forums, senior leadership forums and senior leadership meetings, I actively participate in company events to ensure our employees are knowledgeable, empowered and excited about the IT journey that Caltex is undertaking.”
“Within my own team, I engage in continuous coaching – always driving the team to be the best they can be. In the wider Caltex group, I am a contributor to Career Tracker and graduate trainee programs,” Da Ros says.
“I am a firm believer in creating great leaders out of my staff by continually providing coaching, feedback, different perspectives and opportunities for them to stretch their capabilities to uncharted territory.”
This leads back to Da Ros first thoughts on having a little bit of paranoia and also having the right people as part of his team.
“Once you achieve the right people in the right seats, you can empower people to do what they were employed to do, as opposed to employing people and then telling them how to do their roles,” says Da Ros.
“Thinking back on my career as a CIO, another piece of advice is to leave egos at the door. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your role is, what is most important is that you are treated (and treat others) like a human being with trust and respect.”