by Byron Connolly

CIO50 2017 #26-50: Kevin O’Hara, Tulla Private Equity Group

Nov 21, 2017
Technology Industry

Kevin O’Hara once developed a large enterprise risk and compliance management system that streamlined processes for clients, optimised data efficiency, and provided a massive return on investment.

“But it actually, at least in the early stages of the project, increased the amount of work that they actually did,” says O’Hara. “As the CEO, I was largely focused on the delivery of the system and did not take as much time as I should have to work with staff on the internal side of the project.

“The end result was that we delivered an amazing software platform for our clients but the staff internally disliked the new business processes that were required to run the system, which in turn, created a number of human resource and performance management issues for the business. Rather than embrace the system and speak highly of the software, when questioned about the platform, certain members of staff felt that it was a waste of time and that the original process was better and more efficient,” he says.

Trying to tell an organisation what system they need and then trying to implement it will almost always fail if key stakeholders are not engaged from the beginning, says O’Hara.

“For a digital transformation project to be a success, you must ask the stakeholders what efficiencies they think they need and then proceed to assist them in identifying and developing the solution as a team.”

These are key lessons O’Hara has certainly applied to his role as group chief information officer investment group, Tulla.

Over the past year, O’Hara has led technology programs across the group’s portfolio of investments. Of particular note was the creation of a heterogenous cloud-based enterprise data warehouse for Australia’s longest operating gold mine.

This project involved classifying, digitising and migrating 85 years worth of historic mining site records – sitting in a range of disparate systems and locations – to the cloud and then creating a data warehouse to optimise production analysis, decision support, and data query/analysis functionality.

The core objectives of this data warehouse project were to reduce the costs of managing numerous systems, improve access to data globally, ensure valuable IP was preserved, and improve querying and analysis capabilities of data using business intelligence tools.

Structurally, the vast array of data sources was massive and literally meant O’Hara and his team had to audit and assess every component of the organisation – from online systems to data warehouses and onsite storage containers. Several consultants and contractors were asked to assist, as well as a dedicated project management team.

“The project was also very demanding in terms of hours that it required. As we were also running and managing an operational mine site, the ability to assess various systems then extract and transform data, and load it into a new system had to be managed in line with the operational requirements of the numerous onsite departments,” he says.

“We could not simply extract data from a live ERP system. We were required to actually have planned outages for a number of systems to achieve the objective. This was carefully managed with the onsite steering committee and also through executive level buy in to the project.”

New accelerator helps early stage startups

Tulla has created an early stage accelerator for technology startups. The group has grown from a few hundred members to around 2000 with some startups receiving recognition through the Jobs for NSW program, investment from angel and venture capital investors, and corporate partners.

O’Hara is also group general manager of new digital advisory, Techwitty, which specialises in digital development, growth hacking, and creating go-to-market strategies for tech startups.

“This advisory incorporates a range of highly innovative techniques to assist entrepreneurs to gain traction with their online products, extract and harness data from their customers using machine learning,” says O’Hara.

“We also use social listening technologies, neat neural networks and pixel technology to identify, track, score, and leverage trends within the various contexts of their go-to-market strategies.

“What is unique about what we are doing is that we are investing significantly in the education and advising of early stage businesses in the hope of creating long-term relationships. We are using advanced technologies to assist our clients and leveraging global relationships with partners such as AWS to benefit members and clients, which builds trust,” says O’Hara.

Byron Connolly