by Byron Connolly

CIO50 2019: #26-50 Oliver Schmill, Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific

Nov 14, 2019
Technology Industry

Mercedes-Benz Australia
Credit: Mercedes-Benz Australia

Over the past five years as chief information officer at Mercedes-Benz Australia and Pacific, Oliver Schmill has transformed the IT organisation’s role from a mere service provider into a highly integrated and consulted business partner.

He led the transformation of a traditional IT setup into an agile DevOps and domain model, working with the business to deliver a measurable return on investment and incremental value.

This has led Mercedes-Benz’s Australian operation to become an overseas pilot market for several global change initiatives and positioned the local office as a thought leader for solutions that are now being implemented globally.

Schmill and his team have implemented several technology solutions across Australia and New Zealand which includes: an integrated and standardised omni-channel IT landscape providing the basis for ‘retail of the future’; Salesforce as a single CRM that is integrated into the local wholesale organisation; and data analytics and Power BI.

They have also rolled out artificial intelligence solutions with chatbot functions for dealers; robotic process automation to optimise internal processes within the whole organisation; augmented reality marketing solutions; and an in-car gamification pilot.

“The automotive industry is heavily disrupted and Daimler and Mercedes-Benz have a set of strategies to address those challenges. Our ‘5-C-Strategy is around customer, core, case, company and culture.”

In Mercedes-Benz’s core business, traditional internal combustion engine sales, the Australian and New Zealand operation has maintained a leading role for several years. To do this, says Schmill, is to optimise how the company operates through leaner solutions and more efficient systems, as well as automating highly repetitive tasks through robotic process automation and optimal system support and usage.

“We also review and ‘self-disrupt’ our traditional setup and integrate new omni-channel platforms and get closer to customers and data (data is the new oil),” he says.

In company, says Schmill, dedicated legal entities have been set up for Mercedes-Benz cars and vans, Daimler trucks and buses and financial services.

“The largest project, splitting our ERP system, went live at the beginning of the year to facilitate change across multiple applications and services,” he says.

In case (connected, autonomous, shared and electric), the IT group rolled out connected in car services for Mercedes-Benz in Australia and New Zealand. MBConnect seamlessly connects drivers to their vehicles as a digital companion with a whole range of connected services designed to make life and mobility easier, says Schmill.

Autonomous vehicles have also been tested this year in Australia to integrate our road (hook turns in Melbourne) and environmental (kangaroos) requirements into the product development. Finally, Mercedes Benz will soon launch its first electric vehicle, the EQC.

The technical platforms for the distribution and connected services are implemented by Schmill’s IT team in cooperation with partners.

Lead by example

When he started his career, Schmill believed that to be successful in the automotive industry, you have to be an expert and lead by example. Dieter Zetsche, former CEO at Mercedes-Benz was a traditional German engineer, a petrol head who completed his doctorate in engineering before starting his career at Daimler, led in the most compelling, direct and personal way possible.

“Over time, during my studies at Stanford University GSB, I came across many great and extremely successful leaders (in countless and worldly case studies) that approached leadership from a different angle.

“They changed the organisation’s structures, routines and culture dramatically, created global development platform and brought improved solutions to customers. Their people who worked tirelessly and highly motivated. But those people led by design,” he says.

For Schmill, leading by example shows the way but leading by design creates a system that discovers the way.

“Those who lead by design do not invent, nor are they involved in the specific decisions to get the job done. Instead they build the culture, routines, and structures where others can flourish. Done well, such leadership creates an organisation that takes is places we never imagined. When you lead by design, your job is not to know the future but to create an organisation that discovers the future.

“When we lead by design, we do not pretend to know what is next. Instead, we create an organisation designed to discover possibilities that we never dreamed of.”