by George Nott

CIO50 2018 #15: Brett Winn, Blackmores

Nov 22, 2018
Technology Industry

A little under half of supplements and vitamins brand Blackmores revenue comes from Asian markets. Like in Australia, consumers in Asia are increasingly concerned about the provenance of the products they buy, especially ones they swallow.

So it’s no surprise that Blackmores is taking unprecedented steps to ensure the quality and authenticity of its products.

“We have been exploring ways to leverage technology and data to provide consumers with even greater assurance their trust in our products is well-placed,” explains Blackmores’ chief information officer Brett Winn.

To that end, last year, the company joined a consortium with PWC, AusPost and Alibaba, on a thought-leadership blockchain initiative dubbed iTrust.

Blackmores’ worked with the other firms to establish a framework for the use of blockchain technology to improve supply chain traceability and safeguard authenticity in the Chinese market.

“There is a firm belief this project will eventually inform a global standard for using technology to validate food provenance and product authenticity,” Winn said.

It is not the only provenance proof-of-concept project underway at Blackmores. From next year a unique identifier will be placed on products which buyers can scan to find out if their purchase is authentic, where it was produced and when it expires as well as the products benefits and suitability.

These customer and partner facing innovations have happened alongside a major migration of business applications to Office365 – which was rolled out to Blackmores’ 700+ Asia based staff over a 9-week period.

In addition, almost 80 per cent of Blackmores IT workloads have been moved to Microsoft Azure, Dynamics365 has been implemented across Australia and New Zealand, as has PowerBI.

“Our cloud strategy has delivered to expectations and made it easier for our staff to complete their roles by providing better access to systems and data,” Winn says.

The Microsoft cloud move has happened alongside an ongoing deployment of Oracle ERP cloud, which brings together 11 Asia based business each with their own local, and Excel reliant platforms.

“Outcomes will provide business efficiency, transparency of data and stronger controls across our supply chain, including distributors, that will allow Blackmores to scale aggressively into the future,” Winn explains.

Rising status and remaining grounded

The status of group technology at Blackmores has been in ascendency since Winn’s arrival at the company in 2016. Over that time the team has grown from 20 staff to more than 45, and staff engagement has rocketed.

Winn’s role has been elevated to the executive team and he says he has gone about changing his team’s “rhythm, behaviours and brand”.

“My objective is to influence the cadence of the team and role model positive behaviours so we are seen across the business as aligned, innovative, consistent and clear in our purpose,” Winn.

To achieve this, Winn is co-sponsor of a company-wide new ways of working initiative called ‘Game Changers’, which encompasses agile delivery, cross functional teams, innovative thinking and a ‘show don’t tell’ approach to standing up minimal viable products.

Evidence of success of the Game Changers approach is the company’s Buzz employee app, which was designed and delivered in less than six months.

“With over 700 downloads in six weeks, uptake is exceeding expectations and we now have regular content moving into the business daily,” Winn says.

Within IT, a structured PMO, architecture standards and governance, and clear team and individual objectives have been established, while staff members have benefitted from focused training to uplift skills.

“The pace of change over only 18 months is something I have not seen in 25 years of executive IT roles. We have gone from a back of house function to a highly capable group of passionate professionals enabling a globally expanding business. This has involved enormous change, commitment, alignment and passion,” Winn says.

Winn says staying humble and approachable are the keys to success in the job.

“I do not sit in an office and regularly work from our staff caf? so people feel comfortable to engage with me and ask questions,” he explains.

For Winn it is an honour to hold the role of CIO, and to have the opportunity to “help people navigate complex challenges and watch them grow from the experience”.