For Andrew Goodin, Zespri International’s Global Manager Information Services, implementing the company’s Industry Relationship Management Project (using MS Dynamics xRM online platform), has been a rewarding time for his team and ultimately, the company.
This programme was to transform how growers and other industry partners interact with Zespri. It had the following objectives:
· Improve the management of relationships with Growers through providing self-service tools and automation of processes.
· Transform the Plant Variety Rights Licence management processes by establishing automated processes and workflows.
· Improve interactions with the Grower Contact Centre.
· Increase the capabilities for B2B interaction with orchard management systems.
· Provide a portal to enable consolidated interaction with Zespri.
· Improved analytical capabilities.
· Establish a platform that is a foundation for visibility across the complete Zespri System.
“A key focus for me was the change management approach to ensure that the technology changes were driven by and embedded into the business unit processes,” says Goodin.
The impacts of this transformation were two-fold.
The first was the implementation of new processes internally to Zespri and new interaction points for external stakeholders. This was addressed through strong engagement with the internal team in the establishment of the new processes. Key growers were identified to be part of a stakeholder group whose input was taken into the solution.
The second is the rollout of the solution to overseas offices involved getting buy in for the strategy. This was addressed by engaging with the affected teams and ensuring that an effective solution was provided.
The Grower Contact Centre, which is the liaison point for all communications with the grower community, now has active call management and logging processes in place, he says. The Plant Variety Rights licence application process has also been automated, which has reduced manual data entry errors, improved visibility to growers and improved the throughput of the Grower Contact Centre team.
In 2015, Goodin oversaw Zespri’s migration of its infrastructure and services to the Azure cloud platform. He says the shift enabled further innovations last year, particularly in the BI space.
He believes the company is at the forefront of technology with an external reporting solution that leverages Microsoft’s PaaS for embedding business developed Power BI reports to external customers through a web portal. He says Zespri is among the first in the world to trial this service.
As well, the company has successfully completed a proof of concept on a new platform that combines the SAP’s Data Services software and Microsoft Azure DW. This combination of products puts Zespri at the front of the global pack for delivery of this solution and provides a solution that is flexible and efficient, says Goodin.
The innovations were instigated through research with key partners and investigations by internal staff.
He says two approaches are used to capture and act on innovations.
Suppliers are actively encouraged to present innovative concepts. This avenue has resulted in proof of concepts in the following:
· Machine learning to try and predict fruit volume
· IOT to understand variabilities on orchards
Active conversations are underway regarding how Blockchain may be applicable to Zespri, says Goodin.
As well, internal staff are encouraged to present ideas into the Zespri ideas management framework, which provides a mechanism for logging and acting on ideas.
“Creating an environment to foster and build innovation is one of three key priorities that myself and the leadership team have established. The wider team is being engaged with to further embed this key factor along with, ‘Who is this idea useful for?’ and ‘What does it do for them?’.”
The company works with partners to provide specific system maintenance activities.
“These activities have SLA’s and timeline expectations that are required to be met. The resources that undertake these activities are focussed on achieving the required operational outcomes. Internal resources that engage in innovation and additional vendor resources, have time allocated in their weekly resource plan that ensures they have sufficient time allocated for innovation.
“This is a critical factor in enabling resources to undertake innovation, without impacting on operational outcomes,” he says.
Taking advantage of the Azure platform has improved operational excellence. Zespri is focused on using cloud based services that are optimised to be turned off when not required, he says.
Goodin is a member of the Zespri Global Executive team that meets once a month.
“As required I attend the monthly board meeting to present information and answer any technology related questions that arise,” he adds. “Every year I present the technology strategy and approach to the Audit Risk Management Committee (ARMC a board subcommittee) and clarify our approach.
“I use my experience and industry contacts to ensure that I present a consistent, well-defined approach. As an example, when influencing the board and executive on cyber security issues, I engaged an expert in the area to ensure the background to the subject was understood. This enabled me to more effectively engage on an action plan.
“In previous years, I have presented to the ARMC on the benefits of using the Azure cloud platform at Zespri, an approach that was agreed to.”
As Zespri is a global business, with key offices in Singapore, China, Japan and Belgium, he travels to these locations on a regular basis to undertake a town hall style meeting.
“At these meetings, I present what the Information Services team is focused on and how we are relevant to the location that I am in. The town hall style often provides an environment for effective dialogue with the wider team.
“Another mechanism that I regularly use is a monthly blog that explains what we are working towards and the progress that we are making.”
Goodin recently restructured his team and recruited for new leadership positions.
“The selection approach that I took was to build a team with a diversity of thinking styles and with a range of professional experiences. It was important to create a team of people that have diverse thinking patterns, because I want to make sure that we can effectively challenge ourselves.”
He looks at improving the soft skills of technical people at Zespri in the following ways.
· Formal training on design thinking and better by design approaches
· He asks the leadership team to ensure they are focusing some effort on coaching people on soft skills where applicable
· Seeking activities for people that will stretch their soft skills, and ensuring that they have a buddy/mentor who can help them through the activity.
“I think the key to managing these challenges is through being open to change,” he says, “as well as recognition that there is always someone to talk with, engage and learn from.
“Being open to new ways of doing things and new approaches is also key – the true key is good judgement around initiative/platform selection.”