Establishing buy-in for a new business unit in a not so well-trodden area is a \u2018stretch assignment\u2019 for any executive.\nThis was exactly what happened to Nicholas Fourie, vice president (VP) - ICT at Fisher Paykel Healthcare, who now considers this one of his biggest challenges to date.\nTwo years into his role, Fourie says he began working closely and collaboratively with a respected peer to build a business unit outside of ICT, called \u201cBusiness Excellence\u201d, focusing on driving Continuous Improvement (CI) methodologies into various parts of the business outside of Manufacturing (who already are big adopters of CI). \nWhile the function reports into the VP of ICT, it is empowered to work very closely and directly with other executives and department heads to identify and facilitate business improvement. \nCI is the application of Lean principles to drive efficiency and optimal processes and is a staple of any large manufacturing facility. He explains F P Healthcare has CI methodologies deeply embedded into their engineering and manufacturing areas.\nThrough several internal projects, he appointed a highly respected manufacturing operations manager into a GM of Business Excellence. This individual already had great capability and influence in in establishing CI and continued on to form a team to focus on this. Then, he spent a lot of time discussing with members of the executive team around how this business unit would benefit them, such as optimising their processes. \n\u201cI supported our new GM in making sure we got the CEO to be a visible and vocal champion of this.\u201d\nFourie says his role is not to take any limelight for outcomes. This falls onto the head of this division, and the great team that works with him. Ultimately, continuous improvement should be owned by the business. \nToday, he says, the new business unit is working on some very specific objectives. For Fourie, getting buy-in for the establishment of this unit, stressed the importance of \u201cthe masterful art of negotiation and clearly articulating buy-in\u201d.\n\u201cIt\u2019s relatively easy for any CIO to build on or evolve an existing strategy, but I gained a new appreciation for handing a blue-sky approach,\u201d he says, \u201cespecially in an area I had no prior knowledge in!\u201d\nA Digital Core, paving the way for the future\nFP Healthcare (FPH) is in the midst of rolling out their global ERP system.\nSince his appointment in 2017, Fourie had oversight of this programme and integration of this system into their sales offices around the globe.\n\u201cWe refer to this as our \u2018digital core\u2019 that will help support business growth and optimisation over the next 15 to 20 years,\u201d he explains.\nThis is a major business transformation programme that is planned to continue running over the next two to three years as we roll out to our global sites, he says.\nThe system has been rolled out in their New Zealand and Mexico manufacturing sites and all of Asia, Australia and Canada. It is currently being rolled out in North America with Europe to follow soon.\nHe says FPH is already benefiting from the new system through improved stock management and demand planning across the supply chain.\n\u201cAdditionally, we have been able to provide the business with greater traceability of raw materials and products globally,\u201d he says. \u201cThis has all contributed to more effective and efficient business, enabling us to better serve our patients and customers with the products they need. \n\u201cAn extremely important structural aspect of rolling out this new digital core is how we have embedded ourselves within the business,\u201d he states.\n\u201cWe have carefully constructed this initiative to firstly; not be about replacing ERP systems and secondly; not an ICT project. \n\u201cThe structure that has been developed is one of a joint business transformation initiative, which is in many ways is led and championed by those within the organisation.\u201d\nAs a result, there is an incredibly strong sense of joint ownership for the project and duty of care to get the best outcome, he says.\nFourie and his team have also been busy over the past year implementing several technology and digital focused projects.\nThey have been working with several of field staff who want to have a consistent user experience when working across different territories.\n\u201cThis was no small feat as it required a complete review and overhaul of all our global productivity tools,\u201d says Fourie. The latter included cloud-based office and content collaboration tools. \nThe team is also working on machine analytics and Internet of Things. \nFourie says a challenge they face is that the machinery on the production floor does not have inbuilt capability to provide them with valuable data. \u201cHow can we provide world class machine and factory analytics with legacy shop floor equipment whilst not disrupting critical production lines?\u201d\nHe says the team was able to work out unique solutions to feed live data off the equipment. \nThis provided production staff and managers with live machine analytics and highly visual dashboards of machine health, production volumes and maintenance forecasting. The technologies used are also highly transportable across other shop floor equipment with minimal resource, complexity and simple middleware, says Fourie.\nHe says FPH continues to experiment with technologies such as augmented reality and how it can be applied in training and instruction scenarios.\n\u201cThis has involved some highly creative thinking as training is a highly regulated activity in our industry,\u201d says Fourie.\n\u201cWe have experimented with tools to create augmented scenarios and views of our products, which could then be easily interacted with and transported to various learning platforms. We see the application of such digital technology as an important step in maintaining our competitive advantage.\u201d \nPointers for successful leadership \nFourie places great value on the ICT team being seen as a trusted advisor that is called upon for insights. \nHe says this is something he stresses with his leadership team and embedded in their ICT purpose and vision: \u201cWe are influential leaders with a strong understanding of business and the know-how to leverage data, people, process, and technology to help FP Healthcare to succeed.\u201d\n\u201cThis is something we literally plaster on posters and in materials, as a reminder for the team around what we are aiming to but also for the business to know what we are aiming for,\u201d says Fourie.\nFourie has recently joined the Institute of Directors and the industry advisory board at AUT. He says these two roles help him prepare for a future director role, and build up experiences for dealing with his peers in the executive team and the board of directors.\nThe ICT function has also taken their first batch of interns. \u201cThis was an exciting endeavour and it is part of our long-term strategy to further develop cultural, gender and skills diversity. \n\u201cWe feel the long-term investment in graduates is critical to the success of our leadership and skills pipeline. We also highly value the fresh thinking interns and graduates bring,\u201d says Fourie.\nHe continues to put a strong emphasis on developing a culture where the ICT function is highly engaged and integrated into the business.\nHe says it is important to interact with the business units on their level. Some of the things they have done are publishing a quarterly newsletter that is sent out across the organisation, weekly news digests in the company newsletter and monthly blogs on the intranet.\n\u201cWe also hold a monthly \u2018Knowledge Sharing\u2019 event where all of ICT get together to share news and stories,\u201d he says. \u201cWe invite guests from other business units to both present to us but to also hear from us in a more intimate setting.\u201d\nThey also organised their first Town Hall event, open to all FPH staff.\n\u201cWe opened the session to a digital QA where we could answer queries and take on feedback. It was immensely successful, and it set the stage for other group services to do the same! It was truly a benchmark,\u201d says Fourie.