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Global Powerhouse: An interview with Carl Powell of Fletcher Building

Divina Paredes | Oct. 15, 2014
After integrating Fletcher Building’s business technology systems in 40 countries, Carl Powell focuses on sharpening the group’s capability to compete in the digital environment.

"I spent the first six weeks with what felt like a fire hydrant of information hitting me firmly in the face," he says. "After that, I could turn the fire hydrant around and start creating the high-level strategy."

This roadmap covers three areas.

The first Powell calls 'integrating the enterprise', or taking a group view of Fletcher's IT assets and consolidating these onto strategic products. These include ERP, CRM, BI and infrastructure.

"While industrialising the core, we will be preparing for a digital future. The second step is investing in high value, high impact digital initiatives," he says. The third area of focus is creating a single, integrated ICT function globally.

I spent the first six weeks with what felt like a fire hydrant of information hitting me firmly in the face!"

The first stage has already taken place, with all ICT across the Fletcher group now reporting functionally rather than through individual business units. Powell explains that this was necessary to be able to manage the planned changes.

Prior to this, the businesses operated in a decentralised way. "All of our businesses were run by general managers who had a lot of autonomy over what they did," Powell says.

The result was each of these became "very, very close to the market and the customer, however from an ICT perspective, it caused an incredible amount of diversification".

The transformation programme is not intended to change this customer relationship.

"Putting the customer at the centre of everything we do is critically important to us, so we must ensure that as we create the new centralised organisation structure, IT remains very customer intimate," he says.

"We will do this by ensuring the divisional and business unit heads of IT remain close to their business but functionally understand the overarching group strategy."

The shift, Powell explains, encompasses a number of other business areas such as HR, finance, and group procurement.

"Taking away transactional activity from our business units, like accounts payable, for example, allows the businesses to focus solely on their commercial activities and customers."

Digital opportunity and risk

Digital transformation[2] is a major component of Powell's portfolio and goes beyond information technology.

"The term best demonstrates how the boundaries of IT are changing. Information technology used to be seen as something inside the four walls of enterprise control," he says. "Digital is a term that was christened for expanding our mindsets on what information technology is and can be and makes us look outside our four walls.

"I see the word 'digital' as a call to action for all business communities -- whether ICT, marketing or operations -- to look at an entire ecosystem of technology.


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