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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.

"This [includes] mobile devices, social technology and physical objects, all of which are an opportunity or a threat depending on how you choose to use and interact with them.

We've recently set up a digital innovation lab with the sole purpose of rapidly turning ideas into value-creating reality.

"Although it is unpalatable to some organisations, this is also a space where you need to take some risks,"[3] he says.

Applying this perspective to Fletcher, Powell says the group is assessing digital opportunities and creating capabilities across different businesses units to capitalise on new, emerging and disruptive technologies.

Powell says the company recently set up a digital innovation lab with the sole purpose of rapidly turning ideas into value-creating reality.

"We'll take a few risks along the way and I'm sure we'll make some mistakes, but I also believe we'll create real value and make it easier for our customers to do business with us.

"Our construction business is one where digital technologies are playing a strong part in directing the industry at the moment," he says.

"Being able to use technology like tablets to visualise through augmented reality when you're onsite what a building might look like after it's actually been constructed, is something that's very possible today."

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.

Digital is also a mechanism to deliver an exceptional experience to the company's customers, says Fletcher.

"We're looking at using digital to drive greater customer loyalty," he says.

"How can we interact with our customers in a way that is both more appealing for them but also makes Fletcher a very easy company to do business with?

"How can we use mobile technology much better to be able to allow our customers to interact with us? And how can we communicate with our customers in a much better way?"

For Powell, digital is also about disrupting business models. For this, he cites the case of UK online retailer, ASOS, which now ships to more than 200 countries including New Zealand.

"They have completely disrupted their own particular markets by being able to provide excellent online digital service without having the necessity for bricks and mortar shops and outlets," he says.

"It is very clever the way they've done it using all of the current social and marketing techniques available and knitted these services cohesively, while being very engaging with the customer. That's a very disruptive way of utilising technology."

Powell has strong and focused views on the leadership imperatives of the CIO.

"Long gone are the days of the CIO being a passive or enabling leader," he states.


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