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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.

"Those were the days when our sole focus was on improving efficiency through automating processes and helping our enterprises align business and IT priorities. These things are obviously still critically important, but not where we add most value.

"CIOs these days should strongly influence and in some cases actively drive business strategy by exposing new business opportunities provided by technology innovation.

"How effective we are at the above, or even if we are listened to at all, is down to leadership," he states.

Powell splits leadership into two categories: Strategic and behavioural.

"One is as important as the other," he claims.

"Strategic leadership is about putting the right architectures in place around vision and values, IT strategy, operating model, organisation structure and governance.

While industrialising the core, we will be preparing for a digital future.

"Although these areas are all well documented by analysts, academics and experienced practitioners, they are often not in place, or if they do exist they are badly communicated or have little buy-in," he says.

"These architectures must be put in place and communicated well.

Behavioural leadership is about the things a leader does every day to demonstrate and perpetuate their values. It's also about the mechanisms they employ to create a culture of employee engagement, he adds.

"There's no point having all the strategic architectures in place if you personally don't support them every day, or if your people are not engaged with them," he says. "Employee engagement is something every leader should champion.

"Organisations are [made up of] people. An engaged employee contributes more to organisational success, but an organisation has the responsibility to create the conditions in which an employee can do so.

"You need to understand the facets of how to manage, motivate and inspire people. Engaging people by ensuring they understand the value of what they're delivering and how that relates to the bigger goals within the company is critical."

In Powell's case, he expanded his perspective further by serving in the CIO advisory boards of Computacenter, CSC and Vodafone in the UK.

"That was very good from many perspectives; networking, keeping up to date and being able to influence some industry decisions these organisations were looking to make."

Powell says these views were honed by his years at Unipart, where he spent the majority of his executive career.

Powell has a degree in applied physics from the Sheffield Hallam University. Prior to joining Unipart, he worked at the IT departments of Nissan Motors and Woolworths in the UK.

Before becoming group CIO at Unipart, Powell deliberately stepped out of IT.[4] He became managing director of its consultancy division, UEP Supply Chain, working with external customers on supply chain, change management and process improvement.


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