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Making concrete decisions: Stevenson Group CEO Mark Franklin

Divina Paredes | May 2, 2014
Franklin shares insights from his varied experience as executive of companies on the supply and demand side of business and IT to lead the mining, concrete, engineering and agriculture group

Stevenson Group has been part of the New Zealand economy for more than 100 years. It started in South Auckland as a family business, with the founders using "picks and shovels, a few wheelbarrows and a Model-T Ford" to work on sewerage and piping systems for the burgeoning population of Auckland.

The group remains a private, 100 per cent owned family business, but whose operations now span mining, quarrying, concrete, engineering, agriculture and property in both the North and South Islands.

Mark Franklin became its CEO four years ago, following a series of executive roles in a raft of industries — including Vector, TZ1 and IBM.

CIO New Zealand recently asked him for his insights on how business technologies have made a difference to the Stevenson Group.

How the business-technology environment has changed in the past four years

Mark Franklin: When I first started here, we had 23 companies so everybody needed an investment, everybody wanted money to do stuff. I said here are some things that are more important than others because I am balancing the things I can do for the core business with things the shareholders want, where I can grow, where I can't grow. There is always going to be people who are unhappy.

When I first got here, it was an amalgam of lots of different systems, processes, companies and things like that. What we have moved through to is just a couple of core businesses. We had to do what I call short-term expenditures — little bits of middleware. How do we get things talking to each other, making sure the networks work properly, integrating mobile applications? So it's just things to make people's lives a little better. But all the time we make sure we have an eye on the longer term.

I asked (CIO and Group IT Transformation Manager) Andries van der Westhuizen to draw a map of exactly what our system looks like — all of the spreadsheets of server stuff, all middleware - so we can see how complex it is. We then went through exactly what we are aiming for, and then had a plan. We moved from five domains into one to get efficiencies.

I have done this in every job, and it is interesting. We don't sort of address all of the legacy that we have got at any particular time.

I used to run Vector, a big public utility company, so we had big IT systems. You are always having big IT discussions like, 'Are you going to do SAP implementation or an Oracle implementation. How do you integrate mobile phones and iPads to [corporate systems]?'


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