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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

In a private company like Stevenson Group which is a bit smaller, you are going through lots of change all the time and you are not necessarily making incredibly sophisticated IT decisions. I might say to my people, listen, with your part of the business we will have a discussion on ERP. Discussions are a lot more targeted to suit the situation and strategy.

The conversation is not around whether we need to get another ERP system and customer interaction and asset management system. The question is, with your part of the business what do you actually need? The focus is first on the business need and then the system to support the business need. Because, I am not going to invest in a sophisticated system if you are not going to use it.

People get driven by technology sometimes. Sometimes you have got to put technology in place and force people to use it or even force people to get trained on this stuff enough, such as the upgrade to Office 365 and Lync.

Take our Lync system. It is integrated into our computers. This is not a phone, if I wanted you to have a phone, I would just have put mobile phones in place. These are systems that improve productivity and collaboration. You sort of got to force people to uptake that technology because you have lots of different types of people in organisations. You don't get productivity if you don't get people to use something like that.

We have people that say,' I don't like that system. I will use my own spreadsheet.' It is not actually connected to the server or it is on desktop. If that is the way it runs, how do we transition that approach into a proper approach as opposed to just allowing everyone to do whatever [they want to do] because nobody knows when somebody leaves the organisation. Everyone is going around, how do we do that again? 'Oh, it is on somebody's desktop.' Educate people to think what is good for the company, not just what is good for the individual.

And so the sophistication in planning for IT is about the open and honest discussions. We have a lot of discussions about what is the best way to practically implement this process, not how can we use IT to fix it? The solution is not always to throw IT at it, therefore a robust discussion is needed to address issues.

If I showed you the map I asked Andries to do, we had stuff everywhere. We had lots of different companies so they used different financial systems, asset management systems. And the question wasn't how we integrated it at all. The question was: Which of these companies are we going to have in the long term and therefore what money do we need to spend as opposed to not need to spend? I might have a company that says, "We need to get involved in the ERP system, but if you are not going be around for much longer you may as well stay separate."


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