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Dateline Nelson: Innovation upstream at NZ King Salmon

Divina Paredes | Nov. 24, 2014
IT manager Simon Gutschlag takes the perspectives of a biologist, an environmentalist and a technology evangelist at New Zealand King Salmon.

The IT manager at New Zealand King Salmon, Simon Gutschlag, knows how important it is to get on with the job with materials on hand, a much vaunted Kiwi ingenuity. This 'number eight wire' philosophy, he says, is one of the things that makes working in a region or in a small town great.

"In the regions it's even more so, I think, because people don't have the resources or the pull of the guys in the big cities," he says. "And so you get people doing quite innovative things."

New Zealand King Salmon, based in Nelson, produces over half of the global supply of the rare King Salmon species from their farms in the Marlborough Sounds.

Gutschlag, who has been IT manager for over five-and-a-half years at NZ King Salmon, faces the same business technology concerns of his counterparts in more urban settings — rise of consumerisation of technology, data explosion and keeping abreast of external trends that will impact the industry.

With a mobile workforce, connectivity is a key issue for the company. About three or four years ago, Gutschlag realised the company's 10-year-old phone system needed replacement. At the same time, he noted staff were having two phones and many of them were diverting their calls to their mobiles.

So he started trialling no desk phones and having calls just going straight to mobile phones. Staff who wanted to buy their own phones also got a subsidy and were allowed to use their personal number for work.

Today, majority of the staff now own the mobile phones they use for work, and the company only has about 10 phone lines.

People don't have the resources or the pull of the guys in the big cities, and so you get people doing quite innovative things.

"That's been a real boom for me because people have really adapted to smart phone technology," says Gutschlag.

They opted to go with Vodafone, and Gutschlag went to its three stores in Nelson. "I spoke to the people in those stores and told them, 'When the [King Salmon] people come to see you, I want you to sit down with them and really try and engage them with their handset, whatever it is — an iPhone, an Android or Windows phone. Try and put something on their phone that they will use. Sit down with each user and ask them what they will use the phone for, and what are their interests outside work.' What I was trying to do was to get them using their phone outside of the box."

Gutschlag then actively encouraged staff to have their children tell them how to use the devices.


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