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Z CIO Lois van Waardenberg: Pure energy

Divina Paredes | Feb. 23, 2015
Lois van Waardenberg is a classical pianist, has degrees in law and information science, established a professional services startup, and has held several business and consulting roles. She mines this multifaceted background as head of business technology and information services at Z Energy.

"It's a tool that helps writers improve their writing in a fun, colourful, energetic way," she says. The project was a finalist in the 2011 University of Auckland's Spark $100K Entrepreneur's Challenge.

In July 2009 she finished another degree, graduating with a bachelor of law from the University of Auckland in 2013. The law degree was a side-step that's useful in all kinds of ways -- she focused on policy, IT and IP and international trade and investment law.

Somewhere along the way she also took a sabbatical to be with her husband, who was diagnosed with cancer. Her husband passed way and she says it took her quite a while to get back into the industry.

Over a year and a half ago, she was tapped to join Z Energy, the company formed when Shell divested its New Zealand operations.

The digital perspective
As to technologies she is keeping an eye on, it is the same as everyone else -- big data and analytics, the Internet of Things, "cloud" (taking some of the complexity out of IT provisioning, eventually), and digital customer experience.

Z Energy is also tracking any technology that will enable adjacent industries and pure-play tech companies to disrupt their business. "Now that we're at the point where customers are used to technology and connectivity anywhere anytime, the possibilities for disrupting any part of the customer lifecycle are wider," she says.

"Look at TradeMe, for example, [its] disrupting the real estate and second hand car industries -- unexpected and simple to do. Airbnb, Uber, Lyft ... even hard-asset based industries are experiencing disruption."

Van Waardenberg loves the customer-facing aspect of her role.

"It is not just corporate IT, it is direct to the customer. How can I make their life easier, faster, and how are we able to get closer to them in a way that is not annoying or intrusive?"

So how does she filter things? She says she looks at IT trends that apply to two industries -- retail, and oil and gas.

Recently, an executive who works in retail transport fuel in Africa met with her and her team and they had a "brilliant sharing session". She says she got their respective people to get in touch so they can have an ongoing conversation.

She says they were able to do this because the colleague was not a direct competitor.

"An important part of filtering is to create a roadmap of where the business is going," she says. This involves talking to management across retail, commercial, supply and distribution to understand what the current problems are.

"Get them to do a crystal ball gaze on who their customers will be in three years' time -- will they be different, or, if not will they need something different?


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