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Toyota Australia, reborn: auto giant plans post-manufacturing tech-driven future

George Nott | Feb. 10, 2017
With its manufacturing operating ending in October, the company is preparing for a rebirth says CIO Ellis Brover.

"And there are still interfaces to systems that will persist, so we've got to figure out how to rewrite those and how to configure those so that the sales side of the company can continue to run even when the manufacturing systems are no longer there," Brover says.

Exhaustive planning has already begun, which will be begin to be executed in October. Given the complexity and amount of data transfer required, Brover predicts "it will take some time to do it all".

Built into the plan is a major Sharepoint project in which all documents currently stored on shared drives will be catalogued in the cloud.

"We're taking the opportunity to rationalise all of those, clean them up, categorise them, all of that," he says. "We're going to end up where every electronic document in the company will be in a shared, searchable repository that people can access from anywhere."

In the driving seat

As Toyota Australia transforms, Brover and his team's responsibilities are growing fast. Last year saw double the number of new systems projects than the year before. This year the number will triple.

There has been "massive growth in our scope and workload", Brover says. All digital systems (the company has no dedicated CDO, "I guess it's mine," Brover adds), in-car technology and dealership systems have been added to his remit.

"Our trend seems to be to bring more into the scope of IT and grow IT," he says. "It buoys me. It's challenging but it's exciting that I've got an opportunity to be in a company where the role of my function and the importance is growing and my people feel that."

To ease some of the pressure, the company has moved to an as-a-service model of provision. The latest deal saw Toyota sign with Datacom to supply IT infrastructure and support services. All its vendors, Brover says, are being held accountable to business outcomes rather than detailed technology SLAs.

"That's a big change for us," he says. "We found that the market wasn't quite as mature as we thought it would be. It wasn't quite as ready for that model yet in Australia so we felt a little bit like trailblazers - which we weren't really expecting.

"It's an essential part of our new strategy. I need to have fewer people who are managing servers and networks and switches and so on and more people who are doing digital and architecture and analytics. That means I need the vendors to take more accountability for all of the operational areas."

The (new) Toyota Way

As the IT function expands, there have been some growing pains.

"It's pretty tough to absorb so many workloads in terms of staff, making sure the structures are right, the processes are right. I think that's our hardest thing, how to manage the growth," Brover says.


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