Campbell Arnott's: Paul Williams, CIO

Paul Williams, CIO of Campbell Arnott's, is faced with the task of bringing the operations of one of Australia's oldest and most popular food brands into the 21st century.Paul Williams, CIO of Campbell Arnott's, is faced with the task of bringing the operations of one of Australia's oldest and most popular food brands into the 21st century. We asked Williams to take us through some of the challenges he and his company are facing, and how IT fits into the bigger picture.
Written by Brian Haverty, Contributor

Paul Williams, CIO of Campbell Arnott's, is faced with the task of bringing the operations of one of Australia's oldest and most popular food brands into the 21st century. We asked Williams to take us through some of the challenges he and his company are facing, and how IT fits into the bigger picture.

Q: What are the main technology areas you're excited about and will be investing in over the coming year?
Williams: A key thing we're excited about is SAP. It's not new, but it's new to our business. We're implementing SAP globally. We've already implemented SAP in the order-to-cash component, the customer-facing order-management piece of our business, and we're rolling it out through the rest of our business units and throughout the region over the next two to three years.

In what areas do you find you are getting the most benefit from these moves?
Williams: SAP has sort of become the default standard for consumer packaged-good companies, so if you look at our peer group of companies that we compare ourselves to -- global food companies -- I think eight out of the top ten already use SAP. I think we'll be number nine.

For us, in the Asia Pac region, it's all about consolidating what were once disparate business units running on different ERP systems all onto the one single transactional backbone. That is exciting from a cost and business enablement point of view. It obviously reduces our costs of running multiple systems, but more importantly, once we've got one system for all of our businesses, we have one view of all of our data -- we know we mean the same thing across business units.

This puts us in a position where we can really start mining into that data and really understanding how we can improve sales opportunities, improve our performance and service levels -- all those sorts of things. It makes a very uniform process across the whole company.

How much do you plan to spend on IT in the coming year?
Williams: Well, I guess there are two ways of answering that. First, on the investment side, on the capital side, we're obviously doing a large ERP project, so there's a fair bit of capital going in behind that.

On the operation side -- running business as usual -- we'll actually spend less in 2007 than we will in 2006. We've cut quite aggressively into our ongoing operational costs, and being able to reinvest that money.

What are some of the other performance indicators, KPIs you use to judge performance as a CIO?
Williams: I think cost is obviously important, but it's only one aspect. Delivering the business transformational projects is the key thing. There have been quite a large number of changes with Campbell Arnott's in the region. And the IT projects have been at the core. There have been business projects, but they've had technology pieces to them. So being able to deliver those on time, to schedule, to budget, and to realise all the benefits has been a key thing.

There's the financial, there's strategic, there's the operational of course, which is SLAs, uptime, meeting the business requirements -- everything from provisioning end-user computing to making sure that systems are running 24/7. And then the last thing is engagement within the workforce -- having an engaged IT team that is aligned to the values of the business, and being part of the whole business community and the agenda going forward. This is increasingly important.

Other than SAP and the project you mentioned earlier, are there other projects that Arnott's is looking to start, over the coming year?
Williams: There are a few. In fact, we're in the midst of preparing to go live on a pretty big program. It's around trade promotions management. We're implementing the CAS tool, CPWerx, which is a TPM product, and we're also implementing or re-implementing Manugistics for our demand and supplier planning tool.

That's all part of a complete rework of really the whole process, from determining what our demand is from our customers, planning to influence that demand through doing events in the trade, like promotions and end-aisle displays and those sorts of things, and all the way through to actually fulfilling those orders and getting that product back on the shelves.

That process is about to go live through October-November, so we will have a single process across all the different categories we operate on, to manage our trade spin, to optimise all our events and all the different trade events that we do, and having that very well linked into the whole supply chain piece, so that we make the right products and have them there at the right time to suit the demand.

It's the monkey on your back all the time -- getting a good view of what that demand is going to be, how you can influence that demand, all the factors that influence that demand, and then being able to ship to that. Obviously, any time you have an order and you don't have a product to ship, that's money coming straight off your bottom line.

To actually get the new project from the planning stage to real implementation, what do you feel is the most important way to get everyone onboard?
Williams: I guess it's a pretty similar process to most businesses. These are all economic business cases, so we have to build the costs and the benefits over the life of the project, and it has to reach a certain internal rate of return, and the ROI targets, etc. That's the formal part of it. The informal part of it is really recognising the opportunity, getting people to realise that there is a need to change.

You can start creating a vision for what the future can be like, getting people signed up to that, so really by the time you get to your formal board proposal, you've actually got the momentum already happening in the business. You want people in the different departments all thinking, "Yeah, we're behind this, we want to do it." Because of course that's the hard part, right? The technical part's the easy part.

The classic thing is, it can't be my idea, and it can't be the consultant's idea, and it can't be anyone to do with the technical's idea. It has to be the business's idea. And that idea has to start right back at the seed of the idea. If it germinates in the right spot, the project will succeed. If it comes in from above or from the side or something, it's a much harder effort to get it done.

This might be a difficult one because nobody likes to talk about things that didn't go exactly to plan, but what's the biggest lesson you've learned in your role as CIO?
Williams: Same old list -- you've got to know what you're doing, you have to be very clear on your scope, number one. You have to make sure that you've got the right business ownership and the key stakeholders behind it, number two.

Those two things done, and the rest is pretty straightforward. We're a food company, we don't tend to go out there and write software. We will select things that are already working in other places. So we're not taking technology risks, but we're taking business change risks all the time.

When I look at the projects that haven't gone so well, that have dragged on, it's been just simply because we either haven't had the sponsorship or the sponsors have left. It's been someone else's pet and they've gone and we're stuck with something halfway finished that we need to re-energise. Rarely these days you can say, "Oh, we ran up against a technical hitch." Shame on us if we do, but it's not that that tends to trip us up.

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