Rural connections

Rural connections

When Dunedin-based farming co-operative buying group Combined Rural Trader looked at implementing a Microsoft integration to improve productivity, it turned to CIO Roger Rennie to lead the project.

When Dunedin-based farming co-operative buying group Combined Rural Trader (CRT) looked at implementing a Microsoft integration to improve productivity, it turned to CIO Roger Rennie to lead the project. CRT has more than 23,000 shareholders and owns 30 CRT FarmCentre stores throughout the South Island stocking farm supplies. It also operates retail, seed, feed, fuel, real estate and horticulture divisions. The co-operative has a supplier network of more than 2300 other members that accept a CRT credit card. The company chose Dunedin-based services company Enabling’s tender of a Microsoft Dynamics AX integrated solution over three other bids.

Rennie says the selection process was competitive with little separating the organisations. “However, once we got to the presentation stage, Enabling really stood out. They showed a good knowledge of CRT’s business requirements and clearly understood our culture.”

Rennie says the Microsoft Dynamics AX integrated solution needed to be put in place, as the old offering consisted of a number of different systems. “It was difficult to get one view of the truth and difficult to get it in a realistic time frame.”

Changes to the system were often complex and time consuming to implement, because of the age of the core system. “CRT has been growing considerably over time. Expected revenue will be a mixture of organic growth and mergers, and acquisitions. Every time we increase the scope of our business, then we need to adjust the systems that all work together in an ad hoc way to bring it together.”

The Microsoft system is currently being implemented, with the process set to take two years. “The first phase is our core transaction processing system and currently our core system is an Infomix database, so we are essentially talking green screen-type terminals. We’ve got Dynamic Solomon as our GL and Lotus Notes CRM. Phase one is swapping out those three components.”

Phase two will involve all of the other systems being replaced. “We’ve got a couple of manufacturing systems for feed. There’s also a point of sale system and a fuel system that will be replaced.”

Rennie says that at the end of the implementation CRT will be able to deliver value to its business, rather than just keeping systems up. “We won’t have the same failures in the integration between the systems. There’s a lot of functionality that you get out of the box, whereas at the moment everything we have in our core system we have to build and maintain ourselves.”

Once the implementation is completed, CRT can look at increasing services to its shareholders. “Given that we’re a cooperative, and our shareholders are our customers, with the platform in place there will be a lot more information and services we can deliver.”

Rennie was born and bred in Dunedin. He started at CRT about three years ago to manage the customer relationship management implementation, which was a 12-month project. Towards the end of the project the chief executive appointed him to the CIO role. Before this, Rennie was a contract project manager.

He also spent some years at the New Zealand Dairy Board as the global programme manager, responsible for the implementation of Oracle.

He says this experience helped him step up to the demanding role of CIO. “I had been fortunate that in my previous roles as programme manager, I had quite a bit of project experience in implementing IT projects. “It’s [CRT] a great place to work and the support functions are Dunedin-based. Sales and marketing functions are based out of Christchurch.”

Rennie also has experience in telecommunications, having spent 14 years with Telecom. He and his wife Carolyn came back to Dunedin four years ago and run Elgin House, a local bed and breakfast operation.

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