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CIO100 2017 #31-100: Darren Wilson, AsureQuality

  • Name Darren Wilson
  • Title Chief information officer
  • Company AsureQuality
  • Commenced Role May 2013
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Technology Function 28 IT staff in New Zealand
  • We are working on several projects as part of a wider transformation initiative that recognises that digital is core to our overall value proposition, says Darren Wilson, CIO of AsureQuality.

    This transformation programme is impacting our operating model,” says Wilson. “However, it would be unfair to call the programme an IT project.”

    “Asan executive team, we have decided that our business needs to fundamentally transform itself to maintain relevance and meet our customer’s time critical information requirements. This is driving a fair whack of our IT investment,” he states.

    AsureQuality is a food safety and biosecurity company owned by the government. It has offices in Australia, China, Singapore and Saudi Arabia.

    He says their strategic priorities are about meeting customer needs, and harnessing processes and technologies to simplify the business.

    When Wilson joined the company three years ago, he inherited an IT legacy system that was great in the 90s but not for the current environment where demand for agile systems and processes has shifted the industry.

    The board, he says, is keen to drive a transformation to ensure that AsureQuality is across, and leading, in an area that has potential to be disrupted by more nimble, smaller groups.

    All our projects are aligned to our five strategic pillars which essentially are around transforming and growing the business to make it match fit, he says.

    These pillars are protecting our talent and culture, meeting customer needs, harnessing process and technology to simplify the business, strengthening our core business, and growing our global presence, he states.

    Last year, he says the team rolled out a series of projects - Labware, job management and scheduling and CRM, while continuing to fix the ageing infrastructure.

    He says the team used an agile approach in the rollout of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM system. The project was largely completed in three

    sprints of three weeks and included the replacement of a multi system on-premise CRM solution with Microsoft CRM that is integrated with the finance system and SharePoint.

    Other projects they have completed as part of this digital transformation is the LIMS rollout across the NZ business; completion of a joint venture in Australia and working with the JV partner to migrate systems into their shared services environment; completed the first phase of a CRM initiative; decommissioned Novell and on-premise datacentre;and migrating to Office365.

    We are looking to further digitise the value chain through linkages into our auditor and on-farm mobile tools

    Darren Wilson, AsureQuality

    Run, grow, transform

    “We use a loose run, grow, transform view of the world,” he explains.

    “Our run and grow goals are all about fixing, upgrading and unifying core infrastructure and systems while our transform goals are about providing technology, analytics and integration services to optimise processes for staff, partners and customers,” he says.

    He admits finding the need to keep core operational systems while creating new innovative products and services is a tough balancing act.

    “Majority of time is on run and grow activities,” he says. “We leverage third parties and the separate digital products team to drive some of the innovation.”

    “We track initiatives in a run, grow transform model and report monthly as part of our executive reporting cycle.”

    They also drive their commodity providers such as networks and telcos to deliver savings, which allows more money to be spent in the innovation space.

    “We have an open executive team that is aligned on where we want to go after what is usually robust and open debate,” he says. “It’s an easy influencing job where we trust each other to deliver in our respective areas.”

    If the executive team decides we want to move on an opportunity, we all assess what it means for our respective area and adapt accordingly.

    Wilson also says he picked up profit and loss responsibility for digital products, which is leveraging and rejuvenating some of our assets such as Agribase (a national spatial farms database) and EnvironMap, which uses the AgriBase database to provide companies and their suppliers with a tangible mapping system.

    “We are looking to further digitise this value chain through linkages into our auditor and on-farm mobile tools,” he states.

    This year, AsureQuality released its first customer facing mobile app using their new architecture for IoS and Android. This app supports their new inspection revenue stream and generates new revenue for digital products.

    “We continued our move towards a Microsoft platform play using Microsoft office and the Dynamics stack. This is starting to allow us to invest more time into the innovative space and into systems that directly touch the customer,” he states.

    Wilson says he tries to visit as many AsureQuality sites as possible and spends a large amount of time out of Christchurch, his home base.

    AsureQuality is using Yammer with mixed success, but has found face to face meetings and old fashioned telephone calls with business managers is still the best, he says.

    “Push communications get lost in the information overload of people’s day to day lives," he explains.

    Divina Paredes

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