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‘I like challenge, I want to be involved in change’

‘I like challenge, I want to be involved in change’

Peter Thomas talks about the tasks ahead as managing director of Fuji Xerox NZ

“Working for an organisation that has a history of innovation, gives me amazing confidence for the future,” says Peter Thomas, who was promoted to managing director at Fuji Xerox New Zealand (FXNZ) early this month.

Thomas joined Fuji Xerox over two years ago as general manager, and rose up to chief operating officer, prior to his current appointment.

“I am very proud of that appointment, I am proud of the company having faith in me to drive the turnaround in New Zealand,” Thomas tells CIO New Zealand.

“There is no doubt some of the actions in recent years by past management did tarnish our reputation in this market,” he says. “We are working as hard as we can to rebuild the trust and confidence of all stakeholders, be it customers, staff, the New Zealand government."

He says FXNZ has implemented a wide range of measures, to ensure the inappropriate previous accounting practices will never happen again.

Thomas acknowledges the commitment of the parent company through a “difficult period”, including strong support for the company’s transformation in New Zealand.

"Over the past two years, we have implemented a range of new governance and management actions to strengthen the way the company operates, and we remain committed to continuing to improve governance and controls across the business," says Thomas. The measures include appointing Haruiko Imai in the newly created role of FXNZ chairman of the board.

“When I look at the pedigree and history we have around innovation, I know the future will be very bright,” says Thomas.

He  says Fuji Xerox has been operating in New Zealand for more than 50 years.

It is owned by Fuji Film (75 per cent) and Xerox Corporation (25 per cent).

“Both [companies] have an amazing history of innovation and invention,” he says.

He says Fuji Xerox has some 12,000 customers across the country, that range from large government departments and corporates, right through to SMBs.

“I think we have all the ingredients for a strong future.”

“We have a large footprint here already and a primary focus is to provide great service to our existing customer base,” he says.

“What we are finding is the solutions and services that we wrap around our printing hardware, is more and more about our future.”

First, it is about getting value for money from printing they need to do, he says. Second is how do they move from a paper-based environment to the digital age?

“We are providing a range of solutions to our customers  that allow them to go digital and to manage information in a digital way,” Thomas says.

''A lot of our equipment is connected to networks and to the internet. This allows customers to seamlessly manage documents from paper-based to electronic format, so information management in general will continue to be an area of focus for us.”

He says additive manufacturing, or 3D printing is a growing part of their business. Fuji Xerox is a distributor for 3D Systems, which provides large, production-style 3D printing capability.

“When we look to the future, we think additive manufacturing is going to be one of the new technologies that is going to transform New Zealand capabilities.”

“The opportunity it has for manufacturing is limitless,” says Thomas.

“Right now, you can literally manufacture anything with 3D technology," he says. "The opportunities to create for manufacturing is endless.”

“New Zealanders always like to innovate,” he says. “They like to look at how we can be in the forefront of emerging technologies. And right now, the market here is primed for a push to additive manufacturing.”

Thomas has worked within technology in his career, but in different industries.

“A lot of it has been in and around technology, whether that is leading the technology function as CIO when I was at Defence, and also when I was at MBIE, when the CIO reported to my position. And, in Fuji Xerox, we are very much a part of the technology sector.”

Thomas spent more than 23 years at Westpac, and was general manager, reporting to the chief executive when he joined the New Zealand Defence Force in 2007. He held the CIO role for three years, then stepped up to general manager, organisational support, and then general manager, strategic programmes.
He joined the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment in August, 2012, as deputy chief executive corporate services.

He recalls how he shifted to the public sector, first with the NZ Defence Force.

Peter Thomas as Defence Force CIO
Peter Thomas as Defence Force CIO

“After a long career at Westpac, I was looking to do something new, something different.”

He got “some pretty good opportunities” to go back to the banking sector.

However, a meeting with the then NZ Defence CEO Lieutenant General Sir Jeremiah "Jerry" Mateparae, who told him Defence was looking for a new CIO.

“I just wanted to work with Jerry because of his outstanding leadership skills and I am a passionate New Zealander. So doing something to help New Zealand, and working with the Defence Force, was something I was very much interested in.”

Thomas was Defence CIO for the first three years, and the last two as deputy chief executive.

Then it was time for a new challenge. MBIE has just been formed from the integration of Ministry of Economic Development, Department of Labour, Building and Housing, and the Ministry for Science and Innovation.

The CEO David Smol was looking for someone to lead the integration of the corporate functions, which included HR, finance, IT, property procurements, and legal.

MBIE is an organisation that is trying to grow the country and the economy, Thomas says, as he took on the inaugural executive post.

“I like challenge, I want to be involved in change.”

When the integration of the corporate functions was completed, he looked for opportunities to work outside government.

He joined Fuji Xerox as general manager, looking after back-office functions. In April, 2016, he became the chief operating officer, which encompassed all of the company's customer service functions, and then stepped up to managing director early this month.

His position reports into the regional headquarters in Asia Pacific.

He shares some insights for CIOs stepping up to general management roles.

“The CIO is not necessarily a technical or technology role,” he says. “It is a business enabling role, actually how the  business can create value through technology.”

“CIOs of today need to have a deep understanding of the business and understand how they can help enable the organisation help the organisation they work for, through better use of technology.”

More and more, they are working on leveraging technologies like the cloud, whereas in the past, a lot of CIOs are focused on around infrastructure, he says

“Now, more and more, the CIO role is around creating business value and looking at a range of applications that can be exploited for business benefit.”

Follow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinap

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