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CIO100 2018 #31-100: Tristin King and Kris Lander, JUCY

  • Name Tristin King and Kris Lander
  • Title Head of technology and chief digital officer
  • Company JUCY
  • Commenced role Tristin King – November 2014; Kris Lander – July 2017
  • Reporting Line Tristin King – COO; Kris Lander - CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 21 full-time staff including contractors
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    The technology team has gone through a significant transformation, breaking from a single team into four devops style teams, say Tristin King head of Technology and Kris Lander, chief digital officer of JUCY.

    The four streams are business intelligence, web, bookings systems (using Microsoft Dynamics CRM) and infrastructure, both cloud and on-premise.

    They have also introduced quality assurance and user experience functions into the technology teams. 

    Tighter cooperation at the senior and executive level allowed both of them to hone in on initiatives that offer the largest benefit, while reducing the ‘noise’ filtering down to the DevOps teams.

    This allows the DevOps team to focus on improving cadence and quality of their products.

    “Our goals are to grow the company’s technology enablement capacity and provide a world-leading online experience for our customers, both internal and external.”

    Kris Lander
    Kris Lander

    Both objectives are, they say, still in progress.

    But changing the structure of the teams and expanding the internal resource pool means reducing deployment time from approximately once per month up to twice weekly. They were also able to rebuilt the Dynamics CRM user interface, and provide in depth pricing analytics. This improved revenue and sales during a time of market saturation, they state.

    As well as the tangible benefits, they believe the establishment of product owner roles within each DevOps team has created a much closer connection between IT and the business.

    “There is a greater awareness from the business of how agile works and the roles that business stakeholders must play, in order to get the most from the devops teams when they have features in the pipeline or in progress.”

    The technology team holds fortnightly technology showcases, encouraging the people at the head office to come up with improvement ideas. “These showcases have also driven the technology teams out of the shadows and feeling more connected with the business” they say.

    Although the two work on many innovative technologies, one of the simplest yet most beneficial project they have delivered is on their Microsoft Dynamics Reservation platform.

    After a significant project last year to implement Dynamics, they found the users effectively had to be power-users to navigate and operate the system.

    “Although the system was more stable, better suited to the company’s requirements and enabled several key competitive advantages, customers did not enjoy using it,” they note.

    So they began a user experience-led front end rebuild of the CRM.

    “Rather than using out of the box features, King and Lander’s team customised the UI processes within Dynamics that provided a curated journey through the reservation process.

    By consciously removing dialogues, popups and button clicks and ensuring the process is both keyboard, mouse and touch friendly, they have cut by half the time to process a ‘simple reservation’.

    But, for them, the most important aspect of the project was that the users enjoy working on the new CRM interface. The training time to use the system was also significantly reduced.

    Never accept ‘it can’t be done’

    This year, JUCY as embarked on a trial using electric vehicles for their customers.

    “At this point in time the talk is that the future of vehicles is electricity,” explains Dan Alpe, chief operating officer at JUCY..

    “We believe that we will be well placed to introduce a fleet of EV campervans within the next 12 to 18 months, giving our customers options that do not currently exist either in New Zealand or anywhere else around the world.”

    JUCY asked two visiting French students to travel thousands of kilometres in the North Island using a prototype JUCY campervan, powered only by electricity.

    “While electric vehicles are still in their infancy especially in New Zealand, JUCY have set out to better understand the electric space and how our business will adapt to the change,” he says.

    While converting a standard combustion engine van to a campervan is nothing new for us, doing this with a vehicle using an electric platform has presented many challenges that we have had to overcome.

    “With a limited number of available vehicle options on offer, all of which are small and have limited battery capacity, we have had to adapt our traditional design thinking to allow us to create a usable vehicle.

    JUCY expects to see a larger 40KW battery for the Nissan platform that they are currently using being released this year. This will double the current range 100 kilometre rance of the vehicle, he says.

    They also a expect other manufacturers to release new products that will give them further options.

    King and Lander say they spend more than a fifth of their time working with other senior leaders to ensure they are all aligned around business priorities and direction.

    These are not only in areas concerning technology, says King. “The CDO (Lander) leads the filtering prioritisation of wider initiatives working closely with the CFO and COO.”

    As to career insights for today’s business technology leaders, King says, “you need to be tough enough to accept failure on a daily basis, and prepare your teams to do so as well.”

    He says 20 years ago, the systems they built would have lasted a decade or two.

    “Now, any investment longer than three years is a lifetime investment for many technologies,” says King.

    “In order to cope in this kind of environment I question everything and never accept ‘it can’t be done’ as an answer.

    “This approach has challenged both our internal teams and strategic vendors but lead to many breakthroughs and the creation of a technology strategy that is a living and breathing thing rather than another box to tick for the board.”

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