Stories by Ross Milburn

FedEx CIO: How to drive competitive advantage

FedEx Express Asia Pacific recently launched an Electronic Trade Documents Service in the Asia Pacific – a new key responsibility for Alison Dack, the company’s vice president, information technology, and chief information officer. Dack joined FedEx in Asia Pacific in July 2006 and has 90 staff across 13 countries providing field support for all business and operational IT solutions, including call centres, sort and tracking systems and in-country voice and data networks.
CIO Asia sought her personal and corporate reflections on the use of IT in this competitive industry.
What is your view of the changing role of CIOs in today’s environment? Is there a shift from pure technology to creation of new business processes and promotion of corporate productivity?
Without doubt, the role of CIOs is more important than ever in the modern business world. Technology is no longer just a form of back-end support. It now plays an integral role in driving business success. This is a positive and encouraging shift.
We view technology as a fundamental part of our ability to not only improve our operational efficiencies, but, more importantly, to fulfill the services we offer our customers and how we add value to their businesses. The success of is testament to this. When the site first debuted in 1994, it was among the first to offer customers real online functionality which included full package status tracking – long before Amazon, Google or even direct competitors. As a system, this information helped FedEx monitor and address our operational efficiencies.
More recently, we continued to roll out enhancements such as FedEx Ship Manager which allows customers to streamline the process of preparing shipping labels, tracking and arranging for courier pick-up. These efforts – big and small – helped make the shipping experience more user-friendly and convenient. This is also why FedEx is ranked No.1 in IT among the world’s air cargo carriers by Air Cargo World in its Air Cargo Excellence Survey earlier this year.
Do you have any particular philosophies to cope with the business responsibilities placed on the CIO function nowadays?
IT is an integral part of driving business strategy and building and retaining customer loyalty. Our greatest challenge is using IT to maintain our competitive advantage and that is why we emphasise innovative solutions and services that facilitate the success of our customers’ business. A cornerstone of how I approach my role is the belief that IT must not only understand the business, but must help the business to understand IT, the result being a partnership that truly leverages the power of business technology.
FedEx recently announced the launch of Electronic Trade Documents (ETD) service in the Asia Pacific. Is this part of an overall philosophy for FedEx to provide added value to its freight - courier services?
The FedEx culture of technology innovation is all about empowering our teams to find ways to add value to our customers’ businesses. ETD is a paperless shipping solution that allows customers to submit customs documentation electronically, so customers can get a head-start on customs clearance; thereby saving time and reducing the risk of lost, missing or damaged paperwork. Instead of a pure technology-led initiative, we look at ETD as part of our continuous effort to identify solutions that enhance our customers’ shipping experience and that support the current demand for streamlined logistics solutions.
Can you give us any other examples of completed or planned FedEx IT projects?
FedEx is expanding its frozen shipping capabilities for the life sciences industry, using the latest technology breakthroughs. Our new CryoPort Express Shipper allows products to remain frozen at temperatures below minus 150°C for up to 10 days, unlike dry ice shipping which often requires re-icing during transit – an innovation that is set to revolutionise the frozen shipping model.
FedEx is continuing to invest in the next generation of sensors and active RFIDs, which are going to really revolutionise the Internet and what is possible when these sensors go mainstream.
Do you think IT is increasingly important in managing FedEx operations?
In many aspects, FedEx is in the business of engineering time, and it is hard to imagine an organisation where IT plays a greater role in the business than FedEx. We say innovation is fundamental to our DNA and supports our value proposition, which is not just about moving things quickly, but also about keeping track of things as they move. That is where our various IT initiatives kick in that create sustainable value and provide competitive differentiation for the company.
How will FedEx use ETD technology to differentiate itself in the express transportation market?
ETD is not an isolated technology initiative. What differentiates FedEx is our ongoing investment and passion in ensuring the breadth and depth of our technology initiatives continue to address and enhance our customers’ shipping experience.
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Written by Ross Milburn09 Feb. 11 22:00

Tracking criminals

We regularly see it in daily news media across our region: Singapore National Kidney Foundation's CEO is charged for corruption; Hong Kong public hospitals lose 16,000 patient records; New Zealand teenage hacker infects 1.3 million computers; naked celebrity photos stolen from PCs appear in the press. In every case where data theft is suspected, forensics experts will be imaging hard drives, analysing data and preparing evidence that will stand up in court.
Computer forensics is the most secretive part of the IT industry. Individuals and companies damaged by cyber crime know that their reputations depend on remaining silent. So, when we asked computer forensics professionals about their latest cases, they explained that if they breached client confidentiality, they'd never work again.

Written by Ross Milburn15 July 08 22:00

SaaS vs on-premises software

Beyond keeping the client happy, customer relationship management (CRM) software is becoming a powerful tool. It collects customer data, which integrates with other applications to perform business analysis and forecasts. As software-as-a- service (SaaS) is turning mainstream, data integration can be a burden for IT executives.
With the ease of use and popularity of SaaS, business users are bypassing IT in launching the on-demand CRM applications.

Written by Ross Milburn26 Dec. 07 22:00

Risk and reward

''The CIO may be responsible for risk management, but its planning and execution involves the whole company," says Ian Cook, vice-president & director of IT, Asia-Pacific Zone, Chubb Group of Insurance Companies.
As one of the keynote speakers at the MIS annual IT Summit held in Asia, Cook expects risk management policies to be executed by project teams involving operational staff, IT organisations and multiple business units.

Written by Ross Milburn28 Nov. 07 22:00

Fact and fantasy

"Dirt, trucks and sea" confronted Noble Coker in February 2002, when he arrived at the site of Hong Kong Disneyland as both the CIO and the only IT professional on the payroll. He had just taken up the awesome responsibility for the creation of the massive technological machine that would drive Disney Inc.'s fifth Magic Kingdom theme park.
"I was warned to expect the worst. Don Robertson, the first managing director of Hong Kong Disneyland, told me: 'I've been in the company 34 years, and I've seen the opening of new parks, extensions, and new attractions, but I've never seen the launch of a large technology project that did not have problems. On 12 September 2005, the world will be watching us.' "

Written by Ross Milburn31 July 07 22:00