CIO50 2020 #23 Rohan Penman, T2 Tea

  • Name Rohan Penman
  • Title Global head of technology
  • Company T2 Tea
  • Commenced role May 2018
  • Reporting Line CFO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 11 staff, 3 direct reports
  • Retail is tough at the best of times, but when COVID-19 really ramped up in March 2020, bespoke hot beverage company T2 Tea took a huge gulp.

    As global head of technology, Rohan Penman had been driving a major digital transformation over the past 24 months, revamping enterprise systems and creating a modern unified commerce platform. 

    Without this, the business would not have pulled though as well as it has.

    The core objective was creating seamless, frictionless experiences.

    And the strategy developed by Penman and his team seemed especially prescient when the pandemic crisis peaked, and customers were prevented from visiting actual stores, historically the company’s main source of income.  

    “Infinity coupled with Salesforce Commerce Cloud (via MuleSoft) gives us a hub for our customer channels, reducing integration complexity and manual overheads, while increasing efficiency and accuracy,” he explains. 

    “It’s also our strategy for growth and innovation, helping us to deliver evolutionary innovations that will accelerate our business agility and competitive advantage.”

    The Korber / HighJump Warehouse Advantage Management warehouse management system (WMS) combined with Zebra mobile devices supporting the warehouse team, has greatly reduced costs, improved completion rates, order accuracy and team productivity.

    Picking productivity increased 40 percent, with an equivalent flow-on for packing completion rates, while incidences of wrong packaging fell three percent.

    It also saw a ‘value-added-service-lane’ come into being for things like gift packaging, personalisation and custom packing, while overall sorting and labelling procedures all saw improvements too.

    The WMS solution ensured T2 Tea ran fulfillment seamlessly during Covid19, achieving a 450 percent improvement in overall capability. 

    Another absolutely critical capability for T2 Tea was its ‘click-and-collect’ service, enabling customers to still purchase their favourite teas and other products online, with the peace of mind of being able to pick them up in store.  

    “This item was a business saver during COVID-19,” Penman says, allowing customer tracing and payment-free transactions to occur at pickup. 

    “The solution performed at over seven-fold its original design metrics and continues to be a very popular solution globally.” 

    And while all of this was happening, Penman and his team also managed the global rollout of the company’s new POS and commerce platform, which has transformed inventory management as well as customer loyalty and voucher tracking, giving customers more immersive and frictionless experiences. 

    The explosion in cyber threats was, however, a source of major distraction from these large projects. The tech team at T2 targeted enterprise endpoint protection and web and mail filtering and control solutions.  

    “We saw remote attacks reports skyrocket from overseas and we saw SPAM and whaling attacks increase four-fold. The strategy protected the whole enterprise and allowed us to trade safely and continues to do so.”

    Penman stresses the importance of embracing agile methodologies to advance the best tech and innovate in meeting customer demand for more personalised services.

    “This has dramatically improved our speed to market through more frequent product releases focused on delivering true value for customers.

    “Using reliable team management methods, with Scrum and Kanban boards for sprint management, our team is capable of high levels of quality output and change.” 

    Kind and fair 

    Mobilising the team in responding to the pandemic while they were already deeply ensconced in major projects of critical importance to the business was never going to be easy. And people skills were certainly key. 

    “I have a modern leadership style focused on identifying and nurturing the individual strengths of each member of my team,” Penman explains. “I stick to the ethic of being kind and fair”.

    But he also understands the importance of pushing everyone to be independent and to think for themselves. 

    “I want to empower them to make decisions effectively and confidently if I or other team members aren’t available. And I want them to know that thinking for yourself and giving each other an equal voice is critical for buy-in and success."

    Creating a culture of learning is a key priority, with every team member provided with assistance in choosing the right personal course of study for their own careers. They are also frequently sent on relevant business courses and seminars to upskill in their roles, as well as advance personal development.  

    “Coupled with flexible working arrangements, I believe this allows my team to perform at their best because they want to,” Penman says. 

    Having developed a truly diverse team has been key for Penman creating the right culture for success. Two of his most senior colleagues are women: data warehouse developer, Krishna Banerjea and devops manager Rachel Chaloner.

    There are also seven different nationalities in the 10-member team, with ages ranging from 20s through to 50s.

    “I aim to have team members with diverse upbringings and experience supporting diverse businesses,” Penman says. “Our team’s capabilities outside of technology and retail have enabled us to support business initiatives spanning transport, logistics, communications, web and finance.”

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