CIO50 2022 #26-50 Dan Kerr, Fremantle Ports
When Dan Kerr became CIO of Fremantle Ports in February 2020, he inherited what he describes as an “immature digital position” that was laid bare by the imminent onset of the pandemic.
“[It] lacked the foundations to adapt to basic change let alone the force of change that COVID would demand,” he tells CIO Australia.
“With a legacy approach of onsite computer rooms, limited collaboration tools, paper-based forms and a desk bound workforce, I knew significant change was required.”
This led Kerr and his team to develop a three-phase, three-year approach with three core pillars:
1. Addressing the fundamentals to stabilise the environment and bring risk to a business acceptable level.
2. Optimise the environment by upgrading and implementing appropriate systems and procedures.
3. Driving innovation through data and technology.
This has been through an IT strategy with the five themes of: governance and assurance; strategy and planning; business engagement; data and insights; and operations and technology transformation.
A number of important initiatives have been delivered on Kerr’s watch from development of an IT governance plan, creation of several ‘sub-strategies’ spanning cyber, cloud and enterprise architecture frameworks, business engagement and demand management models, and commencing IT/IoT integration.
Core hardware has been refreshed, at the same time as multiple legacy applications have been removed, as Fremantle Ports moves from planning and sourcing to delivery of an Oracle Cloud ERP solution for human capital management (HCM), finance, contracts and projects.
Meanwhile, he and his team formed a ‘data management’ council and associated platforms to better understand and report on data including the removal of numerous paper form processes and the introduction of real-time dashboards for finance and procurement data.
And all of this amid a successful migration to the cloud, including full migration to Office 365, with consolidation of numerous applications into Microsoft EA, resulting in improved user experience and reduced operational costs.
Doing what you say
Like many industries with entrenched practices acquired over decades, even centuries, ports aren’t always known for being at the cutting edge of innovation.
And Kerr says that gaining the necessary funding and support to undertake a major digital transformation involved striking a delicate balance between multiple stakeholders and factors, and aligning outcomes of the IT strategy with business impact and risk mitigation.
“The strategy was developed with input from IT and the wider business, and was presented to the executive leadership team, audit and risk committee and Board who all approved the strategy and associated budget,” he notes.
A strategy was documented and presented to various groups within the business before being accepted and endorsed unanimously.
“The strategy was the source of direction for all digital investment once it was approved and as further strategies were developed such as cyber, data management and cloud, it set the direction for what we have today,” says Kerr.
This proved especially important during the rollout of a complex ERP program, as well as standing up a system to control security access during the COVID 19 pandemic, improve KPI reporting, and implement digital forms and dashboards.
Kerr recalls that as the broader business developed more confidence in the technology division, they started coming to IT more frequently for assistance.
“I believe a significant aspect to my success at Fremantle Ports is ‘doing what you say you are going to do’. This allowed us to engage in a business conversation and deliver the technical solution to meet their needs."
It’s also made it easier to make the case for a more than $15 million investment in digital over the past two years, with an annual budget of $8 million.
And while acknowledging that the digital projects he and his team deployed are not unique to Fremantle Ports, Kerr stresses that they herald an important departure from the siloed IT systems that had been hitherto weighing them down.
“While these initiatives are not unique to Fremantle Ports, this was a first as previously technology was not consolidated and a number of investments had been completed in isolation," he says.