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Q&A: McDonald’s Australia CIO, Henry Shiner

Shiner talks about IT-business strategy and why he likes his iPhone 5 and HP Folio.

Henry Shiner

Henry Shiner

Henry Shiner first started out in McDonald’s as a crew member at the Yagoona, NSW restaurant – the first McDonald’s that opened in Australia. More than 30 years later, he returned to McDonald’s and became CIO for Australia and New Zealand in 2007.

Shiner spoke with CIO Australia about his role as the IT-business strategist and the challenges of working in such a fast paced, competitive industry.

What is your day-to-day like as CIO of McDonald’s Australia?

My role is about working hand-in-hand with our internal business partners so that we ensure that our consumers, our customers, our external customers are receiving the best customer experience that we can deliver. I think, from a holistic perspective, that’s probably the best way to describe my day-to-day.

For our internal customers here in our business, that means our systems are available for the right persons to make the right decisions, at the right time. For our external customers, it’s about systems that enable our restaurants to function effectively, to deliver a memorable experience each time they dine with us. So it’s making every visit from the customer perspective memorable and ensuring that whole experience is first class for them.

These sorts of goals are achieved by the IT function being an integral part of the McDonald's business. That means being part of the business at all levels and all layers of what is our great brand. Enabling our business strategies with agility is really what the business needs in such a competitive industry because our industry is different to others. It is extremely competitive and agility and pace are really important.

So in delivering that, my day-to-day involves being part of the strategic planning process for the business, working with my senior management colleagues, being part of cross functional teams, adhering and developing effective project governance, and then of course, importantly, turning all that into a foundational IT strategy that is well aligned to the business in enabling the current and future year plans to come to life. We can only do this, of course, working in collaboration with all our departments within McDonald's.

What are some of the challenges you face in your role as CIO?

In our industry, a CIO’s unique challenge is working and understanding the franchise model and how we engage across many layers of stakeholders, so that we can enable the business and the IT strategy to come to life to benefit the whole of business. That really means connecting effectively, not only with our corporate colleagues and my corporate peers, but most importantly reaching out to our licensees and suppliers all within what we call our ‘three-legged stool’ approach. That’s where corporate, our licensees and our suppliers have this collective responsibility to drive the business forward together.

This is a challenge because of the time needed and also the diversity of thinking that needs to be harnessed to bring about a successful outcome that is pleasing to all and something that is sought by the majority. When you layer all that on top of the time frames that we need to meet, the ever-increasing demands and the changing landscape of this industry, you understand why it becomes the main challenge.

What are some of the major projects you are working on?

Our current project portfolio, as you would imagine, is extensive. In an organisation that employs in excess of 125,000 people across Australia and New Zealand, transformation and innovation is always front of mind. Our portfolio is focusing most clearly and firstly on enabling our key business strategies – that’s the most important alignment piece for IT. Some of the project areas include mobility, digital, assessing next-generation points of sale, eftpos cashless solutions within our restaurants, how we engage with our restaurant crew, development of best in class engagement platforms that address the needs of our organisation and its employees.

In addition to the above, it is also looking at our next-generation corporate systems, whether they are our HRMS systems, financial systems or big data systems. So the portfolio of project transformation is most definitely on our roadmap and the ever-changing engagement landscape with both employees and customers is a major focus of development at all times. How all this changes, in terms of how employees, suppliers and customers wish to engage with McDonald's, drive the need for agility in IT

What do you think are the biggest issues facing CIOs today?

Firstly, the CIO role has definitely changed over the last five to 10 years. For those who have not recognised and embraced that I think are left behind in leveraging the ability of what technology can do. Building a respected business position amongst your peers within a senior leadership team of an organisation to me should be a focus area and be one of the key areas that CIOs address. This will enable the necessary IT agenda to be heard and realised and most importantly aligned to the business fully.

The second issue I believe is for IT and CIOs to take the lead position in all the cultural challenge and change within an organisation. That means achieving understanding and alignment in the business so there becomes no such thing as an IT project and that IT enablement of a project is the important message. Why is it important? It establishes mutual accountability for projects and transformational type strategies.

Finally, I think addressing the consumerisation of IT – for example, personal Apple devices versus PC-based company devices, BYOD, software as a service, desktop as a service, and the implications of these disruptive trends within the organisation. These need to be tackled with a view for our workforce, but also our suppliers, our partners, and our licensees. The focus for CIOs should be on how these trends can be embraced while still upholding corporate governance, security, accessibility, protection of company data within the entire enterprise. So if you couple all that with the opportunities that cloud bring then you’re really in for an exciting ride.

What are your favourite gadgets?

As the CIO, believe it or not, I love to be the pilot person within my department. I love welcoming the latest and greatest tools to better enable our workforce.

Mobility is front and centre at the moment so I really like my iPhone 5, which I’m enjoying. At home it’s my new HP Folio, which is just a great PC-based laptop that has given me so much joy and [I] particularly [like] the extended battery life I get out of it.

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