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Q&A: Drakes Supermarkets CIO, Rod Koza

Koza talks about in-store radio frequency technology, cloud computing and IT support for the supermarket business
Drakes Supermarkets CIO, Rod Koza.

Drakes Supermarkets CIO, Rod Koza.

Keeping IT one step ahead of expansion plans at independent grocery chain Drakes Supermarkets is CIO Rod Koza’s remit for 2013.

Koza has headed up IT at the company for six years and previously worked in various technology roles in the resources sector.

Drakes Supermarkets operates 57 supermarkets, three newsagencies and one liquor store distributed across South Australia and Queensland. However, there are plans to expand into other states in the future as CEO Roger Drake plans to turn the company into a national fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) chain.

What does your role at Drakes Supermarkets involve?

I’m responsible for all IT in the business and that includes everything which plugs into a network port such as bakery scales. I also run our help desk and strategic systems including enterprise resource planning [ERP] and point of sale [POS].

What IT projects have you been working on?

Paramount to technology and ordering is the requirement to have hand-held personal digital assistants [PDAs] which are used to scan product codes in our stores.

The old PDA technology meant that you scanned a product code into the device and then walked all the way to the back office, stuck it into a cradle, created a product order and then sent that order to all the suppliers. This was all well and good but it meant staff spent a lot of time walking to the back office.

What we needed was a better solution and by chance we came across the Aerohive Networks radio frequency [RF] product which has now been rolled out across all of our stores. The solution means supermarket staff can use PDAs, iPads and other tablets for product ordering on Drakes’ network while on the shop floor. Information about product lines, such as when the item is coming on special, can be accessed by staff on their device. It has saved our staff time and increased productivity.

Roger Drakes’ vision is for the company to become a national supermarket so we want to venture into a third state and have 100 stores.

To support that, we need to upgrade IT systems from a small family company to a corporate environment. That includes an ERP system which will be rolled out in 2013 and a standardised integrated payroll.

We have also begun trials of mobile device management [MDM] to allow store supervisors to visit different supermarkets and record their notes on an iPad using the company Wi-Fi network.

The plan is to roll out the MDM system by mid-2013 but we need to formulate an MDM policy because we don’t want to act like Big Brother. However, we need to control the fact that the new front door for people sneaking into your organisation is via mobile devices.

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

We are now on the cusp of going from a family-oriented business to a corporate methodology. The challenge for me is to keep one step ahead so that IT can cope if Drakes acquires 10 new stores.

What are the three biggest issues facing CIOs today?

Data security is still paramount to everybody. CIOs are also looking at what role social media plays in the organisation and what boundaries need to be set. The third issue is the cloud. Most CIOs are sitting there thinking, `When is that first [cloud] breach going to happen?’ And when it does, what is that going to mean to an organisation?' More organisations are becoming accepting of the cloud but I think it is with intrepid caution that they do it.

While we are dipping our toe in the cloud, it is information that won’t affect us if it did get hacked.

What is your favourite gadget?

My Acer tablet. It’s a fully 3G capable device and I can access documents while on the move.

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