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Vegetable Soup(ed) Up

Vegetable Soup(ed) Up

Meet Moraitis - a fruit and vegetable giant grappling with the challenges and opportunities of the information age. Beverley Head finds out how a greengrocer takes a greenfield site and grows its IT network.

CIO to take on a job because he felt sorry for the owners of the business. He is probably one of the first to admit publicly to it.

Certainly from the outside Nick, Stephen and Paul Moraitis didn't seem to merit much in the way of sympathy. Their eponymous business Moraitis Fresh is one of the largest suppliers of fruit and vegetables in the country, shipping thousands of tonnes each week to clients including Coles, Woolworths, Franklins and Bi-Lo. Moraitis also has a food services division supplying a range of well-known fast food chains. Add to this the legendary turf circuit status of patriarch Nick Moraitis (not least as the owner of Might and Power) and sympathy might seem superfluous.

But internally it was a different story. The company wasn't backing winners in the IT stakes, nor had it for some time. What had elicited Colovos's sympathy was the fact that the family was hopelessly out of its depth when it came to identifying information systems that would support the business, help them make more effective and efficient decisions, and fulfil the information requirements of their customers and suppliers. The Moraitis family knew their business, they just did not know what information systems they needed to run it more efficiently.

Fate stepped in for the family when Stephen Moraitis realized that his daughter's school friend had a computer consultant for a father. An informal approach saw Con Colovos, who was at the time consulting with Com Tech (now Dimension Data), accept the invitation to take a look at Moraitis's computer system and advise the family on what it needed to do next.

Working long hours, six days a week for two months, Colovos studied Moraitis. His mission: Identify what computer systems the company needed to support its present business with an eye to future requirements. However his lengthy audit of the company's existing systems revealed some disturbing news. There was a yawning chasm between the computer systems in place and what was needed to support the business immediately. The idea of these systems supporting future growth was so far-fetched, it wasn't even an issue.

Colovos recommended that the company quickly bring in a consulting company to fix the problem. It was a route that the Moraitis family had followed before but with little joy. They had installed a computer system based on advice from consultants, and now it was sadly lacking. After seeing Colovos's style for two months they felt they could trust him and wanted him to take on the job for them.

"I liked them, I felt sorry for them, and I started in March 2001," Colovos says.

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