Coles CIO: The Greatest Challenges Aren't Technical

Coles CIO: The Greatest Challenges Aren't Technical

In a timely interview, Coles CIO Peter Mahler talks with CIO magazine’s Beverley Head about the company’s IT and the controversy that arose during the takeover

There have been press reports that Coles's IT systems upgrades are behind schedule and over budget. Can you comment?

That coverage [The Australian Financial Review, "Investors shudder at Coles IT bungles" June 7] was unfortunate, and disappointing for an IT team that has done a great job delivering projects to time and budget. As John [Fletcher] said ("Coles CEO Defends CIO and IT Team"), the business has made decisions along the way to amend some timelines according to business needs, but we have always been able to accommodate that. As a leader, I think the key thing to when such reports come out is to reassure your team that the business still has faith in their work and direction, and do what you can to keep everyone focused on the main game.

CEO John Fletcher's letter to the editor in response suggested a very close link between IT and the business. There appears to be no culture of blame at Coles — rather a tightly integrated team approach to developing information systems. How has this been arrived at?

I think that's been a strength of the Coles team, in that we've had a clear business strategy and everyone's worked together to deliver it. At different times, different areas of the business will be the top priority, but the key to success is that the management team all agrees on the priorities and how their area can best support them. I think the IT team we have here at Coles has been exceptional for its ability to be real business partners and to be flexible as they help deliver the strategy.

What are Coles's biggest challenges in the near to medium term future in regard to getting its IT infrastructure right?

I think a change of ownership would certainly add an interesting new element, but it's impossible to predict what might happen. However we have nearly completed 90 percent of our transformation work and improvement on operational systems is ongoing. I can't see anything changing substantially right now.

How will you know when the IT systems are "right"?

If customers walk into our stores, find what they wanted from the catalogue, buy it at a competitive price, then come back again the next day — the systems are right.

Related stories:

"Beneath the Coles Kimono: The Spotlight on IT Transformation"
"Coles CEO Defends CIO and IT Team"
"CEO Fletcher and CIO Mahler: Two Takes on Coles IT"

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