CEO Fletcher and CIO Mahler: Two Takes on Coles IT

CEO Fletcher and CIO Mahler: Two Takes on Coles IT

CIO magazine’s Beverly Head asked Coles CEO John Fletcher and CIO Peter Mahler about the company’s IT and the controversy that arose during the takeover

It also comes down to constant engagement with the business. Being partners with the business, not just service providers. Our IT people are represented in management teams at all levels. We are there when changes are first raised and discussed, so we have input. We do have to respond to a changing environment, but we have not put ourselves in the position of being the last to know.

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

Fletcher: I think those reports have been a bit mischievous. We've made no secret of the fact that we have brought forward some of our transformation initiatives and pushed back others. These have been conscious business decisions based on what was best for Coles Group. It wasn't because some transformation initiatives weren't ready to roll, or because we were struggling with implementation. And it certainly wasn't because of any failure of IT to deliver their part of transformation — far from it.

Mahler: 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 said, 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.

The 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?

Fletcher: Coles is an iconic Australian company and one that's always under scrutiny, so media commentary, positive or otherwise, comes with the territory. However, with the specific story you mention [The Australian Financial Review, "Investors shudder at Coles IT bungles" June 7] I did feel it was important to correct on the record what I felt was inaccurate and unfair reporting about our IT team's performance.

Mahler: 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.

Related stories:

"Beneath the Coles Kimono: The Spotlight on IT Transformation"
"Coles CEO Defends CIO and IT Team"
"Coles CIO: The Greatest Challenges Aren't Technical"

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