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CIO Executive Council member profile: Johnny Serrano, global head of IT, GroundProbe

CIO Executive Council member profile: Johnny Serrano, global head of IT, GroundProbe

A former software engineer, Serrano has set up infrastructure to support insurance processing following Cyclone Larry in North Queensland and worked with large-scale systems that support fighter aircraft.

1. Discuss your career in IT. How did you get to where you are today?

Across my career I have worked in many areas of IT acquiring and practicing these skills.

I am the global head of IT at GroundProbe managing the IT team through record growth and innovation, transforming IT from backend focused to be more business-focused and the team engaging more as technology consultants in the business. In 2018, GroundProbe was voted the most innovative company in Australia and New Zealand by the Australian Financial Review. GroundProbe is a global technology leader that provides advanced hardware and software solutions to the mining industry.

After completing my e-commerce degree from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), I started my career as a software engineer, creating databases and systems for finance, marketing, and insurance industries. This led to an opportunity to be on the ground at Innisfail in North Queensland, just days after Cyclone Larry had ravaged the town, to set up a network and systems for insurance processing. From here, I was fortunate enough to work at Raytheon Australia which allowed me to work with global large-scale systems. This exposed me to Defence standards that support Defence services such as the F1-11 and FA-18 Super Hornet fighter aircraft, and other security-sensitive areas.

I arrived at GroundProbe in 2010 and since then, I have gained insights into business operations and processes during the implementation of our successful global ERP implementation. This has allowed me to implement better cross-channel integration with the focus and commitment to customer-centric thinking across the business

2. What are the biggest lessons you have learned throughout your career?

There have been a number of lessons I have learned throughout my career. I have learned to look for opportunities where technology can reduce costs, challenge the status quo, never stop learning and embrace ideas that sound like science fiction. But the most important lesson of all is that you can’t be successful without failure. It is to fail. Failure pushes you to do better. In saying this though, if you are going to fail, fail fast so you can get back up straight away and set out to achieve what you want to do.

3. Describe some of the biggest technology and business projects you are working on at the moment and what are you trying to achieve with them?

We have many projects to achieve business value with regards to operational and financial efficiencies, whilst also for the future with industry 4.0 technologies, with the ultimate aim to ensure complete customer satisfaction.

Currently, we have several projects in play in the areas of:

  • ERP in new regions
  • M&A integration projects
  • IoT in manufacturing (with supply chain)
  • Automation (customer services, production, business applications)
  • High growth and expansion globally
  • Data increase and Data analytics (products and software)
  • Consolidation of customer facing systems (CX).

4. Which technologies will drive the industry and your particular market sector this year?

Right now, we can say that digital transformation is shaping the way we do business. With technologies like 5G, internet-of-things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) at the pinnacle of everyone’s strategy, we see a lot of challenges where businesses are faced with the issue of trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. Ultimately, while all these technologies are great in their own way, it comes down to the industry and finding their perfect fit. Where the mining industry is considered, I can see a shift towards IoT, AI and ML playing a massive role in what it is we are wanting to achieve here at GroundProbe.

5. What are the biggest threats to the CIO role today in your opinion? (The rise of the CDO and digital teams potentially relegating the CIO to managing traditional IT?)

One of the biggest threats is complacency as technology and our world is changing at a rapid pace. Failure to adapt to the change required by the business and the lack of agility and visibility to compete in this changing world will not be viewed positively. Other threats to be mindful of are projects delivering no value/benefits, adoption of cloud and systems by shadow IT without input. I believe that leaders need to think about both digital and traditional, in my experience it works well when both are aligned and communicating to achieve overall solutions and not independently.

6. What advice do you have for senior technology staff looking to become IT chiefs? What skills do they need to succeed in the role?

There is no one secret to success. Ultimately, when we talk about the success of a CIO, to me there are six key areas you need to focus on:

1. People. Develop high performance teams and develop your people by providing training and opportunity to upskill (Self learning versus 5-day training courses)

2. Leadership. Set clear direction and sell it (strategy)

3. Communication. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be transparent with your people. Talk to them, involve them, and listen to them.

4. Adapt to change. Things don’t always go to plan, things change, and that’s ok. Ultimately, it’s all about taking the lessons learned, and using them for next time.

5. Stay focused.  Focus on what is being done right, or what can be improved versus what has/can go wrong.

6. Culture. Set your culture and live it.

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Tags GroundProbeJohnny Serrano

More about AustraliaAustralian Financial ReviewQueensland University of TechnologyQueensland University of Technology (QUT)QUTRaytheon AustraliaTechnology

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