CIO50 2020 #26-50: Wilson L. Alley, Delegat Group
Delegat has ramped up its initiatives around big data and analytics, a move that is already providing a raft of benefits for the maker and distributor of premium New Zealand wines.
Our most significant and pervasive ICT initiative over the past year is around our data warehouse and self-service (DW-SSR) reporting, says Delegat CIO Wilson Alley.
“This DW-SSR initiative is about analytics, and its intersection with our activities and intentions around the Internet of Things.”
Alley notes that while the long and deep supply chain that Delegat operates has always presented rich data streams, the focus on DW-SSR means data is a consideration in all ICT initiatives and part of the language of the business well beyond information systems.
Alley links this to Delegat’s second ‘roadmap’ for ICT, first released in 2016 and dubbed ‘2020 vision’. The roadmap focuses on new user experience (UX), digitisation and data.
“As delivery of the roadmap progressed, and more and more of our user communities moved to a fully online, SaaS UX, the new applications and business processes both demanded and provided the opportunity to rethink our data,” he states.
“The importance and opportunities of an increased focus on our data have manifested themselves in a far greater manner than the current roadmap contemplated.”
The modern SaaS applications, for one, rely on reporting technologies rather than reporting suites embedded in the application.
Initial users, fast impact
The first major user community of the digitised systems were their 150 field sales staff across the globe.
When they went fully online, it was immediately apparent that there was an opportunity to improve the quality, currency, and consistency of the data available to our field sales teams and its presentation.
In our most mature markets, the field sales teams rely solely on data and reporting from these technologies to inform their sales planning and execution.
“With an integrated model/field sales force in every market where we have material volume a core competitive advantage of Delegat, the impact of the DW/SSR initiative is positively enhancing a point of difference of our business,” says Alley.
“The key is that data, DW-SSR, are all part of the daily parlance at Delegat,” he stresses.
He says some of the most recent developments in this space include sales analytics reporting that provides global performance data against budgets and forecasts, through channels and territories across all our global markets, updated every hour.
He says their new systems all have data design, capture, conforming and reporting at their core, and are better for it.
“The opportunities that IoT offers, given our asset heavy supply chain, are also a valuable addition to scope.”
He says the early deliverables from the DW-SSR rollout meant there were fewer cultural challenges to hurdle as they rolled out subsequent data-related technologies.
He does see potential challenges as the DW-SSR initiative grows in scope. The DW/SSR initiative has now grown to such significance that it requires its own enduring governance model beyond its ‘agile’ beginnings, he states. He says recommendations on this governance model is part of his agenda for the year.
The coming year will also see significant involvement in the role out of an Enterprise HRIS, which will provide Delegat with an end-to-end (Hire-to-Retire) view of their Talent in a single Application, for the first time.
A seat at the top table
Alley leads a team of eight, but though a small team IS operations continues to have a high profile and broad reach across Delegat.
“Our stakeholders have increasingly recognised us as agents of change over an extended period,” says Alley.
The new managing director has likewise made IS and People and Culture, the only two areas across the organisation that have standing items on the senior management team meeting (SMT) agendas.
Alley says having a seat at the SMT table allows IS to engage with all senior stakeholders equally, and respond to their requirements, offering technology innovation, and contributing to the broader success of the business beyond technology.
Alley takes pride in having a “highly collaborative” leadership style that allows him to work with executive peers as well as business colleagues from across all levels at Delegat.
Alley is of European and Ngāti Maniapoto heritage, and has worked and lived in Mexico, Guatemala, the US, UAE, Taiwan and Singapore. Thus, he is comfortable engaging with people on a marae, to members of the board, or with other senior management Team members.
“Keen listening skills are important, as well as focusing on finding some common ground as a base to progress dialogue from,” he says.
“Understanding what the counterparties would value as part of an outcome is important in driving to a mutually beneficial result that also meets you or your organisation’s own needs.”
He says those who work with him can attest to his sense of urgency, and his catchphrases ‘‘[bringing the future] into the present.”
This leadership approach has served him well in his career, and also his work in the community, which includes being a life member of his Cricket Club, serving on the boards of schools, and on the committee of the local church.
His overseas work experience instilled in him the value that diversity can bring to ideation, decision making, and delivery.
In his IS team, four different nationalities are represented and there is a near equal gender split. “They collectively contribute and enrich the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of our group, and beyond,” he states.
As CIO, Alley regularly presents updates to other operational teams, engages with overseas staff and holds monthly meetings with individual customer groups. IS team members are also expected to spend time in the operations of other business units as part of their annual performance objectives.
Alley mentors some up and coming leaders at Delegat and has seconded IS staff to other business units and brought non-ICT employees to join the team.
He says the biggest lesson he has learnt in senior ICT roles is the responsibility to be a change agent and manage change.
“As leaders in the information technology industry we need to be at the forefront of managing that change for the benefit of our organisations and society.”
“While it has always been important, I think the ability to be a change agent and to manage change is even more critical now in an era of shorter and shorter product, service and technology lifecycles,” he states.
“Today, the belief of relying on a small range of technical capabilities to sustain a career, or a material part of it, is an anachronism. Technology is changing so fast the particular ‘tech’ is unimportant and unnecessarily tying you or your organization to it, risky.”
“Far more valuable is the ability to adapt,” he continues.
This he has applied in his own career. Alley started his career in finance and accounting, having completed his degree in those fields.
“However, the conservatism in the related industries and lack of reinvention there saw me move to ICT and retool for that new environment,” he says.
“In turn, ICT provided me with opportunities to work on international assignments in a variety of countries,” he says.
“That involved mastering a new language, ensuring I was able to immerse myself in the local cultures, and still deliver to the expectations of the organisations I was working for. Re-establishing yourself at these multiple levels requires a strong ability to manage change and adapt, attributes that are infinitely reusable across industries and circumstances.”