CIO100 2017 #15: Winston Fong, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare
Creating a strong digital core is a key goal for Winston Fong (who has recently transitioned to a new role within the organisation), Nicholas Fourie (the newly appointed Vice President ICT) and the global technology team at Fisher & Paykel Healthcare.
With over 20 global sites, their previous ERP was beginning to limit their efficiency and capability to grow with the organisation which aims to double in size every five or six years, explains Fong.
“We need to put in place our digital core, to ensure we had a platform in place that can scale with growth.”
Thus, a major business transformation programme his team completed over the past year was the deployment of SAP to replace their legacy ERP of 17 years.
Over the last twelve months, we have deployed SAP across NZ, Mexico, Brazil, Australia, China, Hong Kong, and in a new Foreign Trade Zone Distribution Centre in North America,” he says.
“These deployments involved core SAP ERP across the entire value stream and advanced modules across regulatory, warehousing, distribution, procurement and supply chain planning,” says Fong.
This year, the ERP rollout will continue across our global sites as well as a range of other programmes encompassing their global operations.
Among these are the utilisation of LEAN principles across the global sales force and sales operations; a global HRIS project to include People data and Learning management; utilisation of IoT and augmented reality for internal use and potential external opportunities and global Sharepoint for collaboration.
Fong is proud of the group’s strong culture around innovation, projects and change.
“Employees have a clear vision and direction and are empowered do the right thing and to get it done,” he says.
Thus, maintaining high levels of communication is paramount within the team, to the business and all other stakeholders.
“We have a change team who contributes to manage change impact, communications, readiness, adoption, support and overall morale.”
As well, there have been great improvements in the business around inventory accuracy, efficiency with picking, packing and dispatch across the warehouses.
“As part of our digital core we now have greater visibility of the organisation operationally,” he states.
The new platform allows them to work on new and disruptive technologies for the business.
For instance, the team worked on IoT using Thinkworx across the shop floor to better understand machine, material and labour utilisation and management. The R&D team used 3D printing to rapidly prototype ideas.
We have begun testing the Microsoft Hololens to examine what problems it may solve and opportunities it may bring internally and externally for the business, says Fong.
“We focus on continuous improvement initiatives utilising LEAN and Six Sigma principles across operations and delivery to provide capacity to work on innovations.”
Fong says the company has also held annual hackathons and utilising a design thinking approach to generate ideas.
“Every year we budget some CAPEX and OPEX for innovative projects. A portion will go towards new services, new products, consultancy, training and experiments. This innovation fund can be used for specific projects or design thinking experiments”, he explains.
Fong highlights the importance of “creating an environment where employees are challenged to identify opportunities, think originally and can take calculated risks so that they can fail safe and learn fast”.
“It is a bit cliché and has been difficult to achieve in ICT, but has been rewarding when we have got it right,” he states.
He says they need to continually balance resourcing, capability and delivery across three “buckets” - operational excellence, business value projects and new innovations.
“Using LEAN principles we created an environment where management sponsors and promotes the importance of continuous improvement for individuals and teams.
“This created a supportive environment and the desire for teams to work towards better products, solutions and the implementation of new ideas. With this in place the team members make improvements, gain efficiencies to free up capacity for them to be able to get involved with new opportunities.
“Freeing up capacity has come from automating BAU tasks, reducing time spent on reactive issues, fixing problematic systems once and for all and increasing knowledge transfer and development of other team members.
“With this free capacity, we had team members spend time in the business and identify opportunities. We also drove some design thinking initiatives by throwing around some design challenges.”
Fong says the balance is managed by ensuring they achieve operational excellence first and foremost as measured by specific targets and metrics and business performance and feedback. The latter includes discussions, town halls, surveys and job closure ratings.
Thankfully, he says, collaboration and cooperation is part of the culture at F&P Healthcare and employees work very well together.
“Individual personalities, priorities and responsibilities can cause conflict and resistance to change, and this is where relationships and communication is key to gain buy-in and to positively influence,” he states.
“We are heavily focused on ensuring good organisational change management, communications and building relationships throughout the organisation. These relationships, collaboration and influencing is done informally and formally.”
Informal approaches include spending time out in the business and working with the other business teams, and having lunch in the company cafeteria with staff outside the ICT team.
Fong says they also invite non-ICT staff to present to their team during their monthly knowledge sharing sessions.
Formally, the organisational change management team members are assigned to key projects, or join cross functional project teams.
They also have strong project governance with steering committees, core teams, subject matter experts and stakeholders identified and engaged.
Fong says as part of the innovation culture, the team aims to minimise the barriers to change, implementation and adoption, except where it is necessary such as patient safety, health and safety and quality and regulatory compliance.
“Walking around the business and talking to people has the greatest benefit,” he says. “Open, honest transparency through face-to-face interactions are best. If you feel that you might phone someone, go see them in person, if you feel that you might email them, phone them instead.”
Open informal discussions reflect our culture and environment of collaboration, he says. But this has become more challenging with the growth of the organisation.
Fisher & Paykel Healthcare now has 2200 employees in their Auckland campus, plus more than 1500 additional employees located in over 20 global offices.
We need other methods and tools to assist to ensure we don't fall into the traps of “out of sight, out of mind”, says Fong.
“Rather than creating more work for ourselves we predominately focus on utilising mechanisms we already have in place to keep the business in tune with the ICT team,” he explains.
These include weekly senior leadership team meetings, providing a tech update in the weekly company newsletter, contributing to blogs and the intranet, and inviting business people to the monthly ICT knowledge sharing presentations.
“By utilising these, all ICT team members can engage with the business and our reach and connectedness is greater,” he states.
Building A-teams, developing future stars
Fong, meanwhile, has taken on a new responsibility. In February this year, he stepped into the newly created role of Vice President – Surgical Technologies.
One of his direct reports, Nicholas Fourie, former ICT Manager - Development & Engineering, took on the role of Vice President - Information & Communication Technology.
Fourie was selected following a global search for Fong’s replacement. His ascension to the role is a testament to the leadership programmes that Fong places a premium on, and which had also propelled him to a dynamic career in one of the fastest growing Kiwi companies.
Fong himself joined F&P Healthcare as an intern, while completing his Bachelor of Engineering (Electronics and Computer Engineering) at the Manukau Institute of Technology.
Over the following 17 years he has progressed through roles across technology and business management - starting as a Software Developer, to ICT Development Manager, to Group ICT Manager, until six years ago, when he was appointed to Vice President ICT.
Fong says the F&P Healthcare Information & Communication Technology team has continuing programmes to ensure diversity as well as provide continuous leadership and technology training for all members.
“We don't just focus on simply having a percentage of particular genders, we strive to see that there is an inclusive workplace with development, promotions and successors of all types of diversity,” he says. “We like to identify high performers and high potentials for such roles and opportunities and ensure we have the right growth across the business.”
Its latest figures show a 30 to 70 ratio for females and males across the team, with the average age of 35, and average length of service of five years.
Over 12 nationalities are represented, and the team has held cultural celebrations throughout the year.
The staff also come from different industries, and they range from FMCG to banking and finance to professional services. Over a quarter of the team has visited one or more of their global offices, and they take on an average of two to four graduates per year.
Fong, meanwhile, is on the Industry Advisory Board for Engineering, Computer & Mathematical Sciences and Information Systems of AUT. As part of this, F&P Healthcare takes on final year student project teams looking to work on their projects.
He also assigns team members to attend graduate recruitment programmes and participate in career presentations for universities across New Zealand. They have also sponsored schools in the global VEX Robotic World Championships, and mentor high school students with technical expertise.
“This helps students and graduates understand opportunities and career paths,” he states.
“As an organisation we ensure we have the best capability for each role,” he says.
“Our people are the key attribute to our success and we strongly focus on the development of our people through great induction and onboarding processes, coaching, mentorship programmes and continuous availability of other skills training like relationship building, dealing with conflict, presentations, resilience and building rapport.”
“We utilise the capability of our global team members, with their different skills, expertise and experience. We move them to the New Zealand head office for specific roles or initiatives where suitable.
“We work closely with NZ universities to attract talent and develop future stars,” he says.
An interesting facet of their recruitment is that over 15 per cent of their team come from other parts or functions in the business, like finance, manufacturing and engineering.
“We do this where suitable and find that this adds to the retention and development of employees,” says Fong.