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The CIO as a visionary and pragmatic driver for change

The CIO as a visionary and pragmatic driver for change

Martin Catterall of HW Richardson Group is open and eager for disruptive technologies in the transport industry, while remaining focused on current operations.

You have to continually be on the lookout for new opportunities for your company.

Martin Catterall, HW Richardson Group

Martin Catterall says the CIO function has a professional responsibility to understand what is happening in the marketplace, to think through what the impact could be for the company, and share that with the executive team.

“The role nowadays is less that of a technologist,” says the CIO of HW Richardson (HWR), the largest privately owned transport company in New Zealand.

“Staff need to see IT as the group they can share their problems with, who listens and contributes to their business, and also is open to new ideas.

“You need to support them,” he says. “Ultimately, it’s not about where the idea came from, it’s all about achieving the results for the business.”

These are some insights Catterall has gained following more than 20 years in CIO roles across the globe.

Related reading: State of the CIO 2017: 'Be prepared for anything'

Before joining HWR in Invercargill, Catterall was the CIO for St John New Zealand. He also spent 10 years as global director of information technology and telecommunications for the World Health Organization centred in Switzerland.

Catterall started his IT career in 1986 as a programmer/analyst for the Department of Labour in Wellington, before he moved into database management. Leaving NZ in 1992 to take up a DBA role with Dairy Farm Ltd in Hong Kong, Catterall later moved to Australia in 1996 where he became the Asia Pacific Year 2000 Project Manager for Kellogg.

Catterall says he is able to bring what he learned from the wide range of companies he has worked with into the work he does for HWR.

“HWR is a group of more than 50 companies with different stages of technology deployment,” he says. “It takes experience with those types of needs to be able to match them to appropriate solutions; something we definitely need to do if we are going to be effective moving into the future.”

The group also owns Bill Richardson Transport World, the largest private collection of vintage trucks and cars started by HWR founder Bill Richardson, and more recently added Motorcycle Mecca to that collection.

“At HWR we have superb programmes to manage our gear, and manage our people,” he continues. “We put a lot of time and effort in repairs and maintenance with over a thousand trucks on the road at any one time. These trucks are constantly monitored and tracked for safety and performance.”

“I’ve been given the authority to lead us to new technologies and new ways of working. But I also have the responsibility to make sure that adds value to the business."

“The CEO gives me the space to do what I need and he is always there if I need to run something by him or get advice.”

Catterall, a member of the HWR executive team, reports to CEO Brent Esler, who held the same role at Farmlands, New Zealand’s largest farmer owner co-operative.

“With that freedom and authority comes an equal measure of responsibility,” says Catterall. “It is not uncommon for the chairman of the board to just walk into my office and ask me to explain what it is I am doing and why, or seek advice on a particular project. That is a wonderful scenario to be in.”

“HWR has a culture of being a great partner with other businesses. We try to keep our business profitable, but not at the cost of the industry. HWR is all about maintaining a sustainable marketplace.”

Up next: The CIO-plus

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