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Global Powerhouse: An interview with Carl Powell of Fletcher Building

Divina Paredes | Oct. 15, 2014
After integrating Fletcher Building’s business technology systems in 40 countries, Carl Powell focuses on sharpening the group’s capability to compete in the digital environment.

Carl Powell had worked for nearly two decades at UK logistics company, Unipart, when he was offered another group CIO role with another global firm.

The company, Fletcher Building, was based on the other side of the world in New Zealand, and was in the midst of its biggest technology shift for businesses across 40 countries.

"It was moving from a number of well-run but very decentralised businesses, to taking more of a group view with a small active centre," Powell says. "From an IT perspective, that means looking at technology as a group asset, rather than 50 sets of assets each individually owned by a business."

He observed very few global businesses at this scale were still operating with that set-up, and took on the challenge. In late 2013, Powell uprooted himself from his base in Oxford, and joined the executive team of the largest listed company in New Zealand.

Fletcher Building is also Australasia's largest building materials supplier, with iconic brands that include Firth Industries, Fletcher Steel and its New Zealand distribution businesses, PlaceMakers and Mico.

A testament to the group's growth is its ranking as number one in this year's CIO100, the report on top ICT using organisations in New Zealand[1] based on screen numbers (36,114), turnover ($8.87 billion) and staff (18,600).

"I was very happy at Unipart and I would have quite happily stayed there," he says. "But I thought it would be good to experience another global role in another continent. If I was ever going to move, the time was right, and then Fletcher's offer came up."

The only thing that would have stopped him from accepting the Fletcher Building role was his family -- his wife and two children aged 16 and13. "But no, they were all extremely supportive and all wanted to come."

Inaugural role

Powell's role was an integral part of FBUnite, the group-wide business transformation programme that has been running for more than 20 months.

"FBUnite isn't just information technology. It's about developing a winning culture, being responsive to market changes, optimising our operational performance and creating the lowest possible cost structure," he comments. "So it's across the board."

From an ICT perspective, the next phase focuses on creating a single, integrated ICT function globally.

"Centralising in this way will allow us to more efficiently and effectively deliver technology to the whole group through 'centres of expertise', which concentrate on delivering strategic IT products," he says.

"It will also allow us to offer greater career and development opportunities to our people and invest in new capabilities."

Upon joining Fletcher, Powell says there was a need to quickly assess the current state from both a technology and capability perspective, as well as understand current business strategy and executive priorities.

 

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