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In Tune, In Form & In Front

Foodstuffs North Island 02

harvesting a fresh approach to data through digital transformation WRITTEN BY




fo o dst uf fs . co. n z


Foodstuffs North Island’s Acting CIO Ashley Colyer explains how the cooperative is overcoming the challenges of change management to harvest the benefits of a customer centric approach to data


oodstuffs North Island became one of New Zealand’s most successful brick and mortar grocery businesses thanks to

a string of market leading brands such as Four Square, PAK’nSAVE and New World. Established in 1922 along with sister co-operative Foodstuffs South Island, the cooperative’s owner/operator model has seen it become the country’s biggest 04

grocery distributor while remaining 100% Kiwi owned. The North Island co-operative strives to be: In tune with what customers, colleagues and communities need; In form to give customers what they want efficiently, sustainably and profitably; and In front – innovating to make sure New Zealanders get more of what matters most to them. Acting CIO Ashley Colyer recalls the fundamental strategic decision the co-operative made about the future role technology would play across the organisation: “Seven or eight years ago, IT was considered by many simply as a necessary cost of doing business, something we worked hard to control. However, our Board recognised IT was going to be the key enabler of our future success, leading to a seismic shift of our investment in technology.”


Colyer explains that implementing SAP as the core ERP was at the heart of an IT transformation program which saw the replacement of all technology, from the network to data centres, applications and hardware. “It’s a true digital transformation from back end core platforms to customer-centric digital technologies,� he says, emphasising the positive development of recently deployed e-commerce platforms. Alongside this recent focus on customer facing digital programmes, fo o dst uf fs . co. n z


“It’s a true digital transformation from back end core platforms to customer centric digital technologies” 06

— Ashley Colyer, Acting CIO, Foodstuffs North Island

Colyer explained that the second broad area of focus was around internal processes optimisation. “We asked, how will we operate more efficiently and effectively? How do we optimise our supply chain? How do we reduce the amount of manual effort associated with core business activities? For example, with support from EY, we deployed new transport management and warehouse management systems that have really underpinned our supply chain transformation. We’re also three years into a program of simplifying the internal user experience of some of our core applications – notably the SAP platform – and moving away from user interfaces that are hard to understand and easy to get wrong, to applications with very defined purposes, built with the end user in mind. This makes it easy for people to do their job with very little training, essentially replicating the consumer technology experience.” Colyer also notes that Foodstuffs North Island leads the charge in New Zealand with the adoption of Office 365 which has seen over 3mn documents moved to the cloud. “That’s

07 unleashed our people from their desks,

address this using their SD WAN

the office, the corporate network and

solutions to optimise the available

even the need for VPN in many instanc-

network to all our stores and we’re well

es,” he says. “We can now work on any

progressed with completing this

device, anywhere, anytime. It’s been

enabling programme.”

enormously successful for us allied

The company’s positive approach

with a flexi desk, activity-based

to change management is providing

working environment. Of course, with

a platform for everybody at Foodstuffs

more functions moving to the cloud,

North Island to get on board with new

reliable and performant network

ways of working. “We have really

connectivity only increases in impor-

matured our capability across all

tance and this can be challenging for

business units. We deliver a constant

our more remote stores who have

and heavy program of IT change, both

access to limited bandwidth. Working

within Support Centre and stores.

with Riverbed, we’ve been able to

We’ve a multi echelon approach to fo o dst uf fs . co. n z

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mobile platform for the organisation’s

with Adept Group, a local company

forays into retail e-commerce since

with fantastic Salesforce expertise,

2015. “It’s a really engaging mobile app:

to deploy the solution for our whole-

tactile, intuitive and with a great user

sale brand Gilmours. They were key

experience,” he adds.

to delivering a project that came in

Over the past year, Colyer highlights

on time and under budget. The impact

the hugely successful overhaul of

on the business was instant. Since

Foodstuffs North Island’s wholesale

we went live, sales growth has been

e-commerce platform, migrating to

dramatic for the business.”

Salesforce’s recently acquired

Colyer notes a huge shift in the

“CloudCraze”, a natively and purpose

digital expectations of customers,

built B2B e-commerce solution which

whether shopping online or in store,

had yet to be implemented in the

which is focusing the company’s

region,” he reveals. “We partnered

energies on building an integrated,


Ashley Colyer, Acting CIO Before embarking on a career in IT, Ashley Colyer worked as a trader on the financial markets in London. He believes that data driven role, focused on being able to digest and analyse vast quantities of information, gives him an intuitive approach to the data wrangling solutions technology can offer. “The shift towards a data driven and customer centric approach at Foodstuffs North Island has felt very natural for me,” he says. “You’re really looking at what the data’s telling you and then figuring out what to do next, so my previous career experience has definitely shaped my approach towards leading in IT.” Never one to get overexcited by the latest hyped technology his first thought is: “How do we actually turn that into something that’s going to be useful and meaningful to the business and our customers?” fo o dst uf fs . co. n z



$7.7bn Approximate store sales


Year founded



Approximate number of employees


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“We need to let what our customers’ data define how we operate” — Ashley Colyer, Acting CIO, Foodstuffs North Island

oped sophisticated AI models allowing our category managers to know what to promote and when to optimise the impact of our promotion and marketing activities.” Colyer adds that the fundamental shift currently being realised at Foodstuffs North Island is a customer driven approach to data core to the company’s strategy. “We need to let

change management with a team at

our customers’ data define how we

Support Centre whose raison d’être is

operate,” he says. “So instead of

to support delivery into the business

promoting something because our

across our 332 stores and help them

suppliers are giving us a special on it,

not just to adopt, but optimise the way

it’s promoting something because we

that technology is used. It’s a big

think it will resonate with our custom-

challenge with so many distributed

ers. Understanding that level of

users, so you need an efficient structure.”

granularity takes trillions of calculations

Colyer believes the grocery industry

so we need the sophistication of AI.”

is ripe for the application of automation,

For Foodstuffs North Island to

AI and machine learning as the vast

develop these capabilities, strong

majority of the business is data driven.

partnerships have been key. EY played

“Promotions, for example, knowing

an important role in the company’s

which to put on, when, how and to

ERP implementation and wider digital

whom. All of that can and should be

transformation, providing “intellectual

driven by data,” he explains. “Previous-

horsepower and capacity to help

ly there really wasn’t the capability

deliver critical large IT programmes,”

to process the volume of data to do

says Colyer of this important strategic

justice to that. Now we’re starting to

alliance. Allied to this, South America-

work with partners who have devel-

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customer-centric digital experience. “It’s about where they get their inspiration, how they create a shopping list and how we can make it easy for them to find products in store. It’s also about the online shopping experience and how we make that as simple and as engaging and as rewarding as possible.” Like many digitally forward businesses, Colyer predicts Foodstuffs North Island will continue to use AI to greater effect. “It will mean we can start moving our people into significantly more value-add activities. Working out what


to order and when is not something a person should be doing. It’s completely predictable to a level that’s as good as, if not somewhat better than, a human could do.” He sees the future focus for

Island is to leverage IT and data to

staff on building a better experience for

serve customers. Allied to that Colyer

customers. “Instore, that may lead to

stresses the exec level focus on

fewer staffed checkout lanes allowing

simplifying the business: “Our goal is

our people to be out helping and

to reduce duplication and streamline

inspiring customers – it’s a big shift away

processes leveraging automation

from ‘processing’ towards ‘customer

and AI to create the headroom in order

experience’,” pledges Colyer. “It’s

to progress many more customer

about adapting your systems and

centric initiatives.”

processes to accommodate that.” The ultimate goal, and number one strategic priority, for Foodstuffs North fo o dst uf fs . co. n z

Foodstuffs North Island 60 Roma Road Mt Roskill Aucklands New Zealand T +64 9 621 0600

Profile for Business Review Asia

Foodstuffs North Island Ltd Brochure 2019  

Foodstuffs North Island Ltd Brochure 2019