news Toll Group chief information officer John Ansley has resigned from the group just a year and a half after taking up the role, in the wake of the failure of an ambitious IT outsourcing plan.
Ansley is a well-known IT executive with a strong history steering IT projects at major corporations. Previous to his role at Toll, he was president of supply chain solutions and chief information officer at Linfox. He has also held CIO roles at Roche and Rio Tinto, as well as being chairman of vendor SAP’s CIO Executive Council.
When the executive joined Toll in March 2014, it was with a mandate for change. iTnews reported that Toll’s IT systems were a mishmash of pieces which had not been integrated over the past decade of acquisitions that the company had carried out.
Because of this situation, Ansley was given a mandate to transform Toll’s IT operation, shifting to the SAP platform for many of its systems.
However, it appears as though the plan has come unstuck at Toll. Delimiter understands the executive has resigned and will leave the company in early 2016.
The resignation comes just weeks after Toll revealed it planned to dump a wide-ranging play to outsource key parts of its IT infrastructure, as well as application support and development.
In late October, Toll group director of Corporate Affairs Andrew Ethell issued an internal email at the company, which has been sighted by Delimiter. In the email, Ethell announced a decision to “stop” Toll’s Global Technology Transformation (GTT) project.
Ethell said in his email that the GTT project had been established to outsource part of Toll’s IT infrastructure and application support and development tasks. The project was one a number of significant transformation projcts currently underway in Toll, he said.
However, Ethell noted that a GTT project review of the last six weeks had validated the net business benefits as being “lower than expected”.
“As a result the Steering Committee has made a decision to stop the GTT project. This is effective immediately. We will continue to focus on our other transformation projects,” the executive wrote. “These will continue alongside our projects that are client critical, regulatory, risk driven or have a compelling business case.”
Ethell said Toll remained committed to its technology principles which were “an important plank” in the company’s strategy, and included: A best in class, streamlined and cost efficient IT environment ; Resources focused on value-add activities; Industry leading technology capability; The ability to rapidly deploy new business solutions globally; And the ability to leverage Toll’s scale to maximise procurement opportunities.
In the email, Ansley said: “While we realise this decision will impact our people, service partners and vendors, this decision is a sign of the strength of governance processes in place for all of our projects. We will be having face to face communications; as scheduled, with our impacted employees to communicate this change and our priority remains to support our customers and employees. Toll remains committed to its technology principles which includes making Toll the industry leader in technology capability.”
I don’t have much inside information as to what has happened inside Toll’s IT operation over the past few months.
However, the little information I do have, as well as the appearance that the situation presents from the outside, would appear to paint a relatively clear picture.
Realistically, up until this point, Toll appears to have been doing a pretty terrible job with its IT. It’s the old standard story: A massive corporation makes lots of acquisitions, but without properly integrating its targets’ systems. After a decade of this, it ends up with a spaghetti mess of competing platforms. Plus, it’s most likely underinvested in IT throughout that period as well, so it doesn’t have the capability or the relationships to start to modernise its internal operations.
And yet, it has to. Logistics businesses in 2015 are essentially — like virtually every other business — technology businesses, at their heart. These companies need to have solid IT platforms at the heart of their operations, in order to get the job done as efficiently and and effectively as possible. They rely on technology on a daily basis.
So they hire a top gun CIO like Ansley and give him a mandate for change. They’re open to necessary strategic moves such as outsourcing to get capability into the business.
The only problem is, the new CIO runs into a brick wall of internal opposition to the changes that need to be made. Eventually, the business pushes back too far and the strategy collapses. Exit CIO, stage left.
This is mostly only my personal speculation, based on a few scraps here and there that I have been able to garner. But I’ve seen the same story too many times in too many other organisations for there not to be at least a grain of truth in what I have written here.
Then too, Ansley is a competent operator. He committed to Toll. It would have taken a great deal for him to leave — he would have needed to believe that he had lost the confidence of the higher-ups in the business — even the board. It’s hard to see much of it being Ansley’s personal fault. The role Ansley took up at Toll offered him precisely the kind of reforming challenge a high-level CIO in 2015 looks for. It is a pity that it appears that the company itself may not be ready to face that challenge just yet.