New Rural Supply tech boss has full plate

Rural Supply Co's new technology manager will start work with a full plate. The IT manager for Fonterra's rural supply arm, online and off, has been chosen but is yet to start work, says Rural Supply Co chief executive Brian Bilas.

Rural Supply Co’s new technology manager will start work with a full plate.

The IT manager for Fonterra’s rural supply arm, online and off, has been chosen but is yet to start work, says Rural Supply Co chief executive Brian Bilas.

He or she will be responsible for all technology matters at the division, which include the RD1.com website and the Anchormark and Town & Country stores. RD1 is a heavy user of Oracle, running iStore for its catalogue and Oracle WebDB for the rest of its content delivery, but implemented local CRM product Brains in a small-scale customer management project. The now allied Fencepost.com site, in comparison, was built with the New Zealand-developed Jade application tools, and uses Interwoven’s TeamSite for its content management.

Ex-RD1 IT general manager Rick Grocott last year said RD1 chose Brains because the company presented well, had good references and offered a “small footprint” product at low cost. CRM is “absolutely vital” in the long term for NZ Dairy Group, Grocott said. The organisation has always had strong customer management, he said, because its customers are also its shareholders.

“We know more about the majority of our customers than almost any other business.”

Once the technology manager is on board, Rural Supply Co, a working name for the group, will then develop an information technology strategic plan, says Bilas. One issue that has been resolved is how to proceed with Fonterra having two rural websites. Fencepost is a standalone part of Fonterra Enterprises, an arm which also covers Rural Supply Co and RD1. Federated Farmers’ South Island-based vice-president, Tom Lambie, believed Fencepost would provide information to shareholders of the co-op while RD1 would act as a “virtual site” of the trading stores. This complementary strategy was confirmed in a press release put out by Fonterra a few days after Computerworld’s enquiries. The release said the move will immediately generate savings of $200,000 a year “with more to follow”.

Lambie says farmers are generally happy with the content of the sites, and are keen to see development of functionality such as livestock trading and access to research to aid productivity. He welcomes Fencepost’s stated plans to offer rural broadband services, saying the often 9.6Kbit/s and below internet speeds farmers work with “make a mockery” of offering quality information this way.

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