Zespri to migrate without IT staff

Resistance from Zespri's SAP specialist staff has contributed to the company's decision to let its IT unit remain in Auckland.

Resistance from Zespri’s SAP specialist staff has contributed to the company’s decision to let its IT unit remain in Auckland.

The kiwifruit marketer says it is moving to Tauranga in April to be closer to growers but, says outgoing CIO Graham Coles, there was a feeling sufficient skills in the SAP software suite the company uses could not be obtained in the Bay of Plenty, otherwise “we [too] would have moved”.

Zespri currently has eight IS staff in Tauranga and 15 IS staff in Auckland as part of a total of nearly 150 staff evenly divided between the two cities. But after April Zespri will have a total of 130 in Tauranga and just the 15 IS staff in Auckland.

Coles says no decision on the IS department will be made until June when the company hopes to decide whether to continue with its SAP systems. “Initially we said to the IS department that we had looked at the market and we weren’t going [to Tauranga] at all. A lot of feedback was ‘I’m glad. We would not have gone anyway.’ But they never got the choice,” he says.

A source close to the company says an exception was made for the IS department in moving to Tauranga, but shifting that department is a long-term aim of the company. The source believes Zespri is also facing difficulties in seeking other key staff in the Bay of Plenty.

Coles confirms some staff resistance to the shift to Tauranga, which has been highlighted by job advertisements. He was not sure of the exact figures, but believes those who have shifted from Auckland to Tauranga are “quite low”, perhaps 15 out of 70.

Coles says Zespri is currently reviewing its IT systems. The company recently outsourced the management of its servers to Datacom and there may be further outsourcing. There are three options: moving part of the IS department to Tauranga, staying in Auckland or further outsourcing. “Until we have selected the system we are going to run, it’s hard to say what will happen,” he says.

Tauranga-based Zespri HR manager Lain Jager says Zespri decided last November to relocate all its departments except IS, and confirms that a decision on that department would be made in June as part of a worldwide review of Zespri processes “looking at appropriate IT”. Jager acknowledges SAP experience may be difficult to find in the Bay of Plenty, though he is unaware of any company enquiries along these lines. “SAP skills are hard to get in Auckland. I can imagine it would be even harder in Tauranga,” he says.

The company’s new CIO will be based at Zespri’s new offices in Mt Maunganui along with the other executives, marketing, communications and finance departments.

Coles says he and his family decided last June to shift back to Sydney. He says the company asked him to stay on until first Christmas and then April this year.

Wanganui-born Coles went to Sydney when he turned 30, working for seven years as IS manager for Goodman Fielder’s milling and baking operations. He returned to New Zealand two years ago, as CIO for Zespri.

Zespri hopes to appoint a replacement CIO this month.

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