Coran Thompson

VP IT Product, Platforms,
Planning and Architecture,
DHL
5 July 2016

Can you tell us about yourself, your background and how you got involved with the Corporate IT Forum?

I have worked in IT for over 20 years. I have typically changed roles every 2-3 years, moving between transformational program management functions and building/managing teams in pretty much all aspects of IT. In my current role I report into the CIO for DHL Supply Chain in the UK & Ireland. I manage the IT products and the IT planning and architecture function that support the DHL Supply Chain business and our customers.

I first became aware of the CITF around 2010. At that time I had a large Infrastructure related team and the CITF gave them access to valuable peer level relationships without the ‘IT selling’. I was very pleased when Joanna approached me in 2014 to join the IT Gender Balance steering group.

How did you decide to pursue the career that you are working in today? Was there ever a pivotal moment?

I think the pivotal moment was when the MD of a small warehousing company asked me to support him in deploying an Inventory Management system – this was the first deployment of this system within the UK. At that time I was a temporary inventory clerk, and most of my time was spent trying to find paperwork that matched what was happening in the warehouse. The excitement of working on leading edge technology (for that time), which would help me and my colleagues get away from mountains of unorganised paperwork was a fantastic opportunity that I could not refuse and was a perfect start to both my career journey in IT and DHL.

What motivates you?

In a nutshell, I am motivated by overcoming challenge and developing people – achieving both at the same time gives me the greatest sense of achievement.

I like to help people understand their strengths and achieve their potential. In the right environment it is amazing what we can all achieve.
I want to make a difference and deliver value, and overcome challenges of all shapes and sizes – it doesn’t matter if they are technical, process or people challenges.

Two of my former roles stand out to me as being the most challenging. The integration of the Exel Global Forwarding business into DHL (an internal program with tight timescales and a very high profile) and the global implementation of the Inbound to Manufacturing hubs for our biggest technology customer . Having a ‘can do’ attitude, managing expectations, developing cultural awareness, being pragmatic and building a great team were all key in making me successful in both roles.

In your experience, what impact do mergers & acquisitions have on IT?

On a personal note - M+A have played a key part in my career progression. Each one has opened up a new challenge/opportunity for me to expand the breadth or geographic reach of my role.

I have been heavily involved in four significant M+A. The key for me is always to make sure that you are successfully managing the impacts on your customers. It is very easy to get internally focused about delivering efficiencies or economies of scale. Making quick decisions on the targeted IT architecture to best serve the new organisation and then detailed planning on how to achieve it are key. Identify the quick wins and also recognise that sometimes you have to make hard decisions to put in tactical workarounds that will minimise the customer facing impacts – the detailed planning needs to take into account the subsequent unpicking of these workarounds so that the benefits of decommissioning can be achieved.

M+A nearly always bring with them a period of uncertainty for the IT teams, often bringing together teams from different working cultures and this can create tension. Moving at pace with open, honest and regular communications are critical to ensure that we retain our skilled teams.

How has IT supported/enabled DHL in adopting "Green solutions"?

GoGreen, our Group-wide environmental protection program, is how we act on our responsibility. The main focus of GoGreen is to avoid, reduce and, when necessary, give our customers the chance to offset, greenhouse gas emissions. It is important to DHL and our customers that IT can support the drive for environmentally efficient supply chains. I think one of the key areas we have supported is in the provision of IT across our transport fleet. Telematics provide invaluable information that can indicate the need for engine modifications or driver training. Transportation systems provide optimised loading, routing and consolidation points. All of which means we can minimise our fuel consumption.

DHL is piloting digital technologies in warehouses - how do you envisage this improving operational efficiency?

DHL is always looking at ways in which we can improve our operational efficiencies to support our customers. Warehouse operations are a core area for us and we typically have a number of pilots in progress as new technologies emerge. For example, scanning, pick by light, and voice picking are used extensively depending on the type of operations. Vision picking using augmented reality is the newest technology to join these options. Early pilots have shown significant opportunities for improvement in efficiencies. We are also developing sensors for asset / location tracking, robots for repetitive co-packing tasks and have a mobile first ethos to ensure we are promoting a mobile workforce and servicing our customers in the most effective way. In my view data is at the heart of what we do – new solutions that ensure quick and accurate visibility of supply chain activities and that allow DHL and our customers to adopt ‘insight driven logistics’ through data analytics are critical for us.

How have you benefited from your involvement with the Forum's Gender Balance Special Interest Group?

The benefits are both for DHL and for me personally. The IT Gender Balance steering group is made up of some fantastic individuals, covering very different organisations (private and public) and from many different roles within IT. Working with such a passionate group, all with a common goal, has given me some great insight into the broader challenges and what companies are doing to overcome them. On a personal note the events that we target for individual females (promoting areas like personal-branding, career planning, being brave) are always great reminders to me.

How is DHL addressing Gender Balance?

In 2013 DHL made a pledge to fill 25 per cent of its vacancies at certain levels with women and has already seen progress in this area. Each executive team has to have two female successors now, one of whom has to be in an operational role. And globally, DPDHL Group supports its employees by offering extensive family and childcare services. These include, long term child-care and holiday programs. Such services ensure that employees are able to support their family and enjoy a career with the business. In my view DHL is an equal opportunities employer that supports an inclusive workplace and values the contribution of individuals from every background. I think one of the challenges, within the IT function of DHL Supply Chain, is making sure that the essence of the inclusive workplace gets reflected in our communications. The promotion of female role models, training for recruiting managers on topics like ‘unconscious bias’ and on how flexible working can work for them are some of the things we continue to work on.

What advice would you give to aspiring female leaders? Do you have any top tips to reach the top?

My advice to developing talent...

  • Make sure you develop as a rounded individual - take any opportunity for different tasks/functions
  • Don't settle for the status quo!
  • Make sure you have a work/life balance - your sustainable success will depend on it
  • Develop your constructive challenge - but pick your battles carefully
  • Build your career plan to support what you love to do. Focus on your strengths
  • Be resilient and tenacious.

 

Any final messages to our membership?

I believe the CITF is a really friendly environment of professionals who want to learn from and help you. I would encourage you to make good use of the assets that the Forum provides and make sure that you get involved in the events/webinars or online.

Thank you for all your support for the CITF IT Gender Balance work. Please continue to promote female role models, both within your organisations and in every aspect of the work that the CITF achieves for us. This is a journey and I believe the active promotion of gender balance within IT will aid our issues of IT skills shortages and develop balanced teams that are able to excel.

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