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Idealog Podcast: Fonterra's Raf Rasile on digital transformation and the importance of agility

Idealog digital editor Ben Mack chats with Fonterra's Raf Rasile about digital transformation, the importance of being agile, why dairying is pretty bloody high-tech, and more.

It may often conjure images of rolling green hills, herds of cows and evoke a general feeling of placid pastoralness, but dairying is pretty high-tech. Just ask Fonterra's general manager of digital innovations and solutions, Raf Rasile, who has been helping New Zealand's largest company use tech to adapt to a world that's changing at ever-faster speeds.

But digital transformation isn't all Fonterra has been focusing on lately. Fonterra's 'From here to Everywhere' campaign provides a reminder that consumers as far afield as Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka all place Fonterra products into their shopping carts on a daily basis.

What the advertising does not hint at, however, is the massive logistical task in keeping the brand digitally cohesive across all those markets.

Rasile says that until recently the business operated the digital side independently in each market. “We had multiple different websites all over the world, all managed by different vendors and agencies,” he says. “If there was a case of needing to recall a product or if there was something that we wanted people to know about us, the first question would be: who’s hosting this website? Where is it managed?”

Working with The Instillery, Rasile and his team have spearheaded the development of a centralised system that can be managed from anywhere in the world - and which can seriously help streamline things. “We went through the process of developing a digital eco-system,” Rasile says.  

Raf Rasile.

Rasile won’t put a dollar value to the amount the change is set to save Fonterra, but does say it has led to a huge reduction in operating costs and that it also recently won the Digital Transformer category in the Australian division at the IDC 2017 DX Awards. “You now also have a single way of working for everyone across the business regardless of whether they’re here or in Malaysia or in Chile.”

Another major advantage, which is also increasingly serving as a major motivation for organisations to take their tech in-house, is that that the new system gives Fonterra control of the IP, regardless of who it works with across the world. “It’s not about taking work away from the agencies and partners that we work with, but more about having ownership of the process," says Rasile.

It also puts the onus on Fonterra to ensure the technology doesn’t become obsolescent — something Rasile is acutely aware of. “You’ve got to take a continual, agile approach that looks at data and numbers to make sure you’re gleaning insights and improving the customer experience across your whole portfolio.” 

But want to learn more? Then check out the podcast below.