For this CIO Focus Interview, I got to speak with Peter Weis. Peter has over 15 years of global CIO experience, and is currently VP and CIO of Matson Navigation, a $1.7B, publicly traded, global transportation and logistics company. At Matson, Peter leads a global IT organization that is responsible for strategy, software development, infrastructure, high-availability operations and all levels of IT governance. Peter is an experienced speaker on leadership, technology, and supply chain topics, and has lectured at both the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and at San Francisco State University. He holds an M.B.A. with Honors from the Wharton School and a Bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Furthermore, Peter was a 2014 inductee into the CIO Hall of Fame. You can find Peter on Twitter and also hear more from him on cio.com!
Ben: Could you give me some background on your career?
Peter: I did my undergraduate studies at UC Berkeley and followed that up by getting an MBA at the Wharton School. I entered my first management role at age 26 and became a CIO for the first time at 36 at a global 3rd party logistics company. I’ve spent my career at a mix of both start-up and Fortune 500 companies. In late 2003, I was lured out of the start-up world to Matson Navigation. It took me a while to accept the position because I was still happy in the startup world and wasn’t initially convinced that a traditional and successful 125 year-old company was committed to innovation. Ultimately though, I saw it as a unique opportunity to lead a game-changing IT transformation and have now been here for 12 years. I also write and speak at conferences and give guest lectures at UC Berkeley.
Ben: What about a little background on your company?
Peter: Matson is a $2+ billion publicly traded global transportation and logistics company. We were founded in 1882, believe it or not, providing products to Hawaii. Although we’re now far broader in scope and cover much of the Pacific region, Hawaii remains our most important market. Our culture, processes and technology are all built around world-class operations and customer service in what has become an increasingly commoditized industry. As a result, we’ve been ranked as the number one ocean carrier in the world for the past two years, both overall and in information technology.
Ben: What sorts of projects have you been working on?
Peter: We recently finished a complete IT transformation that replaced 100% of our enterprise applications, our underlying architecture and our governance processes. Our legacy mainframe and AS400 systems are gone. We’re now fully virtualized and cloud-enabled and can now run our business in the cloud. By making this shift, we are in a position to reduce our IT managed services costs by over 80%. Most companies of any scale are wrestling with these legacy and obsolescence issues, so it’s gratifying to have completed this transformation. We also recently made a major acquisition that enables Matson to enter the Alaskan market. As a result of completing this IT transformation prior to the acquisition, the integration of this $450M acquisition is now expected to be completed in 5 months. In a legacy environment, this integration would likely have taken 18 months and cost millions more than it did. This is a big win for Matson.
Ben: What goals do you have for 2015?
Peter: Now that we’ve finished transforming what had been a traditional IT environment, it’s now time to go on offense by leveraging what we already consider to be the best technology stack in our industry. So, we’re now focusing on further enabling growth, reducing operating costs and responding more quickly to innovation opportunities. In fact, we’ve formed a dedicated innovation team which is led by several of our top performers. Their sole focus is innovation and widening the gap between Matson and our competitors. In order to do that, we need to be faster and more agile. We now think in terms of weeks and months in delivering innovation instead of years.
Ben: Which areas of IT do you think are having the biggest impact on the industry?
Peter: I would say cloud migration and cyber security. With the cloud, there’s a gap between vision and reality, and most companies are constrained by legacy environments that aren’t conducive to cloud technologies. CIO’s are struggling with how to fulfill the promise of better responsiveness at lower costs that cloud solutions offer, but they don’t know how to close this legacy gap. There is no easy solution, but those companies that find their way to the cloud will have real structural advantages over their competitors.
Regarding cyber security, the industry just doesn’t know what to make of the hype versus the reality. Every CIO feels the risks, but most are unsure of the right strategy to pursue, given that solutions today are so young and fragmented. As a result, CIO’s are feeling behind the curve. The problem is real, but the correct vision and necessary skill sets have not yet matured. If you look at the enterprise technology stack, the winners are clear. In cyber security though, the winning solutions are not yet clear. My company isn’t in finance or healthcare, so our risk profile is lower than it is for some. At the same time, in the age of the mobile, digital business, we are all at risk. After a difficult search, we’ve actually just hired a leader to drive our enterprise information security strategy.
Ben: Could you talk about the importance of a strong relationship between the CIO and the business? Has your experience getting degrees in business helped you in this regard?
Peter: Speaking the language of the executive team is very important. Their language isn’t LAN, WAN, or SaaS; it’s largely corporate finance. The traditional IT career path doesn’t teach managers the language of business, which creates a gap that all great IT leaders must close. Yes, my business training has certainly proven to be valuable, as I’ve learned the language of the boardroom. It’s also helped my personal brand as I’ve become more involved in assuming a commercial role at Matson, where I can more directly affect the company’s bottom line.
Ben: On a more personal level, which areas of technology interest you the most?
Peter: I’d say it’s the challenge of transforming the enterprise experience to be more like a consumer experience. I’m talking about customer facing enterprise applications that look and act like consumer apps. The consumer marketplace is teaching us what enterprise users and customers desire, and we need to watch, listen and incorporate these lessons more fully into our business solutions. Nobody gets trained on using an iPhone app, right? Now, imagine rolling out enterprise software with no training! That’s our goal. The market has told us where to go, and that’s where we’re headed over the next 3 to 5 years.
By Ben Stephenson, Emerging Media Specialist