Senior VP of IT for FedEx, Nik Puri, is based out of Amsterdam and has responsibility for IT strategy, application development, infrastructure and security for the Middle East, Africa, APAC and Europe. He’s been with FedEx for more than 20 years, most of the time in the US and for the last few years in Europe.
FedEx is the largest cargo airline in the world with more than 650 aircraft. We have four hundred and fifty thousand team members, serve more than 99 percent of global GDP, and we operate and serve customers in over 200 countries.
There are two key business drivers for our IT transformation at FedEx: Firstly, the market is demanding greater business agility and we’re being asked for more digital and e-commerce enabling solutions, not just for our customers but for their customers. This is a key driver of our IT strategy and a key driver of our business strategy.
Secondly, we need to reduce complexity. Complexity is the enemy of speed from an IT point of view. By leveraging new ways of doing things, we are also addressing the complexity that comes with it. By bringing this together, we're not only able to deliver on the value that comes with digital transformation but also the expectations of our customers and shareholders.
Digital transformation continues to evolve, and it continues to impact markets as well as our ability to meet the needs in the market. Whether it be simple things like robotics process automation (RPA) which allows our customer service representatives to respond to our customers faster, or something more complex like artificial intelligence and machine learning that allows for a package to move from one country to the other and not be held during custom clearance; all these technologies are important to us.
We are using data-driven technologies and data-driven processes to make decisions and deliver new value to our customers. This is very relevant in the e-commerce market. Our customers are asking that we provide them with information that allows them to make decisions faster. It’s all about our customers being able to do something unique and something different that no other company can provide them with.
We provide APIs, toolsets, and Web services to our customers, bringing the variety of data that FedEx has and embedding it in our customers’ ecosystem. They can make decisions and notify their customers when a package is available, when something happens to their package, or when their invoice is ready.
The power of digital transformation is to bring all these things together through one data-driven interface to enable customers to optimize their businesses. The value of digital transformation for us must be measured from the eyes of the customer.
When it comes to digital transformation, our customers expect us to make them more productive, give them more data about the shipment, and make their supply chain more efficient. We have a lot of tools in our digital toolkit that allows our customers to look at the movement of packages, with data across the entire supply chain. This allows customers to make decisions more rapidly, to look at things holistically, and to optimize their supply chain. Our customers come to players like us to be able to make that leap, to make their businesses more efficient and to leverage data to run their companies more efficiently.
Our digital strategy is part of our overall European success strategy. We are building Europe's premier logistics business, and we don't just have to take care of our customers. We must ensure that our customers have new ways of taking care of their customers.
We have been using Technology Business Management (TBM) now for a few years within FedEx. We were one of the early adopters of Technology Business Management. When I moved into my role I needed to step back and ask myself questions such as how do I make IT more efficient? How do I get more productivity with the investment that we have already made? And the answer was already known to us: through TBM. We are in the advanced stage of rolling out TBM around the world, and it’s already giving us a lot of benefits.
Technology Business Management or TBM is a key part of our governance and modernization journey. We always start by asking ourselves, “what are the capabilities we have to build to meet the customer needs?” The very next question is, “what is the current run rate, and where is that we want to go?”
When it comes to digital transformation we've had to make some very tough decisions: Should the hosting be in the cloud? Should it be in a co-lo or our data center? These economic questions are easier to answer when you have data at your fingertips, that you can model, that you can process, which enables us to ask where this will lead. By having a very intelligent data-driven discussion, we can make much more relevant and quicker decisions. TBM is at the heart of it.
In the digital transformation world, a lot of things are changing: new ways of doing things, new technologies, and new mindsets. CIOs need to bring all this change together.
One of the things we are doing is taking design thinking and connecting it to SAFe and Agile, connecting it to DevOps, and ending with continuous improvement cycles. When you bring that all together, you don't just get productivity and enhancements. You get non-linear growth. TBM sits on top in the decision-making layer, in the demand management layer.
TBM adoption has successfully driven large infrastructure upgrades. We need to be able to document the value a capability provides for us. Our CFO needs to know how much we are spending on running the business today. This makes for a more meaningful business discussion that isn’t about buying routers and switches. This is about running the business. It's about the reliability of the company that our brand expects IT to deliver.
What is more important is that I can step back and say how much money I am spending on running the business and changing the business. This ability to move the dialogue, of driving modernization, allows CIOs to reduce spend on running the business and have more funds available for changing the business.
That means meeting customers’ expectations. Driving differentiation in the market is a very powerful tool for a CIO to have. It changes the dialogue and the relationship a CIO has with CFO and the CEO. We are no longer a cost center. We are value drivers.
We are deploying TBM around the world. Our TBM data is our basis for all IT staff meetings now. Instead of having Excel-based, “here's your budget, here's your plan, here is your variance,” discussions, we now look at our TBM data. We look at what the system is telling us. All our budgets are loaded into it, all our plans are loaded into it, all our actuals are there at almost near real-time after the books close, and we can have a global discussion about how IT is doing around the world.
It is important for us from an adoption point of view that we don't just tell our employees to use a particular tool. As leaders, we need to use the tools ourselves. So what better way of driving adoption than to use it in our day-to-day management of the business? Also, as an IT leader, I don't have to wait for books to close. I can log in to the system and see how IT is doing on its commitment, on its plans, on its budget and because I can look at it, so can my team members. They know exactly where they stand against plan at any point in time.
FedEx is uniquely positioned to succeed in our digital journey, and the reason is our people and our culture.
Our corporate culture values three important things: learning, caring, and results. Learning is about new ways of doing things, new technologies, new mental models. Caring is about empathy. It is about making sure that we care about each other as we go through this transformation as transformations are never easy. And finally, results are obviously important from our shareholders’ point of view but also within our company. This is where TBM plays a very vital role. With the transparency that TBM provides, with the ability of our team members, our management and our business partners to be able to look at where we are regarding every project and clearly map the results to the transformation we’re looking to drive, there is more confidence in IT.
If I were to summarize the value of TBM in a phrase, I would say do it for business agility.
I'm excited about the journey we are on. I think it is transformative. I think there is great value in it for our shareholders, for our business partners, for our business overall. When I step back and look at all the work that is going on within our digital journey, I’m confident that our team members will find this to be a very modern place. We’re implementing new capabilities, new ways of doing things, and driving mindsets that are ready for changing the world.