How Toyota is future-proofing its innovation reputation

What do a former elite rower, a car that runs on water and an award-winning IT transformation have in common? Plenty, as it turns out.

Dmitri Colebatch has a history of high achievement. In a former life he represented Australia as an elite rower for nine years, notably winning silver in the Men’s Pair at the 1998 World University Championships in Croatia. These days, his focus is above the waterline but is no less strenuous.

As Toyota Australia’s Corporate Manager Solutions, Dmitri has played a key role in helping the business shape and implement its technology strategy as it prepares to wind up 55 years of car manufacturing in Australia by the end of 2017.

Tom Bendistinto, Executive Director at TACT who have been advising Toyota on its transformation strategy, spoke with Dmitri at Toyota’s Port Melbourne headquarters about how the company is using technology to spearhead its future beyond manufacturing.


Dmitri Colebatch, former elite rower for Australia, joined Toyota nine years ago and has played a major role in helping the business prepare for life after car manufacturing in 2018. (Photo: © Scoot Communications)

A long history of innovation

Back in 1958, a sea container arrived in Sydney carrying 13 Land Cruisers destined for the Snowy Mountains. Australia had never before seen the likes of such a vehicle and it soon became the work-horse of the Snowy Scheme. Within a year, Land Cruisers were selling out at car dealerships. Within five years, Australia had launched the first successful Toyota manufacturing plant outside Japan.

Times may have changed, but Toyota’s determination to be a game-changer hasn’t.

“Toyota Australia is transitioning from a manufacturing company to a sales and distribution company,” Dmitri explained. “This change in focus means our Information Systems Division (ISD) can no longer be back of house.”

“The franchise that is Toyota is one of the world’s most powerful brands and you don’t stay that way unless you continually challenge yourself.” – Dmitri Colebatch, Toyota Australia

Technology driving transformation

Toyota Australia is actively pursuing a technology strategy to drive its sales and marketing transformation, which Dmitri says will help it deliver the service levels required to maintain the competitive edge that has seen it notch up 13 straight years as Australia’s market leader.

He says ensuring the workforce have the right tools to do their jobs is integral to this. “In ISD, we provide toolsets to dealerships, corporate, guests (Toyota’s preferred term for customers) and everyone in between … It’s all about making sure the systems we provide are exceptional, which in turn enables exceptional service to Toyota’s guests.”

Toyota is no stranger to innovation, trail-blazing the continuous improvement revolution that has swept the industrialised world over the past ten years. Initiatives like Lean and Just in Time are commonly associated with the brand. Likewise, despite a dozen brands making hybrid cars, the only one people remember is the Toyota Prius.

“You can’t say hybrid without people thinking Prius, and that’s because we really revolutionised that (concept),” says Dmitri.

“Now we’re doing it again with our fuel cell car, the Mirai, which is a really exciting piece of technology. The upshot of this car is that it runs on Toyota’s fuel cell technology – it’s a completely different type of car. Unlike the Prius which runs on batteries, it has the advantage of being much lighter – and of course, it emits nothing but water.”


Toyota’s Fuel Cell Vehicle, the Mirai, runs on hydrogen (water) and boasts zero carbon dioxide emissions. The company sees it as a game changer and hopes to make it available to Australian consumers in the next few years.  (Photo: © Scoot Communications)

What next for Toyota?

The closure of manufacturing was a difficult decision for Toyota. The upside is that the company now has the opportunity to reflect on 50 successful years in Australia, and ask itself what it will do to become even more successful over the next 50 years.

One initiative is a program called ‘Franchise of the Future’ which looks at how dealerships operate internally and interact with their guests. Dmitri told us, “we expect people to feel like they are guests of our brand, not just someone we have a transaction with.”

Another priority is centralising the organisation, which currently has people spread across various locations in Melbourne and Sydney. This will reduce the travel burden for many staff, but the real gains will come in increased collaboration within the company; this in turn will facilitate better communication from the workforce about which technology is working for them – and importantly, which isn’t. “We want to know both sides of the equation,” Dmitri told us.

Dmitri said one of the biggest shifts currently in play was the repositioning of IT within the organisation. “We will be focusing less on manufacturing cars and more on distributing them. We (ISD) have already started attending the same training sessions as Toyota’s sales and marketing staff (and) established direct relationships with dealerships … to figure out how the technology plays out in all these business activities. It really needs to be a seamless union.”

We’ve written about success factors for business transformations – and the importance of communication – previously on the TACT blog, and Dmitri echoed some of those sentiments when he reflected on conversations he’s had with people throughout Toyota in the lead up to 2018.

“I’ve talked to a lot of the people whose roles are changing and there’s a lot of excitement (and) looking forward to their future roles. It’s more like ‘hold me back’ than ‘I’m not sure if I’m ready for that’,” he said.

“Due to Toyota’s focus on a respectful transition for affected staff, we’ve had a long lead-time to give people notice and everyone now knows what they’ll be doing in 2018. Let me tell you, they’re looking forward to it,” he added.

“Our work with TACT has helped us see another viewpoint on the pathway forward. By presenting us with a range of strategically-aligned options that challenge the way we’ve done things previously in our ERP area, TACT is playing a really helpful role in supporting ISD’s broader transition journey.” – Dmitri Colebatch, Toyota Australia

It will be compelling viewing to watch Toyota Australia reinvent itself once again and embark on a future beyond manufacturing.

Dmitri Colebatch (left) and Tom Bendistinto

Dmitri Colebatch (left) and Tom Bendistinto at Toyota Australia’s HQ in Port Melbourne.  (Photo: © Scoot Communications)

Toyota is a TACT customer working on new and innovative ways to transform their business technology needs. Tom Bendistinto is Executive Director at TACT, a Melbourne-based technology and business transformation consultancy formed in 2014. For more visit

This article was written by Scoot Communications for Melbourne-based tech business and Scoot client, TACT, in March 2016. Read the original article here.

5 ways a balanced scorecard can help you nail your business strategy

Balanced scorecard, Vietnam style

“You can’t manage what you don’t control, and you can’t control what you don’t measure.” So said American author and software engineer Tom DeMarco, and at the risk of mangling our metaphors, we’ll add, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”.

Anyone who’s ever developed a business strategy for their organisation will likely be nodding in agreement about now. Many will have joined fellow executives and board members at annual company ‘strategy retreats’, somewhere exclusive and out of town, and helped create three, five or even ten-year strategies. Over ensuing months these strategies are finessed until they’re ready to be rolled out. Then, everyone sits back and waits for productivity and profits to soar.

Easy right? Wrong.

As vital as having a strategy is if you want to transform your business, experience shows that implementing the strategy will be far harder than coming up with it in the first place – just like running a marathon is much harder than telling people you’re going to run a marathon.

Despite so much time and expertise being invested in them, over half of all transformative business strategies never make it through the implementation phase. Why do so many strategic plans that look so good on paper go belly up? Is there a disconnect between those who develop them and those who implement them? And if so, how do we fix it?

First, let’s look at some common pitfalls that can derail your strategy.

  • Not linking the strategy to the budget.
  • Not explaining the strategy to your people so they know why it is needed, how it will affect them and what role they will play.
  • Not incentivising your strategy by attaching KPIs to the various measures so that your people are motivated to help deliver it.
  • Not communicating the key messages around organisational and process changes to keep your people informed, aligned and reassured.
  • And the biggest faux pas of all – not setting performance targets that align with your organisation’s vision and goals, and link each core initiative with the people and milestones that will bring your strategy to life.

According to leading planning and performance management firm On Strategy, “The strategic plan addresses the what and why of business activities, while implementation addresses the who, where, when, and how.”

This is where balanced scorecards really come to the fore because they tie all these crucial elements together in a visible and common-sense way that invites the workforce – who are an essential part of delivering it – along on the journey.

Which brings us to the crux of our blog: Five ways that using a balanced scorecard can help you nail your business strategy.

  1. Balanced scorecards inherently drive innovation and efficiency because these are built into the performance targets.
  2. They offer a holistic solution that meets business needs by measuring performance in four key areas: customer-centricity, internal processes, innovation and organisational efficiency.
  3. They are a visual tool that convey insights in an easily digested ‘plan-on-a-page’ format that can be displayed online, on noticeboards and in other locations where staff congregate.
  4. Balanced scorecards ensure everyone from managers to graduates knows what actions are required and the metrics that sit behind them, as well as their own role in helping to achieve it.
  5. They communicate the business strategy to all stakeholders – and show why it matters.

“If you don’t make what’s important visible, how can you expect people to succeed?” – Carl Duckinson, TACT Non-Executive Director

If only everything in life was that simple!

This article was written by Scoot Communications for Melbourne-based tech business and Scoot client, TACT, in March 2016. Read the original article here.

5 hacks for attracting the best IT people to your business

Tips for attracting staff

Anyone trying to run a business, especially an IT business, will know how tough it is to compete with the big guns when it comes to attracting – and keeping – quality staff.

There’s a perception in the industry that big business offers better job security, pay and career advancement opportunities – and with good reason – it was once true. But several years of highly publicised mass layoffs in once resilient industries like mining, manufacturing and technology, mean old perceptions no longer apply.

Our own industry has been notably trimmed with tech giants HP, IBM, Telstra and Microsoft collectively laying off thousands of workers in Australia in 2015 (and tens of thousands overseas). According to Business Insider and Fairfax Media these numbers are just the tip of the iceberg.

One reason for the downsizing is the need for companies with legacy businesses to modernise inefficient structures to remain competitive in a changed tech landscape. This has created a once-in-a-generation opportunity for agile startups to take significant market share, by offering services like cloud computing and mobile Apps for a fraction of the cost and time it takes large organisations to deliver them.

What does this mean for boutique IT businesses?

Plenty, actually. Since launching TACT in June 2014 our business has grown rapidly. A key reason for our success is our ability to attract highly capable people and sought-after industry specialists to work with us. Being agile means we can be both strategic and responsive to the needs of our clients, even when the goalposts change during a project — which is not uncommon.

Although we are small, we work with Australia’s largest organisations, like Toll Group and Evolution Mining, and help them with transformations that will have a significant upward impact on their future profits and viability.

We’ve learned plenty along the way. Here are five hacks to help your IT startup or consultancy thrive in an ultra-competitive marketplace by being able to attract quality people to your organisation.

  1. Offer flexible benefits — When you consider the enormous cost and the time needed to recruit new staff, the best bet is to save yourself the trouble by offering packages that help you hang onto your people. Salaries should match the industry average, or be a little higher. Benefits don’t need to be excessive – let’s face it, most small businesses aren’t Google – and an emphasis on flexible work-life balance is important.  Thanks to fast internet and cloud solutions for SaaS for email, finance and payroll, workers no longer need to be tied to a nine to five office routine. The flexibility to work from home to fit in with school pickups or to look after young children for example, is a real bonus for some employees. Industry is certainly heading this way, don’t let your business be left standing on the jetty.
  2. Be an inspired leader — You didn’t become the boss in the last rain shower, and presumably you learned valuable lessons along the way. Share your learnings – including mistakes – with your people to help them develop and grow. Be that influential leader they’ll talk about years from now when they are mentoring their own crop of aspiring future leaders.
  3. Value your people — In today’s highly transient job climate, professional people won’t hang around if they feel undervalued or their career aspirations are not being met. Actively promote professional development opportunities such as workshops, training courses, secondments and continuous improvement. Say ‘yes’ to conferences and ‘no’ to working all weekend. Keep your people challenged and motivated, and they’ll keep you in business.
  4. Be collaborative and team-focused — A collaborative workplace is a productive workplace because ideas can be discussed, developed and allowed to flourish (according to their merits). A strong team culture is an important part of keeping employees engaged, motivated and thinking creatively — and that benefits everyone. If you’re a manager, be part of the team, not aloof or unapproachable. Team-building days every few months, followed by a swanky dinner, are also great for morale and staff loyalty.
  5. Recognise achievements and learn from failures — We all appreciate a bit of acknowledgement when we do great work, after all, we’re only human. Promoting a culture where due credit is given (and not taken vicariously by the manager), and where mistakes are treated as a stepping stone towards doing it better next time, will build a positive workplace where collaboration, honesty and loyalty flourish.

This article was written by Scoot Communications for Melbourne-based tech business and Scoot client, TACT, in March 2016. Read the original article here.

3 essential success factors of business transformations (and a rookie mistake to avoid)

Transformations can make or break a business. Anyone who’s been responsible for rolling out a major IT overhaul or implementing a cost reduction program will have battle scars to prove it — but with good planning and sound strategy it doesn’t have to be a painful exercise.

As you’d expect there are lots of elements that need to come together to get a transformation right, but in our experience, these three factors are the most critical.

#1 Ensure management and board have skin in the game

Without the backing of the executive team and board, most transformations fail. Why? Because without support from the top, issues around change, process and structure that affect your whole organisation (and there’ll be lots of them) will not be prioritised – and this invariably means they won’t happen.

Build your transformation objectives into your organisation’s long-term vision (including five- and 10-year plans), and establish a centralised PMO to manage processes and communication. These two steps enabled my team to reduce Newcrest’s global IT spend by 40%. — Carl Duckinson, Executive Director TACT

#2 Identify champions and encourage business participation

Identifying project sponsors and champions early on can save you sizeable headaches down the track. With so much ground to cover during a transformation (including planning, communication, workforce engagement, beta testing, execution, training and ongoing assessment), finding change-agents and encouraging them to channel their enthusiasm to their colleagues is the smart way to go. Project champions can be real circuit-breakers during transformations by helping those who feel threatened, anxious or unwilling, adapt to a changed working environment.

#3 Build a diverse and capable project team

Your workforce is diverse so make sure the team selected to oversee your business transformation reflects this. If you want to maintain the inclusive, high-performance culture your organisation is known for (of course you do), it’s important to ensure all your people feel represented and supported throughout the transformation process. There needs to be a collaborative relationship between project teams and your workforce for all the reasons stated in #2.

Just as important is ensuring your project team follows a structured, best-practice methodology that is aligned with the goals of your transformation and doesn’t veer away from core objectives. Avoid silos within the project team for this reason.

Number one rookie mistake

A recent Forbes study cited two main causes of business transformation failures: poor execution (ie inadequate planning) and resource/budgetary constraints.

That may be true, but In our experience the biggest mistake you can make is to not bring your people with you. Even during highly emotive, morale-sapping transformations that involve the shedding of staff, its possible to keep your workforce on side and aligned with the program’s objectives – if the process is sensitively and collaboratively managed. The key is communication.

Consider this

Are visual aides such as posters and email updates regularly distributed? Are sufficient online and in-person training resources made available? Are changes – and the reasons for them – communicated to staff before they are introduced? And are your people given the opportunity to voice their concerns, questions and suggestions to management without fear or favour?

The answer to all the above questions is self-evident. Transformations are difficult enough without making them even harder by alienating your workforce.

So, go forth and transform.

This article was written by Scoot Communications for Melbourne-based tech business and Scoot client, TACT, in November 2015.

It was also published in Inside SAP magazine in November 2015. Read it here.