Interview with Derek Wilson

Below you can enjoy an exclusive interview with Derek Wilson, CIO of Origin. This interview was conducted especially for ESPC22 by Suzy Dean, CEO, Co-Founder of AddIn365.

1.1      Tell us about yourself

I am Group CIO at Origin Enterprises, a leading agri-services group that provides specialist on-farm agronomy services, digital agricultural services and the supply of crop technologies and inputs. We are 3,000 people strong, with operations in 8 European and Latin American countries .

I have always been in IT, starting as a programmer and along the way working as a consultant and up to Managing Director of a large IT services business. In 2007 I switched over to the customer side, becoming the first CIO of Origin.  Later on, I completed a three-year stint in the media sector before returning to Origin in 2018.

1.2     Tell us what your top 3 technology achievements are

  1. When I was Managing Director of Siemens Business Services, I led a team that completed a siginifcant transformation and turnaround of that business by focusing on the intersection between our core capabilities and the technology needs of our customers and prospects. 
  2. The challenge when joining Origin was to establish from the ground up a technology strategy and application architecture that worked not only for our existing diverse entrepreneurial businesses but would also accommodate a dynamic M&A environment.  We called it the “Business Improvement Platform” and I was delighted when the successful implementation won an award from “The Manufacturer” magazine. 
  3. Our team in Origin Digital has delivered a number of market leading software products and innovations, used by our farming customers and our agronomists.  It’s great to see how our software is being used on farm to drive sustainability and productivity.  Not only that but via close daily collaboration with the front end of our business our digital team have built an exciting roadmap that will further support our customers and enable sustainability in primary food production.           

1.3     Why did you decide to upgrade your digital employee experience on Microsoft 365?

It was overdue.  We had a SharePoint on-premise solution, Agriinet, which had served us well but which was end-of-life and had a number of restrictions.  We needed a complete refresh and to take advantage of new technologies.     

1.4     Tell us a bit about what you did

We wanted to migrate off our SharePoint 2013 server to Microsoft 365 and in the process reimagine the digital experiences we had been providing to make them more relevant to our employees and to take advantage of the new Microsoft capabilities that are available. We did some of the work internally and partnered with AddIn365, who provided a brand aligned SharePoint Modern experience for us, Viva dashboard tiles for our firstline workers and a bot capability to simplify our content discovery experience.

1.5     What were the business benefits you were looking to realise?

Our business is based on our agronomists expertise. We were thinking about our agronomists as they are out in fields and on farms day to day, servicing our clients. We wanted them to have a great mobile first experience that would help them to do their various jobs, which might include having a bundle of product information ready to go for a client, needing to find technical content while onsite or simply connect with colleagues for advice. We wanted to deliver a great firstline experience to our agronomists, to do a better job for our clients and to help retain them in a competitive market.

We also wanted to improve the experience for our central teams, that also spend time working from home. Our old experience was more of a file repository and we wanted something more dynamic and interactive, that would give them a chance to engage with our strategy and vision.

1.6     Why did you choose to partner with AddIn365 to deliver your project?

We were impressed with Addin365 technical expertise, the speed at which they grasped and understood the challenge, and their template driven approach which meant we could get to POC stage quickly.       

1.7     What are you most proud of having delivered as part of the project and why?

I think the personalisation is fantastic and the improvements to search are long overdue.  Both deliver a much better experience to our front line who need access to the most relevant information rapidly, often outdoors.

1.8     What’s next for your digital employee experience?

We will let this solution bed in and will watch how our colleagues engage with it through the busy spring 2023 season.  Undoubtably we will get lots of suggestions and ideas for innovation, which we will collate and review.  We will also be looking to Addin365 to advise us on the potential of the technology and experiences elsewhere.  Outside of Agrii, we will look to extend the solution to other businesses in the Origin group.    

1.9     Tell me a fun fact about yourself

If you take the first letter of my wife’s name, and the first letters of my three daughter’s names to form an anagram, it spells “BOSS”.  Add in my own first initial, and you get “BOSS’D”.  Fathers of daughters will no doubt empathise!  We only realised this when we were thinking of a name for the family WhatsApp group!

You can catch Derek talking about the new Agrii Viva Connections experience at AddIn365’s webinar

AddIn365 and Agrii’s session: Agrii’s Microsoft Viva Journey at ESPC will take place on Tuesday 29th November at 15.15 CET.

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