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CIO interview: Jesper Riis, DSV

IT plays a business-critical role at Danish logistics and transportation company DSV. CIO Jesper Riis tells Computer Weekly about his current challenges

In March 2015, Jesper Riis assumed responsibility for the 600-strong IT organisation at Danish logistics and transportation company DSV.

He is currently in the middle of a DKK200m (£20m) IT project to implement a transport management system (TMS).

“It has been a busy, exciting and challenging time for me,” Riis tells Computer Weekly at DSV’s headquarters in Hedehusene, near Copenhagen.

The first of the TMS’s five modules is already implemented, with the project scheduled to be completed by early 2018. “The new TMS will help our freight forwarders to become even more efficient, freeing them up to focus on providing customer service,” he says.

DSV’s road business consists of transportation of goods by trailers and is one of DSV’s three main business areas – the other two being transport by air and sea, as well as logistics systems.

The logistics systems division’s main products are used in warehouse management and logistics processes. “We support our customers’ supply chain, helping to make sure companies have goods in their stores, or that spare parts are delivered to a production line at the right time,” says Riis.

Increased automation saves costs

Many of DSV’s transactions are automated. “Our systems are electronic data interchange (EDI) enabled, making it possible for us to automatically exchange data and information with our customers. The whole flow is automated – from booking to invoice,” he says.

DSV is continuously working on increased automation. “It is a necessity, since we have so many transactions,” says Riis. “If we can remove one manual process, it adds up to a lot of money, because we have so many transactions.”

As a result of extensive automation, IT plays an important part when it comes to moving goods from point A to point B at the right price and the right time, according to Riis. “Most information is filtered through our systems, so if IT systems are not working properly, goods will be delayed. Therefore, IT is critical for DSV’s ability to do business.”

The most important things to Riis are to make sure IT operations always function, to support DSV’s strategic business projects and to continuously standardise IT worldwide.

“We are a low-margin business, so we do not necessarily make big investments in the latest technology, but we focus on technologies that make a difference to the business. It is a balancing act – we have to choose the technology that gives us more money on the bottom line and drives us safely into the future,” he says.

“We have to choose the technology that gives us more money on the bottom line and drives us safely into the future”

Jesper Riis, DSV

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In-house IT allows more control

DSV has very little of its IT outsourced, and Riis plans to keep it that way: “There can be benefits to outsourcing, but for us it makes sense to operate our own IT. Outsourcing is not necessarily cheaper, and often we want to stay in full control.”

To access cost-effective IT support, DSV has more than 100 IT employees at a shared services centre in Poland. “We are currently hiring,” says Riis. “In 2016, our IT resources in Poland will probably be the same size as in Denmark, with 160 IT people. DSV chose to locate in Poland before I took over as CIO, and it was a good choice. Poland has good IT education, so it has been easy to hire skilled people at a reasonable cost – and they are very dedicated and have a good work ethic.”

Sharing the same time zone also makes it easier, according to Riis. “It only takes a little more than an hour to get there by plane. I have travelled to Poland a few times and I will go again next month. It is important for me to be visible around the organisation,” he says.

That is not a small task, since DSV’s IT organisation spans the world – more than half of the employees are located in countries other than Denmark and Poland. “We use pretty much the same applications in around 70 countries, but we have to find the best IT skills, no matter where in the world they are located. We also need last mile support, so we like to hold onto local resources.”

DSV has six regional CIOs who report to a regional IT director who then reports to Riis. “We have general rules such as what PCs we use and when we use thin clients. To make sure we are cost-effective and scalable, we have standard applications and infrastructure,” he says.

If a region needs a specialised application, it will not be used globally and will be handled by the regional CIO. “We do not encourage applications at corporate level if they are relevant only to one region. This would add unnecessary complexity.”

The future of DSV

Riis says he took over a pretty smoothly running IT function: “I have refocused our efforts and strengthened governance, licence management and enterprise architecture, among other things. I also put a lot of effort into increasing transparency and accessibility. In 2016, we might acquire a big company, which will entail lots of different activities and challenges.”

The company in question is a logistics operation called UTi Worldwide, with 21,000 employees – nearly as many as DSV’s 23,000. “We have made an offer, but it has not been approved yet. If the acquisition comes through, it will be an inspiring experience,” says Riis.

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