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CIO interview: Henrik Iversen, Monjasa

The head of IT at Danish oil and shipping company Monjasa tells Computer Weekly about making IT part of the decision-making process and managing personal development

Five years ago, Henrik Iversen was hired as just the second IT employee at the then nine-year-old Danish-owned oil and shipping company Monjasa. Today, there are 12 people in IT, supporting roughly 600 employees around the world.

With the company continuing to grow, the number of staff is increasing all the time. “I have stopped guessing how many employees we will have in the coming year. I just follow the flow, and take it month by month,” says Iversen.

There’s little doubt IT “facilitates procurement activities, as well as playing an important role when our company acquires and rebuilds vessels, or when it sets up new international offices”, he says.

When Monjasa began in 2002, it consisted of the two owners, their two laptops and two second-hand mobile phones, but also (critically) the ambition of becoming a global supplier of fuel for the maritime industry, says Iversen. The company reported 2014 revenues of just over $2.2bn. 

“When our owners see a business opportunity, they go after it, so now we’re a diverse organistion,” says Iversen.

“For example, we have recently moved into oil trading, we own a fleet of tankers, operate oil terminals, and, through our Dutch subsidiary, C-bed Floating Hotels, offer accommodation services to the offshore wind industry,” he adds.

IT part of the decision-making process

“Even when it comes to the smallest ideas, IT is part of the decision-making process,” says Iversen. “That helps us act quickly. The speed of decision making at Monjasa is fast. It’s always about days or weeks, never years.”

As a newly formed company, Monjasa had a few servers in its headquarters in Fredericia, Denmark, which then grew to a small datacentre. 

“When we outgrew that datacentre, we found a vendor with datacentres all over the world,” says Iversen. “We still maintain and provision the servers ourselves, but we have operational expenditures instead of capital expenditures. We just tell the vendor what servers we want and it’s set up for us.”

It’s not all about the cloud

Despite this outsourcing, Iversen has decided not to use the cloud extensively. “We did some analysis, and found that going to Azure or Amazon is good for companies using standard products,” he says.

“But our digital footprint is very big, and the IT service level is very high, so we need something that we can manage and tweak on our own,” he adds.

Monjasa IT provides local services to operations in its global setup, says Iversen, and the “IT systems that are the most important depends on the branch of the company”.

“Phone and email are very important for everybody in Monjasa, but, for example, on the accommodation vessels, the most important systems are satellite TV and internet for our clients,” he says.

Planning for an upgrade

For the core business, the enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems are most important, says Iversen. “They handle vessel schedules and things like that,” he adds, with the company planning a major upgrade.

Iversen wanted to hire people to manage this upgrade, but had trouble finding individuals with the right competence. “So, instead we bought a small ERP consulting company in 2015. It now has people here every day, but we treat it as an external vendor. We invoice it, even though it is part of the same holding,” he says.

It is not just ERP skills that are hard to find, comments Iversen. Generally, it’s been a big challenge to find the right people for Monjasa’s growing IT function. 

“To work here, you need to be ready to jump on a plane and go out on a vessel at night at short notice,” says Iversen, as we are “soldiers of IT”. Moreover, the IT team strives to have the same entrepreneurial mindset as the company’s owners, and so needs people who can help achieve this.

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Personal development, corporate growth

For Iversen, the most important lessons learned during his years at Monjasa are to not take anything for granted and not to be afraid of challenges. “You have to embrace the challenges, and battle through. It has been a tremendous personal journey to follow Monjasa in its development. The company and I have grown equally.”

For example, Iversen has been working on developing his leadership and decision-making skills. “I have evolved as a person, and the company has helped me by giving me leadership courses and access to networking groups,” he says.

“Monjasa has even developed an in-house training academy for all employees,” he adds.

At several of Iversen’s previous workplaces people were not encouraged to speak their minds, he says. “But here, it’s encouraged throughout the company. Things might go wrong, but then we fix it and move on,” he adds.

“All of us dress in suits, and from the outside we appear very formal, but the atmosphere is warm and caring, with an entrepreneurial spirit.”

Ready for new opportunities

“We need to be ready to move on new opportunities, and at the same time we have to be careful when we roll out new systems,” says Iversen.

“You have to strike the right balance. If we just ripped the carpet away and gave the employees totally new systems, the company would lose its competitiveness, as people would be spending most of their time learning the new systems,” he adds.

From a technical perspective, says Iversen, implementing new systems is easy, thanks to Monjasa’s IT platform. “Our setup is very agile, and I am very glad I chose this platform. If the pace of development continues, the sky is the limit,” he concludes.

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