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CIO50 2021 #26-50 Johnny Serrano, GroundProbe

  • Name Johnny Serrano
  • Title Chief Digital Officer
  • Company GroundProbe
  • Commenced role January 2021
  • Reporting Line VP Commercial
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 11 staff
  • Over the last few years, GroundProbe, which creates technology to measure and monitor geohazards, has been working hard to ensure its IT services are flexible and scalable to limit any constraints as a result of its legacy infrastructure.

    After COVID hit, the organisation needed to support a more mobile internal workforce that helps customers in the mining and civil industries across 30 countries best manage their infrastructure. The organisation’s technology monitors and detects wall movements to identify problems and predict when a collapse is likely to occur. This monitoring is conducted by remote monitoring centres in Chile and Indonesia that operate around-the-clock.

    As chief digital officer, Johnny Serrano and his team needed to ensure staff could collaborate during a challenging time while maximising the customer experience.

    A key innovation, led by Serrano, has been a remote and support and maintenance solution that uses augmented reality (AR). This innovation has allowed GroundProbe to continue its core business globally during travel restrictions. It was crucial that this critical service remained online as the geotechnical remote monitoring centres generate 20 percent of revenue and are a key competitive advantage for the organisation.

    Serrano and his team deployed TeamViewer Assist AR, integrated with video technology which enables engineers sporting smart glasses to complete their tasks remotely. Built-in voice command control allows them to initiate multiple tasks without support while being able to open communication lines to get the assistance they need. Engineers are providing a reliable support service and audit and compliance requirements around safety and security have also been digitised.

    “I saw an immediate opportunity in automating tasks that increase efficiencies and warrant internal protocol and external regulatory compliance. This has allowed the team to pivot with great success when the pandemic limited intrastate and international logistics and mobility in key locations and satellite areas where their projects were,” says Serrano.

    “Not only did we increase efficiency, compliance and worker safety, the AR solution helped us optimise work processes. It’s a ‘win-win’ for the GroundProbe ecosystem – worker safety, accelerated knowledge transfer, efficient customer support, higher customer satisfaction, and reduced costs.”

    Changing mindsets

    Serrano says that throughout his career, he has looked for opportunities where technology can reduce costs, challenge the status quo, never stop learning, and embrace ideas that sound like science fiction.

    His biggest challenge has been transforming the traditional IT department to a key business partner. He has overcome the perception of IT as an overhead, innovation blocker and shadow IT when appointed to his role.

    “This situation felt overwhelming and the IT team felt undervalued with quite a defensive mindset. I realised that a good leader is only as strong as the team he or she builds, and I needed to convince my own team to change their mindsets if we were going to succeed.

    Initially, Serrano looked for opportunities where technology reduced costs, enhanced team motivation and enabled team members to grow and learn new skills.

    He communicated this to the business and created an ‘innovation board’ that created innovation within the department which then led to enhanced business engagement.

    “Today, I am leading a highly-engaged IT team who are adept to change with an innovative business focus. The team’s efforts have been recognised across the business and have now become a key digital-first technology business partner. The collaboration we have built and maintained will see us engage with other teams and work on the next challenge of creating new revenue streams,” Serrano says.

    Byron Connolly

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