The cost of looking busy. ‘Wasted work’ means real challenges for IT

According to Wesfarmers Chemicals, Energy & Fertilisers CIO, Alex Larson, being busy does not equal being productive at work but it’s a surprisingly easy trap to fall into.

Speaking today at the WA IT Leaders Summit in Perth, Mr Larson said that with a technology boom occurring across the Wesfarmers division, the challenge was to focus his team on priorities and to recognise the real work from the ‘wasted work’.

“Confusing activity with outcomes is one of the main drivers for focusing on the wrong priorities,” said Mr Larson.

“If you’re working hard on the wrong priorities it’s wasted effort, so for me it’s all about team health and focus, not how to whip harder for faster delivery.”

Mr Larson said the solution was to define priorities by developing concise strategies and identifying clear operational plans, tasks and outcomes. This removed the cost of additional staff doing ‘fake work’, reduced the cost of customer delays and effectively meant doing more with less in a measurable way.

“If the value of the activity doesn’t stack up, don’t do it. Have meaningful metrics, strengthen communication channels, keep customers at the core and work to people’s strengths,” he said.

Mr Larson said there were eight businesses across the Wesfarmers Chemicals, Energy & Fertilisers division so it was up to IT to help drive technological change and encourage take-up in order to have a valuable effect.

“Enhancing customer experiences while reducing costs can only occur with a focused IT strategy that is ‘lived’ by both the IT team and the business divisions. It could be something as simple as a report through to robotic process automation, predictive analytics or advanced connected operations.”

Mr Larson said the global technology landscape was continuing to speed up and technology obsolescence was a real concern within the industry. 

“Large implementations are a thing of the past; it’s about driving short sprint-style deliveries, building your platforms like Lego, each providing returned value to the company with the ability to pivot solutions or platforms without committing to multiple years and millions in sunk costs.
“The trick is not to be overwhelmed by the sea of possible solutions. At some point you need to make the informed decision to change, adapt and trust you’ve made the right decision in line with the objective outcomes for the business. Our motto in IT is simple: invest in technology, save in business.”

Fact file

  • Wesfarmers Chemicals, Energy & Fertilisers is a division of Wesfamers Ltd.

Media contact: Natasha Mutch 0437 301 796 or email