Weekly Walk

Weekly Walk with Matson’s CIO, Peter Weis

March 7, 2019


Editor’s Note: The following is a transcript of Casey and Peter’s conversation. It has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Casey: Hey Weekly Walk viewers! I’m here with Peter Weis, CIO of Matson, which is a very large global logistics and transportation company. Hi there, Peter.

Peter: Hi!

Casey: Greetings from sunny San Francisco. So, I’m going to just toot your horn a little bit, Peter. Matson was recently named one of the best places to work for IT.

Peter: It was, believe it or not.

Casey: Peter leads that. So, it seems like you might know what you’re doing a little bit.

Peter: Maybe.

Casey: All right, so let’s talk everyone’s favorite term these days, digital transformation. You led the IT transformation at Matson and you guys were pretty ahead of your time in it and now you are also one of the Top 20 CIO’s to Watch in terms of digital transformation content. So, I guess you know what you’re doing on that front too.

Can you tell us a little bit about that and why you think you won in that category? Everyone says digital transformation, but how do they go about doing that successfully?

Peter: Yeah, well you make it sound so well planned and organized.

Casey: It’s not that easy?

Peter: By the way, it’s a gorgeous day in San Francisco! Absolutely beautiful. So, this started, it was a nine-year slog actually, and it started not with the CIO or the CTO, it started with the CEO and then started with a technology vision- we’re going to go to the cloud and shut down our data centers.

It started with the global business problem, which was we wanted to expand our services. Matson is an industry leader, consistently profitable, but it was relatively limited in the scope, which was largely in the Hawaii area.

Casey: Okay.

Peter: And so, the business vision that the board and the CEO bought into was we want to go global and expand our services without changing our customer experience, operational efficiency or our profit margins. So, how do you offer the same global customer experience? The only way you could do it is by having a single global cloud platform.

Casey: Yeah.

Peter: So, that was the business vision and without that business vision, my advice is don’t even start because it’s going to collapse and the CIO is going to move on to another job and there’s going to be some half-finished overpass. So, it all started with that vision and then it was between eight to nine years of execution and we are 100% in the cloud now. Our data centers are shut down, but as I was telling you earlier, AWS barely existed when we started our transformation.

Casey: And you guys still made it work.

Peter: We did. We made some smart bets on technology. We got our stack right, as open as we could make it, as generic as we can make it without getting locked in by any technology vendors and that allowed us to be nimble. We had some great people that stuck with us for eight or nine years and I could do another segment on purpose and how you hold onto people over the long run.

Casey: That’ll be Weekly Walk take two with Peter.

Peter: And so, this ordinary company “Matson,”135-year-old company, finished an eight to nine-year project and then lifted and shifted to the cloud in about nine months. Took out millions of dollars and for every dollar we returned to the company, we got to keep 20 cents to do innovation work.

Casey: Oh wow. Okay.

Peter: And so, my view on getting into the cloud is that it’s not the final destination or the finish line. It’s the starting point to do new innovation and the companies that make it to the cloud are in the best position to go on the offense.

Casey: Yeah. So, get yourself to the cloud, get with good people, top down and you’ve got a little while if you’re just starting.

Peter: Yeah and building purpose so that they hang in there because they want to have good lives. Not just do great work, but they want to have good lives. And that’s how you hold onto great people for nine years.

Casey: Got it. All right, and you had told me earlier, you have three components in life. You’re a builder, you’re an educator and you’re a citizen. So, that was your building piece and I ask three questions, so this worked out perfectly.

Peter: Okay, all right. We’ve covered one so far.

Casey: We’ve covered one, all right.

Peter: Number two.

Casey: Number two, educator. You teach a course at Berkeley where business meets technology. You built that course. Why did you do that? What can people learn from that? Why was that so important to you?

Peter: Such a great question. So, I went up the traditional IT clerk/management career path from developer to manager to senior manager. I became a CIO at a pretty young age and when you climb that traditional IT path, there’s a lot of skills you just don’t get.

Casey: Yeah.

Peter: How to sell, how to do corporate finance, understanding strategies so that business strategy and IT strategy are one in the same. So, I went back out and got my MBA at Wharton later in life. I wish I’d done it sooner because, along the way, it just occurred to me how many skills I wish I would have had.

And so, I went to the folks at UC Berkeley and they heard me speak at a conference. They said, “We’d love for you to come teach a course.” They showed me the course. I said, “I don’t want to teach that course. Let me pitch another course to you.” You see Casey, we’re all in sales.

Casey: We’re all in sales! There’s the takeaway.

Peter: So, I pitched a course called, “Where Business Meets Technology,” and that’s exactly that basket of skills I wish I would’ve developed early on that most people in IT don’t get. It’s about negotiation, presentation skills, leadership styles, corporate finance. All the things that business people get. If you want a seat at the table, it’s a cliché, you got to speak the language of the CEO. So, it’s a graduate-level program and it teaches them this basket of skills and creates the awareness to hopefully accelerate their careers.

Casey: Awesome. So, check that out at Berkeley.

Peter: It’s so much fun to teach.

Casey: And they get you as a teacher. So, it’s a win/win.

Peter: I just love it and every CIO should at least go try it.

Casey: So, that was two. I love that.

Peter: All right. Two down. One to go.

Casey: Okay- the citizen piece. It ties into educator and builder, but for all intents and purposes, you work with startups, that’s something that you do. He actually works with one of our portfolio companies, project44. What do you see, you’ve been in supply chain most of your career, on the horizon for supply chain startups? What are you predicting?

Peter: That’s a great question, so what you would see if you look at worthy investment and where it’s gone, it’s gone largely into the domestic component of supply chain. Think about the Uber and Lyft model, it’s all about moving something, a single mode from Point A to Point B. It happens to be a person in those cases, so what’s going on now is a natural extension into truck and into rail, the domestic opponents supply chain, that’s happening now. The “Uber-isation” where technology is building intelligence and automation into that part of the supply chain.

What hasn’t happened yet is an intelligent global supply chain. If you think about a shipment, just say anywhere in Asia, today it’s China, but in the next five years it will be Vietnam or Africa, Middle East. So, think about the dozens of supply chain partners, the hundreds of supply chain events, the risks and issues that can happen. The most nimble companies that have cloud-based intelligent supply chain platforms are the ones that are going to win in the world over the next 20 years.
That technology doesn’t exist yet, but it needs to.

Casey: All right. So, if you have an idea along those lines, give Peter a call. He may be able to help you out. And follow him on Twitter since he’s one of the top 20 people to watch. Thanks Peter. We’ll see y’all soon. Bye guys!

Peter: All right, thanks everybody!


Peter Weis is currently VP and CIO of Matson Navigation, a $2B, publicly traded, global transportation and logistics company (NYSE: MATX). At Matson, Peter leads a global IT organization that is responsible for strategy, software development, infrastructure, high-availability operations and all levels of IT governance. Prior to Matson, Peter was VP, Products at GT Nexus and CIO of APL Logistics. Peter is also a 2014 inductee into the CIO Hall of Fame and was recently named one of twenty CIO's to follow for digital transformation wisdom.