Rebuilding its technology platform produced a sharp increase in revenue for the cooperative’s members and opened the door to using other new technologies like artificial intelligence.

Using technology to transform a business isn’t easy, but done right the results are worth the cost of investment, says former Land O’Lakes Inc. chief information officer Michael Macrie.

The value of this is looking through the eyes of the customer.
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Speaking Wednesday in Chicago at B2BNext, a conference with more than 700 attendees, Macrie described how a multi-year $45 million overhaul of Land O’Lakes’s information technology program led to substantial benefits for the agricultural products cooperative.

Michael Macrie

When Macrie assumed the role of CIO in 2010, Land O’Lakes was struggling financially and running its corporate-wide computer systems on outdated Windows 95 technology. “The information technology platform was a barrier to growth,” he told attendees.

Land O’Lakes, with $15 billion in annual sales, processes and distributes products for about 300,000 agricultural producers, handling 12 billion pounds of milk annually. Along the way of rebuilding its technology systems, it adopted a strategy of business-to-human technology. “The value of this is looking through the eyes of the customer,” Macrie said.

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In the first two years of the corporate technology rebuild, it focused on evaluating and bringing in new technologies that could “transform” the business, he noted. Once installed, new and better technology helped the cooperative to post stronger results.

Those results included a 30% increase in enrolled acres and a 40% increase in revenue per yield for cooperative members, he told conference attendees. Land O’Lakes achieved those results by using machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve direct selling and analytics to more closely monitor and change commodities and product pricing.

While not mentioning specifics, a better information technology infrastructure is enabling Land O’Lakes to use drones, chat bots, image recognition and mobile technology to help cooperative members improve farm productivity.

Macrie advised his audience that B2B e-commerce managers need to “hyper focus” on the customer. “You need to have a vision and a focus on where you are going,” he said.

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