Lou Petreski, Active International

Lou Petreski

Technology to Drive Business Decisions

Editors’ Note

Lou Petreski brings more than 25 years of IT experience to Active across a variety of industries, including finance and insurance, consulting, entertainment and media, and apparel. Prior to Active, his experience brought him abroad for several years as Country Chief Information Officer for GE Capital, Czech Republic. Before moving abroad, Petreski held senior positions at GE Capital, TreCom Business Systems, Viacom/MTV Networks, and Liz Claiborne.

How critical has the investment in technology been for Active?

Active sees technology as a supporting function and as something that adds value to the business. We invest anywhere from $3 to $10 million in a given year.

A year and a half ago, we did an entire tech refresh that included replacing all of our desktops and servers, the network infrastructure, and the global network to increase productivity and performance, and to enable collaboration with our offices in the different countries.

What metrics can you put in place to track the impact of your technology investments?

With any given project, we scope out the need and focus on projects that deliver improvement, be it a process improvement or a collaboration improvement. The way we measure the impact is through evaluating what improvement has been made. If it’s customer-facing, we make sure it brings value by focusing on making it easier for them to work with us, making their lives easier.

>How critical is the technology for enabling global growth?

All of our systems are global-enabled and trade-enabled. It gives the new offices in countries just entering the marketplace a springboard. Since everything is standardized, we can give them those applications and systems and they can be up and running within weeks.

How far have you gone on the e-commerce side?

When it comes to customer-facing and e-commerce, since we are more of a B2B business, we’ve delivered several portal solutions. Clients are interested in self-service as part of their engagement with us so, for example, clients can log on to view their trade credit statements.

On the travel side, we have an online search and booking engine, which most of our clients use to view the hotel properties we have available and, in many cases, book online. For our freight business, we have a portal for tracking shipments.

How tough is it to stay on top of the changing landscape?

It’s critical to stay on top of research and to remain tied into social media and forums that keep you up to date. We are the hub to everything and all of our systems have to talk to all of these other systems. We look at the media marketplace to determine what is changing from that standpoint. This includes being up to speed on what the agencies are doing, because we’re the third person when it comes to supporting the client: it’s the client, the agency, and then us.

We’re also continuously going to user group meetings or media or industry specific forums that help us understand the direction the industry is moving in.

We do the same to support the other business lines within the company. We have to stay on top of the freight and logistics system – the tracking of the packages and goods being shipped by our customers. When it comes to travel, we have to be tied into the reservation systems out there, making sure we give real-time availability and pricing so we’re in tune.

From an internal perspective, we also continue to provide our employees with tools that increase their productivity and communication. In many ways, we tie everything together because we’re touching all aspects of the company.•