Where Complex Meets User-Friendly

By combining IT smarts with a user’s point of view, Jean-Louis Marin has become a leading light in Toronto’s information systems’ culture

Jean-Louis Marin has developed IT systems for a wide base of industries, from paper and steel manufactures to tire distributors.

Throughout his extensive career as an IT executive leader, Jean-Louis Marin has created systems relating to three key characteristics: customer accessibility and corporate efficiency within adaptable environments. The end result has been information systems that boost the bottom line.

Marin has long developed information systems for a wide range of industries, including paper and steel manufacturing, software developers, and insurance services. He currently serves as CIO for a major Toronto-based tire distributor.

His success rests with his commitment to making IT user-friendly while also advancing corporate goals. Consider, for instance, his current efforts. “At one point, we had 42 percent accuracy within our warehouse,” he says. “This meant that close to 60 percent of the time, employees who went looking for tires couldn’t find them.”

Thanks to implementation of a 100 percent bar-coding system—part of a Microsoft-based warehouse management system put in place by Marin and partnering consultant Mike Stranz of BDO—accuracy has increased to 97 percent. “When tires come in, they are automatically registered with a scan gun,” Marin says. “So when a customer is seeking a specific tire, it is simply a matter of looking it up on our database right from the scan guns. Because it is so easy for customers to access our database, their voice is heard throughout the entire supply chain.”

Here is where another feature of Marin’s winning systems integration philosophy comes into play: malleability and adaptability. The power to tap into an information system is useless, he points out, if it cannot adapt to customer needs and changing trends.

“Let’s say a customer is in the middle of the spring season,” he says. “But looking a few months ahead, snow tires will be required for winter. Through our system, the customer can enter a portal and his or her snow tire bookings will be reserved at the factory for delivery by us in a matter of months.”

This ability for Marin’s clients to “get what they want, when they want it,” as he puts it, has led to an impressive 35 percent increase in corporate growth over the past year.

Of course, Marin appreciates the fact that user-friendly systems also need to be deceptive in their complexity. “In order for a system to be beautiful—that is, easily accessible—it has to be constantly shaped and reshaped to meet changing needs,” he says. “This is where the true genius of an IT/business leader comes through. You have to have someone like myself who understands technical applications, but also the creativity and vision to put themselves in the user’s shoes,” he says.

And this complicated process won’t become any easier. With the prevalence of cloud computing, where many levels of systems development and maintenance are no longer on-site, the need for expertise and creativity becomes even more important.

“Those who have the ability to customize such systems to meet company needs are the [IT professionals] who will enable their organizations to succeed in this environment,” he says.

As to his own future, Marin has big plans. “I’d like to take the business knowledge I’ve gained and work my way to the top as a CEO,” he says. “I’d like to eventually be running the whole show.”