We chat with Shaun McCauley, Chief Technology Officer at GlobalDairyTrade (GDT) to find out how our team is supporting their vision for global expansion.

Before we launch into it, here’s a brief overview of who GDT are and how we came to partner with them…

GlobalDairyTrade (GDT) have created a world leading online market for dairy. Since 2008 they have built a reputation for trust and transparency, working with dairy and food companies around the world to discover reference prices for dairy and realise new opportunities.

GDT are best known for facilitating Global Dairy Trading Events (GDT Events), which are vital to New Zealand’s economy. Over 40 specifications of dairy ingredients are offered to over 500 registered bidders from 80 countries, offering more trading opportunities than any other trading platform. GDT Events, now in its 9th year, has traded more than 5.8 million metric tonnes (12.8 billion pounds) of dairy ingredients, enough to fill over 365,000 twenty-foot shipping containers.

As a dynamic and forward thinking organisation with a geographically diverse customer base, GDT are constantly looking for innovative ways to make it easier for their buyers and sellers to do business, wherever they are in the world.

In 2012 GDT recognised a need to enhance their digital capabilities to attract more buyers and sellers around the world. So, they engaged ClearPoint to design, build and deliver a new online dairy commodity trading support platform GEMS (GDT Event Management Systems). GDT wanted to create a platform which would put both buyers and sellers in the driving seat, so they could effectively self-manage their transactions.

Since launching the GEMS platform, GDT have retained a close working partnership with ClearPoint and our collaboration has achieved some fantastic outcomes. And there’s more exciting developments on the horizon…

What business challenges did you face before engaging ClearPoint to design and build GEMS?

Our organisation is extremely complex. Most people assume we sell dairy products on behalf of Fonterra via GDT Events, however our organisation is independent of Fonterra, we represent multiple sellers and facilitate the trade of a vast range of dairy products to buyers around the world.

At the time we had aspirations to attract more customers (buyers and sellers) and open up new global markets, however we recognised our old dairy commodity platform wasn’t delivering the best business outcomes for our customers – or for us. In fact it was stifling our ability to grow.

Our old platform made management of our fortnightly trading events tough. It was a manual and lengthy process, part of which involved exchanging over 70 spreadsheets with customers to ensure they had right information to make the best decisions on auction day.

We set about clarifying our vision and mapped our customer journey, to ensure the platform we developed would best serve them. Through this process we identified the need to create GEMS (GDT Event Management System) – a bespoke platform which would pull all our services together. GEMS was designed to put customers in the driving seat by giving them a portal where they could login, easily access information relevant to them and manage their own trading transactions.

What unique technical challenges did you have to overcome?

Given GDT Events are vastly important to New Zealand’s economy, there was a lot of pressure on us to get things right. There were a few technical challenges in the way and at first, we weren’t sure building a new platform was going to work. Among the challenges was working out how to integrate our complex work flows between sellers, buyers and ourselves, along with the CRA Auction Software (which we use to run the events), into one seamless platform.

In addition to this, as our events affect the NZX dairy futures, factors like security and reliability are crucial.  To meet strict trading regulations, all supply information must be locked in and made visible within certain timeframes and each auction has to run like clockwork – having a site go down in the middle of an event is not an option.

Automation was another key challenge for us. One of our visions is to run a lean organisation and to be efficient as possible. We wanted a solution which would allow us to redirect valuable resources from running auction events, to focusing on improved account management and future growth initiatives.

Why did you choose to partner with ClearPoint?

Because of the complexities involved, it was important for us to find a technology partner who understood our unique requirements and had the capability required to design, build and deliver a scalable platform which would grow with us.

At the time ClearPoint were doing some really interesting and innovative work and their agile/feature driven development methodologies brought a fresh approach. We were attracted by their innovation and thought leadership and we knew they understood our vision of success.

We also felt ClearPoint were the right size and fit for us both from a cultural and values perspective. ClearPoint is a company which values honest, transparent communications and integrity, as do we.

What has the GEMS platform helped you achieve?

The platform has enabled us to come into our own. Our customers love being able to access their portal from anywhere in the world and get the latest information, prior to making decisions on auction days. The platform allows sellers to go in before an auction and directly load their product supply information and forecasts; while buyers can do all their homework prior to an event by finding out a seller’s terms and conditions, analyse their history and compare starting prices.

Not only are our customers happier, however the platform has transformed the way we operate. It’s reduced our time required to manage each trading event by 75% which means we can spend more time supporting our clients and chasing new business opportunities.

The results speak for themselves and in 2014 we surpassed US$20 billion in online sales from GDT Events, which is a fantastic achievement and is of huge value to New Zealand’s economy.

In your view, what are the key benefits of partnering with ClearPoint?

For us having ClearPoint’s specialists on site to help us manage the platform has been hugely beneficial. When it comes to technology, you can’t control all of it, but you can plan for risks. What’s really important is how you respond and learn when things go wrong.

We’ve had some hairy situations and some challenges along the way, however the ClearPoint team are always accessible when we need them and if there’s ever an issue, we know it’ll be sorted out quickly and effectively. We learn from each issue and put measures in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Another benefit of working with ClearPoint is the ongoing support services they provide. During auction events they provide us with a 24/7 support team which is extremely important to us, as if our platform crashed on auction day or mid auction, the whole thing would fall over.

Through ClearPoint we have access to some of the best thinkers in the business like their CTO Bain Hollister and software engineer Jonathan Ackerman. The people they employ are world-leaders in their respective fields and we’re always keen to learn and leverage their insights and experiences.

We’re fortunate over the years to have created a trusted partnership with ClearPoint and our teams have a lot of mutual respect for each other. We can be open and honest, and have difficult conversations when needed, which we value.

What’s next for GDT?

Our vision is to be global leaders. We’re fairly big already however we face increasing competition from competitors all over the world. For us it’s all about striving to stay ahead and finding new ways to innovate, while still delivering the best outcomes for our customers.

We have some exciting mobile led features which we’re launching soon, including an app which ClearPoint are developing with us. We also launched GDT Marketplace last year which provides our customers with a broader marketplace to buy and sell a wide range of dairy products, in any quantity.

Right now we’re focused on continuing to grow global vertical markets, while remaining as lean as possible. We know technology has an important role to play in enabling us to achieve our vision of success and we’re excited to continue working with ClearPoint to make it happen.


Shaun McCauley is the Chief Technology Officer for GDT. If you’d like to find out more about the work we’ve done with GDT, please get in touch here.