Adrian Bagg is one of a rare breed, a CIO who has moved along the top table to become a chief executive. Full of passion about his work he is, however, quick to point out that his becoming the CEO was the happy outcome of an unplanned career full of business management as well as IT.
His passion, and the fact that he is willing to take a risk shows in the way he talks about his current job, and in the way he considers the path his career has taken to get there. “Nothing in my career has been planned, and I don’t belong to that group who think that all CIOs should want to be CEOs,” he says. “I am just excited by successful customer outcomes that occur when commercial projects are completed and delivered. I am not your perfect example of someone who moved from IT to business management.”
His current role, which he has been in for more than a year, is CEO of the Papworth Trust. Every year the trust supports more than 10,000 people gaining equality, choice and independence by helping them with housing, employment, rehabilitation, progression and advice. As Bagg puts it, “We give them their life back.”
When he saw the job advertised he was working on a global function as vice president, process excellence at A.P. Moller-Maersk, and he was waiting for a plane at Copenhagen airport. “I was a global traveller, but was waiting for a plane when I saw the Papworth Trust job advertised in a newspaper,” he says. “I thought it was such an exciting sounding job I ripped the advert out of the paper, and that was 17 months ago. I have had a ball, although it has been really challenging. The Papworth Trust was 90 years old and had sort of run out of steam. It needed to look at what was next.”
About the Papworth Trust
The charity started in 1917 to help people with tuberculosis. The organisation, based in Cambridgeshire, now employs 180 staff across its offices in the east of England. It delivers services in housing, employment, advice and rehabilitation to over 10,000 disabled people every year.
Bagg’s career path has been filled with chance and opportunities. Having mucked up his A levels, he says he decided to work at college and got a first class business studies degree from Thames Polytechnic, with honours in finance and accounting. As part of the four-year sandwich course he spent his year in industry with ICL, working in finance. With his degree complete he joined ICL’s graduate scheme in a sales support role in the telecommunications and retail sector, moving on to become a salesman in the retail sector, dealing with customers like Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer which were all in the midst of the E-POS revolution.
He says he had nice cars and more money on his mind when he moved to sales, but he got bored of it quite quickly. “As a salesman you listen to customers and what they need, and then you either can or can’t meet those needs.”
Following ICL he moved to Honeywell Bull, at first working in marketing for the retail sector, but then taking on the whole of the programme director role for large customer developments and implementations. “The programme director left, and I was completely in charge. They just said ‘how about doing it’, it wasn’t planned at all,” says Bagg. At this point – the end of the 1980s – the retail sector was moving into a recession, and although he had been enjoying the role and had already learnt a lot, his customers ran out of money.
“I was under 30, and with the economy as it was my role was redundant,” he says. He was looking around for work, and saw head of development for mobile phone entrepreneur Mercury. “I didn’t know anything about how to move jobs, and I don’t think I would have hired me. I had done a project director’s job, but I hadn’t developed anything. But I got the job, and it was very good fun, because I was a rookie running the IT function, and setting up everything from scratch in an incredibly fast moving and brand new market. Everything we did was on time including billing, customer services, call centres and the back-office system.”
He began to get a real business buzz at Mercury as the organisation grew from 50 to 1,200 people and launched in a totally new sector. “It was a bizarre environment, with pizza and late nights, but getting first to market was very exciting,” he says. “I was part of shaping how the business worked and it was a business sector that was changing our culture.”
It was at this point in his career that he had his first experience of mergers and acquisitions (M&As), when Unitel and Mercury PCN merged to form Mercury One-2-One and he led the systems integration of the new organisation. It gave him an invaluable insight into the demands businesses had from IT when mergers are going on.
Bagg’s next role meant a complete change of industry to the hard-nosed cash-based manufacturing sector. He went to De La Rue as group IS director. “This was a tough job. IT had been embraced where I had worked before, but De La Rue was different,” he says. “As group IS director and working at the head office, I began to understand international roles, and managing a P&L balance sheet. The whole ethos was around cash, it wasn’t as much fun as Mercury One-2-One had been, but I learnt a great deal there.”
He worked on IT strategy for the group and businesses, in a time when most people were concentrating on Y2K issues. “IT was on the agenda, and strategy was agreed in a group context. It was going into a business role, looking at how IT affected the business.”
It was at this point – 1997, he got a call from head hunters who were looking for a CIO for United Distillers. “This was a truly global role, and I suppose I followed the money. In the end I went from being an international CIO to a global one, I joined in April and by October was working on the merger between Guinness and Grand Metropolitan. This was to become United Distillers and Vinters (UDV), the largest part of Diageo.
Bagg played a key role on the business integration team, working on key IT functional design, resourcing and appointments, merging country systems, corporate reporting and supply chain. “I worked hard on the integration. I was young, but had some experience so the general manager appointed me as deputy to the CIO at the new organisation, so I could work hard and sort out the integration, and learn from the CIO,” he says. “It was a really sensible move by the general manager, I was mentored by someone who had nothing to prove and was going to retire. After nine months I had done enough and took on the whole role.”
Bagg’s desire to seek the right customer outcome is clear. “We wanted to be up and running with the key goal of being one face to the customer,” he says.
“The systems could be quick and dirty behind. It didn’t matter as long as the customer only saw one face. That was the business strategy. By the following July customers only got one bill and the look and feel was designed for the customer, and totally business driven.”
He was also gaining great experience by working closely with the executive management of a company. He gained Diageo and UDV executive support for a fully integrated IS strategy, and driving an internal e-business, ERP and support systems agenda. He also initiated and delivered in-market CRM programmes to drive sales effectiveness with more than 100 per cent return in investment in the first year of operation.
It was time for a head hunter to call again, and Bagg moved to pharmaceutical company Amersham as CIO and a member of the operating committee responsible for IT and business change in 2001. He was hired, he says, to turn around a massively failing IT operation of 500 staff and a yearly budget of £90 million.
“IT had the ‘blue book’, which contained about 100 different projects,” says Bagg. “It was classic mismanagement. I cut the number of projects to 13 – the ones that really mattered, and we delivered them. This gave us massive credibility in the company and allowed us to design and integrate the IT strategy as an integral part of the overall business strategy.
Everything was going well, including the global ERP, and CRM, when GE Healthcare came along and made a big offer for Amersham and yet another M&A project was on. “The GE culture was very different, but there was great business synergy,” says Bagg. He didn’t really like the culture of GE Healthcare, but handled the lead IT integration role for Amersham in planning the integration.
After a sabbatical when he worked in the not-for-profit sector, for World Vision UK, Crusaders, and Maybridge Community Church, he went back into commercial life with shipping giants P&O Nedlloyd as CIO. “I joined a changing executive team of an IT led business, and six months later we were bought out by rivals A.P. Moller-Maersk, and I had to say yes to another integration project.”
CIO CV: Adrian Bagg
Business studies degree, Thames Polytechnic
Sales support in telecommunications and retail, ICL
Salesman, retail sector, ICL
Marketing, Honeywell Bull
Programme director, Honeywell Bull
Head of development, Mercury/Mercury One-2-One
Group IS director, De La Rue
CIO, United Distillers/UDV
CIO, Amersham/GE Healthcare
Sabbatical: World Vision UK, Crusaders, Maybridge Community Church
CIO, P&0 Nedlloyd
VP, process excellence, A.P. Moller-Maersk
CEO Papworth Trust
The difference this time was that Bagg ended up mentoring other colleagues on the executive board because he had become something of an expert on M&As. “They were in shock over it, but it worked really well in the end,” says Bagg.
“I got on with the CEO and was popular with the executives, but very unpopular with the functions. There were the usual fights over whose system would be used after the merger – it was seen as being a wimp to give ground.
“But I knew we had to offer the greatest value by department. I took quite a bit of crap from the team, until my approach produced co-operation, and then A.P embraced the golden nuggets of the systems, and ended up retaining the function. This was really pleasing for me, knowing that I was right, and had the wisdom to win the longer game.”
Now Bagg is at Papworth Trust he has been concentrating on the future putting together a mission statement, a vision and corporate strategy with values and a business plan, based on doubling in size and fund raising. There has also been a total website review. “It has been a very fast moving year,” he says.
The trust works with those with disabilities to give them equality, choice and independence through several different areas. It aids with the design, building and management of wheelchair accessibility. It helps people get and keep jobs, it offers simple advice to employers, and works through government Job Centres. It also has day centres where people can come to learn and develop their skills through day to day and vocational rehabilitation to, as Bagg puts it, help them to get their lives back together.
“Having a job can be a massive change to lives,” he says. “It means people with disabilities can do something. At the beginning they can quite often be suicidal.”
Future plans for the Papworth Trust include also focusing on people over 18. “In the educational systems things are taken care of to an extent, but after that they fall out of the system. We want to help them live on their own at 20, like anyone else,” says Bagg.
In the past the Papworth Trust has delivered care homes, now it wants to concentrate on integrated care with house community-based teams. “Being CEO has not been as difficult as I had thought. I had the communications background and know how to do balance sheets and business plans,” Bagg comments.
Everyone has transferable skills, but even if projects are successful and delivered on time if you don’t get excited by customer outcomes you are not going to be a person who wants to become a CEO, according to Bagg. “Performing successful operations and IT functions isn’t good enough. You have to have a passion for business, taking the initiative and developing change,” he believes.
“Mine is not a perfect career path, but things played out well. But you aren’t an incomplete CIO if you don’t want to be a CEO – that is just rubbish.”
As a CEO, Bagg is headed for growth, and is learning constantly. There seems no doubt that Bagg’s latest job is going to be just as successful as those in his past.