Telefonica CIO Phil Jordan - UK leader with global vision

"I think this is the opening up of a digital economy, and every business is wrestling with that," says Phil Jordan, Group CIO for Telefonica, the worldwide telecommunications company. On a cold and misty day in Madrid, the Spanish company's British CIO describes how technological, social and economic events are reshaping one of the foremost communications companies in the world.

"We are one of the world's largest communications providers as a fixed and mobile service provider; we have operations throughout Europe and Latin America," Jordan says of the firm whose brands including Vivo, Movistar and O2.

"As our industry matures, the business model is changing and we are starting to see a decline in our traditional core business," says Jordan.

"New growth is coming from digital and data services, so Telefonica is now about enabling customers to use connectivity services and to help the digitisation of other industries. The level of maturity and therefore organic growth is market- and region-specific and we have a broad spectrum of businesses at different points of maturity and with different economic conditions."

The uptake of technology has had a positive impact, especially for CIOs.

"It is starting to make people realise that IT is so important to the evolution of the business. In my time the level of understanding of what IT can do for your business has been transformed.

"The great thing about this macroeconomic climate is it's causing people to embrace change."

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Being headquartered in one of the most troubled economies within the eurozone does bring with it some challenges, admits Jordan.

"Being a Spanish business has been really tough in 2012. There is a lot of focus on our debt and we do have a lot of debt position from a period of large-scale M&A activity. We have done a major job regaining financial flexibility through debt reduction, using our global scale to leverage debt and operational performance," he says.

From the 1990s to the 2006 acquisition of O2 and recent deals in Germany, Israel and China, Telefonica has been on an aggressive buying spree to increase the size of its telecommunications footprint.

"We are benefiting from the decision to invest in Latin America. The telecommunications market saturation you see in Europe is not the same in Latin America and our core products and Digital are growing very fast in that region," Jordan says.

But Jordan and Telefonica don't treat Latin America, like their Spanish forefathers, as an Eldorado that will furnish gold on the mother nation.

"We are a global business with European and Latin heritage," he says, adding that the experience in Latin America is bringing the organisation expertise in emerging markets expertise.