Arup CIO builds collaborative structures

Richard Cross has made a recent career of surrounding himself with creative, and therefore challenging, people. After a career as CIO for broadcaster ITV he is now Group CIO at engineering firm Arup. Ove Arup founded the firm that bears his name in 1946 and some of the most striking and influential buildings around the world bear the Arup hallmark, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the site of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the Channel Tunnel rail link and the Sydney Opera House.

Arup is owned in trust for its employees and is very proud of its business structure, stating on the corporate website: “Put simply, Arup people are driven to find a better way.” Arup is one of the largest engineering firms in the construction sector and claims to have about 10,000 projects in operation at any time.

“Arup prides itself on giving staff creative independence,” Cross says of his employers. “Being employee owned there isn’t a command and control culture.”

Cross has been with Arup since January 2011 in what is a new role also for the engineers.

“There wasn’t a Group CIO before I came, it was pretty much a blank sheet of paper and I had to come and demonstrate how I could add value. I was really excited by the opportunity to shape the role, but I think many CIOs would be very uncomfortable with such an open-ended brief,” he says of the move across London from Grays Inn Road to trendy Fitzrovia.

“I was keen to get back to a global and strategic role. Last year I spent much of my time out of the UK discovering as much as I could about the organisation. I didn’t want to come here and just implement the same solutions that I have before. I wanted to shape something that would work for Arup. So there were no strategic programme announcements in the first 90 days.” As we will see, a Global CIO role at Arup is one of harnessing a culture to do more, to follow the company ideology and “find a better way”, vastly different from Cross’ experience at ITV which was to see a broadcaster through a major M&A and then rationalise its IT to suit the new media age.

“In many global roles you sit in your office and just issue policies, but that is not the case at Arup.”

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