Radius Payment Solutions CIO Dave Roberts is helping diversify the company's product portfolio, trying to balance legacy and technology innovation to continue to grow the £2.25 billion revenue Cheshire-based business.
Founded in Crewe in 1990 as a fuel card company, Radius has merged with more than 25 other smaller businesses over the last three decades and offers almost end-to-end fleet services and a host of other products. Operating in 29 countries, Chief Information Officer Roberts joined in August 2014 and has overseen a number of acquisitions and a huge period of growth.
"If we look at how our product portfolio has expanded out in the last three to four years, we've gone from being a fuel card company to now being a Paytech business, also involved in telematics, vehicle insurance, vehicle checking, vehicle hiring, corporate charge cards and card terminals," he said. "The diversification of what we've done as a business has significantly increased.
"Some of the challenges going through the transformation of IT is being able to handle both the the innovation with new products coming through, but also dealing with the legacy."
The 2017 CIO 100 member told CIO UK that his department had also seen significant growth and been reorganised so technology could help scale the business.
"We've doubled in size over the last few years, but also within that period we've tripled the size of the IT team as well," Roberts said. "We went through a reorganisation of the group to make way for innovation.
"We have a team that's dedicated to focusing purely on the innovation side, and a team that's purely focused on maintaining the current systems and making sure business as usual activities continue.
"Within our innovation group we've got an R&D team which is really focused on those emerging technologies and looking at things like artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, machine learning. As well as our product development, we're also looking at how the newer technologies can complement the products that we have today and the ones we're working on delivering."
Roberts said that he had developed a strong relationship with technology and IT recruiters to ensure a smooth scaling of his department, working with organisations with a real understanding of the Radius culture to source the right candidates.
With a focus on onboarding, training and retention, IT staff joining Radius were able to hit the ground running, Roberts said.
Radius has 19 offices in 14 countries, and Roberts said that being part of the buoyant tech scene in Manchester and the North West had helped with the company's expansion.
With its head office in Crewe, Radius has a technology hub in the centre of Manchester which opened in 2016, and a development team in Wrexham which came from the acquisition of a company called TrackYou, which has been subsequently rebranded as UK Telematics.
"We knew we wouldn't be able to scale the team as we wanted to purely from Crewe alone which is why we opened our technology centre in the middle of Manchester," Roberts said.
"That was a key strategic initiative for us; Manchester over the last five years has gone through dramatic changes. I think the start of that probably came with Media City.
"In 2017 there were something like 2,000 new businesses created in Manchester, and half of those were tech startups. I believe that Manchester is now the second largest digital city in the UK."
By building up the team Roberts has also been able to develop the diversity of the technology function which the CIO believes has had a number of benefits to the organisation.
From an IT capability that was 2% female to one that is "18% and growing, probably more towards 20%" Roberts said that the way the team works and interacts has significantly improved.
Fostering links with universities and introducing a student placement programme has been a big success for Radius, broadening the diversity of the talent pipeline with a number going to take on full-time roles at the company. Fundamentally however Roberts said that it was making diversity a focus through a combination of factors, from flexible working arrangements to organising meetups and community events, which had helped make the shift.
"It's been really positive on how the team work together and how they are able to bring different ideas and suggestions to the table," he said. "That's what diversity brings, it gives you a more rounded team."
With more than 1,000 employees, Roberts has a team of around 135 split into functions covering innovation, operational development, operations overseeing service desk, a separate facilities operations team, and an IT security risk and compliance capability.
This last unit is "very much focused on ISO 27001 and GDPR" which Roberts said was a priority for the organisation. He said that they had brought in some legal expertise to undertake a gap analysis and help map how the organisation would tackle GDPR.
"We were able to identify to the auditors that came in what we've done to date against the 114 controls and ISO 27001, and then mapped some of those to GDPR legislation," he said.
"We're in a pretty good position for achieving ISO 27001 which has given us a significant leg up for GDPR," he said of the information security standard.
"I think one of the key messages I always talk about with GDPR is it's not an IT project, it's a business project so we've got stakeholders from across all the different functions across our business involved in our GDPR steering committee."
CEO on board
CIO Roberts is a member of the executive leadership and the Radius board of directors. While still delivering big IT projects, including the completion of a Windows 10 migration and rolling out Oracle ERP Cloud Financials in Asia and Europe, Roberts is also the Operations Director with responsibility for the build of the company's new global head office, with the challenge to ensure the building remains on schedule for occupancy in August 2018.
Reporting to the company founder and CEO, Roberts enjoys a high degree of executive proximity interacting with the organisation's leader on a daily basis to discuss business, technology, strategy and operations.
"I'm fortunate in that I sit on the board as well alongside a lot of other members of the executive team, and they understand the value of what technology can bring and the value that the IT team are delivering," Roberts said.
"I think IT is seen as a trusted business partner in that respect and we are involved in all areas of the business, helping to implement either solutions that improve the way we operate today and make us more efficient, or delivering new products and innovation into the business for future growth.
"The challenge is that we have to prioritise where we deploy our resources."