Homeserve is a home emergency and repair services company which functions in partnership with utility companies. The company has become the leading provider of home emergency services in the UK, with an expanded partnership base including British Gas. The insurance company provides a range of home repair insurance services such as boiler and burst pipe repairs and describes itself as ‘the fifth emergency service’. Homeserve provides services to nearly five million customers across the UK.

Despite shares in the company falling in late 2011 following the temporary suspension of sales and marketing calls, Homeserve still has a dominant presence within the UK repair insurance market. Based in Walsall, Homeserve employs around 4,000 people in the UK and has expanded to selling policies within the US.

The group CIO, Bill Sexton has previously had a similar role with Centrica, which owns British Gas and Scottish Gas. One of the plans outlined for the technology strategy of Homeserve is to be able to provide quicker and more effective appointment times for its customers. In regards to emergencies, the company is aiming to reduce response time to three hours.

In 2011 the company came under scrutiny in light of the 'silent calls' fine issued by Ofcom in April 2012. Homeserve acknowledged that one of its call centres had made outgoing silent or abandoned marketing calls to potential customers and reported the issue to Ofcom. The issue arose due to incorrect use of answer machine detection technology via an outsourcer. The company was fined £75,000 and as a result, has stopped using outsourcing companies for its outbound marketing.

IT leader: Bill Sexton, Group CIO.

In role since: June 2010.

Reporting line: COO.

How often does the CIO meet with the CEO: Every two weeks.

Board level seat: On executive committee.

IT budget: Capex of £25 million, Opex of £15 million.

IT estate and or number of log on accounts under the control of the IT leader: 4000.

Level of the workforce that relies on technology to carry out their tasks: 80%.

IT staff currently employed: 250 globally.

Split between in-house/outsourced staff: 70% in-house, 30% outsourced.

IT management team and reporting structure:

  • Director of enterprise architecture.
  • Director of change delivery.
  • Director of service delivery.
  • IT director (Spain).
  • IT director (France).
  • IT director (small European businesses).
  • Vice president of IS (US).
  • Head of IS finance.
  • Head of IS HR.
  • Head of procurement.

Primary technology platforms at the organisation: Policy administration and claims management.

Primary technology suppliers: Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, Progress, Guidewire, Dell.

Significant strategic technology deals struck in the last 12 months: Oracle R12 upgrade.

Percentage of your applications/infrastructure run from the cloud: None at present.

Major technology or transformation project recently completed and how did it transform operations, customer experience or the organisation: The contractor network transformation programme delivered the right tools needed to make a step change in customer service within the contractor network and:

  • Closes the gap on our major competitors in terms of operational capability.
  • Provides a flexible technology platform that can be adapted to future business models across multiple territories.

It gives the following business outcomes:

  • From winter 2011 we introduced new processes for forecasting, planning and exception management.
  • We changed the organisation structure within contractor network and claims management to align with new working practices.
  • We supported winter peak period 2011 customer service by ‘on-boarding’ additional contractors on to our existing technology platform.
  • We built two new methods of deployment of customer appointments and rolled these out to our contractor network. These deployment methods are web services for larger contractors and directly employee labour and a web portal for smaller ones.
  • Contractors have adopted new working practices, including notification of labour availability and the provision of job updates.
  • From summer 2012 we had the capability to provide half day appointments to circa 95% of Homeserve customers and a three hour response time for emergencies.
  • We have full visibility of job status (‘work in progress’) and will provide pro-active customer updates.
  • We will improve management of sensitive and vulnerable customers.
  • Implement significantly improved billing processes to minimise risk of revenue leakage.

Did the above project reach its cost, timing and transformation objective: Yes within agreed tolerances.

Business transformation programme – beyond technology – that the CIO owns or is a major contributor to: Homeserve has reached a watershed where if service standards are not raised, selling practices remedied, products reviewed to align themselves with the new regulatory thrust and the business simplified with a lower cost base we will enter a period of sustained profit decline and potential regulatory challenge (and ultimately censure).

As a result of this, the plc board has agreed in principle to make further investment in the business to an enable a transformation programme to be undertaken.

This programme is centred on delivering the design and transition to a sustainable business which has the customer at its heart, treated in a compliant and fair manner. The programme therefore has a balance of emphasis on:

  • People (behaviours, capability and organisational design);
  • Proposition, products and promotions (commercially viable and compliant); and
  • The implementation of an improved and complimentary set of end-to-end business processes supported by a fit for purpose it architecture to replace legacy it applications (efficiency and effectiveness).

Its mi is focused and appropriate to a balanced business view and link key strategic measures through to actionable reporting (bi and mi);

Homeserve will need to ensure the effective integration of people, process and systems to drive business benefits in performance, compliance, efficiency and productivity. Processes will be documented and reviewed to minimise operational business dependency on specific individuals in the future as well as improve the ease of understanding for staff of “how we do business”.

Strategic aim of the CIO and IT operation for the next financial year: Delivery of the major transformational programmes and it roadmap.

Strategy in the use by employees of their own technology, use of mobiles and how social networking is impacting operations, customer experiences or the organisation: It’s not.

Strategy for dealing with shadow IT and BYOD including influence and engagement with executives, to place the right controls around employee choice: Just starting to do this.

Technologies being considered to enable transformation: Oracle, Siebel, Pega, Servicepower.

Transformational inspiration sources: Inside our own business, looking at how we work and talking to our people and our customers – once you’ve heard how badly wrong we sometimes get it then no other inspiration to transform our business is needed!