David Cooper has been CIO for British Gas for the last three years and also has responsibilities for the Centrica group shared services. Responsible for defining the strategy and transforming the Centrica IS capability with the result of significant increase in delivery capability and cost of operation.

When did you start your current role?
2011

Have you completed an MBA?
No

Order the following sources of advice/information by value to you:

  1. In-house
  2. Peer Group
  3. Vendors
  4. Consultant
  5. Analyst

Technology strategy and spending

What is the major transformational IT project that has been recently completed, or is underway at your organisation?
The transformation has covered all areas of IS and networks mostly in parallel and many have completed or are very close to the end. This is dramatic change for any company and especially for Centrica.

We are moving from a TDM based telephony to an all IP cloud based solution for the whole of Centrica.

I am moving the whole of the data centre infrastructure, for Centrica, from one based upon physical an owned assets solution with T-systems to private cloud solutions with HP and Fujitsu. This has also necessitated the move upgrade of operating system and Oracle as we were 6-20 years out of date. We have taken the opportunity to move to Red Hat and away from all the proprietary operating systems.

There is also an IS driven application rationalisation programme which will see by June 2014 over a 60% reduction in the data centre applications, covering CRM systems, billing, ESBs, etc). The whole of the BG customer based for British Gas residential customers are in the final stages of being transferred from disparate CRM and billing systems to one consolidated view of the customer in one system.

The whole Microsoft server domain has been upgraded and there is currently a rollout of 26000 Win 7 upgrades from XP that are in parallel.

The VM solution for remote workers has also been transformed and the users migrated from a 7 year old solution.

The British Gas Business systems are being transformed and the customers migrated from a set of loosely coupled applications to a new billing ,CRM and provisioning systems with a reduction in the number of applications of 98%.

The EDW/MI solutions are being transformed and we are deploying a new Hadoop based solution and phasing out the traditional MI solutions. We are moving to a more self-service solution from our data lake using solutions like Qlikview etc.

The digital solutions have been revolutionised both for PCs and for smartphones and we now routinely win awards for our apps.

BG are leading the Smart metering industry in defining solutions and rolling out new service to customers. We have launched a new set of remote heating control products under the Hive brand.

We are implementing a multi-channel service platform to unlock the data for all channels and all field forces.

We have transformed the way we deliver programmes with a change to the operating model and a  change to use more out of the box solutions and just configure the applications. The move also to fixed price outcome based contacts and to move the resources to non BG site based has had profound effects.

What impact will it/does it have on the organisation?
The impact on Centrica and BG is massive. For the first time ever Centrica  has seen large reductions in the capex and opex expenditure while delivering significantly more functionality. The total savings to the company are around 35% in cash each year.
One major impact is on BG's ability to deploy changes rapidly to cut speed to market and to enable customer solutions that were previously impossible, such as next best action.
The business operations team now can have a more complete customer view and see large time benefits from all of the solutions which also has cost benefits.

What new strategic technology deals has your organisation struck and with whom?
British Gas has in the past procured many technology solutions, far too many, and has used them inefficiently. We are reducing the number of solutions and utilising the technology more efficiently.  
The major new change is the deal with Hortonworks on the Hadoop solution.

Name your strategic technology suppliers?
SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, Trimble, Trilliant, Cisco, HP, Hortonworks

What is the IT budget?
Was £450M in 2011 I have reduced it to £290M in 2014

What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year?
To complete all of the inflight programmes.
To rationalise all of the MI skills across the company.
To initiate the programme to rationalise the large field force solutions (16,000 people)
To continue to deploy the Smart enargy and metering systems solutions

Transformation achievements

Would you describe the CIO role as a transformation leader in your organisation?
It is widely accepted that I as the CIO have been transformational in driving the both the IS and business strategy.

Describe the transformations you have led / been involved in, how did they transform operations, customer experience or the organisation?
When I joined British Gas was still suffering from the consequences of a massive programme failure in 2002-2008 in the billing and CRM space. The compromise architecture, system stability and resilience issues, tactical system deployed during this era and the outstanding problems were causing significant customer and business operations team issues. I drove a programme to review the known issues and defined the strategic changes required to remove all of these issues and we have seen a dramatic improvement in the experience from both a business operations team and customer point of view. Many of the workarounds and failures have been removed with consequent IT cost reductions and business efficiency improvements.

Beyond technology, can you describe a business transformation programme that you own or contribute to?
The largest of the transformations is that of British Gas Business where the operations several  thousand people and used several hundred systems. The business wanted to keep their old processes and specify new systems to simplify the number and correct all of the customer problems which result from such a fragmented landscape. My solution was to use  software licences the company had previously purchased and using the latest version with very little customisation change the business processes to fit the system, along with reuse of digital solutions from the residential customer space. This had a significantly increased probability of success, accelerated timescales, reduced whole life costs and eventually dramatic reductions in the size of the workforce. The whole of the British gas business was against my solution and I had to convince the CEO why he should trust me and go with my solution for the business. He did and as we near the end of the programme the whole business agrees it was the correct approach and they did not have the vision of experience. It is quite difficult to face the whole business with a different vision but immensely rewarding as it is now seen as a major success.

This is just one example of the massive impact I have on the business.

What key technologies are being considered to enable transformation?
A number of opensource technologies Hadoop, Hive, MongoDB, Cassandra, Riak, NoSQL etc. These scale break all of the traditional bottlenecks seen in traditional solutions.

What percentage of your applications / infrastructure is run from the Cloud?
There are many definitions of Cloud,such as public, private infrastrcuture, SAS etc  If we include all defintions then ~50%

How is the use by employees of their own technology, use of mobiles and social networking impacting operations, customer experiences or the organisation at present?
We are at the start of this journey as we have had to transform the legacy backend systems to make this possible. We are just 60% through upgrading 30,000 users from XP to Win7 and the rest will move to tablets and Win8. The next year will see the trial of BYOD.

Do you have a plan in place for how to deal with shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives, place the right controls around employee choice and engage with the organisation on this issue?
I have inherited the problem of significant shadow IT and this has partly arisen due to past IT delivery issues and beliefs. I have tackled by making IT innovative and using flexible and rapid delivery models. By raising IS's reputation and track record for delivery the business units are coming to IT to remove the shadow environments.

Where do you seek transformational inspiration from?
I love to see business processes and sytems working in harmony to deliver customer service. I am a curious person and I am always interested in solutions in other spaces. It is great to talk to others from other industries.

The CIO role in the business

Who do they report to?
COO

Does the CIO have a seat on the board?
No

How often do you meet with the CEO?
Monthly

Does your organisation have a digital leader and what is the difference in their responsibilities to yours?
The digital leader specifies the journeys but the digital strategy is defined by IS.

What percentage of IT budget do you control and what percentage of IT budget does your digital peer hold?
I control 97% of the IS budget.

The IT department

How many staff make up the IT team?(What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff)
Around 40% are in house resources

Describe the CIO’s management team, do you have direct reports that develop the relationship and services between the business and IT?
My management team have a broad experience and are recent into the Utilities sector and so bring a wider experience and innovative approach. The broader experience from more cutting edge industries has allowed us to "jump start" Centrica. All of my team have a responsibility to different areas of the business to build relationships, facilitate the streamlining of processes.

How many log-in accounts do you issue across you organisation?
50,000

What is the primary technology platform?
SAP solutions for CRM, ISU, Logistics etc.