James Fairhurst is CIO for growing insurance firm Hastings and was a part of the organisations management buyout. Hastings Direct, launched in 1997, is a UK company providing insurance policies and related products online and by phone.

What the judges said:
“It is good for the CIO community that he been involved in the MBO,” Adam Gerrard

“It’s an amazing story and the numbers are very good,” Mike Altendorf

When did you start your current role?
September 2008

Have you completed an MBA?
About to start one in the next 6 months.  Likely will undertake this with Cranfield

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

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

Technology strategy and spending

What is the major transformational IT project that has been recently completed, or is underway at your organisation?
We usually have multiple major transformational technology programmes in track at any point in time.  The key programmes are:
1)  We are in the process of spinning up a complex programme to replace our existing broking platform with newer technology to drive our digitialisation agenda.  This includes the migration of c.1.5m policy records (which is likely to be performed "big bang" rather than traditional migration / run off over 12 months at point of renewal).  Project size c.£6.5m over 2 years, c.1000 users
2)  Deployment of IBM Case Manager / Data Cap services around our legay AS/400 (iSeries) Claims platform, which manages / processes c.£500m of claims liability per year and growing.  Project size c.£2m - 2014 with 350 users.
3)  Deployment of Avaya workforce planning and optimisation to over 1000 users, whilst replacing a legacy switch platform covering over 200 contact centre users.  Both items need to be seamless and within 4 months.
4)  Continuation of our award winning Data Enrichment and Anti-Fraud technology / process roadmap.  Providing savings of tens of millions each year.

What impact will it/does it have on the organisation?
Has enabled / maintains Hastings to gain c.10% (current number 1) of all UK price comparison site sales and growing.
Has saved tens of millions in fraudulent activity, which we can then invest in better pricing / services for our customers.
Provides our colleagues with the right tools to ensure the best possible outcome for our customers.
Upper quartile staff engagement.
Ability to demonstrate our success through the multiple awards won each year.

What new strategic technology deals has your organisation struck and with whom?
Largely confidential, although we have renewed our commitment to Azzurri and Avaya for our call centre technologies, which encompases rollout of a new Avaya contact centre platform to one of our call centres, as well as a global migration to Avaya's workforce planning / optimisation platform.

We have also selected HP as our strategic storage supplier, and we are in the process of migrating from their legacy EVA platform to their latest 3PAR technology including the latest Solid State Drives to handle our ever growing thirst for more and faster storage.

Name your strategic technology suppliers?
Hewlett Packard, IBM, Equifax, Avaya, CDL (Cheshire Data Limited), In House Developments

What is the IT budget?
£16.4m Opex covering FTE, Systems, Transactional Costs, Telephony.
c.£6m Capital investment on systems via projects / BAU rolling programme

What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year?
Digitialise more of our customer interation points, in order to provide improved response and outcomes to our customers at the same time reducing operating costs of non-digitialised functions and processes.

To continue our award winning developments in regards to Anti-Fraud and Data Enrichment services, to remain at the cutting edge vs. the competition / market.

Transformation achievements

Would you describe the CIO role as a transformation leader in your organisation?
Absolutely...  It needs to be in order to ensure all the various programmes of work we undertake remain consistently focused upon, in order to acheive the great results we have delivered over the past 5 years.

Describe the transformations you have led / been involved in, how did they transform operations, customer experience or the organisation?

During my time in Hastings I have led / been involved in many transformations from articulating and delivering our Anti-Fraud strategy with has saved the organsiaton tens of millions over the past few years through refined risk selection and investigation.  Through to delivering its new Broking platform in just 6 months back in 2009 when the vendors laughed and said it would take 18 to 24 months.

However I feel my most significant achievement so far, has been from leading the technology and programme functions (as well as the majority of business operations for 14 months in the middle years) from our Management Buyout back in early 2009 when the business was losing £1m a month to completing our private equity transaction with Goldman Sachs P/E a few weeks back, valuing the business at over £700m.

Beyond technology, can you describe a business transformation programme that you own or contribute to?
I have owned / partisipated in several large transformation programmes for the business over the past few years.  However recent ones include:  Working on understanding our customer interations, and what they really expect from us.  This has lead to may deliveries from re-branding, to going back on TV with new adverts, to changes to business processes etc. etc.

Another personal initaitve has been the introduction of an Enterprise Social Network to Hastings.  I kicked this work off as one of our Graduate intake projects, to review their value and how this could reduce staff attrition and drive engagement of our workforce.  Mentoring the team, they made the recommendation to Board for the adoption of Yammer which was approved due to their robust evidence collected and their product trial which saw over 25% of colleagues sign up within the first 2 hours.
What key technologies are being considered to enable transformation?
HTML5 / other on-line and mobile technologies to enable our customers to "self serve" rather than having to interact with us via the telephone.

Several other Anti-Fraud and Data Enrichment technologies to further enhance our risk selection / reduce risk exposure.

What percentage of your applications / infrastructure is run from the Cloud?
c. 15% and growing.  Will be c. 25-30% by end of 2014

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?
Social Networking / technolgies from a customer perspective are a great promotor for us, as well a detractor if we get things wrong for our customers.  Therefore over the past 3 years we have built up an internal social networking team to spot customers in difficulty, and thus in the majority of cases resolve their issues rapidly, with most then posting favorable comments.  Review sites have also been a focus with Hastings achieving a 4 star (out of 5) rating on one of Europes largest review sites "Review Centre"  The industy average on this site is sub 2 stars.

From a BYOD perspective we try to avoid this due to the challenges in data security, and we do not have any great compelling need to support it.

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?
As above we do not have a compelling need or requirement to provide this facility at this point in time, although like most aspects of technolgy adoption we keep an active eye on it.

Where do you seek transformational inspiration from?
Primarily spending time with colleagues on the front line, as well as from fellow CIO's and what they have achieved.  Along with speaking with friends in completely separate roles in other industries, on how they tackle / breakdown challenges.

The CIO role in the business

Who do they report to? Has been a mix of CEO / and to multiple business unit MD's

Does the CIO have a seat on the board? No

How often do you meet with the CEO?
As an when required, although frequently due to the dynamic nature of the business.

Does your organisation have a digital leader and what is the difference in their responsibilities to yours?
No (although the responsibility primarily sits with me and the Marketing Director)

What percentage of IT budget do you control and what percentage of IT budget does your digital peer hold?
I hold 100%

The IT department

How many staff make up the IT team?(What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff)
105 FTE with approx 5% as contractors

Describe the CIO’s management team, do you have direct reports that develop the relationship and services between the business and IT?
Key reports include the Head of IT Operations, Head of IT Delivery, Head of Enterprise Architecture, Head of BI and Analytics and the Head of Programmes & Change. 

Each of my directs are accountable for building and sustaining productive relationships between IT and the business, as well as 3rd party strategic suppliers.

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

What is the primary technology platform?
On-Line and Call Centre Broking Platform (CDL),  Claims and Insurer Management System (In House Application, on IBM AS/400 platform.