Adam Gerrard's tech implementations will define the future for Yodel. There's a big data project to let the business model its strategic possibilities, the creation of staff Yammer communities to capture real-time feedback on performance and ideas, and an aggressive pursuit of the cloud to help the business cope better with volume peaks.

When did you start your current role as CIO at Yodel?
August 2014.

What is your reporting line?
CEO.

Do you meet with and discuss business strategy with the CEO every week?
Yes.

Are you a member of the board of directors?
Yes.

What other executive boards do you sit on?
Exco, stratco.

Does your organisation have a CDO?
No. Driving forwards a digital, social and mobility-focused strategy is at the heart of the CIO's role.

What non-technology responsibilities do you have in the organisation?
None today in Yodel, unlike many of my previous roles.

How many employees does your organisation have?
We have a flexible workforce that expands up to 18,000 people at peak times.

Does your organisation carry out significant trade in the EU?
No.

How many users does your department supply services to?
All employed staff, all contract drivers, all clients of Yodel and all consumers that interact with Yodel.

How do you ensure that you have a good understanding of your business and how your customers use your business's products?
A combination of eating our own dog food  we all use Yodel deliveries and the Collect+ joint venture with Paypoint  and the executive team, the senior management community and a great many of my IT team regularly spending time in the operations at a number of our call centre, sort and service centre facilities. We are also restructuring the way we approach it to be better aligned with the overall business strategy, leveraging a more product-driven approach that will create better engagement between our product owners , the clients that choose to use Yodel to fulfil their delivery promises and the consumers that received those deliveries.

Yodel technology strategy and agenda

Is your organisation being disrupted by the internet, mobility or technology-oriented start-ups?
Yes.

Are you empowered by your organisation to disrupt from the inside?
Yes.

Describe a disruptive measure you’ve led or played a major part in
There are no direct disruptors that impact our core business but there are many more communication channels and social outlets that amplify the bad experiences encountered by a small percentage of the consumers we deliver to. Delivery is seen as a utility service: if you get what you wanted, when and where you expected it, then you don't jump on Twitter to say how wonderful it was that your expectations were met  it's a bit like turning on a tap. 

The minority of deliveries that are unsuccessful, for any reason through the supply chain, where customer's expectations have not been met, then you do see a lot of tech-savvy people being vocal through social channels. This has led to some very disruptive activity internally to increase visibility and awareness of the social channels and a programme of social engagement is currently under way.

Taking our business model and putting the consumer at its heart, as opposed to centring on the client, is a highly disruptive way of working and is leading to some very interesting strategic debate about the future direction of the business. I envision that our strategic imperatives to leverage cloud, social, mobility, CX and big data will facilitate Yodel becoming a disruptor to the rest of the industry.

What major transformation project has been recently completed or is under way at your organisation?
We are part way through a big data project to use Teradata as our main intelligence platform. That is not only revolutionising the speed at which we can analyse information within our business but also facilitating our ability to start modelling new scenarios for different directional paths for the business. This in turn is allowing us to think outside the box in terms of the strategies we see employed in this industry.

A second project leveraging social and mobile was the creation and deployment of two Yammer communities, one for all employed Yodel staff and one for our 'last mile' delivery teams, delivery partners and self-employed couriers. This has fundamentally transformed communication both from Yodel-brand values and messaging but also in terms of real-time feedback on our performance, issues, trends and ideas capture from both employed and non-employed Yodel workforces.

A third programme is the aggressive pursuit of using the cloud where possible. The delivery business is very 'peaky' in terms of demand, which has a consequence for how we build scale into our platforms. Clearly we do not want to build for a maximum capacity which is fully utilised only for 10 to 20 days in a year, so we are looking to build for the steady state and flex the infrastructure with cloud-based technologies to cope with the peaks.

What impact will the above transformation have on your organisation?
The impacts will be profound in the longer term. In the short time these initiatives have been running, we have already found that we are starting to better control and reduce IT spend. We are getting much greater insight into our business and the industry through data, and we are seeing a step-change in our methods of engaging with the workforce, the consumers we deliver to, and in the longer term our engagement with our clients.

How has your leadership style contributed to the outcomes of the transformation project?
My style leads me towards building strong teams and engendering high levels of engagement; that has opened up the eyes of many people in the organisation to the business benefits that can be realised by embracing technology better. A digital approach and a desire to proceed at pace have really improved the visibility of the benefits of transformation with the executive team, and the pace at which I drive change has enabled us to start to see some benefits even at this early stage.

What key technologies do you consider enable transformation?
Today, social mobility tools, cloud and analytics are transformative technologies. Devops methodologies, agile deliveries and value-based decision-making are also key enablers to improve time to market with these technologies. In the coming months and years, I see wearable technologies, enhanced CX tools and capabilities such as speech-driven systems, motion-based interfaces and augmented reality as ways to enhance workforce productivity.

Are you increasing the number of cloud applications or infrastructure in use at your organisation?
Yes.

What is your information and data analytics vision for the organisation?
To be data-driven. We have masses of data but we are not using it in a consumer-centric manner. Our ultimate goal has to be to leverage our data assets to better serve consumers, improve their overall experience and manage their expectations better while at the same time improving the planning, productivity and performance aspects of the business.

How is mobile and social networking impacting operations and customer experience?
Seriously, have you been on Twitter recently? We have been burned by the negative sentiment since Black Friday. Retailers that have outperformed their forecast have put massive strains on the parcel delivery industry. While we have successfully delivered over 100 million parcels this year with an extremely high 'right first time' metric, if it isn’t 100% we will ultimately not have fully met the expectations of a number of people.

The transparency of consumers' experiences, which in the main are triggered by poor service, can be massively amplified through social channels. While this brings some negativity, we are working hard to better generate positive sentiment, leveraging a combination of brand ambassadors, delighting high klout or high-influence customers and generally better engaging with consumers through social channels.

With the recent news that Instagram has taken the lead over Twitter in the size of its user-base, we are also actively looking at what we can achieve through other social channels such as Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Instagram. For those preferring visual information, it is not out of the question that we could start posting images of 'your parcel' at various stages of its journey through our network.

Describe your strategic vision towards shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives and employees around choice?
BYOD is a good thing. We are looking to leverage that on a large scale over the next 12 months.

Shadow IT is limited as there is only one place to sign off spend on technology, which stops things from getting out of hand. That said, teams outside IT embracing the possibilities of what can be delivered using technology and helping drive our innovation pipeline will be actively encouraged as we progress our change agenda and create a more agile business.

What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom?
Several deals have been announced this year including those with Motorola (now Zebra) for handheld technology, Microsoft for Office 365, Yammer and other corporate productivity tools and with Teradata for our analytical solution. We are NDAed on many different pieces of work at the moment, but it is safe to say we are working in partnership with many well-known technology brands to help drive the business forwards significantly over the next 12 to 18 months.

Who are your main suppliers?
Some of our current primary vendors include Zebra, Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, Vodafone, Virgin, O2, Dell and SCC.

Yodel IT security and budget

Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?
Yes.

Has cyber-security risen up your management agenda?
Yes.

Does your organisation understand the potential cyber-security threats it faces?
Yes.

Has this led to an increase in your security budget?
Yes.

What is the IT budget?
£25m.

How much is the IT operational spend compared to the revenue as a percentage?
4%.

What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year?
The strategic aim is to create business agility in a digitally enabled customer-centric business. We will do this by:
• embracing the cloud
• leveraging social channels
• raising productivity through mobility solutions
• improving the consumer, client and workforce experience by leveraging appropriate technologies
• enabling data-driven decision-making

Are you finding it difficult to recruit the talent you need to drive transformation?
No.

Has recruitment and retention risen up your agenda as a CIO?
No.

Are you looking for recruits in the EU to fill the skills shortage you have?
No.

Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme?
No.

Yodel technology department

How would you describe your leadership style?
Open, honest, passionate, driving, encouraging, collaborative, inclusive, enabling, supporting, coaching.

Explain how you’ve supported and developed your senior leadership team to support your overall objectives and vision
I've had to bring a few new people in to increase the leadership bandwidth in the team. As a leadership team we are working with the next layer down to perform an all-inclusive review of our overall structure and to work together to define a new IT target operating model that will enable us to deliver both our short-term and long-term aims.

As part of this we are fully developing a framework of roles, responsibilities and competency requirements for all levels. My direct reports are considered part of the top talent within the wider business and we are working the next layer down to identify future leaders and to promote, encourage, stretch and grow them. Although several people are now engaged on the company's leadership development programme, it is important to remember that not all technologists are destined to be great managers or leaders and we have to apply the same thought, diligence and rigour towards producing some of the best technical experts in the economy. In the medium term we will be looking to use coaches and mentors to help develop the leadership team and many of the more senior members of their teams.

How many employees are in your IT team?
120 employed.

What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff?
Predominantly in-house with some partnerships that help deliver specific services (not strictly outsourcing) and some legacy solutions that do not fit into the normal boxes or groups that you would consider when trying to answer this question (read that as: it's complicated!).

Does your team include key skilled workers from the EU?
Yes.