David Cooper has unlocked the potential of data and reduced the cost of an underperforming infrastructure at British Gas by championing self-service BI. It was a frightening concept for some in the business but he was successful in explaining the concept and the journey so that the leadership team could see the opportunities it enables.

What the judges said

"Impressive on the culture change, getting British Gas to accept that it is not different and not that disimilar to a mobile telco. Also, look at how good many of their services are compared to BT, both formerly state owned. He has some strong ideas on the power of the Internet of Things and I'd like to see him delivering them," Mark Chillingworth

"He's championed a lot stuff and gets very good stakeholder involvement," Ian Cox

"There's a huge amount of disruption coming to this sector with Nest and companies like Ovo and I don't see enough focus on that," Matt Ballantine

"A great example of a good mature CIO that the organisation needed," Ian Cohen

When did you start your current role?

What is your reporting line?
I am on the executive management board of British Gas and I report to the managing director of British Gas.

Do you meet with and discuss business strategy with the CEO every week?
I have frequent discussions with the British gas MD and through my wider Centrica remit also at senior levels in Centrica Group.

Are you a member of the board of directors?

What other executive boards do you sit on?

Does your organisation have a CDO?
No. My responsibility has broadened to take on the evolution of the company's digital developments. I collaborate strongly with the business leaders to help them deliver customer-centric changes to the websites, applications and brand-new social media experience for our customers.

How many employees does your organisation have?
Approximately 35,000.

Does your organisation carry out significant trade in the EU?

How many users does your department supply services to?

How do you ensure that you have a good understanding of your business and how your customers use your business's products?
British Gas has a number of diverse businesses (residential energy supply, business energy supply, residential services, etc) and I ensure my team are part of the management boards of those businesses. I sit at the top level on the British Gas management team to get the whole business picture and influence at the most senior level.

NPS drives a significant amount of what we do in BG and I am involved in the feedback and customer interactions to help understand what drives both good and bad service.

Changes to the customer touch points, such as the website and Hive, are now driven by agile technology development with integral customer review and feedback sessions to ensure appropriate customer feedback before launch.

I and my team hold regular management meetings on different business sites, where BG interacts with our customers, and as part of those days we dedicate time to listening to and identifying where we can improve the customer experience.

British Gas has a number of very large field forces and I spend a number of days out in the field with these seeing the customer issues, opportunities and technology at first hand.

Centrica technology strategy and agenda

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

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

Describe a disruptive measure you’ve led or played a major part in
Data and insight has been an issue for British Gas for many years and in the past has led to proliferation of systems and full and partial copies of data. BG needed a radical new strategy to enable us to unlock the potential of our data and to reduce the cost of the underperforming infrastructure. I have pushed forwards the strategy to use new technology to unlock the data and I have championed the empowerment of end-users on self-service BI. I have introduced technical innovation through a Hadoop implementation to create a data lake and other technologies in the move to self-service BI. I have spent considerable time building stakeholder support for self-service was a frightening concept for some people within the business and it took time to explain the concept and journey so that the leadership team sees the opportunities it enables. 

What major transformation project has been recently completed or is under way at your organisation?
• Completing the six-year, game-changing Catalyst transformation programme.
• Creation of a new end-to-end solution for all our business energy customers and the migration of the customer base to a new SAP solution.
• Migrating 26,000 users to Windows 7 and our 9,000 remote user community to a new remote access solution.
• Migrating and transforming all of our applications to new datacentre providers.
• Transformed our entire telephony and network infrastructure to an all-IP solution. 

What impact will the above transformation have on your organisation?
Catalyst, our SAP customer relationship management system, now provides 8,000 BG people with easy access to 33 million customer accounts. It enables us to give every single one of our active 14 million energy and services customers a better, faster and more effective service. It is a step-change for both our residential energy business and our insurance business (we are one of the largest insurers in the UK).

Our business energy solution means our commercial customers will also have full access to their energy account data, allowing them to manage their energy with unprecedented ease and accuracy. It also enables the call centres to better serve customers.

Our Windows 7 programme is probably one of the biggest projects of its kind in the UK. It means that our people are enjoying reduced login times improved mobility and faster delivery of new applications when they need them. The dreaded Microsoft blue screen during customer calls is a thing of the past.

Our datacentre migration programme delivered cost savings in excess of £200m over the period and reduced high-priority BAU incidents by 35%.

The telephony and network infrastructure transformation improved services and reduced our cost base by 16% and reduced the number of customer affecting outages. 

How has your leadership style contributed to the outcomes of the transformation project?
I have not only provided much of the vision for these extremely complex programmes but also played a key role in driving them to ensure they were on time and budget. I injected a blend of pragmatic business and technology knowledge to keep them on track.

In the case of the new business energy solution and customer migration I was also the originator of the whole business strategy. At that time the management team wanted to pursue a different solution and it was only because of my relationship with and the backing of the British Gas MD that my strategy got chosen and implemented. During the course of the programme the potential of the solution was recognised and there is now agreement that it was the correct strategy for BG.

What key technologies do you consider enable transformation?
I see the next phase of our transformation to be in information management. This key technology area will deliver insights, allowing us to delight our existing customers and to enable new business opportunities. Unlocking these insights on our existing large traditional businesses as well as driving the growth in the two new customer-driven technology businesses, smart metering (prepay metering) and connected homes (Hive) is critical. My strategy is centred on using the new technology, which underpins much of the social media space, to enable this revolution in insight capability. It will remove a large amount of data duplication and the need for dedicated data appliances, while reducing any potential for vendor lock-in.

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

How is mobile and social networking impacting operations and customer experience?
A number of the large field forces have been given smartphones, enabling the use of Yammer and Facetime for sharing customer-facing issues and solutions. We have a team who use social media for monitoring sentiment and for capturing and intercepting customer issues. My customers and end-users use these to share their issues and my operations team use them to nip issues in the bud.

Describe your strategic vision towards shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives and employees around choice?
My general approach to shadow IT is not to confront it but to win confidence. I believe if I excel in the services I do deliver, then customers will choose to use them. All shadow IT teams inevitably face challenges, such as security, viruses, etc, and at those low moments they generally seek our help. My approach is to use these low moments to build a better understanding and relationship while seeking to show the benefits of the flexible delivery models we use.

Cloud solutions and software as a service allow business units with a credit card, a browser and a crude appreciation for technology to build their own solution. I am working with our procurement and finance colleagues to give advice and provide assured and professionally managed alternatives with fast delivery times to stop any growth in such solutions. I am changing the IS team, to ensure we are expert advisers and innovators with technology, as well as a team that can build, manage and operate applications.

We don't currently offer BYOD but do allow some device choice. Device management and security are crude tools today to control data loss. We have a goal to transform all our applications and services to work on an unsecured device over an unsecured network, which enables BYOD without the need for more layers of software that are complex to manage and add further costs.

What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom?
Our new contract with Vodafone sees us move to be one of their top UK customers. We have driven the move to and the maturity of the Vodafone cloud-based end-to-end IP solutions, delivering both a cost reduction and future opportunities.

We have signed a deal with CGI Logica to drive the smart metering space to try and drive a de facto market solution to DCC integration.

With our focus on information and data management we have signed agreements with new technology suppliers like Hortonworks and Wandisco. 

Who are your main suppliers?
SAP, Cognizant, HP, Fujitsu, TCS, Capgemini, Microsoft, Oracle, Vodafone, Trilliant, L&G.

Centrica IT security and budget

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

Has cyber-security risen up your management agenda?

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

Has this led to an increase in your security budget?

What is the IT budget?

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

What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year?
To nurture and grow the two new businesses that are helping significantly change the customer engagement and growth prospects of our businesses  smart metering and connected homes (Hive). And to put the customer at the heart of and in control of every interaction with these, preferably being digital self-service.

Are you finding it difficult to recruit the talent you need to drive transformation?

Has recruitment and retention risen up your agenda as a CIO?

Are you looking for recruits in the EU to fill the skills shortage you have?

Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme?

Centrica technology department

How would you describe your leadership style?
I am a passionate, committed, open and approachable leader who engages and empowers my team. I enable them to grow but am available to ensure they have appropriate support and to ensure key deliverables stay on track.

I set high standards and ensure we ask ourselves the difficult questions to enable us to continuously improve. I am not afraid to take tough decisions and the team respect that fact.

I believe in engaging and inspiring the whole team and fundamentally challenge their mindsets.

Explain how you’ve supported and developed your senior leadership team to support your overall objectives and vision
I work with each of my senior leadership team to develop the shared vision and objectives and obtain their buy-in. In all cases I provide them with a stretch to their normal delivery responsibilities to ensure they feel they are involved in shaping the future.

I have ensured they participate in a number of industry bodies and conferences to ensure they are aware of technology trends and capabilities to continue to develop their breadth of knowledge.

Through the current organisation structure each of my team interfaces into different business units, giving them the opportunity to see the business operations challenges and to shape the IS vision using the knowledge they have acquired.

At the annual conferences each of them plays a role in articulating the shared vision to several hundred people, which helps ensure they are clear and succinct in delivering that shared vision.

How many employees are in your IT team?

What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff?

Does your team include key skilled workers from the EU?