Looking to impress customers with a new multichannel platform for Play.com, Francesco De Marchis consulted business stakeholders to perfect a supersticky model. Customers now take a seamless integration journey, taking with them all their basket, wish list, information viewed, personalisation and offer data whatever channel they switch to. The result? Customer stickiness up by 25% and the sales conversion ratio by 0.5%.

When did you start your current role as CIO?
January 2011.

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?
No.

What other executive boards do you sit on?
Executive leadership role.

Does your organisation have a CDO?
No.

What non-technology responsibilities do you have in the organisation?
Business development.

How many employees does your organisation have?
300.

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

What number of users does your department supply services to?
15 million.

How do you ensure that you have a good understanding of your business and how your customers use your business's products?
I'm involved with the business development as part of the CIO role but I belong to the customer panel where we interview a panel of customers picked randomly online and interview them, review their feedback and participate in panel discussions with customer 'power users' and the B2B marketplace customers.

Play.com 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
We built an innovative multichannel platform to create a strong stickiness in the customer journey over different channels, including social.

What major transformation project has been recently completed or is under way at your organisation?
We did a huge digital transformation project to align the company with the current digital disruption that is happening in the online arena.

I worked with business stakeholders to clearly define what was required to impress the customers with the new platform and with the tech team I came up with the 'Follow Me' idea. A customer is now on a seamless integration journey, moving from one channel to another but bringing with them all their basket, wish list, data viewed, personalisation and offers.

The implementation was a challenge more for the deadline than for the technology changes required to achieve a great customer experience, but I did it on time and on budget. The Remember Me multichannel platform helped increase customer stickiness by 25% and raise the conversion ratio by 0.5%.

At the foundation of this project there were other major initiatives to support, the customer data mart (a Hadoop business intelligent platform) and a new mobile-optimised site platform designed to deliver instantly from one source new content, promos and marketing campaigns to the web, mobile devices, tablets and social media sites.

What impact will the above transformation have on your organisation?
To implement a multichannel strategy we also changed the IT, marketing and business development organisation. We also changed the development methodology to become more agile in all parts of the organisation.

How has your leadership style contributed to the outcomes of the transformation project?
The consensus approach I used helped massively to create an environment where the team could flourish and come up with innovative ideas to disrupt competitors.

What key technologies do you consider enable transformation?
Big data using Hadoop as the foundation for recording all customer interactions and implementing the new search and recommendation engine.

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?
A full big data implementation integrating all customer interaction, then adding to this data the demographic data that comes from Experian to give a full vision of the customer so we can offer a deep personalisation experience when they visit us via any of the channels we support.

How is mobile and social networking impacting operations and customer experience?
Massively. We now offer proper mobile customer help and we have started monitoring social media to check if there is any negative feedback posted related to our brand.

Describe your strategic vision towards shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives and employees around choice?
BYOD is not supported for security reasons. Shadow IT is working very effectively because of the internal motivation. It's a great way to share experience and create global communication.

What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom?
Expanded CMS Sitecore contract.

Play.com 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?
£5m.

What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year?
Efficiency within the EU group companies.

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

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

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

Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme?
Yes.

Play.com technology department

How would you describe your leadership style?
I'm a leader who builds consensus, engaging all the players and making them feel part of a team where they can contribute actively and equally.

Explain how you’ve supported and developed your senior leadership team to support your overall objectives and vision
I developed my career around strong teams that I was able to create, inspire and motivate with my passion for technology and innovation. I build environments where the team can flourish. But at the same time as a team player I'm able to bring the best out of the people I work with. I offer a career path and mentoring so they can grow personally within the organisation.

How many employees are in your IT team?
120.

What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff?
90/30.

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