At Channel 4, Kevin Gallagher has made sure his IT team is viewed as an enabler rather than a blocker of corporate change. He has delivered the broadcaster's viewer relationship strategy by embracing Big Data technologies.

What the judges said

"Channel 4 has always done good stuff as a broadcaster and Gallagher working with the strategy director is a good sign," Mike Altendorf

"Gallagher always seems to be fully involved, from the off, with the main business strategic programmes, not an IT person joining them after the fact," Mark Chillingworth

"Bleating on about skills is one thing, but to really do something about it is another and Channel 4 are doing that," Ian Cohen

When did you start your current role?

What is your reporting line?
Director of strategy.

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

Are you a member of the board of directors?

What other executive boards do you sit on?
Operational executive.

Does your organisation have a CDO?

How many employees does your organisation have?

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?
Channel 4 has always embraced new technologies to drive efficiency and sustain competitive advantage. All media businesses are being disrupted by the opportunities presented by digitalisation. At Channel 4 we have constantly challenged our established model to provide more value to both our viewers and advertising customers.

This means my technology team and I need a deep understanding of what’s important to our business and we have a clear alignment across the organisation. All our work is prioritised according to overall business goals. To develop our customer-facing digital products better, we analyse data to support design and features as well as using A/B testing and user testing to try out new features.

Channel 4 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
Working closely with my colleagues in our audience insight team we have developed a viewer relationship strategy. We laid the foundation by setting data policies and establishing what would constitute value to the viewer. We have embraced big data technologies (we won the BCS Big Data and Analytics Project Award for 2014) and helped deliver this transformation. The result is that Channel 4 now has over 11 million registered viewers including over half of all 16 to 24-year-olds. Through the campaign management tools we implemented this year we can interact directly with those viewers based on our understanding of their interests and behaviours. The viewer data is also a key part of informing our consumer-facing product technology development.

What major transformation project has been recently completed or is under way at your organisation?
In 2015 we will implement All 4 – a new digital home for all Channel 4 content. This embodies the biggest step forward for us, since we launched 4oD back in 2006. The aim is to bring our online services and broadcast channels together in one place. This will completely reframe our digital estate, giving a single destination, All 4. 

What impact will the above transformation have on your organisation?
It will lay the foundation for a service-based personalised viewer experience consistent across all devices.

How has your leadership style contributed to the outcomes of the transformation project?
To deliver All 4 we are making significant changes to our services to support more personalisation and consistency of experience across different platforms. I’m excited that my team and I are key players in driving through this change.

What key technologies do you consider enable transformation?
Key technologies for us are those that support agility and reduce time to market. Increasingly our role is to blend in-house use of technologies and brokering external services. The increasing maturity of cloud and SaaS options provides great opportunities to deliver value more quickly. Similarly the ubiquity of mobile and more general access to high-speed broadband are transforming what we can achieve with our viewer-facing products. 

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

What is your information and data analytics vision for the organisation?
We have established a mix of skilled data scientists and technology innovators. We have also made great progress in analysing viewer behaviour data and segmenting it to support personalisation for viewers and unique commercial products for our advertisers.

This year we need to ensure we can automate and ‘productionise’ the models developed by the data scientists to ensure the efficiency and quality of our analysis as it is embedded in the business process. The vision is to roll out this analytics capability to other areas of the business to bring us a competitive advantage in places where decision-making has not traditionally been based on deep analytics. 

How is mobile and social networking impacting operations and customer experience?
Mobile is key to our customer experience. It has opened up a new audience that is not sat in front of a TV. During 2014 we made our 4oD products accessible on 3G/4G for the first time. We are now specifically commissioning shorter pieces of content for mobile consumption. The current strand of shorts has been very successful, not least Guy Martin’s Passion for Life series. 

Describe your strategic vision towards shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives and employees around choice?
Often IT teams can be viewed as a blocker to change. This is not the case in my department and I ensure that all my team understand this. As technology-based services are now such a key part of any successful organisation, it would be unreasonable to assume all of these can be commissioned or run through IT. My approach is to be open to other teams looking at technology services. IT needs to offer technical due diligence, ensure that security standards are met, and advise on integration issues and options.

Who are your main suppliers?
Our long-term partner relationships include Computacenter, Piksel, NIIT and Amazon Web Services.

Channel 4 IT security and budget

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?

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

What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year?
A clear focus is to provide a suitable level of information security. Our technology investments are to ensure that the organisation remains competitive and relevant in an increasingly diverse industry landscape. Specific areas of focus have been mentioned already along with a major strategic investment in advertising sales systems. We are planning to use digital and internet technologies to change the way we work with advertising agencies.

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?

Channel 4 technology department

How would you describe your leadership style?
My success, or otherwise, is down to having great people in my team. I have a very strong team, so my leadership challenge is to create the environment where they can succeed. That means setting a clear vision of what we need to do in technology to help the overall organisation meet its goals. I also need to remove barriers that prevent great work being done and make sure the overall governance process supports this.

Explain how you’ve supported and developed your senior leadership team to support your overall objectives and vision
The key success criterion in any job, but especially the CIO's, is to have a great and high-performing team. The senior team is 50% women and this diversity brings us great benefits in breadth of ideas and views. Some of the team are flexible workers and this flexibility has enabled us to retain a very high-performing group of people.

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?