Dentsu Aegis Network is a global media and marketing agency, based in London; providing communications strategy, creative services, media planning and buying, sports marketing and content creation, brand tracking and marketing analytics for customers as diverse as cereal makers to Microsoft. There are eight main divisions. Dentsu and Aegis merged in March 2013 and the organisation has  been on a strong growth strategy.

Group CIO Mike Young has been with the organisation since August 2012 having joined from the Post Office, Gideon Kay joined in January 2014 following a successful three and a half years with scientific organisation LGC. Kay is responsible for the EMEA operations in a strong working relationship with Young. Given the alignment of their strategic visions, it was decided by the CIO 100 panel to pair Young and Kay together as a single entry from their organization.

When did you start your current role?
Mike Young -  August 2012
Gideon Kay -  January  2014

What is your reporting line?
Young - Jerry Buhlmann, Dentsu Aegis Network CEO
Kay - dual line to Global CIO and EMEA CEO

Do you meet with and discuss business strategy with the CEO every week?
Yes, we both have regular meetings to discuss all aspects of the strategy.

Are you a member of the board of directors?
Young – I am a member of the board of directors.

What other executive boards do you sit on?
Kay - I sit on the EMEA Executive Board, and Global Technology Leadership Board.

Does your organisation have a CDO?

What different responsibilities does the CDO have?
We have several CDOs across many of our brands. As a leading global advertising and media agency, digital is at the heart of what we do and how we operate. We also have a Chief Data Officer who reports into Young and provides consumer insight and data analytics leadership to the business. The role is responsible for driving the data and digital agenda at corporate level, but also throughout the organisation. This role owns the group wide data strategy and works in collaboration with our client facing parts of the business to deliver products for our clients. This is a critical role to our business as over 50% of our revenues are in the digital arena.

What non-technology responsibilities do you have in the organisation?
Young – I provide leadership support and council to other leaders outside of the technology function. I also play a key role across a wide spectrum of board issues such as company vision and values, mergers and acquisitions, brand evolution and risk.

How many employees does your organisation have?
Over 23,000

Does your organisation carry out significant trade in the EU?

What number of users does your department supply services to?
Globally over 23,000 users and in EMEA over 15,000 users.

How do you ensure that you have a good understanding of your business and how your customers use your business's products?
We undertake regular stakeholder meetings and engagement sessions across our business at a global and local level to ensure we have a clear understanding of their demands and requirements of technology. We have regional technology teams who lead the engagement process within the regions, sitting on Regional Executive Committees, but also with teams embedded in local markets. Our teams spend significant time with both internal and external stakeholders in the business; attending global and regional conferences and getting involved in pitch meetings with clients.

We also have technology teams working closely with some of our brands to deliver applications and data insights for our clients. This provides us with real business insights and first hand understanding of how we need to adapt and develop our technology offering to support our client's needs.

Dentsu Aegis Network technology strategy and IT 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?
We have led and played a key role in the global transformation activity which has caused significant disruption to how we work and operate as a business.

1. Moving from 'in market' technology across our 110 countries, to a centralised technology approach. This caused significant disruption and enabled us to leverage global technology solutions such as the latest collaboration tools that have changed the way the organisation works as whole. It has given consistency, flexibility, agility, speed in execution and allowed us to deploy our best 'solutions' to all markets at the same time. We are now all on one common core platform. Lastly, it has delivered significant efficiencies.

2. Developing a Big Data platform (on premise) with real time capability - accessible to all markets and brands. This supports our continuing investment in our plans for data management and the applications landscape, which is pivotal to our technology strategy. As part of this change we have set up a cross-organisational data council seeking to maximise the value of data and analytics for the long-term benefit of our clients. This is a significant shift in how this agenda had previously been managed and demonstrates a significant change in how technology is perceived within the business. We are now one of the central pillars to Dentsu Aegis's continuing commercial success.

What major transformation project has been recently completed, or is underway at your organisation?
Young - Our business is at the forefront of the digital revolution which requires us to evolve at pace. In 2013, we embarked on a radical transformation journey to move to one global IT approach ensuring consistent and reliable IT. The priorities were to rationalise, consolidate and modernise our IT which we achieved by:

• Consolidating our network infrastructure to fewer key sites while still covering our entire employee base across 110 countries
• Investing in our infrastructure including a self-healing, high speed networks (MPLS backbone)
• Building a resilient, flexible, future-proofed IT core
• Implementing a 24/7 global service offering with improved response to incidents
• Investing in a host of service management tools such as Microsoft System Centre Configuration Manager, Casper, SNOW, Mailscape and SteelCentral.
• Delivering a scalable enterprise architecture solution
• Delivering collaboration tools for employees across the organisation to foster innovation and effective communication (Lync, SharePoint and state of the art conferencing facilities in all regional centres (Oblong – Mezzanine)

Kay – As part of our broader functional transformation, the delivery of a global finance system is underway in our organisation. This combines a business process outsourcing/ centralisation of finance back office with the rollout of a single global ERP solution for finance transactions and operations.

What impact will the above transformation have on your organisation?
Young - As a result of the transformation which was successfully completed in 2014, the organisation can now:

  • Work as one global organisation on a single IT platform
  • Connect and collaborate easily with employees across all markets
  • Seamlessly access global applications and tools
  • Rely on secure, stable, efficient, supportable and scalable IT

Kay – As a result of the functional transformation activity specifically the roll out of the global finance system, it has created a holistic consolidated view of the financial elements of our activities, increase transparency and efficiency and significantly improved the level of service for our clients.

How has your leadership style contributed to the outcomes of the transformation project
Young - To successfully drive our large scale transformation programme, I initially focused on developing strong relationships with executive colleagues to ensure buy in and support at a senior level. My leadership style is centred on providing clear and transparent communications to ensure employees within technology and across the business feel informed and engaged through the change. It has also been essential that as a leader I remain accountable for the impacts of the change and any disruption that this may have caused to our business. By being clear and committed to what we had and have set out to achieve. I have seen a real step change in the perception of technology across the business and it sets us apart from all our competition.

Kay - My role is a senior customer for this solution and my style of collaborative stakeholder management, strong technical knowledge, and clear communication is aligned with how I need this project to operate to be successful for our business in the region that I have responsibility for.

What key technologies do you consider enable transformation?
We are continuously investing in our infrastructure and systems to ensure they're fit for purpose and enable the business to be a truly global digital network. As part of our transformation agenda, we consolidated our technology landscape to provide a more robust and scalable platform. We believe technologies that enable transformation are those that increase agility, transparency, and through these things efficiency. Technologies used to support this transformation included the plethora of the usual Microsoft back office software along with:

• A suite of collaboration tools to foster innovation and effective communication including Microsoft Lync and the latest version of SharePoint which enabled us to put in place an award winning global intranet.
• ERP solution Microsoft Dynamics 2012, to aid significant transformation programmes across the HR and Finance functions.
• New remote working solutions to make it even easier to work anywhere, anytime.
• One of the world's largest Riverbed network optimiser deployments, ensuring that network efficiency and investment is maximised.
• A number of open source technologies to create greater flexibility and cost efficiencies through the transformation process.

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

What is your information and data analytics vision for the organisation?
Young - World class data management and applications are key to competitive advantage in our marketplace which is why they are pivotal to our technology strategy. We've invested significantly in our data management and applications landscape to set us apart in an increasingly digitally-led and consumer-driven media landscape; including:

• A central data hub which seamlessly integrates data from diverse sources on a global scale and provides a platform for reliable and rapid application delivery
• Our set of global applications which offer unparalleled insight and media planning advantage to our clients, fuel brand reinvention and support growth

Kay - I have a simple and clear vision for information and data analytics. Like many organisations we collect and generate a huge amount of data, and have been focused on the collection and generation for a significant amount of time. Internally and Externally we need to change that focus and effort around the visibility and usability of this data - but also embrace the Pareto principle more in this space, i.e. not wait for 100% accuracy or over engineer solutions accordingly

How is mobile and social networking impacting operations and customer experience?
Mobile and social enabled consumers are a fundamental aspect of today's society. As a business we advise our clients on the digital agenda and how to leverage it for their brands. This means as an organisation we are required to evolve at pace and lead the way both internally and externally around our digital agenda.

Dentsu Aegis Network has acquired companies who have capabilities in developing applications and media in the mobile arena and has global presence in social networking with our ICUC Developing Brand. In EMEA we have many a number of critical acquisitions in this space - including most recently Tempero, and Fetch with core skills and experience in both social and mobile. We are able to leverage these capabilities both for our customers' needs and for internal requirements. They continue to play a fundamental role in our data agenda and in activation.

Describe your strategic vision towards shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives and employees around choice?
BYOD continues to be evaluated; however we are yet to anticipate an employee push in that direction. Secure measures are in place to ensure we can encrypt and wipe devices should that be required. Microsoft is a key global client and across our organisation we predominantly use Nokia smart devices for our employees and these are securely linked into one active directory across the globe. Where required we support both Android and iOS devices depending on individual needs. We have the ability to be far more flexible than was possible historically and we use this to enhance productivity whilst protecting corporate assets. We are a creative business with a mobile and agile workforce and so we work hard to enable this as appropriate.

In addition to our global technology function, there are a number of technology focused employees who engage and execute to the external customers' requirements in specialist areas. We work with them to ensure they have the support they need, as well as ensuring best practice is shared and leveraged across the whole organisation. As a result of our transformation and where appropriate, we have brought some teams into the technology function and where not, we collaborate and aid them through the process. We feel it's important to allow brands to focus on their customers, whilst we seek to support and learn from these endeavours.

What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom?
• Level 3: Provision of global data centre and connectivity services
• TCS: Outsourcing partner for core infrastructure and support services
• Microsoft: Provision of group wide EA and ERP platform

Who are your main suppliers?
TCS, Microsoft, Level 3, Colt, DDS, Prisma, Genpact

Dentsu Aegis Network 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?
Circa £100 million

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?
We're changing the role of technology in our business. Moving from a 'keep the lights on' function to a 'business enabling' partner. Our high level aim is to "Deliver agile solutions that enable competitive edge". We're doing this by continuing to deliver on our transformation agenda including:

• Equipping the business with the right infrastructure and tools to operate as one truly global network
• Investing in our technology and our people to deliver always on, one touch technology
• A significant focus on delivering agile technology solutions in data management and applications, to drive competitive advantage for our clients

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

Dentsu Aegis Network technology department

How would you describe your leadership style?

Young - My style is collaborative, supportive and when required, challenging. I have a heavy focus on the strategic aspects of my role – always considering what tomorrow may bring, as well as keeping a close watch for the needs of my internal and external customers.

Kay - My style is one of open and transparent communication with stakeholders both internal and external. I believe in face to face communication as much as is logistically possible and ensuring I have a clear and consistent set of messages for all. I delegate as far as is viable, but due to a technical background am able and willing to dive into detail where necessary. I feel that clear and consistent decision making is vital in all circumstances and a willingness to take risks essential. Paramount to me is taking the time to understand the business challenges and pressures and align my objectives and those of my function accordingly.

Explain how you've supported and developed your senior leadership team to support your overall objectives and vision
Young - Firstly, I involved them in developing our objectives and vision and made them equally accountable in delivering on both. To ensure on-going support, I run quarterly strategy sessions to allow my leadership group to share insights, updates and seek advice around the strategic agenda. In terms of development, I have invested in running regular leadership capability sessions with an outside executive coach. Lastly, each of my Senior Management Team has a development plan, backed by an external process which evaluates their specific needs. These plans get reviewed quarterly.

Kay - I have worked closely with a senior team that I have largely inherited since joining this organisation. I have coached them around the areas of stakeholder management and engagement and driven clear and open communications out through them to the wider organisation. I have spent significant time travelling with them to ensure this is consistent across the EMEA region. Where possible I have spent time with the wider teams and their employees in Q&A sessions to get these messages across.

How many employees are in your IT team?
Globally there are approx 450 staff, in the EMEA region there are around 180/200 staff

What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff?
It varies by area but we have the approximate split across the global function:

  • 70% in-house staff
  • 30% outsourced staff

Does your team include key skilled workers from the EU?