In place at Atkins for little more than a year, Richard Cross has already crowdsourced the corporate vision for 2020, used incubation techniques to create solutions in weeks that have been in the too hard category for years, and shut down 250 internal initiatives that weren't aligned to the company's strategic goals
Group CIO moving to group CDO of WS Atkins.
When did you start your current role?
What is your reporting line?
Group corporate development/strategy/M&A.
Do you meet with and discuss business strategy with the CEO every week?
Are you a member of the board of directors?
What other executive boards do you sit on?
I chair the group investment committee.
Does your organisation have a CDO?
What different responsibilities does the CDO have?
What non-technology responsibilities do you have in the organisation?
• Internal change/transformation
• Commercial technology products/services
• Knowledge management and collaboration
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?
• Surveying everyone in the organisation for views on services, applications, tech innovation, etc
• Crowdsourcing ideas, improvements and innovation from all staff
• Digital by default approach with joint IS/business teams, agile delivery, rapid start-up, incubation, so the business is part of the systems development process
• Regular blogging, online discussions, informal networking, high-profile 'tell Richard what you think' emails
• Architect of overall corporate One Atkins 2020 strategy, with technology exploitation and the IS role/strategy 'built in' to ensure 100% strategic alignment
• Strong open relationships with all exec colleagues, involved in business strategic planning, active in business unit exec meetings
Atkins 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
• Crowdsourcing our corporate vision for 2020
• Using rapid start-up/incubation techniques to create solutions in weeks that have been in the too hard category for years
• Stopping 250 internal initiatives that weren't aligned to our strategic goals
What major transformation project has been recently completed or is under way at your organisation?
We are in the process of 'revolutionising' the IS group, by flipping from a traditional model to one that is focused on digital by default, exploiting technology as a differentiator and selling IS products and services to external clients. As our CEO says, "IS as a business, not a function".
What impact will the above transformation have on your organisation?
• We are creating a new business approach to innovation and a global collaborative culture by pioneering digital ways working
• Contributing meaningful revenue to the company bottom line
• Repositioning Atkins as a technology innovator in the marketplace
• Giving all staff a real voice in shaping how the company feels and operates
How has your leadership style contributed to the outcomes of the transformation project?
I have been a highly visible figurehead in challenging the status quo and perceived wisdom on ways of working across the business. I have been accessible, and listened and acted on the views of staff in a way that surpasses their expectations. Although I have been here less than a year, I think most of our 18,000 staff would know who I am and feel I am championing their interests in a way they have never experienced before. The exec team says I am making a really big difference not just in IS but across the organisation globally.
What key technologies do you consider enable transformation?
Cloud, mobile, social media, internet, big data, digital engineering/building information management.
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?
Internally. Data-driven decision making will fundamentally changing the way we design and engineer solutions. We will use data insights from previous design work and operational performance data collected via the IoT rather than gut feeling and experience.
Externally. We are developing a series of data services using predictive analytics on unique large data sets combined with IoT real-time data for intelligent transportation management and strategic infrastructure control.
How is mobile and social networking impacting operations and customer experience?
As a design and engineering company many staff spend time on site at our building and infrastructure projects. We are deploying a mobile-first plan to improve productivity by enabling staff to work from anywhere and directly improve company profitability.
A key theme in our 2020 vision for Atkins is collaboration on a global scale. We are using social media as the key tool for empowering staff to share knowledge and innovation across the company – without the constraints of organisational boundaries.
Describe your strategic vision towards shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives and employees around choice?
Shadow IT. I am positioning my new digital group as a hybrid that combines the best of corporate IT with the agility and customer intimacy of shadow IT – ie the ideal home for shadow IT groups. As a result they are all moving across to the IS group.
BYOD. We plan to fully adopt BYOD. We have started with mobile devices. This is positioned as bringing the benefits of consumer technology inside the company.
What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom?
We are working on strategic joint 'go to market' partnerships with some of our key suppliers (Oracle, Autodesk, Bentley, among others) where we will harness Atkins' industry knowledge and know-how with world-class software to provide total solutions that solve real client business problems.
Who are your main suppliers?
Applications. Oracle, Microsoft, Service Now.
Infrastructure. Vodafone, Verizon, NetApp, Cisco.
Other. Digital innovation consultants.
Atkins 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?
What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year?
Move to a single, integrated, cost-effective global service model, exploit innovative thinking around fix-once, automation, self-service and lean.
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?
Atkins technology department
How would you describe your leadership style?
A disruptive business leader who exploits technology to drive innovation internally and create differentiation externally, ultimately driving improved corporate financial performance.
Explain how you’ve supported and developed your senior leadership team to support your overall objectives and vision
I have worked with my existing team to build a new 2020 vision and am now building a new team to drive this forward. This will include a mix of developing existing internal talent alongside hiring new people to drive new thinking and challenge the status quo.
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?