Save the Children CIO Andy Williams has turned a large charity with little IT ambition into a technology-attuned organisation with IT at the heart of its value chain. Successful initiatives include fundraising platforms to open up new donor markets, the reinvention of such key services as cash and voucher distribution with mobile cash tools, and the use of mobile SMS technologies to connect mothers and children with distant health clinics. He has also introduced data analytics, visualisation and mapping tools to amass information about donors and donor grants across 55 countries – a move that regional finance leaders say halves the time they need to assemble such reports, and is starting to deliver valuable new insights.

Name and job title?
Andy Williams, Global CIO, Save the Children

How are you influencing the products, experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
With the launch of our new 2016-18 strategy, IT is leading the way in helping the organisation think about its 'value chain' from donor to deprived child and back to donor. In the past 12 months, we have delivered fundraising platforms to enable access to new donor markets in Colombia, Mexico, the Philippines and Indonesia. We are creating new digital platforms, with improved payment gateways in Australia and Spain. We are reinventing key traditional services such as cash and voucher distribution with mobile cash tools like m-Pesa, and we are also using mobile SMS technologies to connect mothers and children with health clinics many miles from their homes and remind them to take their vaccines. As we enter 2016, we are launching new digital tools to allow our beneficiaries to be registered in the field and even to provide feedback on the aid services they receive.

How as CIO have you affected cultural change and behaviour in your organisation and to what extent?
We are a very consensus-driven organisation, more like a movement than a corporate enterprise. When I joined in 2012, we were partway through a major transformation from a set of separate national entities to a single integrated global organisation. Historically we had shown a low level of ambition for use of IT and not invested as we should have.

Over the past three years, I have adopted a 'networked leadership' style to drive change in our culture and increase our ambition around IT. I describe the CIO role as the 'collaborative influencing officer' and I have tried to make the IT function a role model for collaboration, which is one of our core values. We have tried many things, including taking ourselves off the organisation chart as a 'box' and saying we were the 'lines between the boxes', inviting ourselves to management meetings we had previously not attended, and setting up new working groups around cross-functional topics.

Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the past 12 months and their impact on your organisation's performance
2015 was a landmark year for Save the Children and for IT. We established our new 2030 Ambition for Children and our 2016-18 strategic plan, both of which had IT and digital investments embedded in them for the very first time in the organisation. We had CEOs and board members speaking publically about the need to adopt new technologies and about the global digital trends affecting our sector.

I worked as part of the core team developing that strategy and then led a team of IT and non-IT leaders to develop a shared IT strategy to enable delivery of our goals. The benefits of this strategy will come in future years, but we expect to increase global funding for deprived children by 25% and then dramatically reduce the number of children dying of preventable causes, not receiving a basic education or suffering abuse.

On top of that, in 2015, our IT team helped to set up the Ebola treatment centre in Sierra Leone, contributed to the reconstruction of Nepal after the earthquake, and established enhanced connectivity across our many refugee camps surrounding Syria.

Describe how you have used organisational and third-party information to provide insight that has benefited your organisation, its customers and products or services
We have really just begun to see the benefits of our recent investments in organisational and third-party information within Save the Children. We launched our reporting and analytics service, using simple data analytics, visualisation and mapping tools to bring information about our donor grants together across 55 countries, five thematic areas and multiple donors. Some regional finance leaders have said this saves them 50% of their time in assembling such reports for donor and senior managers and is just starting to deliver completely new insights.

We also launched a new global warehousing management system, recording aid stocks across 400+ locations and allowing real-time valuation of that stock at the correct exchange rate, bringing us into line with changes in the audit guidelines for our sector.

Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
Our key organising principle for IT currently is to have skilled and service-oriented IT staff as close as possible to our donors and our frontline staff providing aid to children. We have small IT teams in 55 aid-receiving countries, supported by a regional set of IT managers and in 30 fundraising countries, each led by an IT manager. This network is coordinated by a team of approximately 30 more experienced staff in a central group in London.

All regional and country-based staff report through a mixture of solid and dotted lines and are responsible for 'partnering' with their geographic and functional counterparts. Everyone wears two 'hats', and we have a coaching programme around being effective IT partners/strategic advisers. This is aligned with the core strategic goals of improving the quality of our programmes for children and driving a balanced growth in fundraising, particularly in emerging economies such as India, South Africa and Mexico.

In 2016, we are reviewing this operating model to assess the value of establishing some shared IT services, along with a similar exercise in finance, HR and supply chain. I am on the leadership team for that review.

Describe your role in the development of digital strategy in your organisation
My role in the emerging digital strategy is twofold. First, I am acting as a passionate advocate of the increased use of digital tools in all components of our value chain, from donor fundraising, through digital campaigning and advocacy, digital monitoring of our supply chain and mobile-first enablement of our finance and HR services, to the advent of standard platforms for digital data capture in the field. To help drive that, two of the senior national IT leaders are focusing almost fully on our digital programmes, working alongside our fundraising and campaigning teams.

Second, I am sponsoring a process and IT/digital architecture framework which seeks to ensure that our new digital investments are integrated with our enterprise tools, such as finance and supply chain, and lead to a seamless flow of data. All the major digital investment budgets are owned by non-IT colleagues and approved through a senior governance committee that I am a member of.

Describe how you use and promote technology to redesign the processes, services and structures of your organisation to enable it to become more efficient and customer-focused
We have promoted and are using technology to help deliver each of the strategic priorities in 2016-18. The largest concentration of investment is in two areas: to help digitise internal processes in grant management, finance, supply chain and HR, and deliver a 'high-performing organisation'. Equally importantly, we are investing in a new cloud-based HR platform and also converging/consolidating previous investments in our ERP platforms across 10+ different legal entities. This will allow us to adopt shared service delivery models if we see value in future years.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, we have promoted the establishment of an enterprise architecture, bringing our process, data and technology models together and re-aligning all of them with our strategic goals. This is a completely new approach in international development, and through collaboration with a couple of other NGOs we are close to drafting a first-of-a-kind reference architecture for the sector.

How do you engage regularly with your organisation about your team and the role of technology in the organisation, and what impact is this having?
I use multiple approaches to engage with the rest of Save the Children. At executive level, we have a monthly committee meeting which reviews progress in the delivery of our strategic programmes. In addition, I occasionally bring in external speakers and potential future partners to meet my executive colleagues and discuss how they could help our mission. I engage with our frontline delivery staff as often as I can through field visits. With the IT community, we hold a quarterly CIO community Skype meeting, reviewing topics which have been raised by staff themselves, and I try to blog at least once a month. I could always do more engagement with our field staff than time allows, and it is one of the most enjoyable aspects of my role.

How do you use social networks to engage in conversations across the industry about the opportunities and challenges technology is creating?
I am a member of many CIO-related groups via LinkedIn and I also attend a couple of CIO network groups, discussing industry trends and comparing experiences. I am also an advisory board member of the Tech Partnership and a passionate advocate for bring more women into technology roles and building the technology skills which UK will need in the future. Within international development I am a board member of NetHope, which is a membership organisation drawn from NGOs and technology companies, seeking to 'collaborate and innovate for good'. Some of these roles are facilitated by social media, but I prefer the additional value that I get from a face-to-face interaction on key topics.

How do you bring the organisation together to explore and discuss technology and its challenges and to develop stronger alignment of the technology function with the full business?
In the past 18 months, we have been able to bring the various technology teams into alignment with the wider organisation through our leading role in the development of the 2016-18 strategic plan. In addition to those wide-ranging strategy workshops on thematic trends, the critical importance of knowledge management and driving quality aid programmes, I have worked with our CFO to meet external partners in the UK and in India to listen to their experiences of using technology to reshape their operating models through adoption of shared services in low-cost locations.

Describe how you keep up to date with developments in technology and IT management
Keeping up to date with developments in our fast-moving sector is a constant challenge. As an ex-consultant, I retain a strong network in that sector, which allows me access to some of the latest thinking. I try to speak at external conferences a couple of times a year, using the events to network with other CIOs and suppliers that I may not know. Internationally, I have the opportunity to visit some of the emerging technology hubs, such as Nairobi for Africa, Jordan and Bangladesh. I usually try to spend at least one evening meeting local groups when travelling to these locations.

Provide an example of how you have developed the diversity and improved the culture of your team
The key recent organisational development has been establishing a new service hub in Nairobi. This diverse 10-strong unit is another first of a kind in Save the Children and has allowed us to recruit a high-potential team of local Kenyan men and women, and to set them off on an accelerated training programme. We are planning to launch a second hub in Asia in 2016/17.

A second initiative has been to establish an extended leadership group, bringing a set of younger, slightly more junior IT staff into the leadership meetings and giving them additional responsibilities to help take forward our strategies. This has helped introduce a more local sensitivity to culture and context in our decision-making, something which is vital when considering how best to enable technology in places like the Central Africa Republic and Myanmar.

Describe how you collaborate with and influence the organisation and its leadership team
Collaboration has been a key strand of our IT strategy for the past three years and influencing is a key part of everyone's role. We have completed some formal offsite sessions which review how we might become better at influencing, studying how different people make decisions and looking for ways to bring new ideas to the leadership group. We have used a mixture of communication techniques but we are still seeking improvements in this area, which is vital to our success.

Tell us how you have developed your own management, leadership and personal skills
I am passionate about continued professional development, particularly as the role of the CIO stretches and evolves. I am a member of the CIO Development programme in UK, acting as a mentor to other aspiring CIOs, which I find also helps me to reflect on my own experiences more deeply and really harvest the learning points. I also mentor a small group of NGO CIOs as part of the NetHope leadership programme, which is a series of Skype-based sessions on problems which transcend the sector.

What new technologies are you investigating, tracking or experimenting with?
We are experimenting quite significantly with data analytics and mobile cash. Beyond that, given the scarcity of funds in our sector, we are merely tracking new areas like wearables and the internet of things, which I believe will have a big impact on our sector. I have agreed with the CEO that we may 'change-manage' these into our strategy at the next review point.

How do you decide where to apply the best technological approach?
Deciding on which approach to take in each technology area is a key part of my leadership role, but is actually largely driven by my team, facilitated by me. I have deliberately tried to assemble a team with a diverse set of backgrounds and nationalities, including ex-consultants, corporate IT leaders, CTOs of internet startups, and African and Asian staff who may have started their careers in other functions. I think this is really important to bring a range of perspectives on technology decisions.

My role is to identify which decisions we need to take and to drive a decision-making process, including getting financial approvals, of course. Maybe just as importantly, I think a lot about when we need to take the big decisions. In our sector, it is important to be wise about when to adopt/switch away from technologies, but it is also useful to be lucky, as we were when Microsoft decided to offer Office 365 as a donation just after my team had persuaded the CFO to invest in it!

Do you give yourself and your team time each month to assess or learn about technology vendors outside of the established providers?
As a team, or individually, we probably consider potential new partners about once every two months. It takes a particular profile of organisation to partner with us and the incubation process can be quite long as we explore areas of mutual interest. We do pay for services and products but not always at commercial rates, and we like to work with partners that share our values and care about our mission. We are actually interested in partners that can help us with our organisation change process and not merely our technologies

Describe your sourcing strategy and your strategic suppliers
Our sourcing strategy is evolving and being refreshed after the recent creation of the new organisational strategy. Broadly, we are committed to cloud hosting services and cloud software as a service where it is mature. We work with CenturyLink and also with Amazon Web Services in the US. We currently see the management of our networks as a critical capability and we do this internally and mainly locally, but with increased use of global tools.

We do have a strategic partnership in the satellite communications area with SpeedCast (previously GeoLink). This remains a key service component for many of our African field offices. We have a strategic partnership with Microsoft via Office 365 and Dynamics CRM, with Unit4 Agresso Business World, with Adobe and with Oracle for our new HR platform. In key markets around the world we depend on many other partners as we will never be able to attract and retain all the skills we need internally, and our sector is particularly volatile in demand (eg emergency response spikes), so flexible partnerships are critical.

Describe the technology innovations that you have introduced in the past year and what they have enabled
I would expect the level of technology innovation to gradually increase now we have aligned our new strategy and we do need to finish the basics in many areas before launching completely new programmes. However, in 2015 we introduced the first field systems which work online and offline with sync in areas with intermittent connectivity and this has brought parts of our field organisation into the connected family. We have also introduced reporting and analytics, with simple mapping and visualisation tools and I believe this has helped bring us new users of our services.

What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom? What uniquely do they bring?
2015 was a year of defining future direction, but towards the end of the year we did strike new deals with Adobe and Oracle. Both will bring new modern, 21st-century platforms to parts of our organisation for the first time. They will also bring a level of process discipline and standardisation of data definitions which we believe will drive efficiency and effectiveness across the movement.

Rank in order of importance your sources for innovative technology suppliers
1 CIO peers
2 Industry body
3 Consultants
4 Analyst houses
5 Media

Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?
No.

Save the Children CIO Andy Williams has turned a large charity with little IT ambition into a technology-attuned organisation with IT at the heart of its value chain. Successful initiatives include fundraising platforms to open up new donor markets, the reinvention of such key services as cash and voucher distribution with mobile cash tools, and the use of mobile SMS technologies to connect mothers and children with distant health clinics. He has also introduced data analytics, visualisation and mapping tools to amass information about donors and donor grants across 55 countries – a move that regional finance leaders say halves the time they need to assemble such reports, and is starting to deliver valuable new insights.

When did you start your current role?
Summer 2012.

What is your reporting line?
CFO.

Are you a member of the board of directors?
No.

What is the annual IT budget?
$45m.

How much of your IT budget is capital and how much revenue?
Almost all revenue due to funding structure

What is your operational/innovation budget split?
Approximately 80:20, improved from 95:5 in 2012.

How many users does your department supply services to?
25,000 staff globally.

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.

Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme?
Being developed for 2016/17.

How many employees are there in your IT team?
Approximately 300 on average.

Are you increasing your headcount to bring skills and the ability to react to needs in-house?
Yes.

What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff?
Almost all in-house, as we buy services not staff from partners.