Engaging with the business and people is why Duncan Gray comes to work. He believes IT is 50% platforms and 50% people. He has championed an initiative to build a proof of concept data cube and reporting tool that extracts data from multiple systems – so impressively that the company has since invested in a business intelligence capability that generates insight and analytics for both internal and customer services.
Name and job title
Duncan Gray, group IT director, BCA Marketplace.
How are you influencing the products, experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
My primary influence has been in bringing retail best practice to the wholesale vehicle marketplace focusing on omni-channel services embracing the latest digital and mobile innovation. In collaboration with the CMO, we have introduced a customer-centric product ethos focusing on making it easy for all our customers, both sellers and buyers. IT business systems solutions lead discovery workshops with large corporate customers that tease out the problem that the customer is trying to solve rather than the technology they think they need. The result is efficient delivery of a solution that builds a stronger partnership.
How as CIO have you driven cultural and behaviour change in your organisation, and to what extent?
I have introduced new governance and processes for managing and delivering demand across the business and in IT. This has led to better prioritisation to support the business strategy, and greater accountability for delivery and service. IT's ethos is centred on it knowing it is as accountable for business results as the front-line teams.
Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the past 12 months, and their impact on your organisation's performance
My key business outcomes delivered in the past 12 months as the company has transitioned from private equity ownership to an LSE-listed plc have been:
- Improving operational efficiency through core system standardisation and the introduction of app-based tools, saving time and money.
- Growing the penetration of products and services though simplifying the digital customer journey.
- Rapid integration of recent acquisitions to create one company.
- IT scalability, sustainability and security to underpin business growth.
Describe how you have used organisational and third-party information to provide insight that has benefited your organisation, its customers and products or services
Selling over 1m used vehicles per annum generates terabytes of transactional data. I championed an initiative to build a proof of concept data cube and reporting tool that extracted data from multiple systems. Subsequently, the company has invested in a business intelligence capability that generates insight and analytics for both internal and customer services.
Our operation sells around 100 cars per hour per hall, and system reliability is critical. Within the network operation centre, I have implemented an application performance management tool that provides real-time performance information from our core systems. We can monitor our applications and customer experience across all touch-points from the customer's device to our data centre. On the rare occasions that we have an incident, the time to recovery of service is significantly reduced.
Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
IT is embedded into the business across four operating divisions and group services. Our service mix includes professional services (similar to an IT consultancy and services business), greenfield (where we innovate, developing products and services from scratch), and core and business as usual.
Organisationally the function operates in seven teams:
- Business solutions team – a team of business solution analysts who manage our internal and customer IT demand process and pipeline of work.
- Programme delivery team – a team of programme and project managers who are responsible for our large project and change initiatives internally and for customers.
- Application development team – they operate out of seven countries and support our greenfield development projects and innovation, our products and core business systems.
- Infrastructure and service delivery team – they provide our always-on service to our business and customers.
- There are also three discrete teams embedded in the automotive services, car buying and Europe operating divisions.
Describe your role in the development of digital strategy in your organisation
Primarily the business is physical in that it provides fulfilment services to the automotive sector through the sale, services and movement of new and used vehicles in the UK and Europe. Like the oil in an engine, digital services and data flow seamlessly to support this intensive networked operation. Our digital strategy is one of enablement to improve the customer experience and make the operation more efficient. My role is to advise on what is possible, make it happen and keep it working. Examples include:
- Supply – inventory management platforms to manage vehicle defleeting and pre-sale operations.
- Exchange – digital sales channels to increase our penetration and reach.
- Demand – imaging, aggregation, search and payment services that simplify the buying process.
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
I'm leading the standardisation and simplification of our applications and systems across Europe. The business case proves operational efficiencies and customer experience improvements by aligning and simplifying processes based on best practice, employing a single technology platform for build-once deploy-many functionality, and a one-market capability for customers. Vital to my success is business sponsorship.
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 operate at the coalface and I'm highly engaged with the business. I dislike being in my office; I prefer to be out motivating my team across all markets and all divisions. I like listening to people to learn what is really going on, whether they are the CEO, the developer or in the support team. That might be on weekly, monthly or quarterly basis in all areas of the business in any one of our countries. Engaging with the business and people is why I come to work. I believe IT is 50% platforms and 50% people.
How do you use social networks to engage in conversations across the industry about the opportunities and challenges technology is creating?
I use a broad spectrum of online industry platforms and subscriptions to engage with peers.
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?
I encourage dialogue on technology at every opportunity. Every conversation, whether formal or informal, creates an opportunity for innovation.
Describe how you keep up to date with developments in technology and IT management
I regularly attend the annual NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association) conference in the US. It's a great place to network and creates the opportunity to review new technology. I connect with key strategic technology partners who support us on projects and share their wider experience in other industries. They hold frequent CIO workshops and seminars, which I attend whenever possible. Finally, I use IT market research and advisory firms to keep up to date on trends, and attend their workshops and networking events.
Provide an example of how you have developed the diversity and improved the culture of your team
My team has tripled in size in the past four years. During this growth I've brought together teams across multiple countries with difficult cultures, including partners all working as one team. The key to this has been empowerment, listening to my team and supporting them.
Describe how you collaborate and influence the organisation and its leadership team
I bring IT and technology to life using real-world examples. I have regular informal conversations to understand others' challenges.
Tell us how you have developed your own management, leadership and personal skills
In my early career I was lucky to work for great companies with great leaders. I'm especially grateful to Roger Acton, who was my mentor at Whitbread. Over the past 12 months I've been fine-tuning my style through peer mentoring, self-awareness and focusing on empowering my team so they're ready for their own CIO roles.
What new technologies are you investigating, tracking or experimenting with?
We're investigating, tracking or prototyping digital, data, automation and NFC technologies.
How do you decide where to apply the best technological approach?
- Return on investment/cost efficiency/speed of delivery.
- Capacity and scalability to support business growth.
- Data protection, security, resilience, supportability, maintainability and compliance.
Do you give yourself and your team time each month to assess or learn about technology vendors outside of the established providers?
Yes. It's part of the BCA DNA and something everyone just does in their day-to-day role.
Describe your sourcing strategy and your strategic suppliers
We work with suppliers who share our culture and vision, and can support our demand. We work on a partnership model.
Describe the technology innovations that you have introduced in the last year and what they have enabled
There are two key innovations:
- Branch app – we've replicated our unique app and process from the UK and are expanding it into Europe. It has brought time savings of around 40%, reduced claims on vehicle condition, and driven top-line growth.
- Search – every car is unique and we've co-created a customer-centric really easy, time-efficient way to search for vehicles. We're now using web analytics to review our facet order to make it even quicker for the buyer.
What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom? What uniquely do they bring?
- A new hosting partner to support our three-year hosting strategy. This will allow us to implement Infrastructure as a Service.
- App development and systems integration – an agreement with a near-shore partner in Madrid to support our digital strategy.
- Low-code rapid-application development solution – to support our standardisation strategy.
Rate how important your sources of innovative technology suppliers are
- Always referred to: media.
- Often use: CIO peers, industry body.
- Occasionally use: analyst houses, consultants.
Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?
How is cyber security led and discussed by senior management?
BCA has a dedicated information security team which reports directly into me. The team hold industry qualifications (CISSP, etc) and manage our risk, compliance, security, audits and business continuity. Information security is part of our day-to-day operation.
When did you start your current role?
What is your reporting line?
Are you a member of the board of directors?
What is your budget's operational/development split?
How many users does your department supply services to?
Our internal user base is around 5,000 and we provide them with core IT services. There are also large volumes of users on our online customer-facing platforms and vendor-facing platforms.
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?
Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme?
How many employees are there in your IT team?
Approximately 330 across seven countries.
Are you increasing your headcount to bring skills and the ability to react to needs in-house?
What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff?