Highlighting key challenge areas for the business and demonstrating how technology can resolve them has been hugely successful for James Fairhurst. His review of contact centre telephony demonstrated that the business was losing around 22 working days in productivity each month due to the inefficiency of the legacy telephony platform, while his implementation of a new telephony platform eliminated that loss. He also reduced spend on lead procurement by around £2m by deploying cloud-based dialling technologies, coupled with robust data cleansing, to give clearer tracking of lead to quote to sale performance.

Name and job title
James Fairhurst, Group CIO, Brightside Insurance.

How are you influencing the products, experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
Due to the pace required to turn around our business, I am actively leading workshops with our internal product development, marketing and operations teams to help them gather the relevant data to inform development of niche insurance products with our insurer partners. In the first 12 months we have built several unique products. As for experience and services, we have migrated our key internally developed broker platform across to an open market platform. The latter has a heavy bias towards customer self-service, along with the consolidation of claims management suppliers from nearly a dozen to one.

How as CIO have you driven cultural and behaviour change in your organisation, and to what extent?
My first priority was to remove the lack of delivery and blame culture across the IT and the business, which we have achieved by relocating IT staff from a separate building eight miles from the main HQ, into the heart of the HQ with the business spread around them.

The use of agile practices was limited to IT, but they have now been adopted fully by IT and the business, with some great examples of delivery to time and budget, due to the business properly owning and influencing their change.

My second priority was to resolve many years of poor investment in technology, which had led to poor customer experience, system availability and staff morale across the business. We have invested £7m to date to replace our core broking platform, and are further investing in 2016 to replace our contact centre platforms across all four sites, as well as developing our real-time BI analytics platforms in the same way I had great success with at Hastings.

Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the past 12 months and their impact on your organisation's performance.

  • Delivery of new CDL Strata insurance broking platform (£7m project) in a record 6.5 months (market average 12 to 18 months for comparable functionality), including the data migration development to extract data from an unstructured, legacy, internally developed platform.
  • The ability to reduce marketing spend on lead procurement by around £2m through clearer tracking of lead to quote to sale performance through the deployment of cloud-based dialling technologies, coupled with robust data cleansing processes/technologies.
  • Introduction of robust operational MI, conforming to a single version of the truth. This removed around 4,000 ad hoc reports from one operational site alone.

Describe how you have used organisational and third-party information to provide insight that has benefited your organisation, its customers and products or services
Following on from my success/journey at Hastings using external data to drive risk-based pricing and combat insurance fraud, I have commenced a similar journey at Brightside. However, this time there are more third-party data aggregators/service providers about –eg IIL, etc – which can supply components that five years ago I had to hand-craft and develop at Hastings. We also use commercially available market/competitor comparison data and have good supplier relationships which provide additional insights. These are then brought together rapidly to inform our trading meetings.

Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations.
We run a DevOps model which has tight integration with our corporate change function. All IT development is performed using agile (scrum), with active business stakeholder participation. Visibility and decisions around how change occurs is currently controlled via the exco to ensure maximum focus.

Describe your role in the development of digital strategy in your organisation
I am accountable for working with the COO and the board in ensuring we have a joined-up digital strategy, which forms part of our target operating model. I have a particular focus on ensuring our online propositions and our use of data drive the journey/experience with our customers, including real-time customer feedback mechanisms.

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 use our exco and board meetings to visually highlight key challenge areas for the business (with lots of supporting data) and demonstrate how the application of technology can resolve these challenges. One example was a review I conducted of our contact centre telephony, which highlighted we lost on average 22 FTE of productivity each month in the contact centre due to the challenges/inefficiency of the legacy telephony platform. This has led to the in-flight implementation of our new group telephony platform.

It also highlighted that our team sizes within the contact centre were too granular and thus suffered from low utilisation and call demand hot spots. We have now commenced a retraining exercise to create "universal agents", and so can create/deploy more efficient team sizes and use the technology to route calls rather than the 57% of manual call transfers between teams we had experienced.

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 introduced Yammer as part of our Office 365 deployment, which I use regularly to praise individuals across the organisation for good teamwork/deliveries, etc. I hold Yam Jam sessions for Q&A/feedback. I hold a monthly IT forum for the IT teams, although it is an open invite to the business and we have seen a steady rise in non-IT colleagues attending. We hold quarterly business updates with the whole organisation as an exec, and I use this to talk to the organisation about the great success we are having with the application of technology. My door is always open and I love discussing colleagues' ideas on how we can make this a better organisation.

How do you use social networks to engage in conversations across the industry about the opportunities and challenges technology is creating?
Internally we use Yammer. However, I take part in various online seminars and attend industry events. The insurance industry is quite analogue, and networking tends to happen face to face still rather than in digital forms.

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 use our exec and board to do this, primarily as we are on a rapid turnaround timetable. I have great support from my colleagues on the board including our non-execs.

Describe how you keep up to date with developments in technology and IT management
I use a multitude of sources, including the technology media, my CIO community on LinkedIn (insurance/non-insurance), working closely with our technology partners and vendors, such as HP. I also speak at various insurance events, and spoke about my industry-first PCIDSS journey at the PCI forum in London.

Provide an example of how you have developed the diversity and improved the culture of your team
The major culture win for the team was the relocation of the team back to the main HQ from their dedicated office eight miles down the motorway. This immediately improved face-to-face communications: 90%+ of the team had never visited the main HQ. This removed the blame and lack of ownership culture (both ways) that had crystallised over many years. From a pure diversity perspective we have more women in IT than any other IT team I have led, which brings a different and calmer perspective.

Describe how you collaborate and influence the organisation and its leadership team
We are a very tight exec/board, and spend many hours together to focus on the turnaround. I was brought into the team at the start of the journey post-PE acquisition due to my industry/technology experience. I am very visual and like to use pictures and robust data to highlight and influence outcomes.

Tell us how you have developed your own management, leadership and personal skills
Informal mentoring via previous great line managers (CEOs), and working with some great senior colleagues. Also attended and still attend many external leadership events, and executive coaching.

What new technologies are you investigating, tracking or experimenting with?
We are heavily investing in data analytics as this is key within our industry. Also looking to be the first to market with a "connected home" insurance proposition with full self-service and alerting.

How do you decide where to apply the best technological approach?
If I can purchase it cost-effectively as a robust commodity service, then I will. If it generates strong intellectual property, then will tend to develop internally. Most of our services are now in the cloud or well on their way.

Do you give yourself and your team time each month to assess or learn about technology vendors outside of the established providers?
Yes, I ensure the guys take at least one day a month to do this, and each of them present their summary findings at our weekly IT exec meeting.

Describe your sourcing strategy and your strategic suppliers
We source services and technology from a small set of external vendors, with key relationships with HP, Microsoft, Kelway and Silverlining.

Describe the technology innovations that you have introduced in the last year and what they have enabled
Integration of cloud-based dialling technology into the lead procurement process, which also removes lead duplication, etc. Savings of around £2m of lead spend/wastage. Deployment of new insurance broking platform in 6.5 months, coupled with mobile optimised journeys, and full customer self-service.

Rate how important your sources of innovative technology suppliers are

  • Often use: CIO peers, industry body.
  • Occasionally use: analyst houses, consultants.
  • Of little importance: media.

Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?

How is cyber security led and discussed by senior management?
Owned by me, and we have a section (at least two slides) of my board report dedicated to IT security/cyber risk.

When did you start your current role?
Officially Jan 2015; however, consulted in the role for three months prior.

What is your reporting line?

Are you a member of the board of directors?

What is the annual IT budget?
Under £12m.

How much of your IT budget is capital and how much revenue?

What is your budget's operational/development split?
25% (due to some legacy contracts)/75%.

How many users does your department supply services to?
Around 850 users.

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?
Being developed for 2016/17.

How many employees are there in your IT team?

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?