Business enabling, innovation leading, agility providing and excellence seeking – those are the four core characteristics John Saffrett has put at the heart of his drive to keep technology aligned with business strategy. And he has set up an innovation committee that acts as the radar for new technologies and developments within and outside the company's sector.

Name and job title
John Saffrett, Global CAO, ALD Automotive.

How are you influencing the products, experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
The technology and innovation functions are at the centre of everything we do at ALD Automotive. As a member of the comex I am accountable for the alignment of the technology and change initiatives across the organisation, and responsible along with my colleagues for defining the group's strategic vision and the key change initiatives that will enable us to achieve success.

How as CIO have you driven cultural and behaviour change in your organisation, and to what extent?
I am bringing a new more open and collaborative culture across the group. As the chair of a newly formed innovation committee consisting of 15 innovation actors from across the world, my role is to ensure that our culture of delivery becomes more agile and faster by sharing the best practice and innovations from across the group and ensuring that a collaborative community helps to adopt these solutions globally. I am also accountable for the business support group, which is responsible for oversight of the key strategic programmes – the 'big' stuff as we like to refer to it – and ensuring that robust programme management discipline is in place.

Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the past 12 months and their impact on your organisation's company performance
The acceleration of our digital strategy has seen us deploy a digital footprint for all of our countries, offering a consistent user experience for our global clients and their drivers. This acceleration was achieved through redefining the business engagement model and ensuring that the project and product managers had sufficient business knowledge to engage and gain the trust of the business more rapidly. This has led to a significant enhancement of our global client capability. We have also developed the innovation and collaboration spirit across the group, fostering communities working on innovations such as telematics and car sharing, where we have significantly reduced our rollout capability on these products compared to a previously siloed and localised model.

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 constantly enrich a global data mart which combines key information from our subsidiaries (more than 40) and allows us to analyse customer trends and behaviour. This allows us to work closely with the sales and marketing team to develop new products, services and business lines to grow the business.

Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
We organise our IT function along three axes. The first ensures strong alignment with the business and ensures each country or region is represented by a CIO or a 'virtual' CIO where the correct level of seniority is not available on the ground. The CIO community all sit on the management boards of their respective countries/regions. These CIOs then interact with a number of IS domain managers based in Paris who provide services on a global basis across the group. A third axis is now being introduced where we are developing localised innovation centres of excellence to act as labs and service providers across the group on key areas of innovation for us such as mobile, connected car and car sharing. Basing these innovation centres in our major countries is a deliberate strategy to ensure we benefit from a close customer alignment in these particular areas and we place these labs in the countries where there is either the most mature or the fastest-developing knowledge on particular topics.

Describe your role in the development of digital strategy in your organisation
Through my sponsorship of the innovation committee I am accountable for the digital strategy for the group. We base our strategy around the user experience and work across a number of different countries to analyse and reinvent our client experience. We also look to engage with external parties and recently completed a three-month hackathon (the ALD driver experience challenge), which had over 1,000 participants (500 internal, 500 students) from around the world to help us redesign the digital experience for our clients.

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
The business support group provides BPM capability across the group. Its aim is to provide business-savvy analysts and process re-engineering experts who can visit countries and help them enhance their processes. This group is closely aligned with the technology group, who are using agile methodologies to deliver accelerated improvements to business processes across the group.

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?
We use a variety of methods to communicate across the organisation. Internally we use town halls on a quarterly basis to ensure the IT group is well aware of the current business strategy and the role we play within it. We complement this by a blog, quarterly newsletter and the use of Yammer within the organisation to inform the teams of what we are working on. We have created a number of specific communities on the Yammer platform for platforms such as CRM, accounting and back-office systems where groups discuss, share and review ideas and issues and agree on release schedules.

How do you use social networks to engage in conversations across the industry about the opportunities and challenges technology is creating?
I am active member of LinkedIn and ensure I have time each day and alerts set up to pick up various trends across the industry. .

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?
We have completed a review of the technology position within the business to ensure a continuing alignment with the strategy. This focused on what IT is and the competencies and behaviours we need to develop to support the business strategy rather than what we need to do. The identities we defined are based around characteristics that are essential for IT to have so that the business can grow: business enabling, innovation leading, agility providing and excellence seeking.

These four core characteristics enable us to map to any of the business objectives and challenges we face in the coming years, and all of the organisation's core operational and strategic objectives can be mapped to the four.

The approach also allows IT to have a persistent vision across the business rather than one which changes month on month. It is extremely useful as a recruitment tool and retention and development tool for top talents. Business enabling is focused on ensuring our business alignment is strong and we organise our delivery based on our clients. Innovation leading is about being outward-looking and bringing new ideas to the group and helping deliver them. Agility providing is about us providing a flexible and fast architecture and removing all the technology roadblocks from the business. And excellence seeking is about being great in everything we do.

Describe how you keep up to date with developments in technology and IT management
We have established an innovation committee within ALD globally that acts as the radar for new technologies and developments in and outside of our sector. We also visited San Francisco in January to meet a number of startup and established companies there to begin to get an insight into the innovation culture and practices. More pragmatically, our enterprise architecture team focuses on playing with new technologies and trends to discover use cases within ALD.

Provide an example of how you have developed the diversity and improved the culture of your team
I have launched a leadership and management development programme which covers all of my key staff and managers and helps develop the collaborative and challenging culture essential for successful teams. I have also focused on accelerating the development of women within the IT function and our ALD international team by appointing a number of promising talents into project and programme leadership roles.

Describe how you collaborate and influence the organisation and its leadership team
I spend 60% of my time on stakeholder engagement across the organisation. The remaining 40% is spent directly on my team through one-to-ones and team development sessions. We work with an external coach and use a unique model to develop and grow our leadership capability using a common terminology and framework to facilitate adoption and communication.

Tell us how you have developed your own management, leadership and personal skills
I have worked with a professional coach for over 10 years now and his support was and is invaluable in helping me develop my own capability to lead and animate my management team and the organisation as a whole. I still spend one day every quarter with him working on issues I face and how I can improve my own performance. This helps me constantly develop and grow my own capability.

What new technologies are you investigating, tracking or experimenting with?
We are active in the IoT space with our connected car and telematics offer. We are also developing our data analytics capability to be more predictive of customer behaviour in areas such as vehicle maintenance management and used car buying behaviour.

How do you decide where to apply the best technological approach?
We have an agile approach to sourcing and platforms. Being part of a bank means we have some restrictions linked to security and cloud offers, but we work closely with the architecture group to find ways to leverage the best of breed across all technologies and platforms.

Do you give yourself and your team time each month to assess or learn about technology vendors outside of the established providers?
Each member of the IT group is encouraged to innovate and explore new technologies and platforms. We have a number of labs underway across the group looking at the adoption of new platforms, but all with a customer focus rather than doing technology for technology's sake.

Describe your sourcing strategy and your strategic suppliers
We source on a best-of-breed basis for permanent, but have developed a number of partnerships with technology schools through events such as hackathons to help improve our spread. In terms of strategic suppliers we are heavy users of Microsoft solutions and Salesforce, and work with a number of innovation partners in our ecosystem ranging from startups to digital creative organisations helping us focus on the client experience.

Describe the technology innovations that you have introduced in the past year and what they have enabled
We have a new telematics service for our clients; it's device-agnostic and allows us to mine data to create new offers for our clients. It's a smartphone app based on a redefinition of the customer journey and how we can reduce friction at the touch points.

What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom? What uniquely do they bring?
We work with a number of consulting partners and technology companies to develop new solutions. Each brings a unique capability to our portfolio.

Rate how important your sources of innovative technology suppliers are

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

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

How is cyber security led and discussed by senior management?
We have a dedicated CISO in our main entities and at our holding level. There is a regular information security review with the CEO of the organisation where we discuss our investment linked to the risk diagnosis and profile on information security.

When did you start your current role?
February 2015.

What is your reporting line?

Are you a member of the board of directors?

What is the annual IT budget?

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

What is your budget's operational/development split?

How many users does your department supply services to?

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 400.

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?