Jora Gill has completely overhauled the whole tech enterprise. He has introduced hackathons for new products/tech and allows his teams autonomy, with outcome goals rather than task-oriented objectives. Cutting-edge technical changes include SaaS, open source and integrated systems – they are projected to deliver a significant uplift in the group's revenues as well as ROI in four years. He has improved customer engagement, leading to greater spend, and he has halved the cycle times of code releases.
Your name and job title
Jora Gill, Chief Digital Officer, The Economist.
How are you influencing the products, experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
A complete overall redesign of our website, apps, content services, e-commerce, CRM and A&E systems and products. The most cutting-edge technical changes use SaaS, open source and integrated systems. All has been achieved through the use of modern digital technologies with an ROI within four years and a significant uplift in the group's revenues.
How as CIO have you driven cultural and behaviour change in your organisation, and to what extent?
I have created cross-functional products that are using new agile methodologies based on value, flow, quality. We have provided our teams with an overall digital vision that puts the customer and the products and services they engage with at the heart of everything we do. We have created values based on outcomes, customer focus, collaboration and innovation that we live by and are able to demonstrate. We are working with some of the most fascinating tech companies and startups. Our CEO attended a digital course where he has learnt fundamental coding, processes and how digital strategists think. I have presented all these concepts and our digital strategy to the main board where it was accepted (a board member then was Eric Schmidt, the head of Google).
Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the last 12 months and their impact on your organisation's performance
Improved customer engagement leading to greater spend; a faster, more responsive website leading to greater use of mobile; cycle times of code releases halved. We have seen a growth in the areas where digital touches them.
Describe how you have used organisational and third-party information to provide insight that has benefited your organisation, its customers and products or services
I have the data team reporting into me, including the chief data officer. This has enabled the team use data analytics to make marketing, product and content decisions. Our board report in the future will include data metrics. We have combined our first-party data with third-party data to provide customers with what they want based on their interests.
Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
We have three parts to IT: product, delivery and data. The product teams sit with business teams to speed up the process and not act like a traditional supplier to the business, but as a partner. This has been received well. Our digital strategy is aligned to the business strategies, but as new products are where we see potential growth, we have our own strategy to experiment with building and testing new products that will increase engagement and revenue.
Describe your role in the development of digital strategy in your organisation
I am responsible for the digital strategy.
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 sit on the executive board. We also do seminars with titles like 'Ever wondered how to speak digital?', which are used to demystify concepts like cloud, agile, web and mobile (IOS/Android) development. We have a high attendance for these internal events.
How do you use social networks to engage in conversations across the industry about the opportunities and challenges technology is creating?
We use social to some extent, but prefer face to face, so I will travel to Silicon Valley a couple of times a year and speak at digital events. We find social creates a lot of noise but not many solutions, although we do use tools such as Slack internally.
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 put our cross-functional teams in the heart of the business units. At the centre we have functional heads, who ensure technology choices and architectural decisions are aligned across our cross-functional teams. This allows us to understand business challenges from the beginning and to look at technology tools that would help the business. For example, our team saw a new marketing tool, experimented with it and then presented the business with a far superior tool than the incumbent marketing tool. This would not have been possible if we were a pure central IT function.
Describe how you keep up to date with developments in technology and IT management
We go to many events across the world. Our brand allows us to speak with the heads of Apple, Google, Facebook, etc. We speak at industry events and are regarded as forward-looking digital experts. We experiment with lots of startups. Our team read blogs on the latest technologies, we look at Gartner and attend meet-ups.
Provide an example of how you have developed the diversity and improved the culture of your team
Our teams are in London and New York, and comprise international talent. We hire all age groups and focus on skills and mindset. This has created a very strong bond within the team and a culture of collaboration.
Tell us how you have developed your own management, leadership and personal skills
I speak at many events and have the opportunity to meet many talented individuals at these events, who help me grow. I have also learnt that to be a digital leader you require different leadership skills beyond tight control that inspire our teams and all who want to work with us.
What new technologies are you investigating, tracking or experimenting with?
We already have data analytics and we experiment with virtual reality, machine learning, enterprise apps, open source and video.
How do you decide where to apply the best technological approach?
We experiment and use data to measure most new ideas around tech. We only work with companies that are willing to experiment with us for free – we do not buy off Powerpoint. We have hackathons for new products/tech and provide our teams with autonomy based on outcome goals over task-oriented objectives. We have therefore completely overhauled the whole tech enterprise.
Do you give yourself and your team time each month to assess or learn about technology vendors outside of the established providers?
It is a must, not a nice to have.
Describe your sourcing strategy and your strategic suppliers
We are an agile shop and therefore prefer nearshore partners where possible.
Describe the technology innovations that you have introduced in the past year and what they have enabled
New e-commerce, marketing, A&E, CRM and subscription management system. This has allowed the business to act in a more agile manner to meet the changing needs of our customers.
What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom? What uniquely do they bring?
Salesforce, Zuora, ezPublish, Go Technologies, React, Glue A&E, Mulesoft – they all bring us the flexibility to constantly change our products and services based on the customer and market need.
Rank in order of importance your sources for innovative technology suppliers
1 Media. 2 Industry body. 3 CIO peers. 4 Consultants. 5 Analyst houses.
Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?
Is cyber security led and discussed by senior management?
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?
30% operational, 60% new development.
What number of users does your department supply services to?
Customers 1.6 million, internal users 50.
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?