Under Karl Hoods, IT has been transformed from a rarely consulted function to one actively engaged in strategy and shaping solutions early. He has meshed technology into the rest of the organisation through such initiatives as 'hack time' – each team member is encouraged to progress solutions to business problems (crowdsourced from the organisation) with colleagues within the team, thereby improving inter-organisation collaboration and giving people the space to learn and develop.

Name and job title
Karl Hoods, IT director, Save The Children.

How are you influencing the products, experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
Through informal networks, building trust with leadership and formally as part of the corporate leadership team, and contributing to the overall strategy, which includes supporter (customer) experience and offerings. Above all else, I try to role-model the effective leadership of change.

How as CIO have you driven cultural and behaviour change in your organisation, and to what extent?
The delivery of technology in the organisation has been transformed, moving from being rarely consulted to being actively engaged in the strategy and shaping solutions early. Through a strategy of delivering common technology platforms we're changing the way our internal users view technology and work with us to deliver solutions at pace. It's a different place than it was two years ago. The pragmatic approach I've instilled in the team enables the wider business to engage and us to contribute.

Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the last 12 months and their impact on your organisation's company performance
Last year we supported a number of key initiatives to make a difference for children through an ambitious programme of work. This included a finance system replacement, supporting our smart working initiative, delivering various line of business applications and ensuring our teams overseas have access to the services they need in a secure manner. We've worked particularly closely with marketing colleagues, introducing a data virtualisation platform alongside a campaign management tool to improve outbound email marketing – improving quality and speed to market. I was also asked to take on the management of our existing digital estate. In addition we've established a shared service offering for the Humanitarian Leadership Academy (www.humanitarianleadershipacademy.org), providing them with the technology to support their business.

What we've achieved with technology has enabled Save the Children to achieve its objectives and supported key work in delivering our programmes for children.

Describe how you have used organisational and third-party information to provide insight that has benefited your organisation, its customers and products or services
Our BI strategy includes an information as a service offering, using various internal and external sources to provide information through a data virtualisation platform. We've delivered solutions that enable core finance teams to deliver insight to the business through their business partnering activity, and others which enable cost recovery in our programme delivery, as well as shape future delivery. Prototypes have also been developed to visualise data better through mapping, dashboards, hotspots, etc.

Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
The team is split into four practices:

  • service delivery
  • operations
  • solution delivery
  • data and development

We operate a matrix management approach with a core team utilising framework agreements where additional capacity for delivery is required. We're introducing business partnering roles to continue aligning with the business strategy. Importantly, we have representation across the organisation's key strategic boards and within the corporate leadership team.

Describe your role in the development of digital strategy in your organisation
I am the lead responsible for delivery of technologies which support our staff (1,400 people), as well as our interaction with supporters and volunteers. There's no doubt we're doing more and more in the digital arena. I have been asked to lead the digital transformation programme for the organisation, which aims to transform the way we engage with our supporters and volunteers and change the way we operate. I work closely with colleagues in marketing to define the overall vision and strategy, and ultimately I'm accountable for the successful delivery of the transformation.

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
Part of our engagement in technology delivery is to analyse processes and make recommendations for improvement. For example, we've recently reviewed the process and services for an HR system replacement. We intend to use the foundation of this globally across other Save the Children members. We've also shifted to a disruptive model and more agile ways of working in order to deliver results more quickly.

Through such close alignment with strategic boards and the overall strategy, we're able to promote technology and ways of working, and are actively involved in an efficiency and effectiveness programme which is changing how we go about our business.

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?
Historically, this has not been great, but we're putting in place a regular programme of communications to engage the organisation in our work and show people how we add value. We've used Yammer and lunchtime talks to keep people updated and brought in external speakers as thought leaders or experts to stimulate new ways of thinking. We've also worked with our suppliers to put on a number of hackathons, which has been a great way of engaging the wider business and taking ideas forward.

How do you use social networks to engage in conversations across the industry about the opportunities and challenges technology is creating?
I've had most success in engaging in conversations around technology through a network of colleagues in different sectors, whether they be involved in technology delivery or in finance, marketing, operations-type roles. The likes of LinkedIn and Twitter play their part, but to date I've had more value from face-to-face discussions than online, but that may change!

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?
Through our strategic boards and key relationships across the various teams and working closely with the exec board. We've established a business partnering function which works across the organisation to determine future plans and how we can help shape them. Using tools such as benefit dependency networks, we're able to start the conversation with the business strategy and objectives through to the technology programmes and products which will support their delivery. We've also started to move to a more agile approach and deliver results early – shamelessly using elements of the GDS service design process.

Describe how you keep up to date with developments in technology and IT management
As well as the usual technology press, social media and websites, I meet regularly with colleagues in different sectors and have actively encouraged our suppliers to provide the whole team with insights and thought leadership. I've also taken part in a number of roundtable discussions and events throughout the year, both within and outside the sector, and am a member of the BCS.

Provide an example of how you have developed the diversity and improved the culture of your team
One recent example of changing the culture has been the introduction of 'hack time', where each team member is encouraged to progress solutions to business problems (crowdsourced from the organisation) with colleagues within the team. This has continued to improve the collaboration across the teams within the organisation and given people the space to learn and develop.

Describe how you collaborate and influence the organisation and its leadership team
The most successful way I've found to influence is to build trust through getting the basics right. Once you've done that and taken away the noise, you can start to open up the conversation and add value. Breaking down barriers and getting to know the business you're in is also key: co-locating teams and working closely together fosters collaboration and joint accountability. I've also introduced the leadership team to technology evangelists in external organisations to stimulate new ideas.

Tell us how you have developed your own management, leadership and personal skills
I've improved my own skills primarily through a network of colleagues in other organisations, taking the opportunity to use them as mentors or coaches on an informal basis. I'm also fortunate to be the chair of governors at a local secondary school, which gives insight into a completely different environment and requires different management and leadership skills than the workplace and a completely different set of training opportunities.

What new technologies are you investigating, tracking or experimenting with?
Given the breadth of operations across Save the Children, we're investigating and experimenting with a number of technologies, including:

  • how to use machine learning in propensity modelling
  • how to use data analytics to personalise content in the digital space
  • how to use wearable technology, IoT, drones, etc, in delivering our programmes on the ground
  • how to use 3D printing in supporter engagement
  • how payment industry developments may impact giving

How do you decide where to apply the best technological approach?
Our primary strategy has been to use cloud first unless we have a requirement which necessitates on-premise delivery. Where possible we opt to develop or configure in-house so we're able to retain knowledge and respond to the fluid nature of the work the organisation is involved in. This approach has enabled us to maximise investment, and retaining this core team in-house enables us to move fast and deliver value. I'd rather consume commodity resource than build.

Do you give yourself and your team time each month to assess or learn about technology vendors outside of the established providers?
Yes, the team are encouraged to do this at all levels and have objectives to contribute to some form of thought leadership piece throughout the year.

Describe your sourcing strategy and your strategic suppliers
We have established framework agreements with a set of suppliers for core resource-based services. All other sourcing is carried out against business requirements alongside our strategy and delivery principles (cloud first, etc). Given the nature of our work and how we need to maximise our funding for children, our primary suppliers have tended to be those able to offer free or heavily discounted products and services, such as Microsoft, Citrix, Cisco, etc.

Describe the technology innovations that you have introduced in the last year and what they have enabled

  • Data virtualisation – speed in delivering data to consuming systems and users.
  • Mobile device management to support BYOD.
  • Collaboration tools to encourage information sharing and knowledge management.
  • Mapping tools, heatmaps, etc, for data visualisation.
  • Mobile app for in-field data gathering.

What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom? What uniquely do they bring?

Aside from those listed above, vendor names are currently confidential, but all have been able to go beyond a purely commercial arrangement and provide us with additional services which benefit us, such as:

  • access to product evangelists and research
  • use of 'staff charity days'
  • knowledge transfer
  • meeting room space
  • training

Rank in order of importance your sources for innovative technology suppliers
1 Media. 2 Industry body. 3 Consultants. 4 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?
December 2013.

What is your reporting line?

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

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?
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?