An actively disruptive part of the board, Mark Reed says the important part of his job is explaining what the acronyms stand for. He acts as a catalyst for change in process, often arguing against the use of technology where it's not appropriate. He doesn't believe that a business should have an IT department at all, and has democratised and demystified complex technical silos, putting them in the hands of business owners who understand the value they get from them. IT no longer aligns with the business, he says – it is the business.
Name and job title
Mark Ridley, director of technology, Reed.
How are you influencing the products, experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
I have overall responsibility for the procurement and integration of technology, and more importantly for explaining what acronyms stand for. Mostly, I act as a catalyst for change in process – often arguing against the use of technology where it's not appropriate.
How as CIO have you driven cultural change and behaviour in your organisation, and to what extent?
Over the past three years we've moved to adopt the cloud as our delivery platform for all line of business services, meaning that line of business applications are no longer 'technical', but rather seen as an integrated part of the business, owned by the departments that use them. Change, and the energetic adoption of new processes and technologies is part of our DNA.
Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the past 12 months and their impact on your organisation's performance
A renewed emphasis on the embrace of lean philosophies throughout the business, empowering staff to solve their own problems by suggesting their own solutions. The availability of services through the web has allowed the business to transform itself. New tools, such as cloud BI, migration of internal servers to AWS and a vibrant innovation lab using best of breed and up-and-coming cloud platforms have all occurred in the past 12 months against a backdrop of substantial growth in revenue and company size.
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 have increasingly adopted MIT's disciplined entrepreneurship approach to new product development, pushing development much further back in our lifecycle and focusing much more on establishing customer value up-front – this was in conjunction with a third-party consultancy. We have also worked with a top-tier consultancy to consider commercial models of our services, which have led to significant development works on our core services.
Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
We don't believe that a business should have an IT department. While we are an active product development organisation, with substantial technical capability to deliver our own services, internal IT is now considered to be 'business systems'. We've democratised and demystified previously complex technical silos and put these increasingly in the hands of business owners who understand the value they receive from those systems. IT no longer aligns with the business – it is the business.
Describe your role in the development of digital strategy in your organisation
I provide guidance for innovation, product development, process improvement, security and governance for the organisation.
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
We have created a dedicated agile practice team – originally evangelists for agile and scrum in our development teams. They now lead process review and improvement efforts across the business in fields as distinct as HR, customer experience, finance and sales, as well as within the product development team.
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 share information continuously through blog posts and updates on our internal social intranet, Jive. We regularly run combined internal/external events providing beer and pizza to subject matter experts, such as in agile, which help inform our staff and expose them to external perspectives. We also have thorough induction and lunch-and-learn sessions, and regular Monday morning 'assemblies', which cover a range of technical, product, marketing and sales topics.
How do you use social networks to engage in conversations across the industry about the opportunities and challenges technology is creating?
I'm a regular blogger, industry writer and user of social media.
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?
Most often, by spending time with users in their day jobs and explaining that technology is not what they think it is. The nomenclature is more often a barrier than a useful discussion topic.
Describe how you keep up to date with developments in technology and IT management
I'm regularly involved in external events (such as Lean Coffee), our own events, conferences and roundtables.
Provide an example of how you have developed the diversity and improved the culture of your team
We have a newly created 'agile apprentice' scheme, taking us to a total of four apprentices, with a preference for hiring outside of the traditional graduate pool, and favouring younger and more diverse staff. We also actively support Codebar, a technology training organisation primarily aimed at creating a diverse pool of tech talent in the UK.
Describe how you collaborate and influence the organisation and its leadership team
I'm an actively disruptive part of the board!
Tell us how you have developed your own management, leadership and personal skills
We have regular executive development sessions (two to three times a year) to develop the board's skills and abilities. I'm also privileged to spend time with other talented and visionary leaders through our supplier and other networks.
What new technologies are you investigating, tracking or experimenting with?
Machine learning/artificial intelligence, data analytics, NoSQL, wearable technology, enterprise apps, IoT, automation and robotics, 3D printing, the sharing economy – most are covered in my 'Christmas Lecture' review of 2015 (also on YouTube). We have bolstered our own data science team with two PhDs this year.
How do you decide where to apply the best technological approach?
We drive autonomy and decision-making into our teams, allowing people to suggest new and exciting technologies. We prefer experimentation rather than long theoretical assessment periods, and will often select small and low-risk projects to trial new technologies. Our innovation labs are also a useful playground for new technology.
Do you give yourself and your team time each month to assess or learn about technology vendors outside of the established providers?
Yes, at least half a day a week is set aside for personal development for all staff in the product teams. We have active Slack communities feeding ideas about new technologies into the business.
Describe your sourcing strategy and your strategic suppliers
AWS, Salesforce, Google, Attenda, New Voice Media. We prefer testing and experimenting on a small scale first. Where possible, point solutions with excellent integration are preferred to monolithic systems. Nothing on-premise unless absolutely necessary!
Describe the technology innovations that you have introduced in the last year and what they have enabled
Data science has driven the use of far more open source software into the business. We have released our first, hugely successful mobile app for job seekers using Xamarin as a development platform, now number two in the business category on the App Store. Looker has been deployed by our business intelligence team and integrated with Salesforce, offering a true cloud-based platform for all of our sales staff.
Amazon's AWS is being used increasingly for all of our own services, including Redshift as a central data warehouse/lake. Our startups have used Azure and other platforms to deliver three new and entirely different businesses, with two specifically offering first-to-market services – for startups and 'gig economy' office space.
What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom? What uniquely do they bring?
Agresso has replaced SAP as our finance system, so we no longer have to tolerate Silverlight. Many existing suppliers have been retained as their cloud services continue to grow and iterate without the need for complex tenders or renegotiations.
Rank in order of importance your sources for innovative technology suppliers
1 Media. 2 Analyst houses. 3 CIO peers. 4 Consultants. 5 Industry body.
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?
10+ years ago.
What is your reporting line?
Are you a member of the board of directors?
What is the annual IT budget?
There is no budget, as IT systems are paid for by respective business owners rather than IT being a cost centre.
How much of your IT budget is capital and how much revenue?
Less than 5% capital – avoided at all costs.
What is your budget's operational/development split?
60/40 in favour of operational.
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?
90 in our product team, which includes both operational 'IT' roles (around four) and all the resources to deliver our digital services (design, UX, product ownership, etc).
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?
95/5 in favour of in-house.