Given the job of building a 100% digital organisation by 2020, Mike Young is well on the way to delivering. Services have been moved to a hybrid cloud, the data vision and strategy have been defined, and a collaboration and communication suite has been built to leverage insight and expertise for clients.

Name and job title
Mike Young, Chief Information Officer, Dentsu Aegis Network.

How are you influencing the products, experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
At Dentsu Aegis Network, our vision is 'Innovating the way brands are built' for our clients through our best-in-class expertise and capabilities in media, digital and creative communications services. Technology is a key enabler to deliver our vision and services to our 11 000+ clients globally. For example, we are responsible for developing and leading the global data strategy and leveraging our data capability set across the organisation. This includes developing and managing our big data platform, and a number of media applications that are changing our product offering to our clients. Everything we do as a business is now driven by and predicated on our data capability, so this is pivotal to our client offering.

How as CIO have you driven cultural and behaviour change in your organisation, and to what extent?
As a business, we have been driving significant change across our operating model to ensure we are set up to deliver the best skills and capabilities to our clients across all brands and markets. Technology was the first function to undertake large-scale transformation to ensure we're set to foster a culture of communications and collaboration across our organisation. To support this shift, we implemented one global IT approach which has enabled employees to easily connect, share insights and communicate through a number of different collaboration channels including Yammer, SharePoint, Skype for Business, OneDrive, etc. Our technology agenda is also designed to support and align to our core value set as an organisation. Our values of agile, pioneering, collaborative, responsible and ambitious are aligned to our focus on speed, agility, collaboration and innovation.

Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the past 12 months and their impact on your organisation's company performance
Dentsu Aegis Network provides its clients with best-in-class expertise and capabilities in media, digital and communications services. We're striving to become 100% digital by 2020, with our growth strategy aligned to the opportunities in the digital economy. In addition to organic growth, we are actively targeting acquisitions to provide scale, enhance our product portfolio, provide cutting-edge innovation and bring in high-quality specialist talent.

The technology agenda is pivotal to achieving both our digital and growth ambitions for the business:

  • We strengthened our 'one global IT' approach by building and adding to our collaboration and communication suite. We did this to support our operating model, which increasingly looks to collaborate across brands and markets to leverage insight and expertise for our clients.
  • We moved our services to a hybrid cloud model with the majority of employees using Microsoft Office 365 and its cloud-based application set. We did this to enable our growth agenda and ensure we have the right infrastructure in place to support the pace of change in our organisation.
  • We defined our data vision and strategy while leading on conversations and initiatives with markets and brands to bring the vision to life. This is key to delivering our 100% digital ambition.

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 built a big data platform under our own management. Our data lab provides a unified hub for the ingestion, transformation, and publication of client first, second, and third-party data sources. For some of our large, global clients, we ingest all their online media activity globally and provide analytics and insights to drive their business outcomes. We are starting to leverage the capability of our data platform internally as well specifically with our HR function.

Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
Our technology function operates as one global IT function with teams organised across key areas of design, deliver, run, engage and specialist support. We have 500+ technology employees at a global, regional and market level to support the operating model across our business. We are also evolving our technology operating model to support the increased focus on the data and applications agenda. We know this is critical to the success of our organisation going forward, so we are ensuring we have the team in place to deliver on it.

Describe your role in the development of digital strategy in your organisation
The digital agenda is a key part of our business strategy. As a global executive board member, we are all tasked with developing and driving the digital strategy for our business. I have added investment in the digital strategy given that our data vision is also closely linked to our digital agenda and will be a key driver in delivering our vision of 100% digital by 2020.

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
Global IT systems are increasingly relied on to enable efficient processes and services across our organisation. In the last 12 months, we have developed and implemented the following IT systems:

  • Global ERP solution to aid significant business transformation and manage HR, finance and standard people processes.
  • Suite of collaboration tools to foster innovation and effective communication including Skype for Business, Microsoft Office 365, SharePoint.
  • Working with our Out-of-Home brand (Posterscope), we have developed a unique application which is changing all its back-end ordering and buying activities associated with poster sites and electronic billboards in the UK, US and Japan with other countries to follow. Technically it is industry leading and allows us to move into -real-time media positioning in out-of-home.

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?
Communications is a key component of my role. I believe communications to be essential in delivering our technology vision and strategy. I regularly take the opportunity to communicate and engage with technology employees and the business through a plethora of channels, such as my personal blog, articles on our intranet, commentary via internal social media channels, regular face-to-face events as well as webcasts for our remote locations, a technology newsletter and video interviews sharing personal and business insights. I encourage clear and regular communications to engage with the business and the technology function.

How do you use social networks to engage in conversations across the industry about the opportunities and challenges technology is creating?
I regularly utilise a cross-industry group via LinkedIn to share insights, engage with peers and keep up with industry trends. I also use social channels like Twitter to share insights with the industry – I recently worked with Cloud TV to offer key personal, business and technology insights through a number of short videos shared via its Twitter feed to industry peers.

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?
The technology leadership group sits on all key executive boards globally to ensure technology is a key part of business conversations and decisions. We utilise events such as our annual Top 350 Global Leadership Conference to present latest thinking on our strategy and showcase new technology to the business. We also have some cross-brand councils such as our Global Data Council, where we pull together a number of thought-leaders across our brands and markets to share insights and work together to deliver on the data agenda for our clients.

Describe how you keep up to date with developments in technology and IT management
I have a cross-industry peer group I connect with on a regular basis to share insights and key trends. I leverage the relationships I have with vendors to understand their vision and strategy, and how that might align with or complement our strategy. I get the opportunity to gain and share insights with our clients and other leading industry companies such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Twitter as a result of our working relationships. I also take regular input from technology study tours in Paolo Alto, California.

Across my team, I run quarterly strategy sessions to allow my leadership group to share insights and updates, and develop our strategic agenda. We also get external industry bodies that attend leadership and broader function events to share insights around innovation, future technologies and industry trends.

Provide an example of how you have developed the diversity and improved the culture of your team
Diversity is a key focus area for us. We ensure our business is diverse and gives equal opportunity to everyone regardless of their gender, ethnicity, nationality, age, sexual orientation or disability. Within technology, we are equally focused on raising the diversity agenda. We are a truly global team spread across 60+ markets where we encourage collaboration across the function. We have updated our people processes to ensure it's configured to attract and retain diverse talent, spearheading diversity in our people agenda. We have also changed vendors in the past year and now use Endava, which has a policy of 33% women in its workplace.

Developing a high-performing culture with my function is a key priority. Since starting in the role in 2012, I have created a global function that works together to develop solutions for the business rather than working independently by market. I have done this by increasing the opportunities for engagement and communication across the function. We take our employee engagement scores and feedback very seriously, and develop clear actions plans to improve our culture on an annual basis.

Describe how you collaborate and influence the organisation and its leadership team
I am a member of the global executive board. I have a close working relationship with the leadership team and meet and collaborate with them on pitches and initiatives on a regular basis. I also take the opportunity to meet, present to and develop relationships with colleagues across the markets to ensure I understand what our business needs are and influence their thinking through our vision for technology.

Tell us how you have developed your own management, leadership and personal skills
I developed my management and leadership skills initially from my years in the military. It equipped me with the knowledge and skills to engage and lead a team to a clear plan, well-articulated roles and shared understanding of the end vision. Strong leadership in the military is life or death, so it is critically important to get it right. Once leaving the military, I refined my skills in the corporate world and have continued to leverage a number of mentor relationships and leadership coaches. In addition to this, I have been fortunate to work with a host of excellent leaders, from whom I have learned a great deal.

What new technologies are you investigating, tracking or experimenting with?
We're investigating and working with a lot of these technologies within the organisation and with our clients – for example:

  • We have developed our first machine learning solution and are using NoSQL (MongoDB) through our data lab.
  • Data analytics is core to our client offering. We focus on developing proprietary tools and methodologies to drive our clients' business results based on quantifiable data.
  • Dentsu Inc (our parent company) has increased its focus and investment in robotics and has spearheaded development of the robot-human interface.  
  • In Poland, we have embraced a truly digital workplace using beacon technology in our office to recognise people as they move around the building and target visuals that are relevant to them. We are using this to showcase and inspire our clients.
  • Our global ERP system and suite of collaboration tools are all enterprise-wide apps.

How do you decide where to apply the best technological approach?
We use a number of different insights to influence our technological approach across the organisation including:

  • Continuously seeking views and feedback from our internal customer group.
  • Understanding our clients' requirements.
  • Leveraging the expertise and experience across our technology senior leadership team.
  • Careful benchmarking of our future operating model, impact and cost model.
  • Adopting an approach which will deliver now and in the future, especially in support of our growth agenda, applying a slide rule of 'does it deliver speed and agility to our organisation?' to assist in determining the right approach for Dentsu Aegis Network.

Do you give yourself and your team time each month to assess or learn about technology vendors outside of the established providers?
I actively encourage my team to build new relationships, understand the changing landscape of vendors and feed key learnings and ideas into our strategic thinking for the function.

Describe your sourcing strategy and your strategic suppliers
Proactive strategic sourcing approach to IT procurement, aligned to global categories managing end-to-end procurement, from sourcing, through to life management to exit and resource. Key suppliers include Microsoft, TCS, Level 3, Endava, Actian for data, Google, Facebook, Twitter and a whole host of other parties that have provided APIs to our data lab.

Describe the technology innovations that you have introduced in the past year and what they have enabled
Microsoft Office 365 and the suite of applications and tools that come with it. Applications such as Yammer, Skype for Business, One Drive are fundamentally changing our ways of working and enable us to strengthen our digital workplace offering. They give our employees the opportunity to work anywhere, anytime, which is increasingly the expectation of our predominantly millennial employee base. Our big data platform, Dentsu Aegis data lab, has been introduced to a number of new markets and clients, who are using the platform to power their data and analytics capability and deliver real-time insights for our clients. We are currently piloting Continuum for the future of the mobile office, and we have used virtual reality technology in some of our media plays with our biggest media client (putting the individual into their own advert).

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

  • Microsoft: group-wide EA for Office 365, deployment of Dynamics AX as global ERP platform.
  • Level 3: provisioning of global WAN, connecting traditional DCs and cloud.
  • TCS: further outsourcing of core operational support.
  • Synology/AWS: SMB file solution for remote offices with cloud backup and recovery, reducing local storage total cost of ownership twentyfold, and improving data resilience.

 

Rate how important your sources of innovative technology suppliers are

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

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

How is cyber security led and discussed by senior management?
The value and nature of our information assets would suggest that we are less of a target than other organisations with internet-facing store fronts or processors of large volumes of personal of financial information. Our perimeter defences are constantly probed and attacks successfully blocked as a result of our ongoing firewall management, systems configuration and user education programmes. Vulnerability management, constant patching and penetration testing are a pre-requisite across the entire enterprise. Encryption is put in place where additional levels of security are required. A rolling internal audit review is conducted across all facets of the technology enterprise.

The potential risks associated with cyber security-related incidents can have significant business impact, not just in financial terms but for an organisation's resilience and the effect on its reputation, so this topic increasingly receives executive management and board-level focus. Dentsu Aegis Network is no exception. Following my appointment, I recognised within technology that while we were addressing security as a business as usual activity, there was no real focus to assess and deal with these emerging threats. I now have a team managing all aspects of security and business continuity across the global business, not just in technology. I am a standing member of the operational risk committee, so our current position and strategy is regularly discussed and periodically reviewed at the Dentsu board meetings. Dentsu acquired the business in 2012 and is our parent company.

When did you start your current role?
2012.

What is your reporting line?
CEO.

Are you a member of the board of directors?
Yes.

What is the annual IT budget?
£160m

How much of your IT budget is capital and how much revenue?
10% capital, 90% revenue.

What is your budget's operational/development split?
85%/15%.

How many users does your department supply services to?
30,000+.

Are you finding it difficult to recruit the talent you need to drive transformation?
No.

Has recruitment and retention risen up your agenda as a CIO?
Yes.

Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme?
Yes.

How many employees are there in your IT team?
500+.

Are you increasing your headcount to bring skills and the ability to react to needs in-house?
Yes.

What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff?
70% in-house, 30% outsourced.