Faced with multiple regional businesses operated by his organisation, Nick Burton puts cultural and mindset change at the top of his to-do list. He has made sure there are people who really understand the approaches to digital and technology in the key countries, and has successfully made the case for recruiting hybrid CDO/CIO roles in many of them.
Name and job title
Nick Burton, head of digital and innovative technology, Belron.
How are you influencing the products, experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
As an organisation, we have really woken up to the possibilities presented to us by digitalisation. We've realised that to get the maximum value for us and our customers, we need to build the right mindset, skills and approaches within our businesses across the group.
My team has worked very collaboratively with the other commercial functions at Belron to develop real expertise in the digital customer experience, focused on making it easy for our customers to engage with us across any of the main channels (online, voice, face to face).
Using approaches including customer journey mapping, we are helping our businesses understand how delivering a seamless omni-channel experience can allow our customers to better manage their service, while allowing us to become more efficient. As we have gone through this process, other opportunities have been identified to develop more of a retail mindset, and trials are under way to find new ways of adding value to the 11 million customers we serve each year.
From a personal perspective, I have moved my reporting line from our group CFO, to our group customer director, and participate fully in the commercial direction setting alongside the sales, marketing, operations and supply chain leaders.
How as CIO have you driven cultural and behaviour change in your organisation, and to what extent?
For me, the cultural and mindset change required to really take maximum advantage from digitalisation is key. My start point was to make sure that we have people who really understand the approaches to digital and technology in our key countries. I have made the case for recruiting hybrid CDO/CIO roles in many of our countries (in the past year we have recruited nine), and their impact is already being felt.
In addition to this, it's really important that all of our senior leadership understand the concepts that underpin and enable digitalisation. I have put together a programme for our country general managers to educate them and help them to understand the change in approach and mindset they need to support in their people.
We have also run a series of digital summits where we bring together the key leaders responsible for IT, digital experience and the contact centre in all of our countries. These have worked really well in terms of helping people understand and share with each other the practical steps required to improve the customer experience through digitalisation. They also help them to understand and begin the process of changing their approach and the way they collaborate within their countries to become much more connected when developing our digital customer experience.
Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the past 12 months and their impact on your organisation's performance
There are a number of different ways in which my team and I are supporting improved business outcomes across Belron. First, we are delivering practical help and guidance to all of our countries as they renovate their core IT platforms so that they are ready to take advantage of digitalisation. This support covers a range of areas, but given that our countries have more than 10 ERP or CRM replacement projects under way at the moment, helping them be successful with this without disruption to the business is a key focus.
We are also focusing on continually developing the customer experience, particularly via increased self-serve capabilities in a number of our countries. We have supported the implementation of customer portals in more than eight countries, and they are having a real impact on the number of voice contacts we need to handle after a customer has booked their service with us. We are also continuing to see real growth in the proportion of customers who book online with us, with our websites now handling over 25% of opportunities across the group.
Describe how you have used organisational and third-party information to provide insight that has benefited your organisation, its customers and products or services
The way we use information to develop insight to help steer the business is increasingly important for Belron. I have supported the creation of a multifunctional customer insight team at Belron which is identifying the answers to key questions relating to the way we serve our customers and improve our customer experience. I also recently created a new role in my team that is focused on developing our information strategy and identifying the opportunities for using a big data approach to gain new insight on our business.
Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
Belron is a very federated company, and we have aligned the way we organise ourselves in IT with this. I have a small team in the centre who are focused on three main areas.
First, they provide deep functional expertise on how technology can support business growth and efficiency. This team includes people with architecture experience, who work with the countries to develop appropriate local approaches to key new initiatives in areas including workforce management and scheduling, supply chain, consumer CRM and big data and information.
Second, I have established an IT transformation team who are responsible for helping our countries transform the way they approach IT. We see this as being key to ensuring that IT does not become a bottleneck for the digital transformation the countries are embarking on, and are focusing our efforts primarily on the shift to public cloud for infrastructure and applications, embedding the agile approach to delivery, and developing our DevOps capability in each local business.
Third, we have created a digital experience best practice team who are working with our countries to help them improve the end-to-end customer experience across all channels, while reducing the cost of handling each contact through increased use of self-serve functionality.
As we give local accountability for the execution of the technology required in each of our local businesses to the local teams, we have also focused on helping them to build their local capabilities and change the way they are organised to meet the digital challenge. This includes making the case for and helping to recruit nine digital/IT directors in local markets over the past year, and helping them to get clear on the best structure for their teams (where we are implementing the grow-build-run model in many instances).
Due to the federated nature of the business, we have a key focus from within my team on facilitating and stimulating the sharing of best practice across the business, and for providing the opportunities for people to share with each other in very tangible ways through physical forums and through our group enterprise social network.
Describe your role in the development of digital strategy in your organisation
I have taken a lead on the development of our thinking about how to approach digitalisation across the group. Initially, this was focused on building awareness and understanding across our general manager and executive group via a number of education sessions and workshops. I have since led a number of digital workshops with the senior leaders of key countries including the UK, Italy and Germany.
In addition I have created a digital leadership team for the group, which brings together functional leaders from our commercial departments, together with a number of our local digital directors. This group is effectively an internal thinktank that sets the direction and focus areas for digitalisation.
To help us shape our thinking we created a business capability model which we used to identify roadmaps for the key capabilities where digitalisation will have most impact on our business. These roadmaps are now being used locally to guide the development of their local digital strategy.
Going through these steps allowed me to build the case for developing our digital capabilities within each country, resulting in the recruitment of digital directors in many of our local businesses, which is where the impact needs to be felt and the execution needs to happen. I have been personally involved in the recruitment of these people, and am now supporting them with the development of their local strategy.
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 key to using technology to help the business improve in a company like Belron is to focus on best practice sharing, which my team and I do very proactively. We have identified some key areas that will have maximum impact, including automatic scheduling, workforce management, consumer CRM and omni-channel interactions with customers, supply chain flexibility and big data. We bring both external perspectives and challenge, coupled with practical examples of the implementations that have happened around the group, to stimulate and support our countries as they implement these technologies as part of their local roadmaps.
We are also influencing the changes required within the organisation to support these plans, with areas such as the changing role of the contact centre to support different types of customer interactions, and the development of customer experience expertise to create focus around improvements to the customer journey.
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 run a regular series of interactive webinars on a range of topics, including digital customer experience and agile project management. We run an annual forum where all our local IT, digital and contact centre leaders come together to share best practice on developing a connected customer experience.
My team led the introduction of our group social network to facilitate better connections between our experts across the group. I'm an active sharer on that platform, and use it as a way to recognise the brilliant work that is going on around the group. I also give regular updates to our exec team and at general manager meetings on the digital and IT agenda, and how it will bring us value.
How do you use social networks to engage in conversations across the industry about the opportunities and challenges technology is creating?
I'm an active user of LinkedIn, and find it invaluable for gaining insight as to what other people are thinking about. I'm also very happy to share my thoughts and how we are approaching things at Belron.
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?
This happens very naturally given that I'm a member of the group customer team. We meet regularly and I find that discussing the big challenges and opportunities we see for the business with our sales, marketing, operations and supply chain leaders from all these commercial perspectives, together with my digital and technology lens, enriches the conversation and leads to connections we would not have initially expected. I also find that spending time with our local general managers helps them understand the impact that digital and technology can make to their business and helps them factor the topic into their priorities and plans in an appropriate way.
Describe how you keep up to date with developments in technology and IT management
I'm constantly reading – blogs, articles, etc. I allocate two to three weeks a year to attend conferences and events that will bring me different perspectives and insights on how people are using technology, and how they are preparing their organisation for change. I'm also very curious. I like to try things, and figure out how they work (technologies or business models) as that often brings insight that would not have necessarily been obvious.
Provide an example of how you have developed the diversity and improved the culture of your team
I have been very clear with my team that we are in a time where we need to throw out the old rules, and embrace new ways of doing things. When I established my team I told them that I want them to always try the new way of doing things if they believe it has merit, even if it turns out that it fails – it's the best way of learning. This approach led us to adopt public cloud three to four years ago, and although we failed in the way we implemented it on a number of occasions, we have since gained valuable experience, which is now really helping our countries.
I have introduced hackathons, which really reinforce the fail-fast culture in the team, and get people (from across the business) engaged in working on something different where they can gain new perspectives from their colleagues. Providing a brilliant leadership climate for my team to work in is also very important to me. I am constantly focusing on my personal leadership behaviour to ensure that my team are clear on our direction, empowered to execute it, and given the support they need to be successful.
Describe how you collaborate and influence the organisation and its leadership team
I focus a lot of my time on influencing my peers across the organisation. I really believe in the value of spending time face to face to explain concepts, understand other perspectives, and work together to shape the direction we will take for the different opportunities we see. I share examples that I think are relevant to a company like us to illustrate points and to help people understand how we could approach things.
Tell us how you have developed your own management, leadership and personal skills, perhaps through mentoring, training or external activities
I believe that personal development is a critical ongoing activity. This year, I've focused in particular on developing my mentoring skills by participating as a mentor in the 30% mentoring scheme.
What new technologies are you investigating, tracking or experimenting with?
We are experimenting with machine learning, data analytics, wearables for our technicians, IoT, augmented reality for training and field support, 3D printing, and cloud platform micro-service architectures.
How do you decide where to apply the best technological approach?
We take a cloud-first approach (and by cloud I mean public cloud) for infrastructure and commodity applications. We're not dogmatic. If using the cloud will be problematic, we'll use a hybrid approach. From an applications perspective, commodity apps would typically be cloud-based, and increasingly so for bespoke development (using PaaS). We use the pace-layering concept to help us think through the degree of customisation and approach to use at different layers of our applications estate.
Do you give yourself and your team time each month to assess or learn about technology vendors outside of the established providers?
Absolutely! I encourage my team to scan for, engage with and understand new providers. They spend time at conferences and events to understand what's out there and how they can help us. I personally got a lot out of attending the AWS re:invent event in October – the AWS content was great, but also understanding the breadth of the partner ecosystem that has built around the platform. There are some brilliant companies taking AWS's APIs and using them in very creative ways to deliver new types of value for companies that have embraced the cloud.
Describe your sourcing strategy and your strategic suppliers
As a federated group, we combine a set of opt-in global sourcing relationships with companies such as Microsoft, Oracle, AWS and ClickSoftware, which allow our local businesses to benefit from our scale. At the end of the day, though, the decision about which technology or supplier to use lies with our local businesses as they need to take accountability for the decision.
We offer the countries practical support around procurement processes, negotiation support and vendor management to help them get the best outcome from a sourcing engagement. We also have people at the centre focused on the changes to commercial models driven by topics like cloud and agile so that we can help our countries make the best decisions in light of the different commercial approaches available with many of the newer platform-based vendors.
Describe the technology innovations that you have introduced in the past year and what they have enabled
AWS PaaS for photo capture and management via a mobile device, reducing storage costs and simplifying accessibility to images via services to a number of legacy systems. We were the first company in Europe to go live with Microsoft AX R3 on Azure for full production, DR and non-production workloads.
What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom? What uniquely do they bring?
AWS – a common framework that reduces risk around data protection and privacy, making it easier for each country to adopt AWS without needing to negotiate complex terms locally.
Rate how important your sources of innovative technology suppliers are
Always referred to: analyst houses.
Often use: CIO peers, media.
Occasionally use: consultants, industry body.
Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?
How is cyber-security led and discussed by senior management?
It's a key part of our group-wide risk and assurance programme, with key programme features and results discussed at board level. We have been focusing on raising awareness with our general manager and exec population to drive greater support for the great initiatives that are happening on the ground in our countries.
When did you start your current role?
What is your reporting line?
Group customer director (chief customer officer).
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?
€60m capital, €108m revenue (including depreciation).
What is your budget's operational/development split?
What number of users does your department supply services to?
26,500 (globally, all countries), 250 (head office, my direct responsibility day to day).
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?
500 (globally, all countries), 28 (head office, my direct 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?