Designing and building world-class broadcast studios, moving back-office finance and HR apps to the cloud, and moving from an optical wide area network to a scalable streaming infrastructure – it’s all part of the day job for David Henderson. The effect, though, has been anything but ordinary: the number of applications, amount of physical infrastructure and volume of operational incidents have all been cut by a third over two years. And all that heavy lifting is accompanied by plenty of curve-ball action. David invites internal and external thought-provoking speakers to a quarterly ‘cheers and ideas’ event, and sends his high-performers off to digital transformation bootcamp to learn design thinking, change management and innovation skills.
Director of technology and operations
How are you influencing the products, customer experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
Technology is at the heart of the Global business (radio, music TV, live events and music festivals), which has supported the introduction of new brands, products and services over the past 12 months.
We have deep industry and engineering expertise, complemented by strengthened capabilities in demand shaping, data and ad tech, which has allowed us to work closely on business improvement.
Award-winning products such as DAX have required outstanding engineering skills to dynamically insert targeted advertising into live audio streams. DAX gives advertisers single access to the digital audio market, and has signed up more than 140 publishers and 250 forward-thinking advertisers.
Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the last 12 months and their impact on your organisation’s performance
A two-year technology change programme began in 2015 that has delivered new platforms, products and infrastructure to support the digital transformation across Global.
Custom-built advertisement booking platforms integrate with off-the-shelf technologies such as Salesforce so that we have a single view of the customer, creative content and inventory. Content management is in place so that our beautiful digital products can provide great user experiences listening live or offline across Global’s consumer brands.
We have designed and built world-class broadcast studios, moved back-office applications from finance and HR to the cloud, and refreshed the IT infrastructure from an optical wide area network to a scalable streaming infrastructure.
Two years later, the number of applications, the amount of physical infrastructure and the volume of operational incidents have all reduced by a third. And at the same time, more people are spending more time with Global: revenues are up more than 10% and the audience has grown to around 30,000,000 including 18,000,000 engaging through digital channels.
We have achieved this transformation without any material business interruption or headcount growth, and have a suite of applications that can be accessed on Macs and on mobiles.
What has been your involvement with innovation at your organisation – in particular, with products, business model and technology – over the last 12 months?
Global is an entrepreneurial business, and the technology function works across business units on their growth plans as well as carrying out its own experimentation (including bi-annual hackathons). The tech team are encouraged to experiment (and share), and we have found new tools this way, from translating audio to text through to automating the capture of video clips for publishing on social media and our websites.
Product innovation this year includes allowing listeners on some apps to skip songs, get a list of upcoming tracks, and vote songs good or bad.
Business diversification is continuing with the growth of music festivals, where technology is now beginning to exploit e-commerce and data opportunities.
We also launched a London-based university technical college this year. The Global Academy is a unique state school, teaching 14 to 19-year-olds the practical skills necessary to succeed in the media industry.
How have you delivered cultural and behavioural change as a CIO within the IT department and/or more broadly across the organisation?
Global codifies its culture in an ‘obsession statement’, recognised across the company and used when recruiting new talent.
In technology, we embrace this statement while introducing our own complementary initiatives, from showing the value of light-touch governance, keeping the business involved in agile delivery through to the need to be obsessive about detail when it comes to stress-testing or simulating cybersecurity hacks on our infrastructure.
Technology has introduced more rigour, more diversity in its team and more collaboration over the past year, which are all having a positive delivery impact. Our quarterly ‘cheers and ideas’ event involves internal and external thought-provoking speakers. We sent high-performing technologists to a custom-designed digital transformation bootcamp at the University of Cambridge to learn design thinking, change management and innovation skills.
We regularly share what we are doing with the business on internal social media, and do a photojournal or video update every 100 days to tell the story, showcase the solutions and the team, and celebrate success.
How have you worked with your CEO and/or board to communicate whatever ‘digital’ and IT means to your organisation/sector and improve digital literacy at the highest levels of the organisation?
We are fortunate that Global has a tech-savvy board and an enlightened CEO who ‘gets technology’.
Some board members have visited leading technology firms and have shown in the past an appetite for making bold decisions, such as rolling out Macs to the entire workforce. Product demonstrations (including prototypes) and some important product decisions take place at the board, and there has been good debate on data protection, cyber risks, and when to build custom and when buy package software.
How have you worked with the technology and IT vendor market to achieve your business goals? How have you been able to influence IT suppliers and successfully manage your partnerships/relationships with large IT companies, SMEs and startups?
The key is judging where to invest time and where to avoid wasting time with technology vendors.
We have deliberately partnered with a handful of smaller, innovative technology companies, where we have held workshops to outline the strategy, run studio tours, run jointly funded experiments, and asked them to present to our teams. Some have even chosen our Make Some Noise as their charity of the year. Our partnerships range from cybersecurity with MWR, data platforming with Altius, dynamic audio insertion with AdsWizz, and the development of sales tools with Amido and BrightGen.
With commodity suppliers we manage the contracts and service level exceptions, but I am a keen benchmarker. I have issued a number of RFIs in the last year alone, and regularly speak with CIOs at other media organisations.
How have you tried to develop the diversity of your team?
Diversity is a subject we take seriously, from speaking at conferences, schools and at meet-ups, through to how we attract new recruits and manage our teams.
We signed up to the Tech Talent Charter, implemented the ‘Rooney Rule’ mandating diversity on the candidate shortlist for every new role, ran unconscious bias training, worked with Code First Girls, and introduced quotas for the technology graduate scheme (so there is an equal male/female split).
The technology team is now more diverse and more creative, with the number of women increasing from 6% to 18%.
At the Global Academy, the first cohort of students is 60% female, which is really encouraging.
Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
We run a shape-solution-support operating model that makes it easy to explain to our stakeholders.
Our shape function manages the funnel, the capital investments and potential future demand.
The solution function combines both project and product management teams, and also covers one-off activities such as post-M&A integration and construction.
A support team keeps the broadcasts and services running on a 24/7 basis – from the studios to outside broadcasts and live events.
What strategic technology deals have you made in the last year and who are your main suppliers and IT partners?
Our niche technology partnerships are complemented by larger enterprise agreements with Microsoft, Salesforce, Tableau, Ooyala, Linx and Vodafone. We also have a strategic marketing deal in place with Apple. We have invested in Workday, and I have spoken at some of its events to get closer to the product development team and some of its other customers so we can influence the product roadmap.
Global is one of the leading radio groups and has close relationships with RCS and Broadcast Bionics, where we pilot new services ahead of full release to the market.
What are your key strategic aims for next year?
- Leverage our recent investments in technology to improve creativity, time to market and broadcast reliability.
- Improve our ad-tech and data platforms and support strong growth in the use of our digital products.
- Experiment (and scale where appropriate) with new technologies that might solve complex business problems.
How are you preparing for any impacts Brexit might have on your organisation?
Brexit has had little impact to date, but we remain prudent in case of wider economic volatility or a downturn in the advertising market. We already run a tight ship, but we have the ability to flex investments if we need to.
When did you start your current role?
What is your reporting line?
Are you a member of the executive leadership?
Are you a member of the board of directors?
What other emerging roles does your organisation have and what is their relationship to you?
COO responsible for group data, innovation, and NPD and digital strategy.
How often do you meet with your organisation’s CEO or equivalent?
How many people at your organisation does your function supply services to?
What is your annual IT budget, or your spend as a proportion of the organisation’s revenue?
In line with media industry benchmarks.
What percentage of your budget is operational spend (ie keeping the lights on) and how much new development (ie innovation, R&D, exploratory IT)?
Fairly even split.
Rank the following sources of advice/information in order of importance:
- CIO peers
- Analyst houses
- Industry bodies
Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?
Are you expecting an increase in budget specific to security in order to tackle the cyber threat?
Does your organisation have a designated security professional – CISO or otherwise – and what is their relationship to you?
Yes, within the technology function.
Global Radio IT department
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?
Are you increasing your headcount or planning to bring skills and the ability to react to needs in-house?
Which technologies or areas are you expecting to be investing in over the next year?
- data analytics/business intelligence
- enterprise applications
- machine learning/artificial intelligence
- devices (mobile).
Which technologies or areas are you expecting to be investing in over the next one to three years?
- data analytics/business intelligence
- machine learning/artificial intelligence
- devices (mobile).
What emerging technologies are you investigating or expect to have a big impact on your sector or organisation?
Data and machine learning will have a big impact on radio, music and live event curation, and AR will extend the experience of live music. We have a team experimenting here and working with some third parties.
Does your organisation do a significant amount of trade with the EU?
Does your department include technology staff from the EU?
Are you or have you been looking to the EU to recruit key skills?