With the organisation committed to a huge and tech-based growth programme, David Ivell has used rapid prototyping to lay the foundations for a new business model that will deploy online volunteer mentors to help disadvantaged young people find work or start new businesses. The digital transformation of the core business will be mirrored by a change in work culture.

Job title

How are you influencing the products, customer experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
Even though our existing programmes that enable disadvantaged young people to find work or to start new businesses are full, this represents only a relatively small percentage of those young people who approach us for help. My role is to design the strategy and products and implement a new business model that will enable us to more than double the number of young people we are able to reach within three years.

This requires us to completely redefine our customer experience. The magic of the Prince’s Trust is that it creates a trusted relationship, possibly for the first time, between these young people and someone who cares what happens to them. I have to re-create that trusted relationship in an online environment, which means providing engaging content, but even more so by creating that one-to-one relationship between them and a mentor who will stick with them until they have started work or until their business is up and running.

Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the last 12 months and their impact on your organisation’s performance
Using a rapid prototype methodology we have built the new business model and products to enable our growth programme. We spent three months researching worldwide best practice, investigating technology components, and placing technologies into the business. We didn’t ask suppliers for evaluations but to show us how they would make them work. That feedback was then used to build the first minimal viable product within a three-month period.

Prior to Christmas we were testing components, and currently we are testing end-to-end customer journeys in pilots in Scotland, Northern Ireland and south London. The business outcome will enable us to reach another one million disadvantaged young people in the next 10 years, and to create social change in the UK by the impact that our helping our client group has on their parents and children. It will also engage an additional 15,000 online e-mentors a year at full production, who will guide the young people into outcomes through bite-sized mentoring.

We have also created an online retail business to provide a platform for the young people we help to set up businesses to test their products and start making some money.

What has been your involvement with innovation at your organisation – in particular, with products, business model and technology – over the last 12 months?

Product innovation: This has been the focus of my role over the last 12 months. I have created a new digital product management team who use rapid prototype techniques to develop an online mentoring product that ensures young people are safeguarded, and that also brings specialist help in pastoral care as well as in technical disciplines. This product team is looking at new ways to disrupt our own business as well as the market.

Business model innovation: I have led this to create the new online model that will deal with more than 50% of our business online within three years.

Technology innovation: This is key to our success. At every stage of a young person’s journey we have identified where we need to look at the process afresh. How we recruit young people onto our programmes, for example, is being looked at in the light of game technology, identifying skills and competencies that young people didn’t know they had, telling them they are good at something and that they have valuable skills. Our programmes endow them with employability characteristics that will help them get a job. We show the employers we work with that, even though our young people may not have the greatest CV, qualifications or experience, they do have outstanding potential. We are taking this same approach in investigating the user interface, the e-mentoring, the use of job boards designed for young people, and engaging content. We are also investigating how to use advances in AI and off-the-shelf products like Amazon Echo and SightPlus to enable young people who are careers for elderly or disabled family members to have the time to attend our online programmes. We have a large number of young people who would love to come on our courses, but are unable to due to time commitments, because they are carers or single parents, young offenders or so socially excluded that they can’t be got out of their bedrooms let alone on to a face-to-face programme. For all of these, the innovation in technology and new products will enable us to reach them.

How have you delivered cultural and behavioural change as a CIO within the IT department and/or more broadly across the organisation?
The main change has been by showing how technology can facilitate a rapid acceleration of change within the organisation. We are driving a new business model based on digital transformation of our core business. This is changing the culture as we move to a new engagement model that is more run by e-mentors delivering bite-sized support than by Prince’s Trust staff. This requires us to recruit, train and manage over 15,000 volunteers, mostly from our business sponsors, who are excited at the corporate responsibility this brings their staff. The profile of our volunteers is now changing from those who have the time to mentor face to face to those who can do so from their phone during the day and in the evenings. It is drawing on a younger population of volunteer e-mentors. Young people engage and learn at different times of the day than our usual business hours – 68% are active between 4pm and 10pm. The cultural shift is now to work with them online at times that suit them rather than times that used to suit us.

We have also rolled out an extensive unified communications programme focused on Skype for Business, which is enabling us to manage our 50+ offices in the UK better. We can now start a workplace planning programme to investigate more flexible working patterns that help us align with young people’s engagement times and are more efficient.

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?
In a world where we are pushing digital communications, there is a need for face to face too. We ran a roadshow where the CEO and senior management team toured the offices communicating the changes ahead in terms of our ambition to reach that additional one million young people and the role of digital technology within that.

We have also implemented Skype Broadcast to enable regular communications to the wider business, which has been very well received.

A network of digital champions throughout our business has been created to communicate and lead our digital change programme at ground level.

Digital literacy is key for staff and our e-mentor volunteers especially as we are driving from 0 to 50% of our business delivered digitally. Although the digital literacy of staff has always been a focus, the growth in the business and type of business has led to greater investment in our ability to make our workforce and volunteers more digitally literate. The main focus right now is on our e-mentor volunteers, where we are defining that programme as part of the platform to manage the young people in their care.

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?
We have created a technology leadership group from the main technology providers in the UK, chaired by the CEO of Atos, and deputy-chaired by the CEO of HP-E Europe. It has senior representation from all the major IT organisations, including Accenture, Oracle, Arm, EY, Deloitte, Dell/EMC. They are helping us to achieve our business goals in a number of ways. They provide specialist advice and manpower for projects, provide app development resources, assist in hackathons, and have raised millions of pounds to help fund our initiatives.

We have also created relationships with other sectors where IT has a major influence. For example, one of the assessment products we are developing for our growth programme is being developed by JP Morgan, a business plan product is being developed by NatWest, and support and funding for our innovation come from organisations such as Nominet and L’Oreal. Online retailer Asos has been advising on the launch of our online store.

We are working with many startups in almost every sector, advising them how to plan and grow their business online.

How have you tried to develop the diversity of your team?
The diversity of the team has always been good within the trust, and recognised for its variety in ethnic, male/female representation, sexual orientation and age. The area we have been focusing on in the last 12 months is talent development for senior IT management positions from more female members of staff.

With the growth plans for online engagement with young people we have many more options than previously to recruit a diverse e-mentor workforce. In the past the most important consideration was geography to ensure a mentor was able to meet with a young person. We are now able to match a young person based on much more scientific criteria, such as age, ethnicity, culture and skill set. We will also be able to match mentor to mentees across national boundaries.

Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
The structure is flat and simple, with two main teams. One is focused on digital product management and driving the technologies, products and projects to facilitate the efficiency of the organisation and the innovation to deliver the best service to reach more young people successfully. The other, our technical infrastructure team, runs the availability, capacity and performance of our own infrastructure and cloud-based systems.

This organisation is very youth-focused, and the IT team needs to be too. It is our main driving force.

In the past IT was more of a supplier to the business operations. In the new model, half our business is provided direct online through a service most akin to a social media product, with high social interaction. We are now more of a partner to our business operations, and there is a more blurred line between where operations end and IT begins.

The digital transformation is leading our business growth strategy through a period of accelerated change, with the business acting more like a high-tech fast-moving startup.

What strategic technology deals have you made in the last year and who are your main suppliers and IT partners?
We have strategic partners at many levels:

  • Oracle provides our CRM
  • Microsoft provides our unified communications strategy
  • Fuse Universal provides our online mentoring programme
  • BT provides our network infrastructure
  • HP-E is our technology partner
  • Consulting comes from EY, Deloitte and Accenture.

Almost all our strategic partners sit on our technology leadership group. There is a mixture of discounted and pro bono support

What are your key strategic aims for next year?

  • Grow our ability to engage with more UK young people by 25% in one year while planning for 120% growth within three years.
  • Recruit a new online UK e-mentor workforce that will grow to 15,000 in three years.
  • Launch our international online mentoring programme within the British Commonwealth, focusing on India.
  • Implement our workplace planning strategy to focus on supporting young people.
  • Complete the delivery of our CRM phase 2 roll-out.
  • Implement the first phases of a new ERP platform.
  • Relaunch our intranet.
  • Start the roll-out of a new fundraising app to target employees of organisations who choose us as their business charity of choice.

How are you preparing for any impacts Brexit might have on your organisation?
We are looking at the opportunities that Brexit may offer the young people we support. Already we are engaging with a number of businesses that are considering the young people we make to be work-ready and have potential for entry-level jobs that may previously have been filled by a part-European workforce. We have been advised my more than one major UK business that the no.1 risk they have is staff moving back to Europe due to uncertainties. Whatever the politics, this means there is a need for more of our young people who in the past had difficulty gaining employment. Increasingly employers are looking for employees with potential rather than qualification or experience, with some notable companies such as Deloitte looking for business potential from sectors they may not have considered in the past.

Industries such as health, care and government services are in conversation with us, and we are adapting some of our programmes such ‘Get into Healthcare’ within our new online offerings to meet that demand.


When did you start your current role?
February 2016

What is your reporting line?
Direct to CEO

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?
Developing roles for chief digital officer to report to me as CIO.

How often do you meet with your organisation’s CEO or equivalent?

How many people at your organisation does your function supply services to?
1,200 internal employees, 15,000 volunteer e-mentors, 60,000 young people growing to 100,000+ within three years.


What percentage of your budget is operational spend (ie keeping the lights on) and how much new development (ie innovation, R&D, exploratory IT)?
During this period of growth 75% is based on new developments.


Rank the following sources of advice/information in order of importance:

  1. CIO peers
  2. Industry bodies
  3. Media
  4. Consultants
  5. Analyst houses


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, we have a qualified security professional who reports to me directly as CIO.


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?
22 internal, plus consultants and third-party support.

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?

  • cloud
  • ERP
  • CRM
  • datacentre/infrastructure/server
  • IoT
  • security
  • AR/VR
  • machine learning/artificial intelligence
  • social
  • devices (mobile)
  • devices (desktop).

Which technologies or areas are you expecting to be investing in over the next one to three years?

  • cloud
  • ERP
  • CRM
  • social
  • devices (mobile)
  • devices (desktop).

What emerging technologies are you investigating or expect to have a big impact on your sector or organisation?
AI, game dynamics, VR for disabilities.


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?