Under Derek Risk, IT has been delivering systems the business needs to engage customers. He has moved over 100 car dealerships from a paper-based sales enquiry process to a tablet-based solution. And he has introduced step-change technology by replacing a mobile-unfriendly web platform with a fully mobile-responsive solution, and by rolling out a single sales lead management solution across 24 brands and 100+ dealers.

Job title
Head of IT

Company name
Marshall Motor Group

How are you influencing the products, customer experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
IT is pivotal in delivering customer-facing solutions across our 100+ dealerships and in our web and B2B channels. Responses to the following sections demonstrate how this is being achieved and what the outcomes are. At a leadership level, it is very much my role to be a part of the senior team driving change and growth. This often requires involvement in tasks outside the general IT remit and taking on general change management leadership.

Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the last 12 months and their impact on your organisation’s performance
In the mix, the following have been delivered in the past 12 months:

Brand new web platform: Delivered at the end of Q1 2016 and fully optimised for increased mobile demand. We have seen a further 10% swing to mobile access (including mobile phones and tablet devices) over the past year to almost 70% of engagement via mobile devices. Traffic increase/visits have also increased substantially as a result of the new web platform and by merging acquired businesses onto a single platform.

Digital marketing: This was an IT-driven/owned initiative to engage a professional external agency to run day-to-day paid search activity. Previously, search been fragmented by brand (of which we operate 24) and there was no group marketing function in place at that point. An agency was appointed, and the aim of achieving similar performance as on paid search for significantly less investment has been fully achieved during the year.

Customer lead management automation: We have moved from a paper-based lead capture process at dealership level to a fully iPad-fronted enquiry process, and completed implementation across 100 dealerships as of the end of December 2016. This presents a far more professional image to the customer, and ensures full capture of prospects to subsequently deliver a more consistent and thorough lead follow-up. Working with one of the top providers of automotive lead management solutions, we have also tailored some functionality to further support our business needs, and interfaced with other systems to help join up the end-to-end sales process.

Delivery of fast data networks: Rolled out across the dealership network, this has doubled the capacity on average across the estate. It is very much traditional IT/essential plumbing, but also a key enabler for additional application demand and media demands within applications. The network also now supports cloud-based telephony and there is a full move under way to voice over IP (VoIP), which is starting to drive significant call and line rental savings on traditional telephony infrastructure.

What has been your involvement with innovation at your organisation – in particular, with products, business model and technology – over the last 12 months?
In the main, this is covered above, but can be summarised as:

  • Product innovation – fully moved from paper-based sales enquiry process to tablet-based solution across 100 dealerships.
  • Business model innovation – as above, paper process to e-process.
  • Technology innovation – step-change from a mobile-unfriendly web platform to a fully mobile-responsive solution, plus innovative use and modification of single sales lead management solution across 24 brands/100+ dealership locations, many with specific brand needs that the solution needed to cater for.

How have you delivered cultural and behavioural change as a CIO within the IT department and/or more broadly across the organisation?
Strong IT governance has been built over the last two years. This has presented some challenge as there was a degree of freedom at brand level previously. An IT steering committee now forms the basis of investment prioritisation and is attended by CEO, CFO, COO and group commercial director-level roles. It is the foundation for achieving uniformity of solutions and processes across the group, ensuring best use of investment funds, and overall delivering fully effective total cost of ownership for IT.

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?
Formal governance, as covered above, which ensures relevant topics are brought to the table at appropriate times. Typical mechanisms include getting agenda time for topics at hand – the future of digital marketing slots at operations board, for example, one-to-one time with individual franchise and brand directors, slot at main plc board to discuss digital landscape, including threats.

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?
This is pivotal to achieving success, getting best-in-breed where required, as in the lead management example, or fit for purpose, where solutions for needs are more commoditised. The approach I take here is to have an appropriate number of strategic suppliers and partners where Marshall Motor Group’s business is valuable to them, and the scale and capability of individual suppliers is appropriate for us. Supplier flexibility is key, as in the example of tailoring the lead management solution to fit with individual brand needs. Suppliers working together willingly is also a key element of success – our example is the lead management system provider working with another finance solution provider to remove ‘double entry’ between two systems. 

How have you tried to develop the diversity of your team?
Diversity is in the DNA of Marshall Motor Group, and formal self-assessment and testing is part of the new start process for each individual joining. At an IT team level, we have a broad range of backgrounds across the team of 20+. We also conduct an annual staff survey through the Great Place to Work scheme, where diversity is a key question rated by each employee in the company. We score well in this area and in general are a recognised leader in the annual Great Place to Work league in the large company category.

Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
Very formal governance is in place, with a top-level IT steering group chaired by the CEO and attended by CFO, COO, group commercial director and head of IT. This covers one to five-year IT planning items, investment debates, service dashboard, IT risk management, etc. Within IT, governance is structured around regular management/planning meetings, regular architecture reviews, regular IT security/risk reviews, regular support/service improvement reviews. The ITIL framework is used for service management, and Prince2 principles for project methodology.

Wider operations engagement is through IT representation at the ops board, at the appropriate time, for specific topics at hand. Web platform investment and digital agency selection are two examples of items taken from the IT steering debate to wider ops board/stakeholder engagement.

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

  • For web platform, the major system is provided by a specialist motor retail service provider.
  • For lead management solution, a best of breed provider.
  • For ERP equivalent (dealership management system), a tier-1 specialist solution is in use.
  • For IT services support (outside of the core internal IT team when required), various suppliers are used across the technology stack, and geography plays a part in who we use where.

As a policy we do not name or endorse specific supplier/partners.

What are your key strategic aims for next year?
2016 saw some significant changes in digital and in implementing the basics for acquired businesses. Our dealership footprint has grown from circa 60 to over 100 motor retail dealerships over the past year. 2017 will be very much focused on fuller integration of these acquired businesses, standardisation of processes, further exploitation of the new web platform. We also have a group marketing function now in place and considerable joint efforts between IT and marketing are fully exploiting wider digital and traditional B2B channels. Tuckman’s ‘forming, storming norming performing’ principles of group development very much apply here, as we fully integrate the two acquired businesses into Marshall Motor Group.

There will also be further work on end-to-end processes in support of joining up our sales process to enhance the customer experience and drive efficiencies. On the T side of IT, there is significant investment in front-of-house retail technology planned in support of an enhanced customer experience – VIP lounges and interactive media.

Core internal applications will also have significant focus. There will be further exploitation of our home-grown business intelligence tool, roll-out of a strategic financial planning tool and some investment in HR systems in support of our growing employee base.

More mundane but still important items include investment in additional IT security/IT risk management, and serious review of the GDPR to ensure the implications are understood and we are ready for any data protection changes required should implementation proceed to target dates.

In preparation for our 2020 vision of £3bn turnover and over 170 dealerships, there is also groundwork required now.

How are you preparing for any impacts Brexit might have on your organisation?
No specific comments in the area. The UK motor retail market remains very competitive and Marshall Motor Group is well placed and well financed to support any challenges and many opportunities in any trading year. Our growth success/track record and customer focus stand us in good stead.

Brexit may, however, bring some changes to if and how the UK implements EU GDPR policy. Opinion is divided on whether we will continue with full implementation or pick and choose practical elements of the whole.


When did you start your current role?
November 2014

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?
Head of marketing, peer relationship.

How often do you meet with your organisation’s CEO or equivalent?
Formally monthly, informally frequently.

How many people at your organisation does your function supply services to?
Over 4,000


What is your annual IT budget, or your spend as a proportion of the organisation’s revenue?
Less than 1% of turnover. This metric is not a useful comparator in motor retail, which is a high-turnover/very-low-margin sector.

What percentage of your budget is operational spend (ie keeping the lights on) and how much new development (ie innovation, R&D, exploratory IT)?


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

  1. CIO peers
  2. Industry bodies
  3. Consultants
  4. Media
  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?
Covered by my role/head of infrastructure.


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?

  • cloud
  • ERP
  • datacentre/infrastructure/server
  • security
  • AR/VR
  • enterprise applications
  • social
  • devices (mobile)
  • devices (desktop)
  • networking/communications.

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

  • cloud
  • ERP
  • datacentre/infrastructure/server
  • IoT
  • security
  • AR/VR
  • enterprise applications
  • social
  • devices (mobile)
  • devices (desktop)
  • wearables
  • networking/communications.

What emerging technologies are you investigating or expect to have a big impact on your sector or organisation?
AR/VR is making a presence in premier car brands at dealership level and will grow across other brands in time. IoT is very much of interest.


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?