Recently appointed interim group CIO, Gideon Kay has started as he means to go on. He has delivered a data platform to some of Dentsu Aegis Network’s biggest global clients. He has introduced a collaboration and innovation platform in the shape of Office 365 (a roll-out approaching 90% completion in over 100 countries and for nearly 40,000 staff). And he has driven a faster and more structured approach to M&A – and the business is a heavy acquirer of organisations – in both due diligence and integration, with significant business benefits.
Group CIO (interim) and CIO EMEA
Dentsu Aegis Network
How are you influencing the products, customer experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
In our industry most, if not all, of our products and services have technology at their core. As a Technology Leader and for the whole function - we are working closely with our colleagues in the rest of the organisation to enhance these capabilities - investigate and introduce innovation and where relevant and possible interact directly with our clients on the shape and pace of digital for marketing and advertising.
As a leader - my approach is to set the agenda, and work very closely with our existing businesses and crucially with our acquisition targets and process to ensure we are developing and buying in the right capability. I am also driving our strategic vendors/partners to demonstrate capability we can use in delivering to our clients.
Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the last 12 months and their impact on your organisation’s performance
There are several that would fit into this category and I will focus on three business outcomes that have been delivered and continue to be progressed in our organisation:
- Accelerate and pivot our data strategy: We have developed a significant knowledge base and capability in this area and delivered a data platform to some of our biggest global clients. This hasnt always been easy and there are plenty more "hard yards" to go with this but it is something that has demonstrated our ability to really deliver in the data arena which is critical in our industry.
- Collaboration and innovation: We have gone from a standing start in terms of Office 365 adoption to nearly 90% complete across the globe through over 100 countries and nearly 40,000 staff. This has significantly enhanced the ability of colleagues to collaborate across our agency network and work in a more agile fashion.
- M&A acceleration: We are a heavy acquirer of organisations and so joining up our capability and driving a faster and more structured approach both to due diligence and integration has delivered significant business benefits including enhancing our already strong track record of delivering value from the deals we complete. There is much more to do in this area but it is a strong start with clear measurable results.
What has been your involvement with innovation at your organisation – in particular, with products, business model and technology – over the last 12 months?
My approach to innovation has been focused around three areas:
- Partnering: We are work far more constructively with our partners - challenging them around their roadmaps and looking at where and how they are innovating themselves to determine what is relevant to us for our product innovation and technology innovation. This is especially relevant in the data arena.
- Agile piloting: My leadership team has been more focused around where we can fail fast on pilot innovations - being in a large number of markets allows us to test things in small/medium and large contexts and really work out what is relevant and useful and what isn't.
- Bottom-up innovation: We have a large workforce with very digital skills and therefore a lot of our innovation approach is to seek out innovation already happening and seeing how we can make that scale more globally. We havent yet looked at a more formal process for this including incentives but it is something I have implemented in previous organisations.
How have you delivered cultural and behavioural change as a CIO within the IT department and/or more broadly across the organisation?
My mantra for our IT organisation is to ensure we are fully aligned with the rest of the business. There are people whose roles don't easily allow this to happen - but we are more and more focused on engineering those opportunities. My leadership style is one of regular, clear and honest communication to all levels to support that and even in the age of Skype etc - I work hard to ensure that me and the leadership team are personally physically visible across our global network.
I am a very strong proponent of and try and live up to our values as an organisation - Agile, Responsible, Collaborative, Pioneering and Ambitious. I think leaders need to act according to these on every occasion.
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?
I have worked extensively with both regional and global leadership on this area. We have a global ambition to be 100% digital by 2020 which is especially relevant for the work we do with our clients. Clearly our industry is very much driven by this already and it is my challenge with other senior execs to look at how we stay ahead of the curve in this area.
Digital literacy at various levels of the organisation is fairly high at present - I have been focused on how we continue to improve that and bring in critical and innovative thinking from the external market - through peers and partners to enhance this.
For our organisation newly acquired organisations accelerate this and bring in talent and knowledge that helps us achieve our vision. My focus from a technology leadership perspective is to look at how we can bring the companies on board and integrate the talent pool and knowledge into the rest of the network.
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?
I have lead a number of strategic workshops recently with our core vendors to look at our business goals and how what they do fits within this framework. I maintain the relationships at a senior level on a relatively frequent basis in order to ensure alignment. I believe that these type of partnerships need to be deep, strategic but also challenging on both sides to achieve success.
I am encouraging good cross-collaboration, secondments where relevant including shadowing and other mechanisms to really understand how we can make the best of what is on offer. I am also looking into creating more effective relationships with the startup community - especially in the MarTech space.
How have you tried to develop the diversity of your team?
In previous organisations I have been able to balance the diversity of my teams - including at my former organisation having my successor as a female leader who got the job once I left for this organisation.
At present I am working through (in my interim capacity) where we are with this in Dentsu Aegis Network. Our industry is well balanced and our organisation maps that well. My priority for 2017 would be to look at how we get a better balance into our Technology Function.
Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
IT is operated globally through a supply and demand model. Outside of the core support functions for IT (including finance, HR, comms and global security), we run our CTO, global apps and global service function globally. We also run our global functional transformation programme through a global team. We operate strongly with partners, especially TCS, who we have a long-standing relationship with to deliver some of our core capabilities.
Regionally we have a strong CIO function, and each market or set of markets has local IT leadership that sits as part of the regional organisation and feed into the global team.
This aligns with how other functions operate in the group and we are looking at how we re-architect this approach in line with our evolving operating model.
What strategic technology deals have you made in the last year and who are your main suppliers and IT partners?
In the last year, our technology partnerships have remained strong, with a core set of partners from Microsoft, TCS, Level3, Colt and a number of others.
In 2016 we have made significant progress around our HR capability, with a global deal in place with WorkDay, and other work in adjacent areas including expense management.
We have inherited through our acquisition of Merkle a strong SalesForce relationship that we will build on across the network as relevant.
What are your key strategic aims for next year?
For 2017 my aims are centred on aiding the business to scale at pace and across our multiple geographies. At a more granular level, these aims are around driving more aggressively into cloud adoption for the organisation, leading further transformational change to support our functional transformations, and continuing to enhance our capability around big data and analytics. Developing and driving our relationships with our strategic suppliers, especially as some of these come up for review, are also essential.
Last, but not least, my ongoing desire to deliver innovation into the business across all areas, brands and domains is a key personal priority and one for the entire function.
How are you preparing for any impacts Brexit might have on your organisation?
The HQ for Dentsu Aegis Network is in London, and the UK is one of our largest markets, so it does and will have an impact. We are a very diverse organisation with operations that are truly global in nature, and so feel that our portfolio approach will aid in mitigating any impact of Brexit.
At present we are doing an amount of planning but until the decisions are made politically as to the shape of the Brexit approach it is too early to implement any of these plans.
When did you start your current role?
CIO EMEA – January 2014. Group CIO (interim) – August 2016.
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?
Global chief data officer – reports to a colleague at global exec level. There are chief digital officers in a number of our brands, both regionally and market by market.
How often do you meet with your organisation’s CEO or equivalent?
Every four to six weeks.
How many people at your organisation does your function supply services to?
What percentage of your budget is operational spend (ie keeping the lights on) and how much new development (ie innovation, R&D, exploratory IT)?
70-80% on operational spend, and the rest on innovation in the core IT budget.
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?
CISO – reports to me
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?
Over 500 internal staff with 200-300 dedicated external staff
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)
- devices (desktop)
Which technologies or areas are you expecting to be investing in over the next one to three years?
- data analytics/business intelligence
- enterprise applications
- machine learning/artificial intelligence
- devices (mobile).
What emerging technologies are you investigating or expect to have a big impact on your sector or organisation?
Machine learning and big data analytics are already having a major impact, and we expect them to keep impacting the sector as a whole. AR/VR and some of the emerging voice-driven device technologies (Alexa, for example) are also things we are tracking.
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?