Under Mike Faiers the way the IT department engages with the wider business has fundamentally changed in the last 12 months. He has driven a transformation that helps people find the right solution for their customers, rather than just answer their brief and build something. By running design thinking sessions and hacks, he has got colleagues across the business really understanding what they need for now and the future, and not what they think they want for one activity – a far superior solution.

Full name
Mike Faiers

Job title
E-business and IT director

Company name
BSH Home Appliances

How are you influencing the products, customer experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
As the department responsible for infrastructure, systems, digital, CRM, e-commerce and innovations we have an opportunity to influence a number of internal and external customers and end consumers. End consumers will visit our websites and online stores, receive email communications and download our apps. Internal customers use our IT products and solutions, as do external customers such as the retail partners we work with to integrate systems. Since the inception of my department I have always focused on being consumer-centric, thinking first of customers’ needs and expectations and then how we best fulfil them.

We are actively influencing the end consumer experience by launching new, fully responsive websites for two of our brands, Bosch and NEFF in 2017. We are continuously refining our online stores, which sell a selection of our products directly to consumers, whether providing more flexible delivery options or creating buying guides to make it easier for a consumer to find the right product for them. We will also continue to develop our CRM programme, designed to better understand, and build a long-term relationship with, our consumers.

For our internal customers we use our partner programme to involve key stakeholders and representatives from across the business in the development of new systems and technology. We will continue to use Net Promoter Score (NPS) to benchmark the service we provide and look for ways to improve.

We are taking a more proactive approach with our retailer partners, rather than using account managers to relay information. We are establishing direct contacts both for the improvement of existing services, such as EDI or web portals, and also bringing proof of concepts to life as pilots in retail environments.

The way we engage with the wider business has fundamentally changed in the last 12 months too. Now we support people to help them find the right solution for their customers, not just answer their brief and build something. By running design thinking sessions and hacks, we can help them really understand what they need for now and the future, not what they think they want for one activity. Investing this time before initiating a project helps to fully understand the problem or opportunity and creates a far superior solution.

Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the last 12 months and their impact on your organisation’s performance
One of my focal points for 2016 was to use NPS to benchmark the service we provide to our internal customers and look for opportunities to improve. We ran our first survey in May, and while we scored OK there was definitely room for improvement, particularly across two areas which required immediate attention. These areas were the ease of raising a ticket or job request on our service desk and keeping people informed about the status of their tickets.

We created video guides and a new front end for the portal, and ran drop-in sessions to educate people and make it easier for them to raise a ticket and follow its progress. We then redesigned the customer touchpoints and interactions around the service desk, focusing on what the customer experienced, and adapting our internal processes and KPIs to meet their requirements. We now contact everyone with open incidents every 48 hours to give them an update – and whenever possible by phone rather than just sending another email.

These are only two small examples of the many changes we’ve made, but we have already seen significant improvements – the last NPS score increased by nearly 40% in just six months. It’s a great start, and we will continue to look for opportunities to enhance the service we provide.

As well as looking at the service we provide to our users we have also spent considerable time and effort safeguarding our business by significantly investing in our infrastructure and operations, including upgrading and enhancing the resilience of our core network and rolling out a 24x7 support service for our contact centre and logistics functions.

Part of this programme of work was to review our critical systems, which resulted in a series of projects to update or replace legacy systems to ensure they were fit for purpose. One such project involved the replacement of a core system, which was originally developed in a now obsolete language and as a result had limited support and knowledge of its architecture. We also had a large user base who didn’t understand the whole system – only the parts relevant to the tasks they carried out. At the beginning of the project we spent a lot of time consulting with users to understand why they did things rather than what they did. We are now in the final stages of rolling out SAP transport management, which will have a substantial impact on our business, providing not only a modern, robust, SAP platform with full integration into our existing systems landscape, but also a 24x7 support service and real-time information, which was previously obtainable only by running a series of reports.

One of the biggest projects of 2016 was to create a CRM programme which incorporates traditional email marketing and profiling. We are now able to send dynamic emails to consumers, including replacing sections of the email with content relevant to them, their interests and their purchases. We can then send reflex emails based on what they said and how they interacted with the first email. The results of this have been impressive, with open rates and click-throughs recorded at more than double that of previous campaigns. There has been a substantial increase in activities as a result of the emails too, with a significant number of product reviews being created and videos being watched on our YouTube pages.

We also built a profiling tool which enables us to interrogate our consumer data. As a result, we can now make more informed decisions and advise our media agencies where to place adverts rather than relying on consumer insights. It’s all based on what we know about the people who actually buy our products.

What has been your involvement with innovation at your organisation – in particular, with products, business model and technology – over the last 12 months?
We regularly create proofs of concept and run pilots to see if a new way of working or piece of technology can benefit the business. An example of this was when we created a simple prototype using an iBeacon to trigger a video. Following this we built a proof of concept showing how iBeacons could be used in a retail environment to support the explanation of products and features using branded video content. After demonstrating this to retailer partners at trade shows we now have a pilot running in a variety of retailers where sales advisers are using tablets to deliver branded, centrally managed video content directly to consumers. The feedback has been very positive and the product will be further developed and rolled out throughout 2017.

We wanted to simplify the way we collaborate. We had limited meeting rooms, projectors and lots of cables. We trialled a new wireless presenting solution and, following a successful pilot, rolled it out across all of our GB and IE sites. This introduced a consistent way of connecting and presenting regardless of site or meeting room.

Although this could be considered a minor ‘business as usual’ type project, the way we approached it was to start with the customer – what was the problem they faced? The inconsistent configuration of equipment across meeting rooms often required one of the meeting participants to be an AV specialist to get a presentation set up. Based on this, our approach was to create something very simple, user-friendly and consistent across all rooms and locations.  There were a number of additional benefits which came with the solution, such as collaborative tools, but we waited until users were comfortable with the technology before introducing new features.

We also recently unveiled an innovation lab, a space where we can showcase and bring to life the latest technology such as IoT, VR, AR, 3D printing and lots more. There are two key objectives for the space: the first is to demonstrate the smart home features of our domestic appliances to partners, the second is to inspire our colleagues about what is possible and encourage them to think differently.

How have you delivered cultural and behavioural change as a CIO within the IT department and/or more broadly across the organisation?
The biggest single cultural change has been to form an e-business department. We did this by merging ‘digital’ with the existing IT department. In the beginning we had two very different teams who in theory had some interactions in the projects they ran but were still two disparate entities. We started by reviewing all of the systems and processes, questioning what we did and why we did it. I then restructured the department, focusing on being more consumer-centric.

One of the biggest changes was to think of ourselves differently, which led to engaging with the business in a different way. The IT team used to be what I would call administrators – people who administer a task, such as configuring a new laptop or setting up a server. They had little appreciation for either the end user or the impact of what they were doing had to the wider business because they were focused on the task.

Now they are consultants – people with advanced technical knowledge and a deep understanding of our business and processes. They have the ability to understand user requirements and match them to technical solutions. They spend time working with different business functions, understanding their processes, systems and pinchpoints, and therefore seeing first hand where they can make a difference through the use of technology, systems or processes. This in turn has changed how the business approaches and engages with us as a department. Rather than waiting to be asked to ‘do something’ in a business project, we’re now involved at the very beginning.

It took some time to shape and launch, but we’re really seeing the benefit of sitting together as one department and are delivering tangible value to the business. This can be seen in a significant reduction in time to market for new products and services, a higher rate of customer satisfaction in our NPS surveys and ultimately the delivery of fit-for-purpose solutions to the business. Our consultative approach has not only encouraged the business to engage with us earlier, people are now coming to us with their ideas or problems and asking us to run hacks and design thinking sessions for them. It’s a far cry from where we were just 18 months ago.

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?
As a member of the leadership team I spend a lot of my time interacting with other directors and building relationships. I see my department as a service function to the business and we are ultimately accountable to our internal customers, so their engagement and input into what we set out to achieve and the way we approach it is essential. From the outset I included the leadership team in the development of our department strategy.

Merging IT with digital to form a new e-business department has enabled us to relaunch and rebrand who we are and what we do. As a business we no longer talk about IT, only e-business. This change had to work both ways. We couldn’t just ask people to think of us differently and involve us earlier in their projects, we also needed to engage other departments earlier in our ‘IT’ projects. Rather than just rolling out new technology and applications we actively involve business stakeholders to ensure that we fully understand the business requirements and roll out a suitable solution in a cohesive way. This has bred understanding and engagement from the beginning and has resulted in greater success and adoption of new technology and systems.

We have also run hacks for members of the management team – in one case for over 40 people to show them a different way of problem solving and working together. Hacks are also a great showcase for the capabilities of my team.

Finally, we introduced an e-business partner programme to engage the wider business in what we do. While we have a cross-section of people from every department represented, it was also important that we included representatives from the leadership team, so our marketing director and one of our channel directors have joined the programme, and are actively participating in what we do.

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?
Part of the journey in creating the e-business department was to appoint a partner to provide IT support to our users, thus freeing up capacity within the infrastructure team to focus on being proactive and consultative with the business. We appointed Bluecube, a managed services provider to deliver this support. They build, fix and replace user devices as well as provide first and second-line on-site support.

Onboarding an external supplier to provide the service we wanted took careful planning and implementation. From the outset we wanted the external company to be an extension of us, to integrate with the business and be representatives of the department. To achieve this, both our internal team and the supplier wear e-business-branded polo shirts, so regardless of who is on site everyone recognises a member of the infrastructure team. It’s a little thing, but the visibility, and in turn the approachability of the team, is important. We paid particular attention to our training programme and documentation, ensuring that anybody who came on site knew our processes and systems, and was able to offer an effective level of support as quickly as possible.

We also appointed a new digital agency, Amaze. While our previous digital agency was technically very strong, we wanted to form a long-term strategic partnership – someone who could work alongside us and really understand our customers, products and business. This was a key milestone for us as until this point we had used digital agencies in a very transactional way. We gave them a piece of work or project to do and they would just ‘put it live’; now they work alongside our internal teams on a full programme of work and are actively involved in the development of our long-term digital strategy.

How have you tried to develop the diversity of your team?
I actively encourage cross-functional working within our department – bringing together people who would not normally work together in hacks and project teams. Also, having someone who leads a project who is not the subject matter expert or normally works with the project team brings new ways of working and disruptive ideas, and cultivates new relationships. Predominantly we use this approach for internal projects. However, I see real benefit in adopting this approach in the wider business and have started running a number of cross-departmental projects in this way.

I also hold quarterly department meetings where as well as team building activities each member of the department presents what they’ve recently delivered and their current projects. I believe part of building a successful and multidisciplined team is openly sharing what each person is working on and understanding each other’s priorities, as well as celebrating the success of what we achieve.

Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
My department is split into four teams:

  • Digital and CRM are responsible for digital platforms, such as the brand websites. They effectively operate as a sub-agency within the business, working alongside the brand/trade marketing teams to develop briefs and manage the delivery of projects with our digital agency. They are also responsible for managing and developing our CRM system.
  • E-commerce and innovation develop all aspects of our e-commerce offering, including the management of our consumer and employee online stores. They are thought leaders for innovation and do everything from running hacks for other departments to developing proofs of concept and building apps.
  • Infrastructure has two key areas of responsibility. First, it is the main point of contact for ‘IT’ issues within the business and therefore to most people the face of the department. Working alongside our global service desk it provides first and second-line support as well as rolling out new devices and technology. It is also responsible for developing and supporting our enterprise network.
  • The systems team supports and develops our business applications, such as SAP, EDI and a number of locally developed systems. It works alongside the business functions to understand their systems and processes and is constantly looking for ways to drive change.

By having four distinct teams working alongside each other we offer a specialist yet integrated approach to supporting the business. We also spend a lot of time talking with stakeholders across the business to understand their strategy and get their feedback on the service we deliver. This enables us to map our departmental strategy to their requirements, constantly refine our service offering and constructively challenge each other.

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

  • Bluecube is our IT support partner and provides first and second-line support to our users. They work alongside our in-house teams and have freed up capacity for our engineers to take a much more proactive and consultative approach to ensuring we provide the best possible service to our customers.
  • We have a mobile and innovation agency, Somo, who we work closely with to develop proofs of concept, some of which are then developed into full products.
  • Amaze is our digital partner. It manages and supports our digital destinations, including our brand websites and e-commerce platforms.

What are your key strategic aims for next year?
My main goal is to digitally empower and technically enable everyone who interacts with the department.  From my perspective, technically enabling is easy – we give somebody a new piece of technology or system. It’s empowerment which is the key. How do we understand the customer’s requirements and ensure we give them the right technology or application, and then educate them to get the most from it?

A key initiative for realising this is the introduction of a partner programme, where we have taken a cross-section of people from every department in the business and created a ‘club’ of e-business partners. We are giving them the opportunity to influence new technology and systems at an early stage, and as a result each department will have its own super user who will be involved in the developments and new technology that will impact its team. This will enable the business to adopt new technology faster, and provide real consumer testing to ensure suitability and fitness for purpose.

We are also investing significantly in our digital touchpoints, with new brand websites coming in 2017 and the continued development of our CRM programme. We will continue to challenge and inspire the business to be innovative through hacks, design thinking and proofs of concept.

How are you preparing for any impacts Brexit might have on your organisation?
I don’t think we’ve seen the full impact yet. There has been a lot of anticipation and some nervousness since the vote, but I think we’re still waiting to see the real impact. As a European company we will be prepared, but until the rules and guidelines are known it’s difficult to say.

When did you start your current role?
May 2014

What is your reporting line?
CFO

Are you a member of the executive leadership?
Yes

Are you a member of the board of directors?
No

What other emerging roles does your organisation have and what is their relationship to you?
As e-business director I am responsible for IT (infrastructure and systems) as well as digital, innovation, e-commerce and CRM. We have a data specialist who sits in another department and works closely with us on relevant topics.

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

How many people at your organisation does your function supply services to?
All UK and IE employees – approximately 1,200.

IT budget

What is your annual IT budget, or your spend as a proportion of the organisation’s revenue?
Approximately 1%

What percentage of your budget is operational spend (ie keeping the lights on) and how much new development (ie innovation, R&D, exploratory IT)?
60% operational, 40% innovation.

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

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

IT security

Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?
No

Are you expecting an increase in budget specific to security in order to tackle the cyber threat?
No

Does your organisation have a designated security professional – CISO or otherwise – and what is their relationship to you?
We have a data officer who is responsible for data integrity/security. Functionally they sit in another department but we work closely with them in both an IT and digital/CRM capacity.

BSH Home Appliances IT department

Are you finding it difficult to recruit the talent you need to drive transformation?
Yes

Has recruitment and retention risen up your agenda as a CIO?
Yes

Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme?
Yes

How many employees are there in your IT team?
20

Are you increasing your headcount or planning to bring skills and the ability to react to needs in-house?
No

Which technologies or areas are you expecting to be investing in over the next year?

  • data analytics/business intelligence
  • CRM
  • IoT
  • AR/VR
  • devices (mobile)
  • devices (desktop)
  • networking/communications.

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

  • data analytics/business intelligence
  • CRM
  • IoT
  • security
  • AR/VR
  • enterprise applications
  • devices (mobile)
  • devices (desktop).

What emerging technologies are you investigating or expect to have a big impact on your sector or organisation?
The smart home (IoT). Although it’s here now, the rate of adoption is only going to increase in 2017, and I believe users will move from aspiration ‘I’d like that product because it can do xyz’ to an expectation that all products should do xyz. One of the consequences of this is an increasing demand for IT to do something meaningful with the data that is collected and ensure that it is securely stored and managed.

The amount of data created by end consumers, users, systems, etc, is vast and there is a growing need to aggregate and present the data in such a way that the business can derive actions. I think 2017 will represent a significant milestone in this respect for those willing to think differently. At the moment there is simply too much data to be useful and even the specialists often don’t know where to start. However those willing to bring together cross-sections of their organisation and people with a range of disciplines and experience in hacks and workshops may find interesting and tangible uses for the data which the specialist would never have considered.

I see this approach and way of working as a key success factor for 2017. People willing to try it and see the benefits it brings will quickly realise that the knowledge and ideas needed to bring ‘IT’ projects to life sometimes don’t sit in the IT department.

I also see a great opportunity for VR/AR. With a limited amount of space in retail environments and increasing product ranges, intelligent ways of enabling a consumer to visualise and interact with a product that might not be physically on display are needed. We have played with this technology before, but I think the market and consumers are ready for it to become mainstream.

The EU

Does your organisation do a significant amount of trade with the EU?
Yes

Does your department include technology staff from the EU?
Yes

Are you or have you been looking to the EU to recruit key skills?
Yes