The big win for Seth Profit in 2016 was his transformation of an in-house product by merging various products into one. As a result, B&H has been able to sell freight services packaged with IT solutions, which is a significant differentiator in the marketplace. It has turned what was a large overhead cost into a new revenue stream, laying a foundation for further growth and profitability across the entire group.
How are you influencing the products, customer experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
As part of our monthly board meetings, the leadership team reviews corporate finance performance, but also marketing (brand recognition) and sales-related activities. We have collected data on different sales and marketing channels, and I have presented tools to analysis this data to identify what channels are most successful, what products are being requested per channel, etc. For our new website release in 2016, I extended these tools to increase the effectiveness of our web-based marketing campaigns. This helps us determine investment and/or changes to our products and services to meet our customers’ demands more effectively.
In addition, I visit customers with the local leadership teams on a global scale to better understand how we can use technology to separate ourselves from the competition. I am currently part of two bid teams that are putting together services and solutions not only to win business, but extend our presence into other geographies around the world.
Finally, I lead our software and services company, which sells logistics software and provides cloud services to logistics companies.
Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the last 12 months and their impact on your organisation’s performance
The business and IT initiatives I have undertaken over the past 12 months include:
- continuing to develop the product and service offerings for our software and services company (InTech)
- setting the process and management for sales advisory and lead consultancy opportunities
- selling InTech’s first cloud services and IT support contract
- leading aspects of the branding and marketing campaign
- overseeing the build and deployment of our new website
- migrating to a new cloud infrastructure provider and continuing to move local infrastructure to IaaS (80% of infrastructure complete)
- enhancing security across local offices
- upgrading our operations and billing system
- renegotiating our telecommunication contracts (Europe) and moving to SIP
- assisting in the reorganisation of the EMEA management and operations teams
- setting up outsourcing in India and Vietnam for InTech development and support
- deploying the company’s first CRM system to continue to focus on sales activities globally
- implementing a new helpdesk system and processes.
InTech has allowed B&H to sell freight services packaged with IT solutions, which is a differentiator in the marketplace (dedicated IT software company solely developing and managing IT solutions in logistics). InTech has turned a large overhead cost into a new revenue stream, which sets the foundation for further growth and more importantly profitability across the entire group.
To continue growth for InTech and maintain our cost base, I have outsourced some of the development and support of our software products to Vietnam and India, where we have seen a positive impact on moving our development initiatives forward while our core group of developers in the UK support legacy products and drive innovation for the next generation of the product.
This is the first time in its 27 years of existence that B&H has had a dedicated sales staff globally in the marketplace selling direct to the customer, and the new CRM system has allowed to track our customer engagement and sales activities.
I have helped structure account management, sales tactics, consultancy practices and standards within the organisation based on my previous large corporate sales experience, which has fed into the design of the CRM system. I have also been involved in increasing brand recognition, set up multiple marketing channels (eg social media) and deployed a new website.
To increase the mobility of our employees I have continued to utilise the Office 365 toolset and continue to move local hardware to the cloud. Additional positive impacts on our business by moving local hardware to the cloud are less risk of lost data, greater security, a reduced carbon footprint, the ability to implement a new disaster recovery solution in 2017, and the construction of a data warehouse for the new business intelligence tool (to be rolled out in 2017).
In the last 12 months, we have been upgrading our operations and IT ticketing systems so we can drive efficiencies across the organisation. The IT ticketing system has allowed me to develop analytical reporting on issues across the organisation so new programmes can be developed to address ageing technology in all areas of the globe. The ops system upgrade has allowed us to increase productivity in operations by laying a foundation to automate processes through integration and report more accurately on business performance. Finally, the new ops system pushes the organisation into a more standard data model, which again sets up our 2017 agenda to deploy a group business intelligence tool.
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: I have led the transformation of our in-house product by merging various products into one. I oversee the design and development of the new product, which is incorporating new technologies and development techniques. By upgrading our product, our customers and internal staff will be on the same product for the first time in 16 years. This will enhance our support and enable us to make improvements to our business and customers more quickly. In addition, the new product will be sold to the market starting Q2 2017 as standalone, which is another first for our organisation. This allows InTech to expand its services by adding data management as a product. Data management in this instance allows customers to have all their logistics data in one system, which is a step forward for the industry due to the traditional ways of working within bespoke systems.
Business model innovation: There are three business changes that I directly completed or assisted in: the EMEA reorganisation, the introduction of an outsourcing model for IT, and the introduction of IT solutions for our lead logistics provider (LLP) product. The reorganisation of the EMEA organisation was a result of the decline in financial and operational performance. Restructuring this business unit has put a focus on sales and customer service plus KPIs that track the progress of the changes. Outsourcing portions of IT support and development to an offshore model has allowed us to do more with the same budget, which was needed to maintain growth and maintain working capital for other business initiatives. Finally, I introduced new IT solutions to support the LLP product that we formally introduced to the market in early 2016. These solutions allow us to report on various logistics providers and maintain visibility for all logistics movements for the customer.
Technology innovation: In addition to the new products we will be taking to the market in 2017, the upgraded systems have increased our process automation, which will raise productivity across business functions (operations and finance). In addition, the move to a new infrastructure cloud provider/datacentre has allowed us to use new software tools to monitor, move and recover our company systems. This was not achievable with our old resource profile or infrastructure architecture.
How have you delivered cultural and behavioural change as a CIO within the IT department and/or more broadly across the organisation?
My experience and performance-driven mentality has brought several positives to the business. They include:
- I have coached/assisted with focusing on sales pipelines, account management and upgrading our marketing to align with our solutions, to help create a sales-driven organisation.
- I have led aspects of our branding and marketing agenda.
- I have constantly lectured about being a finisher on initiatives that we start.
- I have led results-driven initiatives (eg cost reduction, sales/marketing tasks) in conjunction with the CEO
- I have assisted the CEO and finance director in growth by acquisition or merger – part of due diligence activities and documenting business plans for potential M&A companies.
- I have led process review with department leads – this has led to process efficiencies and system automation, which is led by IT and supported by the business.
- I have worked with the CEO and FD to restructure the leadership team to enable us to grow.
- I have restructured the IT team based on business alignment, skillset and hybrid of in-house vs. vendor-led skills.
- I have led the development and growth of the InTech software company to open up new revenue streams and reduce overhead costs.
- I have designed existing and new InTech products to align with market/customer needs.
- I have deployed IT solutions to promote internal collaboration and automation.
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 part of the board, I present monthly on technology changes and future changes to enable our business to be flexible and enable growth. The board understands the importance of our internal technology to operate our business and encourages sales staff to promote our external industry-specific technology products, which is a differentiator for B&H in the market.
Finally, I work with all leadership across the globe to outline the changes that we will be incorporating in the business and why. The leadership team (board included) can then add or adjust the priority of the changes based on business initiatives. Digital transformation within B&H is ongoing and continual improvement to IT is a necessity to ensure our organisation does not fall behind the competition. My close relationships with the leadership team ensure that once we are digital the journey does not stop; investment is needed to maintain our competitive advantage in the market, and digital transformation will happen yearly, albeit on a different scale.
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 believe the most important part of supplier management and making our suppliers work harder for us is to show our vision (business goals) and continually meet with them to outline what has gone well, what they need to improve on, and listen to what we as an organisation could be doing better. We volunteer to showcase our solutions to our suppliers’ potential customers, and I write letters of recommendation or meet directly with current suppliers. I believe this will only make their services and products better due to expanding my network and their capability as suppliers.
Based on the size of B&H, I traditionally use small business providers or startups. I find that they work harder for my organisation and the value they bring is superior to the larger organisations. However, we do use a lot of large IT company products (eg Microsoft). To get support and the best out of a product we go back to the small business market to procure the product or service. This allows us to get the personalised service and they act as the middleman to deal with the large corporations, which can be very time-consuming.
How have you tried to develop the diversity of your team?
When I first joined B&H, IT was ruled by an individual with an aged knowledge of technology, and there was minimal engagement from vendors, customers or third parties in general. Changing this culture meant changes in skills and staff, and increasing our vendor management activities to gain insight into new technology and to mature as an IT department.
I have an open mind on who is hired (women and multinational resources) for the team. The previous team was stagnant, with the same mindset, background and career goals (developer-only vs moving the company forward through technology). This has now changed. There is new insight from having various skillsets and backgrounds in IT and customer service. Everyone has a voice –I want ideas from all staff to make our stakeholders (employees, customers, vendors, etc) better off. Enabling this led to many ideas that are being implemented.
I encourage collaboration within the team to come up with new ideas. IT shouldn’t be the enemy. I walked the floor to get feedback and listen to the business; my team does this now to ensure we are engaging with our end users. Our InTech and support staff are encouraged to speak with our customers’ end-users to develop better user experiences with our technologies.
Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
The IT strategy aligns with corporate objectives and strives to meet customer expectations. Our IT staff are multiskilled and expected to be flexible with the demands of the business and our customer base, which has been successful to date. There is no longer a ‘not my responsibility’ culture. Our IT resources understand that customer and end-users are our number one priority.
The organisation of our IT department aligns with regional office sizes to ensure the larger offices and customer bases have internal IT resources to meet their needs through support, new solutions or IT training. Our smaller offices lean on our vendors to provide this insight as well as our internal resources remotely.
Finally, we align our IT skills with market demand, not necessarily business or customer demand. We are implementing scalable and flexible cloud solutions, which takes slightly different skills to manage (customer services and process-driven skills vs 100% technical skills). We use vendors for the detailed (eg specific to on-premise application, etc) skills that may be redundant or have a shelf-life due to how applications are being deployed in the business. This IT organisation style allows us to scale and be proactive for our business operations and customer base.
What strategic technology deals have you made in the last year and who are your main suppliers and IT partners?
- Bytes – Office 365, CRM and Sophos licences agreement, consolidating multiple vendors to one for cost savings and better service
- Hyve – global IaaS/storage, which assists us in meeting our green goals and reducing our carbon footprint, allows us to reduce on-premise hardware and move to the cloud, reducing staff overheads – we moved away from Rackspace to receive better service.
- BoxTop Technologies – for global operation system and support, with a rolling licence agreement, and consolidation of licences and a more flexible licensing agreement to allow us to scale
- TechQuarters – to implement and support Office 365, and used for our InTech business cloud services.
My major suppliers are:
- Bytes – Microsoft and Sophos licensing
- TechQuarters – ad hoc Microsoft support
- Rackspace and Hyve – global IaaS/storage
- BoxTop Technologies – global operation system and support
- Vodafone – all non-US mobile solutions
- Alternative Networks, AT&T, SingTel and Telstra – telcos
- Avante – global IT support and general support for level 1 and 2; B&H/InTech handles level 3 and above.
What are your key strategic aims for next year?
Our business has an aggressive plan to grow across the globe. This includes opening new offices, hiring more sales-focused resources and adding new products/services. With these changes, IT must continue to be flexible, scalable and just plain fast in delivering solutions. In addition, the business has to have tools to monitor investment vs growth.
As a result, we will be focused on the following activities:
- continue to remove local hardware and move to the cloud to ensure adding new offices to our network happens in days and not weeks
- implement a business intelligence tool and reporting function to standardise our approach to reporting for customers and internal functions
- continue to upgrade our operations systems to drive productivity
- renegotiate telecom contracts to get more for less
- review security to ensure our customer and employee data meets Privacy Shield standards and local laws
- rebrand and deploy our InTech software and services to add new revenue channels for the business.
I have changed most IT solutions and architecture in the last three years to ensure that B&H as a global business can aggressively grow. The foundation is now in place, and improving our tools to make analytics-driven decisions is a priority to ensure where we are investing is being transformed into financial return.
How are you preparing for any impacts Brexit might have on your organisation?
We do not foresee Brexit having a huge impact on our business. However, the uncertainties of Europe as an open market and trade changes (customs agreement) are concerning us, just like all UK businesses that do business in Europe. We are expanding our footprint outside of Europe aggressively in regions such as the Americas and Asia to reduce the impact of Brexit once it happens. In addition, IT is moving to cloud solutions to reduce the impact to the business in case B&H has to relocate or set up more offices to reduce the impact of Brexit.
I have a growing concern within the IT industry on the quality of the resources available in the UK market. The market is limited, with quality cloud skills at a competitive rate. I have seen salaries increase by more than 25% when cloud is in the skillset or title. This is one of the reasons why we are setting up offshore capabilities (ie to reduce Brexit impact and find the skills we need at a competitive rate).
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?
None. A company our size is focusing on delivery of our programmes and utilising the current resources to expand into other functions such as security expert/champion.
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?
What percentage of your budget is operational spend (ie keeping the lights on) and how much new development (ie innovation, R&D, exploratory IT)?
80% on keep the lights on, and 20% on new projects/development for B&H. For our InTech business, 80% new development and R&D, and 20% keeping the lights on.
Rank the following sources of advice/information in order of importance:
- CIO peers
- Industry bodies
- 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?
Indirectly – the technical architect is responsible for this function and reports direct 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?
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
- 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
- devices (desktop)
What emerging technologies are you investigating or expect to have a big impact on your sector or organisation?
IoT and cognitive computing.
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?