The bulk of Steven Capper’s IT spend goes into keeping the lights on, and how those lights shine! His introduction of a virtual desktop infrastructure allows 24/7 working around the world, with data shared in real time and thousands of hours saved each day in up/downloading large design files. The roll-out of virtual reality capabilities allows clients to see the finished construction before a single brick has been laid. Even integrating 66 legacy company domains and multiple systems following the acquisition of a major company went through with no business disruption. All have significantly improved the overall performance of the company, increasing revenue and saving millions.
Chief technology officer
How are you influencing the products, customer experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
AECOM is the no. 1 global design firm, with 92,000 employees in 1,900 locations across 150 countries and a turnover of over $20bn. Responsible for some of the most iconic structures around the world, including the World Trade Center, LAX Airport, the London Olympic Park and the Rio Olympic Park.
We have delivered many solutions that facilitate an improved customer experience and services to AECOM customers:
Virtual desktop infrastructure: This facilitates 24/7 working across our global delivery centres, sharing data in real time and saving thousands of hours up/downloading large design files. This is also allowing AECOM to bring experts into the project on demand, without having to fly them halfway around the world.
Virtual reality: This allows us to immerse our clients in the design. For instance, we can give them a full walk-through of a stadium, allowing them to see the finished article before a single brick has been laid. It also gives them a real feel of what the sound will be like on match day with the roof open or closed.
Cloud: We have implemented several major cloud solutions such as Cisco Jabber, Cisco Spark and Webex, deployed to 92,000 staff, and removing 15 different legacy tools. This allows our internal customers to collaborate with our clients through IM, presence, screen sharing, voice and video from any device, along with Cisco Spark to create collaboration rooms that are changing the way our people work. The cloud solutions also link to the state of the art videoconferencing suites we have across many of our global offices.
Active directory: When you bring together the two largest companies in the AEC (architecture, engineering, construction) space, it presents significant challenges. Over the last 12 months we have consolidated 66 legacy company domains into one, with no business disruption! We have also applied Okta cloud single sign-on to seamlessly connect our users to critical business systems. It dramatically reduces complexity and major delays in sharing information. This has also allowed us to move 75,000 mailboxes from 22 legacy email systems to Office 365.
Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the last 12 months and their impact on your organisation’s performance
Many of these are listed above. The projects we have delivered this year have significantly improved the overall performance of the company, increasing revenue and saving millions in the process.
IT is generating revenue. It was not a core function, but I created and nurtured a process and consultancy business that has now been picked up by the COO in region and turns over £1.8m per annum.
A global WAN project has reduced the number of suppliers and driven down costs, while increasing capacity at 400+ sites by 200%. It has dramatically increased productivity across the AECOM network.
As the key leader on a $2.3bn global outsource deal with IBM, we will generate savings to the tune of $500,000 over the seven-year contract. We are driving major changes that will reduce P1 outages by 80% in the first year.
We have implemented a scalable virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), cutting client project lead times and saving BIM designers up to two hours per person per day. This delivered improved margin of $300,000 on one project alone. VDI is now used across the global delivery centres.
Asked by the CEO to get involved on a failing project and look at ways we could add value to turn around the relationship, I worked directly with the client – the CEO of the Saudi Arabian Education Authority – to create a digital and interactive dashboard. This brought together several data sources on a major project to redevelop 8,000 schools across the country that could be viewed on his iPad in real time. The application has since been used for other construction projects.
What has been your involvement with innovation at your organisation – in particular, with products, business model and technology – over the last 12 months?
- Product: Building out our VR capabilities.
- Business model: A major outsource contract with IBM worth $2.3bn.
- Technology: IBM R&D partnerships to deliver advancements to employees, clients and projects.
- Technology: Virtual desktop for 3D CAD – new to the industry, and not your average VDI.
How have you delivered cultural and behavioural change as a CIO within the IT department and/or more broadly across the organisation?
I am the global CTO. Working closely with the global CIO we have driven through over 40 real projects on time and to budget in the last 12 months. A major shift towards a department that delivers!
Obviously the next 12 months we are transitioning to IBM, but the team have been professional and continued to take it in their stride. They all have fantastic CVs that will take them on the next journey in their career.
The organisation is in far better shape than when I took the role, and the last 12 months have really transformed IT for the rest of the organisation.
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?
We have worked closely with the senior executives, including the CEO and his regional CEOs, to drive the digital strategy. One of the key components now of the global business strategy is that we must embrace technology to give us competitive advantage.
We are at the forefront of technology and we always look for ways to improve our position against our competitor. We fly more drones than any other company on the planet, for example, so you can imagine that digital plays a big part in our everyday business.
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 work with many companies in the IT vendor market, large and small. We engage very closely with a key set of vendors. For example, we partnered with Creative Consulting, VMWare, Nvidia, Dell and Autodesk to deliver a ground-breaking VDI platform. In this industry there was no solution to deliver high-end compute and graphics capable of managing the file sizes we work on each day. This partnership has delivered a world-class solution that has shaved off two hours per CAD operator a day. We have 10,000 people who do this kind of work on a daily basis.
Also, centralising the data in a VDI environment has allowed us to dramatically reduce rework from people working on out-of-date data.
How have you tried to develop the diversity of your team?
We work out of almost every country in the world, so diversity is in our blood. The IT team is fully diverse and we have representation from over 100 countries in the team.
Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
We have regional CIOs in the three major regions: EMEAI, APAC and the US. They lead a team of business relationship managers embedded in the operations of the business to share information up and down the chain to inform our strategy.
The regional CIOs sit on the region exec boards and engage directly in shaping the regional strategy alongside the regional CEOs. This is all fed into the global strategy that is worked at with the main corporate board and then fed back into the global IT team.
What strategic technology deals have you made in the last year and who are your main suppliers and IT partners?
- VDI: Creative Consulting, Dell, Nvidia, VMWare, Dell and Autodesk.
- Collaboration: Cisco and West (Jabber, Webex and Spark).
- Smarter systems: IBM Watson, cognitive computing (self-learning leveraging data mining, pattern recognition and natural language processing) and augmented intelligence (AI) to enable self-help, self-healing and smarter solutions.
- Innovation: IBM R&D partnerships to deliver advancements to employees, clients and projects.
- Tools: Salesforce Chatter for internal ‘facebook’, effectively bringing together expertise into virtual rooms and conversations to solve issues. Microsoft platforms also deployed for Office 365 to streamline internal systems and move to the cloud.
- WAN: Global WAN project to reduce suppliers and drive down costs, while increasing capacity at 400+ sites by 200%.
What are your key strategic aims for next year?
- Focus on selling IT as a service and continuing to be a true partner to the business
- Focus more on client-facing IT and allow IBM to manage the day to day operations.
- Focus hard on IoT and smarter systems to streamline the way the company leverages data.
How are you preparing for any impacts Brexit might have on your organisation?
Brexit is not affecting us given the size and scale of the company. We have so many sectors we are involved in, and usually ride many bumps in the road.
My personal opinion is that Brexit will be an opportunity opposed to a negative.
When did you start your current role?
What is your reporting line?
Dual report to global CIO and president COO of AECOM.
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?
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?
$350m IT spend on a $20bn turnover.
What percentage of your budget is operational spend (ie keeping the lights on) and how much new development (ie innovation, R&D, exploratory IT)?
95% KTLO and 5% innovation, R&D and exploration.
Rank the following sources of advice/information in order of importance:
- Industry bodies
- CIO peers
- 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 – peer
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
- enterprise applications
- machine learning/artificial intelligence
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
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?