Huge strides in the three critical areas of insight quality, performance management and time management have been made under Trevor Attridge. Artificial intelligence in the shape of IBM’s Watson allows disparate sources of information to be taken and turned into a mechanism for the strategic planning teams to work with. A next-generation performance management platform is about to be launched, introducing a real-time system that gives continuous, integrated, performance feedback. And embedding a business operations team in the IT function has allowed technology support to be enlisted when it’s needed most.

Job title
CIO

Company name
MEC

How are you influencing the products, customer experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
Data has always been the driving force behind our ability to offer customers precisely what they want. This year, however, has seen us take a giant leap forward.

We have focused on creating an engine – an invisible infrastructure – that hides the complexity of IT from the business, but provides a platform for enablement and activation. Uniquely, we blend data from both digital and traditional channels.

Our platform makes sense of big, small, fast, slow, high-quality or low-quality data, and gives us the capability to provide practical applications and tools. These draw on a detailed understanding of customer preferences. They target intimate biases and behaviours. And create market-leading use cases for our clients. 

The quality of our intelligence and insights has been remarkable. They’ve been the cornerstone of continually successful outcomes. Not only have these helped clients achieve significant and lasting improvements in marketing effectiveness and profitability, but they have also been the source of valuable new audiences.

Relationships have blossomed too.

We’re working ever closer with our clients, applying qualitative and quantitative research, analytics and modelling to define targets. We activate these through the smart use of data across online, mobile, traditional TV and outdoor channels.

Touchpoints are being crafted. Customers are being informed through the purchase journey. Biases and motivations are being understood. And in partnership with our sister agencies, we are even measuring successful outcomes right to the physical shopping basket!

What’s more, we’ve been able to deliver across regions and markets that vary greatly – in both maturity and technological capability.

With changes in data regulation (GDPR) pending, we are now refining plans that will dilute much of their perceived complexity when they come into full force.

Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the last 12 months and their impact on your organisation’s performance
With a heavy dose of innovation, we’ve made huge strides in three critical areas: the quality of our insights, performance management, and time management.

Insights: In collaboration with IBM and partners, we launched artificial intelligence platforms inside the business. Leveraging Watson, we can now take disparate sources of information and turn this into a mechanism for our strategic planning teams to work with.  Gone are the old labour-intensive scenarios fuelled by pre-refined and defined data. Experts can now spend time training the system to scale the world. And deliver quick, quality insights to a much wider audience. This is enablement at its best. Teams are now responding to business challenges and driving outcomes with complete confidence.

Performance management: People’s career paths are critical to the success of this organisation (and we mean it). So much so that we have partnered with a Silicon Valley startup to launch a new, next-generation performance management platform. This replaces the archaic yearly review process. Our contemporary, agile new platform works in real time, and provides what so many ask for – continuous, integrated, performance feedback.

Time management: The success of our business operation team (http://www.bizopsgroupm.com) has been grounded in focusing on the day-to-day. They are embedded within the IT function to enlist technology support when it’s needed most. It makes change management and operational effectiveness actually happen. This year it has paid serious dividends. More than 22,000 hours of saved time has been pumped back into the business. The winners? Both internal stakeholders and clients.

What has been your involvement with innovation at your organisation – in particular, with products, business model and technology – over the last 12 months?
With the shift towards a digitally-centric consumer, the need to continually evolve our existing portfolio of products and tooling has never been greater.

To this end, I have taken a fresh, consultative and supporting role to innovation. So we better identify and connect with consumers – in a meaningful and cost-effective manner.

In the CIO seat, I’ve been equally well placed to help drive and support business model innovation through my operations teams. In this capacity, we have outlined, refined and landed organisational changes throughout the year.

Technology innovation has also been a critical part of my role in the last 12 months. The two big success stories have been: the early adoption of Teams from Microsoft (which has answered the need for connected communities), and the evaluation and implementation of the next-gen AI technology, Watson.

How have you delivered cultural and behavioural change as a CIO within the IT department and/or more broadly across the organisation?
With a clear goal in mind, helping to move our technology teams from a ‘heads-down’ to a ‘heads-up’ approach was always going to be a big ask. But with the launch of our Now, Near, Next initiative, the transformation has exceeded all our expectations. Focusing on emotional intelligence, business engagement and outcomes, we built a framework which defined behaviours and expectations. Operations people and users worked together to understand daily challenges. Global best practices were applied to the understandings. And technology was used to support and accelerate the new. All this was embedded into our day-to-day with training and support from peers.

The result? Our internal version of NPS (net promoter scores) shows uplifts in the region of 200% for positive feedback. Our users are better connected on a personal level. And technology is the glue that’s bonding these liberated communities.

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?
While our products and services often give us a leadership position in the digital arena, the board’s role in operationalising this is an ongoing challenge.

We use tried and tested mechanisms.

Hackathons bring innovation partners and our top talent into an environment where new and exciting ideas can take shape. Online training is structured to help improve engagement and completion. Expert tuition supports and augments these initiatives.

Achievements are then rewarded – through submissions to both our own yearly global awards ceremonies and to industry award shows like Cannes.

We believe in celebrating digital innovation in partnership with our clients.

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’re in a genuinely unique position here. We represent one-third of the media business globally, which means our portfolio of sister companies is as extensive as it is varied. The scale and geographic diversity of our communications network gives us exclusive access to some of the brightest minds in the startup community, so we can support and partner initiatives which are either fiscal or case-study based.

We operate hand-in-hand with established global suppliers too, so we have our fingers on the pulse of new fields like AI. Or we can clearly see opportunities in new markets.

In short, we work hard at putting ourselves in a position to be able to define the future.

How have you tried to develop the diversity of your team?
Our business operations team has been pivotal in extending our technology team’s understanding of the business.

While we still recognise the need for expertise, individuals now have the opportunity to move between functions. Learnings are being expanded across networks and geographies, and extended to clients.

A new senior community has also been selected to receive leadership training. This has been designed to cover areas such as emotional intelligence, facilitation, communication skills and leadership.

With such diversity at our disposal, our leadership team reflects the geographic and gender-neutral nature of our business.

Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
Our operational ‘run’ technology is outsourced to key strategic providers. This allows our core organisation to focus on driving and creating business value. Where engineering resource exists internally, the focus is on change that creates an ‘invisible data infrastructure’. This is giving us the agility to respond to customers’ rapidly changing needs and desires. My team’s role and my role is to enable and monitor this state.

What strategic technology deals have you made in the last year and who are your main suppliers and IT partners?
We have a solid and proven strategic and innovation partnership with IBM and Microsoft. This gives us early access to key technologies, areas of innovation and operational IT.

Our marketing technology is complex and diverse. There are a multitude of niche players, driven either by the vertical in which they operate, a discipline, or a particular geography.

Google, Facebook and Adobe are the key players who span multiple areas.

What are your key strategic aims for next year?

Utilise new and existing technology: We plan to embrace the original meaning of the word technology from the ancient Greeks – meaning skills, techniques and methods used in the production of goods or services. Our change organisation and business operations will drive this. The focus will be on the people and process, as well as the skills and methods that enable technology. We plan to create a platform for success built around the usage of our past and future tooling. Workshops and training will be used to facilitate this strategy. The aim is to provide an important feedback loop into our product development teams, which will allow us to constantly and consistently refine our approach.

Make ‘relevant’ quality data accessible: With IT fully enabled, we’ll continue to drive our understanding of data, while providing strong links to the needs of the business. Streamlining will be key. We want to avoid taking on board reports crammed with data and KPIs, and work on fewer goals which are ambitious, yet actionable and achievable.

Optimise operations: Hand in hand with our adoption of existing and new tools will be a focus on the way we work – and want to work in the future. We’ll be simplifying our operations across agencies. We’ll be adopting more common processes in areas that do not give us competitive advantage. And we’ll be enabling our teams to become more optimised. The goal here is to push operational maturity through the business, leveraging technology where it makes the most sense.

Engage business: We are striving for simplicity. With complexity concealed, we can use the real differentiation of our organisation to give continuous value to our clients. Simpler systems will make it easy to get work done. Simpler structures and processes will make it easy to collaborate and articulate our recommendations.

Deliver innovation: Innovation must matter. And our outline is two-fold. We’ll be looking at taking existing innovations, often from other industries and unique to media, and applying them to new markets. This will run in tandem with our continual search for something that is either different or completely groundbreaking.

How are you preparing for any impacts Brexit might have on your organisation?
We are a data business that drives effectiveness and efficiency for clients, and provides intelligence and insight to find or create valuable audiences and successful outcomes. With this in mind, Brexit poses an interesting challenge. The position the UK will take on data governance, and the impact of this on clients and consumer data, is still an unknown. We are already working with key advisers in this space to prepare for various scenarios.

Consolidating our unique position of being able to blend and use data from both digital and traditional channels is paramount. Externally derived and internally created, the role of data must continue to help clients achieve significant and lasting improvements in marketing effectiveness and profitability. 

We are also watching the possible implications on residency and workforce with great interest. Our diverse and highly -skilled UK team currently provides services and consultancy to both our internal stakeholders and clients.

YOUR ROLE

When did you start your current role?
2012

What is your reporting line?
CSO

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?
Digital and data officers – peers, advise and support.

How often do you meet with your organisation’s CEO or equivalent?
Once a quarter

How many people at your organisation does your function supply services to?
13,000

BUDGETS

What is your annual IT budget, or your spend as a proportion of the organisation’s revenue?
5% of organisations 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)?
60/40 split.

CIO INFLUENCES

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

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

IT SECURITY

Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?
Yes

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?
Yes – peer

RECRUITMENT

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?
No

Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme?
Yes

How many employees are there in your IT team?
70

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

TECHNOLOGY

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

  • cloud
  • data analytics/business intelligence
  • ERP
  • CRM
  • IoT
  • AR/VR
  • enterprise applications
  • machine learning/artificial intelligence
  • social
  • devices (mobile)
  • wearables.

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

  • cloud
  • data analytics/business intelligence
  • ERP
  • enterprise applications
  • machine learning/artificial intelligence
  • social
  • devices (mobile)
  • devices (desktop)
  • wearables.

What emerging technologies are you investigating or expect to have a big impact on your sector or organisation?
Artificial intelligence, deep learning, cognitive computing, IoT, mobile.

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