by Divina Paredes

CIO100 2018 #2: David Kennedy, Transaction Services Group

Mar 28, 2018
CareersDigital TransformationIT Leadership

Transaction Services Group (TSG) continues to expand at an explosive rate, says its group CIO David Kennedy.

Kennedy says since he joined the company just over two years ago, the customer count has doubled.

This includes new business ventures in the United States and Japan.

“All of the TSG business transactions happen within my sphere of influence and I am proud of the teams across the world who have successfully delivered increases in capacity and stability to accommodate our growth,” he says.

Kennedy took a major step in 2016, when he developed a single IT strategy encompassing six key words to drive alignment, collaboration, and growth across TSG companies across the globe.

These are: Kill Complexity, Create Time and Think Big

The next step of the journey was to create a single TSG Global IT Target Operating Model (IT TOM).

The model addresses the total needs of each company in the group and was achieved through extensive collaboration, explains Kennedy.

We are rolling out a platform that is successfully delivering insights to our clients in a way that has never been achieved before

“This approach has seen us successfully implement several technology projects under the one programme that have added considerable value.”

Synthesising IT TOM, Kennedy lists his approaches to align all companies within the group to understand a common definition of value:

These are:

  • Prioritise workloads across the group;

  • Create shared services between companies, something that has never been done previously in TSG history;

  • Align business cases;

  • Engage with project teams (internally and externally) to achieve common goals; and

  • Communicate the value of projects across the group.

Kennedy also shared with the team the value matrix that other ICT organisations can use. This centres around time, opportunity, cost, stability, and risk.

By taking each heading from the value matrix, the huge amount of value delivered in the past year can be demonstrated:

Under time, Kennedy reports that tens of thousands of hours were created through digital technology projects, including a data analytics platform that internal and external customers access to make their jobs more effective. This has created thousands of hours in productivity gains and they are in the process of rolling it out which will deepen relationships with the clients. A replacement of identified contact centre systems has provided further efficiencies, reducing the time to assist customers while still providing effective customer support.

Under opportunity, Kennedy says TSG has rolled out the industry’s largest overnight CRM replacement for over 500,000 customers and integrated two acquisitions into one of its billing platforms. The implementation of a trans-Tasman telephony system has also reduced call costs and increased revenue.

Under cost, Kennedy points out the group increased IT budgets by a much less factor than the increase in customers. This was achieved through the hard work and alignment of the teams globally. The group is further reducing cost of support by implementing shared Centres of Excellence in networking, SQL/data management and security.

Under stability, Kennedy says TSG’s systems and processes are the most stable they have been.

“We implemented resilient cloud clusters to our production systems. We have also stabilised the ‘sales process’, reengineered it and consistently applied it across the group on the Salesforce platform,” says Kennedy.

“In addition, the team increased the stability of their APIs, software and infrastructure to process six-times the speed of the previous architecture.”

Under risk, Kennedy says TSG has established an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) framework and is working towards a single view of operational risk across the group.

Into innovation

One of the messages Kennedy imparts across TSG is that innovation is anything that drives positive change in a business; something that can show demonstrable value to the business or the industry. This is achieved by “thinking differently”.

“By aligning people and teaching them ‘what is value’, we have a created a culture of change agents, looking for value add improvements and innovation to fulfil them,” says Kennedy.

“Inevitably the ideas we visualise are realised through the usage of technology – this is because we are smack bang in the middle of the digital revolution.

“People will write in the history books about this time, as they did about the industrial revolution where innovation was driven through the adoption of new technologies of a different era.”

Kennedy says TSG is innovating at a speed and scale never before seen in this industry.

“We showcase our innovations to our customers and without exception every single one of them is blown away. We now have an effective web of clouds creating value across our business.”

One example is the installation of multi cloud architectures across the business units within the group.

Another impactful innovation is the analytics platform that we are continually developing. This sees insights identified using structuring internal TSG data and external data points, adding value both internally and externally.

Kennedy says TSG is linking several data sources to provide insights to their customers. Some clients use predictive analytics from many data sources, including our platform, to forecast when members of subscription-based services will leave, allowing them to proactively manage their business. Others want to identify when accounts are going to expire, providing the opportunity to proactively chase a renewal if they see fit and increase resigning revenue.

“Our analytics platform is being hailed as an industry first by our clients and Microsoft. We are rolling out a platform that is successfully delivering insights to our clients in a way that has never been achieved before,” says Kennedy.

One client said they will not leave the TSG brand when the analytics platform they’re provided is part of their decision-making process.

“I have a simple ethos and that is technology is a constant throughout all areas of the business,” says Kennedy.

“Every operation, task, idea, innovation and customer interaction are driven through technology and as such we need to be present at every decision point.”

Given this, Kennedy believes in empowering IT managers and CIOs of TSG affiliates who report to him, aligning them to the goals of the TSG group.

This is done through regular teleconferences and an annual IT Summit. This sees all direct reports (CIOs and IT managers) coming together and spending a week collaborating and planning upcoming projects.

“This is a great way to bring the leaders together and enable them act like the global team they represent,” says Kennedy.

“The key to operating in a successful environment is to create a team who are constantly looking for innovative ways of introducing change.

“In order to successfully drive this, we align the business strategy with an employee’s personal development needs. I find the balance between these two aspects can drive incredible results. This alignment also draws passion and commitment from employees who are engaged and happy at work, another important metric.”

The CIO-plus

Kennedy strongly believes ICT leadership – or any executive leadership – goes beyond one’s respective organisation, and this perspective makes for a better leader.

For this reason, he is involved in several activities outside TSG to try and help with the industry in New Zealand.

“It is our responsibility as senior leaders to prepare the country for a future of successful international partnerships and domestic longevity.”

Kennedy is the current chair of NZ Tech leaders, a group of New Zealand’s leading Tech Executives that provide guidance to the government and industry on ensuring the future prosperity of New Zealand. This group is tasked with answering some of the toughest questions and creating output that will impact hundreds of thousands of Kiwi families.

Kennedy is also chair of the advisory board for the Auckland University Future Leaders Programme.

“This is about providing future leaders with capabilities that will help them succeed as a CIO in today’s environment,” he says.

In addition, he is a board member for a Christchurch IT services company and an advisory board member for an American product company BeyondTrust.

To his team, first Kennedy applies the primacy of respecting each employee and understand their personal journey.

“When we can marry the personal goals of the individual to the goals of the business we can see exponential benefits materialise.”

He says a fable that he often tells his staff clearly captures this message:

“Imagine we are all on train tracks, going to our destination. It’s our destination, no one else’s. Each station the train pulls in at is a decision point in our lives. At this point some people get on the train and some people get off.

“The train leaves the station, still going to your destination with sometimes different people on board. You are sharing this part of the journey together. It is when you are together that you can add value to each other’s journey.”

Kennedy adds: “It is important to realise that people are not always going to be on your journey so act respectfully of their needs and communicate your needs clearly. This way the honesty in your relationship will deliver value to both parties.”

David Kennedy is the current chair of NZ Tech leaders, a group of New Zealand’s leading Tech Executives that provide guidance to the government and industry on ensuring the future prosperity of New Zealand:“It is our responsibility as senior leaders to prepare the country for a future of successful international partnerships and domestic longevity.”