The role has moved technology one step closer to the customerKevin Angland, Mercury\nWhat is it like to hold an inaugural executive C-level role, with unprecedented breadth of responsibilities in a competitive industry that is highly disrupted by technology and online competitors?\nThese are some of the challenges Kevin Angland faces, who stepped into the General Manager Digital Services post at Mercury (formerly Mighty River Power), nearly a year ago.\nPrior to the move, Angland was CIO at IAG for four years, rounding up a career in the insurance industrywhich started in sales, moving to project management and to a range of business technology executive roles.\n\u201cI only changed industries once,\u201d he says, describing his career path.\n\u201cHaving spent many years in a traditional industry, to be joining another pretty traditional industry that is undergoing fundamental change is quite exciting.\u201d\n\u201cI feel like I am a surfer who has joined the perfect wave, at the perfect time,\u201d he says, smiling. \u201cIt has got a nice momentum."\n\u201cI have got functional responsibilities across digital services but equally contributing across the broader executive team around business strategy, leadership development and other aspects," he says.\n\u201cIt is around ensuring that Mercury is using technology and digital capability to really deliver great customer outcomes or customer experiences.\u201d\nHe has the following areas reporting to him - IT, contact centre support team and customer operations - and is the executive responsible for digital transformation across the business.\nThe role, he says, covers customer, digital and technology - \u201ca great triangle and intersection\u201d, for near infinite possibilities that can be achieved in an era of rapid technology change.\nHe says the digital component of the role goes beyond customer brand.\nWe are looking at our internal business processes and understanding where we can apply digital capability to get better outcomes, he says.\nHow can we be more efficient? How can we create value? What are the benefits of the new building, the tools for the digital workplace?\nThe latter refers to the company\u2019s move to a new building in Newmarket.\nWorking in a single building, behind the Mercury Brand, is an opportunity to improve productivity and collaboration for 600 people, as well as deliver outcomes for customers and shareholders, he says.\nHe nods when asked whether his new responsibilities represent a \u2018CIO-plus\u2019 role.\n\u201cThat is exactly what it is," he says. \u201cWhat it has done is it has moved technology one step closer to the customer.\u201d\nPhoto by Divina Paredes\nIt doesn't matter what industry you are in. We are all faced with the challenge and opportunity that technology change brings. \nCustomer-first \nAngland says the changes Mercury is undergoing go back to over two years ago, when CEO Fraser Whineray took over the top post in September 2014.\nThis led to a new strategy for the company, which was very much focused on the customer, says Angland.\nAngland leads a team of more than 250 people.\n\u201cIt is a smaller team than I had at IAG (where he had over 400 staff) but the area of responsibility is very broad and the technology is for the whole business,\u201d he says.\n\u201cThere is a realisation that our digital capability underpins the broader business strategy and therefore they have to fit hand in glove,\u201d he says.\n\u201cIt doesn't matter what industry you are in,\u201d he adds. \u201cWe are all faced with the challenge and opportunity that technology change brings.\u201d\nHe says a priority is executing on the near term, what the customers tell us what they want or need, like more digital channels.\nData is the next piece for us as homes get more automated, he says.\nAs we get more real time consumption data, again, we could do a lot with it, but what can we do that creates value for customers?\nAnother major technology shift on their sights is the move to electric vehicles. That is probably a huge opportunity because that shifts the dial, and that is a new market that is hugely untapped, he says.\nThey are also looking at Internet of Things, and keeping a watch on blockchain and its implications.\nHe says attending The Singularity New Zealand Summit in Christchurch last year allowed him to step out of his role and \u201cjust see and hear from people who really pushed the boundaries\u201d.\nThe conference was hosted by alumni of Singularity University, a Silicon Valley think tank that focuses on \u2018exponential\u2019 technologies.\n\u201cYou are talking about five,15, to 20 years type of change, and trying to understand what it means for the organisation today,\u201d he says.\nNo caption\nCollaborate to innovate\nTo encourage innovation, he says, collaboration is key.\nHe says it is about taking cross functional teams working in an agile manner.\nAn example would be having people that support customer facing technology working with people in the contact centre serving customers. \u201cYou have got real time feedback on how technology is supporting them or not.\u201d\nIn terms of managing his career, Angland taps the \u201cstrong professional networks\u201d he has forged through the years, and also ensures he is helping build future business technology leaders.\nAngland sits on the advisory group of the Strategic CIO Programme at the University of Auckland. The program is for people who want to step into a more senior role, but with a focus on the IT function. He also mentors some of the students in the course.\nAngland strongly supports the call for more young people to go into STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) courses.\n\u201cTechnology is not about cutting code in the backroom, or being a geek in an isolated room,\u201d he says.\nHe recalls attending a conference where the speaker said, \u201cFind me a great organisation today and I will find you a great technology capability underpinning that organisation.\u201d\n\u201cThe message is great organisations of the future are going to need great digital technology capability to execute.\u201d\n\u201cAnd that is why people should be encouraged to get into STEM [courses]. Fundamentally, they are the foundations and principles to technology careers going forward.\u201d\n\u201cThat foundational capability will serve you well.\u201d\n"Great organisations of the future are going to need great digital technology capability to execute. And that is why people should be encouraged to get into STEM [courses]. Fundamentally, they are the foundations and principles to technology careers going forward."\n\nSend news tips and comments to email@example.com\nFollow Divina Paredes on Twitter:@divinap\nFollow CIO New Zealand on Twitter:@cio_nz\nJoin us on Facebook.