by CIO New Zealand

CIO100 2018 #31-100: Neville Richardson, Gallagher Group

Mar 28, 2018
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“Being a good CIO means you need to focus on things other than the technology,” says Neville Richardson of Gallagher Group.

“IT managers deal with technology. CIOs understand that IS is about the interaction of Technology, Process, People and Structures. If you look at why IS initiatives fail, it will always be that one of these elements, or the way they interact, have been forgotten about,” says Richardson.

“I’ve certainly had failures where I have driven technology change through when the people and culture are not ready. I’ve learned to consider the socio-technological environment, not just the technology, and this is a key driver in my future as well as past success,” says Richardson.

Richardson joined Gallagher after more than three years as group IT manager at Kotahi Logistics and Coda.

Last year, he joined AUT as a part-time lecturer at the MBA programme.

“In New Zealand we do have a skills shortage, especially around business analysts,” he says, on taking on this role.

“As leaders, we can lament this, but we can also be active and influence future leaders by sharing our experiences.

“This is the prime reason I worked with AUT on delivering the IT service management part of the MBA programme, as it enables us to pass on up to date IT thinking and help prepare MBA students for future IS roles.”

He is a member of the leadership team at Gallagher, a global leader in the innovation, manufacturing and marketing of technology systems for animal management, security, fuel systems and contract manufacturing.

“I have been part of the transformation of Gallagher’s

governance structure, where we take ideas both bottom up (‘continuous improvement’) and top down (‘strategy’), consider in detail the socio-technological impacts, not just technology, and prioritise activities in the business accordingly.

“The business defines the IS delivery portfolio, not IS,” he points out.

“We have a regular cycle of integrated meetings to formulate and integrate this with the business, and are moving to a sprint based delivery model with IS resources aligned to process functions within the business.”

In addition, they have also defined, based on business requirements, a clear IS roadmap, to be debated and discussed both with the executive the IS teams, so that everyone is on the same page, says Richardson.

“Gallagher has a great culture, which is one of the things that attracted me to the business,” he says.

“You cannot work in a business that has a culture which does not sit well with your personal values,” he says.

“If you choose a business with the right DNA, you are much more able to build a culture within your own team that supports that DNA, which is what I am doing at Gallagher.

“A key component for me is being able to leverage the lean culture that exists in the wider business, and get the team concentrating on the things that add value to the business. Moving from a technology focus to an adding value focus helps me build the right culture, and leveraging the existing company values of being customer inspired, relentless innovators, building enduring partnerships and delivering outstanding quality all helps!

“Then using these values to create relevant KPIs for the team, based on a roadmap that we all agree on, keeps us focused on our goals.”

He takes into his new role two recent experiences which illustrate how to add value on both the demand and supply sides of IT.

Four years ago at Kotahi, infrastructure was seen as a major impediment, restricting product development (function and growth) and reliability (the business suffered a two-day infrastructure outage). The latter was one of the triggers for him being employed by the company.

A three-year journey from in effect on-premise to 100 per cent cloud was planned. This was not planned for the purpose of cost saving, Richardson says, but to enhance business continuity, increase reliability of services, to deliver new functionality at pace and to enable innovation.

“We gained cloud experience by running dev and test (whilst speeding up delivery), proved reliability by replicating into Azure, and tested DR by invoking. This last task was done over one weekend in April, and was completely invisible to the business.

“The real value is that less time was spent keeping the lights on, allowing the staff to focus on demand or things that add value to the business,” he says.

“The second example of that demand is using technology to improve how we optimise land transportation,” he says.

The problem they faced was that in order to optimise transport, they needed to access data that sits across multiple businesses, which would not share that information.

Rather than try a single, in-company solution which would present a suboptimal result, Coda (which which was part of Richardson’s responsibility at Kotahi), chose to invest in a partner to provide a platform.

“IS worked with the business to define all of the relevant user stories, and look within the market (via RFI) to choose a technology solution to answer these business stories,” he says.

“IS then provided the integrations, and the BAs to work with the chosen partner to develop the solution, and work with the process owners to make the required changes to support the platform.

This program resulted in multi-million dollar savings in both reducing administrative overhead and more efficient transport for Coda, he says.

Coda had previously worked with Microsoft to speed up demand forecasting processes, as part of a wider initiative to introduce self service BI and Analytics within the business.

Unfortunately, the BI manager resigned and a new operations manager took over the role. This also introduced some different business thinking.

So, whilst the new solution gave Kotahi more time to analyse the results of the forecasting in much more detail, which had previously not been possible due to lack of time, it actually showed that that whilst the forecast worked at a high level, at a granular level, it did not function correctly. The initial supposition was that the platform (which was in effect a black box) was not fit for purpose.

“The innovation was that we then used the Cortana Analytics and Machine Learning functions to improve the predictions of the demand forecast, based on the feedback of using the model in more detail.

“By utilising the Microsoft experts in Redmond, not only did we improve the overall accuracy of the demand forecast, we were also able to get workable ‘granular results’.”

Gallagher Group headquarters