by George Nott

CIO50 2017 #26-50: Andrew Clowes, JLL

Nov 21, 2017
Technology Industry

There is a saying in the Navy: there are three things you can do: ”Float, Move and Fight”.

Having served in the Royal Australian Navy for more than 30 years as a submariner and intelligence analyst, Andrew Clowes brings this maxim to his role as Head of IT at JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle).

“Floating is akin to keeping the lights on – making everything just work. Moving is about a structured approach to taking the business forward – keeping the business functioning and implementing and enhancing the core technologies of the organisation,” says Clowes who continues to serve as a reserve Commander as part of the Fleet Battle Staff.

“From a military perspective, the concept of fighting is obvious. Fighting is about being aggressive, executing a plan and delivering a result. It isn’t about following – it’s about assessing your threats and developing the tactics and strategy to neutralise the threats and ultimately win.

“In IT, fighting is about bringing in new technologies, experimenting and taking on new challenges that only technology can solve. It’s about big data, analytics, robotics, neural networks and all those technologies that are radically changing our world,” he adds.

In other words, the fight is what most working in IT consider “the fun part”.

While you can’t be in fight mode all the time, it where Clowes considers CIOs can add the most value to the business.

“That said, when necessary, I still need to be able to get my hands dirty when needed to just float and move,” he says.

New dimensions

Over the last year global real estate services firm JLL has been full of fight, rolling out an industry leading data and property analytics program.

It builds upon the company’s MapIT tool which was initially designed to provide locational intelligence by geo-referencing property locations and then overlaying those locations with a variety of other data sets.

This early iteration provided the ability to visualise property in relation to the overall geography of an urban area.

But that was just the beginning. It has since grown to now providing complex multi variant analysis whereby clients can see dynamically the impact of property choices.

This year the program has pushed into new dimensions. A set of 3D city models have been created overlaid with property development pipelines, JLL research data as well as transport and logistics data, to provide an interactive tool for property agents and their clients.

“In the past, property agents would have used PowerPoint and word documents to talk about property with our clients, through this program our agency business is transforming into a data-centric business,” Clowes says.

JLL’s Adelaide office foyer now has a giant touch board where agents host interactive discussions with clients and look at property from the perspective of data, “a massive mindset shift from the days of a shelf full of brochures,” Clowes adds.

The ‘fight’ continues with the current phase of the programme – the establishment of an Augmented and Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality hub, in Adelaide.

The company is now working with 4 startups to build out concepts with real data in the areas of marketing automation, AI, VR and GIS through its participation in Slingshot’s CoVentured startup accelerator.

Talking data

Although the technologies involved are only beginning to find their way into the enterprise, they are relatively commonly available. Clowes sees the innovation less in terms of new kit, but more about the changed mindset that has enabled it to be embraced.

“The most significant have been the cultural and operational challenges. In an organisation as old as ours – JLL has been around since 1783 – change is inevitable but not always easy,” Clowes says.

Clowes and his team conducted a Digital Maturity survey, plotting the status of individual business lines from the perspective of Operational Efficiency and Client Digital Experience.

“I was then able to explain both the need for change and the specific steps that would give us maximum value. This then gave us a platform to explain that there is a better way of solving real estate challenges,” he says.

Now the organisation has moved away from being wrapped up in manual processes to one that is excited about the new ways of thinking about data. That’s raised Clowes’ 26 IT staff to being considered true business enablers.

“I now spend more time talking about data than just about any other topic and my entire team engages with the business around Data. What is so transformational about this is that it has completely changed the role of IT to that of business enablers – specifically enablers who can provide the tools, whether that be at the infrastructure level or at the application level, to unlock and visualise that data,” he says.

What’s more the IT team has one of the lowest turnover rates in the global firm and is among the most engaged.

“We have created a culture within IT that is the envy of the organisation,” Clowes says. “We have created a culture of ownership. I based this around my military background of being both accountable and responsible. Whilst ultimately I wear the responsibility for the performance of IT, my team now tells me what they intend to do to resolve a problem or improve something rather than wait for instructions. This has dramatically changed the way in which we do things.”