by Byron Connolly

CIO50 2016 #26-50: Simon Raik-Allen, MYOB

Nov 24, 2016
Technology Industry

Over the past 25 years, ASX-listed MYOB has acquired numerous technology platforms. This made the organisation inefficient on both product development and internal processes – initiatives were duplicated and resources spilt across multiple platforms. This meant there was inconsistency in product innovation and customer experience.

In the past year, the organisation has totally transformed its approach and adopted a single platform: The MYOB Platform.

Simon Raik-Allen has led this transformation to deliver a consistent and unified user experience across all features, which are developed once and reused; and ensure rapid and continuous delivery of capabilities to clients.

The transformation has also helped reduce the need for migrations between products; cut cost and risk through shared infrastructure; and increased security and scalability by using common ops and tooling among other things.

MYOB has 400 people in its engineering group distributed across four locations who previously delivered against their own specific initiatives and goals.

Since the transformation, two things have happened, says Raik-Allen. Firstly, KPIs have been realigned to better reflect the single platform and objectives. Second, the company has created a Platform Manifesto, a set of principles that empower teams to make their own decisions in the best interests of the goals of the platform, he says.

“This allows us to innovate at pace without having to rely on top down decision-making,” he says.

Each product and team – which previously had their own operational and go-to-market strategies – have been standardised in a single operational model. Teams that were once separated in product silos – which provided a different experience for each product – have moved to a capability model based on function not product.

“The single platform enables us to create and build solutions once and deploy them in many ways throughout products in various divisions,” says Raik-Allen.

A major win for this strategy has been a particular payroll service, he says. It was built over a year and is now being integrated by another team into their suite – essentially saving a year’s work. Payroll needs compliance updates every year so changes will only have to be done once and all installations will benefit going forward, says Raik-Allen.

Big data innovation

A key innovation introduced over the past 12 months has been the organisation’s big data platform. As the company has grown, it has gathered insightful data regarding the industry, the economy and its users. But it needed a new way to gather and process the terabytes of information entering the business.

“The genesis of the big data platform actually came out of a prototype built in 24 hours as a challenge to solve a particular business problem,” says Raik-Allen. “It’s has been built to solve many problems with a ‘plug-in self-service’ model – we only realised later than if repurposed, it could revolutionise our approach to data processing and management.”

MYOB’s data strategy is completely unique in the data processing market, he says. Rather than allocate data reporting to one core team, the company built a self-service, ‘BYO big data’ system. This enables all teams to put data in, deploy code to process the data, and enable separate teams to extract the data they need.

“We realised that many people internally had the skills to process the data themselves, but didn’t have the tooling or an appropriate access model,” Raik-Allen says.

“So we innovated on top of a brand new control to open up data to those who need it and allow them to use any tool that suits them. Each business unit can now add data in and pull it out – combining it with other relevant data to get a bigger picture rather than having to wait for a central, under-resourced team to do it for them.”

AI and machine learning being tested

MYOB is currently experimenting with artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies. Raik-Allen and his team have built a machine learning model to more accurately gauge customer churn rates based on their activity.

“This is a clustering analysis – we have prototyped an intelligent bot which can assist customers by suggesting accounting tasks that need to be performed in the business software and perform some of those tasks for them,” he says.

The organisation has also launched The Immersion Program, an internal initiative to onboard new staff. It has introduced a 360-degree virtual reality (VR) experience, which is the first example of VR being used by a HR team in Australia.

“This experience demonstrates our internal culture to new staff through an interactive and exciting augmented reality video.”

Byron Connolly