by Divina Paredes

CIO100 2018 #31-100: Richard Kay, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise

Mar 28, 2018
APIsBig DataBusiness Intelligence

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise has a clear business strategy – to grow companies bigger, better, faster for the benefit of New Zealand.

NZTE operates in 53 locations globally, and our ICT strategy is about supporting the global team to be able to work and collaborate from anywhere in the world with technology that works (and to provide an effective support structure for when it doesn’t!), says its CIO Richard Kay.

He says NZTE also has to ensure its business strategy keeps up with its customers, some of which have been experiencing phenomenal global growth.

“ICT strategy must be forward-thinking and innovative so NZTE can run at pace,” he stresses.

The next phase of digital transformation

Kay says to meet this mandate, NZTE has undertaken the first phase of its digital transformation over the past year and a half.

The theme of the transformation is ‘Getting modern’, says Kay.

“We’ve now completed all the hard stuff – getting everything into the cloud, upgrading our desktops and video conferencing. We’ve converted all of our apps to web-based versions, so we’ve made the traditional desktop obsolete too. This has opened up a whole new way of working, in the BYOD sense – which we’re up-taking aggressively” he says.

He says now they are shifting their efforts to the core of digital transformation. These include data insights, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

“We are a knowledge-based organisation, so finding who-knows-who and who-knows-what are our biggest challenges, coupled with insights on everything to do with national and global economies, data that can be used to help our customers grow internationally,” he says.

As part of this, he says, NZTE has connected all of its information and applications to the Microsoft Graph. “We are now mining this to provide connections and insights. We believe that we are world leading in this area, and are working closely with Microsoft in Redmond.”

“Voice is becoming a big part of what we do additionally,” he adds. “We work extensively with start-ups and undertake hackathons very regularly – using our own people, vendors and interns.“

Kay points out NZTE’s strategy is well-defined, thus it was relatively straightforward to align ICT strategy with the business strategy.

For Kay, five key themes stand out in their work.

First is that ‘everything works, everywhere’. This applies to new devices and remote access and enterprise systems like their CRM. “We will have voice and video calling, to anyone, anywhere and to any business or organisation. Our people can work securely on virtually any device they like, whether it be in New Zealand, in a plane, or in the downtown markets in Mumbai!” he states.

Second is ‘outstanding training and support’. The learning management system will ensure all training materials are in one place and easily accessible. Training is produced to suit the working styles of NZTE staff, and will focus on the international teams first, operating in their respective time zones.

Third is ‘productivity maximised’. This means systems will be upgraded to be faster, have intuitive user interfaces and new functionality.

Fourth is ‘great experiences where you work’. “We will continue improving the speed and reliability of Wi-Fi and network connectivity in all offices. The connectivity experience in international offices must mirror New Zealand offices. Shifting all services to the cloud has helped to achieve this” he says.

Fifth is ‘world class expertise’. The Service Desk will be organised to “follow the sun” and provide seamless international support and training.

“Everything the Business Systems team executes is all about providing the best end user experience,” he points out. “If something does not enhance or protect the end user experience, we will not do it.”

Over a year after taking on this very targeted, customer centric focus, Kay says the technology team’s NPS score is now 80+, one of the highest in the organisation.

Yet, just before they started, their NPS score, which indicated how likely people would be to recommend the service they provide, was -15.

The business was actively implementing their own workarounds. The feedback from the business was often negative or dissatisfactory, says Kay. “It could not get much lower, to be honest.”

Today, the technology team often receives internal awards and recognitions for its performance. “The turnaround has been extraordinary,” says Kay.

“Workarounds have reduced to almost zero, and we are now being regarded as the ‘go to’ team for technology advice.

“Almost every issue we resolve is met with a 10-out-10 NPS grading from our end users. Offices that were previously dissatisfied are now our biggest fans and supporters.”

“The first thing I did was listen,” he says.

“I needed to understand the impact our team’s morale and performance was having on the business we were supporting. I spent my first day in a remote office – Dubai, listening to their problems and issues. The messages from all the offices was the same, and essentially boiled down to complaint fatigue. People gave up complaining (nothing got fixed) and just put up with a poor experience.”

“We set about fixing the ‘broken windows’ first – these are the little issues that annoy people, but were all relatively easy to fix. This built trust.”

“We then set about replacing the ITSM (IT Service Management Tool) which was an old out of support system called INFRA with ServiceNow.

“Once operational, it ensured that no issue would escape our attention – people were being responded to, fast. In fact, the average ticket resolution time reduced from well over 150 hours down to just two hours.”

“We replaced a large number of systems and applications over the last year; we did this without increasing our budgets. Savings we made, by turning off old services and equipment, were recycled into new services and equipment. Our operational budgets have actually decreased, and by design. Through good decision making” he says.

“In fact, we have replaced everything – switches, routers, servers, security, applications – again, everything. There isn’t a single part of the operation that hasn’t either been consolidated, outsourced or upgraded.”

The team deployed Windows 10 and new laptops to over 700 people globally within four months, making remote access for end users a breeze, says Kay. He also migrated a considerable amount of services to the cloud, such as email and document management to Office 365 online.

He also restructured his leadership team, bringing in people who were not only skilled in running service desks, security, operations, applications and networking, but can also coach the team to rebuild their morale and focus.

Kay leads a global team. He has 50 full-time employees, working in four key functions: Service Desk, User Experience, Business Solutions and Enterprise Systems. They are based across New Zealand, Canada, China and the UK.

“The nature of what we do, where we operate and who we support requires us to be diverse – it is something we do very naturally and with great pride,” he points out.

We have purposefully built a very diverse team, he says. The nationalities represented include New Zealand, Australian, Chinese, Russian, Malaysian, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Greek, Canadian and English-UK. The team also speaks a variety of languages (“which we use all the time,” he says) Maori, Chinese, Japanese, Cantonese, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Tagalog, Hungarian, Polish, Russian and German.

“Different languages and cultures allows us to see things from many different perspectives – recognising diversity,” he says.

“Our people work on all sorts of initiatives, many times using their first or second language – with end users, foreign vendors, customers and so on.”

He says there is also a fairly even mix of male and female employees, along with a wide spectrum of ages, from 22 to 65+.

“The impact of this diversity to our culture is hugely positive, and reflects our commitment to Manaaki, one of NZTE’s characters that speaks to the fact we celebrate the mana of each other as being equal or greater than our own.

He says personal development of the team goes beyond technical training. We have team members learning foreign languages, public speaking, financial analysis, writing, strategy and planning, says Kay.

“We budget to ensure every single person has training options available,” he says. “We make it very clear that people must own their own destiny – but we’ll back them 100 per cent.”

Leadership, after all, is about people, says Kay.

“If the people aren’t happy, then everything else will fail. Treat people poorly, then all you’ll get is average or less. It’s simple.”

“I’ve learnt that if my team isn’t engaged with what they do, then positive results won’t come.

“If an engaged team focuses on fixing all the little things, or the ‘broken windows’, then it’s the quickest way to win trust with the business – making people happy,” he says.

“So my learning is to spend the majority of my time working on and with my people, and ensuring we’re always delivering for the business – particularly on the small things.”