by Divina Paredes

CIO50 2019 #26-50: Neville Richardson, Gallagher Group

Mar 28, 2019
Business ContinuityCloud ComputingInnovation

Neville Richardson says the IS team at Gallagher Group is working to enable high speed change, “which is the pace that the business works at”.

Ensuring the business, not IS, prioritises activities, has been helpful in this shift, says Richardson, who joined Gallagher Group over a year ago.

With headquarters in Hamilton, Gallagher Group is a global supplier of animal management, security, fuel systems and contract manufacturing solutions.

“We are now operating at a cadence that the business needs,” says Richardson.

“Our aim is to implement six-week cycles containing 3 x 2 week sprints. Leveraging new delivery techniques like Agile has relieved some of the stresses working at a much higher pace,” he states.

“We take a view of IS that’s much wider than technology,” says Richardson, discussing where he believes ICT at Gallagher differs from similar functions across their sector.

“We want to maximise the success of technology and get the most value out of it. So life is not just implementing and running technologies, it is also driving value in their use.”

He says the IS team at Gallagher Group has defined eight pillars to support their goal: ‘IS is not IT’, Sound Architecture, Governance, DevOps, ITIL, Secure, Lean, and Trust.

He points out in this model, technology intersects with new working techniques like Agile and DevOps, with cultural aspects that enable this to happen, such as the need for deep Trust.

“These are the foundations for the whole business to take that digital transformation journey,” says Richardson.

“All of this is linked, and we believe this linkage is the basis of what we are doing differently in IS.”

He says the team is also looking at and implementing best practice within the business and IS aligning their ways of working.

“For example, we are introducing rapid learning cycles from RD into how we plan work, which aligns nicely with our Lean DNA and the way governance is supposed to work.”

“If it seems like we are looking at lots of changes to the way we work, that’s true,” he adds.

“The pace of change is hectic, and it will not be slower than it is today, so we must find new ways of working,” he says. “Otherwise we will be a handbrake to the business.”

One of the shifts they have introduced is the linking of IS with the innovation teams. These two have previously works in separate streams.

“We combined them at an early stage, utilising the customer journey map and user stories to select the IS platforms that would be used to support this journey. This has transformed the relationship from being arms-length to deeply collaborative.”

Their work on IoT came about when the product development team needed to have certain technologies “always connected” for a global capability.

IS selected the partner to deliver the IoT platform, which allowed the business to focus on the product development.

This approach has already been successfully used in two initial use cases and will be expanded into other areas of the organisation, says Richardson.

In a previous role, Richardson worked on an analytics and machine learning project that solved a major business concern. The organisation was taking one week a month just to collect and integrate monthly customer product volumes. By using data factory provision, and machine learning models, Richardson and his team cut this time to 30 minutes, and helped increase the accuracy of sales forecasts.

He is applying insights from this previous project in his goal to drive self-service BI at Gallagher, and use the data for operational efficiencies and to deliver insights.

To do this, they set up an agile team of key users, IS business analysts and partnered with Microsoft to deliver a proof of concept. In addition to user driven reporting, they also incorporated data factories built upon a data lake, and integrated new functions including cognitive services, machine learning and stream analytics.

“IS is driving this initiative to demonstrate, based on business use cases, how these new technologies can change the way that we work,” says Richardson. “We want business users to spend the minimum of time on mechanics, and the most time on actual business insights.”

He says his team is also working closely with partners and has set up an innovation fund to ‘try out’ certain technologies.

“This approach meets the challenge of delivering multiple products with limited resources, and allows us to assess suitability before major platform investments are made.”

ICT evangelist

Richardson says the CIO is part of the leadership team at Gallagher.

“This is a must for IT savvy organisations,” he says.

Richardson has been part of the transformation of Gallagher’s governance structure, where he takes ideas both bottom up (continuous improvement) and top down (strategy).

“We consider in detail the socio-technological impacts, not just technology, and prioritise activities in the business accordingly,” he says.

“This helps drive collaboration, with the business defining the IS delivery portfolio, not IS.”

Over the last two years, Richardson has delivered the ITSM components at the MBA programme at AUT. He shares with the business teams some of the research on the successful business transformation, including the ‘softer aspects’ involved as organisations move from the industrial age to the information age.

“As CIO, it’s also important to articulate that digital transformation is an all-of-business journey, and so this involves communicating and collaborating at all levels of the business,” says Richardson.

“By setting up process oriented working groups, we are driving collaboration at every level,” he adds. “As CIO I aim to attend all of those groups.”

“Mentoring is the role of a CIO, every single day,” he says.

“You have to show the team that it is OK to take measured risks, do things at pace, and collaborate deeply with the business,” he states.

“But we need to turn the tables, and get everyone involved in this,” he says. “We are looking at how we can utilise the millennial team members to be millennial mentors, both in technology and thinking, for our more senior members of the team. This was one of the drivers to establish our graduate program.”

With lessons from the MBA, and programs, the team now presents regular IS master classes, both for the IS team and the wider business.

“We showcase how we use our existing technologies, and new areas we are working on,” he states. “It is down to us to demonstrate the art of what is possible, and then enable the business to run as fast as possible with that technology.”

The masterclasses are recorded and made available to a wider audience at Gallagher Group.

He says he also regularly holds ‘town hall sessions’ for business units across the group.

“We want to put a face to IS, explain our journey, and encourage closer collaboration with them.”

He says these sessions are on top of their regular six-week governance cycle meetings with key users across the group, and with the senior leadership team.

He says the technology team also posts ICT-themed articles regularly on their Connect intranet, in order to raise awareness on key topics. These articles are linked to topics in their Litmos training system. Recently, for instance, they have rolled out a privacy programme (including GDPR) and an information security awareness programme.

Richardson is also tackling the underrepresentation of women in ICT.

“Diversity in our (IT) industry is poor,” he says.

“Given the demographics of job candidates, it can be difficult to redress the balance.

“However, whenever you have an opportunity to improve this, being in a position of responsibility means you are honour bound to do so.”

Richardson believes that if people are in a position to improve diversity, then they are failing if they do not have a focus on this.

“It makes good business sense, as you increase diversity of thinking and become more representative of the customers you serve,” he states.

“Once the base technical boxes have been ticked, a must, my decisions are then based on culture fit and how a person can add to the diversity of the team.”

He says CIOs must also actively ensure there will be a diverse pool of candidates to choose from.

“Again, it’s not sufficient just to lament on this.

“Start a programme if you haven’t already,” says Richardson, who has four graduates in his current team.

“Work with centres of learning to give knowledge, expand the pool of talent,” he says. This is a prime reason why he got involved in the AUT MBA programme.

“Talk about the issues and present solutions in industry forums,” he says.

“We have to make IS compelling for kids from the age of 10, because even at university level, the diversity has already been eroded,” he states.

“This is my challenge for 2019: How can I use my position at Gallagher to inspire a diverse set of kids so they retain their passion, and can be the candidates of tomorrow? Only then will we have the diversity issue nailed.”