by Rodney Fletcher

CIO100 2017 #31-100: Robyn Gillespie, Opus International

Mar 29, 2017
Big Data Careers Innovation

In the past 18 months Opus IT has been transforming, says the company’s director of information technology, Robyn Gillespie

“To be better positioned for the future with a key client, we undertook a project that allowed us to engage our client in a completely different way,” she says.

“This exercise successfully delivered a digital experience for our client that was significantly different to any they had seen before from Opus and has changed its perception of our business and our role in its operation.”

“Within Opus we have an Innovation team outside IT that aims to deliver initiatives that either ‘make the boat go faster’, or that delivers new offerings to help our clients achieve their business outcomes.

“IT has been instrumental in the transformation of this part of the business, from a company focused on research and development to one focused on the swift delivery of value.

“We have contributed to this through process maturity and commercial thinking, and through linking it to our IT governance and delivery processes to ensure projects are completed as planned.”

In terms of emerging or disruptive technologies, Opus is working with partners on initiatives relating to sensors and instrumentation, BIM (including visualisation using a variety of VR/AR/360-degree tools), 3D printing and looking at the commercial application of Microsoft’s HoloLens.

“The world and our competitive market are changing more quickly than ever, and this means an increasing amount of our time in IT is taken up looking at how we can respond and how we can innovate,” she says. “Currently, innovation initiatives account for over half of our time from the IT leadership team perspective.”

A further example of an innovation initiative is the global implementation of BIM for Opus Gillespie says. This has been led by IT, with strong sponsorship from the executive leadership team.

“Formal certification has been achieved for our Cardiff office, and will be followed closely by the other UK offices and then the global business,” she says.

“The use of BIM as standard allows Opus to work faster and more efficiently, by leveraging common frameworks and artefacts rather than reinventing them for every project. It also delivers client value with a model that can be used to manage assets for the whole of their lifecycle, rather than ending with the project.

“As well, over the past 18 months we have rolled out a complete change of telco provider, including the corporate rollout of the Samsung Galaxy S7,” says Gillespie.

“This has been part of a broader move to a ‘mobile first’ strategy for the business, putting the right tools in the hands of our staff to allow them to deliver anytime, anywhere for clients.”

Strong executive sponsorship, excellence in technical delivery and good business communications were critical to the success of this project, she says.

“It has set the benchmark for how we deliver IT within Opus and shifted the business’ perceptions of what they can expect from us.

“IT has been recognised as a strategic enabler for the business, as Opus transitions through a major strategy shift. The IT strategy itself has developed alongside this broader strategy shift and is very closely coupled with the business outcomes required for the global organisation.

“The programme of work for IT has been delivered on time, to budget and to spec over the past 12 months. This has included the implementation of SharePoint, which is transforming the way we collaborate globally, as well as ERP enhancements, the integration of an overseas acquisition, and we are well advanced on many others.”

She says the company runs a tight operational environment and has introduced new solutions, automation and a core team to support the operation.

“We manage costs tightly, constantly looking for savings and service improvements. For example, we have achieved savings of around 15 per cent on mobile, WAN and VOIP, and over 30 per cent on print – which allows us to reinvest those savings and deliver further enhancements to our IT environment for the benefit of the wider Opus business.

“We have introduced better support procedures, along with much tighter change control to improve delivery and stability of IT for the business. We have also implemented more structured IT governance on projects, to ensure delivery on time, in full, to spec, and this is being reflected in the value that the business sees IT providing.”

Gillespie regularly presents to the Board and maintains a close relationship with key Board members, keeping them informed of progress and innovation.

“We participate in the Global Management team, leading and influencing IT and non-IT initiatives. We report on IT initiatives monthly to a wide range of stakeholders globally, providing much-improved visibility of what’s happening in the IT environment and the value that delivers for the operational business. We are actively working with ELT to prioritise the forward programme of investment,” says Gillespie.

“We work closely with the business to maximise productivity and innovation. It is a mark of our changing relationship with the business that we are more commonly asked for our involvement in non-IT projects, than we have ever been before.

“In the past 12 months we have invested in capability within IT that helps to bridge the gap between IT and the business. This gives us better visibility of where the business is heading, which then helps us shape our IT strategy and plans.”

Communications from IT have been transformed both from an incident/change perspective and in terms of project updates, says Gillespie.

“We are using non-technical language, and focusing on business benefit rather than IT complexity. We are also making much more use of video for updates, to make them more engaging and easier to absorb. Feedback from the wider business has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Rodney Fletcher