by George Nott

CIO 2016 #26-50: Kevin O’Hara, Tulla Group

Nov 24, 2016
Technology Industry

Tulla Private Equity Group has investments in global mining companies, drilling companies, software companies, technology companies, digital agencies, festivals, lifestyle firms and even a thoroughbred stud.

With each investment comes a new set of processes, legacy systems, email servers, websites, supplier databases, digital assets and payment systems. Tasked with joining them all up is Tulla’s Group CIO, Kevin O’Hara.

“We embarked on the process in order to streamline our business processes, reduce the OPEX associated with the stratified legacy systems and processes that existed, and ultimately, to drive efficiencies through the various businesses,” says O’Hara. “As a result of the project, we were able to automate many components of the numerous companies day to day operations. We were able to streamline and at the same time drive significant cost savings throughout the group.”

A major IT transformation project began this year. The objective was to remove the dependency of the firm on external contractors and service providers and to regain control of all of the firms and investments IP, thereby enabling Tulla to make strategic data driven decisions. From there, the group hoped to find efficiencies, cost savings and opportunities to scale and roll-out a consistent digital strategy.

The project started with a global audit and assessment of each entity, and a review of the digital assets and management information systems that existed for each, before a structural assessment of the fragmented cluster of assets, the ownership and management of each, and the back end databases and hosting environments.

“In order to ensure the objectives were met, Tulla adopted an agile project management methodology,” says O’Hara. “Each week new issues were identified, particularly from a contractual complications perspective, with legacy supplier relationships, contracts, and service level agreements requiring numerous workarounds.”

The complex integration took the hard work of three teams working simultaneously and around the clock, in some cases completely rebuilding a number of digital assets and management information systems, while maintaining business continuity.

“I could say that we streamlined everything and easily got through the project, but this was simply not the case,” says O’Hara. “How did we overcome these challenges? With great difficulty…but we got there.”

As a result of the project, Tulla was able to automate many components of day to day operations across its portfolio and drive significant cost savings throughout the group.

“Most importantly, we were able to reduce the fragmented nature of system operations, and system administration, and to have control over our digital assets once and for all,” says O’Hara. “Through undertaking the process, we were able to gain a very good understanding of where cost savings and efficiencies could also be realised.”

Deeper understanding

In the past year, the group has deployed a social media strategy which incorporates machine learning, social listening, and social intelligence gathering to gain a deeper understanding of its customers.

“While the tools in basic form have been around for some time, the ability to combine these types of techniques with new machine learning methodologies has enabled us to develop some very compelling value propositions and most certainly a number of competitive advantages,” O’Hara says.

Recently the techniques have been deployed in Tulla’s events portfolio to better reach target audiences and to predetermine the likelihood of events and artists being a success before they are selected.

While he is involved with a 940 strong start-up accelerator networking group, O’Hara says innovation doesn’t always have to be about “major technological disruption”.

“Businesses can very effectively innovate by simply taking the time to look at the business from an external point of view – through a different lens – in order to map the systems and processes that are at play. Then by incrementally reviewing each and every process, one step at a time, opportunities to innovate will often be readily apparent, based on the fact that many of the systems and processes have ‘just been that way’ for a very long time,” O’Hara says.

“Innovation is about the restructuring of business models, systems and processes in order to realise efficiencies, take advantage of economies of scale, and most importantly, to automate using technology where possible.”

George Nott