Q&A: Centrica CIO Darren Miles and Centrica’s digital transformation journey

May 01, 2022
Energy IndustryIT Leadership

Darren Miles, CIO at UK-based multinational energy and services provider Centrica plc, talks about becoming an IT leader, the companyu2019s latest IT moves, and building an inclusive team.

darren miles
Credit: Centrica

Centrica plc is the largest supplier of gas to the United Kingdom and one of its biggest suppliers of electricity. The multinational energy and services company operates Scottish Gas in Scotland and British Gas in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland and is the owner of Bord Gáis Energy in Ireland. CIO.com spoke to Centrica Group Chief Information Officer Darren Miles about his experience during his first year in the role as the company underwent a digital and technological transformation affecting customers and staff alike.

CIO.com: What are your roles and responsibilities?

As the Group Chief Information Officer for Centrica, I have overall technology accountability for the group, working with core and distributed technology teams to deliver the right outcomes for our customers. My focus as CIO is keeping it simple; using great technology to our advantage so we can build a workplace where colleagues thrive and where we are closer to our customers, building competitive services at speed and at scale.

Across the technology teams, we continuously look at ways technology can make things simpler for our customers, whether on our app, website, in a customer’s home, or speaking with our colleagues on the phone. Everything linked to simplicity is underpinned by technology. During my first 12 months in this role, I have focused on building a diverse and inclusive team. I wanted to make a shift in our culture and build a new spirit of collaboration throughout the technology community.

CIO.com: How has your career evolved to becoming an IT director/CIO/CTO?

I started my career as an electrical engineer. I’ve always tried to make my work practical and outcome-focused. In the early years, I would spend the train commute learning new technologies and practical skills. It is key to have a growth mindset to adapt to the ever-changing needs of our customers and as new technologies are developed.

Throughout my career in technology, I have had many different roles across a broad range from strategy and architecture, development, and programme delivery through to operations. In each role, I have been fortunate enough to have many great and inspiring leaders who have helped me to develop and find new areas to evolve my knowledge and understanding of the industry.

CIO.com: Tell us about something you have worked on over the last 12 months that you are proud of?

There are two areas that I am particularly proud of: our digital and technology transformation to meet the needs of our customers and the progress we have made in building a more diverse and inclusive team. We created a reference architecture to drive Centrica’s digital transformation journey dividing the estate into layers, which has been a key enabler to understanding where and how we can transform for our customers. We already have the majority of our infrastructure in the cloud so we started with the digital channels first and throughout 2022 into 2023 we will see the completion of this journey through transforming the remaining voice and chat channels, by implementing AWS Connect, across all the business units.

Our services business is starting its second phase of transformation to merge all the customer-centric systems onto a single instance of Salesforce. To support the migration of our legacy billing system, this will also include the implementation of a new services billing system based on Microsoft Dynamics 365. This implementation will provide all our Services customers with an end-to-end fully automated journey across best-of-breed SaaS applications. 2022 will also see the new cloud-based SaaS Field Platform deployed across the engineering workforce, finally retiring the on-prem homegrown workforce management system.

In energy, we have begun the journey to migrate the energy customers off the legacy system and onto the new cloud-based SaaS offering. Underpinning these platforms is our new data and analytics platform, ensuring that our business has the data it needs to make decisions in real-time.

Recognising that we are stronger with a more inclusive, collaborative team, we set about creating an employee experience programme, where all colleagues could feel that they had a voice and that they should be comfortable bringing their whole selves to work. Launching an employee experience programme is not the simplest of tasks, let alone during a pandemic and whilst the whole business was going through wide-scale transformational change. We quickly realised that this was exactly the time that such a programme was really needed. We created a sense of contribution with an opportunity for all voices to be heard.

I am proud of how our colleagues rallied around; not only as they kept colleagues around the business connected as we moved to working from home across the whole estate and supporting our field colleagues to keep customers’ homes warm and working through the worst of the pandemic, but also as we supported each other.

As a result of this, we’ve been recognised externally and won several awards including the Real Innovation Technology Awards Employer of the Year and a CIO100 UK Award. Women on the team have been named 2021 TechWomen100 winners, received Inspiring Fifty awards, and been named to the INvolve HERoes 100 Women Future Leaders List.

CIO.com: What do you do outside of work?

Work-life balance is key for me as spending time with my family is very important. I live in Hampshire with my wife Issy, our four children, and two dogs. So that takes up all of my time outside of work, having fun and relaxing. I am living in hope of one day seeing Reading Town football team succeeding again!

CIO.com: What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

There are a few that I always follow:

  • You must build trust to make decisions faster and build momentum.
  • Leaders do not have to try and be the smartest in the room – bring in the best people to bring new ideas and challenges.
  • Make a decision. Do not let fear freeze you. Admit when decisions are wrong, learn from them and try something else.