British Gas director ensures customers join digital economy

Transformative CIOs never fail to highlight the importance of their teams and the Direct Reports that deliver many of the outcomes that the CIO and the business strategy demand. For the 2015 CIO 100 existing members of the CIO 100 community were asked to nominate someone from their team that they felt deserved recognition.

Two candidates stood out and both will receive mentoring from the CIO 100 panel of experts. British Gas CIO David Cooper and his peers nominated Daljit Rehal (pictured with CIO 100 panel expert Mike Altendorf), below they detail Rehal’s achievements as direct report.

The role and achievements:
Daljit Rehal is Director of Strategic Systems for British Gas Information Systems (IS). Rehal is a major force both within IS and the British Gas business, responsible for enabling British Gas customers to become part of the connected digital economy by delivering innovative and superior multi-channel systems, services and information.

Rehal has shown pragmatism, tenacity, innovation and immense talent in delivering multi-channel systems; leading teams to deliver change programmes in the data, digital and mobile space; programmes which have been recognised as award winning.

Rehal has been at the heart of many of the radical technical changes introduced to British Gas IS in the past year, making him a respected and appreciated leader across the whole business.

British Gasstrategic priorities are to deliver great service to our customers and to grow the business through transformation.

“When Daljit joined my team these goals were hampered by a technology estate that was fragmented across different customer product teams and had suffered underinvestment for many years,” Cooper says.

Delivery British Gas strategic priorities has depended on major IT transformation. Including:
1. Systems replacement and transformation in digital self-service across both our B2C and B2B businesses.
2. Completion of Data Centre Migration project to move to modern Linux and Windows Server based environments throughout the estate, as well as performing critical systems upgrades and the replacement of all legacy technologies.

All IT transformations including the above were delivered while making significant savings from our IT budgets to reduce by a quarter our annual expenditure in technology.

The investments in systems that serve our customers have given us unprecedented organisational agility to respond to customer needs, share information about our customers’ across out contact centre, self-service and field channels, as well as develop propositions that leverage all of the products that are on offer. British Gas create and test new customer journeys and content in a continuous way so that it can promote improvements in a matter of hours.

“With these strong foundations Daljit has ensured that we are able to realise the next generation of our vision, to deliver higher levels of customer service quality and invest in digital business transformation whilst continuing to simplify and take cost out of our core systems technologies. He is part of this next wave of innovation and transformation as he takes the helm of our Big Data programme. This programme is revolutionising the business through Hadoop and the data lake – giving it unprecedented customer insight and in turn dramatically improving our customer journeys,” Cooper says.

Ian Peters, Managing Director, British Gas added: “Daljit is renowned for four things: 1) When everyone else is stuck for a solution, he is the "go to" man - and has never failed to come up with a way through a problem, earning him the nickname the "magician". 2) He scans the technological world to bring commercially step-changing innovations into our business (Hadoop and the data lake transform our customer and operational insight). 3) Dogged determination and a refusal to be beaten by a challenge (turning round our doomed data centre migration to eventual success and sorting out our management information). 4) Just as important, he is a genuinely nice guy, a collaborative colleague, with an ability to inspire and develop his people.”

A positive force of disruption and change in your organisation
To transform into a modern digital business, mobile, data and digital needed to come together under a strong, visionary leader. This is the role that Daljit Rehal has played.  He convinced the British Gas Leadership Team including the Managing Director to invest in new ‘disruptive’ digital technology; introducing such things as ‘Big Data’ NoSQL solutions. He succeeded in changing the operating model for digital areas. He innovated in the machine to machine sensor networks area for energy monitoring in the corporate and SME segment of the market. And he disrupted conventional wisdom in many ways, including the creation of a new vision for Data and Information Management; which has now been adopted throughout the business. He also succeeded in challenging the organisation to deliver ‘change’ in new ways, in some cases reversing the trend that has been in place for several years, for example, moving some of the development teams back onshore from offshore development centres.

Daljit led on the decommissioning of old data centres and the commissioning of new environmentally sustainable data centres, involving over 600 applications, several thousand pieces of equipment, and four Peta Bytes of Data. Daljit was asked to take on the leadership role as it needed to make faster progress. The project is delivering cost savings in excess of £200m over several years.

With the completion of this key programme, British Gas now has the opportunity to build exciting next generation technology services and capabilities on a stronger technology foundation. For example, core information and processes are now integrated in both our Residential and Business systems architectures.

Daljit delivered a proof of concept for a state of the art Big Data solution which is now a full project delivering the corporate data strategy. He has been the driving force behind the technical innovation of a Hadoop implementation and move to self-service BI.

Mike O’Donohue, Insight and Data Director says:  “Daljit and his team have been the driving force behind the data lake.  Over the course of two years, he and his team have taken this from an interesting R&D project to become the enterprise solution for how we will manage and exploit data.    They have consistently innovated and come up with cutting edge thinking to get around the problems of implementing the lake at scale.  The lake is generation jumping technology that will revolutionise how we exploit data to create commercial value.”

Daljit has worked collaboratively with the Head of Digital and the Head of Connected Homes at British Gas to ensure that our systems are modernised and integrated into Digital self-service channels. He has helped them to deliver changes to the website and Apps as well as launch a brand new social media experience for our customers.

Arslan Shariff, Digital Director says: “Daljit has been instrumental in changing the way we deliver transformational digital initiatives. Our new agile approach is allowing us to get to market quicker and in a cost-effective way.  Daljit’s tenacious style ensures we stay focused on what’s right for the customer whilst leveraging our technology capability to deliver the best solution for our business.”

Under Daljit’s leadership British Gas customers are being given unprecedented levels of access via their mobile phones to British Gas services. For example, his team developed the British Gas App which has been downloaded over 1.5 million times in the last year.  He also led on the mobile energy phone application ‘me’ which was targeted at helping young people manage their bills and energy usage, even for house sharers. This App was voted top ten Apps in the Apple store; joining the ranks of popular Apps such as Strava, Flickr, Xfactor and Pintrest. It also achieved a five star rating on the Google Play store and received very positive customer reviews.

Thanks to the accessibility of both the website and the Apps that Daljit has overseen, around two thirds of our residential energy customers are now choosing to contact us online, and around half of these are from a mobile device. Not only does this empower our customers but in turn it is taking pressure off British Gas call centre agents.
Daljit has also empowered British Gas employees, giving its 8,500 engineers applications on their iPhones and iPads that arm them with the information they need to help our customers, as well as a texting solution to contact customers about service bookings prior to ringing or writing to them.

David Brand, Customer Services Director, Services and Repair Change says: “The first thing that comes to mind is his passion and excitement for new ideas and the potential they could provide. Daljit is considered by our Leadership team as a real innovator with a fantastic ‘can do’ attitude.  He engages with such enthusiasm.  Daljit was at the forefront of our ‘Engineer Apps’ development, not only informing us about how the engineers could get the best from their iPhone but also changing the IS operating model to deploy the changes in a much more agile and speedy way.”   

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