A look back at last year's CIO50: #25 Bradley Blyth, flybuys

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flybuys

CIO Australia is running its fifth annual CIO50 where we highlight the achievements of the top 50 senior technology and digital executives who are driving innovation and influencing change across their organisations.

2020 has been a very difficult year for organisations across Australia and around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has put enormous pressure on tech chiefs and their teams to deliver remote working solutions that provide business continuity during a crisis.

Nominate for the 2020 CIO50.

We are taking a look back at last year’s top 25. Today, we profile flybuys’ chief technology officer, Bradley Blyth who slotted in at number 25.

Read Bradley’s story below.

Since becoming an independent company, Australia’s largest and most diverse loyalty program, flybuys has had a strong emphasis on investing in the business to support new opportunities. This fuelled an investigation into what the organisation could harness from its existing assets to create a new, sustainable business opportunity and unique customer proposition, says chief information officer, Bradley Blyth.

“Flybuys has an extensive level of detail on its loyalty program members. The hypothesis is that this data asset could be used to create a market-leading insights program that provides contextual and personalised customer experiences beyond what is available in the market today," Blyth says.

The objectives of this work were to increase member offer activation, provide self-service analytics capabilities to partners, reduce operational costs, and create new revenue streams.

As a result, Blyth and his team launched a data and analytics platform which sources data sets from different providers to provide a unique view of the customer.

“Over the past year, we’ve pushed ourselves to think differently about what’s possible and with the help of partnerships and a highly skilled technology team, we’ve created a technology stack that’s capable of ingesting, processing and analysing huge amounts of data in real-time.

A key benefit of this platform is an improvement in operational efficiency. The new system can complete complex flybuy customer data files in around 60 seconds, compared to a nightly processing time of five hours with the previous solution. These efficiencies have also led a 90 per cent reduction in data storage and processing costs.

The flybuy platform processes 11 million customer transactions daily, categorising more than 450 segments in real-time. It uses machine learning to constantly enhance its own customer analysis, ensuring customer’s interests are accurately identified as they move through different life stages.

Flybuys has also used its new data analysis capabilities to create new features and customer experiences that it was unable to do previously, says Blyth.

These include real-time offers and a gamification feature which gives customers more choice over what offers they’d like to see. This has led to a 10 per cent increase in offer activity between flybuys and its customers.

Partners also now have a self-service capability, allowing them to draw their own real-time insights on customers who transact within their stores. This means they are now able to observe customer behaviour as it happens. This has resulted in a 20 per cent reduction in the operational cost of supporting partners, says Blyth.

“There were multiple challenges to getting this program up and running including funding, delivery, engineering, and security. As these challenges presented themselves, it appeared that the concept of this platform had not been successful locally or internationally before. All these have been overcome to deliver a great outcome,” he says.

The right value proposition

When he joined flybuys, Blyth said he identified three areas of change that were required to properly instantiate the technology team’s value proposition to the organisation.

Firstly, flybuys needed to be positioned as a technology company.

“Its value proposition is dependent on the quality of its digital experiences. As this is its competitive advantage, then we must consider technology at the heart of everything we do. This change in company mindset establishes the importance of the technology team and the investment in technology,” he says.

Secondly, Blyth needed to break down the perception that IT and the business are separate entities. The IT team needed to be considered a peer of all other major business functions and as such not separate when it comes to strategic importance or value.

“Removing this perception has established an equal weighting on viability of the technology contribution, and it also boosts the ability of our IT team to contribute to conversations around what’s valuable,” he says.

Thirdly, Blyth and his team need to keep the organisation up to date through regular communication and demonstrate that progress was being made.

“This has developed into regular showcases of technology deliverables, team-wide newsletters and the early staff pre-releases of mobile application updates. All these mechanisms keep the organisation up-to-date and engaged on the technology team’s value.”

Blyth says that since stepping into a c-level role, one of the biggest lessons he has learned is the value of being part of the technology community.

"This means actively participating in it and not being insular in my approach and thought process. When I started to participate in a greater level of decision making, I relied on my own experiences as a dominant source of information to consider. I undervalued the access I had to a variety of experiences from industry colleges, vendors and other SMEs.

"After attending a variety of industry events, I began to expand my network of professional contacts. What I quickly discovered was that other people had solved many of the same problems I was faced with in different and unique ways, with some having more success than I was having. This was a humbling experience and it changed my mindset and approach to discussions on problem solving.

"Now when I have a complex problem that needs to be solved, I approach as many different people as possible to gain a range of perspectives on the problem. I also adopt a mindset of 'every approach is correct' as opposed to some are wrong and some are right. Keeping an open mind lets me fully explore all approaches and not dismiss different options, which means conversations then explore which approach is better suited to solve the problem. I believe this change made me a better CTO and allowed a better outcome for the organisations I work for."

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