A look back at last year's CIO50: #21 Brett Wilson, MJH Group

Brett Wilson
Brett Wilson

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 MJH Group's Brett Locke, who slotted in at number 22.

Read Brett Wilson's profile here.

To automate important metrics processes that construction company MJH Group had been performing manually, CIO Brett Wilson brought in AI capabilities to the mix.

With more than 60 display homes across the eastern coast of Australia, MJH Group was manually counting the number of weekly visitors to those sites.

MJH soon found that it was not an effective approach when it came to understanding the success of marketing campaigns and other important metrics for the business.

The solution was to replace the manual counting process with a consistent and automated method that returned accurate data to assist on business decisions.

"To solve this business problem, we leveraged off the Azure Cognitive Services Face API and its AI capabilities to not just count the number of customers that visit our display homes with a footfall camera, however use a secondary set of technology with a high-resolution camera to identify faces," Wilson tells CIO Australia.

The artificial intelligence linked to the facial recognition was the "exciting part of the solution", he says, as it pushed data to Azure, which was linked into the Microsoft Face API that enabled more than just counting of visitors.

"It enabled the anonymous collection of valuable demographic information about our customers, such as sentiment and age brackets, which was information that we haven't had any visibility on before with the manual counting methods," Wilson explains.

"Instantly we recognised that there was a significant difference in what was being reported via the automated method in regards to the count of customers versus manual, and it gave the business accurate data to determine real traffic versus marketing campaigns."

Now, MJH Group has more insight into age, gender, sentiment and trends that have helped to identify areas that need more attention from sales or a different approach.

The main challenge Wilson faced was to ensure privacy when using the selected technologies and make sure that there were no identifiable links to individuals.

"We resolved this by segregating the data on Azure and the processes that performs the heavy lifting of facial recognition, meaning that developers only had access to one area, however, not the other," Wilson says.

Fostering a culture of development

Wilson spends time each month with every member of his team to understand how they are tracking and if they are getting the right support from their managers.

The focus moves to their individual learning development plan that focuses on the next three to five years.

"The key outcome of this is that the team know that I have their best interests in consideration as to helping them meet their career goals, and they know where they stand and if there are any opportunities both inside our organisation I know if they would be a good fit," Wilson says.

"Fostering a culture of development means to help others achieve their goals and career aspirations, and sometimes this may even mean acting as a reference for a fantastic employee that needs to move outside the organisation to meet these aspirations."

Wilson also identified a gap in the business where staff across the company wanted to know more about technologies and leadership. After a few trials and errors the iHub was born.

Every month a topic is selected and an expert was invited to come and educate the staff on the technology or leadership and to discuss how that could be applied to the organisation.

"It was important to find the best method of delivery, so the first topic on AI from Microsoft was with the leadership team and over video conference with content sharing," Wilson says.

"This proved successful, however, it didn’t have the ability to scale. The subsequent topic was on leadership, and we decided to move to a completely online delivery, via Skype. It was a resounding success and also gave us the ability to record the session, which we are making into a set of online internal sessions for staff who couldn't make it to the event."

Understanding the minds of decision making executives

Wilson believes in the power of relationships both internally, with senior level executives, and with vendors. Fostering those relationships helps with more effective discussions when it comes to bringing new ideas in or getting projects approved, for example.

"Understanding the 'why' of the executives that you need to influence is, put simply, the ability to understand your audience and the 'why' for them is where they can see value," Wilson says.

"If you want to influence other executives, you need to build up a level of understanding on what the currency is," he explains.

"For example, a discussion with the CFO ties back to the cost and ROI on a project; however, the same conversation with a CEO of a business may still include costs, but should focus on the value to the organisation and also the change management around how it will affect the business and whether it will deliver a sustained value or profitability."

He also tapped into a key point: time. Wilson says most c-level executives have little time so keeping that in mind when coming up with lengthy presentations is certainly key.

"You need to get your point across and capture their attention in the first 60 seconds," he says.

"You need to be solutions orientated, so don’t come with a lot of open answers, come with the solutions. Focus on facts that you know enough about to hold your own and be confident in what you're proposing."

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