CIO100 2017 #4: David Kennedy, Transaction Services Group
In the past year, Transaction Services Group has acquired two companies and significantly grown its size. Today, it runs five operating companies across the United States, New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom.
“We now have more systems and people within the IT space than ever before,” says David Kennedy, Group CIO.
He shares his strategy for tackling this complex environment.
“I have a simple philosophy,” he says. “That is, technology is a constant throughout all areas of the business.
“Every operation, task, idea, innovation and customer interaction is driven through technology and as such we need to be present at every decision point.
“We do this throughout TSG by empowering the IT managers to align to simple goals with clear communication of our strategy.”
When Kennedy joined TSG more than a year ago, he organised a summit for their IT managers across the globe.
“We needed to align our strategies and work as one to roll out value across the group. So far we have implemented a single workflow management system, single licensing provisioning, and introduced single supplier agreements.”
The group-wide technology transformation strategy is laid on three simple guiding principles: Kill Complexity, Create Time and Think Big.
‘Kill Complexity’ encompasses all the Group’s systems and processes. One approach to this is what Kennedy calls “aces in their places”, or having the people who are most enthusiastic about a technology to manage that service for multiple companies.
For instance, for the Pacific Rim, there is a single security team in place. This team is also creating a services orientated architecture and shared third party management framework to reduce this overall spend across companies.
‘Create Time’ aims to create value internally by analysing the information available. The initial step in this was virtually zero cost. It involved internally reviewing information flows to identify value and therefore create time for many people within the company. The initiative brought the Executive on board to further using this technology as it proved the business can find economies internally.
Kennedy outlines an example of this: “We reviewed the account management pain contributors. As part of this we identified that we could save up to 1344 FTE hours by simply providing our customers with access to a very small amount of non-sensitive internally available information.
“The ’Create Time’ principle allows everyone to understand where we can automate or use technology to free up the time of our staff and allow them to focus on true innovation. After all, doesn’t everyone want to work on innovation?”
'Think Big' relates to working as a global group, consolidating and utilising big data. “We assign ourselves projects that will benefit every company: learn in one company and then share with the others to ensure a reduced cost for subsequent implementations,” says Kennedy.
In the technology space, this translates to having a regionally focused IT services. Kennedy explains: “We are now looking and acting like a larger company, rather than five separate companies.”
“We have initiated a digital transformation in each company that is aligned to a group wide transformation strategy. Each business unit has significantly shifted the dial in many ways.”
The whole team is acting like a change agent
Harlands had the largest transformation. It started with the data layer with a new SQL platform, replacement of telephony system for the contact centre, redesigned network and the introduction of cloud collaborative tools across the business. The teams are now fully Office 365, have reduced their operating expenditure and are looking to further simplify their operations.
Debitsuccess has redesigned its SQL data warehouse and now possesses the power to add significant value to customers through the provision of insights.
“We call this the Information Management Strategy. It creates value internally, as well as externally using cognitive computing, machine learning and artificial intelligence,” says Kennedy.
“We are working closely with our larger customers to identify insights that can help them deepen their relationship with their customers. This creation of a ‘value net’ will ensure our customers are sticky, with one saying that ‘they will never leave’ as we are intrinsically intertwined.
AusFIT and Links, two recently purchased businesses, have ongoing integrations to maximise value and allow teams to work together more effectively.
Another company, DFC, deployed cloud services, initially with its cloud disaster recovery. It also introduced Office 365, and is reviewing the use of desktop-as-a-service with a view to be completely location agnostic this year. This includes a project to implement cloud based resilient productions systems called “Production Cloud.”
FFA Paysmart is focusing on internally developing the software stack to reduce technical debt and offer wider services to customers.
“Innovation is a prime goal as the company grows and matures,” says Kennedy. “For example, we are mapping the business strategy into mind maps. This will enable transparency for all employees to feel aligned and on board for the journey.
“We are also creating regional IT services to reduce the operational expenditure of the group and increase our capability.”
One of the more forward thinking initiatives involves Cognitive Computing, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to implement the Information Management Strategy (IMS).
“We have arrived in a position where the whole team is acting like a change agent,” Kennedy states.
“Feeling the team working in unison around these six words is a powerful way to ensure we can move forward with little or no extra personnel costs. The team is engaged, empowered and focused on driving value into the company through ideas and initiatives aligned to the strategy.”