The role has moved technology one step closer to the customer
What is it like to hold an inaugural executive C-level role, with unprecedented breadth of responsibilities in a competitive industry that is highly disrupted by technology and online competitors?
These are some of the challenges Kevin Angland faces, who stepped into the General Manager Digital Services post at Mercury (formerly Mighty River Power), nearly a year ago.
Prior to the move, Angland was CIO at IAG for four years, rounding up a career in the insurance industry which started in sales, moving to project management and to a range of business technology executive roles.
“I only changed industries once,” he says, describing his career path.
“Having spent many years in a traditional industry, to be joining another pretty traditional industry that is undergoing fundamental change is quite exciting.”
“I feel like I am a surfer who has joined the perfect wave, at the perfect time,” he says, smiling. “It has got a nice momentum."
“I have got functional responsibilities across digital services but equally contributing across the broader executive team around business strategy, leadership development and other aspects," he says.
“It is around ensuring that Mercury is using technology and digital capability to really deliver great customer outcomes or customer experiences.”
He has the following areas reporting to him - IT, contact centre support team and customer operations - and is the executive responsible for digital transformation across the business.
The role, he says, covers customer, digital and technology - “a great triangle and intersection”, for near infinite possibilities that can be achieved in an era of rapid technology change.
He says the digital component of the role goes beyond customer brand.
We are looking at our internal business processes and understanding where we can apply digital capability to get better outcomes, he says.
How can we be more efficient? How can we create value? What are the benefits of the new building, the tools for the digital workplace?
The latter refers to the company’s move to a new building in Newmarket.
Working in a single building, behind the Mercury Brand, is an opportunity to improve productivity and collaboration for 600 people, as well as deliver outcomes for customers and shareholders, he says.
He nods when asked whether his new responsibilities represent a ‘CIO-plus’ role.
“That is exactly what it is," he says. “What it has done is it has moved technology one step closer to the customer.”
It doesn't matter what industry you are in. We are all faced with the challenge and opportunity that technology change brings.
Angland says the changes Mercury is undergoing go back to over two years ago, when CEO Fraser Whineray took over the top post in September 2014.
This led to a new strategy for the company, which was very much focused on the customer, says Angland.
Angland leads a team of more than 250 people.
“It is a smaller team than I had at IAG (where he had over 400 staff) but the area of responsibility is very broad and the technology is for the whole business,” he says.
“There is a realisation that our digital capability underpins the broader business strategy and therefore they have to fit hand in glove,” he says.
“It doesn't matter what industry you are in,” he adds. “We are all faced with the challenge and opportunity that technology change brings.”
He says a priority is executing on the near term, what the customers tell us what they want or need, like more digital channels.
Data is the next piece for us as homes get more automated, he says.
As we get more real time consumption data, again, we could do a lot with it, but what can we do that creates value for customers?
Another major technology shift on their sights is the move to electric vehicles. That is probably a huge opportunity because that shifts the dial, and that is a new market that is hugely untapped, he says.
They are also looking at Internet of Things, and keeping a watch on blockchain and its implications.
He says attending The Singularity New Zealand Summit in Christchurch last year allowed him to step out of his role and “just see and hear from people who really pushed the boundaries”.
The conference was hosted by alumni of Singularity University, a Silicon Valley think tank that focuses on ‘exponential’ technologies.
“You are talking about five,15, to 20 years type of change, and trying to understand what it means for the organisation today,” he says.
Collaborate to innovate
To encourage innovation, he says, collaboration is key.
He says it is about taking cross functional teams working in an agile manner.
An example would be having people that support customer facing technology working with people in the contact centre serving customers. “You have got real time feedback on how technology is supporting them or not.”
In terms of managing his career, Angland taps the “strong professional networks” he has forged through the years, and also ensures he is helping build future business technology leaders.
Angland sits on the advisory group of the Strategic CIO Programme at the University of Auckland. The program is for people who want to step into a more senior role, but with a focus on the IT function. He also mentors some of the students in the course.
Angland strongly supports the call for more young people to go into STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) courses.
“Technology is not about cutting code in the backroom, or being a geek in an isolated room,” he says.
He recalls attending a conference where the speaker said, “Find me a great organisation today and I will find you a great technology capability underpinning that organisation.”
“The message is great organisations of the future are going to need great digital technology capability to execute.”
“And that is why people should be encouraged to get into STEM [courses]. Fundamentally, they are the foundations and principles to technology careers going forward.”
“That foundational capability will serve you well.”
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