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CIO50 2020 #26-50: Richard Wyke, Figured

  • 2019 Rank 20
  • Name Richard Wyke
  • Title Chief product officer
  • Company Figured
  • Commenced role November 2019
  • Reporting Line Chief executive officer
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 36 staff, 6 direct reports
  • As a global company on a rapid growth trajectory, the leadership at Figured has the challenge of managing multiple teams across multiple time zones and locations. 

    Richard Wyke, chief product officer at Figured, works with market leaders to develop product and technology solutions, so that Figured can stretch its capabilities and open up new opportunities. This has led to the development of products like Figured Benchmarking, scenario planning and their work with BNZ on the response to M.Bovis. 

    Over the past year, Wyke honed in on a specific area for Figured, a farm financial management software provider and one of the fastest growing fintechs in New Zealand.

    This is the establishment of a data strategy and team that will utilise the billions of data points Figured collects from farm businesses across five different geographies (New Zealand, UK, United States, Australia and Ireland). 

    “Businesses are beginning to realise that one of their biggest assets is their data, but few have figured out how to invest ahead of the opportunity and how to turn their data into tangible customer benefits,” he explains.

    The team will focus on three areas: introducing data driven intelligence into the core product to improve the customer experience; creating new product opportunities utilising data to provide customers and partners insights into their businesses; and creating opportunity for bespoke data analysis for partners and customers.

    Wyke’s team has also rebuilt Figured’s crop farm product capability. This includes redesigning many of the core components which Figured relies on.

    As the need to feed the world's growing population becomes more and more demanding, and global diets are moving toward plant based proteins, the world’s crop farmers are being challenged to run more sophisticated businesses, he says, on the driver behind this rebuilt.

    “Figured has identified the opportunities presented by the cropping industry, and over the past year, we made the bold decision to rebuild Figured’s capability for serving crop farmers,” he says.

    Figured had existing capability for crop farming, however as he investigated the nature of crop farms, Wyke and the product team realised that many of the core concepts in Figured which apply to dairy and livestock farming did not suit crop farming. 

    “The rebuild of the product required highly innovative work to understand various scenarios that crop farmers face which differ based on different seasons of crop growth, weather, and the complexities of mixed farming,” he states.

    “This involved complex work to produce an elegant solution for customers to take into account all these variables and still fit within the financial planning tool in Figured.”

    The product and development teams which Wyke leads make up more than 50 per cent of Figured’s workforce, so his leadership has a major influence on the overall culture of the company.

    Wyke has led, and been part of a number of initiatives designed to bring a vibrant, welcoming and professional environment to Figured, such as developing a set of company values which are more than just guidelines for behaviour.

    “These values are defined and rolled into the structure of business and teams,” he says. “Hiring for culture first has meant the team is both high performing and diverse, with depths of cultures and gender represented.”

    The newest team at Figured is named ‘sniper’, so called because its members only plan their work on short, four-week iterations.

    “They make no long term commitments to projects, keeping them free to work on short-term high priority customer issues,” says the team’s creator, Wyke.

    “The sniper team is versatile so that it can support both short and long term objectives that will benefit the customers, rather than having to repurpose an existing developer’s priorities if they were to be working on a long term project,” explains Wyke.

    This allows the development team to deal with the different cadence of demands from the business, such as quick wins, progressing existing capabilities, customer delights, alongside the vital long term strategic projects.

    He says this is  especially important for a business that operates in a high paced innovation space, with the need for rapid improvements on the product. 

    The ‘sniper team’ is an example of how we treat innovation, says Wyke, who took on his current role after more than five years as chief technology officer at Figured.

    “Figured as a business is not one in which innovations exist only as ‘initiatives, or projects’, rather innovation is at the very heart of how we operate.”

    Wyke also started Figured’s first internship programme. “Our development environment has excellent tools and a great culture of helping one another, so our interns were all able to ship to production within their first few days on the job,” he states.

    “I’ve learned that the greatest successes come when opportunities are framed not so much by solutions, but instead by challenges,” he says, on the outcomes of these various initiatives.

    “I’ve found that when we go looking for challenges we find ourselves creating products which are truly groundbreaking where the incumbents which we’ve disrupted have created solutions to known problems.”

    “We learned early on that it is critical that product aspirations and technology platforms are tightly coupled, as a software company, the platforms we build on can be the life or death of our product,” he states.

    “Overall, I would say that my greatest learning has been the importance of being clear on vision, and enabling great people to do great work.”

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