CIO50 2020 #26-50: Andrew Haddad, Vodafone New Zealand
Andrew Hadded joined Vodafone New Zealand as it came under new ownership.
His remit was to reinvent Vodafone’s digital platforms, formally stated as: Digital Stabilisation, and Transformation for 2020 and beyond.
“My vision is to be among the world’s leading telcos when it comes to IT and digital infrastructure,” says Haddad.
The UK-based Vodafone Group sold the local business to Infratil and Brookfield.
“This made Vodafone New Zealand a ‘partner market’ – and while there are a number of IP sharing agreements, this also opened the business up to significantly evolve our digital future,” says Haddad, Vodafone NZ’s chief information officer.
“This is a multi-year programme of work, and involves creating a remarkable digitally-focused team, who can design and build a world-class digital future across all functional areas,” he states.
He explains Vodafone NZ has a complicated history of mergers and acquisitions over the past 15-plus years, and as a result, his team had numerous legacy IT platforms to support.
Amidst these challenges, and less than a year into the role, his team nonetheless has been delivering a range of programmes to fulfil ICT’s remit.
First is the agile delivery model. Haddad says Vodafone NZ has established tribes focused on digital channels and API layer based on micro-service architecture by separation of front-end and back-end development.
“We focus heavily on an agile delivery model for our front-end channels, sales and customer care,” he states.
The team also created digital platforms to support fifth generation network technology, or 5G.
Haddad says this includes building and supporting the digital store, updating location records and preparing for building new plans and pricing.
Another programme is around enhancing customer experience in a widely competitive sector.
Haddad says Vodafone has established platforms to support the newly formed ‘X Squad’. This involves stabilising the digital infrastructure the customer operations teams use, including provisioning for the multiple technology stacks.
“We’re redesigning our entire digital infrastructure, moving away from complicated and outdated legacy technology,” he states.
Under this, the team is looking at several objectives ranging from operational efficiency, cost cutting, to cross-functional collaboration.
“My team is predominantly embedded into other functional areas,” he explains. “We work in an agile manner, which is an inherently innovative way of working in a large organisation, and aim to support all other teams to be successful via great digital platforms.”
He stresses: “Being digital shouldn’t just be about the IT tools and technology, but should also include the mindset.
“Ensuring as a business we’re using data to make the right decisions and being structured in a way that allows us to be making these decisions across all of our teams, whilst developing a more iterative way of doing things.”
He says this way of thinking should be embedded across the whole organisation, including support functions and external partners they work with.
“It is important that we have the right incentives and metrics to support such decision-making agility.”
He talks about his team’s work on new, future-focused features for products and services.
“We work with teams across the business to offer AI solutions that significantly reduce time and money, '' he says. “Through machine learning, they can query for certain patterns and look for opportunities for cost savings.”
Vodafone has also built a number of bots, which are implemented across the business. These include supporting Vodafone’s digital chatbot TOBi, and creating a number of new applications to streamline customer support through their website.
The bots also create queries in the customer operations teams once a problem has been identified. This will allow them to contact other customers who may also be facing the same issue.
A related use involves tapping machine learning across their network assurance functions to help predict faults and proactive prevent impacts to customers.
The era of connected ‘things’
Hadded says 5G will usher in an era of connected devices. Thus, the team is building Internet of Things solutions for customers to help them in their day-to-day business. Internally, his team is supporting IoT solutions that can make their business operations smarter.
Analytics plays a key role in their daily operations. “As a digital-first business, data and insights determine the decisions we make going forward,” says Haddad.
“My team works closely with other teams across the business to enable simple analytical tools to optimise and measure the impact of their work.”
Haddad is part of the executive team, and works alongside other leaders within Vodafone New Zealand.
“I aim to influence by offering data-centric insights that can help them and their teams understand we need our digital platforms to be intuitive and effective,” he says.
His team started a bi-annual survey to ask internal users for feedback on their ICT systems. This will provide a baseline to understand our performance and any areas of improvement, he states.
On a broader scale, Vodafone has a vast international network. Haddad has regular discussions with CIOs of Vodafone businesses in other countries.
In November last year, for instance, he met his counterparts from Vodafone businesses in the Netherlands, Germany, UK, Italy, and Qatar to share best practices and tools.
“Our aim is to take the most relevant digital solutions from within Vodafone Group, such as the My Vodafone app, and tailor them for the local market. This is cost effective but also the best solution for Vodafone NZ customers.”
He cites the challenges of leading a successful agile team.
“I have a significant number of people who are within my functional reporting area, but work day-to-day in different squads or tribes,” he says.
“A successful team is only as productive as the individuals within it, so I aim to really understand what motivates the people in my team and relate to them as individuals.”
He adds: “To me, being a successful IT leader means leading from the top – but also knowing when to step back and give your people room to grow, develop and solve the hardest problems in their own time.”
To this, he employs the principles of ‘servant leadership’ within the agile framework.
This includes ‘inclusivity first’.
“I want all people who work with or for my team to feel part of the team,” he states. “This includes those based in other cities – both domestically and internationally. Through video calls and regular email updates, I aim to ensure all parties feel included and an intrinsic part of the team.”
He holds skip-level meetings. Each week, he allots an hour-and-a-half to meetings with the reports of his direct reports. “We discuss current projects and how each person is finding their role and job.”
His team organises regular ‘all hands forums’. These are held every six to eight weeks, and include updates from him and his direct reports to share updates with the wider team.
These meetings are important particularly as a number of his team members work in different time zones, including support staff in India.
He cites the importance of sharing intra-business information.
In a large firm like Vodafone with more than 2000 people nationally, it can be hard to ensure teams are informed with happenings across the business, he says.
“This is true especially when leading a team that is rebuilding the digital infrastructure on which all other functional areas operate,” he states.
Thus, he regularly shares updates from other business leaders, and also invites guest speakers to their ‘all hands’ meetings when appropriate.
He is working with the HR team to develop training for every member of the digital team to understand leadership fundamentals in an agile environment.
“Overall, I employ transparency and an understanding we will continue to evolve. I try to encourage this mentality within my team, and empower them in the mission to overhaul our digital infrastructure and set Vodafone New Zealand up for success in 2020 and beyond,” says Haddad.
Be clear on the ‘why’
A lesson that stood out for him as he leads the team through the digital environment is the power of getting clarity on ‘why’.
“After the trials of navigating a complex organisation, I took the advice of a good business coach to always start by making sure I’m clear on the ‘why’, and use this to pull on the heart strings and ensure everyone keeps driving towards this goal.
“The question ‘Why?’ has a profound place in helping define a team purpose, the business case, and of course justification the case for change; and without it we are almost certainly destined for failure.
“It’s always the first thing that teams want to know, and usually the last thing we try to reverse-engineer into our plans and communications,” he explains.
“I have found many hours can be wasted if you miss the purpose or ‘why’ behind a recurring meeting no one ever wants to attend, or a report an analyst works all weekend to send out and no one will read,” he says.
“As a leader, you need to motivate large groups of people towards a common goal, and I’ve found it will always be much easier if I can clearly explain ‘why’.”