CIO50 2021 #26-50: Neville Richardson, Gallagher Group
Gallagher Group chief information officer Neville Richardson describes the company as “an 83-year-old start-up” and says this is what drives the information services team. For example, in the middle of lockdown it developed contact tracing technology in its command centre product.
“The last 18 months has seen the pace of that business innovation accelerate, driving us to pivot and try new things out of necessity, Richardson says.
“Starting with strategic tools like the Cynefin framework [to develop decision making], to rapid course adjusts, like switching development of subscriptions development (of a much larger initiative) mid project, to third party service as scope changed overnight. This adoption of Amazons oneway/twoway methodology was new for us and allowed us to keep our delivery dates!”
Creating great partnerships is also important, as Richardson explains. “Driving others to innovate with us. Migrating from Lotus Notes to Microsoft 365 six months before lockdown was ideal, but we saw gaps in Microsoft’s offering, so selected a partner to work with to fill those gaps for us, and that partner ended up launching a new backup service, so causing the innovation in others to serve our needs,” he says.
Moving away from technology streams to value streams, and reducing handoffs is also important. For example, introducing Jira enabled Richardson’s team to improve service delivery from around 85% to 95%.
Meanwhile, the COVID-induced change to working has resulted in faster innovation. This includes the ability to change working practices on the fly, and switching delivery models to online in order to deliver a major eCommerce solution on time and on budget. In addition, the team launched security online training that saw an exponential uptake among staff.
Influence is two-way
Influence must be two way, says Richardson, so a shared ownership model of IS is supported by robust governance, operating in a (six week) cycle, aligned to agile working patterns.
“IS is at the start of every conversation, to ensure Gallagher (not just IS) makes the technology decisions, with agreement on priority, and resource allocation to activities of highest business value, elevating IS from service provider to trusted partner. That shared ownership includes organisational co-designing leading to IS reorganising into value streams (Analytics and Insights, and Security added in last 18 months). One of the strongest influences is that this drives decision making into the business, and means the executive leadership team do only the things they need to do. This whole model was driven by IS, quite an influence!” Richardson says.
When it comes to influence in future conversations around new ways of working, Gallagher looks to an agile model, and the IS experience is helping to mould that journey,” Richardson says.
“We are early adopters of such ways of working and pass on our experience (and what not to do). We have supported tools like OKRs and Lean Value trees and integrated them into how we work. So we are part of the pathfinder teams, ensuring we influence that journey, by being there from the start, where IS needs to be,” he says.
Neurodiversity is necessary
Richardson says diversity and inclusion initiatives are important to ensure diversity of though. Oven overlooked, but extremely important, is neurodiversity. “Everyone in our team understand their MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) profiles within IS, and we look to be diverse in this regard. We are discussing with the University of Waikato to push that neurodiversity envelope wider. Innovation occurs at the edge, and pushing that envelope expands diversity of thinking, which can only lead to higher performance,” he says.