CIO50 2022 #18: Thomas Hyde, Beca

  • Name Thomas Hyde
  • Title Chief Digital Officer
  • Company Beca
  • Commenced role April 2020
  • Reporting Line Chief Executive Officer
  • Member of the Executive Team No
  • Technology Function 110 staff, seven direct reports
  • As Chief Digital Officer for engineering and consulting services firm Beca, Thomas Hyde and his team are focused on leveraging “know how from 100 years of helping clients shape the built environment, into a portfolio of new digitally-enabled products and services.”

    The Beca Digital team of more than 100 people work in an agile way to drive the digital transformation agenda.  In establishing the team, Beca combined its corporate ICT, security, digital products and services, engineering technology practice, and New Ventures Accelerator teams into one group. 

    Over the last 18 months the organisation has evolved its strategy and structure. Its Digital Twin platform “supports how we do our work, how we connect our clients to our services, and as the platform from which we launch our new products and services,” says Hyde.

    “There are three areas of focus, each with a direct report lead, one looking within the business to drive a strong automation workstream across Beca’s 3000+ technical community, one focused on making sure we have a future proof digital platform (at the moment the priority is on replacing some legacy back-office systems), and the third on accelerating growth in our digital offerings - all leveraging our Digital Twin technology investment.  Overall, this covers about $45m of activity against Beca’s annual turnover of ~$600m,” adds Hyde.

    This approach has allowed the team to “see” across all of the digital activity happening in Beca.  “We have established a network across the business groups, with each having digital leaders we engage with to coordinate our digital transformation, as well as assist with ideation and incubation of new innovations.  We have established a digital investment group that provides financial support to these, and we determine which of these should be curated into our Digital Twin platform. “ 

    Funding has increased from $500k annually four years ago, to more than $8m each year in early-stage innovation, while also leveraging government research and development support in New Zealand and Singapore.

    Hyde has also been advocating for an NZ Inc approach to establishing a National Digital Twin capability in support of the government stimulus infrastructure programme, particularly with Te Waihanga, but also with major asset owning organisations such as Watercare, Transpower, and Waka Kotahi.  

    New markets for new niche products

    Beca has a strategic objective of at least 10% of revenue coming from non-time-based revenue (e.g., SaaS subscription). The business is currently at less than 1%. 

    “However, we now have 11 products under development, with three of these matured to ‘Digital Enterprise’ status, where effectively we ring fence them as their own mini businesses with their own P&L but supported by the Beca Digital support crew.  In terms of value to the business these offer counter-cyclic revenue, access to new clients in new markets and geographies (especially the northern hemisphere), and global niche offerings.”

     Examples include:

    • CAPEXinsights which is in deployment in 100 countries and helps clients manage capital programmes of work. Beca has established a team in the Netherlands to support this work closer to customers and have major implementations underway for Unilever and Arla (a Fonterra equivalent in Denmark), with several new clients in the pipeline.
    • BTune which helps building owners save energy and reduce carbon. Beca has patents lodged, its next generation technology working, and are pushing hard into the USA as its target market.
    • FranklyAI, a conversational engagement tool with the purpose of “No voice left behind”.  It uses conversational AI to respond to the need for diversity, equity, and representation in data collection and decision-making processes.
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