Q&A with Richard Davies: Global CIO Deutsche Post

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Describe your role in three words.

Chief Investment Officer

Investment Officer? That sounds an unusual way to describe yourself.

I use that phrase because it best describes what I do. I spend my time managing the investment portfolio for IT. We’re using portfolio management techniques to look at IT

We make sure the technology investment portfolio has got a balanced mix: Balanced mix for legacy and innovation; balanced mix of risk and reward; balanced mix of processs (business innovations versus back office, for example)

That’s very different from what I would have doing five years ago: then I’d have been interested in looking at project management. I’d have a great heatmap matrix with charts of reliabity and SLAs I stopped doing it because I was staring at a sea of green.

There are the odd exceptions of course, but it didn’t require high level management dealing with exceptions. Now, I spend much more time focusing on business partner management and more time understanding the business objectives

Five years ago – I’d have spent about 30 percent of time taking to business, about 30 percent on projects and about 30 percent on SLas. Now it’s 50 percent working on achievement of business objectives, 30 percent on building capability and 20 percent understanding more about technologies and how to use them.

For example, we’re looking at social media, we all know it’s going to be big but how are we going to monetise it.

How did a Brit get to be global CIO for a German company

I used to work for Exxel Logistics which was bought by Deutsche Post.

Deutsche Post were rather far-sighted and were concerned about revenue falling away from letters and were looking to expand. I went to be CIO for one of the Asian companies and after that, the most logical place to go was to be global CIO.

Interestingly, there are seven board members here and only three are German, that compares to Deutsche Bank were all the board are German: culturally we’re very global.

How did you get to where you are today/into IT/business?

I was always passionate about technology and always interested in solving problems.

I studied engineering, worked in consulting, ran consulting businesses, lead strategic corporate change initiatives then moved into bigger and bigger CIO roles

What's the biggest challenge of being a modern-day CIO?

There are some significant technological changes happening at the moment –

We call them The Big Five – cloud, mobile, social media, consumerisation, big data.

Any one of these would be significant alone but what’s happening at the moment is that they are occurring simultaneously and are interdependent: they influence our lives inside and outside work.

And the most rewarding aspect of being a modern-day CIO?

Seeing technology mature into being something we consume everyday. Technology has moved to the point where it’s been consumerised a lot. People didn’t understand IT – and IT people were the technical specialists. IT has now gone more mainstream.

What is the biggest mistake you think you’ve made?

Resisting the urge to provide solutions vs asking questions

And your greatest success?

Working in Asia, it’s a very optimistic environment, GDPs are growing and the people don’t care about ‘Not Invented Here’ they’re not afraid to explore and learn.

How big a role will cloud computing play in your organisation in the next three years?

Very big. It’s part of the Big Five – all of which are going to be very interdependent affecting us in the corporation and our daily life

Cloud is very important to us, producing everything as a service is important to us. We’ve been looking at what applications we have, virtualising them and taking them out to the cloud

We started before last year – in late 2010 – when we looked at our portfolio, and decided what applications would be appropriate to move.

We’re not moving everything at the moment. We have a lot of SAP and one of the things we are struggling with is to find an appropriate provider to provide us with SAP as a service - the market is not mature enough yet.

At the moment, 12 percent of our systems are in the cloud – the plan will be to move to a substantial proportion. But the market is not mature enough yet.

We’ve already worked on one app. A cloud-managed travel and expenses, Travel on Demand, a co-developed project with SAP, that we’ve marketed outside the company.

What other technologies are you watching?

The other parts of the Big Five.

What are the most important criteria you use to make decisions that impact your business and why?

Investment and portfolio management techniques - alignment with business objectives, mix of build & run, legacy & innovation, distribution of investment across processes, risk/reward

Is there anything else you care to add?

It’s essential we learn how to harness these technologies to solve business problems and manage the evolution of the corporate IT value proposition. I call this ‘moving corporate IT into its next generation’

Richard Davies was a delegate at the recent CIO Event at Celtic Manor


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