Technology is No Longer a Support Function
By Mark Wilmshurst, Global CIO, Reed Business Information
High demands placed on technology teams is nothing new, but each year sees a different set of challenges. Historically siloed and admonished for lack of deliverability, “over-rated” and “over-paid”, the change has been dramatic – companies do not succeed without clear direction on how technology can drive business growth. Technologists have become a very important commodity.
XpertHR was launched by Reed Business Information, a Reed Elsevier company, in 2012 to help HR professionals comply with global, federal and state employment law. All XpertHR products are delivered from a single platform with a dedicated technology team augmented offshore in New Delhi. During the build and in the years following launch, we have embraced agile development and lean start-up principles, allowing us to build prototypes and minimum viable products, measure their success, pivot and get customer feedback in a continuous loop.
Being able to deliver is still the benchmark for success. At XpertHR, we have refined and enhanced a Kanban process that works for the global platform; we have tooling and data to give confidence around quality, security, and maintainability without being swamped with metrics.
Getting the process that works for you will not be found in any book – it takes trial and error and a big emphasis on simplicity. 100 percent of our business runs in the cloud – this provides agility not just in terms of cost and scalability but plays nicely in our world of continuous innovation – allowing you to experiment and, should it be necessary, to fail faster! With DevOps a very hot topic, writing good code is nothing if you can’t deploy it. Having a cloud-based “development and test” environment allows us to automate server creation with known good configuration time after time giving the highest amount of confidence with live deployment.
Ensuring effective cross-functional leadership and team working capability have been key to achieving the maximum amount of collaboration, efficiency, flexibility, and, ultimately, success for our global team. These efforts have helped ensure the technology teams work shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of the business, are kept apprised of customer discovery and market research and have a seat at the table throughout.
My Role as a CIO
The CIO role is evolving year-on-year. Meeting the demands of the business and keeping up with advances in technology is challenging. A culture of innovation is critical to business success yet we must still maintain the highest levels of compliance and best practice while ensuring a low and transparent cost-base. Our Technology Graduate Program across the Group has introduced a new millennial talent across our business units. Now, challenging the status quo is no longer feared but expected. This kind of disruptive thinking has breathed new life into our business.
Lessons Learned as a CIO
Gone are the days of Technology being just a support function to the business. We are seeing some of the best, most innovative ideas being generated in the development teams. Strategy is much more focused on the customer and how technology can influence the solutions to market problems than being dictated from above. Without an injection of young and bright talent contributing to your product roadmap, your days will be numbered in the internet businesses of today. An ex-colleague once told me any “technology” problem seems to be directly related to either “people or process”. Getting both right is hard - it is a moving target - but essential for success.