Chief Information Officer
Intu Properties PLC
Gian Fulgoni – CIO Interview Series
Can you please provide a little introduction about yourself
I was until May 2021 the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for Intu Properties PLC based out of Westminster in London. Intu went into Administration in June 2020 and we transitioned all of the UK and Spanish shopping centers and systems to new owners. After a challenging 11 months, I took the past few months off to recharge the batteries. As we look forward to a New Year, I am now looking for my next opportunity.
What has your journey to your position been like? What path have you taken?
I have always worked within IT, from my early days at Chemical Bank in Cardiff working shifts in operations, then moving to London and have been lucky to travel the world in various IT management / leadership roles. Whilst working at an Oil & Gas company I setup the Aberdeen and The Hague officers and had the amazing experience of going offshore on the gas rigs.
My first IT Director role was with DeAgostini a magazine publisher and spent a lot of time in Japan, setup the new office in Beijing and helped embed a new supply chain. The strategic objective was to standardize applications and ways of working across all locations. This was also my first exposure to offshoring software development and support to India.
My intended gap year after A levels, lasted a lot longer and as such I decided to embark on a distant learning MBA over a few years. A demanding time of balancing a senior level role, family and the MBA.
After a strategic sourcing decision at DeAgostini to move all IT to Italy, I left and joined Bovid Lend Lease as CIO EMEA with the initial objective to turn around IT in region and rollout a new ERP application. As a result of the 2008 Financial Crisis, we had to reduce the IT headcount from 170 to 100 and close many countries. This was the first downturn I experienced and having to cut so many roles, was a tough time for all. On the flip side we also had an opportunity to take over a failing supplier and the internal IT team become the managed service provider for Building School of the Future in Lancaster and Birmingham. This was a massive challenge of not only designing and implementing technology in building new schools but the daily running of the schools with IT becoming a profit center.
My last role was CIO for Intu Properties PLC who owned and operated shopping centers in the UK and Spain. I started 10 years ago with 4 staff, as the majority of services were outsourced and the immediate objective was to right source the IT team and refresh the technical platforms. The team grow as the business operating model changed when we in-sourced 2,500 facilities and customer services staff and acquired 5 new centers and expanded into Spain. We were also responsible for Operational Technology (OT) – cctv, access control, car park systems and PCI DSS credit card compliance and technical mechanical and electrical (M&E) project management of building extensions.
Unfortunately in June 2020, Intu Properties went into Administration and over 11 months we had to make 80 IT staff redundant, transition 80% of all systems to the new owners and switch off all technology. A soul destroying experience but I was very proud of the way the IT team stepped up, delivered and kept our heads held high.
Has it always been your vision to reach the position you’re at? Was your current role part of your vision to become a tech leader?
Have you had a role model or mentor that has helped you on your journey?
In each job I have been lucky to have had good people to guide and lead me to better myself and support me. My first manager in London was a fellow Welshie from Neath and he had the experiences of moving to a new city and of being away from home for the first time, which helped. Many others followed and a mentor of mine in DeAgostini was Marco Giraudi, COO based in Milan, who helped me with the cultural shock of working in Tokyo. He supported me enormously in achieving the IT objectives and in helping to knock down the blockers. The Global CIO at Lend Lease, Tony Brennan based in Sydney was an infectious driving force for change. He knew where IT needed to be positioned, how to get their and how to play the politics. His support of me and my team in taking over the Building Schools for the Future was the safety blanket that I needed. Finally Trevor Pereira the former Operations Director at Intu Properties PLC was an inspiration and again a massive support of me and the team. His knowledge and understanding meant that managing up was easy and I always knew he had my back.
How do you see the role of the technology leader evolving over the next 5 years?
The role has already changed a lot over the past many years and will continue to change, but it will also be dependent on the company you work for. New roles like Chief Digital Officer, Chief Data Officer and even Chief Technical Officer means responsibilities become fragmented. Never mind the challenges associated with so called Shadow IT. Part of the role could become more technical, but ultimately it is still about driving forward and being aligned to the overall business strategy and plans at all levels. Being a driving force, leading the team, having the right balance in everything you do, building relationships and seeking out and maximizing opportunities has stood me in good stead in an ever changing environment.
What skills do you think leaders of the future will need in order to thrive?
People skills and relationship building skills are and I feel will continue to be paramount. This will help both with the internal and external supply chain / partnering landscape. Technical understanding based on experience and knowledge of the current and new landscapes will also be important. Keeping current in how technology can help achieve better business outcomes and as such understanding what the competition are doing / what other industry sectors are doing will also help. Being open minded and remember that change is constant and this means so too is your technical landscape and IT organizational landscape.
How do you keep current with new skills, technologies and personal development?
We were lucky that we could afford to subscribe to Gartner research. This would help fast track research, new technologies and use cases relevant to our needs. Otherwise staying close to key vendors, building relationships with manufacturers, attending webinars, white papers, being part of and attending various forums and events, and networking all help.
What do you see as the next leap in technology that will impact your business or industry in particular?
AI is the big one, but their are still many more immediate challenges and opportunities that can be exploited first. Cloud / SaaS technologies and services were the biggest step forward for IT at Intu Properties PLC. Our cost base reduced, the cyber security risk profile reduced, the complexities of staying current reduced, whilst flexibility of new technology adoption increased. We rolled out new data and analytics platforms quicker than any other previous project, we changed platforms accordingly and resized data sets in hours / days, not weeks / months. IT staff were still employed but utilized in different ways, more on the managing of services / suppliers, planning and coordination and architecting etc. AI in business process re-engineering was the initial focus in helping to reduce the length of time key processes were taking, reducing error rates, helping with data validation etc. AI or a new application with embedded AI is not the answer, it is a blended approach to its adoption, having a solid technical foundation and a willingness to change are all key.
If you were mentoring a leader of the future, what advice or guidance would you give to help them on their way?
Is there anything in particular that you would still like to achieve in your career or what is the next step on your journey?
Chief executive or world leader? Perhaps out of my reach, ha. Honestly – simply to be content.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
A big thank you to Gian Fulgoni from Intu Properties PLC for sharing his journey to date.
If you would like to gain more perspective from Tech Leaders and CIOs you can read some of our other interviews here.
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