Scott Findlater - CIO - Anord Mardix

Warwick Bailey

Chief Information Officer

PomVom

WARWICK BAILEY – CIO Interview Series

Can you please provide a little introduction about yourself

I currently work at Pomvom as CIO, based in the UK. Pomvom provides photographic and video services to many of the major theme parks and attractions across the UK, Europe and the US, with clients such as Merlin, Warner Brothers and Disney. In my role, my current focus is around enterprise data; production tech support and service management; Security; Compliance and I also have responsibility for our Customer Services team. The company is headquartered in Israel and has offices in Derby in the UK and Florida in the US, along with retail staff on the sites on which we operate. I have been with the company since 2019 originally joining as CTO but taking on the CIO role when the company was taken over by new owners in 2020.

What has your journey to your position been like? What path have you taken?

I have come from an eclectic background both from an industry and job role point of view, working on both sides of the Business – Technology fence. But there are common themes that have run through my career.

I started off as a Civil Engineer working on major UK construction projects – such as the Channel Tunnel between England and France – but moved away from that profession once I became a chartered engineer. I used the project management experience I had gained to move into programme management software consultancy. I consulted for many financial services clients, eventually joining General Electric as a Six Sigma Black Belt which focused my attention on business process re-engineering through the application of data analysis and statistics. My next change took me to GMAC (the financial arm of General Motors) where I led technology teams deploying global financial systems as well as the company’s data warehousing and data management solution. I spent a couple of years back on the business side with Barclays driving their location strategy at a time of great change in the financial industry, before I jumped industry into business travel. For CWT I headed up the global software development team. I took this experience into building and leading the Product and Technology team for a new hotel division within CWT called RoomIt.

And hence to my current role, which brings together experience gained from my technical, business and product leadership roles. But common themes through data, project management and team building have helped stitch my diverse experience together.

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?

I have taken opportunities that have come my way, always willing to take on new challenges and not being afraid of working in different areas – learning new skills. My ‘yes’ approach has led me down different paths but always moving forward.

To comment more generally though, I do feel the role of CIO has changed emphasis over the years. During the 2010’s the title CIO was sidelined somewhat by the CTO. In this decade there was a drive to be seen as a ‘tech company’, and hence the CTO was raised up in profile to support this proposition. CTO roles were taken on by very technical leaders coming from strong software development backgrounds. They were full of very good ideas and understanding of what technology could achieve. However, the focus on technology took away the focus on commercial viability – whether that was bringing in more revenue or ensuring technology could be scaled efficiently. Or indeed both. Lately I have seen more emphasis returning to the CIO remit: the CIO has a much broader brief than just developing new software. Fundamentally they need to ensure that the technology being delivered and deployed always encourages the business purpose and does not become a ball and chain curtailing the growth and expansion of a business.

Have you had a role model or mentor that has helped you on your journey?

I have always had a line manager or colleague to discuss role development and the like, but not one mentor that has provided long lasting guidance.

In truth, I would say that over the last 10 years of my career my mentors have actually been the technical and business architects I have worked with. A strong enterprise architect can formulate the clear end-to-end business proposition into an inter-related technical eco-system. This work cannot be done piecemeal or in isolation but by assessing the many skins of the business – strategy; products; maintenance; costs; suppliers and so on. The output drives the correct prioritization of activities: the real skill is being able to focus in on the capabilities and products that matter – whether the ones that are holding the business back, or the ones that will drive the growth of the business.

How do you see the role of the technology leader evolving over the next 5 years?

To refer back to my previous point, the CIO role (whether it continues to be called CIO or something else) will become more prevalent: discussions around the top table will not be so much about functionality, but more about ethical and secure technology practices; about the costs of running the business; and about the connection between product deployment, operational process and business growth. The CIO has to be able to put their arms around all these areas – if you miss one, the business will suffer.

What skills do you think leaders of the future will need in order to thrive?

The development of software is becoming easier and more standardized – more of a commodity. Hence the differentiator is becoming more about how well that tech can be deployed – to drive the best returns for the business. Similar to my previous answer, technology leaders will need to have the widest breadth of understanding out of all the executive leadership roles: including all aspects of security; ethical compliance; cost management; operational deployment as well as a keen understanding of how the technology will support the business vision.

How do you keep current with new skills, technologies and personal development?

There are plenty of industry conferences – in-person and remote – which I use to keep abreast of the latest thoughts. It is invaluable to have these interactions, not only for some networking, but more to understand what conversations are happening around the technology world. It is often the case that other companies – whether in your own industry or not – are having the same challenges as you are and you can collaboratively discuss solutions.

I would also highlight the technology supplier landscape. Now more than ever there is always a company that has been looking at your ‘problem’ for a number of years. Hence reaching out to specialized suppliers is often a good source of knowledge, and often a good source for a cost-effective solutioning as well.

What do you see as the next leap in technology that will impact your business or industry in particular?

I will highlight 3 interconnected areas that will become more dominant and will drive how technology is used.

Not necessarily leaps in technology itself, but leaps in how technology is used. Firstly security. It has always been a focus but it is currently escalating both in terms of impacts and protection. The impacts of a breach causes both financial and reputational damage that is major, but difficult to quantify and could halt all of your business’ plans in an instant. Cross-industry collaboration is critical as we all want to keep our systems safe and operational.

In a similar vein data protection is a critical area. Regulations such as the GDPR have tried to put belt and braces around the use of personal data. However, in areas such as biometric identification the technology is ahead of the regulations and legal precedents. The technology world needs to learn how to build trust in the collection, processing and storage of this data so that the technology can be used to greater customer advantage without compromising the use and security of their personal information.

Lastly, in terms of more product facing improvements, the key topic is immediacy. More and more of our customers operate on smartphone as their only interface. They expect instantaneous gratification so ergonomic UIs are critical (as few clicks and screens as possible with clear, succinct messaging) but they also need to operate on a fast, stable and scalable infrastructure. Again, this is about the smart use of technology rather than any leaps in development.

If you were mentoring a leader of the future, what advice or guidance would you give to help them on their way?

Three quick thoughts:
Learn your business. Understand how the business works by interacting with as many staff and customers as possible.
Summaries opportunities succinctly and diminish the less relevant details – understanding the core of the problem will get you to the answer much more quickly.
Get the data, understand it and apply it: it will help you be quick and decisive.

Is there anything in particular that you would still like to achieve in your career or what is the next step on your journey?

More than anything, it’s just about keeping fresh and interesting challenges in front of me.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

Despite the connectivity we have across the world, it appears that we are becoming more divisive and nationalistic. It is a dichotomy. Rather than fostering collaborative behaviors, the algorithms technology currently provides through media and entertainment interfaces reinforce our own existing established opinions: You like these sports; you like these films; you like these political parties and so on. This segmentation is creating intolerance and a lack of understanding of other cultures and opinions. It is a major challenge the world must deal with, and technology and product deployment has a big moral part to play in this. Referencing back to my earlier points, this is not about how good the technology is, it is about how it is implemented…

A big thank you to Warwick Bailey from PomVom for sharing his journey to date.

PomVom.com

 

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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