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Ian Cohen, chief product and know-how officer, Addison Lee

Ian Cohen is greater than only a CIO – his job title says as a lot. As chief product and know-how officer (CPTO) at taxi firm Addison Lee, it’s Cohen’s position to guide transformation and international growth at considered one of London’s most recognisable transportation manufacturers.

So, how did Cohen – who can be known as group CIO on the organisation – find yourself within the CPTO position? The emergence of this place appears to be a rising development in know-how management. Since Computer Weekly final caught up with Cohen in September 2018, various IT chiefs have taken on an analogous CPTO remit, with duty for not simply info, but in addition merchandise and applied sciences.

Cohen says the shift is, partly, associated to a cut up in CIO kinds. There are some IT leaders who’re extra drawn to “things”, akin to containers, wires, processes and governance. These know-how chiefs see the world via the lens of one thing that must be managed and managed – and that’s a power, says Cohen, as a result of issues do need to be managed and managed.

But he additionally argues that there’s one other group of IT leaders who’ve risen via the ranks by focusing totally on the wants of the shopper. These CIOs see know-how via the lens of the individuals who devour the techniques and providers which might be really created utilizing know-how, however that aren’t all the time created within the IT division.

“I started out in the world of datacentres and servers and boxes and networks, but I quickly moved into the world of consumption and how people consume their products,” says Cohen, reflecting on his IT management profession, which has included CIO stints on the Financial Times, Associated Newspapers and insurance coverage specialist JLT Group.

Cohen argues that IT leaders with an analogous background to himself have additionally tended to lean extra to a product-centric view of the world. These CIOs suppose much less about servers and extra about buyer experiences, they usually focus on how merchandise are designed and constructed.

“Now, that doesn’t mean that those people are less interested in infrastructure,” he says, “and it doesn’t mean the infrastructure people can’t do products and customer experience. But where you start from matters.”

Building belief in a model

This concentrate on merchandise has had a consequential impression on Cohen’s position at Addison Lee. When he began on the firm in July 2017, he discovered an organisation that had tended to concentrate on the underlying mechanisms that supported allocation, pick-up and dispatch. But the calls for of enterprise change in an age of digital disruption meant they’d to take a look at other ways to interact clients, who’re passengers, bookers and drivers.

“We used to be about the car turning up and offering a great service – now, anyone with an app can get a car to turn up,” says Cohen.

“The car arriving on time to take you to where you want to go is just table stakes and when everyone can do the basics, it challenges you to do more and be more. What matters most now, and differentiates us, is the focus on experience, the quality of the service and the trust in our brand. Everything is predicated on the moment that you, as a customer, make the decision to use us instead of one of our competitors.”

Addison Lee faces an more and more robust market. The firm nonetheless counts 80% of the FTSE 100 as shoppers and the corporate is battling to keep up its place following the doorway of Uber and different ride-sharing apps into the market. The firm was not too long ago purchased by a gaggle of funding banks.

“We are all about making the most of the emotional state that means you, as a customer, pick us over everyone else”

Ian Cohen, Addison Lee

Cohen says the position of a technologist at Addison Lee – or at another customer-facing enterprise – is to raised perceive and faucet into these emotional selections about which model to make use of. He says know-how is solely the conduit via which clients decide their transport supplier, whereas it’s the buyer and product expertise you create that drives behaviour.

“My role is about digitising experience – I don’t like describing it that way, but we are all about making the most of the emotional state that means you, as a customer, pick us over everyone else,” he says. “And that’s all about persistently delivering nice buyer experiences and constructing belief in our model. How can we create that have, whether or not that’s in an app, on the net or via our contact centre?”

When Computer Weekly final spoke with Cohen 18 months in the past, he referred to a variety of know-how implementations and developments. Addison Lee had invested in Salesforce to assist develop efficient advertising, gross sales and repair methods. Other priorities included utility programming interfaces (APIs), microservice-based architectures and big-data applied sciences.

He says this concentrate on cloud, integration and perception continued via 2019 and into this yr. Cohen reiterates how the implementation of techniques and providers throughout the enterprise is much less about radically altering the know-how panorama and extra about how Addison Lee turns into a passenger-centric and customer-obsessed organisation.

“We can’t reach that goal if we have layers of technical complexity separating us from our drivers, our passengers or our corporate customers,” he says. “All that stuff – like service architecture and APIs – has a purpose, and that purpose is to help us drive an incredible customer experience.”

Cohen says it’s shocking what number of firms nonetheless fail to place their desired enterprise goal earlier than the know-how implementation. He says CIOs and technologists comfortably discuss simplifying the structure or making a contextual, bi-directional info flows between one system and one other.

“Yet too usually, what we don’t discuss – when making a decision to make use of containers or microservices or no matter – is why would you do this?” says Cohen.

“What do you want to become at the end of the day? When you’ve made all the technology changes, how different an organisation are you going to be at that point and, most importantly, why would your customers care?”

Creating collaborative workspaces

Sometimes the purpose of a business-change challenge is nearer to dwelling. While CIOs should try to maintain their shoppers completely happy, inside clients matter, too. Cohen provides the instance of collaboration. In 2018, Addison Lee moved from a constructing that was unfold throughout 5 flooring to 1 flooring in a brand new constructing with an open-floor workspace. Technology is essential to the set-up.

The new workplace house is organized in useful neighbourhoods, akin to gross sales, finance and advertising. An particular person from one operate is free to go and work with colleagues in one other neighbourhood if they should, as a result of the corporate is utilizing cell know-how and collaboration software program to permit its staff to work from any location.

“Some people found that a bit unnerving because they had become comfortable with a mode of work where they’d come in and sit at their own desk every day. But most people have embraced it,” says Cohen, referring to a typical concern going through CIOs who attempt to introduce new technology-enabled methods of working. While flexibility can come as a shock to some, the advantages develop into clear in the course of the common working day, as he explains.

“On my way out of the office for this meeting, I saw someone in marketing – who might have been three floors away from their IT colleagues in our previous office – walk over to the customer relationship management engineering specialist and explain what they’re trying to achieve with their next marketing campaign,” he says.

“The engineering specialist then defined how the advertising staff would be capable of meet that objective utilizing Salesforce. And I like that form of dialog – as a result of it’s simply two individuals eager to do the suitable factor for his or her enterprise and we’ve been capable of make that so simple as simply having a chat.”

Building experience-focused groups

Cohen says he has labored to make sure that the necessities of the shopper keep entrance and centre among the many know-how staff. One of his key techniques right here has been to make sure departments within the know-how organisation are structured round experiences moderately than specializing in the digital channels via which they ship their capabilities.

“We took the decision early on to not have app teams or web teams,” he says. “Instead, we have now an experience-led product method and we’ve created particular squads targeted on the passenger expertise, driver expertise and the reserving expertise. The product house owners main these groups obsess about regularly bettering the expertise. And they’re empowered to make use of know-how to make these experiences higher.

“If you obsess about the channel and not the experience, then you miss the behaviour that goes on. As our technology continues to evolve, we won’t worry about what channel the customer contacts us through, whether that’s web, app, mobile or something else.”

When it involves using rising know-how, Cohen warns different digital leaders to be cautious of the hype. He says he encounters numerous enterprise individuals speaking concerning the potential impression of synthetic intelligence, information science and robotic course of automation – and he fears the hyperbole is commonly higher than on-the-ground motion.

“Sometimes it feels like a lot of people seeing something in a research paper and then throwing a lot of things across the desk,” he says.

Cohen concludes by reiterating his core premise – CIOs who need to use techniques and providers to vary their organisations for the higher should put enterprise necessities first and applied sciences very a lot second.

“The fundamental thing that we’ve done is to take a business that worried about cars and to create one that obsesses about its customers, whether they’re passengers, drivers, bookers or partners,” he says.

“The biggest transformation at Addison Lee has been its shift to being absolutely obsessed by the experience that you have with the brand when you book with us.”

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