‘Pace of change in IT is probably the biggest challenge for us all’

20 Aug 2019

Phil Codd. Image: Expleo

Expleo’s Phil Codd discusses digital transformation, building a diverse team and the book that ‘predicted the internet’.

Phil Codd is managing director of Expleo in Ireland and is the company’s regional director for Ireland and the UK. Having started his career in IT as a trainee programmer in London, he worked with various software companies before embarking on a career in sales.

After returning to Ireland in 1990, Codd worked with a number of US-owned software players such as Ingres, Oracle and Siebel, and SAP. He is also a non-executive director at Showtime Analytics and Ostia Software Solutions.

‘My role in the sector has changed dramatically, from my first job as a trainee programmer to running a tech consultancy that employs hundreds of people’

Describe your role and what you do.

I have two roles and my primary one is MD of Expleo’s Irish business, working with my management team to deliver services to our clients that they need and value. My second role is regional director for the UK and Ireland, where I act almost like a non-executive director to both country business units to support their strategic initiatives and goals.

Our job is to help companies drive large-scale innovation ever faster. We partner with the most important players in the banking and insurance, pharma, manufacturing, retail and telecommunications industries. These companies are in a race to develop evermore innovative technologies and Expleo is helping them to achieve that.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

My priorities revolve around our clients, employees and the company’s needs. Whilst the client always comes first, ensuring our employees are happy and looked after goes a long way to ensuring high client satisfaction. As we are in a people business, I spend a lot of time considering our staff and the effect that their work life can have on them. I am always looking for new and innovative ways in which this can be improved.

My calendar is the central piece of tech that keeps me organised. If it’s not in my diary, I don’t know about it, which includes personal stuff as well as work. So I need to be careful that it doesn’t get too full or overloaded. There’s nothing worse than running from one meeting to another with no time to prepare or think.

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

Pace of change in IT is probably the biggest cause of challenges for us all. It impacts on the skills and resources we need to be in business, the cost of learning and development for staff and our efforts to stay ahead of competitive forces.

There is a talent shortage in Ireland and the workforce of today is vastly different than it was 10 years ago, and being in tune with that is also a challenge. By 2025, we will have five different generations working side by side, each motivated by different factors.

The nature of consultancy means that our people can spend more time on a client site than in our offices in Dublin or Belfast. We address this by investing heavily in our staff, hosting four large company events a year and having an active and exciting sports and social committee. Every employee also has a dedicated career coach and as MD for Ireland, I have an open-door policy that is utilised by our staff regularly.

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

Wherever there is business change there is typically an IT project or programme to support that need. Our core focus is to help each client achieve their stated objectives for change through our capability, people, experience and know-how, so it’s applicable to all sectors right now. Compliance across the financial sector is certainly an area in which we’ve seen a lot of growth recently, but equally digital transformation is in high demand across all sectors.

Being a services business means we are not only waiting for clients to bring their ideas to us, we are constantly innovating on behalf of our clients. Taking our cross-sector and cross-industry knowledge and expertise to our clients so that they can achieve significant benefits is a priority for Expleo.

For instance, we have a bespoke framework and methodology in process automation that is advancing our clients’ HR, finance and CRM capabilities at an unforeseen pace. I predict that this practice will go from strength to strength for years to come.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

I started out in the tech industry and have stayed in it ever since college. My role in the sector has changed dramatically, from my first job as a trainee programmer to running a tech consultancy that employs hundreds of people, but I have retained my interest of all things computing. I’m happy to invest in the gadgets of tomorrow to understand what they can do and enjoy imagining how they will impact lives in the future.

What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

Mistakes are a part of life. I think my biggest mistake was not learning this early enough. In Expleo, we have a culture of, ‘If you’re going to fail, fail fast and learn from it. But don’t ever let the fear of failure stop you from trying.’

For example, we have a micro-innovation programme whereby everyone in the company is encouraged to submit small ideas on improvements that can be made both internally and on our clients’ sites. Each suggestion is reviewed and a proof of concept is conducted for the ideas that we feel could really make an impact. So far, Expleo has rolled out 11 customised services across our clients’ organisations as a result of this programme, with each service adding significant value to those clients’ businesses and resources.

How do you get the best out of your team?

Learning and development plays a key role in ensuring our teams are high performing. Expleo Academy is a certified training body that provides crucial training to anyone working in areas such as business agility and change management.

This plays a pivotal role in developing and upskilling not only our people, but anyone working with transformative technologies. My job is to make sure that each person has the tools, support and drive to get the best out of themselves, which will ultimately be of benefit of the wider team

Aside from the practicalities of getting the best out of your team’s performance, it’s also important to have fun! I want people in roles that they thrive in because they genuinely enjoy it. We spend so much of our time in work, I want to ensure that on reflection of their time in Expleo, people remember great times, great friends and lots of laughs.

Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?

Yes, diversity is a problem in our sector. The tech industry is very male-orientated to start with and we need more women working in IT. To make radical changes, I think we need to look at our education system, the way our schools work and get them to mirror society better. A key issue is subject stereotyping. For example, not all girls’ schools offer technical drawing and computer science. I think there should be more focus on social skills and understanding of diversity as well – not just academic capability.

Industry needs to attract, hire and retain the best talent. In a small pool such as Ireland, businesses cannot afford to ignore or pass over people and many companies are putting together diversity and inclusion plans to make sure they get the best people irrespective of gender, ethnic background, age or orientation.

I’m delighted that this year, Expleo will be silver sponsors at the annual Women in Tech conference in the Convention Centre Dublin. This investment reaffirms the company’s dedication to increasing the number of women in our workforce from one-quarter (currently) to one-third by the end of 2021.

Did you ever have a mentor or someone who was pivotal in your career?

Over the years I’ve had several mentors who have helped and guided me, and I continue to meet some of those people today. Similarly, I mentor a number of people, as it’s just as important to help others who can benefit from your experience and wisdom. It’s surprising how much I learn from the people I mentor – they help me stay up-to-date with business challenges in other areas.

It’s important to have someone outside of your organisation and your family life that you can talk to and bounce things around with. It’s also a great way to solve problems or conflicts by sharing with someone who is impartial and non-judgmental.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

A book I often like to mention is The Machine Stops by EM Forster. It was published in 1909 as a piece of fiction that appears to have predicted the internet. Although better known for Howards End, A Room with a View and A Passage to India, Forster’s short book is so far ahead of its time that you should read it.

I’ve recently read Under the Hood by Stan Slap, which really gets to the heart of what culture is in an organisation and how to harness it. Slap exposes common myths about employee culture, what it is and what it can do for you.

I find reading a great way to escape. I’ve read all of Jo Nesbo’s books and I think that edgy style of crime thriller novels goes a long way when you need to zone out.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

I’m an Apple person so I’m very Appled-up. Breakfast is a must along with coffee – skinny cappuccino with chocolate on top – and lots of water throughout the day. Always-on access to my calendar is a must otherwise I’m totally lost, and Google for everything else.

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