Industry Leader: Justin Shields

In this issue, we talk to Justin Shields, Group IT Director for Enterprise Business at Vodafone.


What does your current role involve?

I have several main responsibilities: IT strategy and execution for Vodafone group enterprise business, enterprise transformation, and new product and service development.

What successes in this role are you most proud of?

When I joined, group IT spent tens of millions of pounds each year without a coherent strategy and direction.  There were large pockets of shadow IT and numerous outsourced suppliers.  

Our strategy is “to improve the enterprise business and experience of our enterprise customers” and our ambition is to be 100% cloud and 100% agile.

We are three years into a four year transformation programme and there is still plenty to do, but we have made some amazing progress:

We now have 99.9% availability, are meeting our KPIs, 35-40% of our platforms are in the cloud, 55% of projects are agile and 25% embrace dev ops.  85% of our projects are delivered on time and within budget, which compares favourably to an industry average of around 50%..

You have a reputation for straight talking?  How does that play in a multi-national context?

I’m a huge believer in trust and openness, but when you operate internationally, you have to be mindful of cultural differences.  You may need to modify your approach to get the best out of your overseas colleagues. For example straight talking can result in loss of face. Or sometimes it is better to have small group meetings in order reach a common understanding and build consensus.

Within a large organisation there can be a tendency for the “institution” to dampen the “inspiration.” How do you keep this from happening?

That’s a great question.  It was clear to me that we weren’t harnessing people’s good ideas effectively.  So we set up ERIS, the Enterprise Research and Innovation Services platform, where staff are encouraged to submit ideas.  Ideas that are qualified and supported by the community are pitched to the leadership team in a Dragons’ Den style environment.  Successful ideas are rewarded with investment to allow further development.

With over 3500 staff on the platform, 100s of ideas have been submitted of which 20 have been approved and two are due to go live soon.

It has been incredibly successful providing a fantastic platform for capturing the good ideas from our staff.  Importantly, it has also engaged the community across the business, especially our younger employees who expect a more direct involvement in the business.

Which book or books have influenced you the most?

‘Good to Great’ by Jim Collins.  I’ve met Jim a couple of times and I like the clarity he brings to team performance management and development.

Do you have any top tips for someone starting out in the telecoms industry?

Everything is going to be in the cloud.  It’s all about SaaS and networking as a service.  Make sure you understand cloud technology and security.  And always think about customer experience.

Thank you so much for your time.  I wish you and your team every success in 2017.