Change Conversations with….Garry Fingland

We caught up with Garry Fingland, experienced Chief Information Officer and Digital Transformation Director, to share his experience of global business transformation from highly complex and innovative businesses such as Diageo and Bupa. In our latest change conversation, Garry shares knowledge and insights around what it takes to lead strategic, multi-million dollar change programmes, drive digital transformation and develop global IT organisations in an ever-changing environment.


1. Change and Transformation are becoming common place for most organisations now due to the pace of technological advancements, customer demand and the drive for more agile working environments. What do you consider to be the fundamentals and key components of change that transcend industry sectors?

Fundamentals of change which transcend industry sectors…

Every organisationis unique and has its own culture and beliefs; its own operating model ; and will be driven by their strategies and goals.  As such, delivery of change needs to be tailored to each unique situation.  That said, there are several ‘basics’ which are pre-requisites for any successful change.

Firstly, the approach to communications will make or break a change initiative.  This is not about giving away coffee mugs and mouse-mats or issuing newsletters.  Instead, it is about creating authentic two-way dialogue about the change, explaining the rationale and being honest about the impacts, whilst taking on board and responding to feedback.  In the absence of information, people often assume the worst.  Empowering line managers and their teams to engage in the change, rather than “doing it to them”, is key to delivering sustained change and needs commitment to awareness training and education. 

Secondly, it is vital to remember that change programs often have a direct impact on the lives of colleagues.  They deserve to be treated with respect, and as adults.  I recall seeing this done well from early in my career in United Distillers when the decision was taken to reduce staffing levels at the Leven bottling hall. In addition to open dialogue around the changes, there was a commitment from the company to provide literacy and education programs to those leaving the company, helping them secure alternative life skills and employment elsewhere.  With the potential for AI and robotics to displace large numbers of the workforce from their current roles, some of these examples from the industrial past may provide useful learnings for the future, particularly around reskilling staff for a different future.

Third and final, I believe that change should be firmly rooted in delivering clear and measurable value, with a bias towards direct customer benefit (e.g. improved service, better product, reduced costs).  I’ve lived through decades where huge effort and time was exerted in building complex multi-year business cases that were outdated before the final ‘masterpiece’ was printed, let alone started implementation.  These approaches are not viable in the rapidly changing and unpredictable environment we now operate within and the approach to resource allocation, portfolio management and measurement of results need updated for an agile-era. 


2.Having worked for many years across Europe, Americas and Asia Pacific, can you describe some of the shared challenges in different countries and where, perhaps, there are differences when it comes to Change?


In the same way that each industrial sector and organisation has a unique set of attributes, this also applies different geographic regions and countries.  That said, there are some constants which I’ve observed across all countries.



  • Securing the right talent and skills is a common challenge across all markets, particularly in ‘hot’ areas such as digital and data science. For example, the impact of several large banks in Australia rapidly recruiting hundreds of digital staff created scarcity in the market and resulted in high salary inflation. That said, it’s also interesting to note how the younger generation of staff take a more holistic view on reward and broader outlook on organisational purpose and social responsibility, with less emphasis on financial factors. 


  • Increasing levels of regulation, particularly around data privacy and consumer rights is a growing theme across all countries. We’ve seen this recently through the introduction of GDPR in Europe and similar provisions across other regions. This creates a tension between the desire of organisations to deliver the highly personalised experiences now expected by their customers versus the willingness of regulators (and customers) to allow the necessary data to be collected and analysed. 

Digital progress…

  • All countries are experiencing the digital revolution and advances in technology although the specific adoption rates vary according to economic, demographic and social drivers. That said, I was often surprised by the innovative ways that even the most basic technology (such as SMS messaging) could be used to underpin new business models.


3.What are the key components to success when driving truly global programmes and roll-outs and what considerations must be given e.g. connectivity, working practices, language etc? How easy is it to adapt to the global Change environment?

Global Ways of Working

Taking any global role in a large organisation can be tough given the different time zones and lack of face-to-face contact, along with local languages and cultural norms. When this is then extended to delivering change across a global organisation, it can get very tricky indeed!  However, it is also be immensely rewarding..

There are a few basics I’ve found to be useful over the years, many of which are little more than common sense.

  • Whilst technology such as video conference and messaging apps can be helpful in sustaining connections and creating communities, they are less effective in building the initial bonds between teams. Flying people around the world is neither cheap nor eco-friendly, however hot-house accelerators or launch sessions can deliver real benefit in change situations.


  • Another basic when operating across the globe is respecting time-zones and thinking carefully about timing of calls and meetings. Often there is no single time that suits all parties (e.g. dealing with Australia in summertime with an 11-hour difference). Sharing the pain and working to accommodate such factors shows respect for colleagues and their families.


  • Language is a factor which should not be underestimated. With few exceptions, my meetings were conducted in English and as a native speaker this was easy.  However, for overseas colleagues for whom English was not a first language, it is important to appreciate how much more tiring it is for them to participate in meetings, even more so if conducted over teleconference or video.


Global Roll-outs

I’ve been engaged on many global roll-out programs over the last 25 years and learned a huge amount along the way, often from things which didn’t go to plan.  So a few learnings from along the way…..

  • Be aware of the “winners and losers” from any global change program and be prepared to address the issue. For example, the commercial agreement associated with delivering a global infrastructure upgrade (data center migrations, new networks and standardising PC environment) resulted in decreased costs in larger scale markets but higher relative costs in smaller markets – this required all manner of financial target adjustments to get over the line.


  • Whilst the goal is likely to be high levels of consistency and commonality across core processes, it is unrealistic to expect uniformity across all geographies and markets. Over and above the obvious legal, fiscal and regulatory differences, there could be significant differences in route to market and operating models.


  • Final point is around being realistic around change capacity, not just in terms of the specific program itself but in the context of other change happening in parallel. I recall clearly an “interesting” moment when we were in the middle of a major global SAP ERP program and US deployment was planned for June 30th.  There was separate but related change to the US Distributor network at the point, along with changes to the supply chain network.  Trying to land these three projects proved tough going and highlighted the need for a more robust understanding of the interdependencies across the organisation, along with more connected global and local program governance processes.

4.You have mentioned Data as an emerging common theme, globally. What changes have you seen in recent years and how is this impacting the role and structure of the CIO team?


Chasing personalisation

During my time at Bupa, it became clear that data and data science was becoming a core component of sustaining our competitive position.  Customers were looking for more personalised engagement and an improved overall experience.  This was particularly evident in our largest market, Australia, which predominately operated as a B2C business. In this region, the Banks and Airlines were already well advanced and setting the pace for other sectors, over and above the general expectation shift caused by Amazon and similar consumer platforms. In response, a distinct data and digital team was established within Marketing to act as a catalyst for attracting new talent and provide an immediate step-up in capability within the business. This worked well from a change perspective, placing the requisite capabilities close to the customer and with technical oversight provided through the IT team.

Technology advances…

At the same time, technology advances meant that business teams were able to gain easy, on-demand, access to flexible computer platforms and cheap storage (AWS), and to user-friendly analysis tools such as Tableau.  In this new environment, the role of IT moved from end-to-end delivery of enterprise data warehouses to providing a stewardship over the tools and environments being used by colleagues across the business, with a high focus on data security and governance over data.  A prime example of this shift was in Spain, where the centralised IT data analysis and reporting team in IT was disbanded and replaced with a small team to drive data analysis capability into the business. From a change management perspective, this shift was made much easier through the active sponsorship of the CEO, who lead by example by becoming a competent and visible user of the new tools.

In summary, I see the prime challenge of data being about knowing the questions to ask rather than getting the technology to work. As such, embedding the capabilities across the business is more likely to deliver the requisite change.  The CIO and his team retain an important role in stewardship over the environments, architecturally and from a security perspective, however data is a challenge for the whole business to own.

 5.A recent study has shown that Cyber security incidents have cost UK firms £34.1bn in the past year. To what extend is security a consideration when embarking on major change, and where does it sit on the priorities list for different countries?

From my recent experience, cyber risk sits high on every Boardroom agenda, across all countries, alongside information security and privacy matters. There are frequent reports in the press on the latest company to be hacked and no Chief Executive wants their own Dido Harding moment on the TV.  Or face punitive fines from the regulator.  More fundamental though is the duty we owe to our customers, employees and partners to ensure we protect their data from unauthorised access or use.

Some sectors (e.g. Banking) are more advanced in their preparation.  Similarly, different regulation across countries (e.g. Spain) has driven earlier adoption of more robust privacy practices. However, cyber risk is an evolving threat and requires continual investment of time and money to maintain risk within an acceptable level.

Given this context, cyber and privacy need to be treated as core deliverables from any change program, and with careful thought when adopting new technologies such as cloud services. Whilst it is true that cloud can deliver excellent levels of security and resilience, it is equally true that this will not just happen by itself. Like any technology, it needs to be understood and configured correctly.  It needs appropriate risk analysis to be undertaken, and then tested.  It needs to be managed. Organisations cannot abdicate their accountability for the safe and secure protection of customer data.  Indeed, in many respects change initiatives are ideal opportunities to enhance the capability around information security through careful process design, technology enhancement and user education.

6.What would be your advice to someone taking on a Global CIO or Change role for the first time?

As always, it’s wise to do your research and go in to a new role with eyes wide open. Find out as much as you can about the organisation, how it operates, what the priorities are and what they are expecting from your role.  Ask lots of questions.  Is it predominately federated or centralised, or on a journey somewhere in-between?  What are the top priorities? What are the travel commitments?  How will this work for you and your family?

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to work globally, engaging with colleagues from different cultures and continents.  It’s given me the chance to engage on large and complex change programs, operating across multiple teams and countries.  However, it doesn’t come free and requires commitment to travel and working at odd times, often at the expense of evenings and weekends. The rewards as well worth having but be prepared to work for them.


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