CIO Spotlight: Tony Healy, Mobica

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? "The key to this, in my view, is to allow people to have a voice and let it be heard."

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Name: Tony Healy

Company: Mobica

Job title: CIO

Date started current role: September 2018

Location: Manchester, UK

Tony Healy is Chief Information Officer at Mobica, where he creates, plans and executes the company's IT strategy and roadmap, including the delivery of digital transformational technology solutions and enhancements to their cybersecurity footprint. Healy has worked within high-growth global industries - including distribution, edtech, pharmaceuticals and technology, amongst others - where he has performed as a visionary leader, building high-performing teams and business-enhancing systems and services.

What was your first job? My first IT related job was working on a BT helpdesk taking calls on BT Internet and ISDN issues.

Did you always want to work in IT? Yes. I was always the one at school who wheeled out the BBC computer and spent hours typing code from a magazine to make a line bounce on screen.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I left school with 7 GCSEs and 3 A-levels. From there I went straight into work and have been fortunate enough to do many technical and professional qualifications throughout my career from Microsoft, Novell, Oracle, Cisco and a variety of security and programme accreditations such as CISSP and Prince2. I would advise looking into certifications before committing time to them, to ensure they right for you now and in the future.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. No detours. I started out working on 1st line helpdesks and gradually moved to 2nd and 3rd line. From there, I went into desktop support, networks, servers and datacentres, before moving into management roles. I worked my way through roles that included support manager, helpdesk manager, datacentre manager, IT manager, head of IT, IT Director and CIO. I have been fortunate enough to be responsible for technology, people and change across Europe, the US and APAC

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? I would put the top 2 as:

Security - We work with a lot of regulated industries and need to adhere to a wide range of security standards and accreditations such as ISO, NIST and TISAX.

Transformation - I am not a fan of using the word ‘digital' before ‘transformation', as I think it detracts from the business side of the transformation, which is critical. Being able to adapt to the changing needs of the business, customers and users is critical.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? Driving efficiency, maintaining our security posture and working with our customers to ensure their technical needs are met, while focusing on improving efficiency and removing duplication of effort so our people can focus on driving value. 

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? The CIO role, out of all the ‘c-level' roles, is the one that has and will continue to transform. It has moved from being the senior techie in a company to one of a change, stakeholder and transformational specialist. It is the role that sees what other functions are doing and tries to implement synergies to reduce silos, improve efficiency and drive change. A CIO should be able to incorporate being CISO, CTO, CDO etc., as these roles are all about leadership, people, change and driving innovation and technology to enable business growth. Although, depending on the type of organisation, some of these roles need to be held by specific individuals/teams, but the CIO should still have a good understanding of how they operate.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? It is going to deliver both, as they naturally follow each other. By driving optimisation and processes, and rationalising through automation we allow our users to focus more the customers.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? 18 months ago, we were an organisation that would have rated around a one on the Gartner maturity model. However, with executive buy in and support, we have been able to change that by implementing a strategy, roadmap, change management and programme governance. The other important part of this is to let the business be the decision maker on what it needs rather than telling it. Full buy in at every stage of the process and active communication is needed. By implementing the proper toolsets, we are able to report on key system metrics, uptime and top issues/problems which helps with training needs.

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? The key to this, in my view, is to allow people to have a voice and let it be heard. Encourage innovation and let people know. Good culture is not finger pointing or blaming people when things aren't going right. If we are doing that then we are not effective leaders and will not have the respect of the people we lead. Allowing open forums, opportunities to try new things and providing active encouragement for people to try their hardest is key.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? I think there will be big demand for traditional infrastructure and network people in the short term, as companies put extra focus on the way their offices and infrastructure connect and behave in a disaster recovery (DR) situation. Strategic roles with operational experience should also prove popular as DR and business continuity plans need to be drawn up, tested and implemented. Many CIOs will have thrived in this situation, but unfortunately many will have failed, with some being the fall person for organisations not wanting to invest in technology and testing. The ones that have managed to stay afloat should have seen their business value rise and it is important that, once a disaster is over, they are not put back into an operational, lights-on role.

What's the best career advice you ever received? Always treat people the way you would want to be treated, never fear failure, hold your hands up when something is your fault and never put off giving bad news. I remember, early on in my career, insisting that my team made a change to something that I thought was right, even though I was advised against it. As a young manager who had just got a CCNP qualification, I was certain I knew best. Needless to say, I didn't, and it took down a whole operation. The fact I held my hands up to the board and never let my team take any blame meant that I had their full respect and trust.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. Yes. Once the talent has been identified, succession planning involves mentoring that individual and making sure enough time is freed up for them to gain the experience they need. This can be a double-edged sword, as they are not only a key member of the team, but they also have an important day job. You can't be seen to just pass everything over to them. The key is getting that balance between allowing them to continue in their day job and then being there as a coach, mentor and advisor when they need you. Regular check-ins are vital, as well as acceptance of the fact that this cannot be an overnight thing and the business needs time to realise that the individual is a peer and is allowed to make mistakes.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? You are where you are because of the people working for you. Always treat your teams and colleagues with respect, as at some point you will need them to pull out all the stops for you. Allow others to learn from your mistakes and never be afraid to ask for help. Technology will constantly change, and it is our job to make sure that our people and processes are managed and led in the best possible way. Never think you are bigger or more important than your team.

What has been your greatest career achievement? There have been many but watching the business enabling 800 members of staff to work from home during the COVID-19 crisis, in a matter of days with zero downtime and no impact to business operations makes all those weekends of disaster recovery tests worthwhile.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I would have spent more time with my daughter and not missed so many events. Having worked globally and being responsible for multiple teams in various time zones, I have never worked a 9-5 job, and this often involved me missing parents evening or sporting events.

What are you reading now? Dan Brown - Inferno.

Most people don't know that I… Used to play Rugby for Sale till I was 19 as a Prop Forward.

In my spare time, I like to…Go clay pigeon shooting and spend time with my cricket mad daughter.

Ask me to do anything but… Watch anything to do with clowns. They have freaked me out ever since I watched the original IT film.