CIO Spotlight: Jason Ross, GetBusy

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? “This is a special place to work and we have a strong culture of ‘better together’.”

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GetBusy

Name: Jason Ross

Company: GetBusy

Job title: CIO

Date started current role: September 2019

Location: Cambridge, UK

Jason Ross is the CIO of GetBusy. With over 16 years, experience, he places a heavy emphasis on facilitating and managing change within a business through the development and implementation of specialised software. Prior to his role at GetBusy, Ross was a Technical Project Manager at Lindenhouse Software. Away from work, he is a big football fan and likes spending time with his family. He also has a degree in Computer Science from Anglia Ruskin university.

What was your first job? My first proper job was in electronic retail sales and customer service. It was a great experience and helped me to deal with difficult situations and a wide variety of personalities.

Did you always want to work in IT? Sort of. I wanted to work in motor racing and specialise in telemetry. But following a computer science degree I decided coding wasn’t my strong point and that a career in IT support may be a good way for me to use some of my existing customer service background and new-found IT knowledge. 

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I have a Computer Science degree from 2004 which was a great introduction to a wide variety of subject matters within computing. I found I really enjoyed project management and business analysis. Funnily enough this is the stuff I now use each day. The technical side has obviously moved on a huge amount but technology without a business process is pretty useless (unless its fully automated). I’m also PRINCE2 certified for project management, but it doesn’t get used too much these days…  

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I started my career (post-university) with the company I work for today! I started when there were only 9 staff (we have 120 and counting today) in a tiny office. At the time, I was the only support agent. After several years I took a career break before starting a family and travelled the world at 30.

Whilst travelling I managed to land myself a couple of contract roles in Australia doing support and project management. I then did another role as an IT Manager when I was back in the UK and finally decided to go back my GetBusy to manage the support center. That was 6 years ago, and the company has grown and changed shape in that time. I went on to hold the position of Operations Manager and now CIO. I was also lucky enough to be involved in setting up our Australian office in Sydney for a few months, which was a nice little detour.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? We have moved most of our operations to the cloud now in different forms (hosted, SAAS etc.) – we’re fully focused on IT investments that allow our company to scale, using the tools that we have in order to make smart, informed decisions. Our staff are a big part of our IT strategy and we will run continual improvement workshops to ensure the team are getting the most out of the tools they use (we can do so much more). The best way to think of it is like we’ve move housed but some of the boxes are still sealed.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? We have had a significant amount of change in the last two years, which originated from a demerger from Australian giants Reckon. This forced us to look at the projects that are going to lay the foundations for our growth. We’re now listed on the London Stock Exchange with 65,000+ customers and counting.

We’re still on our programme of transformation over the last few years to come out of the ‘dark ages’ that we had with our previous technology infrastructure. Oracle NetSuite now provides us with the story of all the subsidiaries we operate and effectively acts as a central point of truth for the whole organisation. We integrate Salesforce with NetSuite for our CRM, and Zendesk is crucial to our customer service. These technologies will be key to helping us grow our people and revenue, and as we help many more organisations work effectively from home.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? I’m relatively new to the role of CIO and the business has never held the role before. So conventional may go out the window with us, as my role will be to contribute and deliver the strategy the business sets out. As far a responsibilities go, we have a very flat structure in our business and a ‘can-do’ approach so we all have loads of areas to manage that other peers may not, but that’s why I work here. Some of those responsibilities so far have extended to office moves, recruitment (other teams) and building furniture!

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? Yes, absolutely. We are in the stage of landing and now trying to expand. As above we have moved our inhouse ERP system to a combination of best of breed solutions. These include but are not limited to NetSuite, Salesforce and Zendesk.

Operational efficiency was our emphasis as our existing systems were not providing our team with the best tools. At the end of the day, it is my opinion that giving the staff the tools they need to help them automate and record data accurately will naturally improve our customer experience… because it gives them time to do their job rather than data admin tasks. If we get it right then this is a win for the business as well, as the data we need for reporting/decision making is in place.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? We still have a long way to go as an IT team. We have concentrated on getting this digital transformation over the line and now going into 2021 we will concentrate on our digital business. Our information security management system provides performance reports for reliability and availability. My KPIs, typically, are through the conversations I have with our business and function owners.

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? This is a special place to work and we have a strong culture of ‘better together’. We have grown from a small business and have had a ‘no task is too small for anyone’ mentality and we have all been through challenging times together. The challenge is maintaining this across three continents during growth and a global pandemic! We have an awesome People & Culture team and hiring managers look for the human traits we want before the technical.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? We are growing in all areas of our business and recruiting is always difficult (especially remotely). So, getting a real feel for candidates’ ability to deliver is tricky. I anticipate data scientists will be difficult to recruit (not find) in the near future due to so many going into that specialism.

What's the best career advice you ever received? Never be in a position where you’re asking someone to do something that they wouldn’t believe you could achieve yourself (given time). I know that’s limiting but that’s something I try to wear as a manager wherever that is possible.  

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. Not officially but we try to push a ‘fail fast no blame’ culture in the business and give people opportunity to grab projects when they come along.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? Once you have the technical experience try to absorb as much of the IT community as possible. It’s huge – learn new tools, research new ideas, check out what others are reading. Self-help content is important – aspire to be the best in the industry. Have as many tools under your belt as possible – don’t ignore the compliance side of things either 😊. Learn about Security, CRM, AWS, Azure, Salesforce.

Try to put aside personal development time and stick to it. You have to invest in yourself as we’re in a fast-moving industry and things will never slowdown.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Setting up our Australian office in Sydney and helping to demerge from one publicly listed software company to another. I took my family (wife and 3 kids) with me and it was a great professional achievement and personal one as they got to experience life in oz! So, the work/life balance of that project was near perfect (once I convinced my wife a 9 month old would be ok on a 24hour flight!).

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? Added 20% on to all my project estimations.

What are you reading now? The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz (I try to read it once a year).

Most people don't know that I… Used to be a glass blower!

In my spare time, I like to…I’m a father of three little kids so all my spare time is with them. I would like to do more fishing, running and football but life gets in the way…

Ask me to do anything but… Use mint sauce on anything 🤮