CIO Spotlight: Jonathan Oliver, Content Guru
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CIO Spotlight: Jonathan Oliver, Content Guru

Name: Jonathan Oliver

Company: Content Guru

Job title: Group CIO

Date started current role: March 2019

Location: Bracknell, England

Jonathan Oliver is CIO at Content Guru, the world's largest independent provider of Customer Engagement and Experience solutions. Oliver is responsible for optimising internal and customer-facing systems by maintaining Content Guru's high standards of technical scalability, performance and resilience. He has over 25 years of industry experience and was previously Vice President of Global Technology at Dynatrace where he was responsible for service delivery and optimisation across employees in 24 countries.


What was your first job? My first job after graduation was as a Systems Analyst within the petro-chemicals industry, where I learned the importance of people skills in achieving change adoption. At that time IT was often viewed with apprehension and scepticism and using a mouse was a learning curve to some!

Did you always want to work in IT? As a child, my hero was David Attenborough and I was fascinated by animal and human behaviour. Then I got my first ZX81, and once I was bored with the games, I became absorbed by programming. From then onwards, I was pretty much destined for IT.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I read Business Information Systems and have since been lucky enough to have experienced many Corporate development programs. Personally, I take what I need from standard methodologies and use certification to gain capability and accreditation across my teams.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. My second move was into IT Consultancy, specialising in Application Performance Management. But after building a new line of business (LOB) and successful delivery team, I was asked to optimise the IT function within the rapidly growing organisation. My roles grew from UK, to European, to global responsibilities. Enabling and re-aligning through the post-Y2K and dot-com bubbles/downturns, then driving value from a number of acquisitions, divestitures and re-structures. My role previous to this was to build a cloud-first global organisation from a Private Equity backed carve-out, which was a great opportunity to quickly deliver business value. We had a fantastic team implementing best-of-breed technology.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? Scalability is imperative to the continued successful growth trajectory of Content Guru. Cloud services, both public and private, will support the development of our global delivery capability.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? Operational excellence with a focus on customer experience is my priority. Our use of IT will support break-out growth, through providing systems and processes which deliver efficient and secure global operations and intelligent decision making, further driving performance.

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 needs to tailor to the specific challenges of the company and the market and meet the needs within the executive team as a whole. I see the CIO role as dynamic and needing to evolve, continually identifying and driving value in the face of changing business environments and technologies. Technology and business process are no longer a discreet function, so don't box it in.

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? My digital transformation programme accelerates internal process maturity and efficiencies through the adoption of aligned technologies, as well as increasing customer value creation. I see these programmes as synergistic, but change needs to be phased in accordance with the ability of the organisation to successfully adopt.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? The Content Guru cloud platform is a mature product with cutting edge features. My goal is to accelerate product delivery whilst maintaining quality, changing processes using KPIs to continually track and drive improvement.

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? Culture is imperative. I look for passion, tenacity and creativity in the team. Through personal leadership, relentless engagement at all levels, and instilling the desire to stretch on delivering business benefit, those who make the greatest difference come to the fore and achieve excellence by setting an example. Content Guru has great corporate values which underpin impressive decision making.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? Security specialists with both wide technical skills and the business acumen to qualify and quantify real business risk is a challenging mix.

What's the best career advice you ever received? The greatest piece of advice I've ever been given is that, if in doubt, put your CEO hat on and think "what is right for the business as a whole". That so often drives clarity in the face of complexity.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. Having been in post only a few months, I don't want to think too much about succession plan! But I am planning that plan. The challenge is focussing on the individual and ensuring their continued personal growth is aligned with opportunities to work on challenging projects with highly visible and meaningful business outcomes.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? I would say to aspiring IT leaders that you should ensure you develop your personal skills, especially communication, since you're probably relatively highly skilled in technology and process.

What has been your greatest career achievement? A real highlight in my career has been building high performing teams, some of whom have grown with me over decades. We have delivered some amazing projects, delighting customers, and leaving legacies of truly great work, which persist years later.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I have no regrets about my career. However, why didn't I consider becoming a hedge fund manager? Seriously, I have been lucky to be surrounded by inspirational people and would have liked to spend more time with them.

What are you reading now? "The Hare with Amber Eyes", "Why We Sleep" and "Quadrivium".

Most people don't know that I… bake my own sourdough bread.

In my spare time, I like to…sail. Inshore yacht racing is so exhilarating and I love the team synchronicity required to win.

Ask me to do anything but… apart from repetitive tasks which cause me to mentally shut down, please don't ask me to watch TV drivel - life is too short for Love Island!

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