analysis

CIO interview: John Finch, global CIO, Experian

Cliff Saran

John Finch has been global CIO at credit rating agency Experian since September. For six years previously he worked at Experian in a client-facing role in product development and delivery within the credit services part of the business. 

Credit services is the largest division of the business and includes credit checking services, the motor insurance bureau, list processing and digital advertising services. Between 2,000 and 3,000 people work in product development, with clusters of developers located in Nottingham, California, Texas and Kuala Lumpur. A team in Johannesburg supports the South Africa market.

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Finch does not use offshore development, but in 2007, 300 roles at Experian were outsourced to Perot Systems (now Dell), while TCS supports the company’s Oracle installation. Experian also runs captive centres in Chile and Costa Rica.

His main goal is to support clients. The career development of staff is key to this strategy, as is the technology that powers Experian's services. The strong client focus means Finch is looking to forge strategic supplier relationships – a win-win approach where the supplier is part of an ecosystem of preferred suppliers.

"I spend a lot of time with clients," he says. In fact, Finch has face-to-face meetings with clients on a weekly basis.

The global CIO position is Finch's fourth role at Experian. He rose through the ranks from being on the UK executive team and Emea executive team, to heading up the global role for technology delivery.

Driving the business

In some ways Experian is rather like a software-as-a-service company. "We are a technology and product business. IT is core to the business," he says.

In fact, supporting the client through Experian's technology is one of the main motivators for Finch. "Our clients rely on Experian. We are heavily integrated into their business. I want to make sure we excel at the client experience."

For Finch, the effect of cloud computing is that clients want work completed quickly. This does not necessarily mean Experian takes an agile approach to its operations. "Agile has its place," he says. "Our CheetahMail [e-mail marketing] service requires very rapid product delivery. This makes use of burst infrastructure to provide the capacity needed to process millions of e-mail messages. On the other hand, Experian works with various governments on identity management and revenue assurance. These large, complex programmes involve multiple suppliers and a Prince 2 approach to project management."

Supplier consolidation

As Computer Weekly has previously reported, the company operates twin datacentres in Nottingham, Texas and Brazil, along with a number of datacentres in Asia.

Experian runs a diverse IT environment. Internally it uses Oracle eBusiness Suite for accounting, billing and human resources. Siebel is used on-premise and on-demand, and there are some instances of Oracle Fusion.

Along with Oracle, Experian runs DB/2 on the mainframe, IBM UDB on mid-range systems, and Microsoft SQL Server, along with the standard tools to support and develop these environments.

The "Power of One" is Finch's strategy to simplify the relationship with suppliers. "Historically we had hundreds of technology suppliers," he says. "Through the Power of One I am creating a supplier optimisation and reduction programme. I want to reduce overall spending and direct spending to strategic partners."

People are key

Finch is driven by a strong focus on people management. "My goal is to unleash our talent, develop our people, rotate them into different roles and give them opportunities to support the business," he says. "A great client experience is about a great individual."

Career development of staff is top of the agenda for Finch and his direct reports. "One of the challenges in business is how to grow talent. It is quite common to lose a great programmer when they are promoted to a project leader. If you are a star programmer you can become a mentor," he says.

Within his team, Finch says 70% of vacancies are filled internally. Everyone has a personal development plan, while high performers are given a clear plan. "We constantly develop people to help them grow within the business," he says.

The company provides a standard personal development plan for every member of staff. On a quarterly basis, Finch speaks directly to 150 of the most promising individuals in his team. A number of these high flyers have rotated through a range of jobs in the Experian business. 

Experian has established a joint venture company, Experian Australia Credit Services Pty. As part of the structured talent development programme, high-performing staff are being offered the opportunity to work in Australia as part of the joint venture.

 


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