The Ntrinsic CIO Series - Richard Piercy CTO at Communis


Richard Piercy, a pioneer of enabling business through the innovative use of technology - ho...

Richard Piercy, a pioneer of enabling business through the innovative use of technology - how has he remained so relevant in a career spanning 30 years?

The world at large still views the IT industry as a relatively recent and young phenomenon. Richard Piercy knows differently. Over the last almost 30 years, he’s built a lengthy, progressive and successful career that started long before IT had any kind of a reputation, never mind one for being lucrative or even cool.

Seeing what a lot of people didn’t, and so making him visionary in his approach, Richard continues to be sought after for his ability to help drive business through the use of technology and fresh thinking – rare commodities in an industry that continues to grow at rapid pace.

Having stayed in the fast lane throughout, Richard’s CV is impressive: he’s graduated to consulting, worked with a hugely respected strategy house, achieved COO status at a young age, cemented his position as a technology leader in very desirable forward-thinking business, been a PLC CIO and, most recently, a renowned digital leader in a leading digital business.

Today, Richard continues to emanate vibrancy, enthusiasm and energy – all of which guarantee he has much still to achieve.

Mike Thorpe, Business Development Director at Ntrinsic spoke to Richard to find out what drives him and what has enabled such a diverse and enviable career.

Mike (M): Why did you choose technology as a career route?

Richard (R): I loved electronics at AO level and did Maths and Physics at A level. That put me in the ‘boffin’ bracket but I didn’t mind - computing and electronics was a natural choice for me. Studying at Durham, I took a summer job at a semi-conductor manufacturer doing coding and development and loved it. I was applying what I was learning and had a light bulb moment: I had caught the IT revolution and was determined to make the most of it.”

M: How have you managed to stay relevant?

R: I’ve kept up to date. I read and have always read thought leadership papers from business consulting organisations such as Harvard and McKinsey – most importantly, these are businesses that speak to the Boards of significant global organisations with a commercial agenda, not just a tech focus I find the most relevant documents are those targeted at CEO’s and not the pure technical enthusiast. I’ve long understood that technology drives business and not the other way around.

M: What is the secret to your success?

R: I knew from an early age I wanted to be an IT Director. In fact, it was what drove me and my ultimate goal. Everything I did was to get me one step closer to having the whole trainset and a dedicated team working with me – please don’t interpret this as it needing to be a large team, in fact it is increasingly important to deliver more with less! My business focus really helped with this. People have said that that approach was revolutionary and forward-thinking, but I’ve always understood that the real value and purpose of technology is always in solving a business problem. My consulting experience with Accenture and Boston Consulting confirmed that.

M: What has been the high point of your career so far?

R: There have been a few highlights but the standout achievement for me personally was pitching for the job of digitally transforming the EMI Music supply chain - and getting it. I was given a shoestring budget and a huge stretch target. However, we were able to deliver the complete transformation within budget. No mean feat! I would say the secret to success there was the relationships we’re developed with EMI and enabling excellent lines of communication across the company. That success led to me securing the role of CIO at EMI.

M: How have you measured you own success?

R: Seeing my own name in the annual report for UBM as the Group CIO gave me pause for thought. I thought this was where I had wanted to be all my career, in a role that had real potential for decision-making that would affect the business in tangible and positive terms.

M: You’re a man with energy and purpose – what’s next?

I’m focused on leveraging my cross functional experience as much as possible – whether in an advisory capacity or full time role. I have no real preference currently but there is so much potential. In terms of criteria, it has to tick all the boxes of being global, perhaps in the media and certainly disruptive or transformational.

What I do know is that I can still add value to businesses as an experienced technology leader. However being just a technology expert in isolation is not enough. Being able to guide and advise boards on how technology can drive their businesses to perform better remains hugely relevant and where I have always wanted my career to go.

This interview with Richard Piercy is just the first in Ntrinsic’s CIO series – watch this space for more conversations with Mike Thorpe throughout 2019 and beyond. If you are or know anyone who’d like to be featured, please get in touch – we’d be delighted to have a conversation with you.