AEG CIO David Jones interview: Digital innovation and live disruption

Edward Qualtrough

"Then you've got time to focus on these bigger strategic issues."


From IT director to CIO

Jones' role has changed considerably as he approaches a decade at AEG, explaining that as IT Director in the UK 90% of his focus in 2008 was on The O2 and IT operations, particularly critical infrastructure, networking security and availability, disaster recovery - and going about building a new UK technology team.

In its European business Jones said that AEG took on a more international outlook, with a plan to become less siloed and more internationally coordinated.

Now Jones said that the strategy is to centralise "as much as makes sense to centralise and leave the local IT teams to deal with the stuff that they are best placed to deal with". With reports including a director of business intelligence and a director of digital which were not roles that existed back in 2011, Jones said that IT was now "the glue in between" the organisation's different businesses, departments and geographies.


Innovation in a corporate environment

Trying to foster growth and digital innovation in a corporate environment is a challenge, Jones said, and businesses need to a adopt a different approach to tried and tested approval and project management processes to succeed in the new digital business environment.

"I think there's a risk in big companies, particularly in the digital space, where if you're not careful you can kind of encumber your ability to innovate just through internal process," Jones said.

"Because you've got too much internal bureaucracy. Those things can, if you're not careful, make it harder to innovate. It's something I talk a reasonable amount with my senior colleagues.

Jones said that "those processes are there for a reason" when you are dealing with large real estate projects and require quite serious Capex approval processes, but warned it could hold organisations back.

"If you're trying to do something quite innovative in the digital space, you don't want to take two years planning it because by the time you get to do it, it'll be out of date," he said.



The Internet of Things provided a good example of finding the right balance between innovation and security for Jones. Arenas and stadia have been early adopters of deploying sensors and adding more and more to the building network - dubbed IoT in some circles. Combined with emerging artificial intelligence capabilities, Jones sees significant benefits to AEG's business in the IoT space.

"We've got all sorts of sensors in our buildings," Jones said. "If you look at our new arenas, pretty much everything is on the network. We're also looking at technologies that let you measure queue length using cameras and artificial intelligence, or let you count people coming through the doors so we can work out how many people are in a particular part of the building.

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