John Owen: Driving Transformations to Deliver Results

The world right now is caught in the midst of a digital transformation. Business, Governments, citizens everyone is racing ahead and embarking the journey of digital transformation to keep themselves abreast with the technological world. So When John Owen joined Mastek as its CEO in 2016, the first task at his hand was to reposition Mastek from a traditional IT services company into a global leader in enterprise digital transformation. With John at the charge, the strategy involved him succeeding the promotor and then CEO, Sudhakar Ram. It also included moving the global HQ from Mumbai to London to better reflect where it secured the majority of its revenues.

The Big Leap

For an Indian listed company, this was a bold move to enable Mastek to respond faster to the dynamic and fluid business requirements that drive the digital agenda. Mastek had historically done a fantastic job engineering enterprise level, mission-critical software but hadn’t grown in the way one would have expected. John saw an organization with everything it needed to grow and ride the digital wave by differentiating itself from the larger legacy IT service providers. His job was to simply put in place the vision and strategy to enable Mastek to fulfill its potential. He recalls, “Mastek started from a fantastic position and having built start-ups previously, it had all the fundamentals in place: cash, capability, people, customers, and an under-served growth market…it just needed to build a flawless execution culture and that was within its control.”

Since John’s appointment, Mastek has enjoyed strong growth with revenues up to 46% over the past 12 months and employee numbers increased by over 30% over the same time period taking the total number of ‘Mastekeers’ to over 2,000 and counting.

The Strategic Leader

John has earned himself the badge of a transformational international business leader who injects energy, and passion. He is viewed as a customer-centric, results-orientated executive with strong leadership, commercial and communication skills. He leads the growth strategy at Mastek and has over two decades of sales and marketing experience. Prior to joining Mastek, John held senior leadership roles in global blue-chips such as HP, Nortel, and Serco, as well as successful start-ups such as Sycamore Networks. He also owned Owen Partnership Ltd, an independent consultancy helping companies in the B2B and B2G sectors execute growth strategies, protect and expand their major account relationships. He is credited with inspiring a culture of excellence in customer focus, business performance, and continual improvement by building professional teams and client relationships.

Transforming Business One Step at a Time

With John at the helm, Mastek has been delivering solutions that help organizations to adapt to the new methodologies and technology. Based on the requirement of the organization, they help organizations in one of three ways;

  • Recovering troubled or stalled digital transformation projects

John shares the example of how Mastek helped a major UK retailer which had been working with a supplier to roll out a large-scale Business Intelligence project to enable its customers to price match at the shop tills without success. He recalls, “We came in, got the project back on track, ultimately delivered it ahead of schedule and ended up delivering a ten minute time saving across nearly 500 stores.”

  • Modernizing legacy environments

Through legacy modernization team Mastek helped Together, a 40-year-old UK specialist lender. Previous to working with Mastek their brokers had to use obscure, complex product interfaces. John says, “We replaced that with a unified broker portal which has led to a 30% cut in underwriting time and a 150% growth in their loan book. Unsurprisingly, satisfaction with the new portal is running close to 100%.”

  • Creating new digital interfaces.

For a prestigious client, Mastek created new digital interfaces. John shares, “The work we’ve done there provides the client with extensive processing solutions for ensuring quick decision-making through efficient and timely data sharing.”

At the Helm of Changes

Working in the capacity of CEO at Mastek has been a fun run for John. He says, “I’ve got a pretty straight forward approach to business, primarily shaped by my Lancastrian upbringing and work ethic. I strongly believe that winning is a habit and winning teams require pride, passion and a strong belief system.” John believes that he has managed to instill some of that into the organization and it’s apparent the company has a renewed confidence, direction, and belief that it can successfully compete against any world-class competitor in the enterprise digital transformation market.

On every metric, John and Mastek have had an incredibly successful year but he considers that one good year’s performance doesn’t make a great company. He says, “Our financial performance is now predictable and accretive; we’ve delivered 8 consecutive quarters of revenue and profit growth. Customer Satisfaction continues to remain high at 92% and employee engagement has increased too as has headcount which has increased by 725 taking us to over 2,000 employees.”

While John is incredibly proud of everything the team has achieved, he is an equally strong believer in the idea of ‘resetting to zero’ at the start of a New Year and new quarter. He stresses on the need to look forward and strive to once again earn the respect of loyal customers, and be seen by Mastekeers as their employer of choice and by the shareholders as providing the best returns.

A People’s Place

John considers that it is the people who make Mastek a success. As a human capital business, Mastek’s success is fundamentally driven by its ability to attract, develop and retain the key engineering talent it needs to service the increasing demand from its customers. John explains – “In my experience, too many companies and executives spend too much energy focusing on what they haven’t got versus the market leader and not enough time building on the assets the company actually has. In our case, we have a fantastic track record in delivery and this is because we respect, reward and nurture a culture of engineering excellence.” Mastek has a unique philosophy known as ‘Mastek 4.0′ which truly empowers individuals and teams enabling them to focus on delivering the customer’s outcome, whatever it takes.

Mastek 4.0 aims at empowering human assets and creating a self-managed environment rather than working in a hierarchy. John explains, “It’s these assets that enable Mastek teams to work agilely with rapidly changing business requirements from the customer: these are the traits that are the key to success in digital programmes and allow Mastek to successfully compete against traditionally larger players where economies of scale drive the value.” Mastek now has absolute clarity and discipline in its business model, operating model, where it invests, where it sells and which markets are relevant and which segments it should simply exit.”

Vision 2020

John has a bold, single-minded plan dubbed ‘Vision 2020’ which will see Mastek evolve as the most respected company to serve the enterprise digital transformation needs of its customers. The plan involves a sharp focus on the time to business impact, which requires engineering excellence whereas the traditional IT service market continues to focus driving the cost out of the inputs by using lower cost, less experienced engineers.

Taking care of its human resource will be another key factor. John assures, “We select from the best Universities, drive rigorous assessment processes, invest in developing hard and soft skills, drive learning opportunities through project redeployment from day one; all of which means our people stay longer, are more experienced and ultimately deliver better business outcomes for our customers.”

However tough the competition, Mastek will not compromise on its business ethics and will continue to work in a way that is progressive, future-compliant and delivers customer delight. John further adds, “I’m clear that Mastek cannot and will not join a cost-based ‘race to the bottom’. If I think about some of our retail customers, they don’t worry about the cost of an individual software engineer; their focus is on ensuring they have a robust web commerce platform launched in time for Black Friday and Cyber Monday when 65% of their annual revenue is earned. Delivering two months late might have been acceptable in the old world but in the digital age it is business critical and that’s where we have the edge.”

John is confident that at every level, Mastek will continue to grow so by 2020 it will be an organization in excess of 10,000 Mastekeers continuing to engineer great digital solutions for its global customers!

Source :-The 10 Best Performing IT Leaders to Watch in 2019