Meet Our COO Nick Walker

 

We’re excited to catch up with our COO, Nick Walker, who is approaching his 10th anniversary with ai this summer! Nick has shared his wealth of experience with everyone at ai, drawing on his experiences from various leadership roles, including at Retail Decisions, where he worked for 14 years in roles such as Head of Business Development leading acquisitions, and CEO/COO positions in China, Australia, South Africa, and USA.  In his role as COO, Nick is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations at ai, working closely with the CEO, the Executive Committee (ExCo), and the Board to develop and execute our business plan

What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day? Well, they are always very varied and often complex driven by the need to context shift between products, customers, and/or tactical situations as well as strategic goal and objective planning. The priority is always given to customer delivery, so first thing every day, seven days a week is to check all is well with our service delivery and support teams. Should any issues arise, I ensure the team has the necessary support and assistance to resolve problems, maintain service levels, and ensure ongoing customer satisfaction.

Team meetings are another key component of any given day, helping to ensure and maintain alignment across functional areas. We use these meetings to identify any impediments that may impact the delivery of service or the fulfilment of a project. This involves problem-solving, planning, and coaching activities at both individual and team levels.

Process management is key to my operational role and that of my team. Rarely does a day go past where I do not ask myself one or more of the following: Is there a more efficient way of doing this? Can it be automated? Are the roles of the team members and customers aligned? How can we improve?

Cost control is another critical part of the role. The operational team is responsible for a significant proportion of the business spend, so daily controls are in place to ensure we stay on budget and continually strive to make savings without impacting service delivery – the latter being our prime role!
In short, then a typical day is made up of: Communications, problem-solving, team management/motivation, coaching, process review, cost control, and business planning.

 

You joined us in a Commercial role; what did you find most interesting about your move to Operations 5 years ago?

My background and previous roles have always combined business development with operational management and leadership, having been COO and CEO previously in different businesses around the world. So, moving into an operational role at ai was fairly straightforward, helped of course by bringing with me a clear understanding of the ai customer base, its needs, and expectations, having worked as the commercial lead and programme sponsor. What have I found most interesting? Transitioning the business from a software license business to a SaaS business. This was a new experience for me, and I have learned a lot along the journey, but with the support of a wonderful and talented team, and committed vendors, I think we have done a pretty good job!

 

You are approaching your 10th anniversary with ai (Congratulations!). What has been your highlight working at ai during this time?

Is it that long already? The principal highlight must be how the team has grown (size and capability) and developed over my time here at ai, especially in the last two or three years. The team really is committed, and has proven themselves time and time again. They are what makes ai, and are a joy to work with.

 

What do you see as the future of the Operations department?

In short, CI/CD, Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery. I foresee that we will be working even closer with our Technology Team led by our new CTO, as we drive further improvements in our technology stack, test automation, and the way we work. Extremely exciting times lie ahead as we streamline our operational capability whilst empowering the business to scale and fulfill new opportunities in the pipeline for Europe and the USA.

 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

This is the easy question. 😉 I love playing tennis and play in the local men’s doubles and mixed doubles leagues. I have the honour of being Captain for the mixed team this summer. Not to say I am competitive, but we will be going for promotion! As will ai! I also like to keep abreast of new developments in all things AI (Artificial Intelligence), and I try to review at least one new AI app a week. Many of which have applicability within the business. So perhaps, an addition to the last question is the incorporation of additional AI applications to enhance operational efficiencies and effectiveness. For example AI knowledge transfer to create digital clones of key technical and support resources, not to replace but to enhance.

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