Governing Body Spotlight

Co-Chair of the Global CIO Community

Stuart Hughes

Chief Digital Officer

Kerry Group

Briefly describe your organization’s and your team’s global footprint. 

Rolls-Royce pioneers cutting-edge technologies that deliver clean, safe and competitive solutions to meet our planet’s vital power needs. Our purpose is to pioneer the power that matters to connect, power and protect society.

We operate across four key business units: Civil Aerospace, Power Systems, Defence and ITP Aero. We have a global presence in 45 countries and a monthly average of 48,200 employees.  

My Civil Aerospace digital team’s footprint covers Singapore, New Zealand and the UK (Bristol and Derby). Our mission is to develop the digital products and services that underpin the IntelligentEngine platform, which powers our fleet of engines. We also specialise in the use of advanced analytics to improve decision making throughout the organisation. 

What do you enjoy most and what is the biggest challenge about leading global teams, operations and strategy? 

I always enjoy meeting new people, learning about new cultures, and I have a passion for solving problems through digital technology and clever thinking. For me, strategy is always about defining the outcomes we need to deliver, providing autonomy, resources and support for them to succeed, and providing regular Town Halls to provide progress updates and discussion groups to ensure we learn and adapt. 

Whether locally or globally, I like to use the OKR (Objectives and Key Results) method to ensure we all know our goal and support the team to adapt as they progress through the journey. With local teams it’s easier to understand the details than with global teams; either way, my job is to support the local leaders to achieve their goals. I find it amazing how individual different cultures remain in this more connected and globalised world, and relish how exposure to them will often lead to new ways of thinking. 

The best example I have was from one of the teams I managed for Tui Travel in Brazil, where it is common to pay for items like shopping or hotel rooms in regular installments rather than upfront payment as we do in the UK. This was a capability we just didn’t have at Tui. The lack of this capability was restricting sales in this market and was a significant opportunity to grow. This required a whole set of localized features needing to be built into the platform and really allowed the local team to compete. It’s interesting to see that PayPal are now offering a similar service in the UK.

I’m passionate about regional teams supporting data analytics outcomes as they benefit from often being much closer and more integrated with the end customer. Some of these initiatives I have seen be hugely successful often improving the relationship and customer satisfaction scores. I offer one note of caution. Data Analytics teams need close collaboration with the data domain experts (wherever they are in the world) to succeed. Globalisation without embedded open collaboration may seem cheaper, but will likely be far less effective and the cost of lost opportunity will be greater. Combining the domain expertise, customer insights and data analytics/decision science capabilities will provide the optimum chance of valuable insights.

What is your advice to other global business leaders on driving global standardization while being regionally responsive? 

The biggest advantage I see from our global teams is from the thought leadership these teams bring, the opportunity to learn from their view of the world and the solutions they create. At a certain level of abstraction, all challenges and solutions can seem similar (e.g. ERP/CRM/PLM).  Sometimes with globally distributed teams’ local differences may make a global solution overly complex or global solutions may lack the agility required in the local market, and we may require a different solution that is far more light weight to more traditional legacy solutions. As a senior leader, I tend to favour value delivery sooner combined with a culture of learning and improving by iteration rather than following highly planned strategic solutions, which often require delays to capability delivery and lengthen the time to the value we need. Of course, there needs to be balance, and we must ensure we avoid unpalatable impacts to operations and support.

I find making these technology selection decisions the most difficult challenge. I find it hard to hold the business back based on technology dogma or waiting for large complex programs to provide a capability. The challenge of balancing disruptive technology with waiting for more traditional suppliers to provide the features and capabilities required is high risk. We need the traditional vendors to improve agility and improve their output. Trusting partners to provide capability that is ‘in the next release’ has seldom succeeded and can often undermine the technology teams’ reputation for successful solution choice after causing delays and frustration. 

I find it most challenging to balance supporting developing a local solution or evaluating new disruptive technology when a global solution already exists that feels like it may provide the same capability. Even more challenging can be the situation where a new global solution is in development, and the local team still wants to implement a local solution to deliver capability earlier or to meet the local business needs for agility. In these instances, I tend to favour the local teams as the roadmaps of more traditional vendors (whose marketing department take liberties using disruptive technology terms) can often lead to delays, confusion and often don’t meet expectations of the users.

Balancing new and more disruptive technologies with established systems and vendors is very hard and requires an agile mindset and a virtual crystal ball on where this technology will go. Each choice must be a situation specific discussion on each opportunity rather than IT dogma. Having a consolidated global capabilities strategy is an obvious benefit to large enterprises to simplify how we work, improve global collaboration and increase standardisation and productivity. If we choose to take a more agile, short-term approach to release value, we must have the discipline to follow through on solution consolidation where appropriate. Consolidation (Application Rationalisation) is something that I take seriously, and the core of my technology strategy is always ‘adopt mature enterprise systems.’ This helps to ensure that we enable the business to achieve operating cost goals and efficiency. The question is always, when is it mature and how much disruption is there in this capability?

How would you describe your global culture? How is this translated or manifested in your worldwide locations?

Both our operations and our customers’ operations are increasingly global in nature, and to that end we invest in innovation, infrastructure and in the global workforce upon whose ability and ambition our current and future success entirely depends. In 2020, we supported our people to work from home, where possible, and recognise this as an opportunity to further increase flexible working in the future.

We need great people to help us achieve our goals, so we make sure we provide an environment where they can always be at their best. Hiring local talent across our global network is also very important to Rolls-Royce. We support communities and groups, local and relevant to our operations. Creating a diverse workforce is also important to us. You’ll find this reflected in our values and behaviours, in our policies and practices, in our care promise and in our coaching and development. We proactively promote diversity and inclusion as it’s critical to our success. 

Leaders in multinational companies have an enormous impact on the world. How should global business and technology leaders be driving change and creating a better world for everyone to live in? 

We are determined to use our position as a global power group to play a role in creating a resilient, inclusive, net zero carbon future. 

Achieving net zero carbon will require a wholesale transformation of the systems that form the backbone of our global economy, including power, transport and the built environment, the very sectors in which reducing emissions is the hardest. At Rolls-Royce, we believe there are technological solutions to decarbonising these vital parts of the economy. With the right policy, environment and public support, we have the potential to pioneer game-changing technology that will help deliver a net zero carbon future.

In 2020 we: 

  • Announced commitment to net zero carbon by 2050, joining the UN Race to Zero and UN Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign;
  • Conducted first engine ground tests on 100% unblended SAF;
  • Progressed our SMR programme and secured further funding.



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