Executive Insights – Nick Giannakakis, Group CIO at Motor Oil

Executive Insights are a series of discussions with c-suite executives from a range of industries, to learn about their roles and the part that digital transformation plays within their large organisations.

In February, Nick Giannakakis moved from British American Tobacco (where he was Chief Technology Officer) into the newly established role of Group Chief Information Officer at Motor Oil Hellas.

Motor Oil started as an oil and gas business, but is now an end-to-end energy conglomerate and one of the largest retailers in the southeast area of Europe, with ~$10bn annual revenue. The company has approximately 1,300 convenience stores that sell directly to the consumer through brands like Cyclon and Coral Gas. Recently, Motor Oil has begun to diversify into renewables including wind farms.

Despite facing significant challenges this year, Nick remains positive, he sees the recent uncertainty as an opportunity to leverage technology to strengthen the business against any further external shocks, and reinforce a robust revenue stream: “We are under a big transformational deal to use digital technology to become more efficient”. Additionally, he wants innovation to be focussed on the short term challenges and goals, particularly as he believes that the energy sector will be undergoing significant changes in the coming year. This will also shorten strategy planning as Nick believes that “to have a roadmap of three to five years, if you ask my opinion, is not a reality”.

This is also a result of Nick recognising that technology scaleups are beginning to replace the older, slower moving organisations. So, in order to survive in the competitive world we live in, Nick highlights that larger organisations need to become more agile in order to adapt to the changing environment. This is particularly apparent in, but not unique to, the energy sector. And a way to do so, is to collaborate with these forward-thinking companies; “Working with all these new scaleups that have a lot to offer is really essential”.

Of course, there are challenges that arise from the juxtaposition of a small and agile company working with a large organisation that’s submerged in legacy. So in order to assist this collaboration process, Nick supports the development of digital hubs that work as a separate organisation to interact with the scaleups; “So they don’t have to deal with “Goliath’s” organisations, but something more tangible like a small digital startup, which will also help us a lot.” This brings an element of the scaleup mentality to the traditional corporate conventions.

When asked about prerequisites for working with scaleups, Nick reveals that Motor Oil are extremely particular with their selection process, given that the market is becoming evermore inundated with companies offering similar products and services; “We not only need to transform ourselves in order to be able to attract more startups but, on the other hand, we need to be extremely careful on how to select the startup with the most relevant offering for our business”. For example, at Motor Oil, an important requirement is that the scaleup must usually have a large client within the energy sector, and they must be able to prove the robustness of their data models. This qualifies the solution for Motor Oil and allows them to swiftly filter through a portion of the saturated market.

However, it’s worth the sifting through, as Nick highlights that these scaleup technologies are fundamental enablers for Motor Oil’s digital transformation agenda, especially given the shift that is taking place within the energy sector as a whole. “Our sector is transforming itself: […] traditional oil companies are looking to enable new services, moving from more traditional oil and natural gas to renewables.

In such an evolving industry, companies such as Motor Oil are required to adapt to various pressures, and quickly; “All of us will need to be able to […] adjust ourselves, embrace the new ways of working and continue learning”. As Nick emphasises, this can be accelerated by working with scaleups that bring a new dimension to not just the organisations and their people, but the entire sector. An important part of enabling this, according to Nick, is to change corporate mentalities and “start bringing new and relevant talents that will support us on our digital transformation journey.

At Motor Oil, the transformation strategy will be heavily focussed on becoming a data-driven organisation in order to increase productivity, something that Nick believes can be achieved by “building a very thorough ecosystem of partners”, re-emphasising the importance of corporate collaboration with scaleups.

As a result, Nick does not deny that digital transformation is part of their daily focus: “it is the key enabler for our overall industry transformation”.