Richard Hau, global head of delivery for GSK at WPP, speaks to LBB’s Alex Reeves, in association with Adobe, about maintaining creativity while driving efficiencies, harnessing belief and making the world a better place
Adobe XD is a proud supporter of LBB. Over the upcoming months, as part of the sponsorship of the Digital Craft content channel, we will be spending time with some of the most innovative and creative minds in the industry.
In this conversation we talk with Richard Hau, global head of delivery for GSK at WPP. Richard’s day-to-day is centred around ways to drive efficiencies for both the client and holding company, but he’s come to delivery from a design background via development and project management. Here he considers how he endeavours to create “holistic solutions” and why he is focused on driving behaviour change through “creating belief”.
LBB> What does your job as global head of delivery for GSK at WPP mostly consist of?
Richard> To ensure our clients are receiving the best quality outcome from WPP whilst providing efficiencies that help drive growth across both GSK and WPP.
LBB> Your career began in design before you moved into development and then into more of a project management sphere. How did that progression happen?
Richard> I studied Design for Communication & Digital Media Production at the University of the Arts (The London Institute’s London College of Printing before the name change).
Shortly after graduation I joined a small agency in North London where I quickly learnt that in small businesses, you’re more than just a single discipline that your title describes.
After a few years of design, my interest in technology progressed my design work into a blended skill set. Rather than handing off a UI to a developer, why don’t I attempt to build myself? More just curiosity than anything else in the first instance. Bear in mind, before Adobe acquired Macromedia, applications such as Flash or Director required users to script to get the best out of the medium.
The similarities between development languages allowed my interests to go further between disciplines. That said I would never claim to be a full stack developer or have anywhere the skill of someone like Perry Nightingale
Continuing with the small agency mentality, solving design and technical challenges led me to think about project management. This time the challenge wasn’t about the end goal, it was the process and the journey that everyone is associated with that made me think differently. In design or development, the methodologies and the process of discovery and exploration are absolutely key, however it’s the end product or outcome that is celebrated, with delivery, there generally isn’t an end goal. It’s continuous improvement and constant movement from one challenge to another. That, to me, is interesting.
LBB> What were the most important moments for you over the years, professionally?
Richard> Being made redundant, but not in a negative way in the end. I was four to five years into my career and didn’t know where I wanted to take my career next. During my studies I worked in various retail placements and thought rather than wait until another design or development job came along I would keep myself busy (and funded to pay bills) back in retail. I applied for Apple Retail. In retail you get used to talking directly to customers, getting quick sound bites of what their needs, wants and dislikes are. With Apple Retail, you had to go through empathy training, how to deal with customers who essentially only spoke to you because they had a problem, my role was to diagnose, find a solution and keep the customer vested in the world of Apple in 10mins. My time at Apple taught me a lot about how people, consumers behave and how the psychology of experience is essential in how interactions should be conducted and explored in achieving solutions.
LBB> And how does that journey impact on the way you approach your current role?
Richard> Solutions always evolve, validating the thinking with data, proof of concepts, ways of working have all been taken from design and development. No developer stands still, within six to 12 months a newer more efficient code base would have landed. Design methodologies and great creative thinking can stand the best of times, however they can be evolved, but the baseline is always there.
As much as my title says I’m a delivery guy, the term in itself is very broad or at least that’s my interpretation of it. A challenge is a challenge, whether it falls specifically under my discipline is irrelevant. Having an opinion and being able to prove a value by enabling a suitable solution for the time is how my experience has impacted my approach.
LBB> Last time we spoke you told me you're passionate about using XD to create 'holistic solutions'. Can you expand on what you mean by that?
Richard> Adobe has various tools that enable a great community and can foster change within an organisation. If you drill down to what the tools are essentially there to do, it’s to create efficiencies. Provide the user(s) the ability to be creative whilst driving efficiencies across various formats and mediums throughout an agency or organisation. XD could be the glue to the Adobe Experience. In larger organisations, you tend to find that companies will invest in tech stack to enable consistency and connectivity. Integration is always a keyword. Leveraging the best of those tools by enabling that connective glue could change the game.
Imagine this, an agency is asked to globally change the identity of a brand. What exactly does that mean? Well for starters, all internal and external materials, logos, printed materials, templates, websites (how many?!)… the list can be enormous and before all of those changes are actually implemented, it assumes we have a flexible design finalised and ready to go. What if, in a single application, we can instantly ripple all changes through Style Libraries and be directly injected into departments for shopper / commerce / web: i.e. directly into AEM development program. Imagine the efficiencies.
LBB> When it comes to behaviour change around new technologies, what have you found are the most important considerations to make that change go more smoothly?
Richard> Belief. Change happens for various reasons, in some cases, like this year, choice or lack of choice forces behaviour change and creates adoption. In most other circumstances, it’s creating belief. If you, and your team or your organisation believes in the change, the positivity will drive willingness to ensure adoption is successful. This goes back to being able to prove the solution meets the challenge and, at the time, is at very least the most pragmatic solution available.
LBB> Ultimately WPP's relationship with clients like GSK is to help them sell more, of course. But beyond that, how do you see the company, through your work with WPP, genuinely improving the world?
Richard> For me it’s about partnership and realising potential with true global data and some of the best creative thinkers from around the world. You always hear of proactive briefs or when an agency thinks a particular idea would be perfect for a client, in most cases, it’s not about sales, it’s about the greater good. Sustainability, diversity and inclusion, behavioural excellence etc. Unity is something we could all do with more of. If clients can achieve their goals, their ethical values will naturally improve the challenges and impact on the world.
LBB> How has Covid-19 and lockdown changed the way you work and the way you think about the work you do?
Richard> The always on mentality has gone into overdrive. As much as “holiday” time has been taken, I’m still finding myself checking in on the team as it's an extremely difficult environment right now for everyone. The importance of checking mental wellbeing and active listening has never been more needed. The ability to be able to find long term stable solutions has become more challenging however it has fostered a dramatic turnaround for rapid trial and error solutions.
It has also made me think I need to automate much more of what I do so that there’s a quick driven response that is actually useful. In short, creating common logic and knowledge base into a bot driven mechanic.