The Dods’ Approach to Product Innovation

Simon Presswell is the CEO of Dods Group PLC, having joined the company on the 9th July of this year. The company is UK-based and is specialised in intelligence, media, events and training.

Simon spoke with us at CEO Today about the history of his role, his goals and motivations, and the Dods’ approach to product innovation.


What was your personal driver in joining Dods?

Having spent the last 28 – 30 years in media and business intelligence, I’ve seen this brand with wonderfully rich heritage go through a series of iterations based on its original core business. It is now one of the world’s leading trusted brands in a platform that is set for demonstrable growth, and the opportunity to lead such a business is what directly appealed to me.


Are there any specific goals that you are arriving with in your new role?

My goals and our public mission are centred around 3 things: to drive shareholder value, to continue to grow customer satisfaction and engagement, and to develop our employees and team members in terms of their capacity and capability as well. We strive to be the best at what we do.


How do you see Dods’ role in creating value for customers?

I see this in four distinct areas: the organisation of our brands and business to be easy to navigate and articulate, the acquisition of businesses in new areas that complement our business, the partnership with best in class organisations that are experts in incubation, innovation and acceleration to find the next iteration of new technologies and new products that continue to enrich what we do, and the growth of geographical curiosity as to where we might participate across the world.


Can you tell us about your new Senior Management team? What are your shared goals and objectives in relation to driving the company forward?

We have made quite an extensive appointment of senior positions in terms of my direct leadership team, having recently appointed two brand new Senior Sales leaders, a Commercial Director of Content, a Digital Media Product Manager, and a Product Director. They are all highly qualified, highly confident professionals that have come from well-known organisations and that have the collective vision to grow the business. We are all motivated and aligned to do that in our working lives and in the shared goals across this business.


What is your ambition for the business?

If we look at prospective mergers and acquisitions, we’ve done an extensive study that identifies tens of thousands of organisations that might possess an interest for us. We have defined the criteria of attributes that we look for in businesses that would benefit under our ownership, and we have applied this as a filter across those organisations and have a very specific target list.

If you imagine a 2×2 chart that has two axis on it, one is complexity, and the other is value. We are able to place our prospects into the appropriate quadrants: those that are high value and relatively low complexity take our priority, those that are high value and more complex take our second priority, and our third priority is on the opportunities that are not yet at high value and are relatively uncomplex. For those prospects, we will be seeking to partner with a select minority of incubators and innovators to bring on board those businesses and technologies in order to amplify them across our network.


Can you tell us about your approach to product innovation at Dods?

Dods has been known for product innovation since 1832 – what we look for are highly scalable products that can play across multiple vertical markets. Unifeye, our most recent product, is a vesting-class market-first product that serves the corporate communications industry and is proving to be highly successful and extremely attractive.

Our intention is to look at products that occupy the space we’re calling ‘augmented intelligence’. This is the combination of our existing lexicon of binary and non-digital data through our events and publications which then gets added to increasingly complex digital and social media data, which we help to distil and rationalise through our partial ownership of Social360.

We believe that, unlike pure artificial intelligence companies, machines don’t replace people but instead enhance human intelligence. The combination of the two works here across both our data sets and our excellent human consultants. These go deep into our client businesses to help make sense of a more chaotic and complex business world, through the application of smart data, meaningful insights, and how that is then put to work to create a competitive advantage for our customers. AI is not our entirety, but the application of augmented intelligence and the combination of humans and machine is a space that we wholly intend to occupy.


What motivates you about working in this field?

I’m fortunate to have seen the first iteration of the internet when I worked at I see a very similar disruptive, positive revolution happening in the intersection between machines and humans now, particularly on the backdrop of political and economic uncertainty. If you’re a CEO, MD, CMO, Public Affairs Head or Corporate Risk Officer, who can you turn to that is a trusted brand with sufficient brand heritage? Who can you rely on to help navigate some of the more complex questions in an ever-changing world, and once you’ve got that data, how do you apply it?

With our brand heritage and access to intelligence and the data that we have, we believe that we are well placed to help serve the customers that currently trade with us, and even those that do not yet trade with us.


What type of leader are you and what values do you foster at Dods?

My leadership style is very inclusive. Having a direction and vision that people sign up to from a common-sense point of view, but also from the point of view of hearts and minds, is really important, particularly across generations. Everyone’s voice counts – we are all one team, so having that inclusion that helps to rally around a common vision and purpose is key. Being authentic and transparent with our successes and, frankly, our failures to learn from them is my type of style that also applies to Dods as a whole.

We are continually on the search for curious customers that are in need of answers to their questions that we might be able to resolve,  and we are constantly on the look for talented, motivated individuals that want to be part of the change that we’re affecting here at Dods. We welcome them to reach out to us and have an exploratory discussion to see what develops.

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