Navico’s new Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Jarred Clayton, gives his insights from leading the company’s R&D Team over the last couple of months.

What drew you to Navico to take on the role as CTO?

Navico has a legacy of iconic brands and a company with fantastic people that have adapted and evolved over the last 70 years to deliver beyond our customers’ expectations. It’s also one of the very few roles in the world where I can apply my technology, leadership and strategic experience with my passion for fishing and boating.

Beyond that, I was drawn in because Navico has a fantastic opportunity to apply some new thinking and technology to the recreational marine sector that will really change the experience our customers have on the water.

Finally, Knut is also a great leader and we have a strong leadership team that I can learn from (and have confidence in) taking us into the future.

How have you found working directly with the team in Auckland and meeting the rest of the team remotely?

Everyone has been extremely welcoming and supportive both locally and remotely. It is great to be on the floor in Auckland (I know many of our other sites aren’t so lucky right now..!) I’m looking forward to a time when I can get around the other sites too.

What do you think is the key to having a strong R&D Team – is it the relationship with the brands, products and sales teams?

Strong teams are all about having a shared mission and collaboration. Relationships, interaction and collaboration across the wider Navico team as a whole is extremely important. Nothing great happens in isolation (at an individual or department level.) We all need to work together well to deliver value to our customers. The closer we can get to the customer – and focus our thinking and decision-making on the customer – the better.

The ideas and products that we can create by bringing all the perspectives of Navico and our customers together will enable us to outperform our competitors. I have heard some great ideas in my short time at Navico and we are working on bringing the team together to experiment and execute on the best ones.

How do you think we can continue to drive innovation at Navico? Is it about providing room for creativity and do you have any plans to facilitate innovation?

We are creating a system (as part of our everyday work within R&D) that specifically addresses innovation. In total, we are allocating 10% of time on research and experimentation and 15% on bringing new-to-the-world products to market.

We will hold R&D wide planning meetings for a full working week every quarter, with two days on planning and three days on innovation, followed by 12 weeks of sprints. The planning will be collaborative and bring in the technology research and innovation to the wider group.

So far in the role, what have you noticed that Navico does well and what do you think we should work on?

Like I said, we have fantastic people with great ideas but we need to work on bringing the ideas to the surface so that we can experiment and execute on the impactful ones. Increased time invested specifically into innovation should help do that. We also need to shift from a project focus, to a product and customer focus.

You spent many years driving innovation at EROAD, a fleet management software provider. Is there anything we can learn from EROAD’s innovation and growth in Software as a Service (SaaS)?

EROAD was in another industry under disruption similar to Navico. We started from nothing and worked our way to a market cap of over $300m.

According to Doblin, companies that integrated multiple types of innovations were more successful over a period of time. Almost all of the enterprises that we celebrate as leading innovators routinely use multiple types of innovation – and handily outperform the average firms that innovate more naively. Significantly, the top innovators outperform the S&P 500. So integrating more types of innovation can help deliver superior financial returns.

When it comes to technology, is it about finding the next “killer feature” that will disrupt the marine electronics industry, or building on the existing technology we have?

I wouldn’t be doing this if we were only improving on what we have. The score with the competition will be settled by having the products that our customers desire. We have to exploit and improve what we have (which is very good already) while we explore technology and our customers’ problems to deliver “new to the world” products and services that are focused on the experience.

Your background lies in software, but how do you prioritise and balance developments across hardware / software / mechanics? How do they all link together?

Yes I’m a software guy but most companies I have worked in had a hardware component that they designed. I love the combination of all three because it allows you to offer something truly unique with a much higher barrier to entry. This enables companies like ours to capture a large share of the value we create with new products, while the competitors are catching up.

Finally, what energizes you outside of work and what do you like to get up to in your free time?​​​​​​​

I think the long weekend we just had in New Zealand was a great example. My wife Danelle’s mum has a place on Waiheke Island. I finished up work Friday afternoon, picked up the boat and launched off the beach just down the road. On the way over I saw a work up and stopped for a quick fish to pick up a couple of snapper for dinner. The mooring hadn’t been used in eight months and had a couple of dozen decent oysters on it so we ate well that night! Saturday was all day fishing in my boat in the gulf. Sunday we took my father in-law’s boat around to Man O War vineyard on the beach for a couple of wines and our daughters had pizza and ice cream. ​​​​​​​