by CIO Staff

Bettys & Taylors of Harrogate Group Head of IT Toby Smith Q&A

Sep 18, 2015
IT Leadership

Bettys and Taylors Group Head of IT Toby Smith oversees the technology estate behind some of the UK’s most-loved brands, including Yorkshire Tea and Bettys of Harrogate. A supporter of IT as an enabler of the business vision and customer needs, Smith is also responsibe for a business process change programme and delivering necessary IT and business change to serve the future needs of Yorkshire-based family run Bettys & Taylors.

People development as well as much-needed IT investment is on the agenda for Smith to ensure the readiness of Bettys for the changing landscape and enable the group’s business ambitions.

Job Title Group Head of IT

When did you start your current role? November 2011

What is your reporting line? To the board.

Do you meet with and discuss business strategy with the CEO every week? We have a collective CEO and Group Exec Team – it’s something quite different! [The ‘Collaborative CEO’ group executive team comprises the Taylors Managing Director, a Group Finance & Resources Director, the Director of Change & Performance, and the Group Communications Director – eds.]

What non-technology responsibilities do you have in the organisation? Group Business Process Change

How many employees does your organisation have? 1500

Does your organisation carry out significant trade in the EU? Yes

What number of users does your department supply services to? 700

How do you ensure that you have a good understanding of your business and how your customers use your business’s products? My function and role are pivotal to business success, and as such myself and my team work very hard at forging strong relationships with our business partners across the Group. This comes to fruition through close engagement on business priorities, which inevitably centre around our customers, thereby making sure what all that we do in IT in enabling the Business Vision is aligned and supports our customer’s needs.

Betttys technology strategy and IT agenda

Is your organisation being disrupted by the internet, mobility or technology oriented start-ups? Yes

Are you empowered by your organisation to disrupt from the inside? Yes

Describe a disruptive measure you’ve led or played a major part in? I am currently in the midst of collaborating with the leadership team of each business stream to put in place new structures in our organisation, focussing on business process change. This is a massive step for our business that has traditionally viewed IT as the place solutions are introduced, but without the review and understanding of business processes and the implications of business change, which are most acutely felt when enforced by system-led change.

What major transformation project has been recently completed, or is underway at your organisation? The replacement of the trading website and order management platforms for

What impact will the above transformation have on your organisation? Enabling the ambitious plans to 2020 for Bettys, through providing not just technology re-fresh, but much more fundamentally through business process change, understanding our business much better, and therefore being able to make much better decisions regarding simplification of product range, customer experience, end to end supply chain and about our people who sustain our business excellence.

How has your leadership style contributed to the outcomes of the transformation project? In support of the business growth ambitions, and in recognition of historic underinvestment in IT, I have the rare pleasure in today’s market of managing a growing investment in IT. However, this is combined with the reality of underinvestment in people development, and our readiness for the changing landscape of enabling business ambitions. So, my leadership style is at the heart of how we work together to transform our IT function to serve the future needs of the business, whilst still delivering must-do change today.

What key technologies do you consider enable transformation? Rather than specific technologies, I would point to trends such as consumerisation, mobility, information anywhere, security related to those trends. To effectively transform, we have to delight our customers, enable our dynamic staff to to do their jobs ever more efficiently, enabling close working relationships with a scalable supply model, increasingly third party partnerships, and somehow keep all this in line with security, scalability and reasonable cost! This is what my team and I juggle all the time to enable transformation.

Are you increasing the number of cloud applications or infrastructure in use at your organisation? Yes

What is your information and data analytics vision for the organisation? Simply put – Information anywhere, from any device.

How is mobile and social networking impacting operations and customer experience? We are increasingly developing relationships with our consumers directly through mobile and social media, despite a predominance of revenue being driven through sales channels where the “customer” is a third party retailer. This is fundamentally altering the basis of the relationship with our consumer, and means that our response to the interactions with customers also has to fundamentally change.

Describe your strategic vision towards shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives and employees around choice? We are working hard at our partnerships and alignment to business vision such that shadow IT is not a threat. That said, there are cases where it is best to just “get out of the way” of business need, with certain given in place. This balance is what marks the shift for me from the traditional support and control model for IT, to a more dynamic partnership for the business needs of now and the future. Specifically on BYOD, we are trialling a model across our business, with a view to roll out in 2015.

What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom? We have recently signed a deal for Cloud provision, provision of web services and are about to go to market for an EPOS solution, linked to conversations about our end to end ERP capability.

Bettys IT security and budget

Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months? No

Has cyber-security risen up your management agenda? Yes

Does your organisation understand the potential cyber-security threats it faces? Yes

Has this led to an increase in your security budget? Yes

What is the IT budget? £4m

How much is the IT operational spend compared to the revenue as a percentage? 3%

What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year? To enable year two of our 2020 Group Future picture, which in turn is working towards the strategic aims of Bettys and Taylors Group Ltd. These include focus on three main areas of growth, innovation and diversification.

Are you finding it difficult to recruit the talent you need to drive transformation? No

Has recruitment and retention risen up your agenda as a CIO? Yes

Are you looking for recruits in the EU to fill the skills shortage you have? Yes

Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme? Yes

Bettys IT department

How would you describe your leadership style? A trusting, distributed leadership style is my natural approach. Given the agenda for change and development in my organisation, I also have to work hard at remaining close enough whilst capability and capacity grows in my team and in the business.

How have you supported and developed your senior leadership team to support your overall objectives and vision? I have been fortunate enough to leverage our growth agenda to enable growth and change in my leadership team. In 2014, my team will have made alterations to roles through new entrants, changes to jobs and re-structure that amounts to over 75% of my team’s original roles. This has been done in support of both the individual agenda for change, as well as the organisation – a most pleasing change that is starting to bear fruits as we enter 2015.

How many employees are in your IT team? 32

What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff? 90% in-house, 10% temp/outsourced.

Does your team include key skilled workers from the EU? Yes