Q. Where were you born?
A.With a name like mine I’d like to say I was born in a picturesque fishing village on the banks of the Black Sea however, I was born in much more mundane – St. Albans , Hertfordshire!
Q. How many people work in your IT department?
A. We have around 320 permanent people in our IS department. Our use of contractors fluctuates but at the moment we have around 40, so in total there are around 360 people currently in IS. In addition we use third parties to deliver some of our projects and services. We also have around 200 people working on the 2nd phase of our SAP programme.
Q. What percentage of annual turnover does IT represent?
A. IS opex measured as a percentage of our Water business turnover is around 2.5 per cent. This measure excludes IS capital investment in systems, hardware, software etc.
Q. What is the basic structure of your IT department?
A. I have structured our IS unit to reflect demand and supply. I have three senior managers, working as IT Directors for each of the main business areas. They work closely with the operating boards of each area. They control the IS programme, ensure new initiatives are defined correctly, establish business cases etc. They ensure IS Service delivery provides the correct services, defining SLA’s etc. They look for opportunities where IS can innovate our business.
The supply side of IS includes Head of Development, Head of service Delivery and a CTO for Strategy, Governance, Vendor Management etc. They deliver the services through the internal IS unit and external suppliers.
Q. Who are your key suppliers?
A.We have really focussed on building very strong relationships with suppliers of our new technical platform. We also have many successful relationships with existing suppliers. The top ten changes from time to time but my current high profile top 10 suppliers list would include SAP, Microsoft, HP, Vodafone, BT, Cisco, Citrix, Computacenter, IBM, Wipro. Others that are playing a key role with us are CLICK, Atos Origin, Juniper, Azzurri to name but a few.
Q. Who has/have been the most influential people in your career?
A.I’ve tried to learn from a number of people in my career. John Neil (CEO of Unipart) who pioneered lean thinking and continuous improvement early in the 1990’s particularly stands out as someone who has been, and still is a major influence on my business outlook, working practices and career. Over the last two years at Severn Trent I’ve worked closely with Tony Wray, my current CEO.
I’ve learned a great deal from his collaborative and open approach to running his team and leading his people. I now more than ever engage at all levels within the organisation to listen to how we can improve and for me to get my message over about the direction of IT, what I expect of people and how we are going to go about things.
Q. What work-related academic qualifications have you pursued?
A. Successfully completing my MBA at Birmingham University was probably the most absorbing and rewarding learning experience I’ve had during my working career. The techniques and constructs that I picked up linked with practical experience have proven invaluable as I have taken on new challenges in my career.
Completing an MBA requires a massive commitment of time. Though I believe the rewards are great my advice to anyone thinking of embarking on an MBA is to be very clear on why you want to do it and what your personal objective and motivation is for making such a big commitment.
Q. Do you believe in mentoring?
A. I’ve very recently started using a mentor. It’s too early to assess the full impact of the sessions however the opportunity that it gives me to re-assess my thinking and reflect on my approach to issues/challenges does seem to make a positive impact on day to day work.
Q. Which tools or tactics have given you most success in communicating up/down/across?
A.For me, there is no substitute for engaging directly with people, whatever level they are in my organisation. We have been on a transformation journey both within IS and the company as a whole and over the last 12 months I’ve been holding regular round tables of eight to 12 people. At these sessions I don’t use any presentation material I sit down with the group and talk through our plans, achievements, what I want from people and any key topic of the moment. The group can ask any questions they want. These sessions seem to really get my messages through and I get to hear directly from the team about what is concerning them.
Q. What has been your greatest success?
A. My current role has given me the opportunity to achieve two successes. Firstly, the achieving the turnaround in our IS unit has been really rewarding. To see the performance (projects and services) of IS significantly rise is a major measurable achievement.
Secondly is the very recent and rapid implementation of our SAP driven business transformation programme. As the Exec Sponsor for the programme I’ve seen it through from the selection of the development partners, through high level design to post go live for all our back office functions. The fact that the implementation went very smoothly and we are seeing the business benefits flow is a great success not only for me but for all the people who worked so hard to achieve the deployment. We are now working towards the second release that will drive greater efficiency in our field work force and asset management business areas.
Q. How do you keep up to date with the march of technology?
A. I make time to link up with other CIO’s and suppliers to pick up new ideas, new technology and ways of doing things. I also challenge my CTO and his strategy team to constantly look for new innovative technology and feed the ides through to my business unit IT directors to assess the business potential.
Q. What profession would you most like to attempt?
A.A broad MBA gave me the opportunity to study different business disciplines and I found marketing absolutely fascinating. If I wasn’t in IT I would really like to be in a sales and marketing role.
Q. Do you have a sport you practice or sportsperson/team that you follow?
A. In my younger days I played a lot of football. I’m now classed as a veteran so I get to play at a slightly less competitive level. I enjoy playing golf but like most of us, finding the time is difficult so I don’t get to play as much as I’d like to.
Q. What else do you do outside of work?
A. I enjoy going to some of the major antiques fairs that are held around the country. I like the atmosphere, the hunt for a sought-after item and the haggling that ensues.