by Mark Chillingworth

CIO Profile: Boots the Chemist’s Andy Haywood on legacy retailing

May 19, 20113 mins
CareersIT LeadershipIT Strategy

Boots the Chemist has a presence on the vast majority of the UK’s high streets. As an organisation its public face is akin to Radio 4: timeless and giving a comforting sense of stability.

But like all successful organisations, Boots has, at all times, been successfully transforming itself to meet the needs of its customers and a changing business landscape, while also remaining true to its traditions.

A wealth of change is going through the organisation at present and as ever, the CIO is at the heart of this change. Andy Haywood is IT director of Boots in the UK and met CIO at one of the pharmacist’s key stores on the outskirts of the beautiful city of York.

“Boots is unique for its mix of retail and pharmacy,” says Haywood. He cuts a lithe figure, almost like a marathon runner in appearance, and looks relaxed in both the training room in which we talk and on the shop floor which, after all, represents the front line of his business.

“Retail is very tough and in the UK it is world class and the competition is good for Boots and it is good for us in IT. The spread of the business means that most retailers are a type of competitor.

“In the UK Boots has 2500 stores, the head office and a significant supply chain,” Haywood says of the three critical pillars of the business.

Haywood is excited about the central role which technology and he are playing at Boots as the company undergoes a three-year transformation plan.

“Technology is being seen as an integral part of what we do. The brilliant thing about the setup is that I report to the Transformation Executive Director and he’s on the UK executive board.

“Transformation is a three-year plan, driven by technology. The investment is very very significant, and higher than any previous investment cycle. We’ve got the biggest transformation agenda in UK retail,” he explains. Supply chain, multi-channel retail and the back office are all seeing their technology renewed.

“We are just starting year two of a three-year plan. In the next three months we will look at the next three-year plan. In the back office we are looking at releasing the legacy spaghetti that most retailers have with a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system across retail and pharmacy.

“We have to have a scalable infrastructure back in the support office. If we can get that right the speed from which we deliver products, the supply chain efficiencies that we can drive mean that we can then get the right products to the customers.