by Mark Chillingworth

Aston Martin’s Bradley Yorke-Biggs on supplier management

Nov 02, 2010
CareersIT LeadershipIT Strategy

As Aston Martin seeks to drive its business forward, Yorke-Biggs needs to modernise the business processes and the technology behind them to support this famous car manufacturer as it continues its ambitious trajectory.

“Our infrastructure is not capable of supporting where we want to go in the future as a business. I have a good team of analysts and developers, 70 per cent of what they do is keeping the legacy systems going, these systems were fit for purpose when we built just a few cars a week, but that legacy is taking a lot of time and ­effort and it is frustrating for all concerned,” Yorke-Biggs says.

And it wasn’t just the legacy technologies putting the brakes on Aston Martin, as Yorke-Biggs discovered that the IT department was running 62 contracts with 59 separate vendors.

“We are now rationalising what we do in IT to selective partners. Choosing the right partners with the right bandwidth to take appropriate chunks of IT from us so we can concentrate on what we do, building beautiful performance cars,” Yorke-Biggs says.

Yorke-Biggs is working with Verizon, the global communications, IT and security systems provider, to expand the flexibility and abilities of his operations so that Aston Martin can quickly react to business demands.

“Verizon have a resilient global presence and strong security for our WAN I do not have those skills here, nor should I have the people to do that. They are also a global player in markets like the Middle East and China where we intend to have a stronger presence in the future,” he says.

Yorke-Biggs is considering a strategic move to a fully managed LAN and a Cisco VOIP network. More ambitiously he is considering taking the Aston Martin website out into the public cloud for its website ­provisioning and putting parts of its Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP implementation into a private cloud, so that Aston Martin can use cloud computing for development testing and disaster recovery.

“We are taking to the cloud with caution in low risk areas,” he explains.

On choosing Verizon, he says: “They are a large player and will give us a global account manager covering a range of communication services around the globe.

“Our IT strategy to help Aston Martin expand is to develop and to apply models, so that an international sales team or collaborative partner joining the company in a new market knows straight away what their core IT model is.”

The ‘out of a box’ IT model is not only for new business areas of Aston Martin, and Yorke-Biggs plans to expand the same strategy across the organisation. The following quote may upset some car enthusiasts, but demonstrates the no-nonsense approach of this CIO.

“At a basic level we still do what most vehicle manufacturers do, we manufacture engineered products, but the key is understanding and investing in the 10 per cent that makes the difference,” he explains.

By this Yorke-Biggs describes Aston Martin as being first and foremost a manufacturer, and therefore the majority of its processes are no different from any other manufacturer’s, it’s just the finished product that makes a difference. For his IT ­users, that predominantly means ‘out of the box’ IT.

“If you believe you need something different you must first demonstrate that out of the box is not good enough to deliver the business process that ultimately delivers an Aston Martin.

“There are exceptions such as our unique CRM strategy and warranty plans that cannot be supported by a standard CRM/ERP system because the one-to-one relationship with our customers that we are striving to achieve is unique.”

When an Aston Martin sports car drives off the Gaydon production line it goes through a rigorous testing and assessment procedure, and only when every element of the car is rated at 100 per cent is the ­famous winged badge added to the car in a time-honoured ceremony.

If Aston Martin’s business strategy is to fly high, its partners will now need to earn their wings.