by Neil McGowan

The CIO Questionnaire: Neil McGowan, CIO at JD Williams

Dec 17, 2009
CareersIT LeadershipIT Strategy

JD Williams CIO Neil McGown reveals his gifts for the role. Q. Where were you born? A. Bridgend in South Wales (Welsh mother and Scottish father). Q. How many people work in your IT department? A. Internal team of just under 200, with little outsourcing. Q. What is the size of your annual IT budget? A. Around £15m, depending on level of capital investment Q. What percentage of annual turnover does IT represent? A. 2.5 per cent of a £600m turnover. Q. What is the basic structure of your IT department? A. Architecture; business engagement (account management, programme management, business intelligence); development and application support; infrastructure and operations. Q. Who are your key suppliers? A. IBM, CA, ASG, Sun, HP and Cable & Wireless. Q. Who has/have been the most influential people in your career? A. My Mum and Keith Burgess, head of Accenture in the 1990s. Q. Which tools or tactics have given you most success in communicating up/down/across? A. MBWA (management by walking around).I’m a great believer in face-to-face engagement with people. Q. What has been your biggest mistake? A. Not leaving Accenture earlier to get into a CIO role. Q. And your greatest success? A. Seeing people develop faster in a good IT department that recognises their talent. Q. How do you keep up to date with the march of technology? A. Networking with other CIOs and suppliers who are challenging the status quo; the media, newspapers and internet. Q. How do you deal with stress? A. Exercise and being outside in the fresh air. Q. What profession would you most/least like to attempt? A. Most like to be an architect or a mountain guide, least like to be an accountant or lawyer. Q. Which business (or other) books have been influential in your career? A. Gary Hamel’s Competing For The Future and The Future of Management, and Alan Leighton’s On Leadership. Q. Do you have a sport you practise or sportsperson/team that you follow? A. I like being in the mountains walking, scrambling and skiing. I enjoy long-distance running, and have done the Great North Run three times. The second time was 20 years after the first and I did it 30 minutes faster at 2 hours, 6 minutes. I took a further nine minutes off that time last year. I’m an occasional Manchester United football supporter and I have started taking my son to matches. Q. What else do you do outside of work? A. Mostly doing things with my wife Tina and son Daniel, aged 11, like scuba diving and water sports, but only in warm places.