by Adam Gerrard

The CIO Questionnaire: Adam Gerrard, CIO at Avis

Feb 24, 2010
CareersIT StrategyTransportation and Logistics Industry

Q:Where were you born? A: Bolton, Lancashire.

Q: How many people work in your IT department? A: Approximately 280 people across Europe with a further 30+ in service providers

Q: What is the size of your annual IT budget? A: In 2010 it will be down to just under €50m across the  Avis Group.

Q: What is the basic structure of your IT department? A: IT at Avis works within a federated model in which the teams are split equally between shared service centres and local country units. We recently restructured the central teams into IT functions, pooling the developers, analysts, testers, project managers and service delivery professionals to leverage the scale we have and standardise each function around best practice. We are now looking to extend this model to the countries to create professional families across the enterprise to get the most out of our highly skilled workforce no matter where they are based. The federated model gives us a cost effective means of developing and distributing centralised applications and services at the centre whilst retaining the agility and innovation of the country teams which remain tightly integrated into the business. As the model is truly federated, we are now looking to leverage competence centres in the countries that have taken the lead on specific areas of functionality such as CRM, Fleet Management and Fleet Optimisation.

Q: Do you believe in mentoring? A: I’m a big believer in mentoring. Avis has a formal mentoring program which provides significant growth opportunities for both the mentor and mentored. Informally we do some adhoc short-term mentoring across IT where appropriate and our move to professional families will generate some peer level mentoring across IT as well as help to drive the adoption of best practices.

Q: Which tools or tactics have given you most success in communicating up/down/across? A: For every company I have worked-in the list would be the same, regular one-to-one meetings, informal chats by the water cooler/coffee area and occasional visits to the smoking shed in summer (I don’t smoke by the way).

Q: What has been your biggest mistake? A: Probably leaving CHEP too soon. During a round of downsizing of the European IT operations when the business had some commercial problems, I went out to the market and found a new role which was not really a good fit for me but given the circumstances, I felt compelled to take it.

Q: And your greatest success? A: The current transformation of IT in Avis. Q: How do you keep up to date with the march of technology? A: Reading the trade press such as CIO magazine is very helpful as are podcasts and webcasts, this is balanced with attendance at several industry events, having a strong external network which includes appropriate vendors and by surrounding myself with a great team of people who are really passionate about their work.

Q: What profession would you most/least like to attempt? A: Most: Racing driver, being paid to drive fast cars sounds like a great way to spend your working day. Least: anything that involves standing around outside in winter.

Q: Which word or phrase do you most use/overuse? A: Simplify, simplify, simplify! I obsess about taking complexity out of our business.

Q: Which business (or other) books have been influential in your career? A: Many of the works of Mintzberg and Drucker proved useful in my early days as a manager. I also learnt a great deal from Norton and Kaplan, the creators of the balanced score card, work that is now being taken to the next level through the use of business intelligence by the likes of Bruno Aziz. More recently, I’ve taken to reading philosophy and have found some very interesting parallels between the role of the CIO and the works of Machiavelli and Descartes.

Q: Do you have a sport you practice or sportsperson/team that you follow? A: Coming from Bolton, I do follow the trotters (Bolton Wanderers), but I spend more time following a variety of motorsports from club racing to Formula 1.

Q: What else do you do outside of work? A: I have just embarked on a project to restore a late 1960’s Porsche 912.