by Mark Chillingworth

P&G’s Dave Ubachs on the future of the CIO

Jan 30, 20124 mins
CareersIT LeadershipIT Strategy

Procter and Gamble (P&G) is the worlds largest consumer goods manufacturer, selling products in 180 countries to 4.4 billion consumers with sales reported to be worth £51bn.

Dave Ubachs is CIO and shared services manager for UK, Ireland & Scandinavia, which is part of the Global Business Services (GBS) division of P&G.

Ubachs and CIO UK first met as part of P&G’s membership of the CIO Executive Council (operated by IDG, the same parent company that publishes CIO magazine).

The Future State programme created by the CIO Executive Council aims to create a generation of CIOs, business and technology leaders that will move up the value chain of their organisation by firstly delivering excellent technology on budget and then by moving away from keeping the lights on and onto becoming influential in the wider issues facing their organisation.

Ubachs is passionate about the CIO role moving to this business-centric position and it is a transformation he has made himself.

“Information and IT is the route to fixing the challenges that an organisation faces. So CIOs are well placed to be the bridge. Organisations need them on the board to make sure you are going after the biggest problems,” he says.

“As a CIO, if you are not doing this you cannot continue to stay relevant, especially as the technology has become standardised and is available off the shelf.”

Throughout his career, Ubachs has immersed himself in the concerns of the business to really understand what affect the services GBS offers has on employees and operations.

“You have to have the right level of business knowledge and you need to go deep on the processes. I have been in the office where the customer makes the order; I went with the truck from the distribution centre to make the delivery.”

As the UK and Europe struggle to rebalance their economies, there is a lot of talk about the importance of the emerging markets and Ubachs is one of a select few CIOs in the UK who has working experience of an emerging market.

“In the developing markets everything is new, you are pioneering, but that does make it easier to make a market,” he explains.

Future proofed Ubachs came to leafy, quiet and car-clogged Weybridge from a three-year stint as CIO and shared services manager for P&G Brazil. Before that he was IT associate director for P&G in Latin America, when he was based in Caracas, Venezuela.

Britain’s competitive consumer goods retail market has its own unique challenges when compared to those of an emerging market like South America and Ubachs sees technology as one of the ways in which P&G can remain a dominant domestic player.

“Technology is very important, but our people are business people. I’m a logistics engineer with IT as a minor subject for me.

“We do a lot of internal training as you cannot be an IT professional without a good technical knowledge. The important thing with the training is that we don’t bring people down to the level of being able to do the technical job, we are trying to train people to understand the technology,” he says.

Meeting Ubachs you are very aware that he has an empathy with business and a passion for making things happen, and if a bit of technology can make that thing happen, then he will drive the technology forwards.

But, as the Business Sphere meeting rooms show, the CIO’s remit is often best demonstrated when the service offered isn’t immediately obvious as a technology service but as a meeting room, and the real clever technology side to the offering is the business analyst – a human being.