How UK CIOs successfully manage vendors

The yearly CIO Survey from Harvey Nash and KPMG has revealed that eight in 10 IT leaders held larger budgets in 2018 to invest in IT vendors - but successfully managing the ever-changing ecosystems of partners requires more than just money.

CIO UKtalked to some of the UK's top IT business leaders and how they manage their partnerships with large IT companies, SMEs and startups.

Read next: Tips for managing multiple IT vendors

Christelle Heikkila, IT Director Arsenal Football Club

Christelle Heikkila, IT Director Arsenal Football Club

As IT Director at Arsenal Football Club, Heikkila selects vendors by focusing on both the product and the relationship.

"The vendors that I want to continue doing business with are those suppliers that actually invested in the relationship," she explains. "That's what we've got with Acronis. We use some of their technology, but they also support us in thinking about how else they could add value to us as a club. And that's what I want from all of my vendors. I don't always get it, of course."

Nick Giannakakis, CTO British American Tobacco

Nick Giannakakis, CTO British American Tobacco

At British American Tobacco (BAT), CTO Giannakakis' has centred his cloud strategy around close collaboration with vendors, who help the company maximise the value of its deployments.

"Our aim is to create our partner ecosystem," he says. "We will work with selective partners and we have strict rules of engagement with them. We have specific KPIs on how we will work with them, what we expect from them and what they can offer... And we will try to move to an agile way of operating with them."

Giannakakis believes this approach will not only provide the foundations for a range of digital platforms but will also help to support BAT’s transition to a direct-to-consumer business model.

"These will create an establishment that will change the overall business," he says. "This will be a key enabler in driving change from our technology aspect. If we succeed on that, the rest will follow."

Graeme Hackland

Graeme Hackland

Today’s Formula 1 cars have around 300 sensors on them which collect over 200 gigabytes of data over a race weekend. This data is invaluable to F1 teams, helping to guide the strategy of the race whilst simultaneously being used to develop the car of the future.

Keeping all this data secure is therefore of paramount importance to Williams F1 CIO Graeme Hackland. After two attempted ransomware attacks in 2014 resulting in a loss of data, Hackland has been keen to build strong relationships with his security vendors, mixing the stability of established suppliers on race weekends with the more experimental technology of smaller companies away from the race.

"Here at the track, we absolutely stick to tier one.” Hackland told CIO UK. “I need it to be 100% available for five days and then pack it up and either drive it in a truck to another track or stick it in an airplane. So, we are very much tier-one vendors at the track.”

Carlsberg CTO Sarah Haywood
© Carlsberg

Carlsberg CTO Sarah Haywood

Carlsberg CTO Sarah Haywood searches for suppliers whose IT combines stability and performance with the agility to pivot as requirements evolve.

"The one thing we can be sure of is that everything's going to change so we need to build that into the way we work," she says.

"I think in FMCG [Fast-Moving Consumer Goods] there's been a history of infrastructure being too fixed - very long contracts, very fixed, very strict lines around how to operate - and I think that needs to change."

Read next: Carlsberg CTO Sarah Haywood brews disruption on new hybrid network

Gatwick Airport CIO Cal Corcoran

Gatwick Airport CIO Cal Corcoran

Gatwick Airport CIO Cal Corcoran believes CIOs and their suppliers needs to communicate their shared goals to move beyond the kind of transactional relationship that can create problems when things aren't going smoothly.

"The biggest thing for me is for it to feel and act like partnership," he says. "That's a word that's kind of thrown around a lot and used a bit flippantly, but with the relationship that we have with HPE and with Aruba, it really does feel like partnership. We're in it together. There's been good days. There's been bad days, and they've been side by side through us in this journey.

"They took on what was a very ambitious project. They took on an ambitious risk profile and an ambitious timeline. They delivered on their commitment. They delivered on time to quality, to cost. They never waved the contract at me. They were always flexible, adaptable, good communication both ways.

"It didn't feel like a supplier-to-client relationship. It always felt like partnership, and that's very important, particularly if you're in it for the long run, if you're in it for a five-year-plus kind of gig."

Read next: Gatwick Airport CIO Cal Corcoran interview - Delivering Internet of Things at scale

Unilever CIO Jane Moran
© Unilever

Unilever CIO Jane Moran

Unilever CIO Jane Moran helps the company keep up with the latest developments in tech by collaborating closely with the consumer goods firm's strategic partners. This approach led to the successful deployment of SAP's S4/HANA suite to serve tens of thousands of users, one of the largest SAP implementations in the world.

"I've found that a close collaboration with our key partners is mutually beneficial, as we can help trial new systems, approaches and technologies at scale," says Moran.

"We work with our software vendors to develop solutions that work for us. We innovate together, and that's exciting for both parties."

Read next: Unilever CIO Jane Moran interview - Developing an Agile platform for growth and innovation

Kier Group CIO Duncan Stott

Kier Group CIO Duncan Stott

Kier Group CIO Duncan Stott focuses on long-term requirements when choosing his core suppliers, which has led the FTSE 250 construction company to deploy a broad suite of services from Microsoft including Office 365 Enterprise E5.

"One challenge for CIOs in the security market is looking at the myriad of point solutions, many of which won't be around for long, as they'll either be acquired or they'll decline," says Stott.

"That is why Kier has adopted a Microsoft strategy. We believe that Microsoft is one of the world's leading players and has got a toolset that is broad, deep and future-proof."

Read next: Kier Group CIO Duncan Stott explains how he coordinates cyber security with board and CISO

Eddie Stobart CIO John Court

Eddie Stobart CIO John Court

Eddie Stobart CIO John Court chooses his suppliers by focusing on the specific technology they offer rather than the vendor itself. The approach has led him to embrace all types of providers, from the IT behemoths to smaller specialist suppliers such as Quintiq, a producer of optimisation software.

"The work we're doing with them is to look at our overall supply chain network and model it and look at how we can make it even more efficient, by driving further efficiencies into the network," he says.

"We have quite a broad spectrum of providers, from the generic IT providers such as IBM and BT, through to specialist niche providers who help us deliver differentiation in the market through technology."

Read next: Eddie Stobart CIO John Court on how IoT, blockchain and AI are transforming transport and logistics

SGN Director of IT and Innovation Andrew Quail

SGN Director of IT and Innovation Andrew Quail

SGN Director of IT and Innovation Andrew Quail ensures that the gas firm gets the best services from suppliers by emphasising the mutual benefits of their relationship.

"People often talk about ecosystems or partnerships," he explains. "We genuinely have an environment now where strategic members have to work together for shared success. If they don't, we all fail.

"We have regular, frequent joint calls with very senior executives to ensure that this transformation journey is successful, and the parties are working together because there are a lot of challenges.

"There's a lot of new technology being used and different ways of working. I would say all organisations, all of the industry vendors in my landscape are having to learn and having to adjust in order to support what we're doing here, and I have to say they are.

"It's quite different from the go to market, find a contract, sign the contract, let it run model. It's much more iterative, much more – dare I say – agile, and much, much more engaged."

Read next: Andrew Quail reveals how SGN works with regulators on digital strategy

Vodafone Head of IT Delivery Ajit Dhaliwal

Vodafone Head of IT Delivery Ajit Dhaliwal

Vodafone Head of IT Delivery Ajit Dhaliwal selects suppliers through the company's marketplace procurement system in which the Vodafone CTO and central group functions constantly evaluate new technology.

"For us, it's about evolution, particularly when you're talking about multiple millions of customers being served on those core applications, but in terms of new investment, we look to organisations like Gartner and our strategic relationships… and we really look at what's the best technology fit for that particular market based on the customer's needs," says Dhaliwal.

The focus on evolution has led Vodafone to prioritise the proven benefits offered by existing partners, which led the company to choose Oracle to support the development of VOXI, a SIM-only service for under-30s.

"The key point of why we didn't go down that route is because of our strategic relationship with Oracle, the fact that we've built a solid foundation with Oracle, and we understand how to operate within that ecosystem," says Dhaliwal.

"We've got a whole group of senior managers who are experienced in the implementation of Oracle systems. So for us, it would have been very alien to use a new capability that was newly introduced to our market."

Read next: Vodafone Head of IT Delivery on digitising the customer experience

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

Related Slideshows