CIO Profile: Boots the Chemist's Andy Hayward on heading up retail IT

Boots the Chemist'sIT director Andy Haywood is championing a big transformation programme so that the retailer can build on stong brand loyalty built up over 150 years.

Haywood is one of a growing number of CIOs who are enjoying the warm embrace of the corporation as all levels realise the importance of IT in continuing to develop the business.

“I feel that I’m in a very different place to some CIOs,” he says and he believes that his luck has been earned.

“IT professionals have not got the best track record of delivery for the business and some CIOs feel a little brow-beaten, but if you are a CIO or an executive you get what you deserve.

“CIOs must have transparency. The trust is the track record of delivery at the price you say and on time, that is what the CEO wants. Technology is not everybody’s cup of tea, so the IT team must demonstrate transparency at what it is doing.

“That then forms a virtuous circle bec­ause then the business wants to do more with IT.”

Talking shops

Haywood seeks transparency and inspiration from the most important people to all retailers: the customers. He joins the customer panels that Boots operates to ­listen to consumer opinion.

“I’ll go and sit on a panel with real customers and there are things in these that will spark an idea for me. They tell it exactly as it is.”

Haywood’s spell at Boots is his second stint with a major force in UK retailing having been an IT leader for supermarket chain Asda. During his time with Asda the company was acquired by US retail giant Wal-Mart, and it was Haywood who led the inte­gration of the two companies in the early 2000s. Haywood is glad he had the opportunity to integrate two such major players but tellingly rev­eals that leading transformations is a lot easier on the soles of a CIO than an M&A.

“They are massive jobs. You are putting your life on hold. An integration is a once-in-a-lifetime thing to do. The Asda/Wal-Mart integration took three years of almost seven-day weeks. Transformation is more agreeable by a factor of 10.

“With a transformation you are creating something new and by default that is a whole lot better than you already have. With integrations the clock is always ticking and there are always compromises and occasionally it is not as good as you had before. Transformation is a meeting of minds,” he adds.

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