CIO Profile: Vodafone's Albert Hitchcock on new procurement models

See also: Vodafone CIO Albert Hitchcock on global IT

VodafoneGroup Services CIO Albert Hitchcock has overseen a global IT rationalisation program that is leading to the adoption of cloud and hence, new procurement models.

“We had datacentres in every market, now we have just five: three in Europe, one in South Africa and one in India. The entire estate has been virtualised so that 88 per cent of our computing can sit in these five locations.”

The major VMware-based virtualisation has created an internal cloud environment for Vodafone that has consolidated infrastructure, networks and a lot of security control.

“Now we are the application layer and it’s the most complex as that is touching business processes,” he says.

A single instance of SAP across the firm will be completed in 2012, delivering company a single set of finance books, HR and supply chain processes supporting central functions and local markets.

“We have taken a design-once, develop-once and deploy-many approach,” says Hitchcock of the domain-based strategy.

“The efficiency you get is that there is a lot less development time, no duplication and a more efficient support model for the business, so we can get to markets faster,” he says. “The benefits of the domain model is you get massive scale.”

CRM and billing on a new Oracle platform have already been through the domain exercise.

“Every part of IT is changing this year and by 2013 the IT opex of Vodafone will be lower, as we decommission large parts of our legacy IT estate,” he says.

“In high-growth markets like India we have to move very fast to get things deployed, but at the same time I don’t want to be creating legacy, so with standardisation we will be more agile and lean,” he says.

Hitchcock believes the reduced opex will free up capex to fund more transformation. Beneficiaries he says will be customers and shareholders.

“IT is a leading the changes in process, structure and technology that is focused on the customer.”

Each local Vodafone operation has a CIO, with the CIOs reporting to the local business as well as to Hitchcock. There are 21 CIOs organised by region. Just as the technology approach at Vodafone has adapted, so too have the CIOs within the organisation.

“It’s an evolving journey and now we run as an integrated team. Some of the CIOs propose their own global initiatives and that works really well. For example our Portuguese operation did self-care services really well and that is now a group standard. Changes in the CIOs have seen people with international experience join the organisation. Now it is not a group of fiefdoms.”

With India playing a pivotal role in the Vodafone story, the nation hosts a shared services centre for IT, back office and support, with operations in Egypt and Hungary also significant in the operations.

Cool customer
Hitchcock is one of the few CIOs this title has met that recognises the cost of the power that his operations consume and as a result the IT leader has begun to tackle it, just as energy costs rocket higher than a teenager’s mobile phone bill.

“Our datacentres run at 28 degrees so we are cooling less. In Ireland we are using a cool aisle strategy rather than cooling the entire datacentre. We are looking at how we can take the datacentre power levels much lower and working with the vendors on this,” he says.

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