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Andy Haywood's diversity challenge as the Co-op Group CIO

Mark Chillingworth | Feb. 7, 2013
One year ago Andy Haywood moved from being IT director at Boots the Chemist to begin a new role as the first group CIO of the Co-operative Group. Both for the man himself and for his diverse organisation, it has been a busy first year.

"A lot of the public have lost faith in big business and we have seen more people coming to join what we offer. This could and should be the decade of the Co-operative," he says of the mutual business model as well as his own organisation.

"The principles that the founder wrote down are so relevant to today and we really connect with them -- working with others for the benefit of others working for yourselves. We need to modernise, but not lose that vision."

With such a big agenda it is no surprise that Haywood sits on the Co-operative executive board, which is then accountable to the Group Democratic board that represents the mutual members. The Co-operative has three trading operations: food, banking, and specialist retails that includes its travel, pharmacy, funeral care and car dealership arms.

"You get to help shape the way the business is going. I give IT the voice and be a force for collaboration so that we get the most out of transformation with IT, especially given the change agenda we have at the Co-operative.

"It's about the relationship you've got with the CEO and that starts with the CEO. You have to share similar principles and values about what IT can and can't do. I have got that with Peter, we have no intermediaries, which classically [for the CIO] is the CFO. The amount of stuff you can get done is ten-fold. You are sat there as a voice around the top table with no favours and not treated as a second-class citizen.

"The business knows what we stand for as we will have a voice. I've been very clear with what the business can expect -- constructive challenges and that we enable change.

Haywood's new group technology function has CIOs in the business lines of food, banking, specialist retail and the corporate business that report to the COOs of those business lines and sit on their operating boards so that IT is at the top table of each area. He has also introduced a group CTO role to concentrate on the strategy, architecture and innovation, and a COO role has also been created to drive a new sourcing strategy with the Co-operative's wide range of suppliers. Then he has a group technology director for the infrastructure, networks, telephony, storage and desktop environment. This is one of the biggest and most complex technology sets in the UK, he says. IT represents a huge opportunity for efficiency and value creating at the business.

This strategy, he says, ensures that each business line has an IT leader shaping and delivering the IT strategy, but the group level provides the scale.


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