Interview: Raising IT's profile at Skanska

By Stuart Sumner
09 Dec 2013 View Comments
Skanska IT director Steven Capper

When Steve Capper joined construction firm Skanska as director of IT, he joined a company that was facing a number of significant IT challenges. However, Skanska understood the vital role an innovative IT approach could play within the organisation, helping to win work and attract talent.

Steve went to Skanska having quit his job as head of IT at engineering company Arup - a firm he had joined 23 years earlier as a junior in the print room.

What made him jump ship back in February 2012 was, he explains, the challenge.
"There was growing interest in IT at Skanska and a realisation that we could do more," says Capper. "For example, we wanted to improve our backup and recovery systems."

When he started at Skanska, Capper's brief was to do more with less. To add to the challenge, the IT team "needed re-energising".

Skanska IT director Steven Capper"I presented my strategy to the board, showing them where we needed to invest, and got it," Capper says. "I just told it simply; how many racks and cabinets we needed, rather than going in with technical details, which were of no relevance to them."

Having successfully secured the investment, Capper then started with the back-end infrastructure, which he says the team fixed in a year.

"Our core switches were from Nortel and were over 10 years old. We didn't dare switch them off in case they never came back up. We replaced them all with Cisco, and replaced the virtual network with Cisco UCS. All best-of-breed enterprise-class kit."

Capper was eager to get stuck in from the start, and began introducing improvements on day two.

"You get 100 faces from your staff looking to you for direction. I said I'd meet them all one-to-one. The themes that emerged were a desire for greater staff development, and more best-of-breed systems in place."

Capper identified a number of areas for improvement from the meetings.

"I didn't want to wait," he explains. "There was a great desire and appetite internally to push ahead and carve out a reputation for excellence."

Constructing a team
Eighteen months on, he describes the turnaround as “fantastic”. The team is re-energised, with as it turned out 35 people out of 112 replaced – significantly lower than the 60 per cent predicted. The IT department now has the focus and the training it had been crying out for.

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