What's your proudest work-related achievement of the last 12 months?
We've just gone live with a complete, drains-up rebuild of our billing and order management platform inside six months from start to finish, as part of our £3m transformation programme. It's essentially the brain of the firm and with 60 billable services and 60 bespoke clients, billing has been a nightmare for this business. Depending on the client, they may have previously had to send 40 lines of data for just one delivery to one customer - and with 2.5 million deliveries a year across our 60-plus clients, that's an awful lot of complexity.
The solution has been built to handle one line or many lines depending on whether clients are ready or not to switch to the new system. It was delivered in an agile two-part deployment, meaning that we didn't need months of change freeze as other complex retailers/logistics/utility billing systems require.
What's the number one skill today's IT leaders need?
CIOs who have been brought in to help a business scale or industry-winning change need to think fast and slow with good EQ and IQ. To understand the business that they serve from top to bottom in terms of its data model and eloquently translate how each technology aggregates to deliver the business service.
For instance, at AXL we wanted to have the capability to spot multiple orders going to the same customer address (from different retailers if necessary). In order to do this we would need a new planning system, a new billing platform, a new warehouse solution and a new service bus. As well as getting that across, you need to reverse-engineer that explanation back to your technical teams. Such changes require you to think fast and slow - to keep multiple stakeholders happy and comfortable that things are moving. There is such an impatience for new CIOs to deliver quickly, but you cannot rush the leap into a new billing platform; you need to spend six months understanding its current and desired operation.
How many people work in IT in your organisation?
We have about 35 people in our head office in Wigan, with a similar number in Bangalore with our offshore partner Data Intensity. We have recently redesigned both our organisations into a one-team alignment.
What's your top priority for the next 12 months?
To grow our top and bottom lines across our business. IT will enable this with new tools for our delivery heroes as well as a real-time solution that could enable same-day big and bulky delivery sometime in the future. We will also deploy a new service bus which will enable real-time integration with our clients and massively improve the customer experience (my other exec role).
What's your annual IT budget?
About £10m with planned investments.