A good chief executive recognises the importance of collaborating with the CIO to build a compelling IT vision for the company
CIOs and CEOs have traditionally been known to go to war in the boardroom over decisions relating to software projects and IT purchases, but we are part of the fortunate few at Ocado where that is not the case. Our shared focus is on recruiting the smartest developers and adopting the right technology mix to implement our technical vision and underpin Ocado’s future growth and success.
Technology is at the heart of what we do. Our award-winning web shop and mobile apps that customers use to place their orders online, the control systems that drive our highly automated warehouse, the routing systems that generate our highly optimised delivery routes and the complex algorithms and mathematical models that provide the underlying intelligence, all of these and many more are developed internally by Ocado Technology, our IT division.
It’s perhaps no surprise that our chief executive, Tim Steiner, is a huge advocate of technology and its use to drive innovation and growth within the company. Of course, having a CEO who understands technology can be a double-edged sword. It means you have to be prepared to answer some particularly insightful questions.
In this day and age, technology is constantly changing and it’s crucial that any company continues to make the most of the available business tools and applications. It’s important that as part of their IT strategy, CIOs really think about what third-party components and technologies their IT teams are going to use. Eighteen months ago we were one of the first UK-based companies to adopt Google’s cloud-based collaboration suite, Google Apps for Business, and we’ve enjoyed a good relationship with Google since then.
Our relationship with Google has also laid the foundations for some other exciting steps, such as using their new BigQuery technology to store in the cloud some of the huge volumes of data we generate on a daily basis.
Integrating cloud-based applications effectively within your business requires imagination and experimentation. Never underestimate the power of your own staff in helping seed this process. Often, you will have groups of staff who will be able to act as trailblazers with technologies as they are introduced. At Ocado, some of our developers became Google Apps ambassadors, communicating their early experiences to the rest of the business and encouraging others to take the plunge.
Just keep talking
Training and communications are also important pieces of the puzzle. Once staff truly understood the potential benefits of a new application such as Google Docs, there was no going back. Good quality communications were essential to help educate and address the inevitable hesitancy some users had when embracing such a change.
Used in the right way, business technology can dramatically transform any company. It can help improve staff productivity as well as lead the way in customer innovation. It goes without saying that the relationship between a CIO and CEO is crucial and if I could give a CEO one thing to take away with them it would be this: collaborate with your CIO to build a compelling, realistic and yet ambitious IT vision – the opportunities are endless and the power is in your hands..