I meet Dell's global CIO Robin Johnson on a bright and breezy day in Bloomsbury, central London in the swanky offices of the PC giant's PR handlers. You might expect Dell's IT chief with a $1.2bn annual budget to be a Texan or at least an American but Johnson was born and raised in west London, and still manages to watch the odd Queens Park Rangers football match from his home in beautiful Austin, a fine city with parks and lakes to explore by day and a marvellous musical heritage to check out at night.
Johnson previously worked in IT at big names in retailing (Marks & Spencer, Brooks Brothers and the US Safeway) and business consulting (Ernst & Young in both London and New York) as well as Dell's European, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) operation before taking over as worldwide CIO. However, he is pretty blunt about the challenges, saying: "The sectors are different but I don't think the IT is."
They have all been large companies with big brands, he notes, and the requirements are similar so long as the CIO has the right status.
"The key thing in the role is whether you have end-to-end accountability and that also drives speed," he says.
"For me it's always been companies with a good technology footprint but how they 'do it' is different. M&S was using technology to drive organic growth. Safeway is very acquisitive so it used technology to drive integration and did an exceptional job in acquisitions. Dell uses technology to drive its business and eats its own dog food."
'Eating your own dog food' is, of course, American for becoming a consumer of your own product and at Dell - famed for its attention to detail and monitoring of metrics - it's not hard to imagine the number crunching.
Measure for measure
After becoming the darling of the Nasdaq market throughout its years of rapid growth, Dell has stumbled very publicly and perhaps only since the return of founder Michael Dell to the helm of the company has faith begun to be restored.