Managing time and resources and dealing with users may have slipped down the list, but only because of the great improvements being made.

Just because managing time and resources was a bigger concern for IT directors last year than it is this, does not mean that suddenly they have masses of time to spare and more resources than they know what to do with.

But it could reflect the more efficient working practises of many organisations, especially those who have already undergone infrastructure refreshes, and are using the time and resources they used to spend on legacy maintenance on more productive projects.

All the CIOs that MIS UK spoke to for the annual MIS 100 report stated that they were busier than ever. But the expanding roles and responsibilities they have, together with the desire to be more involved in business transformation rather than just the nuts and bolts of running an IT department, reflects that they are now able to adopt a more strategic view.

IT departments tend to work on more projects consecutively now, making time and resources still difficult to manage, but with more tangible business results for their efforts. For example, BA’s IT organisation has reduced resources to produce effective innovative IT systems that are delivering spectacular business benefits, in the shape of BA.com. The IT department has reduced its operating costs by £10 million, reduced its headcount by 50 and it is still increasing the amount of work it is doing.

“We are able to do it by delivering simpler technology, and standard ways of building,” CIO Paul Coby says. “We are putting VoIP into the terminals and offices, and our SOA allows us to move faster, while where we use Linux it is easier to increase volumes as well. We are doing a lot more with less through more efficiency and it is a great tribute to the whole team.”

"It is a huge achievement to almost halve our costs, while at the same time improving service, sometimes by a factor of four"

Peter Brinkley, CIO, Centrica

Fast track for FirstGroup

Bus and train operator FirstGroup is also concentrating on managing resources more effectively, according to Darin Brumby, group IT director.

The company has won important new rail franchises, like the Greater Western and Capital Connect, which makes it the largest rail operator in the UK, carrying around 250m passengers each year. “The pace of change has been very fast this year. We have won more new rail and bus business, and so have been juggling these additions as well as handling our larger strategic plan,” says Brumby.

“We have had to adjust a few things to our infrastructure plan, and although it is behind the original schedule, we are making great progress.”

Barclays is also in the middle of a very crowded change agenda, which is part of a company-wide review of operations at the bank. The review includes business processes and standardising platforms and infrastructures. Last year it reorganised its IT department and began to use single suppliers for some areas like applications development and communications, instead of a range of different third parties, saving it time and resources. It signed a seven-year framework agreement with BT, which covers voice, LAN, WAN and firewall services, as well as extending its BPO deal with Siemens and its applications development contract with Accenture.

Managing resources

Similarly BAE Systems, the global defence and aerospace specialist, has had a very busy year and has had to manage resources very carefully. It made a number of strategic acquisitions and sales, and is now developing its IT business in the US Federal Government space. The company has operations across five continents, customers in 130 countries and employs around 100,000 people. Effectively managing time and resources across these regions is an increasingly taxing task, but allows the IT operation to have a far more strategic role. Chris Coupland, director of IT and e-business, says it has been a great year for the IT organisation.

“Having successfully carried out the programme to
get the business back to growth, we are now focused on IT giving the business extra capability and on supporting the business. This is really beginning to come through now.”
He says that last year was particularly busy for the IT team. As a result of selling Selenia Communications and a majority interest in SELEX Sensors and Airborne Systems (S&AS) UK to Finmeccanica of Italy, it needed to separate IT services for the two from BAE Systems.

This was a highly complex programme of work affecting some 5,000 employees, involving the creation of an entirely new IT infrastructure, the migration of 500 servers, 7,000 devices and hundreds of applications. Managing the resources involved in this and working to a strict deadline, was a very fine balancing act.

As well as handling the resources and time available to deliver projects, IT directors also have to prioritise the needs of their users and customers for the projects. Dealing with users, the IT department’s customers, was recorded as their eight most important concern, down from last year when it was the sixth most pressing issue for IT directors. Improving the quality of service for users is a constant for all IT departments and more of them are putting metrics in place to see just how well they are doing.

"We are doing a lot more with less through more efficiency and it is a great tribute to the whole team"

Paul Coby, CIO, BA

Excellent customer service and cost effectiveness in driving the business forward are the two overlying themes for IT at HBOS, according to Heather Jackson, group services director, HBOS bank. “It is no longer about just running IT and managing a budget,” she says. “We are lifting the bar on customer service, on cost effectiveness and also on capabilities – the capability of our service offering and our people.”

For some companies like the Caudwell Group, which includes brands like Phones 4U and distributor 20:20 Logistics, the IT department is treated as a profit centre, with its own targets to meet. This gives it a really tangible focus on its end users, because they are customers, according to IT director Iain McGregor.

He charges out software and applications development to the rest of the businesses and is aiming for a £1m profit by the end of the year, 20-25 per cent of which will come from external customers. “It makes managing end users more effective because of having a real focus on performance.”

Good customer service

Smart CIOs also know that good customer service offers direct business benefits. For example, the strategic aims for the IS function at energy company Centrica were to improve service levels across the organisation and reduce costs for Centrica. The first IS transformation phase ran from 2003 until the end of 2005 and has been a massive achievement for the IT organisation at Centrica, says Peter Brickley, CIO. Improving service levels and end user management has included supplying new communications devices for several thousand of its engineers. These are smart phones and laptops, which dynamically route engineers, with the right expertise and the right spare parts on board, to jobs.

“This a distinct business benefit, which is giving the company a real competitive edge, as well as improving service levels for users,” says Brickley.

“It is a huge achievement to almost halve our costs, while at the same time improving service, sometimes by a factor of four,” he says. “Morale has really gone up across
the organisation.”