Steve Connor builds solid foundations at Carillion

Carillion is a relatively new name for a company that has been part of the construction and support services industry in some shape or form for over a century.

Although construction still plays a significant part in the Carillion business model, like many of its peer organisations Carillion has diversified.

As the business changed, expanded, acquired and entered new markets, so the technology operating the business has had to ensure that Carillion was built on sound foundations. Steve Connor, Group CIO for Carillion has built those footings.

The Carillion brand only came into being in 1999 following a de-merger with Tarmac, the company known for its road building materials.

Since then major construction and service-management organisations have been acquired by Carillion, including Mowlem in 2006, Alfred McAlpine in 2008 and energy services specialist Eaga in 2011.

“I had to rebrand all the websites, so I remember the 1999 name change well,” smiles Connor.

“The first acquisitions were more of the same to grow market share, and they fitted in well with what we do,” he says of the Mowlem and Alfred McAlpine deals.

With the Eaga acquisition Carillion is now a major player in the supply of solar energy and helping consumers become energy efficient with the supply of insulation.

But construction remains a significant part of the Carillion operation and it’s clear that Connor takes a great deal of pride in building physical structures that can often deliver benefits.

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Recent projects have included the new John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, while it is working on the new Library of Birmingham and built the Beetham Tower that challenged the architecture of Manchester as well as the Grand Mosque in Oman.

“We are classified as a support services organisation on the FTSE. The organisation has grown organically and an intent to move from construction into support services. So the last acquisition was a move into the energy services space. That was a broadening of the company and that was our first large-scale B2C move, dealing with customers on fuel poverty, solar, boiler maintenance and installation.” he says.

Connor explains that the diversification of Carillion has enabled it to provide an end-to-end service to customers, especially in the case of PFI contracts.

Carillion has been involved in funding, building and then managing public buildings for customers in the health, education and defence spheres.

“That is the strength of facilities management and it makes the order book very solid and the City likes that. Construction is perceived as high-risk, but although we manage the risk, construction is low margin,” he says.

Adding values
Connor believes that a set of values that are important to him, senior management and the whole organisation have enabled Carillion to retain large clients and move easily into facilities management.

These values include openness, collaboration, mutual dependency, professional delivery, sustainable and profitable growth and innovation.

UK clients include fellow CIO 100 members BT, the Ministry of Defence, Nationwide and Centrica, and Carillion has also managed to export its knowledge and values and has significant operations in Canada and the Middle East.

In Canada most of its business is in the construction and maintenance of roads and in the Middle East it is involved in construction and facilities management.