Associated British Foods (ABF) is an international food processing and retailing company. It enjoys the position as one of the world’s largest producers and distributors of food ingredients, with its subsidiary company, AB Sugar being one of the businesses most profitable divisions. The company also owns food brands such as Jordans, Kingsmill, Twinings and Ovaltine.

Although the company has its focus within the food processing market, the company also owns budget fashion retailer Primark. The store has contributed substantially to the healthy profit margins the company generated last year and is consistently one of the only high street fashion retailers which have remained largely unaffected by the difficult economic climate. Due to its popularity the chain has expanded to Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain and now has around 200 stores worldwide.

Primark is one of the only UK clothing retailers to not trade online, it still holds the position of the second largest fashion retailer in the UK. The stores lack of online presence is partly because; given the low prices of Primark’s products, the company would face difficulty in making the order and delivery costs stack up.

ABF currently employs around 102,000 people worldwide and markets and sells its products across Europe, America and Africa. Although the company trades internationally, the company’s headquarters are based in the UK. The latest financial figures reported group revenue increasing 11% to £5,766m. It is owned by its parent company Wittington Investments, who also own the luxury food store Fortnum and Mason.

Groups IS director, Trevor Hanna has previously worked for Reckitt Benckiser and Capespan.

IT leader: Trevor Hanna, Group IS Director.

In role since: November 2005.

Reporting line: Group CFO.

How often does the CIO meet with the CEO: Periodically, most divisional CEOs monthly.

Board level seat: Associated British Foods is Federated there is no group leadership board just two executive directors (CEO and CFO). I do sit on the UK Grocery Executive Board.

IT budget: Around £50 million.

IT estate and or number of log on accounts under the control of the IT leader: 25,000.

Level of the workforce that relies on technology to carry out their tasks: 25% large retail, manufacturing and agricultural base with no account.

IT staff currently employed: 400 in UK and 600 across the world.

Split between in-house/outsourced staff: Less than 20%.

IT management team and reporting structure: Federated business direct line responsibility for core infrastructure shared service and security, and seven divisional CIO/Head of IS.

Primary technology platforms at the organisation: Various ERP platforms SAP and Dynamics AX.

Primary technology suppliers: SAP, IBM, Microsoft, ATT.

Significant strategic technology deals struck in the last 12 months: IBM, HDS, Microsoft, SAP.

Major technology or transformation project recently completed and how did it transform operations, customer experience or the organisation:

  • Centralised infrastructure and modernised delivering collaboration tools.
  • Various BI and ERP implementations, we do a number of projects that are appropriate for each divisions for example we currently have five current SAP implementations in flight.

Business transformation programme – beyond technology – that the CIO owns or is a major contributor to: Globalisation of our yeast business and to give a more standard approach to the multiple markets it operate in.

Strategic aim of the CIO and IT operation for the next financial year: Delivery of strategy in yeast business and digital strategy.

Strategy in the use by employees of their own technology, use of mobiles and how social networking is impacting operations, customer experiences or the organisation: Use of social media is allowed on work devices, limited BYOD allowed, increasing use of collaboration tools encouraged.

Strategy for dealing with shadow IT and BYOD including influence and engagement with executives, to place the right controls around employee choice: Allow connections, look at appropriate security, intervene as trusted advisor.

Technologies being considered to enable transformation: Some ERP and collaboration.

Transformational inspiration sources: The world in general, certain key executives in the business.