Virgin Active is a chain of 118 health clubs in the UK, with further businesses in South Africa, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Australia and Singapore. Launched in Preston, Lancashire in 1998 as part of Richard Branson's Virgin Group, it now has its head office in Milton Keynes.

Group CIO Andy Caddy is a former CTO at easyJet where he worked with celebrated 'change junkie' CIO Trevor Didcock, and also interviewed Microsoft's chief executive Steve Ballmer in November 2012.

When did you start your current role?
March 2013

Have you completed an MBA?
No

Order the following sources of advice/information by value to you:
1. Peer group
2. Consultant
3. In-house
4. Vendors
5. Analyst

Technology strategy and spending

What is the major transformational IT project that has been recently completed, or is underway at your organisation?
I am currently co-sponsor of a business transformation project in the UK that will implement a new membership and billing system for Virgin Active whilst consolidating our business processes for how we interact with our members. This affects our staff, our members, our clubs, finance processes, operational delivery - this is right at the heart of how we operate and will form the blueprint for our global club operations.

What impact will it/does it have on the organisation?
Currently we have three legacy membership systems and our ability to offer services across all three groups of customers is difficult and complex. Not only will this project standardise our systems, reduce cost and aid simplicity, it will fundamentally change the way that we can coherently interact with our members, understand their needs and get greater business insight. The project is co-sponsored by our UK COO due to the significant business change that it introduces - driving simplicity throughout our company.

What new strategic technology deals has your organisation struck and with whom?
UK WAN - Vodafone
Global Enterprise Agreement (In Progress) – Microsoft
Cloud based member services – Technogym

Name your strategic technology suppliers?
Microsoft
Technogym (fitness technology provider)
EOH (South African Microsoft Partner)
HP
Lenovo

What is the IT budget?
Circa £11 million

How much is the IT operational spend compared to the revenue or company turnover as a percentage?
1.8% of revenue

What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year?
To support our business ambitions to grow our markets, become the product leader in health and fitness and the employer of choice for our sector. We will do this by streamlining our processes and systems to reduce noise and optimise our business units, by providing the best communications and collaborations tools for our teams worldwide and by ensuring that our "connected clubs" lead the world in providing an immersive experience for our members.

Transformation achievements

Would you describe the CIO role as a transformation leader in your organisation?
Definitely. I am changing the way that we think about Technology and Digital. From a disconnected afterthought in a member experience to a complete digital journey.

Describe the transformations you have led / been involved in, how did they transform operations, customer experience or the organisation?
1) I am changing the way that our business interacts with our prospects and our members. The one size fits all approach that has historically been used is now insight-led with messages appropriate to the market segment that the members occupy. This started with some bespoke work around our customer member portal that was put in place in 2013 and will continue with the implementation of MS Dynamics in 2014.

2) As a business (in the UK) that has been through several acquisitions we have not standardised our business processes due to a proliferation of systems. I am leading the programme of work to implement a single membership system alongside a streamlining of our business processes. Once complete in the UK it will roll out to our 7 other countries. This will be the single biggest change for Virgin Active in 2014.

3) When I arrived in 2013 our relationship with Technogym (provider of our fitness equipment) was transactional. Now we are partnering to implement their "Wellness Cloud" system that will allow members to track all their activities inside and outside the club regardless of the app or device they choose to use. This will fundamentally change the experience for our members and will lead the market in innovation in health clubs.

Beyond technology, can you describe a business transformation programme that you own or contribute to?
All of the above projects go "beyond technology" and in fact, in this day and age, I would be disappointed to find CIOs listing pure technology projects. The business simplification project which I lead is the biggest IT and business project that we will complete in 2014.

What key technologies are being considered to enable transformation?
Microsoft Dynamics CRM
Microsoft productivity suite (Office + SharePoint + Lync)
Mobility of staff using iPads
Cloud based wellness tracking solutions for members

What percentage of your applications / infrastructure is run from the Cloud?
5% today (will move to 40% over the next 2 years)

How is the use by employees of their own technology, use of mobiles and social networking impacting operations, customer experiences or the organisation at present?
The idea of a manager in the business turning up with an iPad with a solution already purchased has almost become clichéd. This is still happening and we all have to find our ways to manage this, however more importantly it is changing the perception of the end users and the business that things can be achieved quickly, with little governance and that IT isn't hard and this is something as an industry we must work hard to manage. A great example for us would be our iPad customer feedback stations - a business colleague found a supplier that provided this solution and rather than tell them “no” we worked with them to fill the gaps around device management and data collection. This has led to a successful solution in place that can be supported and managed but still fulfils the original business goals and was delivered at pace.

Do you have a plan in place for how to deal with shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives, place the right controls around employee choice and engage with the organisation on this issue?
We don't have explicit plans for BYOD though we support it for email access. Once we have sorted out some of the basics within VA we may look at this.

Shadow IT is a problem for us but we are an immature organisation so it is an inevitable consequence of our current capability. Over time we will absorb the relevant functions as we build the capability of the IT teams. Right now I manage this by working with the business leaders to help them understand that we can't meet their needs right now but that, where required we will look, long term, to include them. It's very much the Gartner "Bear in the Woods" strategy.

Where do you seek transformational inspiration from?
Other CIOs that have done great jobs - David Jack, Mike Bracken, Gerry Pennell
My three easyJet CIOs Trevor Didcock (still at easyJet), Tim Newing (retired), John Thorpe (left to become DSG CIO, now retired)

easyJet CEO, Carolyn McCall (the most inspirational person I've worked for)
The smart people at interesting companies - Thoughtworks, Microsoft, Google, Samsung etc

The CIO role in the business

Who do you report to?
CEO

Do you have a seat on the board?
Yes

How often do you meet with the CEO?
Monthly

Does your organisation have a digital leader and what is the difference in their responsibilities to yours?
My role encompasses the digital journey including the customer experience online, the mobile apps and the in-club screens and kiosks - I am responsible for digital strategy globally and work with the in country CMOs on establishing how to implement it. In the current climate you could label my job CDO, but it’s still not a widely recognised term.

What percentage of IT budget do you control and what percentage of IT budget does your digital peer hold?
100% Under my remit. Some local digital spend sits within marketing (traditional advertising such as PPC/display etc)

The IT department

How many staff make up the IT team?(What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff)
75 in house ftes with selective use of 3rd parties for hosting, support, helpdesk etc in some territories.

Describe the CIO’s management team, do you have direct reports that develop the relationship and services between the business and IT?
4 in-country Heads of IT (UK, Europe, APAC, SA) report through to the Group CIO

And how many log-in accounts do you issue across you organisation?
~10,000

What is the primary technology platform? ( for example ERP, Website, trading system)
Customer Membership & Billing