At fashion retailer N Brown, Andy Haywood's battle cry is 'innovate, innovate, innovate!'. He has rebased an all-embracing business transformation programme from being no more than a technology implementation to an organisation-shaking business-led change programme enabled through technology.

When did you start your current role?
August 2014.

What is your reporting line?
Direct report of Angela Spindler, CEO of N Brown Group.

Do you meet with and discuss business strategy with the CEO every week? 
Yes, both in the context of my weekly one-to-one meeting with Angela and also in my role as a director and board member for business strategy, business transformation and digital innovation are discussed at a weekly interim board meeting.

Are you a member of the board of directors?
Yes.

Does your organisation have a CDO? 
No.

What non-technology responsibilities do you have in the organisation?
I have board-level accountability for the leadership and delivery of N Brown’s business transformation programme. This is a genuinely strategic transformation programme to move N Brown from a heritage catalogue business model to a truly multichannel model based on technology innovation. I am placing digital at the heart of our business.

What makes this role so fantastic is that it is a holistic change programme. As CIO I am responsible for much more than IT change. My remit covers people, processes and technology. Yes, we are delivering industry-leading technology capability and efficiencies, but I am also responsible for managing, governing and providing the framework to deliver the business change required to achieve our ambitious growth plans. This includes key programmes to drive sales growth, deliver margin improvement and drive out cost and risk from the business.

How many employees does your organisation have?
5,000.

Does your organisation carry out significant trade in the EU?
Yes.

How many users does your department supply services to?
4,500.

How do you ensure that you have a good understanding of your business and how your customers use your business's products?
30 years’ experience as a senior leader within some of the UK’s largest retailers, including Asda, Alliance Boots and the Co-operative Group, has given me a deep professional and personal understanding of what matters to customers and how technology can enable and anticipate our customers’ needs.

My position on the board gives me complete oversight of all aspects of business performance. My role as leader of the business transformation programme ensures I am at the heart of shaping, designing and delivering our future customer proposition. It’s very important to me to dedicate a lot of time with customers in-store and in focus groups to get direct customer feedback on our products and services.

N Brown technology strategy and agenda

Is your organisation being disrupted by the internet, mobility or technology oriented start-ups?
Yes.

Are you empowered by your organisation to disrupt from the inside?
Yes.

Describe a disruptive measure you’ve led or played a major part in
The CEO has tasked me with driving change within the organisation, to bring a different perspective to the business and, in particular, to innovate and disrupt from the inside. I have been able to make a difference and disrupt in very specific ways, such as interventions on our pricing model and customer proposition right through to big-picture, macro-level interventions, such as changing the whole basis of the transformation programme from being a technology implementation and turning it into a much more powerful business-led change programme enabled through technology.

The best example, though, is the difference I have made in disrupting and changing the game with our credit proposition to customers. This is a profitable part of our business but I identified there was a big opportunity to make it much more prominent in our strategic thinking. I recognised that our credit offer is an integral part of our business and that the regulatory bar is going to continue getting higher and harder to achieve. I recognised we needed to bring all of our planned credit interventions together under the framework of a release in our business transformation programme. This means that we are able to get ahead of the regulatory curve and deliver some significant customer benefits. The crucial insight is we will now have a credit decision system operating at the customer level rather than the account level. This will enable us to truly understand our customers and deliver much better tailored products and solutions, which is a win-win for the customer experience and our business performance.

What major transformation project has been recently completed or is under way at your organisation?
The business transformation programme I am sponsoring and leading is the largest change programme will deliver a digital-first business and make digital the jewel in the N Brown crown.

What impact will the above transformation have on your organisation?
It will change everything we do  the way we work, our core processes and our technology landscape. In the not too distant future we will look and feel very different as a business to our customers and colleagues.

It is also about the behaviours and culture which the change programme will embed across the organisation. At N Brown these will be driven by a digital centre of excellence and a new retail technology innovation centre. We will be much pacier and agile in our delivery, more collaborative and less siloed in our structure, and more customer-centric and entrepreneurial in our ways of working.

These are really profound changes which will ultimately change our culture and embed agility, innovation and digital excellence at the heart of everything we do.

How has your leadership style contributed to the outcomes of the transformation project?
My leadership style has been shaped and forged by 30+ years of senior technology leadership roles across some of the biggest UK and International businesses. My personal mantra, and one which we have adopted internally for the programme, is: better, faster, simpler.

• Better for the customer
What we do must, in a measurable and meaningful way, is make our products better, more exciting and easier to use for our customers. If it doesn’t, then our priorities are wrong.

• Faster
I believe the importance of working and delivering at pace is not given sufficient priority by IT teams across the industry. I champion speed of realisation to all my teams; it builds credibility and confidence with business customers and drives cost out of delivery.

• Simpler
Simplicity is a key value. Without regular intervention there is only one natural outcome for any transformation programme and that is for it to grow exponentially in scope and cost. The best way of preventing this as leader and overall sponsor is to keep the programme goals, accountabilities, governance structures, etc, simple, straightforward and based around easily understood common principles.

By living, championing and role-modelling these guiding principles and values, I have halved the programme's delivery window to two years, thus driving out cost and delivery risk. We have reprioritised projects delivering customer benefits above all others and are now travelling with certainty rather than hope with our delivery plans. The programme has confidence and credibility in the eyes of the board, with the delivery team working on the programme and across the wider business.

What key technologies do you consider enable transformation?
A technology which enables transformation is one which has the power to help a business to realise a vision. In retail this is particularly impactful when a technology transforms the relationship with the customer. In 2015 I will prioritise and invest in technology which transforms and disrupts the traditional relationship between N Brown and our customers. Our priority is to empower our customers and to gain insight about customer behaviour and decision-making.

Cloud technology has now reached a level of maturity where a well-designed cloud solution is a no-brainer for most businesses and can transform the cost base and environmental footprint.

I firmly believe in the transformative potential of digital technology. The hype of the web in the late 90s and early Noughties is now capable of being realised. The future will be owned by businesses that make a decision today to embrace digital transformation and innovation, and this is particularly true of the retail sector. I have recently made a major investment in Hybris which will transform our online customer channel. The look and feel of our websites will delight our customers and drive significant internal efficiencies in how we build, support and develop our online business.

Are you increasing the number of cloud applications or infrastructure in use at your organisation?
Yes.

What is your information and data analytics vision for the organisation?
Data and information are invaluable assets and provide rich insight that is essential to making the business competitive and supporting our ambitious growth strategy. Our vision is to deliver leading-edge business intelligence solutions and insights to support all levels of the decision-making in N Brown.

We have an information and data analytics strategy that is not only agile, flexible and governed appropriately, but also uses the right technology to scale with the changing volume, sources and demands of data within a digital age. This strategy is built on a sound and close collaboration between the business and IT, driving our innovation agenda and supporting the overall business strategy.

How is mobile and social networking impacting operations and customer experience?
Both have a very positive, transformative impact on our business. We are seeing a huge uplift in the proportion of customers using mobile technology to engage, interact and transact with our business. There are two ways to respond to this: to react and follow what your customers are doing or (and this is our approach at N Brown) to understand that mobile is only going to continue to grow as a channel and to proactively prioritise and champion mobile solutions. We innovate in the mobile space to anticipate our customers’ needs and ensure we can convert the surge in mobile traffic to drive sales, business growth and customer insight.

I believe that social media can transform a business's relationship with customers and drive changes to a brand in a way inconceivable only a few years ago. This year we will also be deploying an internal social media solution to replace the corporate intranet. I expect the colleague impact to be dramatic as we provide a solution that supports collaborative, flexible working across functions. I have high hopes that it will be a rich source of feedback and ideas which can unlock opportunities and drive the business forward.

Describe your strategic vision towards shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives and employees around choice?
To fully leverage the opportunities provided by BYOD and ensure all of our key business processes are understood, enabled and supported according to the needs of our customers. This is a conversation that I have already been through with my executive peers and the great news is that they get it.

As always, one of the most effective ways to bring people on this journey is by demonstrating the positive benefits of change. This is one of the ways I am driving efficiency and consistency across the group. We have a complete business-wide programme under way to radically simplify and improve key business processes and align these with their enabling technology, which specifically includes shadow IT. Our experience so far is this will increase service availability, maintain business flexibility and significantly reduce cost.

What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom?
Major partnership deals have recently been signed with IBM and TCS as system integrators to support the delivery of our business transformation programme.

Who are your main suppliers?
IBM, TCS, Oracle, Hybris, UST, Vodafone.

N Brown IT security and budget 

Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?
No.

Has cyber-security risen up your management agenda?
Yes.

Does your organisation understand the potential cyber-security threats it faces?
Yes.

Has this led to an increase in your security budget?
Yes.

What is the IT budget?
£117m.

What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year? 
My primary aim is to lead, shape and deliver the business transformation programme. If I am successful at this, then we can enable our business strategy of doubling revenue by 2020 and deliver significant international expansion.

I have also tasked my leadership team to deliver a major service improvement programme in 2015. I also want to improve the execution of our core business processes and have challenged my team to deliver a centre of excellence for business process improvement that will embed a cycle of continuous improvement to drive inefficiency, cost and risk from the business.

Last, but by no means least, my strategic aim next year is to innovate, innovate, innovate! I want to see at least three brand-new creative and innovative ideas delivered from our new retail innovation hub that will materialise into real scalable benefits for the business. This will engender tangible excitement in the wider organisation about our ability to foster and deliver new ideas.

Are you finding it difficult to recruit the talent you need to drive transformation?
No.

Has recruitment and retention risen up your agenda as a CIO?
Yes.

Are you looking for recruits in the EU to fill the skills shortage you have?
No.

Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme?
Yes.

N Brown technology department

How would you describe your leadership style?
Confident, collaborative and open to change! Here is one of my favourite pieces of business wisdom: ‘The most dangerous phrase in the language is “we’ve always done it this way.”’

Explain how you’ve supported and developed your senior leadership team to support your overall objectives and vision
Building a strong, diverse and impactful leadership team is my number one priority at any business. My vision is to build the number one team in IT fashion retail and so it is essential my leadership team are role models to the wider department. As such, I commit a significant proportion of my time to developing and nurturing my team, both individually in the form of weekly coaching and mentoring sessions and collectively through high-quality leadership team events. I give my team as much exposure to the board as possible so they are a highly visible leadership presence in the business and are crystal-clear about our strategic direction. I also ensure they spend a great deal of time with customers to truly understand what is important and how we can make the biggest difference to our customers’ needs.

One of my key development techniques is to ensure that we always look to the outside world for inspiration and new ways of thinking which we can bring to N Brown. This could be understanding what our competition is doing, identifying and applying the latest industry trends or listening to what thought leaders and key industry experts are advocating. Whatever the source, the point is that my team never stands still. We are on a constant journey of learning and development based upon personal and professional growth.

How many employees are in your IT team?
490.

What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff?
75% in-house vs 25% outsource and partner resource

Does your team include key skilled workers from the EU?
No.