Halfords CIO Anna Barsby has been with the retailer during its rejuvenation as an omnichannel 'clicks and mortar' UK retailer, and was the focus of a CIO Profile in July 2014 where she discussed the organisation's turnaround since October 2012 when the company announced a 27% fall in annual profits.
The Warwick MBA and History of Art graduate was a popular speaker at last year's CIO Summit with her presentation on leadership and empowerment and people-first innovation.
What the judges said
"Halfords really is one of those retail businesses that has faced significant challenges. The senior business people see Barsby as an equal and she's been a part of affecting change. She is a core part of the executive team, bringing them ideas." Mike Altendorf
"Leading a team of 100 is not a technology role, so great to see that from a CIO." Matt Ballantine
"It is clear she is part of a business team and she's driving and conceiving elements of the business strategy." Ian Cox
"She's a fantastic role model for the CIO role." Jayne Nickalls
"Halfords are being disrupted from all sides, but they are relevant again. Barsby's communications style and clarity are stand out. Listening to her you are clearly working with a business leader, not a technologist. It is a lean operation that has a good online/mobile offering, the shops are improving, but most importantly, when you shop there or enter their headquarters you can feel a buzz about the business, especially in Barsby's team." Mark Chillingworth
When did you start your current role?
What is your reporting line?
Do you meet with and discuss business strategy with the CEO every week?
Yes, I am a member of the exec team, who meet weekly to discuss running the business and strategy.
What other executive boards do you sit on?
Currently seeking a non-executive role.
What non-technology responsibilities do you have in the organisation?
Leading a team of approximately 100 is definitely a non-technology responsibility!
How many employees does your organisation have?
Does your organisation carry out significant trade in the EU?
What number of users does your department supply services to?
How do you ensure that you have a good understanding of your business and how your customers use your business's products?
Regular trips into our shops and our distribution centres - lots of listening! I also sit on our IT support desk to listen into calls to find out what is going wrong out there. We also carry out regular surveys. I sit on the senior management team and contribute to business strategy discussions and decisions.
Halfords technology strategy and IT agenda
Is your organisation being disrupted by the internet, mobility or technology-oriented start-ups?
Are you empowered by your organisation to disrupt from the inside?
Describe a disruptive measure you’ve led or played a major part in
We were the quickest company to get mobilised and launch an eBay site - no-one else in our sector has done this yet. We are also in the middle of some confidential initiatives involving new channels launching in the new year. At a shop level we are working on providing web-based collaboration tools and new POS which will transform shop colleagues' ways of working and provide a knowledge base for the first time.
What major transformation project has been recently completed or is under way at your organisation?
We are halfway through our IT transformation programme, which is fundamentally addressing technology, process and people change. It is a wide-ranging programme which is on track and delivering great benefits to the business already.
What impact will the above transformation have on your organisation?
It will enable the business to make change quickly and in a flexible way. We will provide central integration services and build apps to be developed for customer-facing interactions and internal process improvement. We are providing a much more stable network and secure environment with control in place. We have created a transformed 'can-do' culture in the IT team that is noticed and commented on at both shop level and in the support centre. We are delivering all business projects now!
How has your leadership style contributed to the outcomes of the transformation project?
My style is about coaching and empowerment, with a lot of drive and can-do attitude. This appears to have been a big change for the team here and has been really well received. I get lots of comments from perms and contractors about 'being the best CIO they have ever worked for'.
What key technologies do you consider enable transformation?
It can be anything as long as you have an outcome that makes a difference to your business. We are concentrating on our data and information strategy as a key part of our application roadmap this year. Those that are helping us make a shift are cloud, integration service bus, digital tech, monitoring tools and mobile.
Are you increasing the number of cloud applications or infrastructure in use at your organisation?
What is your information and data analytics vision for the organisation?
We want simplication in this area. In particular we are confirming where our master data will sit (ie in which systems), so we can get a single view of stock and customer this year - both fundamental to making doing business easier.
How is mobile and social networking impacting operations and customer experience?
It has started making a difference to customer experience over the last few years and now we need to embrace it for our operations. This is a key part of our strategy and work next year in our shops and distribution centres.
Describe your strategic vision towards shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives and employees around choice?
I embrace shadow IT if we are used as 'consultants'. I like to be seen as advisors on information, security and support; if business areas are ok to have standalone IT that is secure, I will support them. However, they do need to understand that if they would like integrated information flows then I want my team to work with them to achieve this.
What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom?
We have moved onto a VPC with HP for SAP (first in the UK to do this). We are looking to sign a web-based POS solution in the new year. We have moved our datacentre support to Tata. We are continuing with SAP. We have used IBM for our application and data strategy work. We have enlisted Fujitsu to support our shop technology.
Who are your main suppliers?
SAP, HP, Tata, Fujitsu, Salmon, Manhattan, IBM.
Halfords IT security and budget
Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?
Has cyber-security risen up your management agenda?
Does your organisation understand the potential cyber-security threats it faces?
Has this led to an increase in your security budget?
What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year?
Transforming our shop and distribution centre applications. Continuing our multi-channel agenda.
Are you finding it difficult to recruit the talent you need to drive transformation?
Has recruitment and retention risen up your agenda as a CIO?
Are you looking for recruits in the EU to fill the skills shortage you have?
Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme?
Halfords technology department
How would you describe your leadership style?
Coaching, empowering, driving, open.
Explain how you’ve supported and developed your senior leadership team to support your overall objectives and vision:
I have brought in three new leaders and kept two. We have had coaching sessions together. I've encouraged attendance at external events. I encourage them to spend time with key stakeholders and in shops. We have team-building events and knowledge-sharing days. We developed our three-year plan together as a team.
How many employees are in your IT team?
70 perm, 37 contractors.
What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff?
Does your team include key skilled workers from the EU?