Welcome Break Director of IT David Willock is a leader, coach, cheerleader, project manager, and service delivery manager all in one. On the senior leadership team and leading the tech function since 2005, Willock has had a new five-year strategy approved by the board and is excited about data analytics and rolling out wearable payments. The organisation's innovation agenda is also taking shape, with Starbucks set to adopt Willock and Welcome Break's unique communication system at its Drive Thru outlets throughout Europe.
Name and job title
David Willock, Director of IT, Welcome Break
How are you influencing the products, experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
We have over 85 million customers per annum visit our sites across the UK. We use technology to help support our business offering. For example, we provide free unlimited Wifi across all our sites and hotels - and we continue to invest in the service to ensure capacity stays ahead of customer demand. Our customers use more than 6.5 million Wifi minutes per week across our sites and hotels. We partnered with BT for this service and we are BT's fifth largest WiFi customer in the UK. Fast speed of service at the till point is essential for our customers and our business. We are introducing new faster Epos systems and Contactless / Pay By Mobile.
We also work with internal colleagues to deliver better customer facing technologies and services including Digital Menu boards, Customer Self Service solutions, improved Drive Thru technology. Overall there are many examples of where IT plays a key part in influencing the experience, service and products offered to our customers.
How as CIO have you affected cultural change and / or behaviour in your organisation and to what extent?
My Team led my me, provide mobile technology to many people in our business - specifically iPhones and iPads, which are used for a variety of business applications on the move. The move to greater mobility has been an important change in our business in recent times. This also includes BYOD - where over 200 managers now access our systems via their own personal mobile devices. I work with other senior colleagues in HR, Operations, Commercial and Finance to ensure the IT elements of any business change are fully developed, implemented and supported. This includes innovative solutions such as our "Drive" system - used by all 5,500 employees for recruitment, HR, internal communications and training.
Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the last 12 months and their impact on your organisation’s company performance
Welcome Break is a dynamic, fast paced organisation. Ensuring the IT keeps pace with and is ahead of the game is a huge challenge. For example this year we opened over 70 new and refurbished Business Units (e.g. Ramada, Subway, Harry Ramdsens, Starbucks).
We are leading the way throughout Europe with our innovative Starbucks Drive Thrus. We introduced electronic payslips for all 5,500 employees, we significantly improved the management reporting across the business via Cognos, we developed our Epos system to allow Waitrose customers to use their "My Waitrose" card in Welcome Break Waitrose units. In addition there have been a large number of key infrastructure changes and upgrades, including a new Wide Area Network for our business, major Wifi upgrades, migrating to Exchange / Office 365, as well as a range of IT Security, Cyber protection & Disaster Recovery improvements. All large scale IT investement is subject to a Business Case, signed off by the Leadership Team, before we embark on project delivery. Actual benefits are measured vs the Business Case when the project has been delivered.
Describe how you have used organisational and third party information to provide insight that has benefited your organisation, its customers and products or services
Our KPI Reporting system enables our Unit, Site, Regional and Head Office managers detailed insight into our Financial and Product performance at a detailed level. The information from this system is used across our Business in regular diarised business performance reviews, and influences the areas of focus at all levels within the organisation. Additionally we use our Wifi system to gain valuable insight into customers - a process we continue to develop and extend (such as determining the length of queues within our sites). We also use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) data to determine traffic volumes entering our sites.
Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
We have four key IT Teams: (i) Projects - researches, analyses and delivers new IT solutions, (ii) Support - provide 1st & 2nd line support for all our live systems, (iii) Technical Support manage our central servers,networks and infrastructure and (iv) Database manage Epos pricing, bar codes and stock details such as recipes.
The IT Dept focus on around 60 new projects per year, all agreed with senior business colleagues and reviewed throughout the year. We engage with our Operations colleagues on a daily basis regarding IT issues, report progress weekly and review on a monthly basis with senior operations colleagues. All major IT investments must be signed off by the Welcome Break Leadership Team (of which I am a part). I spend time in 121 reviews with all of my Leadership Team colleagues. IT is closely aligned to our overall Business priorities. Additionally, we are in the process of setting up an IT Steering Group that I will chair and will include our CEO, Finance Director and Commercial Director as permanent members. Other colleagues will be invited as required, including senior memebers of my IT Team. We're setting this up to give a new forum for discussion of the five-year IT strategy and to ensure we are aware of new developments and opportunities in the retail, hospitality and leisure marketplace.
Describe your role in the development of digital strategy in your organisation
I play a leading and supporting role in the development of our Digital Strategy. Examples (i) Leading the work on developing and implementing new Epos which will include digital marketing to customers at the till point via large Epos customer displays, (ii) Leading the work to introduce "pay by mobile" and "Contactless" throughout our estate, (iii) Supporting our Commercial Department in the development of a new customer centric website, (iv) Supporting our Commercial Department in the ongoing provision of social media - we have a strong presence on Facebook, Twitter and many other social media, (iv) leading the work to implement Wifi and working with our Commercial Dept to provide and use Wifi based customer "location analytics" data.
Describe how you use and promote technology to redesign the processes, services and organisational structures of your organisation to enable it to become more efficient and customer-focused
In 2015 we completed a root & branch review of IT and created a 5 Year Strategic IT Plan, covering the major elements of IT including Epos, EFT, Stock / Purchasing / Merchandising / Financials, Labour Management & Payroll, Mobile and Digital. External consultants PwC provided a broad external input to the IT Strategy, which I presented to the main Board and gained their full support. I am excited and delighted that we have an agreed 5 Year IT Strategy in place! It will require significant additional funding, and includes some technology led transformational changes in our business. For example - the introduction of a centrally driven Merchandising solution that will help transform the way we manage stock, orders, deliveries and invoicing across our entire business. For example, potentially introducing brand specific Epos solutions from some of our leading brands (e.g. Starbucks, KFC, Waitrose) - where we currently use our own Welcome Break Epos solution - in order to more rapidly introduce the IT innovations from these leading brands into our own business.
Additionally on a day to day basis there are a number of key activities and projects jointly between IT with our Finance, Commercial, HR and Operations colleagues to improve our business processes. We are leading the way with our innovative new Starbucks Drive Thru IT communication system - to enable every Drive Thru customer to see the barrista who is taking their order - Starbucks across Europe are adopting the solution we are developing! Right now we are looking at the possibility of changing our processes for business expenses, by using technology we already have in place.
Furthermore, the introduction of electronic payslips across our business in 2015 was a huge success. We're working with our Commercial Team colleagues on how we can reduce print costs at our sites by introducing more mobile technology in our sites. Additionally our KPI Reporting solution used across our business is designed to be used on mobile devices with performance figures displayed on screen, through wireless communications - and no printing. There are many examples - some large and some small where we are using or intending to use technology to improve processes. Just recently we have begun a new stream of work to help our business improve our Property Maintenance processes, using an off the shelf Cloud based Property solution.
How do you engage regularly with your organisation (e.g. via a blog/seminars/newsletter etc.) about your team and the role of technology in the organisation and what impact is this having?
In many different ways - from weekly to quarterly. For example at our Company Quarterly Conference in mid February, attended by 400 managers from across all parts of our business I will be presenting the IT major initiatives for 2016 - a great opportunity. Every week I attend the Leadership Team "Shift" meeting to discuss business performance and to update senior colleagues on any key IT activities. Every week we circulate to all our Sites and Head Office a written summary status report showing the key IT "live systems" status for every part of the business. There are also various Operations, Commercial and Finance meetings that myself or colleagues attend to give IT updates (for example I recently attended our "Waitrose Partner Forum" and presented the IT strategy as is applicable to that part of our business, to over 50 Waitrose Partners and Managers - and was very well received). Finally, every major investment in IT or any aspect of our business has to have a formal Business Case written, presented and signed off by our senior Leadership Team before work can begin. In the last 12 months I have had major investments in Wide Area Networks, Wifi, Contactless & Mobile Payments and Exchange / Office 365 all agreed through this forum. I would describe myself as a high profile IT Director within our business.
How do you use social networks to engage in conversations across the industry about the opportunities and challenges technology is creating?
I use LinkedIn to network with other Retail, Hospitality and Leisure IT Directors - some are former colleagues and some are referrals. It is always interesting to get other CIO perspectives as part of the decision making process e.g. I consulted about a new maintenance supplier, and am in discussions about Epos hardware suppliers - as part of our decision making / supplier selection process. I was honoured to be included in the CIO 100 for the last 2 years - and have networked with several CIOs as a result of this.
How do you bring the organisation together to explore and discuss technology and its challenges and to develop stronger alignment of the technology function with the full business?
As per my answer to question 10, there are various forums in which IT plays a key role. Sometimes this is about listening to escalated complaints and resolving to address the issues. I spend time every month out in our business - at our Sites, talking and listening to our employees and managers. There are often a range of IT issues that our Support Teams are not aware of (its always a challenge to get our Sites to report every problem!). We will also be setting up an IT Stall, staffed by several of our IT Dept managers and team members - to showcase some of the exciting opportunities coming along, and using it as an opportunity to further engage with a wide audience of 400+ people. We're very excited by this engagement.
Describe how you keep up to date with developments in technology and IT management e.g horizon scanning, technology strategy workshops, involvement in industry events and bodies
I attend several supplier hosted events (recently I attended a BT strategy evening at the BT Tower in central London to listen to BT discuss a range of mobile and wifi strategic topics). I attend seminars and conferences (such as the IT Director's Forum - in previous years, or the Retail Payments group). I am also in the process of setting up some Customer Reference visits via some of the leading Merchandising and "Purchase To Pay" suppliers, on how we could potentially move our business forward in the areas of strategic stock and order management.
Provide an example of how you have developed the diversity and improved the culture of your team
In my experience there has been a decline in the number of women in core IT roles. However in the last year we have grown the number of women in our Dept - and now 33% of the department are women. I could provide other examples based on religion, ethnicity or age; we are a really diverse IT Dept. Our managers and team members at our Sites are from diverse backgrounds, and I truly believe that our own IT Dept diversity helps us provide a more sympathetic service to our Site teams.
Describe how you collaborate and influence the organisation and its leadership team
I've described the various meeting forums that I attend. I am in regular, weekly contact with every member of the Leadership Team (including CEO, FD, Commercial, Operations and HR Directors) and frequently engage on both major and more immediate topics. I am also part of various meetings that involve some of my colleagues e.g. working with the HR Director on our HR systems. I also organise time out in the business with colleagues - for example I'll very shortly be spending the day with our Operations Director, visiting sites and having good 121 time in the car. Everyone has a view about IT - what works, what doesn't, what we should have and don't. I'm always happy to engage in IT debate from whichever quarter.
Tell us how you have developed your own management, leadership and personal skills, perhaps through mentoring, training or external activities
I was very fortunate. In my early career I worked for Whitbread PLC, who had excellent management development training programmes. I learned all the basics including planning, communication, team management, financial management, service & project management and leadership skills - and over the years I have held a wide range of IT roles and responsibilities including Business Analysis, Project Management, Service Delivery management and IT Architecture.
I have run small teams through to large Teams of 100+ employees. In Welcome Break we have small teams - and I feel my range of skills are used everyday. I am a leader, a coach, a cheerleader, a project manager, a service delivery manager. In addition, in recent years I have been fortunate to be appointed the Chairman of the Welcome Break Pension Trustees - which has given me a whole new world of leadership within a complex area involving government legislation, financial investments, legal activities and administration. I've attended many courses both on premises and E-learning, to ensure my knowledge remains up to date (I proudly display my Pensions exams certificates).
Are you investigating, tracking or experimenting with: Machine Learning / Artificial Intelligence; Data Analytics; NoSQL; wearable technology; Enterprise Apps; Internet of Things; Automation and Robotics; 3D Printing; the Sharing Economy; Anything else?
Yes - I'm very excited about Data Analytics. We are using Wifi data to anonymously determine the flow of customers through our business. It's exciting to see what proportion of customers outside the Site will come into the Site, within the Site to see where the busiest areas are, or where the slowest moving queues are throughout the day - in order to help identify where we need more labour is needed, and to be able to see how customers use a range of our sites across the UK. We'll soon start using this data alongside another form of data analytics - Automatic Number Plate Recognition, to correlate the number of vehicles and people entering our Sites. On a separate topic, when we deploy Contactless this year we'll be able to analyse the customers who are using wearable technology and other mobile apps to pay for their goods. I'm working very closely with our Commercial Team on opportunities such as this. We never stand still in IT.
How do you decide where to apply the best technological approach – e.g. from consuming services from the cloud or on-premise products through to spinning up in-house development teams for bespoke work?
We focus on supplier solutions rather than in house development. There are so many great external IT solutions for the retail, hospitality and leisure industries. We have a range of both Cloud-based an On Premise services. The trend is clearly to move to The Cloud, and applications such as our Hotels system work extemely well across our entire Hotels estate. My first priority is to ensure we are clear of the business requirements and whether the solution being considered will meet and exceed those requirements, and at what cost and complexity. It's easy for enthusiastic colleagues to jump straight to solutions. Part of my role is to ensure we are getting great value for money from the IT investments we've made.
Do you give yourself and your team time each month to assess or learn about technology vendors outside of the established providers?
A great example is mobile technology; we won't simply renew our existing contract, we've begun work to understand the wider mobile telecommunications market - who are the key players and what they could offer us. We did the same with our Wifi investment - there are several players out there.
Describe your sourcing strategy and your strategic suppliers
I'm proud to work in such a diverse business as Welcome Break. We manage catering, retail, fuel, hotels and gaming stores. We need suppliers who can provide development and support across a wide range of technologies and services. Please remember, although we parter with some of the best known brands in the UK (Waitrose, Starbucks, KFC to name a few), we use Welcome Break technology, services and suppliers across our business. We have 15 Strategic suppliers including some very large and well established names such as Vodafone, Wincor, NCR / Retalix and HP as well as some terrific niche players like Guestline (Hotels software), Vodat (networks and communications) and Retail Response (hardware maintenance). Myself and my 2 most senior IT direct reports work very closely with all of our strategic partners to ensure they deliver a robust and cost effective service to our business.
Describe the technology innovations that you have introduced in the last year and what they have enabled
I am particularly proud of the IT changes we've introduced and are soon to be introducing. Trialling brand new Epos solutions in our Sites has been extremely well received by our Team members because of the significant increase in customer speed of service. Rolling out integrated Epos / EFT into all our Subway units last year was a very important achievement to improve speed of service at the till point for our Subway customers. Implementing electronic payslips for our 5,500 Team Members has been extremely well received across the entire business. Our business has introduced over 70 new and refurbished stores this year and transformed the customer environment across many of our Sites. The IT Team has played an important role in this transformation including helping to support the new Digital Walls we have in place - massive banks of screens giving our customers up to date news, traffic information and marketing our products. I've mentioned the Wifi location analytics in previous answers - we're very proud of this and the exciting opportunities for greater customer insight. We continue to grow our number of mobile technology users and we've significantly improved the delivery of key business management information to our mobile users.
What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom? What uniquely do they bring?
The key strategic deals in the last year include (i) BT - for Wifi with the location analytics benefits, (ii) Vodat - to massively increase our WAN bandwidth and stability and (iii) Microsoft / Softcat - for the introduction of Exchange / Office 365 - which has moved us forward 13 years. and relieved the major pressure on an ageing Exchange 2003 strategic service and (iv) Accrelec - to develop the innovate new Starbucks Drive Thru solution that will enable our customers to see the barrista they are talking to!
How do you rate the following as sources of innovative technology suppliers:
Analyst Houses - Often use
Consultants - Often use
CIO Peers - Always referred to
Industry Body - Often use
Media - Often use
Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?
How is cyber-security led and discussed by senior management?
We have a separate Cyber security group - chaired by me and including all the key service delivery managers in our Dept. This group is a spin off of our wider IT Security Group. The Cyber group meets every few weeks and we have specific actions in place designed to improve our intrusion detection and response, as well as improving our basic measures eg from internal attack. I discuss the key issues with our Leadership team on a quarterly basis (as part of a regular detailed update I give to our Leadership Team), as well as on an ad hoc basis as required. Welcome Break is a potential terrorist target and so the whole organisation takes security very seriously - including involving the Metropolitan Police as well as our IT security consultants from PwC. Recent high profile cyber attacks are a timely reminder to us all that we must take this threat very seriously. Enormous damage can be done to the reputation and profits of a business as a result of a cyber attack - so we remain vigilant.
When did you start your current role?
What is your reporting line?
Are you a member of the board of directors?
What is the annual IT budget?
How much of your IT budget is capital and how much revenue?
£2 million capex, £4 million revenue
What percentage of your budget is spent on:
IT operational spend ("keeping the lights on") - 70%
New developments (innovation) - 30%
What number of users does your department supply services to?
85 million external customers and 5,500 internal employees.
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?
Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme?
Being developed for 2016/17
How many employees are there in your IT team?
Are you increasing your headcount to bring skills and the ability to react to needs in-house?
What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff?
All 25 team members are in house. We are supported by over 60 suppliers (15 of which are strategic)