Youngs Seafood IT Director Paul Nicholson has created an IT and change strategy with a theme helping the FMCG business becoming a more digitally enabled organisation, and has introduced in-memory computing analytics to facilitate operational and financial reporting in a fraction of the current time.

Name and job title
Paul Nicholson, IT Director, Youngs Seafood

How are you influencing the products, experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
Driving service improvement and speed of change projects by investing in people, processes and technology to drive real agility which will benefit our internal and external customers and ensure our industry leading service and product innovation continues

How as CIO have you affected cultural change and / or behaviour in your organisation and to what extent?
Set out a clear IT & Change strategy with a goal of IT been fully integrated into the organisation and seen as a strategic business partner. Encouraging business sites and functions to engage with IT before embarking on changes, with the goal of removing shadow IT

Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the last 12 months and their impact on your organisation’s company performance
Cost savings and cost avoidance approaching £1m, detached IT systems to facilitate sale of £500m of European businesses, supported a manufacturing footprint optimisation project ensuring the business hits its service and financial targets. Ensured the successful deployment new ERP solution delivering improved business effectiveness through streamlined and standardised processes

Describe how you have used organisational and third party information to provide insight that has benefited your organisation, its customers and products or services
Close working with various business functions and sites and senior managers to understand the key operational and strategic needs and how technology and process change can help achieve these. Extensive use of research partner to understand key innovations in our industry sector, new vendor engagement model which allows existing 3rd parties to demonstrate how the business can get more form their existing technology investments, creating an air of innovation and creativity within the internal IT & Change team by empowering the team to step forward and solve business problems

Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
Aligned in a build, make run structure to ensure delivery of the necessary levels of operational support required by a fast moving FMCG business. We have focused service management, application operations and network/infrastructure teams with clear accountabilities and responsibilities. Our goals are aligned to the strategic business goals of driving top line sales growth and bottom line effectiveness. We have dedicated Change, PMO and Architecture teams aligned by manufacturing and back-office disciplines.

Describe your role in the development of digital strategy in your organisation
I have created an IT and change strategy with theme of becoming a more digitally enabled business. We have revamped and integrated social media into our website and intranet. We have worked with the business on the development of a supplier portal, in the process of implementing a digital expenses system and embraced cloud technologies to help speed our digital adoption.

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
I run monthly business wide change and engagement forums to ensure we are fully aware of what is happening across all sites/functions and identify what problems we can assist with in terms of processes, service or technology. This covers everything from developing customer cloud traceability portals, to EDI to desktop and personal productivity. We ask simply as for the business problem and we then work up possible solutions to take back. All the IT team understand what role they play and what their line of sight to the end customer and even consumer is. Continual improvement and innovation is an objective for all members of the IT and change team. We promote projects during design, implementation and go-live in news articles which go out on the intranet to keep the whole business informed along with briefings to the executive board

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?
Update sessions with Exec Board, monthly business wide change forum, site technology improvement focus groups, specific pop-up focus group to tackle particular business goals/issues, new articles on intranet, video blogs on latest innovations/projects/software updates. Business is much more engaged with IT & Change and we have a much better fix on what is the most pressing needs of the business technology in what is a fast paced changing business and sector

How do you use social networks to engage in conversations across the industry about the opportunities and challenges technology is creating?
Use various forums, such as Gartner peer networking. Subscribe to key industry publishers / authorities, follow key trends through twitter and blogs

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?
We also make sure we keep really close to the business at all levels, do not speak techie and have a focus on business partnering, not just BAs etc, but everyone in the IT & Change team

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
Follow key industry publications, use of research partner (Gartner, CEB, Info Tech etc) also follow key business publications like Harvard and other professional bodies. Seek out key networking events and build relationships with other businesses and share best practice and what to avoid

Provide an example of how you have developed the diversity and improved the culture of your team
When I joined progression was very much having to work you way up from the service team through the various team to get to senior roles like architect, BA/Partnering and management. I’ve Implemented a new structure including trainee and secondments backed up by talent and learning/development plans to allow emerging talent to progress more quickly to their desired role - e.g. service desk team member gained role as trainee project manager and another as application operations trainee

Describe how you collaborate and influence the organisation and its leadership team
Listen intently to key stockholders and what problems they are trying to solve/avoid. Follow up on any negative feedback no matter how small and put right any wrong perceptions.

Tell us how you have developed your own management, leadership and personal skills, perhaps through mentoring, training or external activities
My current focus is on NLP to really help understand human interaction and communication. I enjoy the very much personally and find many ways to use everyday at work and also great learnings to share with the team. I keep update to date with latest academic research on leadership and challenge myself to lead non-technology/change functions through my voluntary work with various not for profit organisations.

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?
Enterprise apps are being investigated to look at ways to improve the speed of order approvals, expenses management, corporate performance dashboards, service desk incident tracking and change approvals. We are also working on a number of manufacturing projects which are focused around the internet of things to allow us to collect total product traceability and production information which can then be assess by our customers and the direct end consumer.

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 followed our Enterprise Architecture principals - reuse, buy, then build. We use TOGAF and other best practice frameworks and pull on research partners combined with many years expertise within the IT team

Do you give yourself and your team time each month to assess or learn about technology vendors outside of the established providers?
Yes. For every solution we assess the current market state. We speed this up by using a research partner along with other general research. We also programme in an amount of time for every team member to ensure they get time to keep current with the technology marketplace.

Describe your sourcing strategy and your strategic suppliers
A multi-source model is used, this allows agile sourcing from the right partners and delivers the best value to the business. Strategic partners are Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, Dell & QAD

Describe the technology innovations that you have introduced in the last year and what they have enabled
In-memory computing analytics - will enable the business to complete its operational and financial reporting in a fraction of the current time, allowing fast business decision making. Devices (smartphones & tablets) to enable access to enterprise mobile apps. New user interfaces for in-house bespoke systems using HTML 5, allowing access in rugged tablets on production lines which improves the effectiveness of line-side data entry.

How do you rate the following as sources of innovative technology suppliers:
Analyst Houses  -  Often use
Consultants  -  Occasionally use
CIO Peers  -  Often use
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?
IT lead the cyber agenda working closely with group health & safety and finance to manage risk and ensure adequate mitigations are in place (insurance, BC/DR, etc). Cyber security has an annual ring-fenced investment budget and we hold regular internal and external testing by specialist partners including social engineering testing. Regular communications are sent to all business users to inform and update and we are joined into CERT UK to get alerts on all latest cyber events.  We have dedicated resource within the EA focused on security for all new applications/solutions and responsible for setting agenda day-to-day to protect the business

When did you start your current role?
November 2014

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?
£1.5m capex / £3.5m opex

What percentage of your budget is spent on:
IT operational spend ("keeping the lights on") - 60%
New developments (innovation) - 40%

What number of users does your department supply services to?
2,500 (excluding agency workers)

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?

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 in-sourced, supported by a small number of specialist contractors