If Gordon Lovell-Read has one serious dislike, it is IT people who cling to the outmoded view that the rest of business just does not understand them.
For him it is quite simple. IT is about leadership. Leadership takes courage. Combine courage with tenacity and IT has all the tools to lead business.
Though Lovell-Read’s approach can appear preachy it is obvious that he believes what he is saying and he is not short of “the vision thing.” Corporate transformation is his game. “I’m on the board,” he says, “I don’t need permission.” He likes to shake it up: “You have to be willing to create some wreckage,” he says.
On first impressions Lovell-Read comes across as a gunslinger type, who rides into town, creates havoc and eats, shoots and leaves. But although he clearly enjoys a scrap, this is not his modus operandi. He is more of a bounty hunter – he spent 17 years at HP in various roles and advised Siemens before joining them – who pinned on a sheriff’s badge and stuck around as the town grew. He’s been in the job five-and-a-half-years in a company that he said he’d be at for either six months or six years.
"I’m on the board. I don’t need permission. You have to be willing to create some wreckage"
Gordon Lovell-Read, CIO, Siemens
“When I joined there was no CIO in place – the previous incumbent had lasted only two months,” he says. “I was an outsider. Which was unusual in itself.” What he inherited was a massively diversified business with over 200 sites, each with its own IT team – a typical conglomerate, if such a thing exists.
“There was a lot of conflict and challenges. I joined a very talented IT group but I’ve seen a lot of IT groups who are technically good but politically naïve,” he says. “In five years we have tripled what we spend on IT, centralised systems in a massive company and transformed IT into business service delivery.”
His way of doing it was to standardise and outsource – rebranding IT in the process – moving it away from day-to-day technology management towards delivering business services through a team of 250 SAP and process specialists.
He rolled out SAP for the enterprise and Microsoft for the desktop and set about recruiting the best SAP and process people he could find. “IT is about transactions. The value is in making the processes work,” he says. Lovell-Read runs corporate business technology, not IT – and he has the mission statement to prove it.
Lovell-Read says he has had to pick his battles – such as dumping Peoplesoft in favour of SAP HR. “I was told, ‘over my dead body’ but we did it”. And he first had a long hard look at the battlefield.
He joined a company in need of a shake up. “I said to them if you are after an IT director, I’m not your man. If you want someone for a significant change role then I’m interested. This was the first and most important thing. I wasn’t the most qualified IT person but I understand the value that IT brings to the business. I told them that doesn’t come without wreckage and that it will not be based on the old victim thing. In the end I wrote my own job spec.” Once he was convinced that Siemens management board was willing to engage in a change programme and that he would be given power to go with the responsibility, he took the job.
Lovell-Read is in danger of sounding arrogant and pompous but he steers back across the line when you ask him about his influences. “My change and leadership inspiration come from Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard – both of whom I met in person and whose company I had the great honour to serve for 17 years before HP’s share value and culture were undermined by Carly Fiorina. The company’s basic tenets were of trust and respect for individuals; believing everyone comes to work to do a great job; and faster is always better than slower – including failing fast. This created a great environment – they didn’t prescribe how people should do their job,” says Lovell-Read.
Hit the ground running: When Lovell-Read joined Siemens in 2002, there was no CIO in place. For any CIO in a new job it is important to get a handle on the role as soon as possible. These are your priorities for the first few months.
Though he insists he has no desire to leave Siemens and that there are plenty of challenges ahead for him Lovell-Read also says that he knows his successor will come from within his team. “There is quite a difference between leadership and management. Quite a lot of fantastic managers make okay leaders while some fantastic leaders are only ever capable managers,” he says.
In broader industry terms, he says suppliers still have a long way to go to keep up with the pace of change and the demands of users. “Talk to suppliers and they don’t get the problems we’re facing.” The next stage for him is for IT to provide context. “People are suffering information overload. What I need to do is to get information to people relative to the context of their issue.
"Quite a lot of fantastic managers make okay leaders while some fantastic leaders are only ever capable managers"
Gordon Lovell-Read, CIO, Siemens
“If I’m sending you a booking for a meeting in Manchester I should also send you a route of how to get there using the technology that is most appropriate to the task. It needs to be intuitive and relevant.”
The world of Siemens’ top management is being shaken up thanks to the company’s well publicised bribery and corruption investigations in Germany and elsewhere. It saw another outsider join the company on July 1st when Peter Loscher took over from the resigning chief executive Klaus Kleinfeld and ousted chairman Heinrich von Pierer, neither of whom stands accused of anything. There has already been speculation that it may be broken up. It may not be high noon at Siemens AG but there is now a new Marshall in town.
CIO Lesson Lovell-Read believes he can categorise boardroom characters into four brands – Pilots, Shepherds, Guards and Chameleons.
Pilots tends to be those people who say, ‘look we are going over there, the plane is leaving, you are either on it or you’re not. Frankly I don’t care either way, but get with the programme or go away’.
Shepherds are the kind of people that look at the fantastic field over there and think the grass is greener, who say, ‘you stick with me son, you will be absolutely fine. I know you have never been in that field, don’t worry, trust me’.
Guards tend to be CFOs. They say: ‘No you can’t, sorry. I know you come from outside, son, but we don’t do it like that around here. The company has never done it that way. It is impossible to do it that way, the process doesn’t allow you to do it that way’’.
Chameleons are the ones who say, ‘shall we, shan’t we side with him?’.
Lovell-Read says the reason it is important to understand these types is because in board relationships it’s really important to form allies. You form and break these alliances depending on the nature of the decision and the nature of the influence you want to have.
“What’s interesting is that Guards only follow Pilots. Guards don’t follow Shepherds because Shepherds say, ‘it’s greener over there’ and Guards go, ‘no it isn’t, it is green here, it is definitely not green over there’.
But Pilots say, ‘I don’t care whether you think it is green or not, I’m going over there’ and what the Guards think is, ‘he is a powerful person, a good power base, if I don’t get on the plane I am not going to be allowed to be a Guard anymore because nobody is going to listen’,” says Lovell-Read.
“The other interesting thing is Shepherds will always pull along with Chameleons because a Chameleon needs a Shepherd. A Chameleon asks, ‘is it greener? If I vote with you on this one, you will look after me, won’t you?’ So when you are thinking about making a decision you have to be honest with yourself. How do you normally operate? So what are you, a Pilot, Guard, Shepherd or Chameleon?”
The CIO who brings change is like the sheriff in a Wild West town. Everyone knows that the only way forward is for him to take on the wealthy landowner but no one wants him to rock the boat. After nearly six years wearing the badge, Lovell-Read has the folk on his side but the Town Council is still making demands on him. Here, we go through some of the key relationships that fall under his CIO and corporate transformation jurisdiction.
Town Treasurer Andreas Goss, CFO.
“Easily the most demanding person I’ve ever worked with. He wants it yesterday, at lower cost and with a better return on assets. He makes big ticket demands. You know you’re involved, you know you’re important. Very talented, passionate and enthusiastic.”<
Town Preacher Kevin Tutton, director of corporate development.
“He has a massive requirement for integration and diversity.”
Town Editor and Printing Press Owner Rebekah Fitzgerald, director of corporate communications.
“Demanding because of the diversity of her IT needs. We’re finalising rollout of an enterprise portal. She has a passion for standardisation. Like me she wants it tomorrow.”
Cavalry Fort Commander Peter Merrick, director of corporate personnel.
“We have just upgraded SAP HR. His success is totally dependent on me hitting my targets – though that said I’m probably more demanding of him as I can deliver technology faster then HR can transform.”
Town Hall Ian Robinson, MD, Corporate Shared Services
“My biggest customer – shared services – runs accounting and the corporate finance centre. Millions of transactions go through him. If my stuff fails he can’t work. He always wants more for less and he’s the test of the promises I make. He is the one I focus on in terms of speed, power and process.”
Town Judge Gerard Gent, head of legal, Siemens Holdings
“IT has a key role to play in his business.”
Mine owner Paul Maher, MD, Siemens Energy Services
“Runs a totally IT-dependent business. His people have automatic meter readers that generate money. A minute off line costs thousands. He is the voice of my IT conscience.”
Stagecoach Office Jürgen Maier, MD, Siemens Automation and Drives
“He comes from a shared services background. We have an open and honest relationship.”
Town Carpenter Clark MacFarlane, MD, Siemens Building Technologies
“More akin to me in his style – with shared responsibility for the company’s quality programme. We have a joint interest in process quality.”
Town Banker Jonathan Andrew, MD, Siemens Financial Services
“Not demanding on my business. He owns a banking licence and is regulated by the FSA – so there is no latitude and he’s audited to death. He has specialist IT because of his compliance needs.”
Blacksmith Barry Glew, MD, Siemens VDO Automotive
“Not a typical customer as his business is run on global basis. He wants value for money.”
Railroad and Livery Christian Roth, MD, Siemens Transportation Systems
“He keeps the trains rolling. Another value-led customer who runs a growing business where margins are tight.”
Oil Man Jens-Peter Saul, MD, Siemens Power Generation
“Truly mission critical and another reference customer – demanding”
Corral Manager Ron Smith, MD, Siemens Transmission and Distribution<
“He has very demanding customers and is a demanding customer.”
Temperance Society Gordon Wakeford, MD, Siemens Traffic Controls
“A reference customer for mobile working. He runs the majority of the country‘s traffic lights and understands the whole business of IT.”
Telegraph Office Graham Walker, CEO, Siemens Enterprise Communications
“Some of my fixed voice communications are outsourced to him. Because he is in the telecoms business he is very IT literate and we face some of the same issues.”
General Storekeeper Tom White, MD Siemens Business Services
“One of the most interesting. I’m a customer of his, and he’s a customer of mine. Some of my IT is run by him so he gets treated like any other supplier. He is the definition of mission critical. He processes six million passports and he runs the BBC website. If the IT stops, it all stops.”
Town Mayor Alan Wood, CEO, Siemens, UK
Alan is demanding, like any other CEO. I don’t talk to him about technology but about the needs of the business, customers and the wider issues facing Siemens. ”
Town Doctor Günter Dombrowe, group MD, Siemens Medical Solutions<
“A more forward thinking MD you won‘t meet. He has a very large number of mobile workers. He is very demanding on how to drive the broader service business. He is head of corporate responsibility – I’ve just started planning carbon reduction in IT with him.”