“We have a broad portfolio of high-end products and to support that we need a resilient IT infrastructure,” says Bradley Yorke-Biggs, strategy and IT director for luxury sports car manufacturer Aston Martin.
Yorke-Biggs has been directing not only the business strategy of one of the UK’s most famous car marques, but has of late been developing an IT strategy that will allow the company to continue its rich heritage into the future. In order to develop that strategy to best effect, Yorke-Biggs has developed key relationships with leading software and services suppliers like Microsoft and Verizon.
Aston Martin is now independently owned since being bought out by a consortium in March 2007. It had previously been under the stewardship of car manufacturing giant Ford since 1991. Under Ford, Aston Martin had grown from a cottage industry producing just one model of car to a major powerhouse in sports car manufacturing with a diverse range of distinct sports cars, a racing team and three production facilities.
Its term as part of the Ford Premier Automotive Group had allowed Aston Martin to do more than just manufacture more cars and more models; it had grown in stature as a brand to now be an organisation that reflects the esteem its cars are held in with equal sheen.
Divestment of companies is never easy, especially after a 16-year relationship which inevitably meant there were shared resources. Bradley Yorke-Biggs had joined Aston Martin initially on secondment from the Ford PAG company and would find himself working on the divestment and then leading the Aston Martin business and IT strategy as the company steered its own course without Ford.
“We have invested in a new datacentre, which is 300 yards from the main company headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire; we put in a new local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN) as well as a Cisco VOIP system,” Yorke-Biggs says of meeting the initial IT challenges.
As far as the business is concerned, Yorke-Biggs is sanguine about the split: “What we do is very different from Ford, they are a volume manufacturer; we are niche and specialist.”
The split has been successful, but as any CIO knows, there will always be legacy issues to tackle. Aston Martin has had a chequered ownership past and that has affected its IT setup.
“If you look at our history you can see why we have a diverse mixture of home-grown and legacy systems from over the years, so we have a very complex IT infrastructure, which is never how you would have designed it,” Yorke-Biggs says. The car enthusiast was given the IT role on top of his strategic duties when it became clear to the Aston Martin management that the two portfolios – strategy and IT – were inevitably entwined and needed a single leader and a single vision.
“The walls between IT and the business are dissolving. The question is always ‘How can IT add business value?’ I am working closely with the marketing and communications departments to use IT effectively in CRM, on our Digital Strategy and in areas like social media,” Yorke-Biggs says.