The ability to work with startups can mean businesses taking a risk with the required support and guidance from CIOs.
However, some startups can help discover emerging talent, offer fresh ideas and provide access to new technologies - sometimes where established companies can often struggle.
CIO UK looks at 12 leading UK CIOs and digital experts on how they are working with startups to develop new opportunities for the business. (Read next: How to find and implement emerging technology as a new CIO.)
"As a smaller organisation, we tend not to work with the bigger IT vendors, where we don’t have the need for the size and scale they provide or the budgets to draw their attention. I like to work with smaller, more nimble vendors who can work at the pace we need and can bring innovation and new ideas to us. I am also very clear that innovation tends not to come from our industry, so I work hard to build relationships and get ideas from organisations outside football."
Hywel Sloman, Arsenal FC’s IT Director
“I worked alongside our director of strategy on an approach to collaborative partnerships with startups, utilising our core brand strengths to facilitate growth for the startup.
“We utilise a significant amount of open source software, which has reduced our reliance on large third-party suppliers, who often do not have the time to provide the levels of support that SMEs such as ourselves need. We are probably more aligned with a startup in terms of our tech stack than a traditional company.
“When working with all of our suppliers we look for an alignment in terms of culture and values. We are a very values-driven organisation, which makes us focused on efficiency, effectiveness and the value of any service we buy. But we also look to the wider values of the organisation, what it stands for, how its staff are treated and how they treat each other. We’ve sought to build partnerships with our key suppliers, where they can understand what drives us as an organisation.”
Sharon Cooper, BMJ CDO
"At the other end of the scale we have a real need to build a significant integration capability to enable our major programmes and give us a platform to innovate on. We selected an open source product WSO2 for the task, and have been working with a growing startup, Wheeve, which specialises in integration. When we first started working with them there were only three employees. They have scaled massively over the last 12 months and now have offshore delivery capabilities."
Neil Pearce, Travis Perkins CIO
“Essentially, we act as an accelerator for startups while trying to speed up their time to market. In IT we are constantly having to reinvent our offerings to ensure we draw people in to use our centre.
“SME and startups are extremely important to our organisation. We host a number of these and what we’ve been able to do is learn from them. Our company, despite its age, already has some deep processes, and what we’ve been able to do is learn from these companies and change the ways in which we work.”
Alex Farr, Transport Catapult’s IT Director
"For our SME and startup companies , e look carefully at the product set, where it sits in the market and how important it will be to Oxfam in order to gain a true understanding of the risk in using or continuing to use a particular product. We also look at the importance of Oxfam to the SME and factor this into our risk evaluation – we do not want companies to be too dependent on us as a line of business."
Amber Burke, Oxfam CIO
"We are working closely with some smaller companies around digital, including Futuregov for our digital strategy, our own internal Essex education service, which delivers Target Tracker to over 6,000 schools, and a range of local companies around app development, technology training and new digital channels development."
David Wilde, Essex Country Council’s former CIO
"I constantly scan the marketplace to see if there are any smaller start-ups who could help both parties by exposing them to marketplaces and technologies where they perhaps don’t have a huge amount of demonstrable testimonials but are willing to work with a not-for-profit organisation and lower levels of budget. This approach has been successful to date, assisting us in overcoming some of the smaller snagging issues that occurred during our Exchange migration to Office 365."
Barry Ashcroft, Quarriers’ Director of IT
"Much of the digital work I have done has focused on start-ups around Manchester. Part of the success has been in working with partners like Manchester Digital and the Landing in order to start dialogue with these companies in our ecosystem. I’ve personally been out to meet them and taken technical architects to ensure they have a 101 of what the NHS technically looks like to ensure they don’t waste time and effort."
Rachel Dunscombe, Salford Royal’s NHS Foundation Trust CIO
"Based on the size of B&H, I traditionally use small business providers or startups. I find that they work harder for my organisation and the value they bring is superior to the larger organisations. However, we do use a lot of large IT company products (eg Microsoft). To get support and the best out of a product we go back to the small business market to procure the product or service. This allows us to get the personalised service and they act as the middleman to deal with the large corporations, which can be very time-consuming."
Seth Profit, B&H Worldwide CIO
“I am a great believer in collaborating with vendors as an extension to my own team, as well as identifying key strategic partners who would be part of delivering our roadmap.
“With existing suppliers, we constantly have to ensure they are growing their product and services to be aligned with our strategy. For new partners we ensure we go via an RFI/RFP process, allowing us to assess their vision and flexibility around client growth.
“I am also very fond of engaging with startups to come up with innovative ideas based on their nimble and risk-taking culture.”
Fatima Zada, Harvey Nichols’ Director of Technology and Innovation
“A big part of my role is to acquire technology partners for Williams: BT for networking (including security) and communications, Avanade for digital application development, Symantec for IT security, Thales for cloud encryption technology, and Dtex for audit.
“In 2016 I did attend a number of forums showcasing startups and seeking out technology the other F1 teams would not have access to. I believe this can give us a competitive advantage as we cannot simply outspend the bigger, better-funded teams.”
Graeme Hackland, Williams F1 CIO
"Finally, we are really starting to tap into the start-up community. We are working with many companies that didn’t exist five years ago, who typically have developed their products with only cloud, mobile and usability in mind. With the advances in cloud compute, this has enabled our business to tap into new approaches, such as deep learning for drug repositioning, machine learning for patient stratification, image recognition for digital pathology, advanced data compression for genomics, lightning-quick databases for mobile apps, smart wrangling tools for clinical data, new social channels for teams, influencer identification across social media and new IoT sensors alerting us to anomalies in our lab equipment before they break.
"There are many other areas and learning from approaches that our R&D colleagues have explored in the past few years, we are starting to explore opportunities to engage both inside and outside AstraZeneca using open innovation challenges."
David Smoley, AstraZeneca CIO