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Andy Haywood's diversity challenge as the Co-op Group CIO

Mark Chillingworth | Feb. 7, 2013
One year ago Andy Haywood moved from being IT director at Boots the Chemist to begin a new role as the first group CIO of the Co-operative Group. Both for the man himself and for his diverse organisation, it has been a busy first year.

Haywood explains the Co-operative already has several hundred legal employees and leaders in what it believes will be an industry worth around £8bn to the UK economy.

"With our brand we think it is a brilliant opportunity in areas like mortgages, wills and divorces," says Haywood. "From a technology point of view we have some exciting ideas of how we can geographically join up services, make legal provision menu-driven and offer services online or by phone. Unless it is a complex case it can be systemised."

As banking deals are brokered, the Co-operative's home in Manchester is being totally redeveloped in what is more than just an office move but a complete community regeneration. The new ecologically friendly office began to be populated by "colleagues" as Haywood describes them, in October 2012 and the North Manchester Regeneration Programme -- a partnership between the Co-operative and the local authority -- is one of the largest regeneration programmes in the UK, creating residential, retail and commercial spaces around the Co-operative HQ. Haywood describes it as "hugely important and exciting for Manchester".

It says a lot about the history of the Co-operative that as it sets out on its own business modernisation strategy, it takes its local community with it.

"We are modernising the Co-operative and making it more relevant for its members and customers without losing the heritage, trust and brand. It's been Peter's strategy and a very successful one over the last five years and is one of the key reasons why I took the job. I was very very happy at Boots. And with this modernisation agenda, Peter and I are very much of the view that technology will play a major role," says Haywood.

"We are very commercial as an organisation. We do have to be profitable to invest in the future of the business. It is a very commercial business and the benefit of that is that we can do even more. The Co-operative is full of talented and very nice people doing business the right way and that is refreshing," he says.

A balanced viewpoint

Haywood is modernising the technology strategy and capability his IT people have with a blend of internal promotions and external recruits. The Co-operative has been very active in the market at the very senior and middle manager and technologist levels: people, he says, who have been 'IT customers' give his department balance and drive so the IT operation has the end customer at the heart of everything it does.

"One of the big opportunities for the Co-operative is in the digital space with our spread of services. Joining them up is crying out for a digital solution," says Haywood. The time is right as well with continued customer dissatisfaction in companies like Vodafone, Amazon and Starbucks avoiding tax payments and the continuing global slow-down begun by the banking sector.


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