Thought for the day: Know thy place

What is Tesco's Philip Clarke's secret? Colin Beveridge would love to know

Colin Beveridge  

How does Tesco's Philip Clarke engender so much respect, not to mention a huge pay packet? Colin Beveridge is dying to find out his secret.




Hats off to Tesco’s Philip Clarke, probably the highest-paid IT director in the UK for the third year running with a salary in excess of £1.6m. Well done, mate. I’m sure that you are worth every penny.

But my hearty plaudits are not showered on Philip merely for achieving the business benefits that undoubtedly justify such a staggering remuneration package, because that responsibility goes with the territory of running IT and, while I appreciate that Tesco might well be pleased at saving more than £200m through the application of new technology, the saving only represents just over 0.6% of Tesco’s normal operating expenses.

I’ll bet that there are hundreds of other IT directors and managers who have achieved proportionately similar levels of savings for their businesses, albeit on much more modest investment.

Of course, we can’t all have billion-dollar budgets and I know from personal experience that it is always far easier to manage the big numbers, whereas the real challenge lies in successfully juggling severely constrained resources in a hostile, or semi-hostile, environment.

Which is why I do have genuine regard for Philip Clarke’s work at Tesco, notwithstanding his relatively privileged position in terms of IT spend. He has obviously secured the respect of “The Business” and that is priceless.

Indeed he has obviously become an integral part of “The Business,” rather than merely a necessary evil/expensive overhead/distracting sideshow, which is how too many organisations still view their IT functions.

Maybe we should get Philip to share with us his secret for winning the confidence of his colleagues on the Tesco board of directors. Or perhaps, more importantly, we should invite those same colleagues to give us an insight into why they are so obviously comfortable with a fully empowered IT director and IT function.

I would love to know whether this was a hard-won peace settlement, the final outcome of a long, drawn-out, boardroom battle of wills between traditional forces, or if the IT director was pushing against an already open door and didn’t have to dissipate the precious time and undue nervous energy that the rest of us must expend in our constant quest for respect from The Business.

I am sure that once we look beyond the headline salary figures and cost-savings there are some very important lessons to be learned for all of us from Tesco’s positive experiences and we need to flush out best practice, wherever it lies.

And I suppose that quite a few of us might also like a few tips from Philip Clarke about how to get our own salary levels over that irritatingly artificial million-pound hurdle. We know we’re worth it…

Colin Beveridge is an independent consultant and leading commentator on technology management issues. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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