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Top 10 IT leadership interviews of 2022

Computer Weekly talks to more IT leaders than any other publication, so we can share insights into the latest in strategy and best practice from the top CIOs, CTOs and CDOs

If IT leaders thought they might have a year of consolidation and a chance to catch their breath, after the accelerated digital transformations they led through the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, 2022 showed they had even more to come.

Boardroom expectations of IT have been reset by the experiences of the previous two years – gone are the three-year programmes; in are agile, digital projects delivering a rapid time to value. Today’s IT leader – whether chief information officer (CIO), chief technology officer (CTO) or chief digital officer (CDO) – has a cloud-first strategy, supporting hybrid working employees, and digitally savvy customers who expect the very best online experience.

Computer Weekly is grateful to the many IT leaders who took the time to discuss their plans – it’s a fascinating read for anyone interested in managing a modern technology infrastructure. Here are Computer Weekly’s top 10 interviews with IT leaders in 2022:

1. CIO interview: Carl Dawson, Asda

As the IT handover from Walmart looms, Asda CIO Carl Dawson explained how the business is renewing all of its technology, putting the retailer in the rare position of being able to start from scratch.

As it moves away from the US giant, a large amount of technology spread across Asda’s 29 distribution centres and 650 supermarkets – as well as its online remit – needs to be renewed over the next two years.

“[This means a] brand new e-commerce platform for all of our grocery shopping, all of our supply chain forecasting, buying and merchandising, and a brand new data platform. The real opportunity here is that we can choose all the latest applications, and we can build them all in the cloud,” says Carl Dawson, Asda’s CIO.

2. CIO interview: Oleg Polovynko, Kyiv City Council

Kyiv City Council’s IT team has experienced challenges faced by no other tech department, and is determined to use what it has learnt to take Ukraine forward when the war is over.

Turning a transport booking service into an air raid alert system is not the typical task of a CIO, but that is what the IT chief at Kyiv City Council was forced to do in the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

When Russian tanks entered Ukraine in February and missiles rained down on cities, the IT team at Kyiv City Council embarked on an innovation journey born of necessity. Its response to the war has given the team an experience like no other.

3. CIO interview: Michael Taylor, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One

Michael Taylor, IT director of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One team, has been involved in the IT behind Formula One for more than 20 years. During that time, he says the biggest change is that instrumentation and data analytics has now expanded across every aspect of the organisation.

For instance, the vehicle dynamics group at Mercedes F1 is developing what Taylor describes as “a kind of virtual modelling”. “We are trying to get as close to a digital twin of the car as possible, but it is very, very difficult to do because the car is constantly evolving,” he says.

4. CTO interview: Lee Cowie, Merlin Entertainments

Lee Cowie, CTO at Merlin Entertainments, chats about technology leadership responsibilities in front of a giant picture of superhero Iron Man. It’s a vivid reminder of the kind of company he works for and a visual clue to his feelings about the role.

“I get a real buzz from working on something that is relatable,” he says. “That’s what gets me out of bed each morning and that’s why I took the role. It’s like the ultimate job for me. I am a big kid at heart. I just love what we do. No day ever really feels like working for me.”

Cowie is leading a tech-enabled business transformation at Merlin, the world’s second-largest operator of family entertainment destinations. It runs a range of resorts, hotels and attractions, including Legoland, Sea Life aquariums, Warwick Castle and Alton Towers.

5. CTO interview: Steve Otto, The R&A

Steve Otto, chief technology officer at The R&A, is back on home territory – and in more ways than one. After having to create a data-led alternative to The Open due to the pandemic in 2020 and having run an event with reduced capacity in 2021, Otto and his colleagues were back with a full-scale tournament for the 150th Open at St Andrews in July.

Commonly considered to be the home of golf, St Andrews is also Otto’s permanent residence. The R&A, which is golf’s governing body as well as the organiser of The Open, is based at the picturesque Scottish town. In a behind-the-scenes tour of technology systems at the course, Otto says it’s great to be home.

6. CIO interview: Yiannis Levantis, Unipart IT

Turning a company’s IT function into an exceptional business in its own right must be the dream of many a CIO. Yiannis Levantis, group CIO at UK logistics company Unipart envisions doing precisely that, drawing on his experience of a long career in corporate IT, which includes periods at Unilever and Rolls-Royce.

As the CIO of Unipart, whose origins are in the car industry, Levantis has led the choice of the Rise with SAP cloud-based enterprise resource planning and related technologies service as it seeks to enhance the systems integration side of its own business. Amazon Web Services is the cloud provider it has chosen for the Rise service.

7. CTO interview: Milena Nikolic, Trainline

Filling the shoes of someone who has led the tech strategy for six years is a tall order, but this is exactly what Milena Nikolic hopes to achieve in her role as Trainline’s new chief technology officer.

Nikolic’s previous employer was Google. “So much of my experience was at Google,” she says. “Running tech and tech teams at scale is a big thing Google had to learn.”

Her key takeaway was being very data-driven and empowering tech teams. When asked about the move to the train app developer, Nikolic says: “What resonated with me about Trainline is enabling greener travel choices. It’s very meaningful for me. I could see quite a lot of commitment, making more people use rail and switch from cars. That’s what I want to be part of.”

8. CTO interview: James Donkin, Ocado Technology

Technology-driven Ocado is a pioneer in the online grocery market and a household name. The company makes extensive use of internet of things, edge and cloud-based computing and robotics, and it recently invested in autonomous kerbside delivery.

Its fulfilment and logistics service, Ocado Smart Platform, is used by Morrisons in the UK and other grocers around the world. Ocado also has a strategic partnership with Marks & Spencer and is actively expanding globally.

James Donkin has worked at Ocado for 16 years. As the chief technology officer of Ocado Technology, he oversees a team of 1,000 software engineers and hardware developers.

9. CIO interview: James Fleming, Francis Crick Institute

The Francis Crick Institute has hundreds of global partnerships that require controlled access to sensitive health data.

Its CIO is James Fleming, who joined the research institute four years ago. Fleming, who has a degree in physics, comes from a telecoms background, having previously worked at BT on projects including the 4G backhaul network.

Since he joined the Institute, Fleming says the IT department has been adapting rapidly and is now 40% larger. IT has responsibility over three tech platforms, the IT infrastructure, high-performance computing and three public clouds. Fleming says his role, and the role of IT, is to make the IT strategy as agile as possible.

10. CTO interview: Shawn Edwards, Bloomberg

In the past 19 years, Shawn Edwards, CTO at Bloomberg, has seen the industry change radically. When asked about the biggest change that has impacted businesses, Edwards says: “I think there have been a lot of trends. I like to joke and say the tech industry has more trends than the fashion industry.”

While there are more fads, Edwards says some trends have endured. One of these is web-scale, high-performance, open source software. When he started working for Bloomberg, Edwards says the company did not have an open source policy. As a consequence, the developer team at Bloomberg had to build almost everything itself.

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