CW500: Harvey Nichols retail operations director, Martin Schofield

It has taken a long time, but CIOs are increasingly being developed or promoted into business leadership roles, recognising the growing importance of IT to business growth and success.

At recent CW500 Club event, Harvey Nichols retail operations director and former CIO Martin Schofield talked to IT leaders about his personal career development journey.

In this CW500 video Schofield talked to Computer Weekly editor in chief Bryan Glick about the challenges of moving from the IT department to the boardroom.

Read the full transcript from this video below:  

CW500 Harvey Nichols retail operations director

Bryan Glick: Hello. Welcome to the Computer Weekly 500 Club. I am here again at our monthly meeting of IT leaders. This month we have been talking about IT leadership: where next? Helping us to do that, to look at the future career options for existing IT leaders, we are joined today by Martin Schofield. Martin is the Retail Operations Director at the department store chain Harvey Nichols. Martin, thank you very much for coming along to talk at our CW500 today, much appreciated.
First question to you really, you have made that step from being the top IT guy, IT Director, into a broader business role, sitting on the board of your organisation. Why did you make that step, and what was the key to being able to make that step?

Martin Schofield: I think it is a combination: there is a little element of right time at the right place, and the opportunity arising, but equally, it is about demonstrating your worth when you are in the position. I guess IT is uniquely positioned to understand the overall business context of any operation, so as long as you are in a position to put that across, as long as opportunities arise, you can take advantage of them.

Bryan Glick: We talked in the IT community for years about IT being a route to the boardroom, and IT being essential to future chief executives. For a long time that never happened, but it seems that things are changing. We have seen, for example, at Tesco where the IT Director, Philip Clark, stepped up this year to become the Chief Executive, yourself as an example of that in your organisation. What do you think has changed in the last few years to open up those opportunities for IT leaders?

Martin Schofield: Again, a combination the type of the organisation you are in. Obviously, IT and technology is much more pervasive these days; everybody who can walk and talk understands generally how IT operates and how intrinsic it is to their lives. I think even the oldest, more traditional Chief Exec is very cognisant of the fact that IT has to be a big part of any strategy they have in place. I guess that as IT people stand up and realise that they have a part to play. Then they can make that pitch for those bigger roles.

Bryan Glick: You have been talking to an audience of IT leaders tonight, many of whom I suspect might have ambitions to pursue a similar path to yourself. What would be your top tip for an aspiring CIO who is aspiring to broaden their opportunities in the boardroom?

Martin Schofield: I think it is probably just do not be afraid, do not be afraid of challenge. IT has that position where it can see most operations that play in the business. Do not be afraid to stand up and be counted. IT is not something to be embarrassed about; it is not, 'That horrible little IT thing.' It is an intrinsic part of the organisation these days.

Bryan Glick: Great advice, and clearly it has worked for you, so some great tips for other people to take on. Martin Schofield, from Harvey Nicholls, thank you ever so much for coming on and speaking to us tonight. That is all we have got time for on this video. We will look forward to seeing you again on another CW500 video interview very soon. Thank you very much. Bye.

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