Competence first, says Warehouse CIO

CIOs don't have a 'birthright of influence'

Owen McCall, chief information officer, The Warehouse Group, says a lot of CIOs believe “we have a birthright of influence in the boardroom”.

But he compares this stance to “the arrogant twaddle of a spoiled child”. An IT organisation that fails to deliver, he stresses, will not have influence in the boardroom, he says. McCall and his ICT team have been applying this insight at the retail chain.

“Over the past few years we’ve set out to show that we’re competent at running an IT organisation,” says McCall in the June 2008 cover story of CIO New Zealand. “Now that we’ve done that, we can ask to be listened to. Why should they take any notice of us if we can’t even take care of our own backyard?”

McCall set his sights on system stability from day one and never let up until he achieved it. After four years he is confident first base is covered and can address some of the other challenges: these are business enablement and revising perceptions some areas of the business still have about IT being unreliable.

For The Warehouse there is increasing competition, with new entrants in general merchandising and national retail space growing three-times faster than retail sales.

Convergence has led to grocery businesses increasingly selling general merchandise, with The Warehouse diversifying into groceries.

McCall expects this competition to hot up; from experience he knows that only the strongest will survive. “If you look back when The Warehouse was really growing fast, through the 1990s, the weaker competitors got killed off. Those that survived have increasingly become better.”

• Read more in June’s CIO Magazine.

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