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David Smith speaking about Information Technology at The Leading Edge Forum

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The IT capability of ASDA is interesting in the sense that, before Walmart, I think our IT capability was pretty ancient, pretty fragmented; it had grown from a 60s mainframe type situation into lot applications going on board. Lots of the technology was bespoke and had been designed for particular solutions, but it wasn't particularly strategic. Becoming part of Walmart gave us a huge leap in technology in terms of becoming part of the largest company in the world with computer power second only to NASA. In terms of how the ASDA board feel about IT, they feel that it's not going fast enough. And they are constantly challenging where things are going. So in essence their frustration is palpable, every particular juncture, because they see a customized version in a smaller player in country where someone's gone faster to a solution that we can't get to. And I think there's a continual tension between the delivery, the IT function, and the demands of the line directors. I think in terms of whether the board gets it around IT. I think most boards now have moved to a place where they understand the power of systems and technology solutions. And I think most of them are actually hungry for things to go quicker. And I think they've seen the power of the solutions that can actually move their business faster and provide a lower cost which is what most businesses are about particularly in the middle of a recession. I think the, the question of whether IT sits on the board and the level at which it operates in the organization does very much depend upon individuals. If individuals have the, the relevant amount of personal clout and charisma then they'll sit at the board table. If they don't, they won't. And I don't think that's any different for the IT function than it is for any other function. Whether it's more strategically important is a, is a question that's probably a moot point. It may well be, and therefore it may be a position that becomes more important at board level than it is today. Could cloud computing come into the Walmart world? I don't know; I think there's a tremendous caution about the firewall of the business and protection of, of the system. It's back to the reliability point I was making; the, the system cannot be allowed to fall over. There's a great deal of protectionism around information because obviously the US is, is paranoid about being sued on any one of a number of fronts at any time; and therefore allowing the, the global IT world to just drift into the company is something I think is, is culturally very difficult to accept. I think there's a real tension between what people have got at home what they've got in the office. And I think there is always a resistance around organizations in terms of letting people into the global space. What we've tried to do is be as open as possible to let people have access to all the, the web information. I think you know web technologies is here to stay, is here to be exploited and I think organizations have got to try and not be frightened of it. I think if you're not blogging then the world blogs about you. You can't ignore these things. One of the things that we've tried to do is get the CEO out there; making sure he's interacting with people and that there's some control over that in terms of anybody trying to abuse it, was there use of first names, and there is really interaction taking place. The people in the organization can go on the web and actually get information that they need. And that if they do bit a personal stuff what does it matter? Because at the end of the day there is a real meshing between home and work in any case. We sat down at one of our strategic five year planning sessions a couple years ago and we had a daughter of one of our employees in to talk to us about how she was using technology and how that was changing her behavior. And she came in we had a BeBo up on the wall by the, the PC projector and she took us to her own particular website and her own particular entries and she was very proud to tell us that she had 60 best friends raised and she was the most popular girl in her year. And we asked her about the music she listened to, the kind of things that influenced her, and she talked very eloquently. She was about fourteen she came with her mom, and she talked about how this was affecting her behavior. And we asked all the obvious questions; you know, do you now take all your music cues from what you see on BeBo? And she said 'oh no' it all comes from what we talk about in class at school, which is very much it was for me when I was a youngster. So one of the things that we've tried to examine as a board is: what is technology doing to people's behavior? And interestingly, people's behavior is very different with the technology but their actual spending behavior, which is what really matters, is very much as it was 25 years ago. I think in five years time the IT function of ASDA will look very different. I think it will be probably smaller, I think it will have more links into customized houses. I think you'll see people who are able to take particular bespoke solutions. You'll see others who are actually managing the, the overall transactional relationship between the the US and also the various information houses themselves. So the talent that you're looking for are the real innovators, are the people are going to into new places. You're not looking for the traditional program alerts we, we all know from the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

Video Details

Duration: 5 minutes and 4 seconds
Year: 2009
Country: United States
Language: English
License: Dotsub - Standard License
Genre: None
Views: 31
Posted by: christineward on Oct 19, 2015

David Smith speaking about Information Technology at The Leading Edge Forum
Uploaded on Jul 19, 2009

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IT Strategy
The Future of IT
The Cloud versus Security
Performance and Practicality

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