DIY leadership

Jean-Jacques Van Oosten, CIO of Europe's largest home improvement and DIY retail group Kingfisher, explains how he has taken on three differing roles to lead a global IT reorganisation at the home improvement retailer.

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To discover what is possible, communicate that vision and motivate people to change, you need to be three different CIOs.

The store of the future

A hypothetical shopper, called Mr Brown, did all of his pre-shopping research on the internet (Web 2.0) leveraging the collective intelligence of his community, then went into the physical store, which was one of our large merchandising labs converted to a ‘store of the future’. Here he was recognised via his mobile phone. With his needs and profile integrated he received electronic suggestions of which of the 35,000 stock keeping units (SKUs) were relevant to his interests.

I don’t mean the job is so big you need three different people to handle it - although some do argue that the CIO job is too much for one person. What I mean is that you have to be three different kinds of CIO. I’ve been applying this three-part CIO approach at Kingfisher, the world’s third largest home improvement retail organisation, as we transform the IT function globally.

Our change journey began two and a half years ago. Like most CIOs coming into a new company, the initial challenge was to optimise operational efficiency – what I call being the ‘cheap information officer’, the first of the three CIOs. I started out by listening to everybody, seeing what our IT expenses were across our 11 markets, and making sure we would be more transparent. At the same time I showed (and continue to show) absolute passion about the business. I went out to help run stores, sit on the lorries, stand behind the till and face the customers at the service desk. That’s where we need to earn our respect as new CIOs, especially if we’re going to instigate major enterprise change. We realised that we had significant diversity in IT that needed to be better leveraged and that we needed to be ready for the changes in our customers’ ways of shopping – especially multi-channel.

It took us a whole year to get all the basics right, earn the hearts and minds of key business leaders and get the right people on the bus. We transferred several hundred IT staff, who used to be part of the local businesses and geographies, into a groupwide function called Kingfisher IT Services (KITS).

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