Whitbread CIO Ben Wishart reveals his tactics

Reorganising the IS function of one of the UK’s biggest hospitality groups, while streamlining IT strategy, is not a task for the faint hearted. But CIO Ben Wishart has proved he has the key to change.

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Sometimes doing a good job can be frustrating. For Ben Wishart, CIO of Whitbread, the company’s recent sales of stakes in the David Lloyd Leisure Centres, Pizza Hut and TGI Friday, is proof of a job well done.

But it does mean he doesn’t get to enjoy seeing the benefits of the systems he has put in place being delivered, although doing that has contributed to Whitbread’s ability to successfully carry out its strategy of focusing on its core business.

Since selling off some of its operations the company now is made up of four brands – Premier Inn, Beefeater, Brewers Fayre and Costa – and is intent in making its mark internationally.

Wishart believes in leading from the front, and has succeeded in multi-tasking to produce a coherent shared, IT operation from the fragmented organisation he inherited when he joined the group three years ago.

Arriving from Tesco, he has engineered an astonishing transformation that has seen Whitbread’s IT role turned into a single coherent function from the previous eight-brand silo approach. He has introduced an IS agenda that he says has everyone focused on growing the business and enabling people in Whitbread to be productive.

“We have given a purpose and focus to the IS function, so that the people can understand their role in the brands and Whitbread achieving its business goals,” says Wishart. “Everyone has been in mixed group discussions on what they can do individually and together to land the agenda. It has been a very big-time investment, but everyone in the function is more focused and delivering more than they were three years ago, so it has easily been worth it.”

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