How Honda UK is heading down the global tech road

Honda UK CIO Gareth Jackson discusses the challenges of running local IT for a global company

...looking at how IT can help improve this.

One of the areas being looked at is how existing customers can provide feedback about their interaction with Honda, the dealer and how they are finding the car, bike or lawnmower they've bought.

Keeping an eye on security and costs

The main priorities in recent years for Jackson in the UK part of the business have been cost reduction and increasing security.

As part of the cost-saving efforts, Jackson has overseen the implementation of VoIP and SIP trunking - to connect using VoIP internally and externally – which has reduced communications costs.

The business also put in a number of different technologies several years ago, including business-continuity and disaster-recovery capabilities and server virtualisation. "We look at what is absolutely suitable for us and move to that. We're not bleeding edge but we're continuing to look at where we can get business value from IT," Jackson told silicon.com.

Although Honda UK has used virtualisation for its servers, it has no plans to implement desktop virtualisation. The company runs locked-down desktops in its corporate business, so users don't have administration rights that would allow them to install software themselves.

Honda motorcycle website: Honda UK relaunched its motorcycle website in January 2011

Honda UK relaunched its motorcycle website in January to showcase its 2011 range of bikes
Image: Honda UK

To get new software, users must obtain approval from their manager and request the IT department to push the relevant upgrade or application to their computer.

Jackson said this approach means there is little to gain by using desktop virtualisation, and it would also go against the objective of simplifying infrastructure. "As you add numbers of technologies, your problems go up accordingly, so we don't see huge benefits to us, from where we are at the moment, in desktop virtualisation," Jackson said.

Jackson is also keen to make sure legacy infrastructure doesn't become a problem by aiming to "tidy up" as new technology is brought in. The company removed its last mainframe system about four years ago and the latest area to be tackled is faxes.

"We've recently started talking to the business about faxes because if I ask the question of anyone, do you think we're still going be using faxes in five years' time?, everyone says no."

So the IT department is removing fax machines from offices and talking to those suppliers that might send faxes to ask them to switch to other electronic means of sending and sharing documents.

One of the recent projects to improve security was the installation of scan-to-print Canon printers across the UK business. When a Honda employee wants to print a document, they need to present their smart card to the printer for it to produce the document.

This approach means documents aren't left on printers when people forget to pick them up, which is particularly important when documents containing customer data are concerned.

Honda UK has a finance business for people wanting to pay for Honda products in instalments. Security is particularly important with this part of the business, especially with...