Honda UK CIO Gareth Jackson discusses the challenges of running local IT for a global company
...the increasing regulation of personal data.
The recent VAT changes have also affected the company's financial systems: "We saw how tricky it was when the government suddenly changed the VAT rate, so we're trying to make sure it's easier for us to put through price changes [in our internal systems ] as a result," Jackson said.
Honda UK is also starting to explore the possibilities of cloud computing, although it has so far only dipped its toe in the water, according to Jackson.
The company has implemented a hosted version of the Sage CRM system for its European corporate sales force. After using an on-premise version of the technology in the UK business, the company decided it would be more efficient to roll it out as a scalable technology so additional users could be easily added across the European business.
"When we looked at it, actually the easiest way to use it – and the cheapest way and the best way, given that they've got a lot less requirement in terms of number of people – was to use it externally," Jackson said.
Talking about cloud computing in general, Jackson said as long as the data is secure and complies with the relevant regulations he isn't too concerned where it's held. He added that the due diligence process around the Sage implementation ensured the data would be held in the correct fashion.
Plans for the future
The company is already experimenting with iPads and HP tablets to work out how they can be used by the business. Some members of staff are using them for presentations and in meetings, although the devices aren't currently connected to the corporate network for security reasons.
"At the moment, we haven't seen the killer use for them so until we do, will they take off? I'm not absolutely certain," Jackson said.
Jackson is also exploring options for replacing existing desktop operating systems. Honda UK currently uses Windows XP but Jackson said the company may look at moving away from the traditional desktop OS approach.
"We would certainly bypass Vista but the question is, do we need an operating system long term? I'm half hoping that we can bypass having an operating system and end up being simply browser-based where you're picking up software from the cloud," he said.
He added that this approach would be more cost-effective as it would remove the need to upgrade PCs every year, as the software being used would be run by service providers and accessed via a web browser. The company could either look at Google's Chrome OS or use a Windows-based system combined with a browser.
Email is another area Jackson is keen to look at changing. The company uses Lotus Notes for email and corporate address books but Jackson is interested in pursuing the software as a service route if Honda's global business buys into the idea.
"Email is an absolute utility that everyone uses the world over, and why should corporates run their own email services? We ought to be able to buy a corporate email service from someone. Longer term, I think the Google model is the way to go," he said.