Interview: Mike Sackman, CIO of pub and restaurant operator Mitchells & Butlers...
Restaurant and pub operator Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) may not itself be a household name but many of the brands under its belt are - including such familiar watering holes as All Bar One, O'Neill's and Harvester.
With some 1,600 outlets in the UK, 40,000 staff and an annual turnover of around £2bn, the company has claimed a large portion of the nation's casual eating and drinking market. But it wants to cut itself an even bigger slice of this pie - and technology is a vital ingredient in the business' expansion plans, says CIO Mike Sackman.
Sackman, who has been M&B's IT chief since 2007, is based in the company's Birmingham head offices, from where he heads up an inhouse IT team of 50.
The CIO is responsible for M&B's business change and technology strategy, programme delivery and IT operational services. Top of his agenda is an ambitious change programme that touches all aspects of the business - from the modernisation of sales and service interactions with customers, to rolling out labour scheduling tools, to the deployment of a master data-management system, and - looming on the horizon - the implementation of a private cloud.
Deploying mobile email to staff who need access to business data as they travel between outlets has also been keeping Sackman busy. Add to that, the company has an active presence on social media sites such as Facebook, and has been playing in the mobile apps arena with its Harvester iPhone app. It's the CIO's job to keep all these technology strands in play - and ensure they are pulling in the right direction for the business, says Sackman.
"For me, the key part of corporate IT is that we're integral to the organisation's overall strategy, as opposed to responding to it," he tells silicon.com. "I'm less about hiring a load of technologists, I'm about how do we drive profit in M&B's pubs?"
"If you're pure technologist then there are plenty of technology companies," he adds. "If you want to be a corporate CIO, I think it's about being able to influence the strategic direction of the organisation - but also being able to deliver on those promises."
Sackman is no stranger to the proverbial CIO magic trick: reducing IT costs while also driving profits through technology-enabled innovation.
"There are two key threads [to my IT strategy]," he says. "One is to deliver the change agenda that we're trying to deliver as an organisation - lots of which is enabled by technology - but also to minimise the overall cost base of the organisation, given that we've got some challenging targets in terms of overall overheads at the company level.
"Some of that is reducing the running costs of IT, but [it's] also helping other people across the organisation reduce their running costs through automation and efficiencies and all that good stuff. I've got a key role to play in that area, as well as driving the sales line in the restaurants themselves - the implementation of some technology and some business process change can add some real benefits from a profits perspective."
"The phrase we use internally to focus our minds is...