Salford University CIO puts chemistry before tech

University of Salford tech chief Derek Drury says the IT team is what really counts...

Some say one of the most important aspects of running an IT department is getting the chemistry of the staff right. It's certainly a view to which University of Salford CIO Derek Drury firmly subscribes.

"For me, the success of an IT team is about getting the right skills and the right people with the right motivation. If you can do that stuff, the technology is the technology - it might need the occasional spanner taking to it but most of the time it's fairly sound stuff," he told

Drury knows all about chemistry having worked in the pharmacy industry - with Boots and Lloyds Pharmacy, among others - for close to 20 years before switching to IT management just over 10 years ago.

When Drury's then employer Leeds Co-op Pharmacy merged with National Co-op Chemists (NCC) in 1999, he moved over to build up the IT department and redevelop a lot of the systems that the new company would use.

Drury was well suited to this move despite a career in pharmacy management, as technology was always in the background.

"I've been programming since programming was invented - so I wrote programs in assembler and hexadecimal for machines you won't have even heard of... and I never gave up programming. I still play now. So I've always had this interest in computers," he told

The University of Salford is undergoing a technology transformation

The University of Salford's new datacentre will bring its technology infrastructure into the 21st centuryPhoto: University of Salford

When NCC merged with the Manchester-based Co-operative Group, Drury ended up managing the IT for a pharmacy division of the group with more than 800 branches. He was soon given additional responsibility covering the travel division.

Current Co-operative Group CIO Ian Dyson – interviewed by in January - was Drury's boss for 18 months following the 2007 merger of the Co-operative Group and United Co-operatives.

Drury also worked for a time with the London 2012 Olympics Organising Committee CIO Gerry Pennell when Pennell was CIO for Co-operative Financial Services and the Co-operative Group.

Drury then stayed in the Manchester area when he moved to the University of Salford as CIO in September 2009.

He recently spoke to about the University of Salford's tech transformation and datacentre project, as well as how his department is working to serve the changing requirements of students.

Essential skills for a university CIO

Drury's role is about defining strategy and managing projects rather than dealing with "wires and boxes" and, with 84 technology projects currently underway, one can understand why...