Welcome to "Diary of a CTO," an insightful video series where we delve into the minds of Chief Technology Officers and Chief Information Officers. In each episode, we ask tech leaders three questions around leadership, the ever-evolving landscape of technology, and the exciting developments in the South West tech community.
Up first is Ian Dorling, Head of IT at Thatchers
Transforming IT at Thatchers
My name is Ian Dorling. I'm Head of IT at the Thatchers Cider Company here in Sanford down in Somerset. I've been here seven years, having joined Thatchers from a much bigger corporate concern that had seen me travelling internationally as well as a position here in the UK. But the last seven years have been a journey of transformation for the IT function here at Thatchers and the way that we're now accepted in the business and what we can do for the business is completely changed over those seven years
Defining moment: Empowering Others
I guess the defining moment in my career that has directly impacted the way I manage people and resources was recognising that as a manager my job was to create the time and the space for the experts that within my team to deliver. And when that penny dropped, it made me realise that was what my job was to do. Less doing and more managing and creating that time and space for the experts to deliver to the fullest potential.
Changing mindsets around tech
A challenge that I first encountered here at Thatchers on arrival was the perception that our ERP platform which is a whole of business platform was actually just a super duper finance package which wouldn't impact on any area of the business other than finance.
We had to change that mindset in the business and we did it but two ways. First of all we upgraded the user interface to be far more friendly to for production operatives. We've moved away from a menu driven interface which was obviously very suitable for finance people but less so for factory operatives and move to what we call panels and tiles. Tiles are basically icons, they can be colour coded. So for instance if we were asking somebody to monitor inventory levels on the system, we could colour load the particular icon to say look when it's green you haven't got to worry about anything. When it's amber, yes you need to keep an eye on things. When it's red you need to go do something that made the system much more user friendly to non office based people and therefore garnered adoption which is what we wanted.
The second thing we did to prove the technology was to across the business was to integrate our Weighbridge which is a very important part of our business for weighing raw materials in and product out. We integrated that into our ERP platform so that in effect, deliveries being made to us were weighed, heavy and then empty. So we had the tail weight. That weight could then be automatically received without anybody being involved, which, providing quality and everything was as it should be, meant that the supply would get paid in the same way as maybe the stationary supply was being paid or the milkman or whatever. So that proved to people that this was a platform that could be rolled out across business. And people suddenly said, well if it can do that for the weighbridge area of our business, what can it do in my area?
And suddenly people were coming to IT saying how, how can you help us, how can you give us more information and insight, how can you make us more efficient. And that was the snowball effect that we wanted to create along with making it much more user friendly for non office space staff.
The South West : The Real Tech Engine of Room of the UK
The evolution of of the tech sector here in the SW is quite a big issue and a big a big topic to debate. First of all I think we should be careful how we define in the South West in a lot of people's minds and they would hear the phrase SW and immediately assumed Devon and Cornwall. Whereas in my head the SW begins in Wiltshire and then tracks down towards Devon and Cornwall. As such, a lot of the southwest as I see it, is very accessible from my home near Bath and you know, it gets me up to Reading services, Gloucester into Wales, across Bristol, down to the coast. We're very central here and we should make sure people realise that we're a great region to live in. We've got tremendous infrastructure and links mainline lines, north-south, east and West on the trains, a great local airport that connects into Schipol so you can go worldwide very easily. It's right on our doorstep. And of course, we've got 2 main routes, the M5 and the M4, which provide good road access.
So we're all set up to be a real tech engine room for the UK, I believe, be at the manufacturing tech or office space tech. As we're seeing spring up in Bristol more and more now with startups and so on, challenges will be we are a rural area and increasingly so when you move past Somerset and we need 5G to roll out uniformly across that area to make sure it's a level playing field for all the participants.
But I see no reason why the SW shouldn't thrive as a tech area and personally I look forward to being part of that because we're marching on almost unabated at the moment.