CIO100 2017 #31-100: Mark Leadbetter, House Of Travel Group
House of Travel has recently completed an Infrastructure and WAN transformation, says the company’s IT director, Mark Leadbetter.
The goals of this transformation was to provide a better foundation for the IT systems of the business and to allow the IT department to be agile in its delivery of IT systems, and react to disruption quickly and effectively.
In the network layer the company has moved to a full QOS architecture. This architecture is delivered over a combination of fibre, copper and dark fibre network, to deliver connectivity and services to its chain of retail and corporate outlets, explains Leadbetter.
A network of more than 90 Aruba APs have been implemented to deliver corporate, guest and customer wifi access, across the company’s retail and corporate network.
The transformation has delivered a high-speed network foundation to the business.
“We are a diverse business with many locations. Speed and quality of connection is critical and the platform supports this,” says Leadbetter.
“The server and infrastructure transformation involves the implementation of a HPE All Flash 3par SAN arrays, HPE Blade Server Chassis and Fibre fabric switching. We are operating two identical environments in live and DR, with VEEAM managing the data replication. These are located in diverse datacentres in Auckland and Christchurch.”
He says the infrastructure transformation has improved the delivery of all applications and services within the group.
“As an IT department we can be proactive rather than reactive. We have the ability to deliver additional applications and systems, which we could not previously deliver.”
Having a dedicated IT/Innovation channel allows IT to manage budgets and not to have to deliver resources from other streams, says Leadbetter.
“We do sometimes bring in subject matter experts to assist in innovation and inject new ideas or knowledge. We have a strategy director that works closely and facilitates workshops with the development teams.
“He will bring a concept or strategic initiative to these teams and they run workshops on how they can deliver from these.”
For instance, during one of the projects they worked on, they started with this question: “How can we create an interactive in-store experience with our customers?"
Leadbetter is a member of the executive management team.
As well, there are IT strategy meetings quarterly with each of the business units, to look at long-term strategy and this feeds their IT streams queue of work
For instance, he meets with the retail team leaders every quarter to update them on what the ICT team is working on.
“I use Yammer to provide organisation updates such as exciting innovations or developments. Both myself and my team deliver brownbag sessions on technology, developments or strategy. We deliver these using skype for business and record them for later use.
Culture is essential to House of Travel. There are a number of initiatives within IT to ensure culture is a focus, he states.
All staff attend an annual awards weekend, with presentations to recognise the contributions individuals make.
We run an annual two-day agile course for all IT staff and we also bring along key stakeholders from the business, says Leadbetter.
“We are a diverse team, with 11 nationalities represented within IT and a fairly even mix of men and women. The average time for staff in IT within House of Travel is seven years, with many over 20 years. This is a great indication of our culture.”