Johnson Matthey CIO Paul Coby said his IT function’s infrastructure and modern desktop upgrade helped the FTSE 100 company maintain its operations during global Covid-19 restrictions, including maintaining production lines of medical supplies urgently needed to support health services around the world.
Coby was speaking at CBR and NS Tech’s CIO Town Hall Live alongside Northumbrian Water CIO Nigel Watson, discussing why the perception of the IT function at the 200-year-old sustainable technologies company – which manufactures auto and industrial catalysts – had never been higher.
The former British Airways CIO said that work his department had done over the last two years prepared Johnson Matthey to weather disruption brought about by the pandemic.
“It’s been something that you never want to happen, but the paradox is that IT has never been as effective or as popular as it is at the moment,” Coby said. “Everyone at Johnson Matthey, whether they are running a business unit in China or Argentina, or they are scientists working in one of our labs – has absolutely understood how central IT is to the operation of everything.”
Coby joined Johnson Matthey in April 2018 from his role as CIO at John Lewis Partnership, and explained how his team moved 7,000 office-based-staff in 30 countries to remote working, supported the temporary shutting down of its autocatalyst plants and the subsequent return to production, while helping its medical devices and drug components plants keep going to support health services globally.
“If this has happened 12 months ago, we wouldn’t have been able to respond in anything like the effective way we did, and fundamentally ensure that the business around the world kept going,” Coby said.
Coby said a major infrastructure investment programme, consolidating on “a very standard model of having three co-located data centres” in London, the US and Singapore, a modern desktop programme was part of “really fixing the basics”, and will provide the platform for its digital and data innovation plans.
“Getting the basics right remains the core thing as CIO you need to do; we all know that in IT you are only as good as yesterday’s performance,” he said. “My team absolutely delivered during Covid-19, and then you can really think about the wider digital innovation agenda.”
Also a non executive director at Virgin Money, Coby went on to discuss the value of CIOs having an NED perspective, the sustainability agenda at Johnson Matthey, the company’s data innovation plans, and his experience of navigating through global crisis while in a CIO post.
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Special projects editor
Edward Qualtrough is special projects editor for Tech Monitor.