CIO Insights - BAE Systems
Author:Graham Curtis, Director, Information Management & Technology, UK Operations, BAE Systems UK
"To get it right, at the right price, and in a way that makes the business function properly and efficiently - all of that is very important."
Graham Curtis is the IM&T Director for the UK operations of UK-based BAE Systems, a defence, aerospace and security company with more than 88,000 employees working from Australia, India, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Last year, BAE Systems’ sales totalled £17.8 billion (approximately $27.6 billion). Curtis is also a member of the company’s Office of the Global CIO, which leads the IM&T function.
How does IT function at BAE Systems? Primarily as a support group, a competitive differentiator, or somewhere in-between?
At BAE Systems, information management and technology (IM&T) is at the higher end of the spectrum; it’s viewed as a differentiator, and more so than at most other businesses. Also, we work in a complex, highly regulated marketplace, one that has idiosyncrasies you don’t see in many other industries. As a defence contractor, we take on very large, complex government contracts. So we have to be compliant across a number of dimensions, including security, information assurance, engineering standards and safety. We also have to be cognizant of our marketplace, in particular both UK government information strategies and other information strategies in the wider defence business.
It is. And if your information management systems are not functioning correctly, you’re driving quite a lot of unnecessary and unwelcome costs. You will also end up with an inefficient business, either in IT or manual workarounds. So to get information management right, at the right price, and in a way that makes the business function properly and efficiently — all of that is very important. If you get it wrong in this marketplace, you will be uncompetitive.
As you mentioned, BAE Systems is subject to government regulations and rules. Yet it’s also a multinational company. How do you collaborate globally without breaching international rules and regulations?
With some challenges! Our business is subject to stringent government and intergovernment rules. So we have to work within sovereign security agreements, as well as with international trading and export regulations. International contracts require setting up an information system with some reach-back into other sovereign states that must respect these rules. In addition, we collaborate with other defence companies; again, often across international boundaries. It’s quite complex. We meet this challenge by having a strong information-awareness culture, a strong technical-security culture, and a strong and well-respected set of processes.
Is the role of the CIO changing at BAE Systems?
The role of the CIO has never been constant. It varies by which country you’re in, which industry, even which decade. However, I would say that the role of the CIO is changing here, in that the issues we’re dealing with in terms of technology are more sophisticated and complex. There is demand for sophisticated social devices from our employees based upon their experience with advanced consumer devices. As consumer IT encroaches on and breaches the enterprise, that puts pressure on the internal information management function to respond. The response should be to embrace these new technologies while respecting the rules of information assurance, cost justification and business benefit. It can present a headache, but that makes it interesting.
Earlier, you mentioned that one big issue for BAE Systems is cost. How are you managing IT costs?
We’re more complex than many other businesses, because we actually provide information management and technology to our customers as well as consume it. BAE Systems has a considerable cybercapability and supporting-information capabilities. We also provide military platforms, such as jets and submarines, that contain considerable amounts of IT. But we also have our internal investments in IM&T to help our top-line growth and take out cost. In addition, we have maintenance budgets, essentially for keeping the lights on and staying compliant. So we focus on coordinating these various activities to ensure value for money for our own consumption of IT services and to support the growth of the IT services capabilities.
Top priorities for the next 12 to 18 months?
First, to continue to manage our costs, which includes optimizing our service-delivery model. We need to really understand the cloud, whether that’s public or private. Another priority would be embracing mobile communications. We want to inspire our people through greater flexibility, and to improve their experience working with BAE Systems so they are more effective and supported, and thus feel more fulfilled.
This interview forms part of CSC's 5th Annual CIO Barometer study, which captures the insights of more than 600 IT leaders around the world.
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