Boots and the British Computer Society: why our new partnership matters

09 July 2021

Every CIO is striving for the professionalisation of IT in some way or another, says Rich Corbridge, Chief Information Officer at Boots UK.

In some cases, CIOs are doing it to make recruitment and retention easier; in other cases, it’s to position IT in the best possible way within their organisation. Elsewhere, it’s because CIOs believe it is quite simply the right thing to do.

I had a great teacher on this journey. Andy Kinnear has been leading the charge on the professionalisation of IT roles within the NHS for as long as we have been using the word “digital”. He has been instrumental in creating a better understanding of what can be gained individually and organisationally from working with institutions like BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. As Boots UK begins on this journey, I’ve been reflecting on the three key pillars that Mr. Kinnear believes will achieve professionalisation across IT roles: 

  • create a programme of learning that is multi-faceted in its focus
  • develop skills for all and provide access to new knowledge for everyone
  • create new networks and relationships for each team member, regardless of their focus area or experience level.

 Using this learning and experience, Boots IT has taken the decision to become a member of BCS. By becoming a member, we’re adding access to the institute’s entire learning portfolio on to the Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) IT Academy (a training and development platform). By adding BCS to our Academy, we can ensure that the different learning styles and needs of our team members are catered for when they are creating their individual learning plans. This is an investment in the future capability of the whole IT team at WBA.

“Investing in the technologists of tomorrow is even more critical today, as technology is the platform for transformation.”  Mike Maresca, Global Chief Technology Officer at WBA.

BCS membership will also give our team members the opportunity to evidence their current competency and skills through industry recognised standards, as well as give them access to new networks with IT professionals from many other business areas.

Most of what we are doing now is not new to fellow technologists. It’s already been done in some way or form and therefore, being able to share stories and learn from each other is hugely important. To make sure our team members can use and apply the BCS learning portfolio in accessible, bite-sized chunks, Boots IT has created the following four themes and appointed a Champion to each area, to help provide as much or as little guidance as team members need in the themes they want to pursue: 

  • John O’Donnell – Leadership and Fellowship
  • Michell Kearns – Academic learning and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (D&I)
  • Amar Mehan – Technology-focused learning and becoming a new leader
  • Sam Jordan – Learning for non-traditional IT role models.

What is more, Boots IT has set the ambitious target of having its entire leadership team ‘registered’ as BCS Fellows by September 2022, and has offered access for other WBA IT professionals across the UK and Ireland to becoming fellows too.

As well as focusing on fellowship, we are proactively ensuring that Boots UK’s progressive DE&I agenda can also benefit from the content that BCS has to offer in this space. It’s our ambition to identify Boots IT as a credible champion of DE&I across the whole of the UK and Ireland by January 2022. 

Additionally, we will provide access to the Boots BCS collaboration to team members in non-IT functions who are our enablers of IT delivery, such as our HR, Communications and Finance business partners and digital owners. Our aim is to ensure IT professionalisation at Boots is as broad as possible to enable the whole organisation to realise the benefits of the collaboration.

“Investing in talent is always a fleeting challenge, as soon as you reach the goal in skill, talent and readiness, it has already moved. To set up the organisation to always be growing and always be changing is the goal we have set for ourselves as a global organisation” - Steve Rempel, SVP and International CIO, WBA.

Boots IT’s commitment to BCS will see us become champions for the future, continuing to drive the professionalisation of the ‘trade’. The team has a desire to make IT credible as a transformation agent for the future, and we can learn from the most formative steps taken by organisations like the NHS and bring them to the forefront of our own transformation. We know that now this journey has started, it is never ending, but the excitement is palpable throughout the team.

I think this quote from the very brilliant Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds by Daniel C. Dennett best describes ‘why’ Boots has joined BCS:

“Writing and debugging a computer code for ambitious systems is one of the most severe tests of human imagination yet devised, and yet, no sooner does a brilliant programmer devise a new tool that relieves the coder of some of the drudgery, than the bar is raised for what we expect the coder to create (and test).”

There has never been a truer definition of why we are transformation professionals and why it’s so important that we continue to learn to be so.