What do Rich Corbridge, CIO of Boots in the UK and Ireland and Grant Ecker, Chief Architect at WBA have in common?

  • The Boots IT CIO stretching to think like an Architect?
  • A Chief Architect stretching to think like a CIO?

Sure, we could start there… but the roots are quite a bit deeper.

Grant – It starts with a core belief that we are here to create and develop leaders and it ends with a desire to bring strategic thinking and business partnership into the core of our IT leadership approach.

Rich – A great CIO in 2021 has to believe and trust in Enterprise Architecture being right at the front end of the business relationship. We trust our EAs as representatives of the business and as the custodian of the enterprise design. As Grant and I strive to bring a global IT approach to an organisation (Boots) that is rightly locally focused and has a history of over 170 years our collective role is to ensure that each locally focused division benefits as fully as possible from the global enterprise decisions we make.

Grant – Just as Rich outlines the role of a great CIO, a great Chief Architect in 2021 needs to earn this trust as a pragmatic and mindful steward of IT’s role in achieving business outcomes: both as an enabler of digital business transformation strategy and as a optimizer of IT’s administrative cost burdens which are required to keep our lights on. It is an architect’s dream situation supporting Rich’s organization across Boots. As his comments indicate the trust and engagement between his leadership and EA is so intertwined that lines are completely blurred between our teams. EA is often trusted to be the first voice of IT in guiding Boots’ business strategy. My strong EA leadership team earns this trust in every engagement by positioning our IT suggestions in tight alignment with the strategy and capabilities of Rich’s high performing organization.

Rich – But as Grant said in his opening comment it starts in a belief to create and develop leaders, a leader in an enterprise IT business with a global imperative and a local need must have an ability to offer inspiration to every focused individual in the team, and the team is that global team, not the local focused one. Grant and I believe in a shared purpose of IT, we strive to avoid the traditional silos that global IT functions can bring, what is the networks team without the apps team, what is security needed for without the digital front end of the business, there are no winners in silo business capability. It is our job to at least connect the silos to a common north star and better still to strive to knock them down completely.

Grant – I love that Rich brought silos and people development into our conversation, that’s one of the most important responsibilities of EA within IT! I believe that every architect is established with their IQ but sustained by their EQ and emotional intelligence. The strongest architects are both a coach and a family counsellor in their role: seeking to inspire and empower their technical community while supporting alignment and mediation across their key leadership stakeholders. As a coach they seek to expand the ideas in their community by facilitating exploratory dialogue that increases possibilities. As a family counsellor, they mediate the toughest leadership debates by bringing debate back to our common problems, using industry information and by leveraging technical community provided decision support to balance off difficult debates. As a result, silos are connected and our communities come together under the common purpose of driving outcomes for Boots and for WBA.

Rich – The thing that connects Grant and I the most is that we believe in a bright future for how we will be successful, the shared belief comes from our trust in our people, our own leaders but perhaps most importantly the entire width of our teams. We have worked hard to get the mix right between creative solitude and collaborative sensemaking, facilitating creativity in how we deliver has to be one of the most important keys to unlocking success. As we move forward in 2021 to more ‘normal’ routes to collaborate we can take from the last 12 months new skills in how to be creative in remote teams, I consider Grant to be one of my closest collaborators on the global stage, we have yet to meet in person and yet we know how we are going to make this work in 2021 and beyond.

Grant – Isn’t that wild?! I couldn’t agree more, and I love that the power of human relationships transcends the physical limitations of a pandemic. Rich and I have weathered difficult leadership decisions using our collective creativity with our shared purpose and values as our guide – each time concluding in a better outcome than either of us originally thought was possible. These interactions strengthen our partnership towards our shared mission of betterment for our people and organizations while providing an example of how we aspire to see our teams engage one another.

So if we were picking the top ten traits of leaders in our teams what would they be – what would their portrait look like? We thought we would try and finish off this collaboration by listing those as our view of what makes this come together well… and I’m willing to bet in a few days we won’t remember who contributed what:

  1. Personal style and the people connection form that style
  2. Inspirational through experience and a willingness to hear
  3. Empowerment to bring out the voices in others
  4. Passion for results with people and for the business
  5. Trust and belief in others and in themselves
  6. Stretching every day to do more, be more and be there
  7. Caring enough to say the hard thing, to help others succeed
  8. Being present for the full team when they need you to be
  9. Empathy and appreciation to value how others contribute
  10. Partnership and desire to get there together