IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

  • 21 Nov 2011

A week in the life of Dave Wilson, Head of IT Operations at Vue

Dave WilsonEllie: I’m here today with Dave Wilson, the Head of IT Operations at one of Retail Assist’s clients Vue. Hi Dave, how long is it that you’ve worked for Vue now?

Dave: Hi Ellie, I joined Vue in February 2010 so coming up to 2 years now. I started off as a freelance contractor for 6 months then was offered the job permanently by Roland Jones the IT Director in September 2010.

Ellie: Would you be able to describe a typical week at work for you at Vue?

Dave: Every day is different in any business, particularly in IT, as you can encounter a major incident, or it could be a calm and productive week. There is a typical week however – on Monday it typically starts with KPI (Key Performance Indicator) reporting, management and team meetings. We tend to meet suppliers such as Retail Assist around once a month for review meetings. I live in Leicester so have to commute to Chiswick and generally work from home one day a week. I tend to stay over in a hotel a couple of nights a week and have to plan my diary a couple of weeks in advance as it involves a lot of commuting.

Ellie: So during the week, which is your busiest day in general?

Dave: From a business perspective, it tends to be Wednesday evenings due to Orange Wednesdays. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are also very busy. For me personally, my busiest day tends to be a Monday, purely because I have to analyse what has gone on over the weekend and what is coming up over the week. IT is a 24/7 service and always will be, especially as cinemas are now open longer hours. We now have midnight showings for certain big film releases, but have a support infrastructure in place externally. Typically Retail Assist supports the business from 9am until midnight, but this is flexible, in the past Retail Assist have provided additional hours of cover as and when required for late night showings. I think anybody considering entering IT who wants to work 9 – 5 should potentially choose another industry because you are required inside and outside of core hours.

Ellie: You’ve touched upon the fact that in your role you are tasked with managing both internal and external outsourced teams such as Retail Assist and also Vista – how do you keep on top of this?

Dave: I think primarily what you need as a head of department is to be well organised, you need to make sure that you have the relevant reports in place. We take a daily feed of data from Retail Assist and we put that into an automated report that tells me how many issues I have in each cinema. That gives me a platform for the day to see if we are on top of things. We set certain KPIs for example that we don’t want any more than 5% of our PoS devices or ATM machines down. Regular meetings and ensuring that the data provided is giving you the information that you need is vital.

Ellie: What do you enjoy most about your job?

Dave: I suppose it’s the variety of the job that makes me want to get out of bed in the morning. Especially if you’re getting up at 4.30am like I am, you need that motivation. Every day is different and you can never predict what is going to happen, particularly within IT. It could be a third party that lets you down; it could be a major incident. For example in April 2010, we had a major disaster where none of our cinemas on the busiest Easter weekend could take credit cards due to an exchange issue. Nobody could have foreseen that happening and that’s partly what makes it interesting. Nobody wants issues, but when you do get an issue, it’s a challenge. Whilst it can’t be enjoyable at the time, when you reflect you can take some satisfaction from the fact that you did your best to deal with the problem. We do have business continuity strategies in place; however at the end of the day you do what is right at time no many how many disaster recovery documents you have. I don’t believe that in an emergency anybody really ever takes a manual out and says “this is what we need to do”. What you actually do is react to situations that you can never predetermine or expect to happen. When they do happen, they generally tend to be different to what you envisaged when you wrote the relevant documentation. It’s important to have a strategy in place, however in the real world people do the best that they can at the time and then take those lessons learned forward.

Ellie: What aspects of your role do you find most challenging – is it also this sense of unpredictability?

Dave: The unpredictability can be challenging but the primary challenge is ensuring that your customer base is happy. Everybody walks around day in, day out and nobody stops to check if their heart is still pumping and working as we take it for granted. The only time we stop to think what an important job the heart does in the body is when unfortunately something goes wrong with it. I see IT as no different. We take it for granted in the sense that people come into work, log in and use the network, send emails and work seamlessly for months without thinking about IT. As soon as something disrupts this service, they notice. You know that we’re doing a good job if IT is taken for granted, but there are times when it does go wrong and people are suddenly aware of IT and realise how much they need it.

Ellie: Who in your working life has inspired you the most?

Dave: There have been many people that I’ve respected that I’ve worked for or with, but if you asked me for somebody within the industry who stands out I would have no hesitation in saying Simon Wolfson from Next. I worked at Next for 18 years so encountered Simon there. He joined Next in the early days, worked his way up through the business and eventually took over the reigns from David Jones. Simon has created record profits, a record share price, demonstrates the ability you need to be a business leader and is now one of the most respected CEOs in retail. He is a fantastic business leader and is also a very nice person as well. It’s impressive for somebody so young to have achieved what he has, not just in retailing but also in the political world.

Ellie: Finally, what is your proudest professional achievement?

Dave: That’s a good question, I joined the IT profession in 1986 or 1987 and over those 25 years there have been a number of achievements. None particularly stand out as they have all been important to me in their own way, for example any promotions; moving from a Trainee Programmer to a fully fledged Analyst Programmer was clearly a proud moment, equally was becoming an Account Manager at Next and becoming an IT Director at Dunelm was another highlight. I think as long as you’re progressing that’s good. I’m not a person who tends to reflect on what I’ve achieved, time doesn’t stand still so you’ve got to move on to the next achievement. I’m pleased at where I am at the moment, and am happy striving to satisfy our customers and keeping the enthusiasm and momentum going.

Ellie: That’s great, thank you for your time Dave.

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