Interview: Duncan Stott – How Kier is building an app portfolio

[In future] we intend then to bring the app delivery skills in-house so we can develop and maintain a consistent portfolio of Kier apps.– Duncan Stott, Kier

Kier is recruiting its own app development staff to help build its portfolio of construction-related apps, according to an interview given by chief information officer Duncan Stott in Computing magazine.

Alongside app developers, it is also looking for programmers, IT project managers and support staff, accounting for 70 roles out of Kier’s total staff requirement of 250.

But Stott also says that many construction IT staff retrained when the recession hit and moved on into unrelated roles, making it difficult to get them back.

Stott told the magazine that, faced with challenges recruiting app development staff with so much competition in the market, Kier had teamed up with three app development companies.

Apps already available to staff include software designed to identify pot-holes in roads, attach a photo and the GPS location and relay it back to the office. “Another set of operators take that information and fix the pot-hole within 24 hours,” he said. “The whole process happens quickly, accurately and efficiently through blue-collar operators being equipped with mobile tech.” 

“[In future] we intend then to bring the app delivery skills in-house so we can develop and maintain a consistent portfolio of Kier apps,” he added.

To ensure an annual injection of new IT talent, the firm has implemented a graduate programme, but the urgency of the business need has meant “we’re recruiting experienced talent too, especially at project management level”, he said.

Kier is currently implementing a £30m project to adopt Oracle enterprise resource planning (ERP) software; a new web application platform; Microsoft SharePoint; and a new front-office operations system.

Oracle will provide procurement, HR and finance efficiencies and is intended to replace its COINS systems, which Stott said had proved insufficient for its needs.

“As Kier has world-class ambitions, we determined it was essential for us to have a world-class back office. We assessed Oracle [and another platform] as part of an 18-month procurement exercise, and chose Oracle for commercial and sector-specific reasons,” he said.

The 2013 version of Microsoft SharePoint is intended to replace Livelink as Kier’s main document management and learning platform, and can be used on mobile devices to simplify knowledge sharing.

“We like SharePoint on the Nokia mobile as it has strong security and usability benefits for our Microsoft Office-users – it’s about familiarity. It’s straightforward, familiar, and it’s secure.”

Kier recently rolled out ruggedised Nokia Windows phones for its staff. “We’re standardising on Nokia Windows phones,” he told Computing. “We chose them because of security, but also integration with Microsoft Office, SharePoint and the overall infrastructure suite.”

Stott joined Kier in 2011, after an IT career that spans more than 25 years at organisations such as British Telecom, BUPA and GlaxoSmithKline, but his first degree was in civil engineering.

As for the CIO role, Stott appears to be in his element: “We’re at the fulcrum of growth, enabling companies to expand into a world that is very different from pre-recession. The whole planet is in the midst of a technology revolution. Could there be a better job than leading the exploitation of that revolution for your company?”

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