CIO interview: Yiannis Levantis targets at overall quality for Unipart IT

Brian McKenna


Published: 09 Jun 2022 17: 30

Turning a business’s IT work into an extraordinary organization in its own right should be the imagine numerous a CIO. Yiannis Levantis, group CIO at UK logistics business Unipart pictures doing exactly that, making use of his experience of a long profession in business IT, that includes durations at Unilever and Rolls-Royce.

Levantis is not quickly intimidated. He matured in a home in Greece at which magnate and political leaders sat at the table, amongst them Antonis Samaras, who was prime minister of the nation from 2012 to 2015, and the leader of the New Democracy celebration.

” Was that of any usage for me?” he muses. “I believe it was. For many years, and particularly as a kid, I stumbled upon multimillionaires at supper, owning football groups, hotel chains and papers. And I believe that indicated I didn’t have the state of mind that, ‘Oh, things are too huge and too frustrating. And how would I arrive? How would I do that?’. I constantly believed, ‘Well, unless it’s a sprint over 100 metres, at which I would be definitely rubbish, if it’s achievable, it’s achievable by anybody. And, for that reason, by me’.”

As the CIO of Unipart, whose origins remain in the vehicle market, Levantis has actually led the option of the Rise with SAP cloud-based business resource preparation (ERP) and associated innovations service as it looks for to improve the systems combination side of its own organization. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the cloud company it has actually picked for the Rise service.

The global logistics, speaking with and producing organisation, which has actually been an SAP consumer for 21 years, revealed in March 2022 that it is embracing Rise, which is constructed on the provider’s high-speed, columnar database, Hana, and which puts handled cloud facilities and handled services into one agreement.

Oxford-based Unipart emerged from British Leyland in the mid-1970 s, specialising in the manufacture of parts for the automobile market. It became a standalone business in 1987, as a logistics services service, and is now seeking to reinforce its ability as an SAP systems integrator.

The business has a heritage summarized in the expression the Unipart Way, knowingly designed on the Toyota Way approach of constant enhancement and regard for individuals, therefore putting a huge focus on quality, lean production, the removal of waste, and so on.

Levantis is looking for to establish Unipart’s organization in this regard, with IT more to the fore than it has actually been hitherto under the rubric of logistics.

He concerned the business in March 2021, right away from Britvic, where he had actually been IT technique and shipment director. His 2 huge developmental experiences were at Unilever, which he signed up with from university in 1999, and at Rolls-Royce, where he was international IT director.

” I had a clear aspiration to succeed of the [IT] function. Not for factors of ego or vanity, however due to the fact that I had actually observed a great deal of things that were done either terribly or not effectively, and I might see that they might be done better”

Yiannis Levantis, Unipart

Levantis has 2 degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Manchester, and to that included a Masters in monetary management and control from Aston Business School.

He states he is extremely grateful to Unilever for offering him a grounding in organization innovation, beginning as a management student in supply chain IT “I began getting my bearings, they put me in more comprehensive functions, to comprehend the wider company and the wider innovation. They were exceptionally kind to me– they put me at the table of an extremely senior management group and they treated me as an equivalent. I didn’t understand anything about anything.

” And rather early in my profession there, among my supervisors at the time stated to me, ‘Let’s do a genuine task now. Would you like to enter into an SAP task?’ And I stated, ‘What is SAP?’.”

He quickly discovered– and he states it has actually offered him “a typical foundation” to his profession. “That’s comprehensive company, worldwide service improvement throughout multifunctional company change, with SAP at its heart. That’s the common measure throughout my profession, up till and consisting of GSK”.

Levantis was international IT director for industrial ERP at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for three-and-a-half years, after which he signed up with Rolls-Royce, investing simply over 5 years there, from 2011 to 2016.

Chrysalis minute at Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce was a “turning point” for Levantis, for a number of factors. “One is, I broke out of my SAP box that had actually served me very well up till then. And I had a clear aspiration to succeed of the function. Not a lot for factors of ego or vanity, however because, through the years, I had actually observed a great deal of things that were done either severely or not extremely well, and I might see that they might be done much, better– without a stunningly ingenious method,” he states.

” It is more about clearness, discipline, sincerity, strong worths, consistency, the essentials– and the fundamentals are not generally there. The IT market beleaguered by confusion and suboptimal practices.”

Why does he think this to be the case?

” Money. There’s a great deal of cash to be made in consulting. And we’re not discussing numerous countless pounds. We’re talking numerous millions and billions. That’s huge cash. That shows straight to people. There are a great deal of individuals in sales and in management positions in these organisations [consultancies and systems integrators] for whom landing the sale makes a big distinction to their pocket, their homes, their kids. This is a really individual thing– it is not an approximate or heavenly thing,” states Levantis.

” The other factor is IT being represented [in user organisations] by the men who spoke Klingon, secured in a dark space, knocking away at their keyboards. There came a time, most likely around the late 1990 s, early 2000 s, when the IT people stated, ‘We require more good friends. We can not be so lonesome. We require to be more regular’.”

Hence IT experts expanded on their social abilities and got more associated with business, “not simply stating, ‘I do not care what you provide for a living– simply inform me what you desire me to construct for you and I’ll construct it”.

Don’t turn your back on tech

Levantis argues that, as IT experts have actually cast aside their earphones and hoodies to get more information about business of the business and organisations that pay their wages, some may have gone too far, and permitted their innovation understanding to rust to the degree that they are at a drawback when working out with wise and advanced providers, with their deeply skilled technical personnel and their attorneys.

“From the extremely leading, all the method through the IT organisation, innovation requires to be your enthusiasm, regardless of what you need to provide for a living. If it’s not, then you ‘d much better try to find something else”
Yiannis Levantis, Unipart

” Many have actually forgotten or disregarded to the incredibly essential requirement to be an innovation specialist,” he states. “You can not be skilled at whatever, however choose your locations– be professional at something and be experienced about something else. You can not simply presume that innovation does not matter, that it will look after itself.

” I believe from the extremely leading, all the method through the IT organisation, innovation requires to be your enthusiasm, regardless of what you need to provide for a living. If it’s not, then you ‘d much better try to find something else. We wound up with a great deal of novices who were fantastic at basic management, individuals management and management behaviours,” he includes.

Levantis states the present innovation scene is too complicated for that generalist technique to be sustainable. “You have cloud computing, you have a great deal of movement, and for that reason an expansion of information production and the capability to get worth out of it. Artificial intelligence is flourishing,” he states. “You can not be a deep professional on every element, that’s difficult. Nonetheless, you do have to have a variety of authentic know-how. And you need to preserve this know-how, no matter how far you advance in your profession.”

However, Levantis counsels IT specialists versus then disregarding the non-technical, and not simply in the world of individuals abilities. “If you are going to have a senior function in innovation, you ‘d much better comprehend agreement law,” he states. “You do not need to have a degree in it. Take a seat with your attorney good friends. Take a seat with your procurement men. Understand business settlements that make a genuine distinction.”

Experience suggests scars on one’s back

And there is, states Levantis, no alternative to experience. He provides the example of method consulting companies. “You take a look at the calibre that a McKinsey brings in. They have great tactical thinkers that glue well together into actually remarkable believe tanks. They’re a wonderful organisation,” he states.

” But there is a distinction in between intelligence and training and discussion abilities and individuals abilities. For useful execution, you can just be terrific if you can take your t-shirt off and have a lot of scars on your back. There is no refined method of getting that specialist experience. There is no lovely method of arriving. There is just the difficult method of going through hard jobs for many years. Taking the discomfort of all the errors, the mistakes, the miscommunications, the overspends, the hold-ups, remaining in the spotlight of that, handling through that, discovering through that.”

Levantis states the greatest knowing point of his profession has actually been “understanding individuals, bringing them together, due to the fact that everyone has an angle, everyone has a mindset, everyone has a background”.

He provides an example of dealing diplomatically with an Italian supervisor when at Unilever. “Unilever was a great school for me. I was going through a great deal of nation executions for SAP. They as soon as sent me over to an Italian factory that was run by a person who was apparently not so simple to deal with,” he states.

” Now, I’m Greek. We have a glass of red white wine at lunch, we discuss anything however work, and after that we return to it. I needed to state, ‘This is how we’re going to do this, it is not optional. Let’s comprehend how it affects you, and let’s make the modification pertinent and suitable. You inform me what you require and what’s valuable to you. I’ll inform you what I require, what’s valuable for me. Let’s ensure we concentrate on getting to a result that is practical for both people’.

” Then we might end up earlier and opt for another glass of white wine at night. That was a really unique kind of method. The person was a flamboyant Italian and a really great gentleman. He was simple to factor with, however you needed to factor with him in his method. You needed to line up to his culture and his mindset and his technique. You might not approach him like a German or a Swiss or a Japanese or a Dutch person.”

Janus function for IT at Unipart

At Unipart, which has websites in Nuneaton and India, along with Oxford, Levantis leads an IT function of around 200 individuals. It and he have a double function, internal and external.

In regards to the internal IT function, he wishes to get it to a location where extremely little time, if any, is invested in firefighting. “And so, we can focus our combined intelligence in constantly being much better. On things like how we make much better smarter usage of cloud abilities. How we can automate implementation of systems, so instead of taking 3 days, it takes 3 minutes– these are extremely feasible services. These are not sort of dreamy aspirations, they’re extremely, really feasible,” he states.

” The 2nd part is developing a really extraordinary IT change and execution partner organization, based upon what I’ve currently discovered. I’m not going back to square one,” he includes. “There is a great deal of goodness in location currently. Actually bring it to a location where it’s remarkable, when evaluated in the context of a broader market, and grow that organization. Not always explode it, however grow it properly, so we never ever lose concentrate on excellent engagement with consumers, excellent consumer experience throughout the application of the services, high-grade service and result.”

And, at the end of the day, have a great glass of red white wine for a task well done.

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