Global CIO: $100-Billion Tesco Kicks CIO Upstairs To CEO

As the $100-billion retailer accelerates its use of IT as a strategic weapon in its global expansion, Tesco CIO Philip Clarke will take the reins as CEO on March 1.

Bob Evans, Contributor

February 1, 2011

4 Min Read

After graduating with an economics degree from Liverpool university, he joined Tesco's management trainee scheme in 1981. Roles as a store manager, product buyer and marketeer followed.

He joined the Tesco board in 1998 and has worked closely alongside [outgoing CEO Sir Terry Leahy] as the group has expanded overseas, taking on the likes of Wal-Mart and Carrefour.

That international experience, say sources, was key to him winning the job. Tesco's growth in the coming years will likely be driven by the success of its international operations.

(End of excerpt.)

That's certainly true, but Clarke's outlook also underscores that he'll be leaning on his experiences in orchestrating a massive set of global applications and processes as Tesco continues to expand into new geographic markets with new offerings for consumers. "The delicatessen counter in China has to be different from the delicatessen counter in Korea, but behind the scenes we have tried to make sure that our business processes, our systems, our structures—everything is laid out for countries," Clarke is quoted as saying in the piece.

Clarke led Tesco's expansion into India and South Korea, the article said, and among his priorities is ensuring that Tesco has not only the systems required to operate on such a scale, but also the collaborative culture that will allow it to move as fast as its customers in pursuing ideas and opportunities. And to do that, Clarke told the Telegraph, he'll need to spend significant time away from corporate headquarters and be immersed in the marketplace with customers, suppliers, stores, and employees—all of which sounds like perfect advice for today's CIOs, whether or not they aspire to be a CEO.

"I'm not going to run Tesco from Cheshunt," he said. "What I love to do is walk the stores, meet the staff and listen to the customers, because it all happens there. As chief executive my job is to be sure that we are meeting the needs of customers and that we are looking after our staff."

Replacing Clarke as CIO will be the company's current IT director, Mike McNamara, who as CIO will report to Clarke, according to a news story on the website. Earlier in his Tesco career, McNamara had been the CTO of the retailer's online business.

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About the Author(s)

Bob Evans


Bob Evans is senior VP, communications, for Oracle Corp. He is a former InformationWeek editor.

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