Henry Birch is taking a punt that Andy Burton is the heavy hitter he has been looking for to continue to transform Shop Direct’s technology capabilities.
Burton may not be a familiar name to many in retail, but his achievements in the world of technology help explain why Birch was so keen to secure his services as chief technology officer.
Burton will join the Very and Littlewoods owner in May from his current role as a director at The Stars Group, the gaming company that acquired Sky Betting & Gaming in 2018, where Burton spent most of the past decade heading up technology.
A keen sports fan and travel enthusiast, Burton has spent the best part of 30 years developing and integrating new IT systems since graduating from Sheffield University in 1987.
In the late 1990s, Burton was the IT architect behind the pioneering launch of Virgin Mobile, at the time the world’s first mobile virtual network operator, and has also served as technology director at internet service provider Wanadoo following its rebrand from Freeserve.
During nine years at Sky Betting & Gaming, he grew its technology headcount from 18 to 700, established in-house development capabilities and helped the company become the UK’s largest online gaming operator by number of customers.
At the cutting edge
Although this will be Burton’s first major retail role, there are obvious synergies with his experience in gaming. The online betting market is fiercely competitive and the user experience has to be outstanding to ensure customers download your app and continue to use it rather than your rivals’ offering.
Shop Direct has been at the cutting edge of technology since it went online-only in 2015 and Burton, as much as anyone, will appreciate the importance of maintaining a seamless end-to-end journey that keeps customers coming back.
Burton, who will lead a 275-person technology team at Shop Direct, also professes a keen interest in people management and development. He introduced new ways of working at Sky, including agile engineering and lean product development. In an interview with the website Silicon in 2016, he described himself as “very interested in lean-agile people operations and intrinsic motivators to create an environment where people can do their best”.
When Burton joins in May it will end Birch’s protracted search for the right candidate to head up technology at Shop Direct, which is backing AI in a big way to improve personalisation and the mobile and customer experience.
In the meantime, Karl Wintrell and JM Domaingue will jointly oversee the technology team before reverting to new technology director roles, with former head of IT architecture and engineering Wintrell responsible for data science and strategy, and Domaingue leading on operations.