top of page

De La Rue

Managing IT Through Investment - Case Study

Chris Johnson, former CIO of De La Rue

De La Rue describes itself as ‘World Experts in Cash Management’. It is the world's largest commercial security printer and papermaker, involved in the production of over 150 national currencies and a wide range of security documents such as passports, authentication labels and fiscal stamps. Around the world, central banks use De La Rue equipment to count and sort notes quickly, reliably and in large quantities, helping them to reduce the cost of handling cash. In 2007 the company won the Queen’s Award for Innovation for the 11th time in its history.




A Sale and a Separation

On September 1st 2008, following a strategic review of the business, just under 50% of De La Rue’s global business was sold to the Carlyle Group, one of the world’s largest private equity firms. As a result the majority of De La Rue’s Cash Systems Division became Talaris and De La Rue was able to focus on its core business areas of currency, security products and cash processing.


However, IT across the whole enterprise was well integrated and therefore the challenge was to split the two businesses whilst keeping all systems and services up and running, Incumbent in the sale was the condition that IT would be properly separated within six months of the date of agreement. A budget of £1.2 million was set aside to do this.


Chris Johnson, CIO of De La Rue at the time, says, ‘in some respects we were suddenly a victim of our own success. The building of seamless, integrated systems across multiple business units is something most organisations aim for – it now became the problem.’ Planning for the separation began in the months preceding the sale. Chris’s resources were suddenly stretched as obviously business as usual and current customer projects didn’t go away. So when Chris was asked by CEO Leo Quinn (who, having returned £360m to the shareholders, left De La Rue at the end of 2008 to be replaced by James Hussey) to programme manage the overall business separation he knew he had to call on outside help for the IT element of the change. It required someone who had the requisite IT expertise, the Change Management skills and the personality to pull together both existing De La Rue and the ‘to be’ Talaris IT staff and get them working together on the splitting of IT services and assets. The time element of six months from date of sale was crucial, as was sticking to the budget.

Filling My Shoes
"I had worked with Chris Billimore before when we were both directors at Invensys Plc. Chris had since set up CIO Plus with his partner John Berney and I knew that he could act ‘in loco CIO’ as well as bringing his wide network of experienced IT professionals to the table to deal with specific challenges that might arise.
Chris was someone I could trust and rely on and who I knew could get the job done making minimal demands on my time thus allowing me to concentrate on the legal, commercial and facilities aspects of the sale. Employing CIO Plus meant that I was getting Chris’ expertise on a daily basis. He would manage the delivery of the IT separation, calling on CIO Plus associates when required.
I also knew he was a good negotiator with strong commercial ability who would handle the necessary adjustments to contracts with software suppliers and other 3rd parties. What I was buying was certainty and the security of knowing that the job would be carried out the way I would have done it myself."

Chris Johnson

Getting Down to Business 


CIO Plus were hired in May 2008 and straight away identified 16 sub-projects within an overall IT separation programme including Network, Active Directory, ERPs, Messaging, HR, Treasury and Financial Reporting Systems as well as several Engineering Systems. A project manager was appointed for each of these, some from De La Rue and some from Talaris.


These projects could not, in the main, be carried out in isolation so a bi-weekly forum was established to discuss and check progress, to facilitate communication and to manage inter-project dependencies. As many of the key personnel from both ‘retained’ and ‘sold’ organisations were deeply involved in the separation, CIO Plus also called on their established network of infrastructure and security experts, server specialists and IT process re-engineering practitioners to ensure that internal services and projects continued to be delivered.

Challenges become Successes

The strength of the internal project managers and the well-embedded project methodology and document sharing capabilities (via Sharepoint) that already existed within De La Rue meant that progress was swift. It also freed Chris Billimore to focus on the more awkward commercial negotiations with 3rd party suppliers and software vendors.

Amongst the most complex aspects of the separation were the dozen or so globally spread, physically shared sites where either the continuing De La Rue or the new Talaris local business had historically been dependent on the other for Finance and IT Services. In establishing independent IT services for several of these sites (e.g. Australia, France, Spain, Netherlands), it was necessary first to rapidly outsource the Finance services to a local provider. Chris ensured these contracts were established and service transitions executed quickly and effectively ahead of putting the new IT services in place.

Chris Billimore says, ‘the single biggest challenge we faced overall was the lack of a properly deployed asset management tool. Had this been established and in place prior to September 2008, many of the areas of subsequent tension and disagreement between De La Rue and Talaris would have either not arisen or else would have been simpler to resolve. As things were, there was no accurate view of the pre-existing (pre-sale) software licence landscape and not being certain as to how many of a particular licence were owned, deployed and where such licences were held made splitting them between the two organizations a significant challenge, only overcome through a substantial amount of negotiation and compromise.’

Completion – and within budget!

From November 2008, specific projects were delivered and by the end of February 2009 the separation was complete leaving both companies with established IT functions capable of delivering business as usual services and projects. In De La Rue’s case, exciting times lie ahead for the IT function under its new leader, Kev Cooper, who is now closely embedded with the board of the continuing De La Rue business and who is working to ensure that his developing IT strategy is tightly entwined with the De La Rue business strategy and vision being espoused by new CEO James Hussey. Kev’s challenge is to run a responsive and agile IT function that enables business change and value creation now the Talaris transition programme is complete.

Summarising the IT transition, Chris Johnson says, ‘we are delighted with the outcomes. CIO Plus brought a relentless focus on delivery to this programme. The freeing of my own time through utilizing CIO Plus on the IT transition was a critical factor in the success of the overall separation vindicating my choice of partner.’ New CEO, James Hussey says, ‘Chris did an outstanding job in delivering this change programme.’

bottom of page