Named in the CIO100 in both 2017 and 2018, and with an enviable career that includes IT leadership roles at easyJet and Brussels Airlines among others, Simon really is an expert in the field. What’s more, since branching out alone to create consultancy start-up, LamTech Solutions, Simon brings a slightly different perspective to questions about the role of the CIO.
The full interview is only available in our forthcoming research paper, CIOs: A 2020 Vision for the Decade Ahead, but, until then, here are some of the key talking points.
Consumerisation and Embracing Change
Kicking things off, we asked Simon what he felt was the biggest challenge faced by CIOs in the last few years:
“Consumerisation is here. It is now easier to set up a cloud-based data centre, procure and deploy strategic enterprise data services into that data centre via a smartphone connected to a 200mb fibre line directly into your living room than it is to do your weekly food shop! IT now has to compete with department heads to help manage a complex IT estate, make it safe, secure, scalable, and, most importantly, make it relevant to the challenges of the day.”
But it’s not all rapid innovation and adapting to consumerisation, as Simon told us, there is still a place for traditional IT management techniques:
“The CIO challenge has been about proving relevance and value to the organisation and demonstrating that the boring humdrum of IT Management – Information Security, Disaster Recovery, Business Continuity – have their place and have a value and must not be taken for granted alongside innovation and creativity.”
“I have seen this first-hand following the Brussels Airport bombing on 22nd March 2016. In the weeks after that attack, we had to keep the operation running despite having no physical airport to run our operation from – we had pop-up sales desks and check-in desks in the back of a van. The technology we deployed in a hurry after that attack then became the blueprint for innovation in African airports and remote bag drop facilities at Tomorrowland dance festival within a year!”
Balancing Short-term Cloud Costs with Long-term Gain
Despite its obvious benefits, the transition from legacy servers to the cloud hasn’t all been plain sailing for many CIOs – whether problems have arisen from migration or cost control. We put this to Simon, who spoke at length on why it’s so important for businesses to understand the reality of cloud costs:
“Organisations need to understand that actually deploying cloud successfully, and, in a secure way, will more than likely increase costs on a like-for-like basis. The role of IT is to demonstrate the added value of cloud: the elasticity of the technology platform, the ability to upgrade the hardware platform without mind-numbing supply chain issues from traditional hosting providers, and closer alignment to annual sales cycles.”
“What goes up must come down. During a recession or downturn in sales, a well-architected cloud solution can be shrunk to meet reduced demand. In the same way that during a boom or major sales promotion the platform can scale to meet demand and generate more revenue."
“Conversely, many organisations work really hard to create a constant known fixed-cost to help financial planning, but very few traditional data centre providers will consider an immediate reduction in cost during a downturn.”
Why Picking the Right Cloud Management Partner is Crucial
Next, the conversation moved to how IT leaders can control cloud costs with confidence. For Simon, the answer is relatively simple:
"Cloud is cheap, it’s pretty much free – or so says the idiot in the corner not paying the bills! Unfortunately, most businesses end up learning the hard way about managing cloud costs. The answer is a cloud management partner that can provide the appropriate tools and controls to help bring cloud services to life, but with named services and a reported cost base against usability.”
“All the organisations I have worked in have been able to report on the number of physical servers installed, their names, server model, age and products installed upon the server. “
“This has to continue into the world of cloud, and the ability of excitable DevOps teams must be managed to control the scale, size and timeline of a server being spun up for a temporary test. The same logic of being texted the size of your mobile phone bill for your company mobile phone must exist for discretionary cloud consumption to team leads within IT departments.”
In fact, according to Simon, the ability to accurately budget and forecast spend for the year ahead is the single most important aspect of harnessing the cloud:
“Having said all of the above, the biggest issue is budgeting and managing your cloud IT spend over the next 12 months during the traditional budget cycle. This is a parallel to budgeting for and planning sprint costs for the following 12 months. This is where an understanding CFO and a friendly financial controller are worth their weight in gold!”
“The magic will come when – as I mentioned earlier – the cost is just a sales cost of the individual revenue generated by each individual transaction. When we get to this stage, the CFO will only be questioning why in January the platform cost was X% of the sale in comparison to November when it was Y%. I live in hope.”
This is just a taster of the insight provided by Simon; we went on to discuss the future of the CIO, forthcoming technological developments, and where the cloud needs to evolve to for IT leaders to have complete confidence in it. To read the interview in full, along with insight from other industry mainstays, and analysis of the prevalent trends revealed, look out for our new research paper, released soon.
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