Cloud Cover takes over Europe

Cloud Cover takes over Europe

Now’s the time to consider Cloud applications & Contact Centre Services in the Cloud

Cloud providers coming into Europe in their droves as the demand rises

In a research report from Computer Weekly nine months ago they stated that cloud providers like IBM, Microsoft and were building datacentres in Europe in response to in-country data protection concerns effectively moving the Cloud into Europe. Microsoft also continues to successfully embrace the cloud and mobile by decoupling Office365 from its Windows desktop platform.

More recently we are seeing major Cloud providers such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google and VMware all building datacentres in the European Union (EU) as locally based enterprises insist their cloud data stays in the region. One such cloud provider, IBM, also announced the opening of a SoftLayer datacentre in Paris by the end of 2014.

This was IBM’s third cloud-focused facility in Europe, after its Amsterdam datacentre and the more recent UK facility in Chessington. The Parisian datacentre will be part of IBM’s $1.2bn overall plan to build 15 datacentres across Europe.

Other vendors such as Genesys, a major player in Contact Centre software solutions is now leading the way forward with Contact Centre Cloud services installing their software in data centres across the UK and the European region.

Genesys have also focussed heavily on the other well-spoken subject of security and as such their Cloud has PCI Level 1 certification, SOC 2 certifications and HIPAA compliance. Their data centres have ISAE 3402 and ISO 27001 certifications and their virtualisation architecture ensures separation and security of customer-specific data. This is driving the Contact Centre in the Cloud and bringing more flexibility and commercial attractiveness to users.

Another Contact Centre player, Interactive Intelligence, has announced that it has been named one of four Market Leaders in Ovum’s MultiChannel Cloud Contact Centre Report with the most flexible cloud deployment options being one of the key contributors to its leadership position. Interactive Intelligence has been an early adopter deploying cloud based solutions well ahead of others and as a result sees more than 50% of its new customers deploying in the Cloud.

The European Commission has highlighted three main areas of focus in its digital single market strategy.

  1. Making it easier to access digital services online
  2. Investing in digital networking infrastructure, and
  3. Create a European digital economy

Barriers such as geo-blocking, lack of cross-border delivery initiatives and other technical issues currently prevent many citizens from using cross-border digital services, such as online shopping or sharing digital goods.

The commission aims to review current telecoms and media rules to promote growth of digital services and networks. This will also encourage investment in infrastructure, faster rollout of 4G and data protection development. This strategy has been observed over the British 2015 summer with the marketing campaigns from the mobile operators attempting to remove the cross border roaming changes we are all so familiar with when using mobile data abroad.

“For those Cloud sceptics out there, I think the race is on and the proof is in the eating”, states Craig Ashmole, Founding Partner of London based IT Consulting CCServe Ltd. “The CIO community should be taking note and if not using cloud in earnest then they should be seriously considering some elements of non-core application usage to ensure their IT departments are able to skill up and test for robustness.”

Having spent a majority of my career working with and supporting the Corporate CIO Function, I now seek to provide a forum whereby CIOs or IT Directors can learn from the experience of others to address burning Change or Transformation challenges.

Craig Ashmole

Founding Director CCServe

Boardroom Technology time bomb

Boardroom Technology time bomb

Board member time bomb for those not focused at Technology

We should actually be concerned about things boards are ‘NOT’ discussing

There have been many articles written about placing IT technology agendas on the boardroom table and also many recent blogs about the potential demise of the CIO role as the CMO or CDO leap forward into the limelight of corporate awareness. This is not surprising as in many corporations today the CIO or technology officers still do not have a voice let alone a seat at the boardroom table.

CEOs and their executive leadership teams should recognise that if they don’t have the technology knowledge at their fingertips then they are making corporate decisions in the dark. Boards should be building technology agendas into the core of their medium term business strategy, if they don’t want to be overtaken by their competition. The digital agenda does drive business growth and in turn revenue and market share – so this is why CEOs should be consciously recognising technology does have a say in the way that the business grows.

“One area of change I see in the corporate executive shuffle of today’s businesses is the aspiration to own the digital space”, comments Craig Ashmole, Founding Partner of London based IT consulting CCServe. “Marketing executives understand the digital needs and CIOs feel threatened that they do, but it is Technology that’s required to make it all happen”.

Technology executives need to move with the times supporting marketing initiatives, being creative while efficiently using technology and becoming enablers rather than gatekeepers, then gaps wont develop within the executive ranks nor will ‘shadow IT’ proliferate over the corporation.

Board members should take their quota of responsibility to open up wider discussions around how the company grows its business efficiently using technology otherwise they are likely to fall behind. As a counter argument the CIO or technology leaders need to do their bit, which requires them to better understand how to be a commercial business leader not just a ‘tech-na-geek’ hiding behind technology – the CIO role needs to be a commercial business leader who understands where innovative technology will make a difference.

When a company grows through acquisition or chooses to carve-out non core elements of its business, this is another compelling reason to have ones IT technology ‘in-shape’ enabling the ease of separation or reducing merger ‘join-up’ time, which obviously reduces cost of acquisition.

So some areas of food for thought!

How well is the present IT Technology strategy delivering?

By putting the CIO or the technology agenda on the agenda of the boardroom table will enable all executives to better understand their position in the marketplace. The CIO needs to be able to articulate this in business language not technical language.

Can you clearly establish business efficiency from ones technology?

The CIO should be making rapid change or transformation within his department, moving day to day functional utilities services, like IT desktop support, software application management, Network / Telecoms services into more efficient engagement models some of which may well be outsourced service partners. The focus for internal resources can then be more effectively focussed at innovative solutions or applications that will drive corporate business and revenue growth. In other words move away from the old school technology ‘Ivory Towers’ and massive IT departments to mean lean agile innovative technology enablement.

If you are an ecommerce organisation; have you addressed a payments, mobility strategy?

One of the biggest areas of growth/change presently is in the mobile payments and Near Field Communications (NFC) areas. With Apple and the mobile market place looking to drive payments with your smart phone and the Credit Card banking players trying to open up automatic payments by NFC and chip-and-pin touch payments there’s a lot going on.

With the likes of electronic payments company’s such as the traditional PayPal and SagePay we are also seeing the big power houses of both Amazon and Google engaging and driving electronic payments strategies. More recently the major European region the acquisition of Skrill by Optimal Payments has created a new power house payments group which will see rapid technology advancement.

Do your customers have the tools or applications needed to do business with you?

The CIO or IT Department has for so long been inwardly focussed and this has to change. The old school approach of saying that the service or application has not been approved or developed by the IT dept. so it is not permitted to be used; has to go. IT should be the enabler when users bring new ideas to the forefront while looking to how they could efficiently bring new services or applications into the business in a controlled and security conscious manner.

Is security a worry for you? If it’s not then you are in trouble already.

This has to be the one area that you should never say never. The likes of the recent hacks like Ashley Maddison, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Apple iCloud should be a constant reminder that one should never be complaisant when it comes to data security and in keeping your customer data or PII Personal Identifiable Information (email, tel numbers, credit card and passwords) secure. This is a wide subject but should in all respects have a dedicated leader within the business driving this department ensuring that you keep your business safe from the world of hackers and fraudsters.

“So the time bomb that needs to be subdued is the ever widening gap between corporate board members and the understanding of the value technology brings to a corporation.” Craig goes on to say, “Corporate decisions; like where to expand the business geographically or whether to go through with an acquisition should not be made in the ‘dark’, and it is technology that could potentially make the difference to success or failure with those corporate board decisions.”

Having spent a majority of my career working with and supporting the Corporate CIO Function, I now seek to provide a forum whereby CIOs or IT Directors can learn from the experience of others to address burning Change or Transformation challenges.

Craig Ashmole

Founding Director CCServe

Merger IT Survival Tactics

Merger IT Survival Tactics

Survival tactics during a business merger

When engaging in a merger or acquisition the complexity of issues for consolidation of staff and technology becomes a highly charged and often underestimated undertaking.

Apart from the obvious joining up of financial and fiscal systems in an acquisition, IT plays a major role as different IT systems must be consolidated and made to work together, in order to reduce acquisition cost creep. Bringing in senior consulting skills from outside the company to manage the Transformation programme or IT change could be as critical as the target acquisition for the business.

“Board members all know that a merger has risk which needs to be managed — not only politically but technically. It’s about how to reduce, what I call, post-merger ‘Join-up time’ that really makes a successful acquisition.” Suggests Craig Ashmole, Founding Partner at London based CCServe Consulting. “In my opinion an executive or board appointed key ‘Point-of-Contact’ is required, bridging the Board with the Operational side of the merging companies, and someone without emotional ties to those same employees.”

In a post-merger situation making the right choices and decisions and pushing the right buttons to get things done on time and under budget are key objectives – not easily made when one is personally professionally close to individuals that you might be releasing as a result of consolidation. This is where the independent approach works best; as senior skilled Change consultants don’t carry baggage, they carry the ability and gravitas to understand what needs to be done, make tough decisions, and to attempt to do it under budget.

“In a recent M&A due diligence exercise I was engaged, one of the key factors observed and what ultimately resulted in a successful acquisition was ‘being transparent’ in dialogue between the acquirer and the acquired parties, so ensure to have a functional communication strategy in place”, Craig goes on to say.

Reading an interesting article by Mary Shacklett I found some key and not-so-obvious points which endorse what I consider key actions while driving an acquisition or carve-out, namely:-

1: Understand what is really at stake

Mergers aren’t just “clinical” projects that convert systems so they work together. For IT and throughout the organisation’s involved, mergers mean that some jobs are likely to be consolidated as well. Some staffers are going to keep their jobs while others might not. Then there comes the bun fight of who’s more skilled or who has more value for the business. Not forgetting IT staff also have technical allegiance to systems that it may be familiar with. So if a favoured system is designated for termination, there could be fear and bitterness especially if it eliminates particular technical skill sets required. IT engineers are often creatures of habit.

2: Consider sabotage in your risk management strategy

Consolidation between two companies often creates a “victim” company whose systems are going away, where IT staffers may be uncooperative or withhold vital information needed to safely convert their systems to the new platform. This is a subtle form of non-cooperation, so not really pure “sabotage” but one done to try to hold on to their positions and in some cases where severe elements of this happen as pure anger and desire for the acquisition to fail.

Something not to be missed is the inherent risk of converting what I call bespoke unprotected and unsupported applications or “black box” solutions without clear documentation. If it’s a high dependent application then this is high risk for open standards conversion.

3: Communicate the “Good” the “Bad” and the “Evil”

When project news is bad, give it to the people in what I refer to as no-nonsense straight-talking and as quickly as possible once it’s been brought to your attention. Some project managers struggle to deliver bad news, then small problems fester until they become insurmountable. Seasoned interim business executives understand how difficult system consolidations are, so are usually strong executive stakeholder managers. A seasoned Business Change consultant will also quickly see the development of out of place staff actions or activities which may well prevent corporate data loss or fraud. I have even seen IT staff loading servers and PCs onto trucks when moving departments and then selling them on from their garages.

4: Lay out your staffing plans as soon as reasonably possible

If some staffers are going to lose their positions because of the merger, ensure to negotiate reasonable settlements and provide employment assistance for them as part of the cost of acquisition. This should be managed and actioned as early on as possible to prevent disruption of those staying on. Get new organisational structures communicated sooner rather than later as this provides untold stress and drops staffing moral the longer it is left.

5: Ensure that there is a vendor strategy

Vendors don’t like to be the ‘fall-guy’ in an acquisition so be prepared for some vendors to be unusually and sometimes unreasonably slow to respond to requests for de-commission programs, especially if they start to throw their contract terms at you.

The vendor contract should be reviewed early on to understand the risk factors for a de-commission. Also in my view you can use the ‘stick and carrot’ approach as no vendor wants to have the market told that they have lost a key account and in the carrot method giving a vendor more of the ‘pie’ can enable more favourable cost points or better contract terms.

So in Summary

One cannot ever overdo visibility in a Change Transformation project so keep the executive stakeholders appraised on the complications and sensitivities, and of course, the achievements as they come – weekly communication in my view with the use of visible colour coded charts and a big favourite of mine the RAG chart ( Red Amber Green; charts on all workstreams) as most often project success is when the executives are in knowledgeable control and there are no sudden curve balls thrown in their direction.

Having spent a majority of my career working with and supporting the Corporate CIO Function, I now seek to provide a forum whereby CIOs or IT Directors can learn from the experience of others to address burning Change or Transformation challenges.

Craig Ashmole

Founding Director CCServe

Dual paths of the CIO Role

Dual paths of the CIO Role

Why do we spend so much time scrutinising the role of the CIO?

Much of the reason is probably as a result of the pace of technology change

With every major computing paradigm that comes along driven by vendor marketing departments, CEOs tend to worry when their competitors do well at quarterly fiscal announcements that they are leveraging technology better, potentially asking:-

“We must not have the right kind of CIO!”
“We have an operations person, but we need an innovator!” or
“We have a visionary but our operations are inefficient!” or
“Our CIO is not technical enough!” or “Our CIO is too technical!”

Having recently read a report provided by CA Technologies on the ‘Changing Role of IT’ it is bound to raise even more questions about the role of the life of the CIO role.

According to this research, more than 70% of CIOs are reporting to CEOs, which signals a rise in the strategic significance of IT; however a mere 14% of CIOs see their role as a driver of new business initiatives. Also from the research, many CIOs have finally been able to strike a 50-50 balance between spending on new products versus spending on maintenance; but despite this success in IT investment management, CIOs are giving away their budget: More than 35% of IT spending is occurring outside of the IT department, or what is commonly called ‘Shadow IT’.

With technology now becoming as ubiquitous to a company’s operations as the finance function, we may have to be realistic to the notion of saying farewell to one centralised technology leader in the business. Realistically technology strategy, spending decisions, and resources will extend out of IT into other business functions or external third parties due to demanding digital agendas in order to serve all of a company’s technology needs.

According to the report the CIO role is evolving along two interesting parallel paths:

The Chief Innovation Officer:

One group of CIOs will travel on the innovation path. These CIOs will leave IT operations to someone else as they focus on the convergence between engineering, R&D, and software development. They will build organisations populated by entrepreneurial types who look toward data, software, and even business processes for new revenue ideas. They will meet with external customers, forge partnerships with universities, launch innovation labs, acquire technology services, and lead the charge in getting their business’s executives to focus on the future. These CIOs can create a vision of future products, business models, and customer engagement channels, and they have the credibility to inspire their colleagues to believe them and to follow.

The Chief Shared Services Officer:

CIOs that have spent their careers running air-tight operations might just not have the gene for business model innovation. Or maybe they have the gene, but their CEOs do not see them as innovators. All is not lost for this breed of CIO however. Having spent their careers managing large operations that deliver a complex array of IT services to tough customers, these CIOs will outsource more and more of IT and free themselves up to manage other key business services. Just because IT operations are being commoditised does not mean that “operational CIOs” should be commoditised, as well. If they play their cards right, CIOs who excel at running IT as a support function, will expand their roles into other shared functions, like legal, procurement, and HR.

This CIO might even wind up in the new Chief Business Process Officer role beginning to emerge in the executive suite corridors. These CIOs will hand innovation over to those business executives who are clamouring for a piece of the IT budget. But rather than be relegated to an IT services babysitter, these CIOs will take their considerable expertise with business process change, continuous improvement, project management, and vendor management and bring a new era of leadership to their companies. These CIOs will run IT organisations that are largely outsourced; they will populate their organisations with people who have expertise in vendor management and a wide array of business processes while maintaining corporate process standards and SLA’s.

“Technology certainly is turning the whole businesses upside down, as CEOs everywhere struggle to find the best way to manage and leverage IT.” commented Craig Ashmole, Founding Partner of London based CCserve consulting. “This is why so many industry experts are talking about the CEO having the CIO at the boardroom table, as IT done ‘right’ will be critical for Digital proliferation and business market growth.”

It makes sense that as technology increases its impact on businesses, the role of the technology leader will evolve. The key for every CIO today is know which path plays to your strengths, and get a grip with the evolution and be the new technology leader of the 2020’s.

Having spent a majority of my career working with and supporting the Corporate CIO Function, I now seek to provide a forum whereby CIOs or IT Directors can learn from the experience of others to address burning Change or Transformation challenges.

Craig Ashmole

Founding Director CCServe

IT role in Corporate Acquisitions

IT role in Corporate Acquisitions

IT role in Acquire, or Not-to-Acquire

The changing landscape of the IT Technology arena within corporate Merger or Carve-out

To acquire, or Not-to-acquire – The question most CEOs ask their CFO is:- Will the transaction drive financial rewards and what are the risks, but really the glaring missing player here is the CIO!

Ask yourself, How many CFOs have you come across that have a full and clear understanding of the value an ‘Open and connectable’ versus ‘out-dated and proprietary’ IT department can make in driving business revenue growth.

This means that Board Executives are negotiating in the dark and potentially loosing large percentages of cost of sale value. There couldn’t be a better time for the CEO to bring the CIO to the table.

Businesses today are under more pressure than ever to deliver value to stakeholders, particularly when undertaking bold initiatives such as mergers, acquisitions or asset disposals. This is true not only for corporate acquirers but also for private equity (PE) or Venture Capital (VC) firms, whose strategy is leaning toward add on acquisitions as a means of growing their portfolio companies.

Under the current economic conditions and the rising cost of debt, corporate business management teams will require additional focus on effort in order to restructure or streamline operations, and specifically the IT departments of acquired businesses to deliver success in the absence of financial engineering. For a while now Information Technology (IT) is fast becoming a key lever which management can use to deliver operational benefits — whether in reducing operational costs, entering emerging markets or scaling their business across multiple geographic regions. With the advances in technology and its impact on today’s business models, companies are increasingly pushing the boundaries to remain competitive. IT is one key area to do this — Technology should be looked at as a business enabler and not look at as so many boards still do today, as a cost to do business.

“The sooner that executive boards put the CIO or the IT department on their monthly agenda as a regular discussion point the better,” says Craig Ashmole, Founding Partner of London based CCServe consulting. In my humble experience and far too often I see the CIO struggling to get the ear of the CEO or even agendas on the board table; businesses need to view IT as a business enabler rather than viewed purely as a cost centre.”

Part of the reason the CIO is not at the board table is that often they do not speak the language of the business board executive. Technology scares most senior board members and until the Generation Y and Generation X group get into those senior positions we will continue to see a disparity with Technology and Fiscal business matters.

The CIO challenge is to do his/her bit too, they really need to fully engage with the commercial business functions, and stop hiding behind technology to protect themselves. The ‘head-in-the-sand’ CIO will have a rapidly growing threat from the likes of the CMO or emerging CDO Digital Officer. Understanding the business functions that deliver revenue is a key focus going forward.

With the fluid market of M&A today there are two clear distinct areas a corporate or global business can go with this. One; is to look at how costly it will be to split companies up or carve out elements that are no longer key areas of business growth for that organisation and IT efficiency should be at the forefront, not just fiscal separation.

The other area on the acquiring side of an M&A transaction – Many CEO/CFOs look at the cost of acquisition proposed by the big 5 consultancy houses, often building in huge elements of ‘cost of sale’ to mitigate IT integration risk especially where transaction teams are uncertain.

“Making ones own IT and infrastructure easy to connect with while utilising open standards or cloud services could help the process of bringing together two disparate lines of business,” Craig Ashmole goes on to say, “More importantly M&A is about the shortest time to ‘joined-up’ business revenue growth which gets the attention of the CEO. Well prepared IT and infrastructure are key success elements to that joined-up process.”

There is a large growth of non-accounting technology focused personnel being hired into the Big-5 consulting transaction teams as more emphasis is given to IT & Technology within the merger/carve-out transaction process. This however should be a balanced process, in my opinion, with ones own CIO office within the organisation. What an IT department or CIO office may lack however is in the broader wider exposure that seasoned interim independent consultants might bring to the negotiations. Independent interim IT consultants have often engaged in similar situations or have awareness skills from engaging in many other organisations as they move from assignment to assignment.

Whatever the CEO or board choose to do as they grow through acquisition, or transform through business carve-out, they have to put the IT agenda firmly on the boardroom table and should seriously consider taking advantage of the experience and quick turn-round support that so many senior and interim consultants have to offer, to support their own CIOs.

Having spent a majority of my career working with and supporting the Corporate CIO Function, I now seek to provide a forum whereby CIOs or IT Directors can learn from the experience of others to address burning Change or Transformation challenges.

Craig Ashmole

Founding Director CCServe