John is CTO for SAS UK and Ireland. John's role is to advise and counsel CxOs, Directors and business managers on the capabilities and value of new methods and technologies in providing business enhancing services.
John capitalizes on using practical enterprise architecture approaches to create and implement large-scale solutions and transformations for a number of Blue Chip companies.
John's journey through life includes:
- CTO and Technical Assurance Advisor for the Architecture and governance programme in a major transformation from mainframe and Access based systems to multi-channel, multi-product based architectural components leveraging existing investment. Circa 650M GBP.
- A key leader on the overall Design Authority for the delivery of transformation of all IT systems in the UK National Health Service (NHS) for Southern England and London.
- Innovation director for a Technology company, focussed on healthcare, financial services and retail industry sectors.
- Worldwide consolidation of P&L accounts to allow analytic assessment of grey markets and timely delivery of corporate accounts.
- Rationalisation of Global MIS and data warehousing systems from over 40 separate data systems to three key information platforms.
- Technology and business operational consolidation of three major UK retail banks.
- Worldwide CRM architecture for a Mobile Telecommunications company.
- Managing and leading the Architecture Team and defining the IT Strategy for Central Government Revenue Management and accounting including call centre consolidation, channel specification for customer self-service covering WAP, SMS, internet, iDTV, mobilization.
John holds a BSc degree in Astronomy and Mathematics. He is a Fellow and Chartered IT Practitioner with the Chartered Institute of IT (British Computer Society), a European Engineer with Feani, and a Chartered Engineer.
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
Can you explain some practical enterprise architecture approaches to create and implement large-scale solutions and transformations?
"....Where you see the real alternative value being over a 5 or 10 year post of you going live helps you choose some of the components and helps influence the value of some of the components that you are going to have within your solution and makes sure you have alignment between your technology, business and the business change....What specific features in the services that you are delivering, architecting and providing are allowing you to include flexibility, interoperability, adaptability....We keep talking about extendibility and how you can grow that infrastructure to meet new challenges, but in today's world how can you deal with shrinkage....Risk and opportunity assessment...."
Please provide your recommendations for the transformation from mainframe and access based systems to multi-channel, multi-product based architectural components leveraging existing investments?
"....From my perspective, follow the data, think about the people and the change, and put in place a change program that allows you to evolve and really look at eliminating limitations and focus on the value that organization is delivering...."
Please share your best practices from the transformation of all IT systems in the UK National Health Service (NHS) for Southern England and London.
"....To make sure we had a joined up government process from a technology aspect, but also a clinical process to understand the clinical risk and who acted as advisors of what would be the best approach, and also some of the variations that needed to be included as part of storing and securing information....It is extremely difficult to write a contract that would cover every single scenario of everything that happens within something like the NHS — so the contract itself was at a very logical level....We had to have a huge coming together of customers, stakeholders and shareholders to understand what was the right approach, relationship, and the right way to communicate what we were trying to do on such a massive program....Another key area was around who has access to the customer data and patient records and who owns patient data, and we found there were a number of legal and legislation changes that had to be taken into account...."
How would you implement the analytic assessment of grey markets?
"....What we came up with was a framework approach of how we would define and use the information to decide on which countries were our high targets and if we could impact there and understand what kinds of goods were coming in there and knowing that would then help in limiting that....It all came down to having data about perception and having data about what actually was happening in that country and understanding what people might do...."
John talks about the key steps for the rationalization of Global MIS and data warehousing systems to key information platforms.
"....A key step I always ensure we do is we look at reference data — where are the duplicate copies of our information that is our reference data, and which one is the master copy....On top of data you need to build some services, maintenance services for the data and governance services for how the data can be used. Logically for a global organization you are not going to hold the data in one place; you will have secondary copies of that information but that needs to end up with strict control....You need to focus on the core of your data, the core of the MIS system, the data that changes the most....Having a staged approach of aggregating the data together helps build up that information....."
What are your best practices for defining and planning the technology and business operational consolidation of major business units?
"....What leadership styles are dominant in that organization?....Understand the culture in the organization....Stakeholder management is key....When you're looking at a large change you have to think about what's the right technology that you want to include and still want to be here in 6 or 7 years....People look at the technical way of delivering the technology, so often they don't consider what the business value is in delivering this component....My observation is that too often the planning is done in a rush to get the project started without actually thinking about the impact that the project will have on the organization..."
John shares some useful lessons from his work of managing and leading the Architecture Team and defining the IT Strategy for Central Government Revenue Management and accounting, including call centre consolidation, channel specification for customer self-service covering WAP, SMS, internet, iDTV, mobilization and so on.
"....Choose the team well — it's something that is a real skill....The communication aspect as well as the alignment and understanding across the different architect views are key to building these teams....An important thing to do as a manager is help them (the team) become very self-conscious about what's the right priority to solve this problem and to keep this customer view in mind....I'm very keen on change control boards or business change that have all levels of an organization involved in it — from people on the ground all the way to the management there...."
What are your added recommendations on leveraging, using and implementing Big Data?
"....Developing your own talent who understand the data is key and they need to have some of that science (some of that is about mathematical methods and the techniques to use), but it's also about joining the dots between what the business is looking for, what the data is telling you, and how to interpret that data, and the methods that we use to interpret that data...."
What do you see as the top challenges facing IT leaders in 2013 and what are the solutions?
"....The top one for me is talent....Another one is about redefining IT....One that is part of my heart is Data....The other ones are key to what's happening in our environment. I think the whole cyber-security world is just exploding and will continue to explode.....Another key one is what is IT's role? IT leaders need to be better business partners and need to understand what the business is doing.... "
What do you then see as the top opportunities in 2013?
"....The opportunity to change the business clock to move faster, to simplify some of the processes that have been embedded into organizations....Another opportunity is about modernization....More and more I'm going into companies and they want to have a better understanding of what their business is doing and sometimes it's technology and sometimes it's data driven, but in all of these we are finding they are asking for people who have good business knowledge and a scientific understanding who can bring to them not just management techniques....I also see a key role for IT leaders to start looking at some of the new sciences, new technologies and new methods and processes of working with the business in some sort of innovation council to help them to understand the potential of what these are both competitively, but also to differentiate the company services in their marketplace....Lastly I think behavioral systems are going to be more and more interesting...."
What are the top resources that you use?
"....My top resource is my top personal contacts — people that I know across the industry that have similar types of problems and issues....I have to keep track of what's happening within the technology space, but I also have to keep track of what people are thinking within our business....I use resources like the BBC to actually keep myself a bit balanced about what is it that we are doing and how might that fit in with citizenship.... "
What do you see as the next top disruptive technologies that will be coming up in the next few years and how will they have impact?
"....That's a very difficult question to answer because there are so many things that people focus on that they think are going to be disruptive and it's just about evolution and change....Big Data is disruptive....A disruptive technology of a different type are legacy systems....Utility computing....How technology is used to identify where you are, your location and what you are doing....The visualization of information...."
In your work, because you work globally and because you advise so many companies and governments around the world are there areas of controversy that impact you or perhaps impact your clients?
"....We've moved them away from the data into what is the right thing to do for the customer and what is the right thing to do in the industry....The need for transparency of information, transparency of data — the transparent corporate world and I think that causes quite a bit of consternation....The IT industry is still very immature and slowly we are starting to realize that we need to have greater professionalism in place...We need to build in more education, the core skills that are going to enable engineering and enable a lot of different worlds to be opened up to our children because the world is changing....Security....Privacy....Project and implementation life cycle...."
Do you feel computing should be a recognized profession on par with accounting, medicine and law with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, personal responsibility, public accountability, quality assurance and recognized credentials? [See www.ipthree.org and the Global Industry Council, http://www.ipthree.org/about-ip3/global-advisory-council]
"....Yes, that's my short answer I'm very positive....IT is maturing into a very key part of sciences that are needed to support our citizens, our climate and the world, but I also think that IT left ungoverned (left without those safety checks in place), can make a very dangerous world....To make sure that we build systems that can be trusted, that are credible and that are safe for our citizens, I think we have a long way to go within that. I think there is perhaps a two-tier type world at the moment...."
From his extensive speaking, travels, and work, John shares some stories (amusing, surprising, unexpected, amazing).
"....I've built into my timeline, to deliberately make friends and talk to customers for an extended period of time (not just turning up, quick face meetings talking about some issues and some snazzy technology and then off), but actually spending time to build up that people relationship...."
If you were conducting this interview, what question would you ask, and then what would be your answer?
"....What else is there that is starting to change or starting to influence the world that a CTO should be thinking about?...."
John, with your demanding schedule, we are indeed fortunate to have you come in to do this interview. Thank you for sharing your deep experiences with our audience.
Music by Sunny Smith Productions and Shaun O'Leary