Colt CIO Mark Leonard on Cloud and office of the future

On the outside it may seem easy to transform a telecommunications company into a technology services provider, but any transformation is by its very nature involved and strategic. Mark Leonard, CIO of London-based Colt, was at the heart of the 2010 transformation of the company.

“Colt has transformed itself and the outward vision of that is that we are no longer Colt Telecom,” says Leonard.

“That transformation process was exciting. As the CIO I was excited to be a key part of the process and excited about the IT more than the brand.”

The first task, he says, was to sell the new Colt to the company’s own employees and involve them in the rebranding and transformation process.

“As a leadership team we decided to launch the brand internally and then earn the right with the employees to launch the new corporate identity,” Leonard explains.

“Discussions with them concentrated on us no longer being a telecoms company. We created a new mission statement, vision and new organisational values. These were workshopped through the business and 20 proof points were identified for the entire company to deliver by the end of 2010,” he says of the transformation process and the full involvement of the Colt staff.

“We have delivered on this culturally, technologically and in the managed service business. So we have taken the whole company on a journey.”

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Tied into that cultural change and new business model at Colt was a move to the “office of the future”, which Leonard des­cribes as a new approach to providing computing to his workforce. At the heart of it Colt is embracing the consumerisation-of-IT debate that ran throughout 2010 and looks set to be a big topic again in 2011.

“I told the workforce that they had a better experience of IT at home than they did at work; this is not exclusive to Colt, and in fact the same can be said of most organisations,” says Leonard.

“The megalithic nature of what [CIOs] have tried to provide over the years has become very inflexible for customers to use,” he says of the technology that IT leaders have to provide their organisations.

Today Colt has a bring-your-own-PC policy and is at the forefront of cloud adoption. “These steps have opened the doors for proper collaboration and unified communications,” he says.

The IT transformation began with a pilot of 300 staff at the Colt HQ a stone’s throw from the City of London. The trial had a 96 per cent satisfaction result, which gave Leonard the confidence to continue the rollout across Colt.

The material changes brought by bring-your-own-PC and cloud computing are just a part of the IT transformation within the overhaul of Colt, and Leonard has also been busy changing the cultural attitude to IT within the organisation.

“We see ‘user’ as a word associated with dependency and a dependency culture. So that means people come into work and lose their independence,” he explains.

“We have developed a self-service capability for IT. You can set up your own SharePoint site by applying for it online and it is then fulfilled online. Previously we were getting 6000 requests a month for shared directories. Our new culture is all about ­being collaborative.”