‘This is an incredibly creative organisation; we are fast paced and operate in a deadline-driven environment,” says
Barry Smith, Head of IT at the UK-based but global architecture house founded by Lord Norman Foster. Read the full profile.
February 7, 2014
1. Leadership by design for Barry Smith at Foster partnership
“We’ve produced some amazing designs in terms of products and buildings and we are incredibly innovative,” says Smith.
“People work really hard here and always want to do better, which makes it a very challenging and rewarding place to be,” Smith says of the organisational and design ethos.
“Creativity and collaboration are at the core of what we do and, therefore, drive the IT strategy. Our role is to develop a very close relationship with people to understand their needs. So we are fast adopters of new technology and have a lot of Beta across the business; we liaise with a lot of software creators, Adobe for example, and we give them guidance. We like to deliver software very quickly to the business.”
2. Fostering IT
“We are massively deadline driven as an organisation as we always want to deliver our best, so there are iterations to a design right up to a deadline. Technology underpins everything we do, whether it is the design, video material or email communications. To do that the organisation needs constant access to software and data, so my team is very used to a 24-seven working pattern.”
“McLaren are a client we work with well,” Smith says. “Clients like McLaren have the same focus; there are a lot of synergies where quality is really important.”
3. Building information
“We have to live and breathe agile, and have geared the IT team to be able to deliver very quickly and to deal with rapidly changing demands. This is a dynamic organisation and we will make investments if it helps win business. That is the benefit of being privately held, so the decisions can be very fast, with very few people involved. If you make a good business case, you get a lot of support here.”
4. Rapid culture
“We are a facilitator for people, so they have a platform to perform their role. What my department does is provide a platform for the business. As an organisation we have specialists in video editing, special effects and 3D modelling.”
“Sending a job to the 3D printer requires several different technologies; the challenge comes through having the right software, used by skilled people to send clean jobs to a 3D printer.
“So our role is to develop a very close relationship with the organisation to really understand its needs.”
5. Shadow IT
“I embrace shadow IT. If someone has identified a good technology that helps them, I want to help them use it securely and let other people use it.
“What is shadow IT? It is people using technology to try to get their jobs done, and who am I to stand in their way?”
6. Office 365 is the right design at Foster partnership
“We could have continued with the Microsoft enterprise agreement, but in my time we have had a big shift towards managed services, including our telephony and security perimeter.”
7. Bridging to the cloud
“Real-time data collaboration was a massive change to our organisation and we no longer need to check in files. That was a real business enabler and a good example of the value that we bring to the business, which is a big motivation for me.
“I’m looking at how we can use Amazon Web Services and other cloud-based high-performance computing. What we do is very processor intensive, so WAN needs to get cheaper.”
8. Information management
“Today’s projects have tens of terabytes of data because we are continually evolving our projects, so you create a lot of data with iterations. My team’s challenge is to sort the wheat from the chaff. So we are looking at data archiving our low-use data and putting it on low-cost media. We are delivering a project information management system that indexes all the data. It’s a key technology that we delivered in the last year. As an organisation we generate a lot of emails, all of which are captured, and if data is being sent to a client it comes from the information management system so that the transmission comes from a central source.”
9. Real change
“I’m really interested in team dynamics and how they work together. I do a lot of outdoor activities out of work and the thing I always enjoy is the team element.
“We have installed an ethos in the team to change things and not get hung up on something. However, we have a very rigid change management structure around the infrastructure, but changes in the programmes or support mean we need to be very reactive.
“People who do really well here have worked in environments of delivering technology on time, so generally come from the media or finance sectors. They are people from high-pressure environments who are used to working with smart, demanding people and, as technology experts, they respond well to high pressure. And I also want people on the team that want to grow.”