Led by its founder and chairman Lord Norman Foster, Foster and Partners is a British architectural firm based in London. Some of the company's more recent major projects include London City Hall, the redevelopment of Trafalgar Square, the Gherkin, the Sage Gateshead, La Defense and the Milau Viaduct in France, the reconstruction of Wembley Stadium, and the Reichstag building in Berlin.
Head of IT Barry Smith spoke to CIO UK at the beginning of 2014 about moving on to Office 365, and how the design partnership's needs of creativity and collaboration really drive the IT strategy.
When did you start your current role?
Have you completed an MBA?
Order the following sources of advice/information by value to you:
2. Peer group
Technology strategy and spending
What is the major transformational IT project that has been recently completed, or is underway at your organisation?
Cloud - Currently migrating mail and unified communications to Microsoft Office 365,
Increasing use of Managed Services - Recently moved all data storage to a third party service provider
IT delivery - we are transforming the way we deliver IT, greater focus on key business relationships and the use of Agile.
What impact will it/does it have on the organisation?
These projects allow us to focus on what adds real business value whilst we let other people manage utility services.
What new strategic technology deals has your organisation struck and with whom?
Outsourcing of data storage to Proact
Managed security service looking after all perimeter security - delivered by Secure Data Europe
Shift to Adobe creative cloud - Adobe
Name your strategic technology suppliers?
Microsoft, Adobe, Bentley, Auto desk, Talon Fast
How much is the IT operational spend compared to the revenue or company turnover as a percentage?
Opex is 2.5% of turnover
What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year?
Support creativity and Innovation in the business,
Expand the Global Infrastructure,
Promote good practice.
Would you describe the CIO role as a transformation leader in your organisation?
No, our business is constantly transforming itself, My role is to transform IT to support an ever changing business.
Describe the transformations you have led / been involved in, how did they transform operations, customer experience or the organisation?
We have completely transformed the way we deliver technology to the company. We are service focused, we create close relationships with key technology users and we deliver quickly.
We have created a planning process that allows us to deliver the things that add the most value and we continually review and adapt this.
We have developed a team which is process led but works in an agile manner.
We have created a team of people with the right skills and work ethic to deliver for our challenging company.
Beyond technology, can you describe a business transformation programme that you own or contribute to?
No, we're focused solely on technology.
What key technologies are being considered to enable transformation?
Amazon Web Services and VDI will create a shift in the way we deliver over the coming years.
What percentage of your applications / infrastructure is run from the Cloud?
10% today although this will increase significantly over time.
How is the use by employees of their own technology, use of mobiles and social networking impacting operations, customer experiences or the organisation at present?
We embrace BYOD and let people use their own mobile devices for business if required. A key part of our productivity strategy is to enable a more mobile workforce, able to win and carry out business in any location.
Our social media presence is increasing and is harnessed by strong brand management.
Do you have a plan in place for how to deal with shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives, place the right controls around employee choice and engage with the organisation on this issue?
As above, we have no problem with BYOD.
Shadow IT! If someone is carrying out shadow IT then we have failed to work closely enough with them to understand and deliver on their needs. We do sometimes get people trying to do their own thing but our philosophy is that if someone is utilising something good then we want everyone to benefit from it in a secure way.
Where do you seek transformational inspiration from?
Our business is an inspiring place to work so a lot of ideas are inspired within the company. I spend a lot of time talking to staff, inside and outside of IT and I also invest a lot of time with people in our sector, learning from what they are doing.
The CIO role in the business
Who do you report to?
Do you have a seat on the board?
How often do you meet with the CEO?
Does your organisation have a digital leader and what is the difference in their responsibilities to yours?
The IT department
How many staff make up the IT team?(What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff)
Describe the CIO’s management team, do you have direct reports that develop the relationship and services between the business and IT?
Head of IT's management team:
Technology Design Manager (we cant have someone called architect in our business!)
IT Services Lead
Productivity and Projects Lead
Data Services Lead
And how many log-in accounts do you issue across you organisation?
What is the primary technology platform? ( for example ERP, Website, trading system)
Design tools; Bentley Microstation, Adobe Creative Suite, Rhino