‘There is no such thing as a steady state in the tech industry’

3 Nov 2020

Paul Nannetti. Image: Susan Jefferies Photography

Arkphire’s Paul Nannetti discusses his background in tech, what he looks for in a team, and the shift to the ‘working from anywhere’ model.

Paul Nannetti is a tech adviser and chair of Irish technology solutions business Arkphire. The Dublin-headquartered company helps clients with IT procurement as well as cloud, networking and cybersecurity services. It has been expanding over the last year, with the acquisition of Trilogy Technologies and Singapore’s Generic Technologies.

Nannetti started his career as a chartered accountant with EY and went on to hold several leadership roles at IBM and Capgemini. He now lives between London and Dublin.

‘The “working from anywhere” trend has dramatically accelerated due to Covid, creating huge challenges for many organisations’

Describe your role and what you do.

I am chairman of Arkphire since 2019. The company is growing aggressively, which makes it a very interesting role. The business is headquartered in Dublin and now has operations throughout Europe and Asia; our client base is largely composed of US technology firms who have engaged us to enable their expansion into Europe and Asia.

I was appointed as chair primarily to support the leadership team as they navigate a period of intense growth but also to strengthen Arkphire’s IT services portfolio and to drive the company’s acquisition strategy and integration. Alongside this role, I act as a technology adviser to a couple of London-based private equity firms, supporting them on investment strategy and portfolio optimisation.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

I try to be as accessible and responsive as possible to the people I work with. When there’s a lot going on, the diary can be filled by other people’s priorities. So I make sure to set aside part of every week to think and reflect on more strategic questions.

I also make sure to read a lot. Warren Buffet says he spends 80pc of his day reading – I don’t know how he manages that, but I do set aside time each week to catch up on market and technology trends. In the past, this meant going to conferences and seminars, but now everything we need to know is a click away. 

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

The pace of technology-driven disruption is extraordinary and impacts every industry. Technology services companies need to be in a constant state of transformation to adapt their offerings, capabilities and business models so they can provide leadership to their customers. There is no such thing as steady state in our industry.

At Arkphire, we now have a leadership team that embraces and thrives on constant change and reinvention. The organisation has evolved from being a modest Irish brand to a global player with a broad service portfolio, specifically in response to the evolving demands and opportunities of its key customers.

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

The ‘working from anywhere’ – any location, any device, any time – trend has dramatically accelerated due to Covid, creating huge challenges for many organisations in providing secure and optimised employee experiences. Arkphire has developed extensive end-user capabilities, including digital workspace, cybersecurity, cloud and networking services. We also re-engineered our enterprise distribution model for home delivery in a matter of days at the beginning of lockdown.

Our managed services model allows our clients to concentrate on their customers, while we ensure their technology platform is fit for purpose and able to scale to meet the demands on their business.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

I was previously a member of the group executive committee at Capgemini, based in Paris. I held a number of roles there and what I found most rewarding was the time I spent creating new businesses for innovative strategic offerings – high-growth and differentiated businesses taking advantage of new technology trends.

After leaving Capgemini, I was keen to use this experience as an investor and adviser for fast-growing technology companies, and that’s what drew me into the private equity world, and to Arkphire in particular.

How do you get the best out of your team?

I think the first thing to get right is team selection. I look for people who take pride in their own professional excellence, with a high level of personal motivation and commitment. The next step is to forge a common purpose with the team by focusing that motivation on customer success.

The organisation, whether large or small, must be defined by the evolving needs of its key customers, and be laser-focused on those areas of the market where it can become a leader. Then it’s about enjoying the journey – celebrate the successes, learn from setbacks but don’t mourn them, and make sure to laugh and have fun together.

Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?

I would say gender diversity is certainly a challenge in IT consulting and services. There are multiple reasons for this, from the low percentage of engineering graduates in our universities, to the travel and working hours demanded of consultants working with clients. Addressing these issues requires empathy for the factors holding back diversity, and commitment to address them, at the corporate and personal level.

Having a leadership team sensitive and responsive to diversity challenges is a good starting point. At Arkphire, three of our seven board members are women and our executive leadership team is 67pc female. While a diverse leadership structure does not in itself resolve all the diversity challenges, it certainly ensures a greater sensitivity in how they are identified and addressed.

Did you ever have a mentor or someone who was pivotal in your career?

Early in my career, I was fortunate to work for a wonderful and inspiring executive when based in Paris with IBM. From our first meeting, he became a friend, mentor and guide, and remains so today.

I find it incredibly helpful to draw on his experience, objectivity and indeed wisdom whenever I’m faced with major decisions or challenges.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

I’m probably not the first person to recommend Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. The book recounts Abraham Lincoln’s feat to build a cabinet of strong leaders with often conflicting priorities and personalities, and his success in guiding that team to drive for the abolition of slavery and success in the civil war. It is an extraordinary story of leadership, of national transformation, and the power of a diverse team when aligned towards a compelling objective.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

I try to run on the beach a few times a week, a couple of strong espressos help kick-start every day, and I like nothing better than fresh sushi or a hot curry for dinner.

As far as tools are concerned, I unloaded five separate devices from my briefcase to the security tray at the airport recently and thought they can’t all be essential, but I still can’t figure out which to dispense with!

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