‘In times of uncertainty, innovation sets organisations apart’

9 Feb 2023

Ciaran McGuinness. Image: Shai Dolev Photography

Ciaran McGuinness talks to SiliconRepublic.com about his role as a client partner for NTT Data UK&I, assisting companies in identifying business opportunities.

Ciaran McGuinness is a client partner at NTT Data UK&I. With ambitious goals to further establish NTT Data’s presence in Ireland, McGuinness is focused on making the company a recognised leader in advisory and technology services, and empowering them while they focus on their core business.

As a client partner for NTT Data UK&I, I help clients identify opportunities across their business and work together to deliver optimised solutions. I work closely with clients to understand their business strategy and, in turn, how NTT Data can help them solve their problems, ultimately aiding them in achieving their goals.

“I also work with our key alliances and partners, including Genesis, Microsoft and Salesforce. We empower our clients to analyse and transform their businesses by collaborating with these recognised industry leaders.

“I am focused on working with clients, partners and our NTT Data team to bring key innovations in cloud, networks, automation, data and intelligence, customer experience, security and more.”

‘I’ve always been motivated by people and technology, and the blend of these two to bring about innovative change’


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

Right now, there are many challenges facing the tech industry, with the need to reduce costs top of mind. As the cost-of-living crisis hits harder, many tech firms’ stock has fallen out. However, the flip side is that in times of uncertainty, innovation sets organisations apart. Technology is the driver of innovation, so there is always demand, but it’s increasingly important for investments to be made in the right technologies.

Currently, I’m seeing a lot of interest in 5G technologies, technologies that power sustainability initiatives and cloud transformation projects.

Finally, it’s not a new issue, but it is undoubtedly one still plaguing the tech industry – the tech skills gap. The increasing demand for tech talent isn’t being met, and it’s an issue which actively slows down digital transformation. There is much more the industry, governments and organisations should be doing to tackle this, which will be essential for future growth.

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

Opportunities will vary from business to business, but we typically work with digital-first organisations selling technology, software or services that exist primarily, or entirely, online. This ranges from scale-ups to EMEA-headquartered global businesses. With the current scale-up market vastly increasing in the UK and Ireland, one key focus area for us is helping businesses in their growth phase. Alongside the scale-ups, the tech sector in Ireland is driven by global organisations emanating primarily from the US. In most cases, these companies’ EMEA headquarters and considerable operations reside and are led in this territory.

The Irish market also has a large data centre footprint and at NTT Data, we are one of the largest operators of data centres in the world, processing more than 50pc of global internet traffic. We’re also one of the world’s largest systems integrators so we have a responsibility to produce innovative green technologies such as carbon efficient software and architectures that make more of the data centre capacity we have. As data centre needs increase, as well as sustainability initiatives, we are well placed to help customers with their specific needs.

Similarly, with many organisations increasingly moving to the cloud, we are working with many on their cloud transformation projects. A strong example of this is seen in the work we’re completing with Genesys – as more contact centres move away from a physical space, they are increasingly moving to the cloud. Together, we have been delivering on this transformation for many customers.

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

I’ve always been motivated by people and technology, and the blend of these two to bring about innovative change. Throughout my career, I’ve worked in technology consulting, digital product and service design, digital advertising and technology non-profit, and have always brought a deep understanding of customer experience. I’m passionate about delivering transformations for clients, so when the opportunity with NTT Data came about earlier this year, I knew this was the next step for me in continuing on that journey. I am impressed with the scale, values, ethos and support NTT Data offers to employees and clients.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

While the common theme of bringing people and technology together has run throughout my career, I have changed industries at least three times, which was a huge risk each time. I began my career in a not-for-profit before moving into advertising, product and service design, followed by consulting, and moved country too. Each time I made a move, there was a significant risk, but I learnt something new every time, which helps today with understanding different business challenges.

What one work skill do you wish you had? 

I would like to be able to work more effectively alone. While I of course can – and do – work alone on elements of projects, I’ve always loved the energy of people. I gain energy from being around people and I’d even go as far to say it gives me life. I feel happier when working as part of an engaged team, which is why I’ve always placed a huge emphasis on intentional leadership and helping people to develop and grow.

How do you get the best out of your team?

During my career, I’ve learnt that it’s critical that everyone in a team or group is heard. For teams to be effective, leadership must create a space in which people aren’t talked over, and everyone is given the opportunity to speak. Diversity also plays a huge role in this, and I’ve seen the significant impact of a truly diverse team on outcomes.

It’s vital that everyone understands their role within a team and the roles of those around them and that they have the right collaboration tools for success. This is something that most organisations don’t get right, but something I’ve been amazed by at NTT Data. Our Japanese heritage fosters a culture of creativity, innovation and thoughtfulness which brings the very best out of teams all over the world.

Finally, patience really is a virtue, and it’s essential to be patient with teams and individuals, providing them with feedback as opposed to corrections.

Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?

Yes, there is a diversity and inclusion problem in tech consulting, and I’ve seen how this can negatively impact teams. For example, during the pandemic, I lost important water cooler moments with people from different age groups and teams, offering a different perspective. Most organisations realise the value of diversity, equity and inclusion, and things are slowly getting better, but there is still much more to be done.

At NTT Data, we work hard with our employees, clients, and partners to foster an inclusive space, and we are proud to be recognised as a leader in the Financial Times Diversity Leaders report. We have initiatives for building a world-leading inclusive culture including our LGBT+ and Allies Network, our Women’s Business Network, our cultural and ethnicity network, and most recently, our neurodiversity network.

What’s the best piece of career advice you have ever received?

Finish everything you start!

What books have you read that you would recommend?

The best book I’ve read from a business point of view is the Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M Christensen. The tagline for the book is ‘the revolutionary book that will change the way you do business’, and it really does. Despite this book being published in the late 90s, it still stands up today, and it touches on a key business problem that I still see everywhere I go. I’ll let you read it to see if you agree!

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

Like others, I rely very heavily on LinkedIn, WhatsApp and the Microsoft 365 suite. LinkedIn and WhatsApp help hugely with collaboration, which is essential, and in our line of work, we couldn’t do without Microsoft 365.

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