Eir’s CIO: ‘Open-source software allows us to be more flexible’

10 Dec 2021

Brian Chapman. Image: Eir

Eir’s CIO discusses how growing trends of high-speed data and open-source software are transforming the telecoms industry.

Brian Chapman was appointed as the chief information officer of Eir in May 2018, having held a number of senior IT roles throughout the years.

His role as CIO encompasses IT strategy, transformation, architecture, development and IT operations functions.

“We have ambitious transformation plans and my role is to create an environment where our engineers can deliver the changes needed to modernise our IT estate,” he told SiliconRepublic.com.

Chapman’s team is responsible for the design, build and deployment of Eir’s IT applications and infrastructure, including operation and maintenance. The team is also responsible for IT security, service management and providing support for end users of Eir devices and applications.

Chapman holds a degree in telecommunications engineering from Dublin City University and a degree in technology management from the Dublin Institute of Technology.

‘Whether it is fibre broadband or 5G mobile solutions, high-speed data has been critical to all aspects of people’s lives’

Are you spearheading any major product or IT initiatives you can tell us about?

We are running multiple transformation programmes in parallel so almost every area of IT is undergoing some level of change. While individually these programmes deliver positive change for the wider business, the real value is in the sum of the parts as together our programmes are modernising and de-risking our legacy IT solutions, while at the same time building a new foundation for future flexibility, agility and digitisation.

Transformation programmes can seem endless at the beginning, when the positive outcomes are way out in the future, but thankfully we are in the middle of our modernisation journey and we have delivered several significant milestones already that are helping maintain momentum.

Earlier this year we delivered a new data warehouse solution, developed by our internal teams, which consolidated data from three legacy warehouse solutions while also integrating to new billing and CRM systems delivered by our transformation programmes. Consolidating all this data into a single source is a great foundation to build on as we focus on future digital transformation.

How big is your team?

I have a team of approximately 100 people. We are responsible for strategy, governance, architecture, design, development, security and IT operations.

We are lucky to have a strong team in place, including many senior resources with multidiscipline skillsets working across new and legacy technologies, delivering solutions for our business in parallel to working on transformation programmes.

We are always recruiting for more talent. I have roles available in our architecture, DevOps and infrastructure teams, which is exciting as it will bring new experience and skills to the team.

Generally, my preferred approach is to build teams internally in Eir rather than outsource programmes or major IT functions to third parties. That said, we also work with a few IT partners such as NTT Data UK in areas including digital development and IT operations and this model works really well for us. The partners we work with are well established in Eir and work as part of our team, and have allowed us to scale up to focus on both daily operations as well as transformation in parallel.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation?

Whether it’s the future of work or how we serve our customers, digital transformation is key to achieving our future objectives. Ultimately our goal for digital transformation is to allow us to serve our customers in a way that works for them.

Whether it’s through digital or traditional customer service channels, our transformation needs to ensure that we have centralised data and common back-end services to ensure that the customer experience is consistent regardless of how they choose to interact with us.

For us, digital transformation is more than moving additional processes and services online. It’s an opportunity to rethink existing processes, simplify them and rebuild them in a way that’s optimised for digital channels.

A perfect example of our future strategy, which we have already delivered, is GoMo. From the outset, IT and the business areas worked together to redefine our processes in a way that would work for GoMo rather than trying to build a digital front-end for our existing mobile processes.

The result was a digital-only mobile offering with simple propositions and processes built specifically for digital channels. It’s been a very successful project for us and we apply the same cross-functional process redesign and product simplification from the outset across our other programmes today.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world and your industry specifically?

High-speed data has transformed the lives of people and businesses, especially in the last 18 months. Whether it is fibre broadband or 5G mobile solutions, high-speed data has been critical to all aspects of people’s lives as they have had to move their work, education and even social interaction online. Small businesses also needed to move online quickly and high-speed data products allowed them to adapt and change their business models quickly.

Specifically within IT, I think the adoption of more open-source software and tools has significantly changed how we work. Traditionally telecoms integrated commercial products and were constrained by the capability available in the individual silos they created.

Change was complex, expensive and often slow. The use of open-source software has allowed us to be more flexible, to deliver solutions faster and to attract new talent into our teams with new approaches to problem solving.

In terms of security, what are your thoughts on how we can better protect data?

As a telco, we collect, process and secure large volumes of data. GDPR, regulatory obligations and security threats are all factors to be considered when deciding how to manage sensitive data. As a general principle when it comes to data, if we don’t need it, we don’t keep it.

Data security starts with people, and it’s extremely important that everyone with access to sensitive data has a security mindset. People are becoming more familiar with the use of two-factor authentication as the norm, both in work and their everyday lives, and this combined with regular training on data protection and data security is key to protecting data. As threats evolve, it’s critically important that we all learn how to recognise a threat.

Cyber and data security are areas that need continuous assessment as threats are ever evolving and exploiting new software and human vulnerabilities. Prevention is better than cure when it comes to vulnerabilities and a combination of enhancing monitoring and protection, as well as implementing security by design for new technology implementations, is key to building the necessary controls and protection for sensitive data.

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