Ergo’s Steve Blanche keeps the edge in an ‘everything connected’ world

8 Dec 2017

Ergo CTO Steve Blanche. Image: Ergo

Being dynamic and agile is the key to how Ergo competes effectively against the larger IT giants in the evolving market for cloud and managed services, says Ergo CTO Steve Blanche.

As one of Ireland’s leading cloud and IT managed services providers, Ergo excels in matching technology to business needs and has been helping organisations achieve their strategic goals for 23 years.

With more than 25 years’ experience in the IT industry, CTO Steve Blanche has designed and delivered a diverse range of ICT solutions. During his 12 years with Ergo, he has proven to be an invaluable knowledge resource for the successful implementation of key client projects, providing customers with strategic positioning of ICT services to benefit their businesses.

‘The growth trends we see for IT are mobility, collaboration as well as digital enablement through apps and intelligent data’

As CTO, Blanche guides the organisation’s technology alignment and the development of resources and expertise to not only maintain a prominent position in the market, but to lead customers into a new and exciting presence in the digital marketplace.

Can you outline the breadth and scope of the technology roll-out across your organisation and what improvements it will bring to the company?

As an IT services provider, we’re at the bleeding edge of technology solutions, and eat our own dog food. We employ a hybrid IT environment internally leveraging the best of data centre-optimised solutions, integrated with applications and solutions that are best served via cloud.

As a customer-facing services partner, our business utilises mobile technologies extensively, accessing applications and data from anywhere in a controlled, managed and secure way.

Our technical, project, management and support resources form dynamic virtual teams to create the engagement model that best fits the service delivery for our customers.

What are the main points of your company’s IT strategy?

Our strategy revolves around enabling value delivery for our customers through technology services, so, as an outsource ICT services provider, we make the investments in the skilled and experienced expertise so our customers can focus on their business strategies and objectives.

A typical prioritisation of IT strategies we deliver for our customers focuses on stable and resilient platforms that present applications and data to a customer’s business in faster, easier, more intelligent and more secure ways.

Can you give a snapshot of how extensive your IT infrastructure is?

Our own infrastructure is on a continuously declining footprint as we migrate more and more to cloud-based platforms. Mail services, back-ups, individual and company data storage, to name a few, are examples of workloads that no longer reside within our infrastructure.

In terms of managing IT budgets, what are your key thoughts on how CIOs/heads of technology should achieve their goals?

Return on investment (ROI) modelling has, to a large degree, kept pace with technology advancements. Microsoft offers ROI calculators for cloud services such as Office 365 and Azure, and these are customisable to suit and reflect actual localised costs.

How complex is the infrastructure, are you taking steps to simplify it?

Our cloud transformation programme not only reduces our infrastructure footprint, but greatly simplifies it, too.

Do you have a large in-house IT team, or do you look to strategically outsource where possible?

Our internal infrastructure IT team has reduced – replaced by cloud services.

Our development and ICT services teams have increased as our demand from enterprise customers has, and continues to increase.

What are some of the main responsibilities of your own role, and how much of it is spent on deep technical issues compared to the management and business side?

I am charged with ensuring the business can deliver on its strategy, and our ICT services customers have the same ask. New technologies and innovation assessments follow on from these business demands. How can we better identify our market? How can we enable our staff to better serve our customers? How can we disrupt the market with digital enablement, products and services?

What are the big trends and challenges in your sector, and how do you plan to use IT to address them?

As an ICT services provider that has moved from serving the SME market to now serving the enterprise market, we find ourselves competing with global giants such as Dell, IBM and HP. The giants have, over the years, moved to ICT managed services.

Our edge is the flexible and dynamic agility we can offer that the global giants simply cannot match. To leverage this, we employ significant mobility enablement, provisioning virtual teams in minutes and hours instead of weeks and months. Innovative, enhancing technologies such as unified communications can be provisioned, tested and transitioned to production, while it might still be at assessment stage in a large organisation.

The growth trends we see for IT are mobility, collaboration as well as digital enablement through apps and intelligent data. With the ‘everything connected’ world we now live in – protecting identities, intellectual property, commercial rights etc and the need to comply with the regulatory standards – the technologies to enable, automate, report and track on security and compliance have become a high-priority business need. Will your customers want to do business with you if you cannot demonstrate your controls and management of risk?

What metrics or measurement tools do you use to gauge how well IT is performing?

Performance against our profit and loss (P&L) of course, but the most important metric is technology usage and adoption (assess, trial, prove, implement and adopt is a critical yardstick). If our people are not utilising the technology, the technology is not delivering value.

Are there any areas you’ve identified where IT can improve, and what are they?

Security technologies and management need to not only keep pace, but get ahead of the development curve. An impossible task, some might say, but the new digital era means we all exist in this digital space and are therefore subject to its effects – good and bad. An individual removed from street crime and physical abuse is still very much at risk in the digital space, and IT needs to do more to secure and make safe the area we now operate within more and more.

What other projects do you have lined up for the year, and what will they contribute to the business?

As a company that delivers IT projects and services to customers, our own journey can be quite different from that of our customers who operate in diverse verticals. Some commonalities exist, however: the continuing adoption of cloud services, connected everything, AI and machine learning, and the monumental shift in evolution to a digital age.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years