The five-minute CIO: John Walsh, Fujitsu Ireland

24 Jun 2016

John Walsh, CTO, Fujitsu Ireland

“IT mega-trends – cloud, big data, mobility, the internet of things – are transforming the world of business, with their impact increasingly felt well beyond IT,” says John Walsh, CTO of Fujitsu in Ireland.

Walsh has some 23 years of experience in ICT with some 17 of those years with Fujitsu. He is chief technology officer and sits on the Fujitsu CTO Council.

He sets the technology strategy for the local Fujitsu organisation. He has a wide portfolio of interests at Fujitsu, including real-time computing and signalling, high-performance computing, smart networks and radio technologies, analytics and organisational performance.

Walsh led the design team that delivered the mobile virtual network Enabler on behalf of Telefonica in Ireland, which now supports Tesco Mobile, 48Months and GiffGaff.

He has qualifications in engineering, mathematics and computer applications.

Can you outline the breadth and scope of the technology rollout across your customers?

In our role as an ICT provider, our technology keeps businesses and organisations moving and therefore we serve a wide breadth of functions. Our current design and delivery portfolio which is set against the backdrop of digital transformation ranges from internet of things (IoT) offerings, predicative analytics, traditional cloud, to hybrid cloud based upon Openstack, Fast IT and of course Security. In the majority of cases, our client’s require a holistic approach that provides complete ICT support and integration.

What are the main points a client company’s IT strategy should include?

The most important element to consider is, ‘how does this IT strategy relate to the overall business strategy?’ This question needs to be asked and answered before a strategy can be developed. The development of the IT strategy to meet the needs of the business will ensure you get the core enterprise architecture correct. With our long-term experience of working with many organisations in varying industries, it is important the customer has a framework that assists them align and balance the full potential of digital with their existing legacy technologies. If this is considered and undertaken at the outset, powerful new insights and innovations can be delivered for their business.

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

Our critical infrastructure elements include high availability datacentre, managed virtual desktop, network services and service desk. It is imperative that our infrastructure increases the efficiency of our business operations and drives continuous improvement. With this in mind, Fujitsu internally is a totally mobile workforce, enabling our workforce to focus on the delivery of quality work for our clients.

In general, how complex is the infrastructure, are you taking steps to simplify it?

Overall our infrastructure is relatively simple and flexible as it has to meet a diverse number of needs given Fujitsu is a company of 159,000 people globally. While we are continually assessing our infrastructure and network to drive efficiencies with regard to factors such as space, cooling and power consumption, we view our infrastructure as a toolkit. This flexibility enables us to add and remove capabilities such as cloud or hybrid IT as required to meet our needs and those of our clients.

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

IT mega-trends – cloud, big data, mobility, the internet of things – are transforming the world of business, with their impact increasingly felt well beyond IT. This means CTO’s can no longer serve simply as a back-office function, but must also play a role in the wider business. IT needs to broaden its remit and start playing an integral role in business strategy. If a CTO can showcase a strong appreciation of business priorities and communicate in clear business terms, they will be able to articulate how all spend should be based upon the core business strategy. The budget starts with the business needs and is best mapped using Enterprise Architecture, and is completed when the promised business value is delivered.

Do you find you are working with large in-house IT teams, or do clients look to strategically outsource where possible?

This is heavily dependent on the sector you are working in I find. In financial services or the public sector there is a trend towards larger in-house IT teams. But in retail and utilities, for example, third parties are more often used and this makes sense when you think about where these sectors are in terms of the digital journey. Take retail for example, a sector that is quite advanced and uses technology to enhance and improve customer experience, for example self-service checkouts and in-lane price checks are two functions that spring to mind. Taking this even further, retailers must integrate many types of information from different channels, such as purchasing records, web and social media, to understand individual customers and give them the best experience. For us there is no one size fits all solution or approach, so we develop a strategy that is unique to our client.

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?

My role as a CTO within Fujitsu is about bringing our customers on a journey. I need to be able to understand their imperatives quickly and explain to them how IT can transform their business if we have a clear understanding about where they need to be now and in the future as an organisation. Breaking it down to a day to day view, about 75pc of my time relates to technical management in the area of budget and design with the remainder with my sleeves rolled up in the technology!

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

The biggest challenge is meeting the demands of the market in a timely manner while maintaining structure and discipline to deliver sustainable solutions. This is particularly challenging when you consider the very different needs of our clients across a broad scope of areas such as IoT, analytics, hybrid cloud, system integration, mobility and digital. In order to meet these challenges it is important to understand the customer’s environment and pressures, applying a good set of processes to boil down the needs as quickly as possible and then apply the right technology. This solution will be underpinned by on-going insight with regard to trends and scale so as to avoid future architecture cul-de-sacs.

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

The pace of change in technology advancement is well documented.  The challenge of effectively managing technological change in organisations and indeed across entire industries is becoming acute.

Working with clients, we use the Benefits Realisation process to identify, track and realise success that can be optimised in the future. Benefits Realisation provides a basis for using IT to deliver business results more consistently and predictably. It proposes two inter-related shifts; in mind sets about IT and in management methods. As the foundation of so many businesses, it is crucial that we demonstrate the wide reaching benefits of IT which can be easily taken for granted until there is a problem. This on-going analysis will underpin all activity and enable future evolution across an organisation.

What are the main areas you are identifying for clients where IT can improve?

Keeping up with the pace of change is crucial for many organisations, and there is a feeling out there that you either keep up or be left behind. Organisations must consider if they are taking advantage of some of the key areas on the digital journey such as cloud, mobility, analytics and social? And if they are not but their competitors are, what will this mean for them? Granted, there is a lot of hype around digital transformation at the moment, but it has to be considered if an organisation is to survive and thrive into the future.

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