‘Mobile solutions have a huge role in digital transformation across sectors’

14 Aug 2020

Philip Harrison, CWSI. Image: Alan Rowlette

CWSI co-founder and CTO Philip Harrison discusses digital transformation and the future of mobile solutions.

CWSI is an enterprise mobility and security specialist with offices in Dublin and London. Founded a decade ago, the firm secured more than €2.3m in funding last year, bringing its value to more than €15m.

Co-founder and CTO Philip Harrison is a veteran of the ICT sector. He spoke to Siliconrepublic.com about his role in driving tech strategy and the trends that are shaping the industry’s future.

‘We will see industries who initially shied away from digital transformation begin to embrace it’

Describe your own role and your responsibilities in driving tech strategy.

As founder of a business, you often find yourself wearing many hats, but as we’ve built out a really strong team at CWSI over the last 10 years, I’ve been able to narrow my main responsibilities to our IT strategy, information security strategy and client-facing technology portfolio.

We provide solutions and services to some of the UK and Ireland’s largest and most security-conscious businesses and government agencies, and we need to meet their information security requirements.

Being in the secure mobile working space, it is also critical that we make all of our IT services available to our staff wherever they are located, and this has been a key focus of mine. As a result, our information systems and the security of them is significantly more complex than would be typical for a business our size.

In terms of our technical product and service portfolio, the market we’re in has evolved rapidly and we’ve made some carefully timed pivots over the years to help us stay relevant. The most recent of which was committing to the Microsoft security suite and building out a new team to support that.

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

We are in the process of trying to move off traditional servers to pure SaaS solutions and ultimately get rid of our colocation data centre. I’ve achieved this in some other ventures I am involved in that were ‘born in the cloud’, but retrofitting it to an existing business with the security requirements we have is a significant endeavour.

What we do is help businesses thrive in a mobile-first world and it is much easier to make cloud-based systems and services available to mobile workers. It is also a more secure way to make services mobile, because you need to put in the hard work of securing the system as it moves to the cloud and is immediately exposed to threats.

How big is your team? Do you outsource where possible?

CWSI was founded in 2010 and we now have more the 30 employees. Our team is highly skilled and we have a lot of the knowledge and experience in-house to successfully implement mobility solutions for organisations.

Our security requirements make outsourcing difficult for many roles and, as a result, we only outsource where a very particular skillset is required by a client and not met in the business. When we are short of resources, we’ll generally hire in as quickly as possible.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation and how are you addressing it?

I think we are very lucky to be right at the heart of the digital transformation era and we’re involved in some really innovative and exciting projects that are completely changing the way things have been done in the past. Whether it’s equipping pilots with detailed info at a glance, digitising policing or taking sales metrics and catalogues off paper and displaying them on high fidelity tablets, mobile solutions have a huge role in digital transformation across sectors.

However, I feel we are only at the start of this. The low-hanging fruit has been ‘transformed’, but as hardware and solutions become increasingly robust and secure and very high-speed mobile internet access becomes ubiquitous, we will see industries who initially shied away from digital transformation begin to embrace it.

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

Working at the forefront of digital transformation and mobility, I’m lucky enough to work on projects very closely aligned to some exciting tech trends that are truly changing the world.

Chief among these is the rapid acceleration in clean energy projects and the greening of transport through electrification. Three years ago, I introduced an initiative at CWSI to move all our company cars to electric vehicles and we achieved this milestone last month. I’m proud to be able to say that you’ll find at least seven EVs parked at our offices once the current lockdown ends.

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

The future of data security lies in protecting the data itself and shifting the focus away from perimeters and endpoints. Solutions have been available for years to encrypt data and only make it available at a point in time to authenticated users, but they have been expensive, cumbersome for users and difficult to implement. Making data accessible outside the perimeter of the network generally has meant decrypting it.

Today, the likes of Azure Information Protection is available in a few clicks and allows you to make data available to users outside your network or on unmanaged devices, while cryptographically protecting it from those you do not want to have access, in most cases keeping it invisible to end users. The widespread adoption of solutions like this will constitute a paradigm shift in how information is protected.

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