Lydia Martin of Siro says there is plenty of new tech being adopted by organisations – but connectivity is crucial for this transformation.
As head of IT and business transformation at wholesale broadband provider Siro, Lydia Martin is responsible for the organisation’s technology landscape.
Here, she discusses future tech trends, the real meaning of digital transformation and the importance of high-speed communication.
‘We are seeing the criticality of access to high-speed connectivity in keeping businesses operating’
– LYDIA MARTIN
Describe your role and your responsibilities in driving tech strategy.
I have two distinct yet interlinked aspects to my role. In terms of my IT role, I am responsible for the organisation’s technology landscape, developing and maintaining all business systems, both internal and external facing, and making sure they are fully operational, supported and kept up to date and secure.
My business transformation responsibilities are more of a continuous evaluation and evolution. We’re always pushing forward to drive efficiencies and to become smarter in what we do. This includes areas of innovation around business automation, enhancing the intelligence of our systems, continuous streamlining of processes, a lot of R&D on new applications and solutions and keeping an open mind to what is possible.
We have a big focus on data-driven innovation and have a full team of analysts that work with highly complex data from our network, business systems, customer data and sales. We try to predict what our best customer looks like, and what their needs will be.
As Siro is a relatively young company, we are fortunate not to have old legacy systems that are rigid and difficult to update. We can adapt and change with relative ease and flexibility. This allows us to be progressive in our approach to innovation.
Are you spearheading any major product or IT initiatives you can tell us about?
The sudden arrival of Covid-19 has forced us, like most other businesses to move to a remote working model overnight. We were fortunate in that we are largely a cloud-based organisation, all the workforce had laptops with remote access to all the tools required to do their job.
Six months into the pandemic, we are now focusing on ways to improve collaboration in the virtual environment. We have a collaboration initiative underway to keep our workforce connected by getting the most out of the tools available, developing online spaces to connect and share, and recreate the office environment online as best we can.
Another initiative we are very focused on right across the business is fact-based decision-making. We are very progressive in the analytics space for both our business and network activities and pull data from as many sources as possible to build a scientific approach to our decision making.
We have developed some really interesting solutions in the areas of predictive analysis and geospatial automation for analysing network build, understanding our customers and predicting behavioural patterns.
How big is your team? Do you outsource where possible?
I have a core team of specialists who each manage and run a specific area of the IT department supported by project managers and business analysts.
The area we cover is very broad and includes internal IT systems and application support, hardware, application development, geospatial information systems, billing systems, security, innovation and intelligent business analytics.
Outsourcing with the correct partner in certain niche areas is very important to us. It allows us to easily flex and scale on a project basis and bring in specialist expert skills as needed. Outsourcing can be tricky to get right, but experience has taught me that the closer you bring the outsourced partners into the business, the greater the success.
Our partners will often have an on-site presence as part of the team and, when working remotely, we use collaboration tools to stay in constant contact. It’s almost a scrum model where the two teams are interconnected with Siro acting as product owner. It works really well for us.
What are your thoughts on digital transformation?
Digital transformation means different things to different businesses. Traditionally the term has been moving offline processes online or enhancing user journeys online. My focus is always on business transformation. Rather than placing the focusing solely on the digital aspect of the transformation, I look at the business as a whole.
It is a much broader focus area that functions in a strategic way to move the entire business forward and can encompass almost any business process that delivers the results for the business. In my world, it’s more than driving the digital agenda, it’s driving meaningful change for the entire business.
What big tech trends do you believe are changing from an IT perspective?
There’s always a lot of talk and hype around automation, AI, machine learning, blockchain etc. The reality is that these technologies have been around for some time and it is relatively recently that the average business has been able to begin to apply them in a practical way.
We’re now at the point where applications and solutions are readily available to use these technologies in our day-to-day business. For most businesses this is a pretty exciting possibility and the adaptation of these technologies is where we are seeing real innovation and changes to how we live, work and interact. The arrival of quantum computing will bring all this to the next level when it happens.
The backbone of all of this is high-speed communication. Fibre-to-the-premises supports these technologies and really moves us into the world of smart living.
Particularly now with so many people working from home due to Covid-19, we are seeing the criticality of access to high-speed connectivity in keeping businesses operating and how it is changing how we live.
In terms of security, what are your thoughts on how we can better protect data?
Cybersecurity and threat management is an ever-increasing concern for businesses. The more sophisticated our tech advancements become, the harder it becomes to protect ourselves.
Threat actors are using the very same sophisticated tech and are often a step ahead with it. Advancements in technology, including IoT and cloud computing, open up more access points and vulnerabilities to threats from anywhere in the world.
We are currently trialling solutions that provide intelligent monitoring, deep learning and autonomous responses to help us identify indicators of attack that would be difficult to detect through traditional methods.
Then there is the constant balancing act of being as protected and secure as possible without putting so many measures in place that it actually slows the business down.
However, the biggest threat to security isn’t necessarily a system vulnerability. Ultimately, there’s a human factor involved in most successful attacks and that’s where staff training and awareness become the best protection for the business.
You can build highly secure systems using all the security intelligence out there and all it takes is a simple human error, like falling for a phishing scam, forgetting security protocols or giving away a password and the business is compromised. The way to protect against this, is to train and train and train and don’t stop. If your people are on alert, then your business is very well protected.
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