The five minute CIO: Adrian Harte, Kirby Group

6 Feb 2015

Adrian Harte, IT manager, Kirby Group

“The term ‘cloud’ has been both a challenge and a blessing to the IT sector,” says Adrian Harte, IT manager with the Kirby Group.

Kirby Group is an Irish mechanical and electrical engineering firm headquartered in Limerick.

The company has been doing well financially across both the Irish and UK sectors, with turnover for 2014 expected to increase by 20pc from €90m in 2013, and €64m in 2012.

In the UK, Kirby Engineering Group, which is celebrating its 50th year in business, has already secured more than stg£20m of new business since the start of last year.

In September last year, the company revealed plans to create 30 new jobs in Limerick, adding to 30 employees who had been hired since the beginning of 2014.

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

We have offices in Ireland, the UK and in Europe, plus more than 50 site offices, so our IT infrastructure has a wide breadth and covers a huge area. A very recent example of technology we have rolled out is a full ShoreTel VoIP solution in order to enhance our inter-branch communications and increase staff productivity. It was key for us to reduce our legacy line rental expenditure and, above all, to future proof our business.

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

The core feature of our IT strategy is to provide the best possible service to our staff. IT by its nature is defined by your end-user experiences and we want to invest in best-in-class equipment and solutions to provide the high availability systems that our company needs to be at its most productive.

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

Given our locations throughout Ireland, the UK and Europe, network connectivity is key to our business. This is why we have invested heavily in our WAN infrastructure, which provides a strong and reliable foundation for our company to continue to grow and expand into the European market. 

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

I think budgets should be built around projects rather than the norm of projects being built around budgets. Prioritise your projects first and then if required, downsize the project and spread it over a longer period. The key is to get value for your money while never compromising on quality.

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

Our infrastructure has been simplified over the last number of years, mainly by consolidating all data to a central location for a better end-user experience. We have plans to improve the accessibility of our data so that our staff can access this when and where they want it and from any platform or device. 

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

The Kirby Group has a team of three IT professionals that look after a 400-strong user base. I believe in sticking to what you are good at and in my opinion, outsourcing is an important part of IT. Finding the best fit for your company depends on your needs, but experience and knowledge should always be the main factors when considering outsourcing.

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?

Planning and organising are two of the main responsibilities of my role. It is important to maximise efficiency but also to prioritise the workload. Deep technical issues arise from time to time and are sometimes a welcome challenge!

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

The term “cloud” has been both a challenge and a blessing to the IT sector. Users expect to be able to access all of their information from any location and any device. The ability to do this provides benefits to the business in particular but can also bring its own set of challenges. Security of your information must always be a priority.

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

The best gauge is always your user base. If people aren’t complaining then the system works. IT will always be seen as a service that is provided to the employees – your “internal customer”.

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

IT will always need to be improved, as people will always want to do more, and to do it better and faster. Ireland’s broadband infrastructure is poor compared to other European countries and this needs to be addressed. Connectivity is key to expand business and maintain best possible productivity 

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

We invested heavily over the last 12 months on new systems, such as ShoreTel VoIP, videoconferencing and a new DR site, which have all benefited the company significantly. This year we have more projects lined up, such as a managed print service, hardware health monitoring, and tablet rollout, to name but a few. Like all of the IT projects we plan, the aim is that they ultimately enhance our end-user IT experience. 

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