The five minute CIO: Chris Bean, SQS

19 Dec 2014

Chris Bean, group technology officer at SQS

“The IT strategy underpins the three-to-five-year business growth strategy to grow in size from 4,000 to 10,000 employees,” explains Chris Bean, group technology officer at SQS.

SQS, which is headquartered in Cologne, Germany, employs 200 people in Ireland. In 2013 it began the expansion of its Irish operations with the creation of 75 new jobs.

In June SQS it emerged that is to create 20 new jobs at a new Global Centre of Excellence it is establishing in Ireland after signing a collaborative agreement with the Innovation Value Institute. SQS is investing €200,000 over three years in the project. The new centre of excellence will be located in the new SQS offices in Dublin.

Last month it emerged that SQS will also be creating 30 new jobs in Belfast and Derry at its new Development Operations Centres.

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

The strategic focus is to streamline the current global multi system application architecture, implementing a single enterprise ERP solution across the group. With the application architecture we can then standardise the business work flow processes, increasing work efficiency by reducing manual effort and creating process centres of excellence

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

The IT strategy underpins the three-to-five year business growth strategy to grow in size from 4,000 to 10,000 employees across multiple local and offshore global delivery centres.

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

The SQS infrastructure is built on a full Microsoft platform from Outlook, Office, Sharepoint, SQL to Lync. We have internal data centres in Europe and India

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

The IT budget is defined around three pillars – Running, Growth and Innovation. Every year the costs to run the business systems are reviewed and cost efficiency improvements identified. The money saved from these cost improvements is reinvested back into growth and innovation programmes.

It is very important to maintain a short-to-long term project portfolio. The portfolio is constantly aligned to the changes in the business and the active demands. Execution of the portfolio is controlled through a change control board where programmes are tracked against plan with costs and new requests are evaluated against business value

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

The current infrastructure has grown through company mergers and acquisitions. This has resulted in system duplications, gaps in processes and disparate processes. The core IT objective is to simplify and to consolidate implementing single application solutions and platforms across the group. The cloud is also an area that we are embracing and initially looking at cloud solutions for non-core systems

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

We run a very lean global IT team. The IT group is divided into functions (e.g. Infrastructure, Communications, Security, Business Systems, etc.). The functions are resourced from the global IT team located across multiple countries from the US, South Africa, Europe to India

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 main responsibility is defining the strategic roadmap of change needed to support the rapid company growth. This involves meeting with the global business groups and understanding their change programmes. Constructing and monitoring the IT programmes to meet the business needs. Deep technical issues are managed and coordinated by the IT functional managers.

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

Key trends/challenges for the professional service sector are mobility and business intelligence (BI) analytics. With a global mobile consultancy, communications is critical. Availability of smartphones and high speed data connectivity to all employees so they can keep in contact with the head office and have access to our global knowledge hub is crucial.

IT is also focusing on capturing and consolidating global transaction data into a central BI hub where it can then provide invaluable business analysis from forecasting, business trends, investment opportunities through to maximising the development and training of key skills across the global test centres.

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

There are multiple metrics from IT spend across the IT service portfolio. Delivery of projects against plan and budget. Cost and efficiency savings.

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

Running any group function involves constant review and improvements. IT is constantly looking to improve, develop and grow the skills and knowledge of the team. Key area of IT focus is the need to support a global company that is not far from being a 24 by 7 operation, providing global support services

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

Projects for 2015 – a global e-procurement system, a travel system, a global finance system through to a social networking service desk.

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