The five minute CIO: Chris Murphy, EMC

29 May 2015

EMC vice president of IT Client Experience Chris Murphy

“IT has to able to provide its services to the business at speed rather than the business being held back waiting on IT,” says Chris Murphy, vice president of IT Client Experience at EMC.

One of the most senior executives at EMC Ireland’s Centre of Excellence, Chris Murphy has recently been promoted to a global role.

As vice president of IT Client Experience, he leads a 1,000-strong workforce in 37 different countries speaking 25 different languages

EMC employs around 3,000 people at its campus in Ovens, Cork.

The EMC Centre of Excellence in Ireland, one of eight across the globe, provides engineering and research development, customer service, IT and technical support to global EMC offices. The company exports to 140 countries from Ireland.

From Fairhill in Cork city and a graduate of University College Cork, Murphy has a Bachelor’s degree in commerce, with a major in accountancy. Following his graduation, he received a Diploma in Computer Science. Murphy first worked at Apple’s Cork facility, before moving to EMC, where he has remained for 20 years.

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

We are the IT department for a leading-edge technology company, which means we get to see all the very cool stuff before it’s released to our customers. If you like working in IT, there is no better place to be. In the last 10 years, EMC has acquired dozens of companies, including what I would call “the buy of the century” with VMware.

Those acquisitions have allowed us to deploy a whole new set of technologies to support the needs of our business, including the Enterprise Hybrid Cloud (EHC) and Business Data Lake (BDL). With its agility, EHC enables us to deliver IT at the speed of our business and BDL helps our business to become more predictive.

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

IT has to able to provide its services to the business at speed rather than the business being held back waiting on IT. EMC IT is going through a massive transformation at the moment. It is moving away from the traditional IT technical-based silos to an internal service provider model. In other words, IT as a Service (ITaaS).

The two key elements of providing ITaaS are self-service and financial transparency. For instance, when our internal customers go home at night and they want to order something on the internet, they know how much it is going to cost and when it is going to be delivered. This is the same type of service they expect from IT.

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

We are EMC’s first and best customer. In terms of raw numbers production-wise, our IT organisation runs EMC on just over 12,000 virtual machines on 1,000 physical servers that reside in five data centres located in the US, Cork and Bangalore. With regards to storage, we are consuming more than 30PB at present, but with the creation of our internal Business Data Lake last year we expect this to increase significantly.

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

Nowadays the majority of EMC IT’s budget resides within the business rather than within IT. There has to be a value to the IT service. Previously, when the budget mainly resided within IT, the value we were providing was not clear to the business and if I am being honest it wasn’t clear if we were even providing the services the business really wanted. IT is no longer a monopoly and must compete for its business or the business will choose to spend its budget elsewhere.

We are seeing a big shift in how IT is funded with the ITaaS model. In this model, IT is responsible for ensuring unit price of services are competitive, and driving down unit prices year over year. The consumers of IT services are responsible for the amount of IT that is consumed. Financial transparency enables the business consumers to make value-based consumption decisions that maximise the benefit they derive from IT for every dollar spent. As long as IT unit prices are competitive, one could say that the greater the percentage of EMC revenue IT spend is, the more value we are delivering.

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

A number of years ago we standardised on converged infrastructure, in our case the VCE vBlock. These pre-built blocks of data centre infrastructure (server, storage, switch) have massively cut down on the complexity and deployment time. By automating our services on top, we are keeping the manual element (and risk of human error) to a minimum. Gone are the days of teams pulling cables around the data centre to connect servers, storage devices and switches together!

When you deploy a Software Defined Data Center, which is part of EHC, the security policies are deployed as part of the package and not bolted on afterwards. It is then very easy to see if you are compliant, and more importantly be able to prove it for the auditors.

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

We have a mix. In general, we look to give our employees the work that is higher intellectual property and leverage the scale of a Managed Service Provider (MSP) for surge, specialised or more commoditised work.

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?

In a nutshell, I am responsible for the productivity our 60,000 employees have with the technologies they use every day at EMC. This includes services like our global network, communication and collaboration, client computing, and content services. In addition, I run IT customer service and manage the availability of our services through our command centre. Lastly, I have responsibility for a new user experience practice in EMC IT.

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

The biggest trend faced by every IT department is the shift from what IDC calls the Second Platform to the Third Platform. This includes the even more extensive use of mobile, cloud, big data, and social media. What our business expects us to deliver is a platform that can predictively spot new business opportunities, deliver personalised experiences, allows them to innovate in an agile way, operate in real time and demonstrate transparency.

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

At its highest level, it’s whether we are winning business and covering our costs – just like any business! To become truly client-centric, we needed to measure our performance from our client’s perspective. We needed an overarching client sentiment metric, so we created a quarterly pulse-check survey. This uber metric tells us whether our customers are satisfied with IT and we use the output of this survey to influence our roadmaps and strategy. We also measure the sentiment of our customers on specific services we provide so we can improve those services specifically.

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

Absolutely! We are far from perfect and that is why we have a transformation program. The major areas would be around our processes, which are too slow and bureaucratic. Here we are looking to lean them out, automate them as much as possible, but also create a service catalogue where our services can be consumed in a self-service fashion rather than having to deal with IT personnel. The business would also say that our delivery is too slow and expensive. Here we are populating standard services in our catalogue that can be consumed quickly and with a competitive cost. Also, our strategy is to broker services in the public cloud if they can provide the service faster or cheaper while meeting our security and compliance standards.

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

Besides EHC and BDL mentioned earlier, I want to bring the consumer-grade experience to the enterprise. Enterprise-grade once represented best-in-class technology while “consumer-grade” was associated with lightweight technology not fit for a professional, high-performance environment.

Well, things are changing. The former lightweight is the new heavyweight. Consumer-grade will become the new benchmark that will decide our IT brand and whether enterprise IT can meet or even surpass the experience our clients enjoy in their personal lives. For instance, we are driving a unified collaboration program that is simplifying and modernising how our internal customers collaborate. We are also building out our IT service catalogue to provide that Amazon shopping experience and we are automating the processes behind it for speed and quality. Ultimately, my job is to make our 60,000 internal customers go faster when using technology – no easy task in the fast-paced, complex world we live in!

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