Welcome to the latest in a series of exclusive interviews on Siliconrepublic.com, where IT leaders share their thoughts on technology trends and strategy. This week, we talk to Henry Minogue, IT director at UPC Ireland, the cable operator whose Irish customer base is closing in on the 1m subscriber mark and currently stands at more than 922,000.
Over close to two decades, Minogue’s career has included consulting and senior management positions in telecoms and retail, gaining him experience in IT strategic planning, IT operations management, delivery and governance, while also delivering business transformations through innovation programmes. He has been in his current role since 2006.
How big is UPC in Ireland from an IT perspective: how many users are there in how many sites?
We are a significant employer with 845 people working throughout our operation in Ireland and creating a further 1,000-plus jobs for Irish contractors across multiple sites in total.
How big is your IT team?
We have 38 full-time resources working in Ireland.
Do you see your role primarily as a technical one, or a business one?
The CIO role is a business role.
Is your 2012 IT budget increased, decreased, or the same as last year, and how will that affect your priorities?
Budget remains close to last year – this actually helps in determining priorities. An efficient IT budget planning and control process provides an opportunity for closer alignment with business strategy and the determination of the associated priorities. This assists the IT function in the production of transparent, realistic roadmaps that focus on what is important and to the business.
You spoke at the recent CIO summit on the subject of doing more with less – from a practical standpoint, how do you go about meeting what sounds like a difficult goal?
Understand your internal customer requirements. Outline your own boundaries in terms of delivery capability and resources. Work with your customers to prioritise their projects against business strategy and objectives. Agree departmental commitment delivery packs.
Stay aligned with your business leaders and continue to account manage the relationship, department by department. Position IT to be a leader of business innovation – innovation does not have to cost more.
You’re in charge of IT at an organisation that relies heavily on technology in delivering services to the public – what challenges does that present in doing your job?
IT as a service provider and strategic partner to the business needs to balance the priorities of: one, maintaining the solutions currently in place and dealing with the constraints of associated legacy and two, developing solutions to deliver the product roadmap while reducing the time to market and three, deliver solutions to drive business efficiencies through simplifying how we do business.
What current technology trends are you most interested in potentially applying to UPC as an organisation?
We continually evaluate solutions and opportunities that provide clear business value. We are currently investing in advanced business analytics solutions. We continue to look at solutions that simplify our operations for customer facing agents and are currently investing in the virtualisation of desktops across our internal and external call centres.
Strategically, we continue to look at the next generations of telecommunications solutions in the BSS (business support system) arena and evaluate their capabilities and roadmaps against our own business and IT strategy.
What’s your take on cloud computing: vendor hype or business revolution?
Business revolution is a stretch but it’s much more than vendor hype. Certainly, cloud computing can provide business opportunities, efficiencies and economies of scales. However, it is important that companies work closely with their cloud providers to ensure that cloud solutions encompasses all security, legal and regulatory requirements.
What’s your approach to major business applications: build or buy?
It really depends on the business requirement and if a suitable solution is available in the marketplace versus our ability to deliver in-house. Would it be an effective use of valuable internal development resources to deliver internally or is it more cost-effective to buy?
Outsource or in-house IT?
There are tactical non-core elements of IT and specific skills sets that can be outsourced but from an end-to-end perspective, IT in-house is preferable.
Given that UPC is an international organisation, how much autonomy do you have for IT either at a tactical or strategic level? For instance, do you have to use the same vendors as the parent company, or is there some flexibility?
Each affiliate has the opportunity to participate in the corporate IT strategy decision-making process and is therefore a party to the corporate guidelines. Economies of scale through group-wide agreements provide significant financial savings.
Having said that, no two affiliate businesses are exactly the same and a balance does exist between corporate guidelines and local decision-making processes.
Have you any plans to add to your own skills this year and if so, in what area?
Yes, we have added to our Applications Development Team and will be expanding our Business Intelligence Team.
What’s your view on how IT can do a better job of being taken seriously as a contributor to the business, and not just being perceived as a cost centre?
Put in place the mechanisms to demonstrate the business value of IT in measurable terms. Don’t just measure the costs of services provided – outline the value also. IT spend needs to be seen and measured as an investment in business performance. There is no department more capable or better positioned to drive innovation within business today.
It’s not all about the next big capital spend project. Take a step back, look at what has already been delivered, join the dots in an alternative manner, give your IT resources the space to be creative and to consult with business users on the ground. Foster an environment of creativity and innovation. Bring solutions and opportunities to the top table.