Welcome to the latest in a series of exclusive interviews on Siliconrepublic.com, where IT leaders share their thoughts on technology trends and strategy. Ian Winham is executive vice-president at Ricoh Europe, holding the roles of CIO and CFO.
His remit also includes legal and procurement activities across Ricoh Europe. He is currently sponsoring the design, build and deployment of Ricoh’s IT infrastructure, which will see the deployment of standardised processes and systems across all of its operations in EMEA.
What is your role within the Ricoh Europe organisation?
I’m executive vice-president, CFO and CIO, responsible for all of our European operations which cover 20 operating companies across Europe which turn over just over 400bn Japanese yen. We have 17,000 employees and sadly I reckon I’ve got more devices than employees: 19,000 devices from desktop and laptop and a similar number of mobile devices.
So does that mean you’re looking actively at a ‘bring-your-own-device’ policy?
At this stage we’ve not moved into BYOD. I recognise that the trend is certainly for people to be more mobile and I know we’ve done some intelligence work with the EIU, but I think at the moment, from my perspective, is making sure I can give a quality of service to our staff and I need to be persuaded.
How would BYOD negatively affect IT’s ability to deliver quality of service to the business?
I’ve been doing a lot of benchmarking with my peers and I think there’s always going to be a category of user that’s going to need immediate help. I think the second bit is, you need to establish some collaborative ways of work – a group of people collaborating to fix issues.
I’m not saying it’s something we will ignore but at this stage in our journey there is a quality and procurement advantage from staying consistent. We have a major process re-engineering project around Europe so that we give better service to our customers and better experience to our staff and I’d rather focus on that than on the tools.
How would you describe your approach to the CIO role?
I think the most important aspect of my job is seeing everything as a process and a business lead rather than coming at it from an IT lead. Fundamentally, you’ve got to have a good business driver before you come at it with some new technology.
Ricoh is moving very actively towards the cloud. Can you tell us a little more about that?
Certainly if I look at the business case that drove us into the private cloud, it was looking at how our business was structured. We had to improve our environmental footprint, and obviously there’s a financial business case that underpins that.
Secondly, how do we deliver what the business needs in terms of ability to access our platforms from wherever they are, and thirdly, how can I deliver better solutions to our customers? One example is allowing e-invoicing from an accounts payable and accounts receivable perspective.
Why have you chosen a private cloud, and would you ever consider using public cloud services?
I wanted to make sure we could address security, compliance and all the areas attached to that. Ricoh has an ISO27001 security certification and rather than that just applying to our data centres, we’ve applied it to every location we have. With that degree of respect for security and recognising all challenges of where does data sit and where it’s going to, the best fit was a private cloud.
Your own background is from the financial rather than the technical side. Do you think that gives you a different perspective on the CIO role?
I think I’m very fortunate in that I think my focus is representing the business. The relevance of IT is in supporting the business in what it tries to achieve.
Probably I have a greater focus on the business case and benefits realisation. If I link it back to our cloud journey, one of the key things is the key performance indicators: what are the cost benefits we’ve realised and what are the customer applications we can deliver? The real benefit has come from having that business focus.
My job is about looking at the best way of looking at technology to add value. It’s not just about technology.
Does that create any problems when you’re talking with technology guys in your organisation?
I don’t think I need a new dictionary for talking to my IT team: we all work well together and it’s a value-added process. The big change I’m beginning to see in our IT organisation is the sort of skill sets we need to help our customers.
One of the challenges I set my team is: if we deliver a solution internally, how could we market that solution externally? I’m always pushing them to look at a broader church.
So do you agree with the view that IT needs to focus more on ‘marketing’ itself better in order to be seen as a real contributor to the business?
I’m always wary of marketing success because it’s one of those self-fulfilling prophesies at the end of the day. My view is you’ve got to consult all areas of business, understand what the strategic direction is and look at how you’re going to support those guys.
I think there’s an element not necessarily about marketing but communications skills because we don’t want the business looking at IT as geeks who will fix things in the background. You’ve got to help the guys understand technology and the benefit they’re trying to get.
With changes such as cloud coming along, do you foresee your own role changing?
I think there’s always going to be a role for a business-led CIO; whether the C stands for cloud or chief in the future I’m not sure. To understand where data sits, how it’s managed, and how we support the business in accessing that data, I think the CIO has a huge responsibility.
Given Ricoh’s background, I want to ask you about printing and documents: do you think they tend to be overlooked in many organisations?
I think document process optimisation – which is what I really regard our skills as, these days – is a space that is overlooked by a lot of businesses and potentially by a lot of CIOs because at the heart of every transaction there is a document at some point in time.
I was looking at some research from IDC recently, where something like 35pc of respondents said they had compliance breaches because of a lack of control of document processes. I think, looking at those document processes, how you can improve control and make them more efficient is absolutely crucial.
What we’re seeing is, when we work with customers, we can improve the speed with which they can access data. One customer reduced document search time from four minutes to 30 seconds per document. When you think about the amount of documents going through an organisation, that’s invaluable.