The five-minute CIO: Klaus Michel, Damovo

18 Sep 2015

Klaus Michel, Damovo

“If the business needs change we will align the investment to that business outcome,” says Klaus Michel, manager of Technical Support and IT at Damovo.

Damovo was formerly the enterprise services division of Swedish telecoms equipment giant Ericsson.

The company provides ICT services and solutions to businesses in Ireland, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland.

Michel was with Ericsson for 18 years before it became Damovo in 2000 and he has led the Technical Support and IT division since then.

‘IT budgets should be glued to the business. Our IT budget is aligned to the business, business outcomes and business volumes. So putting it simple; no ROI or flexibility, no investment’

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

As we are a networking and technology company, it can be easy to take for granted the depth and wealth of our IT technology. We’re fairly early adopters on most relevant toolsets. Most of our organisation is made up of engineers, so we keep leading-edge technology on our radar all the time. We are extremely lucky in that we have labs in every country so our engineers get to test our technology solutions before we take them live.

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

We deliver a set of services in line with the organisation’s requirements and business goals. Our philosophy is to remove complexity wherever possible and create business solutions in line with industry best practice.

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

We are headquartered in Germany but we also have offices in Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland, Poland, The Netherlands and Luxembourg. Our data centres are in Dusseldorf, Brussels and Antwerp. All key applications and communications are delivered from our data centres, which in turn deliver the security, availability and flexibility required.

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

IT budgets should be glued to the business. Our IT budget is aligned to the business, business outcomes and business volumes. So putting it simple; no ROI or flexibility, no investment.

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

Damovo’s infrastructure is fit for purpose and as a result it’s not overly complex. Keeping IT simple allows people to understand what it is we do and how we do it. If we understand it, we can control it. In addition, from a support perspective, keeping things simple removes unnecessary overheads in relation to resourcing and knowledge transfer as teams evolve.

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

We are a company of engineers and support personnel and have about 200 customer-facing support personnel. Six others are dedicated internal IT support. So we either have a huge IT team or a small one, depends on how you look at it. We tend to separate our internal and client-facing resources, and we can draw on the right people as required for specific projects.

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?

I am responsible for all operations within the group both internally and customer facing. My main responsibilities are keeping operations fully aligned with the business ensuring we are fit for purpose. I am a data nut and spend most of my time reviewing data with a view to understanding our business challenges and performance outliers.

In terms of IT I see my responsibilities as mainly translating business requirements for IT and technical requirements for the business.

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

We are looking at two areas in detail at the moment. One is the use of analytics for optimisation of our (and our customer) resources, both human and technical. To achieve this, we’ve deployed an analytics platform. This platform is used to forecast resource requirements both human and technical. We are doing this to help us remain competitive and to help our customers to spend where it will have the most positive effect for their business. The simple advantage of this approach is it allows both sides of a transaction to make informed decisions, without complexity.

Secondly, we’re excited by the benefits that can be delivered through Software Defined Networks (SDN), and are investing in technologies that will help us to optimise our customers’ voice and data networks by delivering intelligence from the network, and giving ourselves and our customers flexible agile networks which are aligned to the business.

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

We measure and issue some 20 KPIs monthly to the business. We’ve been doing this for many years and these KPIs are constantly evolving to match what’s important to our business. The KPIs are discussed monthly with the business leaders within Damovo to ensure IT is delivering in line with our business requirements.

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

IT can always improve and that improvement will depend on who you last spoke to. Some people want more flexibility, some want more controls. Others want the latest and greatest gadgets, some want no change at all. Keeping IT as close to the business as possible and keeping it there takes all these differing arguments away. If the business needs change we will align the investment to that business outcome.

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

We are currently in the process of retiring an older ERP and replacing it with SAP. We’re doing this in order to deliver more flexibility to the business and to align our internal processes to the business in an even better way. We will also have much lower running costs as a result of the change, so this is a real no-brainer.

Updated 2.47pm, 21/09/2015: This article was updated to reflect the fact that Damovo no longer has offices in the UK or the Czech Republic. 

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