The five minute CIO: Lavinia Morris, SMBC Aviation Capital

18 Jul 2014

Lavinia Morris, head of IT at SMBC Aviation Capital

IT leaders should remember the lessons they learned during the bad times and use these lessons to ensure they maximise their budgets during a period of growth, says SMBC Aviation Capital’s head of IT Lavinia Morris.

Lavinia Morris has recently taken on the role of head of IT for the aircraft leasing company SMBC Aviation Capital, where she has responsibility for the establishment and running of its greenfield IT department.

With a background in electronic engineering, Morris has worked in the IT sector for more than 18 years. She has spent much of her IT leadership career working in the financial services sector, most recently heading up IT operations for the Life Assurance company Friends First.

Morris is also a regular commentator in the area of cloud computing and is the chair of the Irish Internet Association’s Working Group for Cloud Computing.

She is also a member of the ISO National Mirror Committee (Ireland) with responsibility for standards setting in the area of cloud computing and has been involved in the development of a national standard for cloud procurement in conjunction with the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI).

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 currently undergoing a major business transformation project, part of which involves replatforming all of our applications and rebuilding our core IT infrastructure from scratch. The purpose of the project is to re-engineer our front and back office systems and processes to support business growth over the coming years.

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

Fundamentally our IT strategy is to support the business in the delivery of its goals through the provision of high quality customer service delivered by a combination of highly qualified IT professionals and strategic partnerships supported by robust, scalable and secure technology platforms.

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

I have worked in IT leadership roles in the financial services sector for the past number of years and have therefore been through the ‘roller-coaster’ of boom to bust and now back to growth again.

Recent surveys are suggesting the return to growth of the IT budget.

I think it is important for all IT leaders to remember the lessons they learned during the bad times and use these learnings to ensure they maximise their budgets during a period of growth. Some lessons I have learned and plan to re-use are, firstly: Understand your cost base. Secondly: Outsource strategically as opposed to tactically. Thirdly: Negotiate with your vendors but ‘be fair’, and most importantly, challenge the norms.

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

We are in the process of rebuilding our entire IT infrastructure and are therefore taking the opportunity to consolidate and standardise it on best of breed technologies.

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?

The core of my role is the alignment of IT strategy with the business strategy to ensure we are helping the business achieve its objectives. Therefore, understanding and helping address business challenges through technology is, I believe, fundamental to my role.

Very little of my time is spent on deep technical issues – we use our strategic outsource partners to do this for us.

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

For years I had adopted a model of in-sourcing all of IT and while this gave me great control and flexibility, in recent times I found that by strategically outsourcing certain skill sets that were not core to the business not only helped reduce costs but also in a number of cases improved quality of service.

I am currently in the process of building an IT team for SMBCAC and as part of my sourcing strategy will actively outsource all non-core skill sets while maintaining business value-adding skill sets in-house. This I believe gives me the most cost-effective skillbase with the capability to flex as required as the business grows. We have a number of exciting roles due to come on stream in the coming days.

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

Aviation leasing is a big growth sector at the moment and you will have seen from recent media coverage that SMBCAC have just entered into a multi-billion-dollar deal with Airbus for the purchase of 115 new aircraft over the coming years.

The purpose of our business transformation project and associated application replatforming is to support the business in the delivery of this growth strategy.

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