The five minute CIO: Paul Hogan, Ward Solutions

14 Nov 2014

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Paul Hogan, chief technology officer at Ward Solutions

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“If a CIO does not maintain a strategic view, I don’t believe they could serve an organisation in the best manner,” says Paul Hogan, chief technology officer at Ward Solutions.

Security player Ward Solutions has experienced an average year-on-year growth rate of 20pc over the past two years and predicts this growth will accelerate further to 30pc per annum for the next two years.

The company expects to achieve revenues in excess of €10m by 2016.

In August, the company confirmed plans to create 22 new jobs at its Dublin and Belfast offices as part of a €1.8m investment to fund its expansion. This will bring the total headcount to 80 before the end of 2016.

As well as the new jobs, Ward Solutions will be upgrading services delivered via its Security Operations Centre in Citywest, Dublin.

This includes the enhancement of services such as managed security, digital forensics, e-discovery and security analytics.

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

There are two ways we look at information technology in the business: firstly to support the ‘internal’ workings and secondly how we use IT to assist in delivering solutions to our clients. A solution such as a Secure Managed Service, whereby we would operate and support a full stack infrastructure for a client in a highly secure manner, would be very difficult if not impossible to achieve without a significant reliance on information technology. Other solutions that are services heavy, such as Threat Based Risk Assessments, also require specific IT solutions, and when we develop secure applications for clients, there is a vast array of software that we rely on.

What are the main points of your companys IT strategy?

Fundamentally IT is a business enabler for Ward Solutions and it’s pervasive for all that we do in admin, finance, sales, operations and management. Through the use of IT we look to increase business value, reduce costs, and most of all deliver excellent service and quality for our clients.

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

Depending on the industry a CIO is operating in, there are metrics, such as per cent of a company’s revenue spend on IT, which the CIO needs to be aware of. Although this can help inform IT investments, planning and assumptions, it is important that the CIO can relate this back to specific objectives within the organisation, and articulate that at board level.

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

As an organisation that has grown rapidly over the last number of years, our IT estate has grown, as well. Having said that, we have looked to consolidate and optimise and currently operate our own ‘private cloud’ infrastructure, as well as using public and private cloud solutions from Microsoft. Although the underlying infrastructure may be quite complex, the experience to the end user – whether internal or a client – should not be. Again, if you take our Secure Managed Services offerings, there are a lot of underlying technologies and management systems that we use to keep the service running which the client is generally unaware of, but at the same time can get access to reports and dashboards showing the state of their service.

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

All our IT is performed in-house, we do have support contracts with vendors for specific products that we use typically for third-line support. Outsourcing is a major consideration for a lot of CIOs, but not as much with us.

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 this role, I have had to step away from deep technical issues a number of years back to maintain a more strategic view of IT within Ward Solutions. I do believe it is important for the CIO to keep reasonably up to date with latest and emerging technologies and their potential application within the organisation, and this can be done without having to get “your head under the hood”. If a CIO does not maintain a strategic view, I don’t believe they could serve an organisation in the best manner and runs the risk of missing the bigger picture if looking at deep technical issues.

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

Innovation is key for us, it’s critical that we are always looking at new products and services to meet the demands of our customers. As a security services provider, the majority of these require an element of IT for delivery or support. In the area of Secure Managed Services we are constantly adding services to the catalogue which have a key reliance on IT. For example, we recently renewed our eDiscovery offering, which required a significant investment in software, servers and storage.  

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

Firstly, we see if we can run IT to the budget allocated, but that’s not the full story. Internally, as part of our employee satisfaction programme, we would determine if IT is delivering to the expectations of our staff from all areas of the business and externally.

Are there any areas youve identified where IT can improve, and what are they?

There is nothing specific that stands out, however, as an organisation, we strive for continuous improvement across all areas of the business under a LEAN/six sigma programme, and that applies to IT, as well. Additionally, we are working towards the ISO 9001 certification, and we would expect to see some improvements in IT within that process.

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

We are looking at deploying a new professional services automation (PSA) tool. This should make us more efficient in terms of how we run our business initially in the areas of resource utilisation and project management, which is the internal view, but also will deliver value to our clients in terms of easier ways to interact with us for service and support-related issues. In particular, we see lots of potential in running the Secure Managed Services offering in a more efficient and streamlined manner. The longer-term benefits accruing to the business would be realised when we fully integrate our CRM and finance packages, as well.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

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