The five minute CIO: Shaun O’Shea, Pure Telecom

27 Feb 2015

Shaun O'Shea, IT manager at Pure Telecom

“The management, security and presentation of our data is what allows the company to do business,” explains Shaun O’Shea, IT manager at Pure Telecom.

Pure Telecom is a Dublin-headquartered fixed line, broadband and cloud telecoms service provider that employs 100 people across Ireland.

The company has been operating since 2002.

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

Pure Telecom is one of Ireland’s leading telecoms providers, with a very large voice and broadband customer base in business-to-business, home and reseller segments. To manage a business with such complexity, technology has to be at the heart of every aspect of what we do. We have bespoke in-house developed B2B, CRM and billing systems, which give us great access to data and customer information, so the business can react quickly to changes in market conditions or go after newly identified revenue streams faster.

Our systems ensure we can provide a very responsive and high quality of customer service to all customers and this is the very heart of our business.

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

It all centres around our data. The management, security and presentation of our data is what allows the company to do business. This process starts at the pre-sales lead management stage and moves to data capture, and then to managing our customer data and its interactions with our various carriers throughout their life as a Pure Telecom customer. This data, combined with bespoke business and customer management applications that we have developed, is key to how we create business and customer value.

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

We are predominately, though not exclusively, a Microsoft-based operation from an IT perspective, with staff running their productivity applications in a Windows-based environment, supported by SQL Server and MySQL backend systems doing most of the grunt work. We also have an external presence via our website and an in-house developed customer portal which is LAMP based.

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

Our IT budget is mostly centred on the short-term day-to-day systems and activities.

We look at expansionary or technology change items as longer term and we put forward a business case for each of them. It is critical that before any investment or strategic change, we identify how the item in question will either enhance our customers’ experience or help drive more revenue for the business and improve efficiencies.

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

Pure Telecom has grown organically and through acquisition and as a result we have a number of internal legacy systems to support. We have already migrated some of these to a centralised technology base to streamline our operations, but there are still some ongoing projects to migrate to one core technology platform, which will ultimately give us greater flexibility in how we can choose to operate in the future. It will also help us to deliver an absolutely seamless customer service right across our home and business customer base.

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

We have a relatively small in-house IT team, but we are all multi-disciplined, which allows us to look after most things internally, though we do have some external third parties that we defer to on occasion where gaps in our knowledge and experience exist.

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?

Throughout my career to date, I have always been a proverbial ‘Jack of all trades’ and generally enjoy multi-faceted roles. This is an excellent background for this position, as my time is split between strategic planning and tactical implementation. The strategic part of my job involves higher level management meetings, where we review requirements and decide how our IT strategy will need to be adjusted to keep in line with where the company is going. This is coupled with time spent with my sleeves rolled up, implementing those requirements.

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

It used to be that everyone just had a phone line in their homes and were billed for all calls made. Since deregulation in the Nineties we have had a flurry of change, starting with the advent of mobile devices and then web-enabled mobile devices, coupled with huge improvements in broadband speeds. The result is that people are now interested in tailoring their solutions very specifically.

This has led to a market place that has never been more competitive, with a huge choice of offerings available to the consumer. To cater for this, we now provide an extensive range of various different packages, ranging from the full suite of bundled landline, international and mobile calls with super-fast fibre broadband, down to customers who only want broadband and every combination in between.

We have identified ways we can enhance the management of these combinations via our customer portal and by creating customised marketing communications based on analysis of customer usage data. So while we already offer the best value packages on the market, we are striving to add further IT-driven customer experience enhancements to help our service really stand out from the competition.

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

Metrics, benchmarking and measuring is critical in Pure Telecom. A lot of what we do in IT is managing the flow of data, which allows us to create reporting on various stages of the data flow. This allows us to identify compliance issues and rectify them. It is a key iterative process that covers all aspects of the business, from sales to billing and financial reconciliation. It is a set of processes that are constantly being improved upon.

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

Cloud-based technologies are something we would like to utilise further but we have some internal hurdles to overcome to enable us to do what we would like in this space.

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

We are looking at enhancements to our customer portal which will allow our customer base to do and see more things online in order to enhance the overall customer experience. We are also in the middle of a review of our disaster recovery processes and have identified areas where we can improve on existing solutions which will be in place by the end of quarter one this year.

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