Fortescue CIO says, 'Go cloud, or else'

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This article appeared in the November 2014 issue of CRN magazine.

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Fortescue CIO says, 'Go cloud, or else'
Vito Forte

Tell us about a recent project that required an external IT provider

We were looking at a new mobility solution that required delivery via public cloud infrastructure while connecting to an on-premise system to get the appropriate data from our corporate databases. The end points were mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets used by employees in the field.

How did the external provider help?

I was asking for a product or capability they didn’t already have. We had a discussion about how we wanted to ‘co-innovate’ and deliver the capability, not only to us as a customer but also to the supplier in terms of being able to take that to their other customers. 

Fundamentally, the product we wanted was available but generally delivered through an on-premise model using perpetual licensing. We didn’t have a problem with the functionality of the solution but we wanted it to use a subscription model to limit impact on my team and maximise scalability at the end points. And I wanted it done in a very short period – just two months.

Who are your regular partners?

It depends on the work. We work with a lot of different partners including SAP, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, Ignia, HCL, GE, HP, Cisco – to name a handful.

How does a partner impress you and win your business?

They need to listen and to deliver at our velocity. Functionality in our organisation needs to be delivered in a small timeframe. If they can’t meet that velocity, they’re holding me up. 

Over the past few years we’ve really taken Agile on board as a key way to stay ahead of the pack and deliver to our organisation and customers what they need and when they need it.

Is it all about the price?

No. We have services from people that aren’t the cheapest but they deliver in a way that we prefer. They are backed up with appropriate SLAs. For instance, my SAP on-premise solution is backed by SAP’s management service, which isn’t the cheapest. But I wanted them to take ownership of issues and work through those because if they can’t manage their own application software, what hope does anyone else have? 

In this way, you end up building a very short ownership chain, which means you’re not going from vendor to third-party and back with everyone pointing fingers at each other. We can’t afford that. While the in-service cost may be more than an Indian outsourcer, what I get is stability and reliability from that provider.

When did an IT provider last impress you?

I’m a hard marker. We’re going through a mobility proof-of-concept now, so I’ll be impressed if the provider gets there, given the timeframe of just a few weeks. 

Looking back, when we did our Office 365 transition of more than 5,000 seats three years ago, there were a lot of doubters and scepticism in many quarters. But we did 80 percent of our environment in less than eight weeks, so that was impressive. And even then we were assisting to develop migration tools that are in broad use today. To this day, we’ve had consistent 99.9 percent reliability. That service has been exceptionally well thought out. 

What are common mistakes that service providers make?

They overpromise and under-deliver. I’d rather have a conversation with someone who says [the work] is new or different and we haven’t done that before. We can come to an arrangement where we both get something out of it rather than it being a one-way street. It’s being open to the conversation and not assuming the only delivery model is the one you’ve been using for 20 years.

How is cloud affecting your approach to IT investment in hardware and software?

We’re about 60 percent public cloud now – most of our stuff is SaaS. The infrastructure guys are going to find it hard. But I’m not in the 90 percent of customers that continue to rely on on-premise infrastructure for most of their needs. Infrastructure vendors will still have a market for a while because a lot of people are fearful. There are a lot of server huggers out there and they can use security and latency as great excuses not to do something. The only problem is that your competitors are moving to the cloud and you’ll be left behind big-time.

Is your use of external providers increasing or decreasing?

It will probably increase but I’m bypassing the traditional skills outsourcing model, so I’m looking for people to provide PaaS, SaaS and so on. For me, it’s all about the applications. What I’m seeing is that cloud is turning the sourcing model on its head. I’m just trying to source capability rather than deal with just cheaper bodies. After all, it’s not about labour arbitrage any more.

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