Our ‘Thinking Out Loud’ series, delves into the minds of our experts, to find out about the important topics our clients are challenged with today.

This interview is with Andy Boyes, a partner at Wavestone with over 33 years’ experience of business and IT change in large scale organisations across financial services, energy, trading, and retail industries. Andy provides oversight and leadership of major transformations from strategy to execution across several large-scale companies.

We discuss the current trends and challenges in the operations and technology space and Andy offers his personal thoughts on what could be done to address them.

What do you see as the core responsibilities of COO and CTO leaders and how do you help support them?

COOs and CTOs have a combined responsibility to optimise operations and technology to meet the current and future needs of the business. Their roles add value by effecting change to facilitate business innovation, growth, and cost efficiency, whilst ensuring that resilient ongoing services are continued to be provided.

Wavestone’s key capabilities lie in the optimisation of technology and improvement of resilience. We work predominantly with the CTO and COO functions of major companies and the teams that surround them. Our deep expertise and global track record of working with large-scale organisations helps accelerate their agendas and achieve their goals.

A key differentiator of ours is that we always take a business led approach in everything that we do. This ensures we are focused on the things that matter most to our clients and that they get maximum value out of our contribution.

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What do you see as the key challenges over the next 5 years?

Embedding Operational Resilience

Operational resilience (OR) will remain a key topic in the coming years. Historically many organisations have seen OR as an IT led activity with limited attention given to it within first line business operations.

Within financial services the regulators have put significant priority on ensuring firms become more resilient. Consequently, businesses in this space are investing significant effort in ensuring their important business services are resilient and this will continue. Even without the regulatory pressures, non-financial companies will also be investing more in OR given customers’ increasing expectations on reliability of service.

However, to become truly resilient, organisations need to undergo a cultural shift to ensure OR is fully embedded into the first line business “DNA”. This requires a mindset change to move OR from being a regulatory or customer obligation to become “the right thing to do”.

Accelerating the Pace of Technology Modernisation

Pressure will continue to increase on modernising key applications and moving away from fixed cost technologies such as data centres. Organisations will specifically seek to optimise usage of cloud technology, particularly in trying to become architecturally vendor agnostic. Applications will consequentially need to become more cloud “native”, designed to run in the cloud, and be independent of any infrastructure.

Firms will also need to demonstrate increased “agility” to improve the speed of change in utilising modernised technology. However significant technical debt will often need to be addressed before this can be done, which could hamper the pace of progress.

As cloud is increasingly adopted, technology financial models will also move more into a pay per use approach. This will require a change in how projects are accounted for and the way the impact on the P&L of the business will be managed.

Building The Required Expertise

Existing skillsets and operating models in CTO organisations are often founded on directly owning and managing the technology that runs the business. Moving to next generation technology involves virtualisation of hardware, implementing new toolsets and ways of working, and increasing the use of an eco-system of external suppliers.

This shift requires new expertise and methods of operating, and a change in focus in key roles. Some existing staff, with the required support, will make the transition and become essential players in driving the agenda forward.

New skills and expertise will however be required, which cannot be found internally. Recruitment for these roles may take a protracted amount of time given the significant demand in the market for the foreseeable future.

Addressing these challenges starts with leadership setting the strategy, direction, and tone from the top. Providing a clear vision and roadmap to get there is an engaging way of bringing people along on the journey and them understanding what is individually required.

This particularly in my mind helps set the context for individuals within the COO/CTO organisation when addressing the cultural and people aspects of change. It also ensures appropriate and clear prioritisation of activities for the teams in delivering the vision.

Leaders should take personal accountability in driving the roadmap forward and putting the right people in the right places with the right support in implementing it.

And I think having that as the central guide is very useful in moving forward.

A topic that must be mentioned; where do you see sustainable IT fitting into this space?

An important aspect of sustainable IT is about only consuming the resources you really need to operate your technology and doing so in an efficient way. Cloud is by nature a consumption-based model. It therefore is a more optimal way of utilising computing power. Modernisation of technology using cloud, combined with the removal of obsolete debt, will inevitably help organisations to become more sustainable. This could even be measured through specific sustainability KPIs that can show clear progress as cloud is increasingly adopted and optimised.

Final Piece of Advice

A difficult question! For me if I were to do one thing as a COO or CTO it would be to create a team around me with the right attitude, culture, and resilience that can manage the expected (and the unexpected) things that come with the territory.

Read about our recent Legal and General client success story, led by Andy, where Wavestone helped them create a technology strategy for newly formed entity Legal and General Retirement Solutions.