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Tech innovation at the prestigious European airline

June 2018

Raiffeisen Bank International


CIO Jon Grainger on how new technology platforms give Freshfields the edge BRIAN LILLIE, EQUINIX CPO,


Embracing the financial world’s digital revolution

T P 10

Collaborative tools to enhance productivity

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FOREWORD IT’S AN INDISPUTABLE fact that technology is now disrupting every single industry, and in this issue of Gigabit Magazine we tell a story of transformation in the legal sector with an in-depth feature on Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. The global law firm has been a

at the heart of its digital strategy. Alongside more must-read articles we also bring you our latest Top 10, which this month details the most popular collaborative tools designed to enhance productivity. Finally, our exclusive digital reports feature interviews with, on top of

pioneer throughout its 275-year

Freshfields, Exim Bank, FDH Bank,

history and now it’s taking a bold

Nedbank Insurance, Orange Egypt,

approach to digital innovation. Its

Charter Hall, Mercedes-Benz Group,

aim is to create a ‘frictionless end

QNET, Oracle, Digita Oy, Essex County

user experience’ and its journey to

Council, Groningen Seaports, KLM,

technological excellence is being led

Raiffeisen Bank International, Server

by our interviewee, CIO Jon Grainger.

Farm, United Arab Bank, Oportun, UCSF

“I wouldn’t say we’re at a ubiquitous

and Schneider National, among others

state with technology and law but

– all involving in-depth discussions with

certainly the relationship has changed

top executives and industry experts.

quite markedly,” he told us. To learn

We hope you enjoy this latest issue

more, read the full article inside and also

and, if you have any feedback, you

take a look at our exclusive video from

can find us across social media:

Freshfields’ new Manchester office.

Gigabit’s Linkedin group, or follow

Another compelling read in this

us on Twitter and Facebook.

magazine centres on Equinix, the world’s largest data centre and

Enjoy the issue!

colocation provider. Brian Lillie, Chief Product Officer, explains how the company is putting customers



Law enters the new age



KLM Digita Oy Essex County Council Groningen Seaports


Raiffeisen Bank International Server Farm


USA Schneider National UCSF PCMB Project The Precision Cancer Medicine Building (PCMB) BIM4FM Project

Events P84


AFRICA Exim Bank FDH Bank Nedbank Insurance Orange Egypt

ASIA Mercedes-Benz Group QNET

ANZ Charter Hall


P62 Palo Alto Networks - inside the hybrid cloud


Is the AI apocalypse coming?

Atlantis The Palm United Arab Bank

Building the big data picture brick by brick


Equinix: Architect of the multi cloud



Written by TOM WADLOW Produced by JAMES PEPPER

Click to watch our exclusive interview where Jon Grainger introduces the Legal Services Centre



LOT HAS happened in 275 years. From mass industrialisation of the late 1700s to the invention of electricity, modernisation of warfare and the building of the first ever computer, the way in which lives are lived and jobs are worked has transformed. Global law firm Freshfields has been a first-hand witness to all of this since its founding in 1743, a claim few businesses still in operation today can make. Indeed, the company lived through the very creation of the term Luddite – a protest group of textile workers opposed to the introduction of automation and machinery during the Industrial Revolution. The term still carries tremendous relevance, for organisations spanning all industries are continually seeking ways to implement new technologies to optimise their outputs. CIO Jon Grainger is charged with ensuring that Freshfields leverages maximum benefit from current and future technologies, creating a frictionless end user experience for clients, legal 8

June 2018

Video: 275 years of Freshfields history

partners and other employees. Grainger is a relative newcomer to the industry having joined in February 2017, and it is the coming together of legal practice and technology that enticed him to Freshfields. “This convergence still has a long way to run,” he says, speaking from the seventh floor of the firm’s brand-new offices in Manchester, UK. “I wouldn’t say we’re at a ubiquitous state with technology and law, nowhere near it, but certainly the relationship between law and technology has changed quite markedly. That’s something that


Freshfields — setting the scene Freshfields is one of the oldest global law firms with a ‘onefirm’ mindset. Whether it is supporting businesses on entering new markets, defending corporate reputation or managing multi-jurisdictional regulation, Freshfields has worked for some of the world’s largest organisations through its 275-year history. Among the company’s recent successful client case studies are Mastercard, Fraport, AB InBev, BT-EE and First Abu Dhabi Bank. In terms of the technological setup, around half of the company’s technology-focussed staff are based in Manchester, with regional tech hubs in London, New York, Hong Kong, Berlin and Frankfurt. These centres service 27 Freshfields offices around the world. I saw as a very attractive attribute, as a technologist, to follow.”

275 NOT OUT Grainger is the first to admire the immense legacy of Freshfields, citing Charles Babbage, the brain behind the Difference Engine brass computer, a machine so complicated that it couldn’t be built in the pioneer’s lifetime. “Freshfields was already 50 years old when he was born, just to give you an idea of the span that the company has covered,” Grainger adds. “That’s something to be celebrated and,

speaking from personal experience, the culture here is a culture of pursuit. We don’t accept the status quo, and we strive for excellence.” So, what must the industry and Freshfields do to ensure they thrive for another 275 years? For Grainger, creating a frictionless user experience for clients, fee earners and business service personnel forms the essence of his mission as CIO, fostering an environment where technology can be developed to ensure a sustainable, competitive advantage. “I think the key point, when you look w w w. g i g a b i t m a g a z i n e . c o m


Quote from Freshfields CIO Jon Grainger:

“If you take WM Promus, our Puppet provider, for example. I met those guys and what was instantly apparent was just their passion and drive, and a real belief that they could make a difference. That is something you can't hide. It's also very very difficult to imitate or to fake. So that is really important because that also becomes infectious to our engineersas well.�



at the industry we’re in, is there are a lot of technologies that get mentioned again and again,” Grainger continues. “Machine learning and data analytics, for example. I think in themselves those are very important problems to solve, and we have some amazing capability within our teams who are working on those very problems. “However, I think the other element is for the industry to work out how it delivers these technologies. You can be first to market with a piece of technology – the trick is staying in that position. From a technology perspective, we should borrow approaches taken from the software sector, where we can keep our software fresh and up to date.”

ALL ABOARD THE TOOL CHAIN As technology continues to refresh and update, so too has the way in Freshfields approaches innovation. Grainger identified the need to unite the imperatives of fast delivery and the ability to keep such technology up to date and relevant once it has been deployed. Further, Freshfields’ innovation team, comprising lawyers and industry experts with a wealth of experience, should not have to worry about fixed costs associated with running their own innovation platforms. Rather than concentrate on such costs (like scalability and security), the focus should be on the core value proposition and what software development can achieve. Enter Freshfields’ own software development tool chain, the company’s answer to the ‘buy versus build’ conundrum. 12

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Click to watch ‘Freshfields. Ready.’

Grainger says: “Often there are barriers to building your own software – for example is it going to take a long time? Are we going to get what we need? Do we have the right people? Do we have the right understanding? So, we’ve developed a continuous integration and continuous delivery platform, called a tool chain.” This is made up of several component parts, one of which being Puppet, an automated testing tool deployed with key partner WM Promus. “It’s one of those really difficult problems to solve, and Puppet and the automation that we’re putting in has helped tremendously,” Grainger explains. “If you look at the way we’re doing testing, before we had our platform, certain test cycles could take two weeks. We’ve boiled those down through automation and tooling to take an hour. This means we can test five times more often, so we’re getting an assurance on quality that was just unachievable before.” Another vital element of the Freshfields tool chain is Jira and Confluence, part of the Atlassian solution suite which the company is leveraging with the support of another important partner, Business Data Quality. Grainger adds: “We use those to great effect, and they enable the ability to report on tasks, to have really rich, co-located group discussions in a very meaningful and accessible way.” The tool chain is a system that brings together lawyers, technologists and, ultimately, clients. w w w. g i g a b i t m a g a z i n e . c o m


In-Orbit with Freshfields BDQ is a process and technology consultancy founded in London, with its roots in product development. We utilise technology and highly experienced consultants to help our customers manage tasks, automate work and collaborate more effectively. • Consultancy, training and support

• Value-added reseller

• Integration and development

• Specialist recruitment

“Jira and Confluence are very solid, proven elements of the tool chain. We have a lot of familiarity with Atlassian’s products, and BDQ are a key strategic partner” Jon Grainger - Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer


Click to watch Grainger introduce Puppet and its place in the Freshfields technology tool chain

Underpinning this is what Grainger terms agile scrum, a new way of working whereby these stakeholders collaborate in small groups, called scrum teams, able to respond quickly to client feedback and demands. “What’s very interesting about the technology tool chain that we’ve created in Freshfields is the high rate of adoption,” the CIO says. “It is something that our software engineers enjoy, which is actually very important when you’re in a really competitive market for talent as we are here in Manchester. Give a software developer a great tool chain, and give a lawyer

a great user experience, and they can make the difference.” Again, this comes back to the question of how technology is delivered: “It’s not as difficult to work out what we need to do, but actually nailing how we do it. I think has been a real source of benefit for everyone,” Grainger adds.

A NEW AGE OF LEGAL SERVICE DELIVERY Another important focal point linking up Freshfields technologists and fee earners is the Legal Services Centre (LSC), a hub of legal experts offering services for the more process-driven elements of client work. w w w. g i g a b i t m a g a z i n e . c o m



“Blockchain has the ability not just to disrupt business — it’s clearly going to create new business models”

— Jon Grainger, CIO, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

Around 100 staff are spread across three locations – Manchester, where most reside, Germany and Hong Kong – enabling provision of near 24/7 support for partners and their clients. Common tasks carried out include document reviews, due diligence and non-disclosure agreements, and the centralised provision of such services allows clients greater flexibility, at the same time offering certainty on pricing. “What’s also very interesting about the LSC is we have our legal services team, and obviously they’re the most important element of the centre, but a lot of the services that they deliver 18

June 2018


rely on technology,” Grainger adds. Artificial intelligence is perhaps the most striking example. LSC’s legal support assistants (LSAs) leverage the AI capabilities of Kira, a machine learning software that automates contract reviews as part of the due diligence process. LSAs can configure certain search algorithms with Kira able to handle large amounts of documents in multiple languages – a system which is significantly faster than ‘eyes-on’ review. “What we also do at the LSC is use it as just one of the places we bring clients to when they want to understand how Freshfields is responding to new requirements,” Grainger says. “Very recently we brought together a group of very important clients from global institutions to showcase some technology that we’d created.”

INVESTING IN INNOVATION Though Freshfields’ client roster comprises some of the world’s largest and most well-known organisations, the firm also supports the legal sector’s up and coming tech startups. For the third consecutive year it will

be sponsoring Legal Geek, the largest law tech community in the world, made up of 2,500 members. “Our involvement in that space, with really exciting technology startups and lots of moving parts, shows that within Freshfields we have this hunger, this thirst to be involved,” says Grainger. “We want to make sure we’re relevant and at the centre of the pacesetters.” Closer to home, Grainger sees tremendous promise in Manchester’s technology talent pool, with graduates and post-graduates from the University of Manchester already making their mark. “If you think about Manchester, it lays claim to starting the industrial revolution. If you point out that the university invented graphene, and all the implications that we’re only just working out for that, you can see Manchester has this repeated ability to start big ideas off globally. Not to mention, Alan Turing (considered to be the founder of modern computing and artificial intelligence) teaching at the University during his time.” “Do we have technology talent in Salford and Manchester? Absolutely w w w. g i g a b i t m a g a z i n e . c o m



Powered by partnership Delivery and ownership of technology products at Freshfields is the result of close collaboration between the firm and an ecosystem of partners. “Increasingly, the characteristics we’re looking for in our technology partners are people who have a vision to provide their software in a way that the end user wouldn’t even know they were contributing,” Grainger explains. “We’re working with partners rather than vendors, and I find that when I speak to prospective technology partners, very quickly you determine whether they get our platform story and where we want to go.” Below are some of the key technology partnerships that are helping Grainger and his team to power operations at Freshfields:


June 2018

WM Promus: Provider of Puppet. “I met those guys and what was instantly apparent was their passion and drive, and a real belief that they could make a difference. That is something you can’t hide. It’s also very difficult to imitate or to fake. That is really important because it is also becomes infectious to our engineers as well.”

Business Data Quality Ltd: Provider of Atlassian products. “For Jira and for Confluence as part of the Atlassian suite, again those are very solid, proven elements of the tool chain. We have a lot of familiarity with that, and it’s a very well-established set of products.”


Blackberry: “Our thoughts are now to extend our tool chain approach across all of technology covering devices and ways of working. We have started this in earnest with using Blackberry UEM which provides us with a ‘single pane of glass’ to manage both Apple iOS, Android and Blackberry devices. The introduction of Blackberry UEM has allowed us to consolidate four separate mobile device management platforms, into one. Regardless of the operating system or ownership type, UEM is able to provide policies that secure the device and the data held on it. We have used UEM as a platform to launch in-house developed, bespoke mobile applications, that are tailored to the needs of our Lawyer’s and clients. The device enrolment process became far simpler and more secure with the adoption of QR codes, negating the need for long provisioning codes. Over the past eight months, Freshfields IT has enrolled over 5,000 devices onto the UEM platform.”

SnapLogic: Integration tool provider. “If you take the SnapLogic product, that’s an interesting selection because we were looking at a number of integration tools. It’s a very competitive space, but again at this stage in our lifecycle, in our maturity model, it was the only product which I think you didn’t need to have a computer science degree to operate.” Further, Grainger outlined a plan to create a panel of technology providers, a synergistic forum to facilitate even deeper collaboration and knowledge sharing.

w w w. g i g a b i t m a g a z i n e . c o m


Freshfield’s recently relocated to Salford in Manchester, England

we do. Have I been able to access all of it? Not yet. We moved from London, wholesale, only a year ago, and I’m very pleased to say we are beginning to attract lots of talent. We’re getting a name for ourselves locally.”

LOOKING AHEAD What technology does Grainger believe this next wave of Freshfields technologists will be leveraging in the future? When asked to name a technology 22

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that will transform the legal industry, his answer is unanimous. “Blockchain is, without a doubt, a transformative technology that people are only just getting their heads around,” he says. “There’s a lot of similarities between blockchain and the early discussions around the internet, and what the internet would and wouldn’t be used for. But blockchain has the ability not just to disrupt business – it’s clearly going


to create new business models.” In terms of Freshfields, Grainger points towards a shift in approach to technology more widely. Although the CIO admits the journey is still in its nascent stage, the move towards approaching technology as a set of products rather than a series of projects, is very much in motion. He concludes: “Going back to a year or so ago, we were running things in quite a sequential fashion, sometimes referred to as waterfall, and we were looking at individual projects in a narrow context. “When you’re looking at things from a product point of view, you’re looking at them over a product lifecycle, so you’re talking years rather than months, and you’re also looking at a much wider group of unified features and technology, so you’re less likely to have overlap. “So, if you wanted to have a peek into the future: we think using a product lens, rather than a project lens, will give us a whole new perspective. Watch this space…”

Jon Grainger joined Freshfields as Global Head of Service & Transformation in February 2017, before assuming the role of CIO in December last year following a month of servitude as interim CIO. Before this Grainger spent seven years at Capgemini as Vice President & Programme Director, responsible for leading IT transformation programmes, content development strategies, innovation and research as well key operational functions. Grainger has also spent time with Fujitsu, Deloitte, and Accenture. Between 2013 and 2015, Grainger attained a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at the University of Warwick, through Warwick Business School. He is also a holder of a degree in computer science.

w w w. g i g a b i t m a g a z i n e . c o m



“If you wanted to have a peek into the future: we think using a product lens, rather than a project lens, will give us a whole new perspective. Watch this space…”


June 2018

— Jon Grainger, CIO, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer


Grainger on the buy versus build question “Before thinking about technology partners, it’s really important for you to look at the fundamental question of buy versus build. I think in many companies this decision tree has almost got reversed. “There has been a universal frustration with internal technology departments perhaps not being able to deliver as quickly as people would like, certainly historically, and so there is a draw towards the buy. So, you buy the product and it doesn’t exactly match your needs, so you need to customise it. That customisation process takes some time – you’ll eventually get there, but any further customisation is going to be a trip back to the vendor. This can sometimes take years. “My proposition is to look at buy versus build with a slightly different lens. First thing is, you’ve got to have credible delivery. So, looking at our platform, that gives us our credibility. If it’s a source of competitive advantage, then by its nature it shouldn’t be available anywhere else, because otherwise what’s to stop another competitor just buying it off the shelf. If it truly is a differentiator, a source of competitive advantage, then you should look really carefully at building it. “However, our platform isn’t solely for the individuals and engineers that work in Manchester. We’ve developed our platform so that we can have other third parties doing the development. We could use a hybrid team, we could use teams split over two locations.” w w w. g i g a b i t m a g a z i n e . c o m



Equinix: Architec of the multi cloud Equinix CPO Brian Lillie about how the data centre expert is putting its customers at the heart of a digital strategy focused on global interconnection both at the edge and in the cloud‌ Writ ten by DAN BRIGHTMORE

ct d

EQUINIX BEGAN LIFE with the idea of creating a place where you could rebuild the interconnection hub of the internet. In the early days traffic ‘hairpinned’ back and forth across the US because there were no colocation services to centralise delivery. To build an ecosystem to put the hubs right next to those interconnection points is how Equinix – along with a diverse range of different players in content, services and media – began the journey towards developing the cloud we know today. “We’ve never lost sight of our roots in building interconnected data centres where interconnection is the secret sauce at the centre of everything we do,” says Equinix CPO Brian Lillie. “Now after 20 years, it’s about how we grow to cover the markets that our customers want and we’re managing to do that across all points of the compass without losing sight of our interconnection fabric while innovating with new services.” Equinix has long been an innovator, building data centres no one else was building in terms of how they were laid out with power and cabling infrastructure. Since 28

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inception the company has not only made strides with the interconnection platform around IX (the internet exchange), the public peering fabric it runs on behalf of the community, but also cloud exchange where it innovates to make that cloud connectivity seamless on behalf of enterprises and cloud providers. This has enabled a new wave of growth driven by enterprises wanting a better way to connect to the cloud. That same innovation was co-realised with Amazon. On top of that, by leveraging


technologies that were out there but not ready for purpose, Equinix built an SDN-enabled Fabric to connect not only with the cloud but with itself, instead of relying on deployment at multiple locations. Making these connections on demand, programmable and simple has been a significant innovation in and of itself, believes Lillie. “The secular trends of cloud and mobile have driven the waves of growth over the last five to six years,”

he notes. “Whether mobile, social or big data, it all requires the flow of data into and out of cloud then across what we’re calling our fabric.” Lillie adds that we’re now seeing the early impact of AI and Machine Learning starting to go mainstream: “It’s popping up in our data centres where enterprises are seeking solutions from cloud while also looking across cloud and they’re 29



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“The secular trends of cloud and mobile have driven the waves of growth over the last five to six years. Whether mobile, social or big data, it all requires the flow of data into and out of cloud then across what we’re calling our fabric” Brian Lillie, CPO, Equinix

saying, hey if I want to build this hybrid multi-cloud architecture, how do I do that? We’re pretty good at helping companies in the early days to grow and get connected, while we’re starting to see IoT companies appear throughout the platform. “What they do entails how you process the analytics capability at the edge and having a very efficient way to move large amounts of data from the IoT devices to edge processing and then being able to bring that back to a central data store to do the longer-term processing. By having

what we call a land architecture - where you have collection and processing at the edge being brought back to the centre - IoT is going to drive that. Our data centre management platform is essentially a purpose built IoT platform.” With more companies getting connected how can they overcome the challenges of preparing for the data explosion? “It all comes down to the user experience,” says Lillie. “The expectations of digital users, whether consumers or company employees, is for high-quality delivery, but the old ways of architecture won’t be able to keep up with that. I recently attended the National Association of Broadcasters event in Las Vegas (NABs) and all of the service providers for the film and TV industry vertical were present. I was on a panel talking about over the top video (Netflix etc) and the exploding growth of streaming video data over the net. How do we optimise that? We believe an interconnected digital supply chain in that business is vital to service the fibre and copper to homes. It’s going to become more prevalent and will be driven by end user performance.” A perfect storm made up of the 31

D I G I TA L S T R AT E G Y Video: Transform your Business at the Digital Edge

number of visits requested, the people you want to reach, and data you want to collect being on the other side of the world must be navigated. The processing capability in the cloud won’t necessarily be next to the point you want to distribute data to, so how do you architect this notion of a digital edge? “The challenge there is to overcome latency and performance 32

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issues,” maintains Lillie. “Then, how do you surround that with a security stack that protects your data?” Lillie believes there are more opportunities than challenges to be harnessed from innovations such as AI. So what advice does he have for businesses on choosing the right one to extract data and make more informed decisions? “When you’re applying AI or machine learning to solve a problem

“Globally, we have more than 200 data centres in 52 markets to provide that connectivity. Google and Amazon are not there yet… Our ECX Fabric allows customers to connect to clouds that aren’t in their local market and do that dynamically without long term commitment” Brian Lillie, CPO, Equinix

there are a couple of key points to delivering a successful solution. Firstly, you’ve got to collect, clean and structure the data. In fact, almost 80% of the work of a data scientist is preparing data for the application of algorithms. Don’t underestimate the amount of energy and effort needed to apply the learning. I’m on a couple of advisory boards and have seen a lot of startups in this area creating tools for data shaping, wrangling and cleansing. They are also looking at how to apply hypotheses to the

data to deliver insights. Secondly, the core of that problem is finding the right talent. We’ve had luck recruiting new to career graduates from liberal arts colleges with maths degrees they can apply to the data science field so we can develop the ability to build neural network models and train them based on the data.” Equinix has the ability to help enterprises make the fundamental shift from keeping IT at the core of control (transaction workloads etc.) and teaching them to invert that and move it to the edge with the right tools. “Part of it is a mind-set shift,” asserts Lillie. “We have a notion of what we call Interconnected Oriented Architecture (IOA) with a set of blueprints available free to enterprises at our IOA Knowledge Base ( to help them think through how they can structure their network, keep data secure and build out from that. We can give them blueprints based on patterns we’ve seen working with many companies. We’re enabling and simplifying cloud connectivity via cloud exchange with ECS. Recently we’ve created what we call our ECX Fabric. “Globally, we have more than 200 33

D I G I TA L S T R AT E G Y data centres in 52 markets to provide that connectivity. Google and Amazon are not there yet… Our ECX Fabric allows customers to connect to clouds that aren’t in their local market and do that dynamically without long term commitment. It’s a game changer giving our customers a platform that combines the data centre with our intelligence network platform to access cloud resources. Companies that use a multi cloud solution to run their business need a way to aggregate cleanly, simply, quickly and securely. Making that available over a geographically dispersed system has been a significant


June 2018

accomplishment and one that sets Equinix apart.” Focused on the opportunities for its customers provided by harnessing big data, Lillie is excited by the growth potential and notes key points for enterprises to consider… “Your data is going to reside in multiple locations – on your premise, in multiple clouds and potentially live with a partner when you’re doing data sharing, which is growing and will soon become an essential requirement. With this in mind you need a security strategy for your data. One of the products we launched earlier this year is called Smart Key, because wherever your data goes you need to have an encryption strategy including key management. Whether data resides on your premise, with Equinix or in the cloud you need a solution to secure that in a consistent way. Smart Key is key management as a service. Whether you’re storing your data in Google, Amazon, Microsoft or elsewhere you can use the key to secure that data. “Allied to this, businesses need to think about the fact that just because they need to use the analytics tools in the cloud do they need to put their

Video: Equinix: Creating Tomorrow Today

data in the cloud? Or can the data be adjacent to the cloud? For example, we’re starting to see companies securely putting their data at rest at the centre of the cloud in Equinix but actually use and leverage the tools from a direct connection to the cloud - whether that’s Microsoft or Google and the analytics they provide - while their data goes at rest on the edge.” Looking to the future for data sharing, Lillie suggest a radical rethink. “If my data is good, and I have a certain amount around a specific area or equipment (IoT, security etc),

would it be better if I could share it with like-minded companies using similar equipment and endeavouring to solve similar problems? There’s a theme developing around the notion of secure data sharing in a specific data marketplace. “One of the brilliant applications for this approach has been utilised by Palo Alto Networks. They have a product called Wildfire, so if I use Palo Alto’s next generation firewall to protect my environment in the US and a company in the US is using Palo Alto, and we both subscribe to the Wildfire service as my environment gets attacked, let’s say it’s a new signature, that signature is uploaded to the 35



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Wildfire cloud where they process it and come back with a fix against that signature. The European company will get the benefit of that because the solution will be downloaded to their devices and vice versa, so you end up with this protective shield that gets better with independent attacks. That’s an example of using data to improve everyone’s user experience.” That drive to improve its customer’s experience is matched by the overarching goal Lillie identifies for Equinix: “To continue to strive to be where our customers need us, first and foremost.” He concludes: “There are countries we still need to penetrate while we expand and grow our interconnection platform while striving to make our user experience even easier. We’ll be releasing APIs for ECX Fabric this year which will continue to grow with enhancements. We’ll continue to launch enabling services on top of our fabric that will help enterprises move to the hybrid multi cloud for security, data and edge services. As they re-architect their digital edge and core architectures we’ll support them on that journey.”



Building the big data picture brick by brick Databricks VP EMEA Nick Peart on how the creator of the world’s first unified data engine, Apache Spark, is utilising dashboards to create a connectivity layer between deep learning tech and data analysis to produce meaningful insights Writ ten by DAN BRIGHTMORE


APPROACHING ITS FIFTH birthday, Databricks’ founders launched the business after the success of Apache Spark – the world’s first unified data engine, created in response to a competition set up by Netflix to deliver an algorithm to predict what people would watch next on its streaming service. Its creator Matei Zaharia developed the software at UC Berkely in 2009 aiming to overcome the challenge 40

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between data and compute. On inception, Databricks handed over the software to the Apache Spark open source foundation (becoming the largest open source community in big data, with over 1,000 contributors from 250-plus organisations) and tasked itself with accelerating the adoption of Spark around the world across a range of industries. So how does it work and provide fuel for data hungry dashboards?

Vid e Un o: T ifie he d A Da na tab lyt ric ics ks Pla tfo r

We spoke with Databricks VP EMEA Nick Peart to find out more. “It’s able to bring together big data and break down the silos between lines of business (allowing them to glean actionable insights from data for better decisions) and the data engineers who collect the data, store it, cleanse it and put it in a shape that allows the data scientists to create models and analyse data sets and data points to measure their impact on


each other,” says Peart. “Databricks has created a cloud-based and serverless unified analytics platform that enables an overview for data driven decisions based on these three areas working together.” Peart notes the buzz around big data has been building steadily over the past few years so what trends is he seeing in the industry around dashboards and how is Databricks reacting to them? “By utilising 41


Databricks and other tools you are able to get your insights to bubble to the surface and make the decisions you can reach based on data easy to consume by a broad audience,” he explains. “That’s where the real power of the dashboard comes in – it can provide a connectivity layer between the deep learning insight that goes in to producing your models and 42

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analysing your data, while making it easy to utilise for a broad spectrum of users across your business. By channeling everyone’s needs and enabling data to be ingested faster and in real time, dashboards have moved on, from a few years ago, telling you what happened yesterday to telling you what’s happening right now and what events are on the horizon.”

Apache Spark is at the heart of Databricks, which is available as APIs to enable you to plug into multiple different layers. It’s a cloud-based platform currently operating on AWS and Azure, where Databricks has first party service with Microsoft. “We also have partnerships with GSIs and RSIs such as CapGemini and Cognizant, adds Peart. “We’re working at that level from an integrated perspective. Allied to this we have open APIs and plug-ins with the likes of Tableau and Looker. Because our foundation is in open source we have an extendable platform enabling you to plug in a multitude of data sources, visualisation and VI platforms, so you can go from data ingestion through to aggregation and sharing of your results with almost any vendor you want to work with.” Databricks has been able to overcome the challenge of delivering results with a focus on real time analysis by utilising the cloud to take in streaming live data. “Spark’s ability to deal with real time streaming data goes beyond zeroes and ones,” maintains Peart. “We’re able to do meet the challenge of real time analysis of video as well. We’re working with new customers on a

“Spark is able to bring together big data and break down the silos between lines of business” Nick Peart, VP EMEA, Databricks variety of applications. For example, on a building site in a hard hat area where protective glasses must also be worn, we’ve got customers looking at their CCTV feeds from site entrances and using real time analysis to ensure people walking through the door are dressed appropriately with a hi-vis vest, the right type of boots, hard hat and eye protection. They’re working on learning models to be able to sound an alarm to alert the gate if someone walks though without meeting the full requisite of safety standards. This near real time alert model could be applied to multiple situations where you’ve got eyes and 43

D ATA D I S R U P T I O N ears monitoring an environment.” Peart is keen to emphasise the practical benefits of this real time capability and highlights his personal experience at a company event in San Francisco. “One of our key, and first, US customers is Capital One – they run their fraud protection analytics using a Databricks model,” he explains. “That night I went into a bar and paid for dinner and drinks with my Capital One card and just as the card had been swiped I received a text message warning me of an unusual transaction. I replied that yes, this was me and the payment was authorised. That whole transaction took just four seconds from start to finish.” Databricks also works with multinationals such as Shell, which has implemented its solution for their supply chain analysis across partnerships with mining, drilling, petro chemical and processing plants. “These are areas with high levels of maintenance parts requirements,” notes Peart. “They used to have big storage facilities strategically placed around the world with multiple versions of every part in stock. Now they’ve been able to rationalise that by looking at IoT sensors recording 44

June 2018

the likes of machine vibration and exhaust emissions to predict where the next part will fail, helping them streamline their process. It’s helped them save a significant amount of cost avoiding unnecessary down time.” It’s this ability to manage predictive analysis and maintenance which attracted HP as a customer. Peart recalls how the printer giant was keen to meet the challenge of running its ink division: “HP users can sign up for a service that monitors how much ink they use on an average day so when you’re low it orders one just in time so you don’t need multiple spares as back up.” Peart believes successes like these that Databricks is having with a broad spectrum of customers are answering a key question: how can you derive more value from your data? This can allow for transformative business decisions based on the data a company already holds. “Quite frankly, you can have the biggest of big data but unless you can bring it to the surface and make use of it, what is it’s worth?” he asks. “Google noted back in 2015 that everybody was focusing on machine learning, AI… but actually the algorithms in that space,

“That’s where the real power of the dashboard comes in – it can provide a connectivity layer between the deep learning insight that goes in to producing your models and analysing your data, while making it easy to utilise for a broad spectrum of users across your business” Nick Peart, VP EMEA, Databricks


D ATA D I S R U P T I O N and available within Databricks, have been around for the past 20 years and haven’t really changed. What’s making them work is the ability to pump a lot of data through the algorithms to get meaningful results. We’re at the forefront of that because Databricks has made it so easy to get as much data as you need into your model, get it in the right shape, manage it and access it via data lakes or warehouses.” Peart cites Spark’s flexibility as one of the main reasons for its success with customers across industries keen to glean insights from the ingestion of historical data blended with real time threat analysis and threat detection. At last year’s Spark summit in San Francisco, Databricks CEO Ali Ghodsi highlighted the capability for Spark to provide a user interface dashboard in healthcare to analyse x-ray scans. Peart explains: “You train the model to understand the difference between tissue and bone while detecting a break or fracture. There are terabytes of data that go into training the model and then you make that visually appealing with an interface that’s easy for a medical professional to use and highlight anomalies.” 46

June 2018

Peart maintains the philosophy driving the company is its aim to create a better world order through data present in any vertical that needs to be aggregated, modelled and more broadly understood to lead to a better consumer experience. “Machine learning and AI could help feed people by optimising crop production, make people healthier by improving care and treatment through algorithms. All of these are about improving our environment and the way we live.” Peart predicts in the next two to five years people will start to realise the potential of their data by leveraging the power of simple things like churn prevention analysis on to self-driving cars and cures for diseases. “We hope that the use of our platform can provide major leaps forward to help people understand the value of AI and machine learning and prompt them to get their infrastructure ready to maximise data. I’ve been in the industry 20 years and remember the debates around cloud versus on premise. People are waking up to the fact that the cloud is equally secure while offering the benefits of productivity, speed and total cost 47

“Our unified analytics platform with Spark’s unified engine offers the best environment for data analysis, and in a world where people fear vendor lock in, the underlying engine of Spark gives you that flexibility…” Nick Peart, VP EMEA, Databricks of ownership allied with the ability to totally transform their business and make better decisions.” Looking to the future, Databricks is committed to the Apache Spark foundation and enhancing its roll out and adoption on a global scale. “There’s an open source version and pretty much all of our competitors have some sort of deployment,” says Peart. “We want to continue making Databricks the best place to run Spark 48

June 2018


(already deployed on a massive scale by internet powerhouses such as Yahoo, and eBay). The cool thing is that if you work directly with us you get a 10-times faster version of Spark than most of our competitors can offer and a five-times speed bump in our collaborative environment. Our unified analytics platform with Spark’s unified engine offers the best environment for data analysis, and in a world where people fear vendor lock in, the underlying engine

of Spark gives you that flexibility to know that you’re not tied in to Databricks in the future, so if you want to make a change and plug in other Spark-based applications, you can.” Peart concludes with a message of empowerment: “We want to democratise the ability for every business of any size to be able to utilise machine learning and AI to make those transformative business decisions which should be available to the many not just the few.” 49


Is the AI apocalypse coming? Acellere CEO Vishal Rai discusses the ethical issues surrounding AI development and its impact on the world Writ ten by MARK SPENCE

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE SPEAKING AT DAVOS earlier this year, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said: “AI is probably the most important thing humanity has ever worked on. I think of it as something more profound than electricity or fire. Any time you work with technology, you need to learn to harness the benefits while minimising the downsides.” The message was clear: artificial intelligence should help us build better lives, not take over the world. However, it’s fair to say there are


June 2018

still question marks hanging over the further implementation and adoption of AI. From the impact on the modern workforce through to security and militarisation, the increasing efficiency afforded by these intelligent systems is cause for concern for some key thinkers in the space. Stephen Hawking, for example, infamously claimed that AI could wipe out mankind because it would eventually develop the ability to consistently outperform humans.

“The next leap for this technology will be prescriptive AI� Vishal Rai, CEO

But is this type of thinking purely scaremongering or does it represent a legitimate fear of the future? If history has taught us anything... As CEO and founder of software technology company Acellere, Vishall Rai is well versed on the ethical questions that abound over AI, particularly regarding the threats and opportunities in the workplace of the future. So, will AI consume


ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE the modern workplace? “It depends who you ask,” he says. “If you speak to an analyst who works in a bank in London, New York or Frankfurt they’ll be very worried right now because of the type of work they do. The increased use of AI will undoubtedly disrupt the nature of jobs, however will it completely remove jobs out of the system? I really doubt it,” he continues. By all accounts a quick glance at revolutionary periods in history offer some indication of the shape of things to come, according to the Acellere chief. “Look at the automotive revolution. Back in 1910, stable owners thought the growth in their industry was going to be so phenomenal they’d have to rear horses all over America to satisfy demand for horse and carriage transport. Then Henry Ford came in and streamlined the manufacturing of cars. 20 years later these same stable owners weren’t facing the demands they expected. It certainly changed everything but did it cause job loss? No,” Rai elaborates. So, will the increased adoption of AI influence the modern job market


June 2018

positively then? “AI will create new jobs. What will happen, in principle, is that there will be newer jobs out there. I think the superintelligent AI (a form of AI smarter than humans) we hear about is still some way off, but are the jobs of today guaranteed for the next 15 years? I’d be very sceptical.” The role of AI in software Given that technology giants like Amazon and IBM as well as outspoken individuals such as Elon Musk (who earlier this year warned that AI could lead to the development of an ‘immortal dictator’) believe that there’s no better time to interrogate the seemingly limitless landscape of artificial intelligence, both good and bad, how does Rai feel it will directly impact the software space? “I think any technology that helps people write better software and reduce the risk of failure should be embraced with open arms and AI, in that context, suits the purpose,” he reveals. “I think it’s essential that machine learning is incorporated into our software development process. It’s quite simple: we humans have very selective memories. If you have




June 2018

been a developer you will know we don’t remember everything we worked on five years ago. With AI we have an opportunity to build an assistance to us and ensure we can create software better, safer, faster and learn from our mistakes.” So, what about the fears that some have around the potential threat posed by AI in the future? “There’s a lot of scaremongering going on out there which I think I’d blame a little bit on Elon and his followers. I like him but I think what he means to say is that too much intelligence should not lie in the hands of a few. I suspect that’s what he’s insinuating,” says Rai. “Essentially AI is a powerful technique and it can be used to make our lives better. AI should be, and is, used in medicine to find cures and for diagnostics. I think that’s the first most useful application of it. It’s not just applicable for computer programming but for the medical industry, big data, the automotive industry and IoT. The next leap for this technology will be prescriptive AI.” The future Looking ahead, Rai is certain that 57

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AI and the advances being made in technology will make the world a better place, but this is tempered by his concerns that a lack of conviction and support for these advances may have a negative impact in certain geographical areas. “There’s a global race that’s happening right now. There’s a seismic shift in technology prowess in terms of energy and innovation and that is going to be very interesting. You can

have technology that will deal with the things that plague humanity. I still feel that there’ll be a cure for cancer within our lifetime – it’s just a mathematical problem,” he reveals. “There’s enough processing power, enough intelligence and enough technology that maybe in 20 years’ time we’ll find the cure. We live in the happiest times. Whatever region or economy invests in technology, and I don’t mean the

“I still feel that there’ll be a cure for cancer within our lifetime – it’s just a mathematical problem” Vishal Rai, CEO


June 2018

lip service that politicians pay to this idea, will be leading the way.” Elaborating on the importance of innovation, Rai signs off by offering a word of warning to Europe, where he used to run the telecom and media business unit at Infosys. “I think Europe is stuck in its own bubble. Don’t get me wrong, Europe will always be there, but I think we’ll see a global power shift towards the east. What’s happening in China is

scarily remarkable. They have AI algorithms and research coming out of there that probably isn’t as smart as the west just yet, but they will figure it out. I don’t see anybody doing the same for Europe and that worries me a lot. They really have to keep funding research. Right now, the US is in pole position, but China is catching up and Europe is really slacking. It’s an interesting crossroads,” he concludes.


We deliver you the stories that matter… Click to read



“We recently worked with BizClik Media on an article which characterizes and explains the total value that Kudu Supply Chain has on company growth plans. From start to the finish, it was a pleasure working with the BizClik team. The feedback we have received from different audience groups on the article was phenomenal. It has attracted a lot of interest and attention to our company, our growth plans and has definitely created additional value to what we are trying to achieve.”

– Murat Ungun, Senior VP Supply Chain Kudu Corp




Palo Alto Networks - inside the hybrid cloud We caught up with Palo Alto Networks’ VP for Western Europe Dave Allen to learn more about the genesis of the company’s security offering, the creation of the Cyber Threat Alliance, and how it is pushing the envelope with virtualisation solutions for businesses working in hybrid cloud environments.



PALO ALTO NETWORKS was founded with a stated mission of ‘protecting the way of life in the digital age’. The genesis of the company back in 2007 was predicated around doing in software what the industry was previously solving with hardware; to redefine what it meant to offer next generation firewall security in a changing world where the advent of the smartphone, and the rise of application consumption, meant perimeter 64

June 2018

security was no longer sufficient. Virtualisation first took off in 2005, proving to be the catalyst for the likes of VMWare, while allowing companies such as Citrix to expand. In those early days Palo Alto Networks laid the foundations for what would become the virtual firewall, later utilising that same software stack to create its VM Series (virtual machine firewalls). Gigabit caught up with Dave Allen, VP at Palo Alto Networks, to learn more about how the

company has developed a pervasive security platform to cater for the virtualisation needs of business. What innovations is Palo Alto Networks harnessing to deliver its virtualisation services? “All of the clever things we do are predicated in and around software critical to running in any virtualisation environment, be it private cloud or public cloud or, as most enterprises exist in reality right now, some kind

of hybrid cloud environment. They’re leveraging virtualisation in multiple ways and to successfully support them from a security perspective we need to be able to exist consistently in any of those worlds. In truth, public cloud is a massive example of virtualisation at scale where you can’t take hardware to a software fight and you can’t take your widget to the cloud. We can help with the whole concept of orchestration automation where virtualisation brings 65

CLOUD COMPUTING great opportunity for enterprises. In the private cloud environment, you may well own the whole stack, you may own the hardware, the storage, the software, the networking, the servers and then you virtualise that yourself with your operating system of choice and start to employ your applications across that, but in public cloud environments… all the public cloud providers will tell you it’s a shared security responsibility. Amongst the things that make us unique is the capability we have around orchestration and automation, to deploy security consistently across these environments through a single management space, a single pane of glass.” What key partnerships is Palo Alto Networks leveraging to offer these services? “We have many technical alliances, working closely at an engineering level with the likes of Citrix, Splunk, VMware, Service Mail and network players such as Aruba and Extreme. Security is one of those things that’s intrinsic in every enterprise. It’s a very broad infrastructure requirement so it’s key to make sure we can operate, 66

June 2018

“All of the clever things w and around software critic virtualisation environmen public cloud or, as most en right now, some kind of hyb

Dave Allen, VP, Palo Alto Networks

we do are predicated in cal to running in any nt, be it private cloud or nterprises exist in reality brid cloud environment”


and collaborate, in a multitude of environments. We’re partner-centric in our field sales model, working with a range of system integrators, resellers and specialist companies and security penetration testing companies. We work closely with AWS, Microsoft and Google in their platform and cloud environments to position our technology so customers will build and manage services to offer up a variety of different commercial consumption models.” Could you highlight one of the company’s biggest successes to date? “It’s something bigger than us. Several years ago, we founded an organisation driven by the concept of threat intelligence sharing. The Cyber Threat Alliance (CTA) has now spun off to stand alone. We have 50,000plus customers, and we’re adding 3,000 more each quarter, so we have a massive cloud intelligence capability which all of these customers link into. We’re gathering huge amounts of threat intelligence so the principle of the CTA was to create security sharing in the industry – we believe it’s actually better for everybody if 67


Video: Application Framework Introduction

we ‘all’ know better what’s going on as it will generate trust in the digital enterprise, whether it be banking, retail, utilities. Pretty much every major player in security is participating in this growing community.” Which upcoming projects are you most excited about? “We’ve recently launched our Application Framework which will open up a whole new range of partnering – an opportunity for end-users, enterprises and companies looking to bring security 68

June 2018

capabilities into the market. We took a range of hardware capabilities and consolidated them into the genesis of this next generation software platform. We then fully virtualise that to deploy into a public cloud environment. We’ve also added advanced endpoint protection to our operating platform (for desktop, clients and servers) adding anti-malware protection to those environments. We’ve also added SaaS capabilities, as everyone these days is using some form of collaboration service via something like OneDrive or

Evernote. You’re not deploying your infrastructure in the cloud, you’re consuming applications from the cloud, while taking data there.” What are your predictions for virtualisation and the goals for Palo Alto Networks through 2018 and beyond? “Virtualisation is intrinsic whether it be in the private or public cloud, or the private enterprise environment. Everything we do right now is around encapsulating all of those environments in that singular consistent security fashion. Our overarching goal is to further that journey and get more customers on that ride. We’ve experienced strong growth as Palo Alto Networks enjoys positive momentum and brand association. What our technology does is proven to deliver, our net prompter score etc. is very high, so we’ll be focused on making sure our quality of service is wholly engaged as we help customers to understand what the Application Framework is and how the future world of 2019 and beyond will change. We will also look at the things we can predict around those changes and things we can’t,

“Virtualisation will play at the heart of this because it’s fundamentally one of the core drivers for both the private data centre and the public cloud environment in terms of how applications and data centres are being designed and how resources are being shared” Dave Allen, VP, Palo Alto Networks



“The Cyber Threat Alliance (CTA) has now spun off to stand alone. We have 50,000-plus customers, and we’re adding 3,000 more each quarter, so we have a massive cloud intelligence capability which all of these customers link into” Dave Allen, VP, Palo Alto Networks


June 2018

therefore getting people to the point where they’re creating an infrastructure capability, that prepares them for that world and gives them the opportunity to consume new innovations, in a non-disruptive way. Those things are critical.” Virtualisation will play a pivotal role, then… “Virtualisation will play at the heart of this because it’s fundamentally one of the core drivers for both the private data centre and the public cloud environment in terms of how applications and data centres are being designed and how resources are being shared. The critical thing always worth bearing in mind when it comes to virtualisation and the benefits it brings, is that all those benefits are obviously also deployable to the bad guys out there. They get to take advantage of these massive computing capabilities too. In that sense, we need to stay on our toes, working with some of the brightest minds in the industry developing new application capabilities to make sure we help our customers stay ahead of the security curve. If you look at the security industry right now, there isn’t really a singular dominant force in the market. We believe we now have the opportunity to break away from the pack and build a really compelling future for the digital economy with that Application Framework which I know enterprises are super excited about.”


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TOP 10

COLLABORATIV TOOLS Gigabit looks at some of the best, and most popular, collaborative tools designed to enhance productivity

Written by MARK SPENCE


TOP 10



Taking a ‘less is more’ approach with a minimalist interface, UK company LoopUp pride itself on delivering a reliable and highquality conference calling and remote-meeting experience. The company was established in 2003 by cofounders and co-CEOs Steve Flavell and Michael Hughes. Over 2,000 businesses worldwide including Travelex, National Geographic, and car makers Kia and Subaru, use LoopUp for their remote meetings.

Wrike has been included on Deloitte’s Fast500 list for the past three consecutive years. With over 15,000 customers, it has long passed the million users mark. Some notable clients are Airbnb and Hootsuite. Wrike includes features such as creating tasks, assigning them and ordering them by priority, creating timelines for projects, tracking time and creating partial or full reports.

June 2018


Cisco recently refreshed its Webex brand to offer new features in an effort to completely transform team collaboration. Currently, more than 6bn minutes’ worth of meetings happen in Webex every month. Cisco has created a simple, but incredible technology for all teams to, in their own words, ‘start a new journey that puts artificial intelligence at the heart of the workplace’. Webex is used by the likes of Microsoft and Google.

BlueJeans is a cloud video meeting company whose customers include Facebook, Netflix and LinkedIn. Thousands of companies from growing businesses to Fortune 500 leaders use BlueJeans every day for video, audio and web conferencing meetings and large interactive events, so people can work productively where, and how, they want.


TOP 10



Operating out of California, Zoom is currently one of the top video communications companies in the US with plans to expand. 2018 is set to be a busy year for video conferencing companies as businesses begin to ramp up their offering and enhance capability including AI-based features such as voice-to-text transcription for take meeting notes, virtual personal assistants to record tasks and help set up meetings, and voice recognition to identify who is speaking.

By September last year Trello passed the 25mn user mark. Led by CEO, Michael Pryor, Trello is a web-based project management application originally launched in 2011. It works almost like a digital note board that can be accessed from any device and used by various team members at any one time to chart the progress of a particular project or work stream.

June 2018


Since launching in 2013, the US company now has around 6mn daily users and 2mn paid accounts, with an average of 320 minutes being spent on the tool by its users during the week. Something of an alternative to email, Slack brings team collaboration and communication into one place and works on any device which makes it particularly appealing to an agile, flexible workforce.

Asana is a web and mobile application designed to help teams collaborate and track their work. The business was set up by Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz and ex-engineer, Justin Rosenstein in 2008. Asana has previously announced that it has over 15,000 organisations using its software and more than 140,000 teams. The company was valued at $600mn last year.


TOP 10 Already a household name thanks to its ability to connect people on a global scale, Skype also offers plenty of benefits from a business point of view. It arguably has the advantage of being familiar so therefore requires much less time to set up and learn. It’s thought somewhere in the region of 300mn monthly active users spend 3bn minutes a day on the platform. Microsoft purchased Skype for $8.5bn in 2011.


June 2018

01 Evernote remains a popular option as a collaborative tool for teams trying to enhance their productivity. Evernote allows its users to do everything from scan business cards, use it as an email inbox, take notes and much more. It also has around 200mn users, supports 25 different languages and the business is thought to have raised around $205mn in funding.


E V E N T S & A S S O C I AT I O N S

Events The biggest and best events and conferences from around the world‌ Writ te n by A N D R E W WOO DS

E V E N T S & A S S O C I AT I O N S

Video: Money20/20 Asia Highlights

Money 2020 Europe

The RAI, Amsterdam, Europaplein 2-22, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1078 GZ 4-6 June An unmissable event for the smartest visionaries and innovators, Money20/20 is the destination where payments, fintech and financial services come together to connect and create the future of money. In June 2018, Money20/20 lands in its new home – the Rai in Amsterdam – to once again focus the world’s eyes on Europe. Everyone is here, every time, coming together to explore unique regional insight and trailblazing enterprise, seizing the opportunity to meet the person or land the deal that will change the trajectory of their business


June 2018

Machine Intelligence Summit Hong Kong 6-7 June

Discover advances in machine learning and smart artificial intelligence from the world’s leading innovators. Learn from the industry experts in speech and image recognition, neural networks and big data. MIS will explore how machine intel will impact communications, manufacturing, healthcare and transportation. The summit will showcase the opportunities of advancing trends in machine learning and their impact on business and society. 30 speakers, 250 leading technologists and innovators, as well as workshops, seminars and debates.

The AI Summit

Kensington Palace, London, UK 12-14 June Join 10,000-plus visitors, 3,000-plus delegates, 300-plus speakers at The AI Summit London – devoted to helping business cope with the fourth industrial revolution. Now in its third year, the world’s first and largest conference and exhibition to look at the practical implications of AI for enterprise organisations, the actual solutions that are transforming business productivity, the AI Summit aims to help the business leader, data scientist, engineer successful implementing their AI projects


E V E N T S & A S S O C I AT I O N S

CeBIT 2018

Hannover Fairground, Hannover, Germany 11-15 June CeBIT is the largest and most internationally represented computer expo with 100,000-plus attendees and 3,000 exhibitors. CeBIT is a show and a conference programme for professionals that defines the latest trends, presents talks by high-calibre speakers and forwardlooking panel discussions, and showcases product innovations from all over the world. Artificial intelligence is going to be in the spotlight at CEBIT in June of 2018. “AI is certainly one of the most exciting developments of our times, and one that is on the verge of revolutionizing our personal and professional lives. In fact, AI literally has the potential to change the world – reason enough for it to be featured in a big way at the upcoming CEBIT,” said Oliver Frese, the Deutsche Messe Managing Board member in charge of CEBIT.


June 2018


Marina Bay Sands & Suntec, Singapore 26-27 June The brand new ConnecTechAsia is where technology, ideas, and business converge. It is the only trade event in Asia that combines two of Asia’s biggest business platforms – CommunicAsia, BroadcastAsia, and the inaugural NXTAsia, to create one MEGA TECHNOLOGY EVENT, spanning two venues, covering the entire spectrum of Telecommunications, Broadcasting and Emerging Technology.


The shortest path to better software.


The Journey to Technology Transformation & Digital Disruption SAVE THE DATE

Wednesday 27th June 2PM – 5PM SPEAKERS

Jon Grainger - CIO Freshfields Anthony Leto - Head of DevOps WM Promus The Royal Institution, Mayfair 21 Albemarle Street London W1S 4BS


E V E N T S & A S S O C I AT I O N S

WEBIT Festival Sofia, Bulgaria 26-27 June

The WEBIT Festival is the European edition of the Global Webit Series including speakers and representatives from European Commission, WTO and the Global Commission on Internet Governance, as well as many tech and business leaders. Topics of discussion will include smart cities, cybersecurity and AI. The winners of the Webit Awards 2018 will also be announced.


June 2018

SaaStock2018 Dublin, Ireland 15-17 October

“The best conference for SaaS founders, VCs and Execs in Europe, period.” - Christoph Janz, Managing Partner, Point Nine Capital. Gather in Ireland for the best news and advice from experts in the flourishing SaaS market as it stands today. Learn how to build up a SaaS business from real software entrepreneurs. Optimise your business for the highest monthly recurring revenue and the lowest costs. Gain knowledge from people who have already made the mistakes and the losses so you don’t have to. Collate cutting-edge technologies and hacks to automate processes that cost valuable time and resources. Hear how to create a need for your subscriptionbased product and market it to targeted audiences. SaaStock aims to be a “one-for-all” event where marketers, developers, and CEOs can get together to figure out the intricacies of and establish best practices for emergent features of the SaaS ecosystem.


E V E N T S & A S S O C I AT I O N S

SaaS Monster Lisbon, Portugal 5-8 November

SaaS Monster is the world’s largest SaaS conference, connecting more than 10,000 CIOs and CTOs, buyers and sellers, experts and investors, startups and established companies. SaaS Monster has a reputation for bringing together SaaS giants. With 10,000 CIOs and CTOs, experts and investors, start-ups, and established companies, it is a great event to network and get inspired for the upcoming year. Event Highlights… Rebooting the brain by Bryan Johnson (Kernel) VR and AR: Changing the way we work, play and learn by Amit Singh (Google) and Mat Honan (Buzzfeed News) Embedding intelligence in everyday objects with IBM Watson by Victor Dibia (IBM Watson) Hacking the future of our planet by Robert Bernard (Microsoft)


Month 2018

SaaS North

Shaw Centre, Ottawa, Canada 29-29 November 2018 marks the third year of this premier event and we’re excited to bring the best in SaaS back to the Shaw Centre in Ottawa. This year’s program, speakers and networking opportunities promise to connect you with the best opportunities to grow, learn and meet funders, founders and executives. SaaS North is known for bringing together world class SaaS leaders to connect and learn. With over 1500 attendees from over 500 companies, across startups, global brands, investors and service providers all specialising in SaaS. It is a great event to network, learn from the best in the industry and get inspired for the upcoming year.


17-18 September 2018 Abu Dhabi, UAE

Excellent Opportunities For The Digital Market

US$1.3 Trillion Worth

Global Digital Transformation Spend in 2018

US$155 Billion

MENA Region IT Spending in 2018

US$16.9 Billion

USD 95 Billion The digital market could add USD 95 billion per year to Middle East’s annual GDP by 2020

Digital transformation presents projected to generate up to $16 billion in extra revenue annually for businesses in the middle east region.

The Digital Transformation Summit 2018 will bring together top – tier information executives (CEOs, CIOs, CTOs, CDOs, COOs, IT Directors, Digital Transformation Experts and Consultants) from various industries to interact and engage in high level content and discussions on current trends and developments disrupting the digital ecosystem and how this will impact their business digital strategy and competitiveness going forward.



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Leveraging Emerging Technologies And Building New Delivery Models To Unleashing Digital Potential In Business Operations And Service Delivery

At Digital Transformation Summit, Hear From C-Level Decision Makers From 7 Industries Including: Major Mohammad Obaid Al Obaidly, Deputy Director Digital Transformation & Systems Development, Abu Dhabi Police GHQ

Umar Saleem, Chief Transformation Officer, Al Jaber Group

Graham Colclough, Partner, UrbanDNA UK

Anshul Srivastav, Chief Information Officer & Digital Officer, Union Insurance

Delel Chaabouni, CIO - Middle East & Africa, PepsiCo

Sherif Gomaa, Chief Executive Officer, Obeikan Printing & Packaging – Obeikan Investment Group


Cloud computing

Business Process Automation

Data management

Network and Cyber Security

IoT & AI

Application development

Software development

System Integration

Business data analytics



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KLM’s DIGITAL FUTURE The story of technology innovation at one of Europe’s most prestigious airlines Written by Ben Mouncer Produced by Richard Durrant

Liesbeth Oudkerk and Wim Vollenberg, leaders in digital transformation at KLM, give fascinating insight into how the prestigious Dutch airline is building for the future through its ‘Digital Studio’


n 2019, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines will reach a hugely significant milestone in its aviation journey. Already boasting a stature that comes with being the oldest airline in the world still operating under its original name, on 7 October next year KLM will celebrate its 100th birthday. Over the course of close to a century, it has always been a trailblazer. In 1929, it operated the longest-distance scheduled service and in 1934, it was running transatlantic flights. In 1989, it

introduced the most advanced Boeing 747 of its time and by the turn of the millennium, it had picked up major awards for a host of groundbreaking initiatives. As its 100-year landmark approaches, KLM is once again adapting to take on the industry’s biggest challenge: the onset of digital. The realities of the current era of digital transformation will result in even the most established airlines hitting turbulence. Ever since Pieter Elbers took over the company’s reins

VIDEO: KLM Digital Studio - The Digital Transformation


June 2018


32k The number of staff working at KLM

“The strategic agreement with Capgemini will allow us to further transform the customer experience at McDonald’s with much greater speed, scalability and disruptive innovation.” Jim Sappington, Executive Vice President of Operations, Digital & Technology for McDonald’s corporation

Digital Transformation. Although the impact of digitization is not new, the digital economy is entering a new age that presents unprecedented challenges for all CEOs. Digitization can extend the reach of organizations, improve management decisions, and speed the development of new products and services. At the same time, the excessively rapid adoption of technologies can disrupt traditional business models. Organizations need to carefully tread the path towards digital transformation with a concrete strategy all levels of an organization. Bringing digital and transformation together With extensive experience in understanding the digital economy, Capgemini is strategically placed to help clients deliver better products, services and business processes through digitization, from beginning till end, through a collaborative, relationship-based approach. Our commitment is to deliver significant improvements in value and performance. So we did for KLM, we engaged very closely with KLM on their digital journey.

Capgemini helped Transavia taking off with Netsuite OneWorld, in order to align Transavia in the Netherlands and France, their processes and various systems. The NetSuite implementation includes general accounting, accounts payable, accounts receivable, fixed assets and revenue recognition. KLM and their digital journey Capgemini is a trusted partner of Airfrance KLM for more than two decades and delivered many successful projects. In the digital changing world, the customer requirements and expectations are changing very rapidly, there is more emphasis on real time data, on operational data

and on finding the meaningful information about customer behavior and experience. To become a customer-centric organization, KLM has started focusing on customer journeys, customer experience, giving more accurate information to their customer at each touch points like before flight, at airport, at security, check-in, in-flight and post flight. KLM also realized that they have to empower their employees by giving the right information and tooling so they can provide the right information to the end customers. Capgemini has engaged very closely with KLM on the digital transformation and started supporting KLM on various project under the umbrella of digital transformation. To improve the employee centricity, Capgemini is engaged in the HR transformation at KLM using SAP Successfactors. With this initiative KLM empowers its employee with the right tooling. Capgemini is also engaged in employee promoter score, employee service hub, employee seamless check-in and many more. Also, Capgemini is supporting KLM in improving the employee tooling by automating the manual way of working for the employees in engineering and maintenance, KLM catering services, KLM ground operations and other departments. Capgemini has successfully delivered the salesforce implementation for the Airfrance KLM b2b organization across 105 countries, within time, budget and quality. We believe that digital transformation is first and foremost a business transformation. People, not technology, are the most important piece in the digital transformation puzzle. And this is a value both KLM and Capgemini share. Capgemini employees are very passionate about working for and within the KLM organization and we strive continuing this partnership for many years.

“KLM has a two decade-long relationship with Capgemini already. Today in our KLM Digital Studio we work with Capgemini together on several innovative topics. For example, the My Roster product, in which we develop a new way of presenting rosters to our ground employees. Another example is using digital platform technologies like Salesforce to support our sales worldwide and also our staff in the daily steering of our operations at Schiphol Airport. Capgemini is fully supporting the KLM HR transformation using SAP Successfactor. Overall, we are very satisfied with Capgemini expertise within Digital Transformation space” – Wim Vollenberg Project Management Officer for Digital Transformation


in 2014, however, KLM has been certain of its mission – to create a forward-thinking, resilient and efficient business fit for the technological age. “It is very important to them and they feel that we are accomplished in that area,” says Liesbeth Oudkerk, Project Officer for Digital Transformation. “If you look at the work we are doing, it is achieving more and more. They have seen that we can make the change to digital.”

Liesbeth Oudkerk

PROJECT OFFICER FOR DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION Liesbeth Oudkerk joined KLM in 1987 and has been involved in Schedule & Fleet Planning (Network), Business Development (Ground Operations), Operations Development (Operations Control), VP Capacity & Schedule Planning (Network), Network Planning & Freighter Management (Cargo), Information Management Passenger Operations and now KLM Digital Transformation 106

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Oudkerk and Wim Vollenberg, Program Management Officer for Digital Transformation, are speaking directly from KLM’s ‘Digital Studio’, housed at the airline’s Amsterdam Airport Schiphol East base. Opened in 2016, the studio was born out of KLM’s desire to maintain its culture of innovation and is an important function of its digital transformation. Currently with room for nearly 200 workers but with ambitious expansion


Wim Vollenberg

PROGRAM MANAGEMENT OFFICER FOR DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION Wim Vollenberg joined KLM in 1990 and has worked across the business in Cargo Handling, Aircraft Loading (Ground Services), Network Planning, Cabin Crew Planning (Inflight Services), Pricing & Revenue Management and Information Management (for Digital in AFKL Commercial and later in Passenger Operations) prior to joining KLM Digital Transformation

plans in the pipeline, the ‘Digital Studio’ is a creative space where employees from every area of the business are encouraged to foster ideas on how digital can transform day-to-day operations. With firm eyes on the future, Oudkerk and Vollenberg have led the studio’s work on developing solutions that embrace disruptive technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and augmented reality. “It’s certainly been more successful than even I thought it would be,”

explains Oudkerk. “It started off really simply; we didn’t have enough space for our digital team and so I said ‘okay, let’s find a new space and then we can start working’. We wanted to involve people and we wanted to develop that space with them. “It’s really taken off and given a lot of people a few different vibes, as it’s a place where they can work on their future. At the moment I’m building a plan with the main points of attention for the next year, and

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to innovate in the ‘Digital Studio’ is one of the core themes.” In order to tackle the familiar challenge of implementing change at a company that employs nearly 32,000 people across a wide range of specialisms, KLM has adopted the agile way of working and the scrum framework to rapidly grow its ‘Digital Studio’ project. The ‘Scrum Studio’, from which the ‘Digital Studio’ took its lead, is an environment designed by Scrum. org, led by CEO Dave West, to contain high-performing teams that exist either as physically separate organisations to the main business or as protected parts of that business, creating a cluster where individuals involved can fast-track empirically-based innovation without distractions. “It’s very difficult to change large

legacy companies from the inside,” outlines Vollenberg. “ came up with the ‘Scrum Studio’ concept which is that you start not within but more on the side of the large company. It tries to act as independently as possible – of course, you’ll never be completely independent because you need salaries, you need IT, but you try to do that. “That’s why we changed our working title into ‘Digital Studio’. We are trying to make progress to be faster, quicker and more innovative but not completely independent from KLM, because we also try to influence the bigger KLM with the things that we’re working on. “We work on a ‘digital transformation’ theme as an innovative studio. There are teams at KLM that work in digital in other areas like passenger operations, engineering and maintenance, cargo,

“At the moment I’m building a plan with the main points of attention for the next year, and to innovate in the ‘Digital Studio’ is one of the core themes” – Liesbeth Oudkerk Project Officer for Digital Transformation


June 2018

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“We’ve worked for many, many years with TCS in the B2C area, but now also in the B2E. Experts from TCS are working on site at our KLM ‘Digital Studio’ and are mainly working on the digitisation of the passenger operations. They are deeply involved in that and are a much-valued, long-standing partner for KLM” – Wim Vollenberg Program Management Officer for Digital Transformation


HR and finance, so the ‘Digital Studio’ is not the only place where we work on digitisation for crew and employees, but the difference is we focus our work on new technology. As we put it, we try to work on the ‘day after tomorrow’.” Even though most of the studio’s current projects remain at the experimental stage, the fast-paced nature of development encouraged by the digital transformation team has seen a handful of its innovations already morphed into practice. One such example is the evolution of a virtual reality (VR) product initially put forward by an aircraft mechanic who held a personal interest in the

The KLM ‘Digital Studio’ is a creative space where all employees are encouraged to share ideas 112

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technology. Stationed in KLM’s engineering and maintenance division, Chris Koomen joined the ‘Digital Studio’ and has helped with the integration of VR solutions on a far broader basis, including to transform the training for aircraft crew. “People who are having catering training, for example, now don’t have to go into an aircraft; they can stay in the VR lab,” says Oudkerk. “This is the perfect example for the ‘Digital Studio’; speaking to someone who had an idea and then facilitating them to further this skill, further their idea. I think that this is one of the models of our company. Our CEO wants to work


with our people and make products for them, together with them. And he Koomen was a mechanic starting out too, so we’re happy with that. “Another example is that we were experimenting with and have now implemented a chat-bot for our social media in the commercial part of KLM and we are now trying to experiment with that technology in other areas of the business, from employees to HR.

“We were experimenting with and have now implemented a chat-bot for our social media in the commercial part of KLM and we are now trying to experiment with that technology in other areas of the busines” – Liesbeth Oudkerk Project Officer for Digital Transformation

Technology in action at KLM

“We are working with experiments on blockchain in our engineering and maintenance department too, and we are looking at augmented reality for the maintenance of aircrafts and engines, an idea that was also generated by a mechanic. In fact, two of our iOS Developers were aircraft mechanics as well in the past.” Powering KLM’s strides into the technology age is its overarching priority to put the individual’s needs first, whether that be a customer or one of its workers. Renowned for its first-class customer service and stellar employer reputation, one of its defined objectives is to become the ‘most

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Transforming for the future with KLM Pioneers  or more information, F CLICK HERE


June 2018

Digital Studio CASE STUDY “We had a gate agent who had an idea to develop a pet travel app. Customers who travel with a pet, like a dog or a cat, are always curious how it’s going with their animal. The idea was to develop an app so that customer would be able to follow the pet during the journey. Somebody at the ‘Digital Studio’ picked up the idea and now we are working on the development. There will be an app with our customers who travel with their pets and, for example, employees can take pictures while the pet is having a changeover at the airport and then share it with the customer, a way of saying ‘hey, look your dog is doing great’. By that, customers and employees will be very happy. That’s a way where our employees get enthusiastic about our ‘Digital Studio’ as a place where they can extend their ideas”. – Wim Vollenberg Program Management Officer for Digital Transformation

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10BN Annual revenue for KLM (€)


June 2018


“Our main purpose is to help our employees to do what they do best. Digitising is of course not a goal in itself but it helps our employees to deliver the best service to our customers” – Wim Vollenberg Program Management Officer for Digital Transformation

customer-centric, innovative and cost efficient European network carrier’. “If you take good care of your employees they will take good care of our customers and I think that’s fully aligned with our approach,” outlines Vollenberg. “Our main purpose is to help our employees to do what they do best. Digitising is of course not a goal in itself but it helps our employees to deliver the best service to our customers.” The core objective for the ‘Digital Studio’ looking ahead is to see its influence continue to permeate KLM’s mighty operation through its role in the digital transformation. Every four weeks, it hosts a demo to show interested observers the very latest technology developments being worked on and guest speakers are arranged to deliver talks to

staff about the transforming digital world. Communicating its efforts internally and externally is also a vital tool, not only to attract new talent but to showcase KLM’s digitisation to the market. “We are an aviation pioneer and a pioneer nowadays is pioneering technology,” concludes Oudkerk. “20 years ago, it was about pioneering with different things, but now it’s about that. It’s a really dynamic market now and will be for a long time. The thing with more and more local carriers coming in is we really have to innovate and make breakthroughs. “We consider ourselves to be pioneers and we really want to be a technology pioneer too.”

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Pioneering the Finnish data centre market Written by Dale Benton Produced by Lewis Vaughan

Digita Oy looks to capture the Finnish data centre market by expanding its service portfolio


n the modern world of the data centre industry, the secret to success for a data centre provider has shifted. Traditionally, a data centre provider could rely heavily on the location of its infrastructure and that would be more than enough to attract and retain customers and service providers; but as the industry has continued to boom over the last decade, what a customer demands from a data centre provider has evolved. “It’s about providing the right, relevant managed services as part of our service portfolio,” says Fredrik Brunberg, Director, Data Centre & Cloud Services at Digita. “We need to add relevant services all of the time to be able to show something going forward to the customer.” Digita is a major Finnish communications network company, transmitting radio and TV programmes reliably across the country each and every day.


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“The location is crucial, but of course what we are doing is building on that and providing more value and more services around that interconnectivity” – Fredrik Brunberg, Director, Data Centre & Cloud Services at Digita

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Expanding its service portfolio is a crucial component of the business’s strategy, as it also provides comprehensive IoT services and world-class data centre services to a number of media, mobile and broadband operators and new customer segments like service providers and different industries that are digitalising their businesses Television and radio broadcasting is the biggest area of business for Digita and Brunberg explains that data centres is a relatively new business category for the company. In fact, it was this expansion of Digita’s service portfolio that attracted Brunberg to the company in 2017. Having previously worked in cloud and data centre services throughout his career, Digita’s vision for capturing the data centre market represented an opportunity that he could not miss. “When I joined Digita, it already had pretty good facilities and locations, but as a business we want to climb the ladder higher and add more value to the services we provide. I saw it as a challenge to change our approach in order to grow.”

As Brunberg embarked on this journey he recognised that as the company looked to change from the way it had traditionally operated, he first had to start from scratch and build up a data center team with an IT function. Naturally, in attempting to build a new growth business to leading network operator company that has been successfully operating for almost 20 years, changing a culture takes time. This is where Brunberg can call upon his experience throughout his career. “In effect, in the coming years we are almost moving from one company to another,” he says. “Changing the culture is a big goal of ours and so I’m building a new team and a new business unit that will transform Digita into not only an IT services company, but a modern IT services company.” Brunberg feels that the market is consolidating, with only a limited amount of small service providers or co-location providers in the Finnish data centre market. When compared to the other end of the scale, there are only a small number of large scale

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Coromatic will keep Data Centers running without disruptions. We will take full responsibility from advisory to design & build, as well as operations and maintenance of the Data Center. visit our website

mobile network operators (MNOs) and international co-location providers, and Brunberg identifies a gap in the market where Digita can capitalise. “As the market consolidates, we want to be part of that space in between those two areas and build something bigger,” he says. “We want to take Digita service to the next level and be recognised not only as a broadcast service provider or just as a data centre service provider, but something more. A cloud service and modern IT service provider.”


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“And we aim to have the same high-quality level of services as Digita now has in its core business,” continues Brunberg. Digita itself explains on its website that having the best network is not based on bandwidth alone, and while Brunberg recognises that the industry is changing, location is crucial. This is where Digita has an ace up its sleeve. Across its portfolio, Digita’s Helsinki Pasila region is located in close proximity to the FICIX Helsinki Internet Exchange Point.


“We want to take Digita service to the next level and be recognised not only as a broadcast service provider or just as a data centre service provider, but something more. A cloud service and modern IT service provider” – Fredrik Brunberg, Director, Data Centre & Cloud Services at Digita

This provides customers who choose to work with Digita to access to the biggest structural data communication location in Finland. “Service providers seek locations where there are lots of network service providers present,” Brunberg says. “But it’s not only network services providers that want to be at this premium location, it’s content providers and IT service

providers, social media companies and hyper scale kiosk providers.” “The location is crucial, but of course what we are doing is building on that and providing more value and more services around that interconnectivity.” Ultimately, what will define Digita as it continues to grow its portfolio and client base is in fact this client base. Brunberg is all too aware of the importance of attracting those providers and more significantly, retaining them. As Digita seeks to provide a level of stickiness in order to keep the customers, it can do so with the support of strong strategic partners. “I’ve always believed that partnering is really key to making things happen,” says Brunberg. “You really have to trust your partners and know that they will be there alongside you, in both the good times and the bad.” One such partner that has and will continue to play a key role in Digta’s vision is Coromatic AB. As the leading Nordic critical solutions provider, Coromatic promises to safeguard continual power supply

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Fredrik Brunberg Director, Data Centre & Cloud Services


June 2018


and data communications. As Digita looks to redefine its network approach, this support has been key. “Coromatic has been excellent in retrofitting and refurbishing our facilities and, given the breadth of network providers we have, to do so without disruption or downtime was crucial,” says Brunberg. “They are incredibly easy to work with, they understand where we want to go as a business and we will continue to expand with them alongside us.” Only a year into this journey, the message for Digita is clear – to continue to build its service portfolio and value-added services. That’s the first priority for Brunberg and Digita, to be able to cater to all of the different service provider needs.

This will help it capture that market gap and in turn enable the company to become the data centre service provider of choice. “As the market continues to evolve and network service providers begin to turn towards a more modern, digitised approach we want Digita to be seen as the first company that they think of to connect with,” Brunberg says. “So, as we build bigger facilities and build on top of our existing network infrastructure, it’s imperative that we continue to build and expand our services on top of that.”

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With a pragmatic, informed approach, Essex County Council is building on the shoulders of its peers to deliver a innovative digital agenda that’s reimagining life in Essex


ringing about a technological transformation is a challenging feat, but when it aims to streamline public services, drive prosperity in a region, and improve citizens’ lives, you could argue that the pressure increases tenfold. Essex County Council, in the East of England, has deftly tackled this challenge head-on, setting a country-wide example of how local authorities can use digitisation to enhance their day-to-day operations. For Jason Kitcat, Executive Director of Corporate Development, digital ways of working will be key to increased efficiency and productivity at the council. Ultimately, however it’s the end-user, the county’s


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residents, who matter most. “Our focus absolutely has to be on the end-user, which in most cases is a citizen of Essex, or a business, or a visitor,” Kitcat says. “Sometimes this might be indirect because the service you’re creating may be used by employees in the public services, but at the end of the day the citizen always has to be the focus.” Governing the county of Essex, the council is striving to deliver



Executive Director, Corporate Development

Jason Kitcat is a champion for digital transformation and passionate about local government and public policy. He is Executive Director, Corporate Development at Essex County Council. Beforehand he was Head of Policy & Public Affairs at the fintech accounting firm Crunch. He was previously the awardwinning Leader of Brighton & Hove City Council. He has a long background in building digital services having been Head of Technology for Netmums, general manager at The Open Knowledge Foundation and before that led his own digital agency for a decade.

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lasting change for its communities. However, it isn’t going to start from scratch; instead, it’s learning from its peers and building on prior projects to offer tried-and-tested solutions. It is this pragmatic, informed approach which Kitcat believes will be key to the council’s success. “What makes councils unique is the pride they hold for the area,” Kitcat observes. “We all feel our area is special but that doesn’t mean that our technical requirements are really that unique. “Rather than using customised components, we’re working hard to use as many standardised ones as possible so that we can draw, and learn, from what our peers are doing. We don’t want to have ‘not invented here syndrome’ and we’re not obsessed with reinventing the wheel. “We’re trying to build on the shoulders of others,” he says. “We’re going to be humble and curious and we believe that by taking a very straightforward approach, focused on the user needs, we can meet the ambitions of our strategy

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and serve the citizens of Essex.” This digital journey isn’t about following fleeting trends or spending excessive amounts of money. For Essex County Council, the usage of the technology and how it will impact its residents is what matters. At this local authority, digital innovation and in-depth research and planning go hand-in-hand to ensure that each digital tool is utilised to its utmost capability. “To do this we have a service design function and a technology services function and between them this translates to what you might consider


June 2018

our digital agenda,” Kitcat explains. “The service design function is essentially about learning the users’ needs through research and prototyping to figure out whether a service would benefit from being redesigned or having a digital-first approach. With that in mind, the technology services function is about creating a secure, reliable, and flexible digital infrastructure that enables these new ways of working.” In the ever-changing tech space, flexibility is needed more than ever. Therefore, instead of opting for monolithic contracts of five or 10



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years, the council is shifting towards shorter, more flexible deals. “Five or 10-year contracts are usually too long because change in the sector is so rapid,” says Kitcat. “This isn’t just in terms of changing demographics and new emerging technologies, we’re also seeing changes in the policy space. When the government makes decisions, it causes significant changes to local government or healthcare, and we need to be able to adapt to that.” When technologies come and go

in the blink of an eye, Kitcat says that collaboration plays a pivotal role in ensuring that the council keeps pace with disruption. As such, Essex County Council has joined the region’s unitary, borough, and district councils as well as Essex Fire & Rescue and Essex Police, to form the Essex Online Partnership (EOLP).                                  This close-knit team works together to share knowledge, resources and services to deliver countywide benefits through joint policies



June 2018


and procurement frameworks. “Creating an integrated, seamless experience for our users both offline and online is a core goal,” explains Kitcat. “Aiming for a shared technological infrastructure is really important because we eliminate duplication and hopefully improve outcomes for citizens. We want to get the job done. “Geographically, Essex is a really big and complex region and so bringing partners together is very important,” he continues. “Of course, you have extra benefits like gaining efficiencies in procurement but, from

my perspective, the most important thing is to improve that way that we engage with citizens and integrate with other services as much as possible.” A £81mn ($109.9mn) ‘next generation network’ has also helped to modernise Essex County Council’s communication systems for itself and other organisations. Through this 10-year project, the council and its provider has built unified communications, video conferencing and fixed telephony to allow for flexible networking. Working alongside Daisy Group and Updata Communications, the network

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June 2018

and telephony deal introduced a Public Services Network (PSN) across its 200,000 users, which Essex County Council says will save it £1.2mn ($1.6mn) per year in network costs. “Essentially, the aim for this project was to deliver cost efficiencies because of the length of the contract,” says Kitcat. “It’s promoting a public-sector collaboration and school connectivity. So, it’s a very multifaceted programme.” On the topic of telecommunications,


Kitcat also says that the council has successfully shifted from traditional telephone systems towards voice over IP (VoIP) systems. It is also championing a more flexible working culture by equipping employees with mobile devices so they can work remotely. “For most people across the council their only experience of the telephone is through their laptop using Microsoft’s Skype,” says Kitcat. “So far the move to VoIP has

been very positively received. “Then, for a long time, we’ve also championed mobile and flexible working through the use of laptops or handheld devices. “We’re in the process of rolling out devices for eligible employees or letting them use their own,” he continues. “I think the topic of mobile working and remote devices is a really interesting conversation to be had because it usually highlights the very different usage and needs

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across a typical council footprint.” Needing to champion flexibility, security and innovative thinking, Essex County Council has turned its attention to digitisation with notable success. But how does the local authority meet the demands of a disruptive tech landscape whilst also staying within a council’s ever-tightening budget? “I think it can be a challenge but at the council we all believe that we can make services more efficient using technology,” says Kitcat. “Demonstrating that can be quite hard, but the theory is if you make the service more user-friendly, efficient, quick and online, you will manage demand better and reduce spending. “The citizen won’t see this, but in the background our aim is that we ultimately want to move to a standardised cloud-based approach which should simplify our technology estate,” he adds. “We should have simpler but better systems which will save money. On top of that it will also improve productivity and collaboration because if you’re using cloud-based


June 2018







tools with standardised APIs, it’s much simpler to connect with other partners and public-sector counterparts.” Part of the remit for Essex County Council’s service design team is working to transform its website. As a citizen’s first port of call, it hopes to make the council easier to access so that citizens can do what they need and then get back to daily life. “The vision behind all of these investments is that we want our citizens to have a high-quality of life in Essex, one that’s enabled by digital services that are faster, better and cheaper,” Kitcat says. “Essentially, it’s about us being as easily accessed as possible,” Kitcat adds. “People don’t wake up in the morning and want to speak to the council. They wake up and they want to do something, whether that’s getting a job, a school place for their child, access to a service, or even getting a pothole fixed. We want to make those services as easy, seamless and effortless as possible.”

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The data centre industry and subsequent demand for energy is growing apace. Manager for Energy & Dataport, ROBERT VAN TUINEN, tells us how Groningen Seaports is catering to this demand

ROBERT VAN TUINEN is responsible for the development of the energy, IT and automotive sector within both ports. He has an academic background in business administration and previously worked for a national bank and as a manager for an energy knowledge institute.


June 2018


Chemical industry Delfzijl


HE ONGOING demand for connectivity has led to an exponential boom within the energy sector, thanks largely to the launch of data centres worldwide. The communications industry is set to absorb up to 20% of the world’s electricity by 2025, as businesses and consumers depend on the increased use of digital data to fuel business growth. Europe has become a significant player, where competition remains rife in an area of unprecedented potential. “A major change is that it’s no longer big telecom operators or state-owned telecom companies

who are investing in connectivity, it’s mostly commercially driven. In particular, there are big investments coming from the data centre sector itself,” explains Robert Van Tuinen, Manager for Energy & Dataport at Groningen Seaports. Consisting of two seaports, the port of Delfzijl and Eemshaven, as well as two inland ports, Farmsumerhaven and Oosterhornhaven, Van Tuinen has led the growth of one of Europe’s largest energy hubs for data and a growing offshore wind sector. The 1,319 hectare site at Eemshaven has been transformed into an area of international significance within the

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data centre industry, renowned for accessibility and quality. Utilised by international companies, the area is driven by 100% renewable energy. “In 2012, we said that we were going to invest millions in this new port area. We had this million-euro programme to redevelop land and start conversations with landowners and foreign investors to take a look at Eemshaven. It was still predominantly farmland, but people needed to believe in this,” Van Tuinen recalls. “A few years back, I thought, ‘we need others to tell our story as well’. We combined the data port development together with partnerships, who we call ‘preferred suppliers’. These were the early movers who believed in the concept. “Energy suppliers in general weren’t used to structured power purchase agreements based on joint equity or very long terms for instance,” he continues. “This may sound funny, but five or six years ago, this wasn’t something normal for energy companies. Eneco was a good match with the specific

“It’s no longer big telecom operators or state-owned telecom companies who are investing in connectivity, it’s mostly commercially driven. There are big investments coming from the data centre sector” ROBERT VAN TUINEN, Manager for Energy- & Dataport

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demand coming from the industry, one of the first companies to believe in the area and pioneered the way. “Most energy companies were scared at doing structured deals, so it was a different time. The other thing was asking fibre developers to join. Eurofiber were one of the first companies who said ‘we actually believe this is going to work’ and committed to new investments.”


June 2018

GAINING SUPPORT To gain further clout, the company appointed Deloitte to undertake an essential market analysis on the data port area. Finding Eemshaven to have future potential, Groningen Seaports also appointed specialists who worked specifically for technology companies, such as Microsoft, Google and Apple. “It’s a pretty strong story with a lot of partnerships, but these



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companies are also competing against one another with more renewable project coming online in the next few years,” adds Van Tuinen. “We have a partnership with Eneco, but also with other energy companies, which is why we call them ‘preferred suppliers’. Of course, data centre companies are free in who they want to work with” Additionally, the company’s strong partnership with Royal Haskoning DHV has provided support across its data centre operations. “We asked Royal Haskoning

DHV to inform companies of our technology mission and why they believe Eemshaven is a good area for their data centres. Royal Haskoning DHV is independent, it believes in the story and has a strong advisory opinion.” Van Tuinen says. “They look not just at land development but also cooling. They believe Eemshaven is a good area; it has lots of air, good quality, good wind, and is one of the best locations. The company also bought investors to our port. When they’re busy with conducting business, they use

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“Royal Haskoning DHV is independent, it believes in the story and has a strong advisory opinion” ROBERT VAN TUINEN, Manager for Energy- & Dataport


June 2018


Eemshaven as an example port.”

GREEN DATA PORT Harnessing a combination of green energy, the largest onshore wind farm is located in Eemshaven together with multiple substations connecting Danish and Dutch offshore wind farms, besides the 30MW solar farm, iSunport Delfzijl, the largest solar energy park in the country, all of which fall under Groningen Seaports’ umbrella. “If you look for the major developments worldwide, it clearly makes sense to think about data centres. However, to be honest, we didn’t expect such a demand for land usage,” reflects Van Tuinen. “I don’t think the sector itself could have foreseen how much land it would need for further growth”. “Google has recently purchased all green electricity generated at Sunport Delfzijl for 10 years as part of a second deal with Eneco on top of the earlier energy deal combined with a local Eneco windfarm. The company recently announced another

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€500mn investment after €950mn spent over the last couple of years. This is great news for our region, which has shown great support for the data port development. The challenge was that we needed to develop more land close to the port, anticipating all further growth from the data centre sector itself.” “We did this in partnership with the local government and environmental organisations, who The Vole au vent jack-up vessel


June 2018

saw an opportunity to combine green energy and recreate some major values before it was all agricultural. A data centre provider must feel comfortable with their investment, of course, which has to do with the local support,” adds van Tuinen. Marc Oman, EU Energy Lead at Google recently commented in a press release: “We are proud that our data centre in Eemshaven has been powered by renewable


Googles EU data centre community Stories from the Netherlands

energy since day one thanks to our agreements with Dutch suppliers. After the agreement with Eneco for the delivery of wind energy from WindPark Delfzijl and the agreements with the wind parks Krammer and Bouwdokken, we are pleased that we can now also make use of solar energy. “Google is the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy. Contracts like this also give companies like Eneco the economic certainty to invest in new renewable energy capacity.”

TECHNOLOGICAL BACKBONE In order to strengthen its connectivity capabilities, Groningen Seaports has worked to house a ‘plug and play model’ across its operations, where its need for cooling water and redundant power is set apart from its power purchase agreement based on green energy. “The ‘plug and play’ model has also helped with the technical part. Through our partnerships we secured extra international fibre, boosted cooling water facilities, reinvestments,

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and of course the redundant power connections with the grid operator.” Additionally, by attracting investors from fibre companies, it has attracted essential fibre packages, with low latency routes crossing Amsterdam, Germany, Denmark and other parts of Scandinavia. “Data centre companies need a certain amount of connectivity via separate routes or a different fibre system. If you want to attract various new economy industries, this is essential,” says Van Tuinen. “The most important thing is that we succeeded in enabling Google to work with Eneco. It was a new project and provided an opportunity


June 2018

for Google to harness green energy. They have run on green energy from day one and enhanced major green investments in the region.”

GROWING DEMANDS “The Netherlands has proven to be an interesting market for data centres and not just the Google’s of this world,” Van Tuinen says earnestly. By combining green energy cables across the Northsea with essential fibre packages, the company has managed to reduce costs significantly and created the fastest route between the Netherlands and Denmark with Eemshaven becoming a fibre and data roundabout in North West Europe.


With greater demand for green energy on a global scale, the company’s largest wind farm is set to grow a further 200MW in the next three years, providing time to further enhance its data centre operations. “Demand for land in Eemshaven is rising fast, not just from the data centre sector but also with the launch of electric and hybrid cars. The automotive sector is looking at Eemshaven and are interested in port areas where they can develop their newly-built cars, which is really cool. It is something we are anticipating now, but we weren’t three years ago. This sector is again new economy industry, which fits well with the infrastructure

at our port,” says Van Tuinen. “Everybody needs to keep pace with a new economy,” he concludes. “The good news is that all political parties in Groningen are very supportive towards data centres, the automotive sector and the new economy. It provides a good combination of economic opportunities together with boosting on and offshore green power.”

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Through a digital transformation, Raiffeisen Bank International continues to navigate the changing technological landscape of the financial industry


echnology continues to define, and redefine, the global financial industry. Over the last decade, more and more financial organisations, banks and insurers have had to undergo significant transformations, embracing the ever-changing effect of technological innovation. As companies turn towards technology to define their strategy and future, the role of the CIO has never been more important than it is today. “Technology has become the very engine that drives the financial industry,” says Robert Fritz, Group CIO and Managing Director, Raiffeisen Bank International AG (RBI). “As a CIO, you have to be an enabler, so that the company can take advantage of the opportunities and potential that IT can bring. Not only that, but there is much more responsibility


June 2018

in enabling the company to keep up with and respond to the everchanging customer expectation.” Servicing about 16.5mn customers across Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), and being the second largest bank in Austria, RBI has a fairly large footprint, and it is this footprint that Fritz is tasked with significantly enriching through technology. The journey, Fritz describes, will see RBI move from its traditional centralised approach to a much more synergetic one. “This journey is centred around adopting synergetic approaches to the business itself,” says Fritz. “That means looking at our front-end channels and our mobile channels and investigating what the real difference is in customer expectation when it comes to the mobile experience.”


Robert Fritz, Group CIO and Managing Director of Raiffeisen Bank International AG (RBI)

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EXPERTS IN MUTUAL SUCCESS Success doesn’t just happen. It’s something we achieve – together. Such as with our customers: working together with the right experts – supplied by us.

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“Hays is a leading recruiter for professionals across global financial services, investment management and investment banking sectors.”

Thousands of candidates are placed by us every year, with approximately 6,000 of our professionals currently working on banking projects in German-speaking countries. Our work doesn’t stop there. A vital part of our service is post-placement, when we strive to maintain an efficient means of communication with the candidate to ensure a smooth transition into their role. It’s essential that we remain ahead of the curve in the ever-changing world of finance and technology. Colleagues at Hays are given regular training to stay up-todate with all developments in the areas of banking and financial service provision, while trending topics such as digitisation are at the forefront of our strategy. As part of our overall business in Austria, Hays places specialists in the areas of IT, engineering, life sciences, sales and marketing and retail, as well as finance. In the fiscal year 2016/17, the group as a whole achieved revenue of over €6bn. Around the globe, our company employs over 10,000 workers in 33 countries.

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The financial industry is but one of many, if not all global industries that is embracing technology more and more. As RBI develops its end channels and the way it works with customers, Fritz must look at exactly what the customer expects and how they want to engage with the company. RBI is currently exploring a


June 2018

number of technology solutions designed to embrace the digital experience and leverage synergies with the physical world. “Not only are we looking at implementing mobile channels through which our customers can interact and engage with us, we are already enabling digital account opening services,” says Fritz. “This


incorporates a number of ways in which customers can verify their identities through these digital channels for e.g. video identification. “There are many products we are exploring so that we can deliver our services without touching the branch. It’s about taking the customer experience to a new level and offering a digital experience.” The challenge, then, in seeking ways to implement and offer a digital experience for the customer is ensuring that the solutions and the technologies that RBI implements remain relevant and in line with customer expectation. With technology there is always a risk – the cost of failure in an industry that is continuously evolving is extremely high. This can breed a culture of implementing technology for the sake of implementing technology, as opposed to implementing what works. Fritz recognises this, noting that there are certain “buzzwords” that currently populate the technology conversation throughout the financial industry.

“We’ve invested a lot into developing the capabilities that a modern financial institution needs and harmonising data across the RBI Group. That’s a transformation that has been ongoing and will most likely continue in the future” Robert Fritz, Group CIO and Managing Director of Raiffeisen Bank International AG (RBI)

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Empower your teams to achieve more with Intelligent Communications Download Microsoft Teams today, and discover how the universal hub for teamwork in Office 365 empowers you to collaborate more efficiently and achieve more.

A new culture of work Over the past 5 years, the workplace has changed dramatically. For the first time in history, we have 5 generations working in the workforce. Not only have organizations, and as a result the workforce, become more global and more networked. The new digital habits that come with both digital transformation as well as the new generations are now considered a natural part of teamwork. This makes that today’s teams within the organizations are driven by passion and purpose, with people preferring to work in a more open and transparent environment, both in person and online. And finally, anytime, anywhere has become the new normal. Today, you can’t imagine not being able to work from home or take a quick conference call in a coffee shop before stepping into a customer meeting next door. With Microsoft Teams, launched worldwide in March 2017, we provided a digital version of an open working environment to support this new way of working. Just one year later, Teams has evolved to become the ultimate hub for teamwork and has grown significantly both in new capabilities and customer usage. Today, more than 200,000 organizations in 181 markets are using Teams. Teams delivers chat-based collaboration, meetings, calling, and by July 2018, full enterprise voice features. All this is underpinned by the Microsoft Graph, allowing for rich AI capabilities, providing us with an enormous amount of intelligence that brings efficiency towards the way we collaborate. As part of Office 365, Teams uniquely delivers these capabilities at scale, with enterprise-grade security and compliance standards to meet the needs of every business.

But what does that mean in practice? Imagine you have planned a call to discuss a project with a group of people. What if before the call, you can have all the information you need about those people at your fingertips. Have you worked with them before, on what projects, what are their strengths, and do they work with people that you should really invite to the call as well? The whole team also has immediate access to all the information of the project in one spot so that everybody can prepare for the call more efficiently.

During the call, technology can then take down all the barriers across for example different languages, transcripts the call, records actions and assigns them to the right people. You create and collaborate on the Office files, check out the sales status in the latest PowerBI dashboard or review the product launch plan without having to leave Teams …. And after the call, technology posts the recording and enables you to read through the transcript or skip towards the section that is of interest to you, sends out action points and notes…. That’s the tip of the iceberg of what we call Intelligent communications. It will change the way teams work together, and empower them to achieve more… And the best thing is; it’s not a future vision or technology. It’s here and ready to use. General Motors is one of the 200,000 organisations that have chosen Office 365 to empower employees with creative communication and collaboration services that spark innovation. Fred Killeen, CTO at GM says the following about Microsoft Teams, the hub for teamwork in Office 365:

“Our mission to transform transportation relies on strong teamwork across every aspect of our business. Microsoft Teams enables our employees to connect across geographical and organizational boundaries through a single place to access all the conversations, files, and content. Teams’ integration with the rest of Office 365 and third-party applications and services makes it easier for our employees to find relevant information and do their best work on their own and as a part of a team.” Read more about Productivity Register for an on-demand webinar


“Look over the last 30 or 40 years and the first digitisation of payments. To me, that was the beginning of IT continuously disrupting and evolving the financial industry. As an organisation, the trick is to be as agile as you can to follow these developments” Robert Fritz, Group CIO and Managing Director of Raiffeisen Bank International AG (RBI)


June 2018

Fritz’s approach is to identify opportunities in which technology can actually enrich customer experience. “There is a spectrum of buzzwords out there such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning, to name just a few,” he says. “Basically, it’s about identifying and applying technologies that fit into the structure of your footprint.” As a key player in the CEE financial markets, RBI has always positioned itself closely to its customers. The customer and customer expectation have been the key drivers of change across the industry most of the


times, but for Fritz it is important to remember that the regulators have become and will continue to be an equally significant factor. “Our transformational journey actually started some years ago when the regulators began implementing strict requirements on the financial industry, particularly from the perspective of transparency and data requirements,” he says. “We’ve invested a lot into developing the capabilities that a modern financial institution needs and harmonising data across the RBI Group. That transformation is ongoing and will

most likely continue in the future.” Data, of course, is one of the biggest buzzwords in the financial industry, but with the regulatory pressures that come with it, it becomes much more than just that. It becomes an opportunity to learn more about the customer. But as the industry continues to move away from physical branches, Fritz believes it should hold on just a little. “It’s not an ideal future where we lose physical contact with our customers,” he says. “We need to be in touch with them to understand what their thoughts and needs are, but also

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to understand what is happening in the industry from their perspective.� Fritz notes that this approach allows RBI to gain a much more comprehensive picture of what the financial customer wants from an organisation and he admits that in some cases it actually opens the company’s eyes to solutions or opportunities that it hadn’t considered. The challenge then becomes one of turning data into value, both for RBI and the customer. Fritz approaches this by creating a dialogue between various areas of the organisation. This sees business leaders, IT teams, marketing and operations sitting together and breaking down the information they receive from customers and understanding exactly how to implement it into future decision making. Technology has always been and will continue to be an everevolving beast, and so is this journey of discovery that RBI is currently undergoing.


June 2018


RBI is a key player in the CEE financial markets

“The question really is, will this journey ever end?” says Fritz. “Look over the last 30 or 40 years and the first digitisation of payments. To me, that was the beginning of IT continuously disrupting and evolving the financial industry. For both an organisation and a manager, the trick is to be as agile as you can to follow these developments.” As the financial industry continues to be redefined by technology, Fritz believes that as its influence continues to grow, some could argue

that it could become a technology industry itself. This in turn would lead to the development of new industrial ecosystems, and for Fritz it is crucial that companies find their roles in them. “Defining your role will help you become a much more relevant player in the market,” he says. “I am sure that, by actively embracing the future, the RBI Group can root itself into a key role within these ecosystems across our footprint so that we can truly safeguard its leading position in our region.”

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Written by Laura Mullan Produced by Lewis Vaughan


With a data centre portfolio of more than a million sq ft, ServerFarm has positioned itself as a leader in the data centre industry


ith mobile computing, 5G technology, and the internet of things (IoT) rapidly entering the fray, the data centre market is expected to thrive over the coming years. In fact, according to a report by Research and Markets, the global colocation data centre market is expected to grow to $54.8bn by 2020. But in an industry that has been defined by innovation and rapid growth, what’s the next step for the data centre space? Moving forward, ServerFarm believes that its strategy of moving physical data centre assets into the virtual world is going to elevate the company to new heights. The benefit of virtualising servers and infrastructure is clear: it breaks the link between the physical and digital and in doing so, it creates the foundation for a more dynamic, flexible and efficient data centre. Jim Shanahan, VP of Global


June 2018

Operations, says that it was this unique take on data centres which first drew him to the firm. “When I joined ServerFarm I saw an opportunity to change things; to take what in many organisations has been a rather pedestrian approach to the physical assets of the data centre and bring that into the modern world by taking everything physical – space, power and cooling, as well as compute and putting it in a private cloud with a comprehensive online interface to make it as easy as possible for end users,” explains Shanahan. “This is an industry that is growing but also changing very quickly,” adds VP of Sales Arun Shenoy. “I think we’ve come to the realisation that some of the approaches, especially in the mechanical and electrical side, are not keeping pace with the IT environment from an innovation perspective. “At ServerFarm we believe that


Jim Shanahan VP OF GLOBAL OPERATIONS Jim Shanahan is Head of Global Operations and European Business at ServerFarm. He is responsible for activities across the company’s fleet of data centres, where Serverfarm selfperforms its own facility management, smarthands and bare-metal cloud operations. Mr. Shanahan also leads ServerFarm’s expansion as the company moves into a number of firsttier European markets. Shanahan has previously headed the global DC business of ABB’s software division and served as MD of the international business of Lee Technologies. An Electrical Engineer, Jim started his career with Amdahl Computers and PM Group as a design consultant.


A member of ServerFarm’s staff working on a server rack

“We remove the pain of managing all of the physical assets in a data centre. As we see it, we are still the only company that has the ability to genuinely take all of the physical assets of the data centre, including the existing assets of an enterprise, and virtualise them for our customers” Arun Shenoy VP of Sales our customers are trying to transform their companies into organisations that care less about the physical aspects that make up a data centre, so that they can focus more on the business applications that enable growth and transformation. “That is ultimately our role in the data centre space,” he continues. “We remove the pain of managing all of the physical assets in a data centre. As we see it, we are still the


June 2018

only company that has the ability to genuinely take all of the physical assets of the data centre, including the existing assets of an enterprise, and virtualise them for our customers.” In doing so, the US headquartered firm helps to create data centres that are more instrumented, monitored, reliable and ultimately more efficient, from both an energy and cost-perspective, than a customer could achieve by themselves.


Arun Shenoy VP OF SALES Arun Shenoy is responsible for developing the success of ServerFarm’s data centre colocation and InCommand Services business globally. He joins from Schneider Electric where he was Vice President of the IT and Data Centre business in the UK & Ireland. Shenoy has also worked for major companies including Intel, ABB, IBM and Romonet in general management, sales and marketing roles with over 20 years in software, services and technology markets. w w w. g i g a b i t m a g a z i n e . c o m



Our Data Centre Capabilities are unrivalled.

First Data Centre Project Completed in 1999. €1.6 Billion Worth of Data Centre Projects completed in the past 10 Years. We have completed Data Centre Projects in 11 Countires. 9 Teams Currently Working in 7 Countries. We’re with you all the way from initial Design through to Handover.



The pair believe that it is this ability to manage everything physical in a digital world which is ServerFarm’s unique selling point. Originally launched by the international real estate development company, Red Sea Group, ServerFarm also has a distinctive customer-centric ethos ingrained in its DNA. With sister companies focused on hospitality, Shanahan says that the firm understands that customer service is king. “We apply a customer focus to the data centre space and it has served us very well,” says Shanahan. “Like the real estate or hospitality business, we value customer service above everything else. “We try to be very flexible in our approach to customers because everybody’s needs are different. We will go the extra mile to try and give those customers whatever they need and it pays off because we have customers that will follow us around the world.” Nowhere can this customer loyalty be seen better than the firm’s newly-opened data centre in London, in what is its first step into the European market. The latest acquisition adds to ServerFarm’s growing data centre estate with locations in California, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington and Toronto among others. In doing so it adds a further 120,000 sq ft to the company’s footprint,

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bringing it to over 1mn sq ft today. Located five minutes from Heathrow airport, the 8MW London data centre has attracted customers from across the globe as Shanahan believes London is “one of the most sought-after locations” in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “It was a natural choice for us to go to London as part of our push into Europe,” notes Shanahan. “We’ve been eyeing a number of other opportunities throughout the region so I’d say when it comes to future expansions – watch this space.” “We’ve managed to get one of our US customers onboard into a multi-megawatt capacity environment for them in around eight or nine weeks – that is something that is quite unheard of in this industry,” continues Shenoy. “I think it really speaks volumes about the way that we plan our environments and how we share our roadmap with our clients and align with their expansion plans.” In London, ServerFarm took an existing data centre and significantly upgraded it with completely new infrastructure, new technologies and new ways of working. Through the major refurbishment, it has helped drive cost-efficiency and reduce waste. “The existing tenants now get extra capacity that they otherwise had no use for and they’re able to monetise that,” explains Shanahan. “The data centre gets a new lease of life, it increases capacity and reliability for our customers and geographically, it’s in an area into which customers are keen to expand.


June 2018

ServerFarm staff discussing InCommand in CH1 control room

50+ Number of employees at ServerFarm


ServerFarm STATS The global colocation data centre market is expected to grow to $54.8bn by 2020 according to a report by Research and Markets.

We follow our customer where they need to be and as a result, we can be more dynamic and flexible than other players in the market.” Driving agility and flexibility, the company’s InCommand solution further defines the company from its competitors, allowing consumers to see the current state of the data centre and gain the insights needed to plan for ‘what-if’ scenarios. With the technological innovation,

ServerFarm provides customers with a portal that offers unprecedented asset lifecycle management, data, power connectivity and streamlined workflows. As the data centre industry shifts towards more hybrid solutions, this flexibility is more important than ever before, explains Shanahan. “InCommand is the eyes and ears of the data centre,” he explains. “It’s the processes that govern

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Anord-Mardix has the Most Comprehensive Range of Critical Power Distribution Products on the Market. Produced Globally to IEC and UL Standards in our 9 World-Class Manufacturing Facilities.


Three-story London data center in an established commercial park, five minutes from Heathrow airport. Immediate capacity available


June 2018


“We’ve been eyeing a number of other opportunities throughout the region so I’d say when it comes to future expansions – watch this space” Jim Shanahan VP of Global Operations

ServerFarm LONDON The London data center is ServerFarm’s first European property adding another 120,000 square feet to its existing data centre portfolio of more than 1 million square feet. 

everything and because it’s delivered as a service through our people and our training, it becomes an all-encompassing operating system. We’ve used that to deliver some of the highest efficiency data centres. Nobody else in the industry is doing anything like this, providing this combination of people, processes and portal in such a compelling way to get such good results. “The InCommand system is linked to the in-house management systems, building management systems and electrical power management systems, so it knows instantly what’s going on in every data centre in every corner of the world and can pre-diagnose a range of issues,” he adds. “So, for example, if a chiller unit is running at less than maximum efficiency, it can diagnose this and raise a ticket to carry out a preventive maintenance task on it.” Yet, perhaps the most impressive aspect of the firm’s solutions is the customer-centricity it provides by giving clients access to ServerFarm’s people, processes and platforms. “I think what makes our customer experience very dynamic is the fact that, through InCommand, our customer is very closely connected to our operational environment,” observes Shenoy. “Together with our customers we’re creating a better experience regardless of their physical location.” “We’re coming to the market with a tool which, if you were using the capacity management feature

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S E R V E R FA R M ServerFarm’s Mike Whitman, DC Operations, and Sam Brown, VP of Engineering/ Construction touring CH1 in Chicago

“InCommand is the eyes and ears of the data centre” Jim Shanahan VP of Global Operations


June 2018


of InCommand, for example, you could identify how much spare capacity you had, and it helps you to maximise the use of all your capacity, so avoids or postpones the need for more capacity,” adds Shanahan. “We’re maximising customer efficiency which helps us to become trusted partners to our customers. Then they can see their interest is our interest. We’re helping our customers make the best use of the services, the capacity, the power and cooling that they buy from us and through our portal they also have such great visibility. Therefore, our customers are loyal to us.” “With the rollout of 5G and regulations like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) underway, the data centre space is changing rapidly,” says Shenoy. “I think by 2020, ‘things’ on the internet - in terms of the endpoint devices and applications – will outnumber consumers,” Shenoy says. “There will be more data and traffic generated by things rather than people and that requires infrastructure to be thought about, designed

and delivered very differently. “5G and new regulatory requirements will also accelerate change. We find ourselves in a market that is changing size and shape quite dramatically. Our customers find that a very challenging environment, and therefore they need companies like ServerFarm who understand how to manage those physical environments.” Security is now, more than ever, a prevalent issue in the data centre sector, and it is something Shanahan and his team are keen to tackle head-on. “I think it’s becoming evident to us that in the next number of years the challenges that are out there in terms of individual hackers, nationstate threats, and physical and logical security are suddenly becoming a real issue for people,” he notes. “I think we’re going to experience a sea of change in how concerned consumers and organisations are about their data and accordingly, we have taken steps to provide what we see as one of the most secure solutions in the industry with routine assessments and penetration testing

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Toronto is a highly secure, concurrently maintainable data Centre constructed to ensure an optimal PUE and flexibility for ongoing customer operations.

by cybersecurity professionals.” Attracting and hiring talent and expertise is a challenge for any company, especially in IT and the data centre space. But with a strong sense of purpose and a holistic approach to training, ServerFarm has circumvented the challenge and grown a strong and capable team. “We hire the best-in-class,” notes Shanahan. “The majority of our personnel are equally trained in


June 2018

mechanical and electrical, physical and IT and then we also have a team of high-level specialists for each of those areas. This means we have a holistic approach to how we train and retain our people. It actually pays off very well for us in customer service and our personnel’s satisfaction levels. “I think we’re quite unique in the industry because we have a real purpose,” adds Shenoy. “We’ve created a fast-moving


2004 The year that ServerFarm was founded

environment because of our strong growth but we’re also innovating. That combination of a fastgrowing organisation which has a purpose and really focuses on innovation is a tough environment to replicate anywhere else. I think this is in part why we have such a high retention rate.” It seems this sense of purpose has cemented ServerFarm’s position as an expert data centre organisation. Combined with the firm’s customerfocus, the US company is set to continue on this upward trajectory in the years to come. TM

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The cloud-based

future of


chain management

Dan Bloch, Vice President, Diversified Industries, Financial and Supply Chain Solutions for Oracle in Canada, explains his excitement at what the likes of AI and cloud have to offer the world of SCM Written by John O’Hanlon Produced by Glen White



hen it comes to business computer technology, Oracle is ubiquitous. And when it comes to business applications, Oracle has a similarly strong presence with enterprise-class products and platforms it has developed in-house, integrated with best of breed solutions it has acquired over the years. In areas such as supply chain planning, PLM, logistics, transportation, warehouse, and global trade management it has established itself as a provider of best-in-class, regardless of the backend ERP. Over the last several years the company has been on a journey to redevelop all of these capabilities for the Cloud – starting with CX, then HCM and ERP, and more recently SCM. Based in Canada, Dan Bloch is Oracle’s VP responsible for customers’ financial and supply chain needs, predominantly in Eastern Canada and the North Eastern USA, and across multiple industries. For him the cloud is not just the biggest opportunity facing Oracle, but a catalyst for change for almost every aspect of business and consumer life. “We are finding increasingly that with the accelerating speed of change, and emergence of disruptive technologies such as IoT, companies need a platform that can rapidly adopt new capabilities without having to undergo periodic, massive transformations. That platform is the cloud” In the case of IoT, the terabytes of data that now floods in from a myriad of IP enabled devices,


June 2018


“As soon as you start dealing with equipment, even if you’re not manufacturing that equipment, you create an entire supply chain situation” – Dan Bloch, Vice President, Diversified Industries, Financial and Supply Chain Solutions

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Oracle ribbon cutting ceremony for its new Design Tech (d.Tech) High School – a public charter school that works closely with the Oracle Education Foundation, a non-profit organisation funded by the company

RFID, GPS and other sources must be collected, consolidated and thoroughly analysed. Bloch adds: “This data has the potential to help a supply chain assess what it can do because we get better insight into where materials are prior to manufacturing, for example, and where my post manufacturing products are relative to reaching their endpoint.” The challenge lies in making all that data usable, he says, and many companies still have some way to go. Gaining insight from that information, and translating that into positive


June 2018

business outcomes is where Oracle differentiates itself. “We have identified the different industries and subverticals and are bringing out specific capabilities designed for each. This will always be a continuous journey, but the horizontal infrastructure that enables this is ready now.” For customers this is crucial. For example, a device on a forklift can detect that a piston is overheating, but without sophisticated predictive analytics that signal is meaningless. And without the ability to translate that into action, such as creating a work order, complete with the right tools,


material and best-timed dispatch, that signal by itself is just not useful. “Oracle is transforming that signal into real, actionable information and then integrating that into the right ERP and SCM processes,” Bloch says. “That’s what is unique.” The power of 5G, IoT and AI Communication infrastructure operators justified the capital cost of building out the 4G network on the demand for video streaming. Now they are looking to IoT: the proliferation of devices will require mobile networks that can handle an

exponential growth in data. That’s what going to drive the investment in new 5G networks and their 100x speed and capacity. In Canada he sees these forces converging: “Business needs the information these devices can provide, and the ability for those devices to communicate over mobile networks, and to be able to service that information in a way that’s relevant to business goals.” Delivering these services in a cloud environment for supply chain is still relatively new. Oracle has been immensely successful with its traditional on-premise software.

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Perspective matters The future asks more of business. A need for wider knowledge, swifter actions and more agile capability. A demand to look at the world from a whole new viewpoint. Deloitte identifies the new perspectives that will drive decisions; to build confidence in shaping the solutions that matter. A fresh view on addressing your most challenging decisions awaits at:

HeartOfWhatMatters.Deloitte Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee (“DTTL”), its network of member Firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member Firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) does not provide services to clients. Please see to learn more about our global network of member Firms. © 2016. For information, contact Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.


Major Canadian businesses are and modems – even the devices that among the many that rely on Oracle give cars mobile connectivity and their supply chain solutions to produce and data centres. “As soon as you start deliver products to their customers. dealing with equipment, even if you’re The territory he looks after is not manufacturing that equipment geographically dispersed. Industries yourself, you create an entire supply like mining and resources operate in chain situation,” Bloch says. “In the old remote locations, and for companies days, if there’s a failure somewhere, like one of the world’s largest gold you would learn about it from a producers, 5G connectivity will be customer, then locate and fix it. Today crucial. “We have some the fault can be detected great customers,” says automatically. The next Bloch. “They certainly step is to not just see a understood where problem, but to predict we are headed in it, locate it, and resolve Founded in terms of enabling it automatically IoT information without disruption. into business The preventative practice. We have capacity that it creates large commitments is amazing and all of this is to one another to enabled through the seamless further that agenda.” integration of IoT, analytics and SCM.” The information might be embedded Customer-led prioritisation into existing work processes to enable The communications service action – or it can be made useful by providers (CSPs) themselves stand applying artificial intelligence (AI) to benefit. They deal with huge with no human intervention. Bloch amounts of diverse equipment, from says: “It’s the added insights that AI their towers and signal boosting can provide in real-time that really equipment to cable boxes, handsets makes the whole thing exciting, and


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• Enable new operational thinking and support changing networks to free resources to perform more value-added activities.


• Link related business processes to create efficiencies and enable greater transparency.



• Fewer integrations, less training, and consistent upgrades will empower workers.

June 2018

that is why you are starting to see the lightbulb go off for leaders of supply chain. They see tremendous opportunities to take out cost, to improve service and to decrease cycle times. Budgets stay static at best, so their approaches have to be smarter and more cost effective. AI will enable many savings. I can react to a problem earlier with a less serious maintenance task and not wait until it is more disruptive, costly or even catastrophic. I can reroute my production capacity based on a better understanding of the whereabouts of the problem, or dynamically solve my pre-manufacturing inventory issues.” Oracle is partnering with customers to drive innovation. “The specifics of a solution may differ but the benefits

are not company or industry-specific,” Bloch continues. “These are people who see that the IoT investment and the software investment will drive value in their business. That is a vision we at Oracle share.” The majority of companies today have some sort of work order management process, he says. They vary in the extent to which these processes are digitised, but whether they are running their enterprise on an Oracle backbone or another system, Oracle IoT and SCM solutions can be integrated without the need for a costly migration of their existing backbone. Of course, if that backbone were the Oracle Cloud, the capabilities would be part of the platform.

“Business needs the proliferation of devices in the areas where it makes sense to collect information, the ability for those devices to communicate over mobile networks, and to be able to service that information in a way that’s relevant to its goals” – Dan Bloch, Vice President, Diversified Industries, Financial and Supply Chain Solutions

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• Minimal upfront investment, subscription-based pricing


• Easy expansion with minimal risk



• The cloud vendor handles maintenance, and upgrades

June 2018


Beneficial partnerships Oracle has an accreditation process for its implementation partners, with differentiation on the basis of their experience and the breadth, depth and value that they bring outside of just IT implementation. In many cases a joint collaboration makes sense when approaching an SCM transformation in the context of broader corporate goals. Industryspecific know-how is of particular benefit. For example, it has a number of partners that are very active in Canada and North America. “One partner of ours is very experienced in implementing Oracle solutions across industries in Canada, and North America, so they can anticipate

issues before they occur,” says Bloch. “For example, in the US there is a new accounting standard called ASC 606 which governs revenue recognition and deferred obligations in customer contracts, similar to the IFRS 15 requirement. Given this particular partner’s expertise in auditing, they can anticipate the needs to collect contract level information during an ERP or supply chain implementation and make the appropriate design considerations up front to satisfy this accounting requirement.” Again, this is something that differentiates cloud from on-premise solutions, he says. “On-Premise software brings with it a greater burden, in resources and cost, of

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“I am so excited about the wealth and the breadth of the capabilities we are bringing to market” – Dan Bloch, Vice President, Diversified Industries, Financial and Supply Chain Solutions

customisation and upgrading. To that extent its benefits are short term. In contrast, while the Oracle Cloud does permit extensive configuration and even the development of extensions, it does not allow the customer to customise. This is a good thing. While customers typically go through some change management to use the software the way it is


June 2018

designed, this ultimately that puts them in a highly sustainable place and at a much lower cost. It allows them to standardise whatever they can and still to differentiate in the areas they need to – those areas that really create the identity and differentiation of their business. And most importantly, it allows then to continuously receive new capabilities


and innovations without the need for complex and costly upgrades. “I am so excited about the wealth and the breadth of the capabilities we are bringing to market and the potential impact we can have on the Canadian market. That we have Canadian data centres to provide these services will allay any concerns around data appropriation. We

can service customers of every size and complexity. And we can help customers standardise and differentiate what makes their companies and products unique. I never want to suggest that we have all the answers. We are always in partnership with our customers, who are our best teachers. We love their feedback.�

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For more than 80 years, Schneider has delivered unrivalled transportation and logistics services. Now the company is continuing to redefine the industry through data and cognitive intelligence Written by Dale Benton Produced by Andy Turner



chneider, one of the leading providers of truckload, intermodal and logistics services in North America lives by a promise to deliver for their customers. That promise is increasingly important in a world moving faster than ever, with continually rising expectations on service and partnership. It is essentially a promise to deliver tomorrow’s world today, and Schneider’s approach to innovation, technology and data science position it well to do just that. The company plays an integral part in the supply chain of many of the leading names in omnichannel retail, consumer goods, manufacturing and other industries. In order to continuously add value to this ecosystem, Schneider requires a level of technological expertise not often thought of in the transportation industry. Luckily for Schneider, it has a deep history of innovation and a solid foundation of “pragmatic


June 2018

innovation” driving its success. That’s what Shaleen Devgun, EVP & CIO of Schneider, feels differentiates the company and enables service like no other. “Our success as one of the largest truckload, intermodal and logistics services providers in North America lies in our ability to connect and get data from our digital assets,” he says. “But it doesn’t stop there – it then becomes a question of garnering intelligence from that data by asking what it is telling us and making informed decisions – all in near-real time.” Schneider has a long history of developing and implementing technology that helped transform the industry. It was one of the first companies to utilise a platform that could track movements of every tractor or trailer back in 1979, implemented satellite technology in the late 80’s, and introduced a selfservice track and trace capability in 1997. Furthermore, Schneider


“TECHNOLOGY IS IN OUR DNA” – Shaleen Devgun, EVP & CIO of Schneider

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See it all at

We see something. Amid the streams of ones and zeros, we see a world where oceans of data yield sparks of insight and unending questions are being answered. A world where every space is intelligent and each connection is seamless. Where cutting-edge computing has the power to carry mankind to new planets, and faster data analysis accelerates the race for a cure. Where solutions come before problems arise and physicists have the power to map the universe’s origins. We see a world where Everything Computes, and what’s next is extraordinary. ©Copyright 2018 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Development LP.



evolved from a mainframe to a more modern technical architecture that has helped drive much of the organisation’s growth. Devgun goes as far as saying that Schneider is in fact a technology company masquerading as a trucking company. “Technology is in our DNA,” says Devgun. “And where we are today, with over 10,000 tractors and over 50,000 trailers and containers – that we see as effectively digital assets – our future depends on leveraging

our platform to collect this data, and build on it through analytics, to create insight that we’ve never had before.” This approach to technology and innovation, with a sharp focus on capturing and utilising data, is part of a transformational journey that Schneider has been on since 2007. The company worked with Oracle to create a horizontally integrated platform, designed to connect and digitise not only Schneider’s value chain, but also its customer’s. It’s called the Quest platform,

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and Schneider uses it to digest all of the information that is coming from its digital assets in the field and create operational insights. “With Quest we’ve created digitisation across our value chain. It connects to every aspect of our business and to our customers, and, more importantly, it connects our customers’ customers to them,” says Devgun. “Through the Quest platform, we are able to deploy advanced analytics and decision sciences to create and share insights across the most important aspects of our business, which are


June 2018

safety and business performance.” Technology adoption in transportation has accelerated and Schneider represents a company that disrupts and redefines the art of the possible. “Where technology may have historically been viewed as a solution to a problem, technology is now creating new business models and opportunities,” says Schneider’s Chief Operating Officer Mark Rourke. “It really reinforces our belief that technology has evolved to a ‘nerve centre’ component of our company versus a traditional cost centre.”


Mark Rourke Schneider’s Chief Operating Officer

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Devgun couldn’t agree more. “We are witnessing this in full force when it comes to the adoption of social, mobile and contextual technologies,” he says. “Innovation is driving changes and evolutions in the industry that enable nonindustry disrupters to come in and challenge the existing models.” So how does Schneider approach

Year Founded



June 2018

this changing landscape? With the same pragmatic approach that it has had for over 80 years, only in today’s world its very much centred around disrupting traditional models and ways of thinking. “We will always look at what’s changing and think of how we apply our pragmatic approach to it in a way that produces results for our


customers, our drivers and associates, and our business” Devgun says. “We are constantly striving to drive value for our shareholders, our customers and our driver associates. So, we ask ourselves, ‘how do we create value for each of the actors in our ecosystem through the use of technology?’” “That’s what drives our

strategy. That’s what drives our thinking with technology.” A key component in any organisation is often one that is lost throughout the technology conversation – the people. Technology and solutions are only tools, but it takes the right people with the right skillset to drive efficiencies and deliver on a promise.

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We started with users and built a different kind of data platform. Only Delphix can offer self-service data to accelerate workflows for developers, data scientists, and analysts, so enterprises can better leverage data as a strategic asset. We enable data to flow freely, securely, and at lower cost—on prem and across clouds. The results can transform a business: faster, higher quality releases, insights, and automation. Welcome to the world of automated data flow. Welcome to Delphix.



Devgun cannot stress enough how important a role driver associates play in the Schneider ecosystem. “To me, technology is going to help everybody in the organisation rise higher in the value chain,” he says. “It’s going to take away the transactional, and the commoditised pieces of their job, and make them more valuable.” This is a sentiment shared by Brian Stuelpner, VP of Strategy, Planning & Architecture. “When we talk about automation and cognitive intelligence, it’s about augmenting the individual,”

he says. “What we are trying to do is help our people be more effective, so that they can focus on the right things and drive value.” “This will be key to our success now, and in the future.” As a company that places its customers and drivers at the very centre of what it does, particularly in an ever-evolving space, the importance of understanding how their needs are evolving cannot be understated. With increasing power in the palm of their hands, the customer of 2018,

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in any industry, is one that demands instant gratification and is one that is much more in tune with what’s happening behind the scenes. This effect is what Devgun sees influencing buying behavior and an unparalleled understanding by customers of the nuts and bolts of the supply chain. “As they demand more information and greater access to that information, what impact does that have on the supply chain?” says Devgun. “Their


June 2018

expectations surrounding visibility have dramatically changed, and we are seeing this more and more in the e-commerce space. Our push into e-commerce with dual first-tofinal mile acquisitions in 2016 help highlight our belief that the growth of the e-commerce channel, and the platforms that enable it, are becoming extremely important and must be a focus area for us going forward.” E-commerce is only one of several examples of how technology is



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Finally, a cloud you can love.

Experts in Enterprise Cloud © 2018 AHEAD, LLC. All rights Reserved.

Learn more at


changing and transforming the supply chain industry. Blockchain, automation and cognitive intelligence are all key technology terms that are dominating the innovation conversation, and Devgun recognises that as more companies embrace technology, they must continue to understand what works, what doesn’t, and more importantly, what will best serve their customers. “Technology should never be adopted for technology’s sake,” he says. “We can talk about our pragmatic approach to innovation, but the real significance lies in showing how we can create real, tangible value for the actors in our ecosystem.” Technology has also redefined the idea of competition and how companies can differentiate from one another. For Stuelpner, in order to continue to succeed in this industry, a company like Schneider must be agile and be willing to take some risks. “The rate and pace of change is requiring a nimbleness not seen

before,” says Stuelpner. “Our success is dependent on our ability to deliver value quickly and use our agility to stay ahead of the market.” This has seen Schneider push its own capabilities as an organisation through innovative hackathons, design thinking and an adoption of agile – all focused on helping create a culture that learns, adapts and improves much quicker than ever before. “We’re developing our organisation and our associates, pulling in outside thinking, and challenging the status quo in order to drive us forward,” Stuelpner says. “As we look to the future – our future – we see one defined by automation, cognitive intelligence and aggregation. A marketplace is being created that requires us to think differently and invest differently to enable success. The disruption is all around us, but we see ourselves as having the ability to ‘disrupt the disruptors’ based on our technical know-how, our industry expertise and approach to driving positive change with our customers.”

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While it is impossible to predict the future of the transportation and logistics industry, Devgun and Stuelpner believe that whatever that future will be, it will be one defined by technology. As it embraces the future, Schneider can call upon more than 80 years of innovation and technology investment to help light the path forward and then completely redefine it. “We want to skate to where the puck is going to be tomorrow, not where it is today,” says Devgun. “Our belief is that through the use of our data analytics and technology, we can get there before anyone else. “At Schneider, I’d say we have a clear strategy and vision for the future, and as an organisation, we are investing and aligning our people to achieve that vision.”


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The Precision Cancer Medicine Building A purposeful building with leading facilities management

Delivering industry-leading clinical treatment and worldclass research, the University of California, San Francisco is set to revolutionise the healthcare sector once more with its state-of-the-art Precision Cancer Medicine Building Written by Laura Mullan Produced by Tom Venturo


The UCSF Health recently was named among the nation’s premier medical institutions for the 17th consecutive year, ranking as the fifth best hospital in the country and the top-ranked hospital in California, according to US News & World Report


lobally recognised for its world-class research and patient care, the University of California, San Francisco, (UCSF) is set to continue its legacy as a leading healthcare provider with its state-ofthe-art facility for cancer treatment. Located at UCSF Health Mission Bay, the Precision Cancer Medicine Building (PCMB) is an unprecedented advance for people with cancer.


June 2018

Championing personalised evidence-based treatments, the 180,000 square foot, seven-story facility aims to place patients and their families at the centre of efforts to ensure that care is carefully tailored to each individual’s biology and life circumstances. This year, the American Cancer Society, predicts that approximately 1.7mn people will be diagnosed


with cancer across the country. Bruce Mace, Director of Facilities Management at UCSF Health, believes that this state-of-the-art facility not only signals a new chapter for the institution, but will also change the way we treat the disease. “The Precision Cancer Medicine Building is a new way of looking at cancer treatment,” explains Mace. “It speaks to utilising different

modalities of treatment – whether it may be chemotherapy, radiation or holistic treatment, for instance – and mixing those modalities to target the individual’s needs because all cancers are different at a genetic level. The Precision Cancer Medicine Building is a facility which is going to allow the further development of the precision cancer treatment option.” Consistently topping the

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leader-board rankings, UCSF Health has earned a strong reputation for its medical outpatient care and academic research.

the university’s industry-leading clinical practices and world-class research capability to transform the way we approach cancer care.

Combining leading research and clinical practice UCSF Health was recently named among the nation’s premier medical institutions for the 17th consecutive year, ranking as the fifth best hospital in the country and the top-ranked hospital in California, according to US News & World Report. Meanwhile, its academic offering has also received worldwide recognition, being rated among the best universities in the world, according to another ranking by US News & World Report. Just a few steps away from the Benioff Children’s Hospital, Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Research Building and UCSF Bakar Cancer Hospital, the LEED-certified Precision Cancer Medicine Building aims to connect the University’s Mission Bay and Mount Zion practices into one location. In doing so, it hopes to marry

A multi-modal approach to cancer treatment “UCSF Health has different cancer treatments that take place at different locations so the knowledge that is learned, the treatments that are utilised, and the services that are provided to our range of cancer patients is spread across our campuses,” says Mace. “The Precision Cancer Medicine Building aims to become the very core of our cancer program. “UCSF’s educational side – all the research, research buildings, and the educational components – are close to our Mission Bay Hospital, and so PCMB aims to take the knowledge that’s gained to the bedside in a very short pipeline,” he adds. “The learning and treatment cycle is very small and it’s always spinning, which will ensure that we provide the finest care to our patients.” Set to open its doors in mid-2019,


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‘The UCSF Health recently was named among the nation’s premier medical institutions for the 17th consecutive year, ranking as the fifth best hospital in the country and the topranked hospital in California, according to US News & World Report’ w w w. g i g a b i t m a g a z i n e . c o m




Leveraging deep technical construction expertise, VueOPS consultants make facility data work for you and your business environment. VueOPS’ cloudbased application gives you situational information at your fingertips to better manage your facility. Learn more about the new way to view and manage your facility operations:

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the Precision Cancer Medicine Building is notable not just because of its poignant mission and ethos. It’s also being brought to life through an innovative approach to construction and facilities management. Emphasising facilities management With a background in construction, architecture, planning and design, Mace has been Director of Facilities Management at UCSF for the past eight years. He says that although facilities management can sometimes be viewed as an afterthought in the construction sector, facilities management has been involved front and centre in the Precision Cancer Medicine Building’s vision. “Facilities management is about the environment of care,” explains Mace. “It’s all the infrastructure systems that directly support patient care throughout our hospital system. “Today, we have roughly 120 buildings and four hospitals. In the case of Mission Bay Hospital and the Precision Cancer Medicine Building,

we are a tertiary and quaternary acute care treatment enterprise. We get some of the most difficult, most acute cases here so it’s hypercritical that we deliver a stable, safe environment for the care of that segment of our patient population.” During the construction phase, Mace has tried to make facilities management a key consideration by harnessing the latest cutting-edge technologies. Championing collaboration between people, systems, and business structures, UCSF Health has taken an integrated project delivery (IPD) approach to the building delivery which has been consolidated by its use of a Building Information Modeling for Facilities Management (BIM4FM) system. Integrating technologies IBM Maximo and Autodesk Revit (BIM360), Mace and his team have created what he describes as a “living as-operated model of the building that we can utilise on a daily basis”. Leveraging this state-of-the-art computerised maintenance management system (CMMS), UCSF

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has created an in-depth, meticulous and functional model of the Precision Cancer Medicine Building that won’t just be used during construction; it will also be used for facility management operational purposes. Technological ingenuity Responsible for serving acute care of patients with cancer, 100% uptime will be critical at the Precision Cancer Medicine Building.


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Mace believes that the university’s latest BIM4FM system goes the extra mile to ensure the facility runs smoothly and that facilities management remains a priority. “IBM Maximo is a computerised maintenance management system, so it manipulates work orders and preventative maintenance and it also tracks the work history and the repair history,” he explains. “It’s all the information surrounding the about


60,000 assets that we are responsible for on a daily basis. So, medical gas delivery, electricity, air handlers and each piece of equipment – you name it. They’re all found within this system. “This information is illustrated in a detailed 3D model through Autodesk Revit, integrated within IBM Maximo utilising the Autodesk Large Model Forge Viewer, so if I look at my screen and touch an eye wash, for example, it will give me

the work order history, repair history and I can also open a work order to start the management cycle.” Value-adding BIM4FM With such a substantial investment, Mace believes that the system will truly add value to day-to-day operations, championing best in class practices. “What’s the value of the BIM4FM system?” reflects Mace. “Well, for example, if we have a leak on a pipe

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The university’s BIM4FM system ensures the facility’s operations run smoothly


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system, we can touch that leak in the model and it will identify where the upstream isolation valve is, i.e., how we can turn it off immediately. It will also tell us the downstream areas that will be impacted by loss of water, and it’ll give us all the information on the system itself – pipe size, flow, materials - all the things we need to know to repair it. “One particular case which really opened my eyes up to the possibilities of the system was an incident in the middle of the night where we had a leak somewhere within a 7-story firerated encased structural steel column chase and the engineers couldn’t identify and isolate where the water was coming from,” reflects Mace. “They called both the Chief Engineer

Chris Shirar and myself, and for the first time ever, instead of going to look at reams of 2D paper plan sets, we ran for the electronic model and asked building engineers to turn off the necessary systems one at a time as we worked our way through the model. We had it diagnosed, isolated and repaired by the next morning when, in the past, that kind of a leak could’ve taken two or three days to completely diagnose, isolate, contain and repair, costing us valuable patient care hours as well as revenue. This system is going to save us huge amounts of time and I think that’s the most critical added value.” Through this scrupulous BIM4FM model, UCSF Health can explore every individual asset in the building,

“That’s sort of the magic sauce, that facilities management is a key focus and is a contributing driver in the project” – Bruce Mace, Director of Facilities Management

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“I think the learning experience here is what’s tremendously exciting” – Bruce Mace, Director of Facilities Management

whether its eye washes or pipes, at the touch of a button. All the data is in one place so the system reduces the need for paper, quickens the speed of repairs and ensures the best practice in facilities management. “What really changed is we’re facilities management. We’re responsible for the operation of the building at the end of the cycle, yet, for the first time ever, our department was invited by VP and Senior Capital Project Architect Stuart Eckblad to submit a BIM Execution Plan (BEP) and a Data Dictionary for inclusion in writing the specification requirements of the “best-value” contract,” observes Mace. “That’s sort of the magic sauce, that facilities management is a key focus and is a contributing driver in the project.” Harnessing big data Unlike traditional BIM models, UCSF Health’s model for the Precision Cancer Medicine Building uses much more data to deliver a more detailed model, despite using just 5% of the mammoth data it has acquired. “There’s a lot of data that goes into


June 2018


UCSF has 120 buildings and four hospitals

building a BIM building,” notes Mace. “The Level of Development (LOD) can be, and typically in construction, is about LOD 300. We currently use 5% of the huge volume of data we have that relates directly to fire and life safety, regulatory, patient care and environment of care and we have a LOD of 400 or 500. The added level of detail for these specific items is more granular and that’s critical.” The implementation of this cutting-edge integration has been a true learning experience for the

team at UCSF Health, but thanks to its close collaboration with the builders, the tradesmen, the programmers and all those involved, UCSF Health has pioneered a new way of going about construction and facilities management. Working alongside experts from Stantec, Cupertino, Southland, CRTKL, VueOps, Honeywell and Rudolph & Sletten required the expansion of “working session” collaboration and a quantum leap in work process

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for this data output demand. “This hasn’t been done before,” says Mace candidly. “It’s forced us to be very collaborative. We want to be. It’s a very big change for the university and the industry. I think it’s helping us bring about cultural industry change.” A changing culture Looking to the future, the Precision Cancer Medicine Building is set to open next year and will undoubtedly deliver the world-class care UCSF Health is known for. However, its innovative BIM4FM platform isn’t just confined to this ongoing project. Mace and his team are already implementing this electronic operations model to the Mission Bay Hospital and the Gateway Medical Building over the coming months. “In the future, all of our buildings as we build them new will be to this standard,” he says. “We also want to take the data and integrate it not just with new builds but also connect it with already-built projects. With regard to use cases and system-wide benefits, the UCSF


June 2018

Health BIM4FM team has partnered with the University of California Office of the President to participate in a “Construction/Procurement Center of Excellence” to support shared development of a focused effort to connect real-time construction and


life-cycle data with other downstream users. Program manager Dylan Paul indicates that the timely and accurate collection of such data during construction has the potential to save the UC system over $70mn annually. “The learning experience here

is what’s tremendously exciting,” concludes Mace. “I think we’re making huge headway on our milestones approach and the myriad benefits of harnessing the data output of object-based architecture keep coming into view.”

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How Oportun leverages technology to power financial inclusion Oportun’s Vice President of IT, Hiba Sharief, discusses how the organisation’s three-year roadmap has helped prepare the company for rapid growth and scalability

Written by Catherine Sturman Produced by Lucy Verde



here are an estimated 45mn people in the United States with little or no credit history according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). “Our goal is to be able to lend them the money they need today while helping them establish the credit history that will help them move forward with their lives tomorrow,” comments Oportun VP of IT, Hiba Sharief. Oportun’s work providing unsecured loans to people with limited or no credit history earned it the 2018 LendIt Award for Financial Inclusion and recognition as a Finalist in the inaugural WSJ Financial Inclusion Challenge for the US this year. According to Sharief, people underestimate the importance of having a credit history and score. “When I moved to the United States in the mid-90s, we couldn’t even get an apartment without someone running a credit check,” she says. Oportun disbursed its first loan in 2006 from a folding card table at a grocery store in California. By 31 March 2018, it had disbursed more than $5bn dollars through more than


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two million loans. It currently operates 270-plus retail locations in low-tomoderate income neighborhoods in addition to contact centres and a mobile platform. “We want our customers to choose the option that works best for them, whether that means applying in person, using their mobile phone to apply online or calling one of our contact centre agents,” adds Sharief.

Hiba Sharief VP of IT

Hiba Sharief is a seasoned technology executive fueled by a passion for innovation, growth and impact. She currently serves as Vice President of Information Technology at Oportun, a financial technology company with the mission of providing affordable loans to people with little or no credit history so they can establish credit and build a better future. In her role, Sharief leverages more than 15 years of leadership and hands-on expertise in the areas of technology strategy, architecture, and largescale business and technology transformations to build and lead effective, cross-functional teams that can enable business agility and results


“Our ambition is to help anyone who has a financial need and cannot get access to funds, because either they’re credit invisible or they have a really thin credit file” – VP of IT, Hiba Sharief

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The leadership team at Oportun

Rethink. Redesign. Reimagine. Digital Transformation Solutions that challenge the status quo and unlock new business possiblities and value.


Year founded


(Formerly known as Progreso Financiero)

Helping Oportun scale Sharief joined the company in 2015 and was drawn to Oportun for two reasons: First, she believed in the company’s mission and saw an opportunity to find purpose and meaning at work. Second, she knew that her expertise in technology could help Oportun scale its business and help more people. “As a startup, Oportun had systems and processes that worked well, but drawing from my experience, I knew we needed to put a roadmap in place

for our systems to keep pace with the Company’s rapid growth,” said Sharief. Within her first few weeks at Oportun, Sharief got her team aligned to a roadmap that had two prongs: “Quick Wins” to ensure near-term systems stability and four long-term programs that would help prepare Oportun for future growth and scalability. These programs included robust efforts around technology architecture and infrastructure, security, process design, and collaboration.

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Technology architecture For the technology architecture work stream, the primary goal was to deliver resilience, availability and scalability while providing the engineering team with the solutions and self-service capabilities they needed to deliver software solutions to our customers. “One of the first things we did was a financial analysis, including a total cost of ownership (TCO) analysis to look at the different options for both refreshing the current infrastructure and moving to the cloud,” Sharief explains. As part of the threeyear roadmap she established, the team’s first order of business was to bolster its IT infrastructure and set it up for future scale. “People think that the cloud is cheaper, but it can get really expensive, really fast,” adds Sharief, who explained that cost optimisation needs to be a constant priority. “Today, everyone on the team finds ways to improve processes, reduce costs, or get more done with the same or less.” Security “The financial services industry is


June 2018

highly regulated, and the risks of external and internal cyber threats need to be well managed. The Security strategy established by Tyson Kopczynski, VP of Security, is holistic in nature. ACT SMART is an acronym we use to describe how a focus on Awareness, Culture and Technology through Solutions, Monitoring, Advisory, Response and Testing will lead to empowerment and transparency,” notes Sharief. Similar to technology, Oportun has chosen to deliver Security as a Service, including everything from the physical security of retail locations to the Security Operations Center (SOC). Process Design In the spirit of having a holistic ‘people, process and technology’ approach to transformation, Sharief’s strategy was heavily focused on establishing and maturing processes. “Upon joining Oportun, we conducted a Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) assessment of key processes used to manage technology,” she recalls. “It is incredible to see how we matured


in some areas. A great example is enterprise service management, where our leader Eduard Jooste has presented innovative solutions at this year’s ServiceNow Knowledge18 conference.” Collaboration Adopting large-scale collaboration platforms and video-conferencing technologies have enabled the talent strategy at Oportun to hire and retain top talent, regardless of location. “With a growing global footprint across the US and Mexico, I love seeing all the faces on camera when we meet as a team,” Sharief says. She strongly believes that when people are involved in meaningful work, treated as professionals and happy, they will be more engaged, empowered and productive.

“We want our customers to choose the option that works best for them, whether that means applying in person, using their mobile phone to apply online or calling one of our contact centre agents” – VP of IT, Hiba Sharief

Key to Success: Culture At Oportun, the technology teams see themselves as business leaders, not just technology specialists. According to Sharief, her team has taken best practices and helped the other parts of the organisation adopt them for

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• Oportun has won the LendIt 2018 Industry Award for Financial Inclusion • Oportun provides unsecured loans to those with limited or no credit history


June 2018


“It is incredible to see how we matured in some areas. A great example is Enterprise Service Management, where our leader Eduard Jooste has presented innovative solutions at this year’s ServiceNow Knowledge18 conference” – VP of IT, Hiba Sharief

different purposes. Likewise, some agile approaches used for software development are now used in other parts of the organisation to manage large business initiatives. Hiba explained that the key to Oportun’s success in scaling as a business has been as much about the people and culture as it has been about implementing the right technologies and processes. “People often underestimate the importance of culture, but we’ve found that hiring people with a growth mindset and a thirst to learn and improve is absolutely critical.” Oportun’s corporate culture emphasises the importance of learning. The CEO, Raul Vazquez, regularly shares podcasts and books that inspire him and encourages others to do the same. The technology team meets weekly and takes turns teaching each other about different topics. “Everyone is as serious about learning and improving as they are about helping the company achieve its mission of helping more of the 45mn people in the US who are shut out of the financial mainstream because of their lack of credit history.” It is that attitude and culture to which Sharief attributes Oportun’s success. “It is also why it is hard to imagine a more interesting and fulfilling workplace where everyone is striving to push the envelope.”

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CUTTING-EDGE INNOVATION WITH THE CUSTOMER IN MIND Written by Laura Mullan Produced by Justin Brand


Championing innovative thinking and world-class customer service, Exim Bank is set to become a leading player in the East African banking sector


nnovation is life: this is the purposeful motto that unites the team at Tanzania’s Exim Bank. In the banking Technology today, digitisation is more important than ever but Exim Bank is taking this one step further to deliver a worldclass customer experience. In doing so, it hopes to become the leading regional player in East Africa. Founded 21 years ago, Exim Bank has quickly grown to become one of the largest indigenous


June 2018

banks in the region, boasting 30 branches in Tanzania, six branches in Comoro and five branches in Uganda and Djibouti respectively. Lijocha Nalitolela, Head of Information Technology, credits the firm’s roaring success to the crucial role technology plays in its day-to-day operations. “The company’s IT function has grown rapidly. It has moved away from being a supportive function to become a huge business driver,” he says.


“Exim Bank is trying to become a regional player within East Africa, however, it hasn’t forgotten its calling – a dedication to innovation” Lijocha Nalitolela, Head of Information Technology

“For example, when discussing how quickly the bank can expand its customer base, we now look at internet banking, our point of services, our cash deposit machines, all the alternative channels which are cheaper to roll out and quicker. In banks today, we are seeing that technology is taking a lead role in driving the business rather than taking a back seat as it used to five or 10 years ago.” Championing a disruptive and innovative IT strategy, Exim

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June 2018


“The company’s IT function has grown rapidly. It has moved away from being a supportive function to become a huge business driver” Lijocha Nalitolela, Head of Information Technology Bank has carved its own path in the financial Technology. It was the first bank to introduce Mastercard credit cards and mobile ATMs in Tanzania and it was also the first bank to open subsidiaries outside of the country, according to Nalitolela. It’s this commitment to technological ingenuity which he believes has helped the bank overtake its competitors. “Exim Bank is trying to become a regional player within East Africa, however, it hasn’t forgotten its calling – a dedication to innovation,” he says. “There are strong competitors in the region but what Exim Bank brings

to the market is that new level of innovation that we need. Regardless of what we are doing, we try to be ahead of the market. We may not be the biggest, but we’re chasing down the competition by putting innovation front and centre of our strategy.” This inherent commitment is not only revolutionising the bank’s products and services, it’s also transforming its relationship with its customers. “This commitment to being innovative also means that customers receive an unparalleled level of service which they wouldn’t get in a bank that is three or four times bigger than us,” notes Nalitolela. “Customers that bank with Exim prefer the firm because of the level of service they receive, whether they’re using our online platforms or visiting one of our branches. “Rather than trying to digitise everything, we’re looking specifically at the payments segment in the financial Technology,” he continues. “We’re trying to introduce financial services that customers can access at their fingertips using technology. For

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instance, we’re trying initiatives like corporate cheque clearing whereby corporate customers can scan their own checks from their own location. We also have a cash deposit machines which are being rolled out so that corporate customers don’t have to come to the bank to present the cash. “We’ve also rolled out one of the best internet banking transformations. Most of our customers, particularly our corporate customers, even have direct access to executive management and their own personal relationship manager. This gives customers the comfort of knowing that Exim Bank is providing quality services for all, not just services for corporate customers.” To gain a deeper understanding of its clientele, Exim Bank is leveraging big data and analytics to create what Nalitolela describes as a “customer consistent viewpoint. Utilising a customer relationship management (CRM) solution, the Tanzanian firm is using data to get a 360-degree view of the customer. In addition to this, Exim Bank has also implemented a

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business intelligence tool where information is captured, analysed and interpreted into accessible reports. One outcome of this data analysis is that Exim Bank has used this information to create a preferred customer loyalty programme. “Using the data, we can analyse and see who our best customers are and give them preferential treatment,” explains Nalitolela. “Like a loyalty programme, whoever falls in the preferred customer bracket, will get preferential treatment at branches and will also get a reduced rate if


June 2018

they visit certain partners of ours and use our credit or debit cards. “We are using this to try and attract customers who don’t bank with us that much so that they can enjoy these benefits, and it is also helping us retain our preferred customers by giving them an incentive to stay.” Keen to gain a bigger slice of the market, Exim Bank has also fully embraced the industry-wide shift towards internet and mobile banking. Mobile phone usage has surged in Tanzania and other East African countries, thanks to the launch of


“This commitment to being innovative also means that customers receive an unparalleled level of service which they wouldn’t get in a bank that is three or four times bigger than us” Lijocha Nalitolela, Head of Information Technology

cheaper devices and data packages. Around 19mn people in the country accessed the internet through their mobile phones, up from 18mn in 2016, according to the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), and the nation’s internet penetration rose to 45% in 2017, from 40% a year before. Exim Bank has transformed its portfolio by making substantial investments in mobile and internet banking and, in doing so, it is attracting those who tend not to use banking services and

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promote financial inclusion. “To try to tap into this population who don’t use banking services, we have not only tried to use loyalty programmes, but we have also integrated directly with the mobile network operators (MNOs) to ensure that we have mobile wallet products,” says Nalitolela. “It’s the preferred way of banking in the country and it’s an easier way of sending funds from one location for another. By partnering directly with MNOs we have given customers the ability to transfer between their mobile wallet and the bank,” he


June 2018

adds. “We have noticed that people who weren’t banking with us or didn’t have an account anywhere have started to shift towards our services because they can access their banking services any time even if they are in a remote location.” In today’s digital age, online banking is no longer a trend, it’s a norm. By offering two types of mobile banking services – for those with and without smartphones – Exim Bank has ensured that customers are able to do all their financial services using these platforms. “Compared to most mobile


applications in the market you’ll find that ours goes that extra mile to try to ensure that the customer does not need to visit the bank if they don’t want to,” explains Nalitolela. “There are still some customers who prefer that human aspect of banking and would rather come to our branches. However, most people don’t have the time and prefer to have the ability to do their financial transactions from their own devices.” Over the past 21 years, Exim Bank has achieved meteoric growth

and set an impressive precedent in the banking landscape. In recent times, the Tanzanian firm has expanded into Uganda and has developed this subsidiary to be technologically on par with its Tanzanian operations and, on top of this, it has also established strong partnerships with the Djibouti port and the Djibouti electricity board. The bank has also developed close ties within the country, forming partnerships with the Tanzanian National Park, where it provides

Video: Exim Online Banking Business: Payments and Transactions

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“Between the next four to 18 months we expect to overtake the fourth largest bank in the country and we hope to become the third largest bank within the next couple of years� Lijocha Nalitolela, Head of Information Technology


June 2018


collection for all the national parks across the country, and the Tanzania Revenue Authority, whereby a customer can go to a branch and complete their tax payments. Reaching this level of success hasn’t come easy, says Nalitolela. To achieve this, Exim Bank has had to adapt and side-step a series of challenges in its path. Like any banking institution, security is a top priority for the team at the Tanzanian bank and, as such, the firm ensures that all its cards are EMV enabled and that its online transactions are highly secure and encrypted. To guarantee the highest security standards, Nalitolela says that the firm is also working with leading security vendors so that customers can feel confident that their finances are safe. “It’s an evolving challenge so we always need to keep on our toes,” Nalitolela says. “It’s not only the bank that has to understand security and fraud issues. We also have to educate our customers and protect cash from fraud and security issues.”

Keeping up with the everevolving tech scene has also been a challenge but it is one which Exim Bank has taken in its stride and this is partially thanks to the firm’s diverse and talented team. “Whenever I employ a new person I take care to see that I not only hire somebody who has 15 or 20 years’ experience, but also exhibits the drive and potential we need to consistently innovate and deliver excellent customer service,” Nalitolela says. Although it was only founded two decades ago, Exim Bank has created ripples in the banking Technology for its innovative thinking and technological ingenuity. But for Nalitolela the journey is far from over. He’s optimistic that the Tanzanian firm will continue to grow and cement its position as a leading financial services provider in East Africa. “Between the next four to 18 months we expect to overtake the fourth largest bank in the country and we hope to become the third largest bank within the next couple of years,” observes Nalitolela.

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FDH Bank

Mobilising financial

connectivity Written by Catherine Sturman Produced by Justin Brand

Responsible for Malawi’s first mobile app and wallet, FDH Bank’s Deputy Managing Director, William Mpinganjira, discusses how the technology has revolutionised the industry


he banking sector in South Africa is undergoing significant disruption. Whilst under 20% of the population in Malawi has access to traditional financial services, the government has sought to promote accessibility and financial inclusion by delivering key incentives for banks to utilise new technologies. With a vast number of physical outlets and strong reputation, FDH Bank has become one of the largest banks in Malawi, amassing a market share of approximately 15%. However, its acquisition of Malawi Savings Bank in 2015 became the ultimate driver for the bank to gain a greater understanding of how digital tools, particularly mobile, will seek further customer engagement, anytime, anywhere. “With technology you can provide a one-stop shop. It is the only way


June 2018

to be efficient, so the best way was to digitise, both internally and externally. We’ve therefore invested a lot in digital products over the last two years,” explains Deputy Managing Director, William Mpinganjira. “Digitising our internal processes has enabled customers to transact at a more efficient pace and makes it easier for customers to engage online or on their mobile phone.” Whilst internet connection in Malawi continues to lag over its mobile competitor, FDH has grabbed this opportunity with both hands and launched in-demand mobile services to extend its reach. “Mobile networks are growing. There are two major mobile phone operators in Malawi, Airtel and TNM, who have roughly 50% market share between them. Combined, these companies have almost three times the number


William Mpinganjira Deputy Managing Director William Mpinganjira is a seasoned Banker with more than 8 years’ experience in the Banking and Financial Industry. Prior to joining the Banking sector, he worked for Deloitte & Touche Malawi and the London Borough of Croydon Corporate Finance Division. For the past eight years, Mpinganjira has been working in top management positions with FDH Bank and the FDH Group. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance and Accounting obtained from the London South Bank University, United Kingdom, a Master of Arts degree in International Business from Grenoble Graduate School of Business, France and is a Chartered Accountant with the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA), with current membership of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Malawi (ICAM). Having become a Banker, he has attained an MBA in Banking and Finance from Bangor Business School, Wales and is a Chartered Banker with the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Scotland. Mpinganjira is also an alumnus of Stellenbosch Business School as well as London Business School. w w w. g i g a b i t m a g a z i n e . c o m


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“With technology you can provide a one-stop shop. It is the only way to be efficient, so we’ve therefore invested a lot in digital products” – Deputy Managing Director, William Mpinganjira of customers compared to traditional banks at present,” notes Mpinganjira. “They are also growing at a much faster rate in terms of acquiring new, individual customers. A mobile phone is a lot less cumbersome than opening a bank account, especially now there are new rules which are not very conducive for small economies or developing countries.”

Promoting accessibility Undertaking essential market research each year to better understand customer needs, FDH Bank has established a number of digital products. Launching the first mobile application and digital wallet service in Malawi in 2016, the bank’s mobile wallets have enabled local citizens to gain access to soughtafter banking services which they had previously thought out of reach.

“If one doesn’t even have a bank account or card, they can obtain a wallet and gain access to a suite of products that we have. If customers want to pay their electricity or water bill, they can do so through their mobile wallet, without needing to travel. If someone wants to send money or to pay a bill on behalf of another beneficiary, they can also do this through this technology,” Mpinganjira says. Additionally, for citizens that travel outside Malawi, FDH’s explorer wallet has provisioned the ability to continue transacting locally. “This is something we are scaling up. We’ve introduced it in South Africa but will be moving to the UK and the US within the next two to three months,” Mpinganjira explains. “People who are immigrants in other countries, may have relatives who live

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locally. They may help their families with certain payments whether it’s rental payments, school fees, etc. They have to be sure that money will be used for that specific request. “By creating a wallet outlet, customers can control that flow of funds locally here. Instead of having to use a money transfer, similar to a western union, they’d go and cash $200-$400 at a certain location, and trust that person will use that money for the right matter.” By March 2017, FDH had gained up to 50,000 subscribers, which has now soared above 82,000. Nonetheless, whilst Malawi remains a cash-based economy, continuous education surrounding the benefits of utilising digital banking will remain vital. With this in mind, FDH’s use of agent banking delivers essential information to encourage customers to adopt mobile banking, and has extended FDH’s reach to rural localities, removing the time it would take for communities to travel and visit a financial branch. “There is a huge part of the country where it might not be profitable


June 2018

to put up a physical outlet due to poor infrastructure, but businesses continue to operate there. With agents in banking, you can establish businesses through training, vetting, and qualifying these people as agents who can provide banking services. It allows us to reach out,” comments Mpinganjira. “Sometimes customers will not be comfortable with a bank, but they trust local businesses who have been there for many years and have established trust. This was a key reason for us to move into agency banking.” Additionally, FDH’s Goal Save accounts continue to encourage local citizens to save, with highinterest rates attached to every penny saved. Mpinganjira stresses that such active accounts can support any potential loan application, as access to credit remains a challenge for local businesses and SME’s in the country. “Part of that savings account is collateral,” he says.

Enhanced security Additionally, in alignment with its customer-focused digital


transformation, FDH has placed significant investment in products which will integrate with its bespoke systems and guarantee scalability. “We’ve had a lot of suppliers worldwide trying to sell us exciting products, but most do not work with what we have, or it cannot talk to what we have,” Mpinganjira adds earnestly. “We partnered with our core banking supplier, Temenos Middle East, from the very start. Their products are integrated in terms of providing services to the customer, but also have an integrated accounting system within its core banking system.” Most importantly, FDH has placed significant investment in its security through digitising its suite of services. Networks are routinely monitored, where tests are regularly undertaken to ensure all systems remain robust and secure. “This year we also acquired a new anti-fraud monitoring system, which we are implementing to ramp up the security of these products, and also to educate our customers on how they should handle any attempts when it comes to fraud.

FACTS & FIGURES FDH Bank was the first provider in Malawi to launch mobile application and wallet financial solutions Under 20% of the population in Malawi has access to traditional financial services FDH Bank is one of the largest banks in Malawi, amassing a combined market share of approximately 15% FDH Bank acquired Malawi Savings Bank in 2015 Mobile networks in Malawi have almost 3x the number of customers compared with traditional banks Agent Banking delivers essential information to encourage customers to adopt mobile banking

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We have now set up an IT security section within the bank, which we never used to have in the past.”

Future developments Available all over Malawi, FDH bank is now accessible in areas where other banks have yet to enter. Providing essential services for people who continuously move across the country, FDH will remain local, and continue to tailor its services to the needs of Malawian citizens. By developing and integrating its services with mobile phone operators, its digital offering will further grant customers flexibility and choice. However, long-term, Mpinganjira remains acutely aware of how new financial technologies will work to transform the banking industry, where it will work to keep abreast of any potential trends in the market. “Technology that is coming into banking is blockchain and cryptocurrencies,” he says excitedly.

“These are technologies that, as a bank, we need to be fully engaged in and see how best we can improve the service moving forward. Over time, traditional brick and mortar branches are going to disappear as customers become more technology savvy, and as the country develops more and customers make better use of their time. Brick and mortar will still be relevant, but not as relevant as it is today.” He concludes: “The investment in digital products, especially partnerships with fintechs, who are very important and agile when it comes to the development of new products, are very perceptive on what’s going on compared with banks. Banks are limited as a result of regulation by central banks, who are not the best innovators. Collaboration with fintechs and mobile phone operators will be critical for further successes in the banking sector in the future.”

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Nedbank Insurance TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION IN SOUTH AFRICA’S FINANCIAL INDUSTRY As the financial industry continues to embrace technology, Nedbank Insurance is undergoing a transformation in its bid to be the insurance partner of choice




n the ever-changing financial industry, embracing technology transformation is crucial for companies not to be left behind. The technology landscape evolves faster and faster, and as technology changes, so too does the role of the chief information officer or head of information technology (IT). “IT has become an enabler of business strategy and tactics, particularly within our organisation,” says 274

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Indranil Bandyopadhyay, Head of IT at Nedbank Insurance. “Historically IT has been seen as a support service, which we still provide, but our influence has expanded to impact the organisational innovation roadmap as innovation and technology are inextricably linked.” Nedbank Insurance, part of Nedbank Group, is undergoing its own technology transformation, embracing digital to meet and exceed the demands of it


“Technology is influencing every corner of the world and every corner of a client’s life, and we have to be in that space. Our clients demand instant gratification — quicker service and results at the push of a button” — Indranil Bandyopadhyay, Head of IT clients by providing the best possible service solutions. “We continuously look at how technology can support and complement the strategic direction of Nedbank Insurance,” says Bandyopadhyay. “We produce system- and processrelated solutions for any business problem, making our business truly client-centred.” Nedbank Group is one of the four leading bank groups in South Africa,

and Bandyopadhyay is tasked with helping Nedbank Insurance be the insurer of choice. The company’s client-centred approach is the biggest driver of change across Nedbank Insurance and Bandyopadhyay firmly believes that it will continue to define the future of the company. “Technology is influencing every corner of the world and every corner of a client’s life,” he says. “And we have to w w w. g i g a b i t m a g a z i n e . c o m


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be in that space. Our clients demand instant gratification – quicker service and results at the push of a button. “Whether it’s making a claim or issuing a policy or even cancelling one, everything has to be done at lightning speed. We need to ensure that our service delivery meets client expectation.”

Other markets continue to redefine user experience, which influences clients’ expectations. Nedbank Insurance continually has to review what it considers art of possibility to continue meeting the demands of clients. “Through technology people are much more knowledgeable, which

“Through technology people are much more knowledgeable, which feeds their expectations of our service and products and the value they can get. They know what’s out there and we need to be able to respond to that” — Indranil Bandyopadhyay, Head of IT w w w. g i g a b i t m a g a z i n e . c o m



feeds their expectations of our service and products and the value they can get,” he says. “They know what’s out there and we need to be able to respond to that.” The current technology conversations are centred around topics such as artificial intelligence, big data, automation and blockchain. But what can Nedbank Insurance do to avoid simply adopting and implementing technology solutions for the sake of joining that global conversation? The company is already using technologies such as telematics, robotics and data-driven analytics to improve the way it services its clients. But where Nedbank Insurance is really using technology to transform and improve the way it engages with clients effectively is in capturing rich data through its ‘one policy administration system’. This state-ofthe-art policy administration system hosts both its life and non-life businesses, enabling a 360-degree view of clients. The early benefits achieved include faster response times, improved client interaction 278

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and better service delivery. “And we are exploring further efficiencies. We are constantly looking at our processes to take advantage of having a single platform for life and non-life policies,” says Bandyopadhyay. Various other initiatives such as automating client experience, building superior digital properties, integration with insurtech partners, driving advanced analytics and solutions that fulfil the needs of clients across life and non-life businesses are underway. “All of the above are based on optimal exploitation of available data,” says Bandyopadhyay.


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“You need to be very sure about what you’re trying to achieve. Being mindful of your ultimate objective will help you overcome challenges and keep good people on board throughout this journey” — Indranil Bandyopadhyay, Head of IT “We ask ourselves if we are doing enough with the bank’s wealth of structured data. And I’d have to say no. So, our plan is to develop a roadmap of how we can better use that data, better understand our clients and ultimately better serve them.” Bandyopadhyay is sensitive to the challenge of technological transformation, whether associated with implementation, understanding new

technologies, or changing culture and new ways of work, and says that change management will be critical. “You need to be very sure about what you’re trying to achieve. Being mindful of your ultimate objective will help you overcome challenges and keep good people on board throughout this journey.” The first step in change management is working with people following w w w. g i g a b i t m a g a z i n e . c o m



Indranil Bandyopadhyay has over 20 years’ experience in financial industry and currently is Head of Business IT Enablement at Nedbank Insurance. His experience spans across countries like UK, USA, Switzerland and South Africa. In his current role, aside from enabling business with system and process related solutions, he is also involved with big transformational programmes including but not limited to replacement of administration systems. He is also embedding various emerging technologies within the business. A keen Business IT practitioner, Bandyopadhyay has interests and researches in the field of Innovation Systems and Behavioural Economics. He holds a Master of Business Administration Degree (Cum Laude) from the Gordon Institute of Business Science, South Africa and an engineering degree (with distinction) in the field of Computer Science from National Institute of Technology, India.

Indranil Bandyopadhyay, Head of IT, Nedbank Insurance


June 2018


Click to watch ‘See Money Differently with Nedbank’

a bottomup and topdown approach so that they understand their place in this journey. Bandyopadhyay works with his team, and the wider organisation, to ensure that they support the journey and feel valued in the organisation. Technology implementation is a journey that no company can achieve by itself and Nedbank Insurance relies on key IT vendors and partners to support its vision and ambition.

Bandyopadhyay believes that aligning with strategic partners will help Nedbank Insurance exceed expectations. “Gone are the days when you can take requirements, move to development, and go to market. You must have partners who will help you get there,” he concludes.

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Orange Egypt A brand you can trust to disrupt the telecom market Written by LAURA MULLAN Produced by G REG CHU RCHILL



OME TO ONE of the largest telecom markets in Africa, Egypt is a country that is brimming with potential. As of last year, the North African nation had almost 29mn smartphone users according to Newzoo’s Global Mobile Market Report, with smartphone penetration reaching around 30.4%. Now, with even more devices at the country’s fingertips, telecom operator Orange Egypt is shaking-up the sector. The subsidiary of French telecoms group Orange launched its 4G service last year under the slogan “4G for everyone”, investing around EGP£8.6bn (US$487mn) in the 4G license. Hisham Siblini, the company’s Chief Technology and Information Officer, says that the company’s competitive pricing and digital experience means that the technology lives up to this slogan and is suitable for all of the nation’s needs. “Today, we serve around 35mn customers,” says Siblini. “We cover more than 98% of the population when it comes to 2G and 3G technology and we cover over 60% of the population with 4G technology. “I believe there are multiple factors that make Orange Egypt successful like the network’s perception, the products and services we offer, as well as our customer service,” he adds. “But I believe the most important factor is how we make our customers loyal to Orange. There’s no magic formula but the service we provide and the consistency of this service is really a key differentiator.” For any mobile operator, voice connection and data 286

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connection are the core products to be sold, which makes Siblini’s role an integral one. “The network’s quality, and the products and services we offer are what’s important to our customers,” Siblini says. An ambitious digitisation strategy is helping Orange Egypt deliver the best customer experience in the country. Yet it’s important to note that technology is not just playing a technical role at Orange Egypt, it’s also actively revolutionising the way the firm communicates with its customers, elevating the consumer experience to new heights. “The customer journey across all our touchpoints is key,” Siblini says. “At Orange Egypt, we have developed a very powerful customer experience management (CEM) tool which is vital as it allows us to monitor the user experience from all the touchpoints. It’s definitely a key differentiator from our competitors.” This month marks the company’s 20th anniversary and whilst it has set a strong precedent in the telecom market, Siblini is more excited about

the innovations and technologies that lie ahead. As customers’ practices and needs evolve and grow, Orange Egypt’s strategy has remained a simple one: to be “always in touch to connect what’s essential in your life”. With this in mind, the telecom giant is working diligently to make its network digital from end-to-end. In doing so, it has created a streamlined connected service, that’s well-equipped for today’s digital era. “When you look at younger generations they don’t want to go to a shop, they want to have a peer-topeer chat online to address their requests,” Siblini notes. “Today, w w w. g i g a b i t m a g a z i n e . c o m




(EGP£8.6bn) Approximate amount Orange Egypt invested in its 4G platform


Approximate number of Orange Egypt customers


Year Orange Egypt was founded

I believe this is an important trend that we need to explore.” Today, the Egyptian company is virtualizing its network functions by introducing a Telco cloud infrastructure that will support Network functions virtualization across all Networks and service platforms. It’s a transformation which Siblini says will have a huge impact on the way the company’s operates. “Whatever we do we always think about the future,” he says. “The virtualisation of the network is actually 290

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important for many reasons. It’s going to have a direct impact on our costs both from a capex and opex perspective and it will also help us see a massive improvement in terms of our time to market for introducing new products and services in addition to improving the network quality and perception. On the other hand, the introduction of softwaredefined networking (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV) technologies is also a good step towards preparing the network for 5G technology.” 5G is set to be a game-changer for


“When you look at younger generations they don’t want to go to a shop, they want to have a peer-to-peer chat online” — Hisham Siblini, Chief Technology and Information Officer — industries across the globe. It will be faster, more stable, more versatile and in some cases, could even replace home wi-fi networks. What’s more, it will also play a critical role in how the internet of things (IoT) is applied to industries such as the automotive sector. Like most telecom operators today, Orange Egypt has its eyes set on this new innovation. With every digital tool needing to be future-proof, Siblini says that collaboration is important when preparing for this shift. “We are working with leading

technology companies and the government to help them enable big projects such as smart cities and IoT because this offers invaluable experience,” he says. With around 35mn customers under its wing, Orange Egypt has tirelessly earned its stripes as the fastest network in Egypt and as the country’s secondlargest operator. Along this journey, Orange Egypt has had to overcome a series of hurdles, especially when rolling out its highlyanticipated 4G network. w w w. g i g a b i t m a g a z i n e . c o m




“One of the biggest challenges we faced was rolling out the network in a fast and efficient way,” Siblini says. “We focused our attention on key areas and rolled out the technology where there is high-traffic and more customers. Using our customer experience management platform has been extremely important for instigating this. “Another challenge has been trying to convince our customers to move to 4G technology because currently there’s decent 3G connection,” he adds. “We’ve been encouraging customers to move to 4G so that we can prove to them that it’s a very different experience compared to the previous platform.” In today’s economy, cost efficiency is a key priority for any firm. At Orange Egypt, Siblini has used the country’s difficult economic climate as a catalyst to launch a pioneering cost transformation programme. “There’s been a big shakeup at the company,” he observes. “One of the biggest challenges facing the firm has been the devaluation of the Egyptian pound, the rate of inflation and rising utility and fuel costs.

“We cover more than 98% of the population when it comes to 2G and 3G technology and we cover over 60% of the population with 4G technology” — Hisham Siblini, Chief Technology and Information Officer — “In this context, controlling our costs has become a key concern and that’s why we’ve launched a transformation programme that aims to change the way we operate by using energy management, for instance. It is a very active programme which is driving efficiency across the company.” On top of its data and voice connection offerings, Orange Egypt also offers a money transfer service called Orange Money. Launched in 2008, the service is now present in 17 countries in the Middle East and Africa under the Orange Money name. According to the Central Bank, only w w w. g i g a b i t m a g a z i n e . c o m




Hisham Siblini is a Senior Telecom Executive with strong management and operational experience. He built and developed successful wireless and wireline operations around the world. This includes building teams and leading networks and operations from green field to more mature stages in highly competitive environments. He held CTIO, CEO and senior Networks and IT roles in multiple countries across Europe, Middle East and North Africa. Siblini holds a Master Degree in Radio Communications from the “ENST”, Ecole National Supérieure des Télécommunications in Paris, France. He has over 20 years of experience in the telecommunications and Information Technology sectors.


June 2018

32% of Egyptians have bank accounts, and so Orange Money offers a simplified, secure way to transfer money in the region. “Egypt is a very large country so this service allows someone who works in Cairo to transfer money to their family, for instance, in a very convenient way,” says Siblini. “It’s a flexible platform and so technology definitely plays a key role in the service. “The difficulty of developing Orange Egypt comes from a regulatory perspective. We are trying to explore the idea of utility payments, for example, but we need the regulations to evolve and allow us to do more.” Headquartered in Cairo, Orange Egypt has emerged as a leading telecom provider in a country which is ripe for development. Over the past two years, the Egyptian subsidiary has rolled-out its longawaited 4G network which Siblini says wouldn’t be possible without two fundamental assets. “I think at Orange we have two major assets: the quality of our people and the Orange brand,” he says. “The quality of education in Egypt is incredible and


“Our most important assets are the quality of our people and the Orange brand equity index” — Hisham Siblini, Chief Technology and Information Officer —


there are a huge number of qualified Egyptians who live abroad, who have strong experience in the Telco domain who we are able to attract to come back and work in a professional environment. “On the other side, we’re also a part of the Orange family. The group operates in Europe, Africa and the Middle East and because of this, consumers trust the brand, we attract the best talent and expertise and we have a rich experience in the sector.”

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Inside room of

e the financial engine

Mercedes-Benz Written by Laura Mullan Produced by Kristofer Palmer



A progressive and dynamic work culture is key for corporate success, and it seems Mercedes-Benz Group Services Philippines understands that better than anyone


OASTING ITS ICONIC silverstarred emblem, the Mercedes-Benz Tower has become a landmark in the Philippines, supporting the brand’s position in the Asia-Pacific market. With offices in both Cebu and Clark, Mercedes-Benz Group Services Philippines (MBGSP) provides finance and accounting services for the Daimler Group, one of the world’s most successful automotive companies. Supporting esteemed vehicle brands like Mercedes-Benz, Heiko Nitsche, President and CEO, says that the firm’s services are critical for the automotive giant’s success. “MBGSP is responsible for paying Daimler’s supplier, so we are ensuring that our factories across the world get the parts, materials and services they need. “MBGSP also supports many of the 298

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Daimler Group subsidiary companies with the production of their financial statements,” he adds. “So even though we are just 500 of Daimler’s 289,000 employees worldwide, I think we play an important role.” Since its creation, MBGSP has steadily matured, surpassing its initial growth target. Serving at the helm of the company for almost seven years, Nitsche has helped to build the Daimler subsidiary from the ground up, working with peer groups and sector leaders to gain the latest industry knowhow. “It was really exciting to be the first person in the Philippines from the Daimler Group and to start something completely from scratch,” he notes. Building a company from its very foundations is a challenge for any executive. For Nitsche, perhaps the biggest priority was finding the right

Cebu office


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MBGSP Clark Building Inauguration

team with the right skills and attitude for the job. “In the beginning, most of the time was focused on recruiting the right people, our pioneer team,” he explains. “It was of the greatest importance that we found the right team with the right skills but, even more importantly, that they had the right attitude and spirit. “I think we are unique because of our people and our corporate culture. At MBGSP we believe in the best of both worlds. This mean you can’t copy and paste the corporate culture of our parent company into any country.

“We merged the best elements of the German Daimler culture with the Filipino culture. In the Philippines, you have world class customer service, excellent English skills, and the people are very adaptive to new cultures. Now, we have a very young, dynamic and customer-service oriented organisation with lots of energy.” MBGSP has a millennial-centric environment and is committed to providing equal opportunities. Creating a progressive, open and welcoming work culture is something which Nitsche is clearly passionate w w w. g i g a b i t m a g a z i n e . c o m



Heiko Nitsche, Chief Executive Officer of Mercedes-Benz Group Services Philippines A keen eye for numbers, a quest for adventure and the world’s maker of the best automobiles brought Heiko Nitsche, Chief Executive Officer of Mercedes-Benz Group Services Philippines to Asia. Heiko who is originally from Stuttgart, Germany started his career with Ernst & Young AG as a young Executive in 1997. He joined Daimler AG as Manager for Corporate Controlling & Accounting in 2003, and as Chief Accounting Officer for Mitsubishi Fuso Truck & Bus Corporation, one of the subsidiaries of Daimler AG’s in Tokyo, Japan. He eventually established the Philippine office in 2011, after careful deliberation of this strategic location for the company. The Cebu office opened in December in 2011 with only three persons and last November 2017 MBGSP inaugurated its new office in Clark as the latest addition to the Daimler Group’s shared-service network. Currently, it has a team of 500 employees for both Cebu and Clark and is considered among the best in the field who provide finance and accounting services to subsidiaries of Daimler in Germany, the rest of Europe, Africa, Asia Pacific and the US.


June 2018


about, so much so he describes his team as “more like a family”. It’s an ethos which is well placed amidst the Philippines’ family-focused culture. “I would say what also makes the company unique is our working atmosphere and high retention rate. We have a low employee turnover, which is a critical success factor in this industry. Because of this, we have a higher performance and service quality because every time you lose an employee you have to find a new employee and retrain them to the same level of quality. “I’m very supportive of open communication and believe everybody should speak their mind. We speak to each other on a first-name basis and

we break down the hierarchy walls. We treat everyone as equal without tarnishing our roles and responsibilities and without sacrificing our respect for one another.” By tapping into the local language, embracing the Filipino culture, and creating meaningful relationships with his employees, Nitsche has strived to create a positive work environment. As such, he says that whilst other companies may list impressive values, they are taken to a new level at MBGSP. “Here at MBGSP we really embrace and live by our corporate values. Our values of passion, respect, integrity and discipline are a part of our DNA. “In order to showcase this, we created an annual corporate value award system,

w w w. g i g a b i t m a g a z i n e . c o m



LENOVO Lenovo is a $45 billion global Fortune 500 company and a leader in providing innovative consumer, commercial, and enterprise technology. Our portfolio of high-quality, secure products and services covers PCs (including the legendary Think and multimode YOGA brands), workstations, servers, storage, smart TVs and a family of mobile products like smartphones (including the Moto brand), tablets and apps. Join us on LinkedIn, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@LenovoPhils) or visit us at whereby our employees can nominate someone to receive an award for really displaying these values on a dayto-day basis.� As well as selecting the right team, location was a top priority for the company. Positioned in the fastemerging Asia-Pacific market, the Philippines may have been a unique choice of location however, Nitsche believes it has been an ideal choice and one which has given the company a competitive edge. Selecting a strategic site in Cebu, the MBGSP headquarters has become a distinctive landmark for the region. 304

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“We chose this location because it’s very important to have the right infrastructure, transportation, and facilities,” Nitsche says. “Today we now have a seven-tonne star on the rooftop. It’s really a landmark in Cebu.

“It was of the greatest importance that we found the right team with the right skills but, even more importantly, that they had the right attitude and spirit” Heiko Nitsche, President and CEO Everybody in the city knows the building, which is good for us as it strengthens the company brand and also helps us recruit our best talent. “The key to our success has been how we attract and then retain the best talent,” he adds. “With our company culture and brand, which is symbolised by that star, we really can attract the best talent in Cebu. I think the proof that we are an employer of choice is the fact that the vast majority of our 306

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employees are recruited by through an employee referral programme. It shows people actually enjoy working here, and they encourage their friends to join also.” Keen to keep up momentum, the Daimler subsidiary has also opened a second state-of-the-art Philippines office, in Clark. This not only ensures there’s capacity for growth, it also means MBGSP’s services are not disrupted and always available.


The Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 provides a glimpse of driverless trucks “If something were to happen to our operations like a natural disaster, for instance, that could be a significant issue for us,” Nitsche explains, “therefore, we have developed a very sophisticated business continuity management programme. As part of this, we created our second office in Clark which gives us additional operational stability, security, and a world-class business solution for our global customers.”

Keen to ramp up its operations further, MBGSP has focused its investments on two pivotal areas: the upskilling of its staff and digitalisation. As part of this, the whole Daimler Shared Service network is investing in robotics, automation and artificial intelligence, for example, to improve its productivity and efficiency. “For our business, technology is very important. It’s crucial for the finance and accounting function, but w w w. g i g a b i t m a g a z i n e . c o m




June 2018


it’s also vital across all of Daimler’s subsidiaries,” Nitsche says. “With technology comes the opportunity to automate certain activities to free up your team. This means they can do fewer manual tasks and focus on the more interesting, valueadding jobs. “On the infrastructure side, when we established our second site in Clark, it became a hub site for IT,” he continues. “For example, in this site, we installed a state-of-the-art server room, which houses Smart Row cabinet. “Our Cebu and Clark site are fully integrated and capable of absorbing the load of each other in case one site fails to perform,” he adds. On the other hand, whilst technology has been a core focus, MBGSP hasn’t forgotten its most important asset: its people. As a result, the Philippines firm is investing heavily in development and training programmes to help attract and retain the best talent in the region. “We have soft-skills programmes from communication to change management and stress management to leadership, which are all equally

important,” explains Nitsche. “These programmes are not given arbitrarily; each employee’s career plan is carefully designed by their respective managers together with HR.” It’s been seven years since MBGSP was first founded. Years before, Daimler has already started its Shared Service journey with Daimler Group Services

“In 2011, we started with just three employees in total. Now, we have almost 500 in both Cebu and Clark. I’m very excited for the further growth of that family” Heiko Nitsche, President and CEO Madrid (DGSM) and Daimler Group Services Berlin (DGSB). Since then, the Daimler subsidiary has gone from strength to strength, offering state-ofthe-art finance and accounting services and more. In doing so, MBGSP has bolstered Daimler’s position in Asia-Pacific but, not one to rest on its laurels, Nitsche w w w. g i g a b i t m a g a z i n e . c o m



Vision MercedesMaybach 6 Cabriolet ALL PHOTOS COPYRIGHT BY DAIMLER AG


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believes it’s only the beginning for the firm. “In 2011, we started with three employees in total. Now, we have almost 500 in both Cebu and Clark. I’m very excited for the further growth of that family. The company still has the potential to grow, whether that’s in terms of headcount, processes, or value-added services. “Our most important target is to have a very good relationship with our global business partners, our customers so that they earn the trust and the confidence in us,” he continues. “For our employees, we want to ensure that there is always an opportunity for successful career growth. We also want to have mature and standardised processes. We want to integrate robotics and automation into our processes. It’s a journey which we’re currently on but it won’t happen overnight. “As a responsible employer we create job opportunities within MBGSP and beyond in our supplier network to encourage business growth in the region.”


DRIVING DIRECT SELLING WITH TECHNOLOGY How QNET empowers entrepreneurs Written by Catherine Sturman Produced by James Pepper




irect selling remains big business across the world, amassing $183bn in revenue in 2016. The industry is growing rapidly in Asia and Middle East, with QNET playing a prominent role in the region. With sales increasing by up to 20% year on year, unlike its competitors, the e-commerce based direct sales company has adopted a 100% digital presence for two decades as part of its aim to further promote accessibility to customers and distributors (known as Independent Representatives at QNET). “As part of our three-year roadmap, we have identified key regions for growth which include countries in Africa, Middle East, and the Russia-CIS region. We also want to engage with millennials,


June 2018

as this demographic houses an entrepreneurship mindset,” explains Chief Information Officer, Ivan Woo. “We also want to significantly increase the female customer and distributor base. In certain countries, we’re aiming for a 30% rise. “Lastly, we also want to look further into consumer behaviours to see what we can do to become an integral part of our customers’ day-to-day lives.” The implementation of personalised tools has provided increased insights into the consumer experience within direct selling. However, Woo explains that QNET has differentiated themselves from the competition in a number of ways,



Chief Information Officer

Ivan Woo is the Chief Information Officer at QNET, a leading Asian direct selling company, headquartered in Hong Kong. Ivan has more than 15 years of progressive experience in Direct Selling & e-commerce infrastructure and emerging technologies. He understands that technology is not a stand-alone component but is the very core of revenue generation for e-commerce. As CIO at QNET, which has one of the fastest growing online business communities with millions of customers and independent distributors worldwide, Ivan is responsible for managing end-toend solutions for the e-commerce operations — from payment gateways to mobile apps for business. His expertise lies in e-commerce Infrastructure (Cloud & Data Centre Management, Payment Gateways, API Integration), Strategic, Tactical, and Operational IT Management as well as Security Management (Cyber Attack Planning & Protection).

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TREVOR KUNA Chief Executive Officer

Trevor Kuna is the CEO of QNET, a prominent Asian direct selling company with a global footprint. Originally from Canada, Trevor joined QNET in 2008 bringing extensive experience in marketing and brand management. He has risen through the ranks in the last decade through a series of progressive roles in marketing, business development and operations. In his last role as the Chief Marketing Officer of QNET, Trevor led the transformation of QNET’s legacy e-commerce platform to an award-winning customer experienced focused portal that leverages the full power of context marketing, driving loyalty and delivering a tremendous digital experience. Trevor’s expertise lies in Marketing Management, Strategic Business Operations, E-commerce, and Business Development.


June 2018


with technology remaining a key driver. “At QNET, we have adopted the same IT infrastructure and processes worldwide to provide our customers with a seamless and familiar experience wherever in the world they are growing their business. We have millions of people in our database in more than 100 countries, and they speak different languages, come from different cultures and different levels of exposure to technology. “We wanted one unified platform serving the entire world. If you ask the other CIOs in the industry they may say you are dreaming, but this is what we are doing.

“As part of our three-year roadmap, we want to engage with millennials, as this demographic houses an entrepreneurship mindset” Ivan Woo, CIO

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We are constantly looking for new technologies to improve our customer experience,” he says. Empowering entrepreneurs Technology has become a vital tool for QNET to engage with distributors and customers. With up to 40 different nationalities under its umbrella, it has built an exceptionally diverse and global employee base. QNET’s social media team routinely engages with customers in up to seven different languages through platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and even Instagram. “The way we communicate and engage with our distributors is constantly evolving. We are always experimenting with different types of messaging platforms and language-based demographics, age, gender etc.,” reflects Trevor Kuna, CEO of QNET. “Direct selling is not a unique industry and has been around for a very long time. However, I would say that one of the things that makes QNET different is the fact that we


June 2018

“We want one unified platform serving the entire world. If you ask the other CIOs in the industry they may say you are dreaming, but this is what we are doing” Ivan Woo, CIO


Video: The QNET Advantage


have a much stronger engagement with our network of distributors and customers than perhaps any other direct selling company anywhere else. “The founders of QNET used to be distributors, so they understand what it takes to really succeed in the field. They made it a point that if they were ever going to start a company, they would always make it a customer-first company and support the growth of the business and the distributors on the ground,” he says. Woo adds: “Our distributors have a growth path that enables them to increase their income potential over time. We offer different types of ranks and they have to qualify through each rank starting at Bronze, Silver and Gold, all the way up to Blue Diamond, the highest possible rank, with the largest income potential. “In the past, the distributors had to keep track of their own performance and figure out how to graduate to the next level. This year we have rolled out a mobile app that seamlessly integrates all business features into a single app to give our distributors

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the ease and convenience of tracking their performance. The app also helps them see what actions they need to take to qualify for the next rank. Since we are a global network, we have also added custom features for different countries. For example, we will soon launch an eKYC feature for distributors in India for digital authentication through the app. “With Microsoft AI and machine learning we are in the midst of transformation to enhance the

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technology capability to proactively tell our IRs the kind of things they can do in order to move to the next rank and improve commission performance,” he continues. “I believe this will take us to the next milestone, as we have a very loyal customer base, a very good product portfolio and a fantastic business opportunity.” Cloud integration Whilst the company originally built its front and back-end systems in-house, QNET has sought to overhaul its IT infrastructure with its people in mind. Partnering with Microsoft has enabled the business to develop its customer-focused eStore, as well as utilise Office 365 and Dynamics 365 to enhance its customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities. “Microsoft is changing itself to becoming more people-focused. They are helping us to move to much bigger cloud migration adoption,” explains Woo. “We decided to migrate our HR system to a Microsoft Dynamics 365

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“The founders of QNET used to be distributors, so they understand what it takes to really succeed in the field� Trevor Kuna, CEO


June 2018


for Talent. As a very diverse and international company, we needed a fully cloud-based solution to manage our 1000-plus employees in over 25 countries. Dynamics 365 for Talent has been very helpful in enabling our HR Transformation by helping us improve many of our core HR processes to better employee management. We see Microsoft as a key technology partner and are very happy to continue our more than a decade old partnership,” notes Woo. “For cloud migration, it’s no longer a choice; it’s how and what kind of things you can leverage and adopt. The challenge is to find the right formula to maximise your investment, leveraging public cloud computing power to achieve what you cannot achieve in one premise. It can be cost-saving, it can be speed to market, but I think the challenges for a CIO is to find the right formula that meets the needs of the company.” “Moving forward, we hope to accelerate digital transformation by embracing more AI based

‘QNET INSPIRES THOSE WHO WISH FOR WORK TO FIT AROUND THEIR LIFESTYLES AND NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND’ technologies. We are looking to explore the adoption of AI services and tools available on Azure in our operation, with the aim to enhance efficiency,” he adds. The user experience By partnering with Dynatrace, QNET has also eliminated any potential delays in service. Being a 100% digital business, the company believes in creating the best possible user experience for its customers, Dynatrace has been a key partner at QNET for the past five years and ensures that the company provides superior online

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“I don’t think there are any of the direct selling companies out there that can say that they are part of a group that has a university as it’s sister company” Trevor Kuna, CEO


June 2018

experience to customers at all times. “The digital experience insights provided by Dynatrace has helped us monitor our Mobile App & site performance in terms of speed and user experience. If users are unhappy, they are able to track the root cause and report back to our team,” explains Woo. “The proactive monitoring of our website and services also helped prevent any potential downtime which might have caused significant financial impact to our business.” This year, QNET is now focusing on expanding its coverage due to Dynatrace’s increased focus on AI.


“Looking the latest Dynatrace’s AI-powered, full stack, and automated monitoring capabilities, we are also considering expanding our investment with them. We see many opportunities leveraging on Dynatrace’s ability to support all types of cloud environments with easy, automatic deployment. This will allow us to scale faster and operate simpler as we embark on our cloud transformation,” continues Woo. “By late 2018, we will gain the ability to leverage the AI of Dynatrace to have auto-recovery. When issues happen in a specific region, we can

do sort of adjustment automatically to enable a positive user experience.” Providing opportunities Long-term, QNET will work to continue inspiring those who wish for work to fit around their lifestyles and not the other way around. The company will also seek to invest in areas which will benefit local communities. Investing in a full-fledged university in Malaysia, for example, has further given QNET an edge over competitors. “I don’t think there are any direct selling companies out there that can say that they are part

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Video: Live Absolutely With QNET Products


June 2018


of a group that has a university as their sister company. We have a financial services company, as well as hotels and resorts in different parts of the world that help us support our holiday product line from QNET,” reflects Kuna. “Whilst technology helps us fuel the business through our e-commerce platform, it allows us to provide cross-border opportunities to people from all over the world and grow a network without encumbrances brought about by geographical lines,” he adds. “Many people become entrepreneurs thanks to direct selling. It’s not just about financial gain, but about other skills which you learn along the way: leadership, goal setting, financial planning etc. It’s also about how to talk to people, how to deal with people, how to overcome challenges, how to manage rejection. All of these things are an integral part of all of the training programmes that we provide to our distributors.” “I cannot think of any other company that encourages this kind of personal development and provides the type of opportunity that QNET does,” Woo concludes. “If you want a challenge and you want to do something that is impactful, direct selling is definitely an industry which people should embrace. I still find ways to enjoy this industry after 15 years in the business.”

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to lead Australia’s real estate sector

Charter Hall has long been a leading Australian property management company: as the sector evolves it is also leading in the transition from traditional attitudes to a future enabled by proptech Written by John O’Hanlon Produced by Glen White



he organisation that Aidan Coleman joined in 2014 as its transformational Chief Technical Officer is not as wellknown as it deserves to be. But it sits among the ASX top 100 companies with more than 350 properties and around A$23bn under management. It differs from its rivals somewhat – as well as managing assets for active funds in key retail, office complex and industrial markets it is also deeply involved in property finance as an investment manager for some 30 funds across the retail and wholesale space. Coleman found that

he had a dual role. The first objective was to create a scalable technology and information systems capability and platform that could support the business going forward. The second, no less important, was to understand the potential impact of technology disruption and help the business to identify opportunities that would get it onto the front foot and create a real commercial advantage. There was, he says, much work to be done to achieve the former and transform the internal employee experience. The latter he took to like a duck to water, taking leadership of the accelerator

Aidan Coleman CTO

Aidan Coleman joined Charter Hall in 2014, and has over 16 years technology experience across a range of industries and geographies including property, funds management, retail, media, consumer goods, consulting, financial services and telecommunications. In his current role, Coleman is responsible for providing leadership and direction for all strategic IT activities associated with supporting IT’s contribution to the organisation’s key business initiatives. Since joining in May, he has focused on improving the IT user experience 332

June 2018

at our head office and regional sites, whilst building the IT strategy and underlying capability that can leverage technology to power growth and productivity across the Charter Hall business. Prior to joining Charter Hall, Coleman worked at Stockland as IT Strategy and Planning Manager where he delivered significant improvements to customer, asset, development and financial systems. Aidan also transformed Stockland’s digital platform and online capability. His additional experience includes eight years at News Corporation Australia.


programme described below. On his appointment Coleman found a business whose leadership, though attuned to the potential of IT, was experiencing growing pains as it put its EnterPRISE business technology transformation programme into effect, still relying on manual processing, spreadsheets and printtailored solutions. The first task that faced him was to make the case for an IT focused vision. “Bringing the business along on the transformation journey was a significant part of my first years. In the last 18 months we have gained positive momentum, and we have been able to shift our

focus more towards innovation and how we might utilise investment in some of the newer platforms and technologies to add value, not only empowering our employees with the information and tools they need, but giving a better experience to our tenants and customers.” There’s a new wave of younger property investors emerging, he says: more tech savvy and demanding than their predecessors and ready to embrace the concepts of proptech and fintech. The cloud beckons It quickly became clear to Coleman, from annual engagement surveys,


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that that investment in technology had not been prioritised, though that soon started to change. “People across the business are now encouraging us to continue to invest in and focus on digitisation.” A good example of transformation initiatives that have impacted cycle times and helped de-risk the business was the group wide Forecasting Analytics program, launched in 2016 and developed in partnership with MRI Software. “MRI is a well-known global platform in our industry,” Coleman says, “but less so in the investment management space. We have put our IP into MRI, and that allows us to really draw out the value of this platform.” In the past Charter Hall was doing this in a bespoke way, fund by fund: this has shifted to a more integrated real-time environment that admits of change. For example, what used to take 10 people 20 days in Excel will now take minutes, like reflecting a future interest rate assumption change across all property and fund valuations. “We’ve significantly improved our risk profile by moving our key inputs,

calculations and outputs/analytics into a centralised and controlled environment,” Coleman says. A principle he established from day one was to minimise the fixed footprint, whether in infrastructure or people, to minimise capital spend, moving it where possible to operational cost so as to create more elasticity in the business. “Property cycles go up and down. When we are booming we need to be able to dial up services and capability quite quickly and when they flatten we need to be able to do the opposite. But when you have fixed costs you can’t do that so we have been looking at platform- and software-as-a-service (PaaS and SaaS) strategies for any new applications or software that we bring on board. I also wanted to transition from on premise legacy platforms, either replatforming in a cloud-based environment or decommissioning them altogether.” Disaster recovery (DR) relying on a secondary data centre, both expensive and of doubtful efficacy, was a case in point. Considerable capital expenditure would have been

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needed to upgrade it, and most of the time that capacity wouldn’t be needed. Bringing in technology partners like Microsoft and VMware to create a DR solution in the cloud meant that for a management fee Charter Hall moved millions of dollars off its balance sheet, at the same time enabling it to recover from any disaster scenario with speed and agility. Microsoft Azure is now Charter Hall’s platform of choice for conditioning all its data and documents, continues Coleman. “We have been able to


June 2018

eliminate all but between 5% and 10% of existing infrastructure in our data centres.” Unlocking the value of elements such as OneDrive, SharePoint in conjunction with Power BI, and the CRM capabilities of Dynamics has de-risked the business significantly as well as eliminating infrastructure cost. “From an infrastructure point of view, I would say that we are very close to being fully cloud enabled,” Coleman continues. “We are rolling out a network to our retail shopping centres and corporate sites over the next 12 months and


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that will give us a lot capacity and bandwidth into all our properties. People in retail sites will be working in the cloud: all their applications, documents and key network points will be cloud-enabled and that will speed traffic over the large distances that separate these sites in Australia, reducing latency and congestion through to our data centre.” Proptech to the rescue Until recently real estate technology has been, relatively speaking, neither user friendly nor integrated,

he admits. Innovation, and not only in the IT space, is one of his passions, one in which he has taken a leadership role. One innovative solution his team delivered was a first in Australia in partnership with a proptech startup aptly named Comfy – an app that delivers ‘climate control on demand’, allowing people to make known their temperature preferences using their smartphones. “Before Comfy,” Coleman says, “we had very little information on how occupants were actually experiencing the temperature in the

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building. The standard approach for temperature control in buildings has been ‘one temperature fits all’, and the feedback loop is manual and usually complaint-driven.” This is about more than end user satisfaction. It is expected to deliver between 15-25% energy savings across properties as it’s rolled out in more offices. For example, Comfy will use machine learning to track and learn how meeting rooms and shared spaces are used, heat or cool the room for the meetings and not waste energy conditioning an empty room. There are significant benefits from collaborating with these startups, Coleman believes. “Engaging with them is creating a palpable dynamism within the business that we have never seen before, and from a brand positioning perspective it


June 2018

has been fantastic. We have been getting a huge amount of feedback from our peers and lots of coverage from major news organisations in Australia, and among whom proptech is becoming a new hot topic.” So, ahead of most of the competition, Charter Hall has really thrown its weight behind proptech, partnering with the Australian incubator and accelerator Collective Campus in an initiative to find and encourage some of the most promising startups. After some discussion it lit upon three relevant segments – smart buildings, shared space (think of it as Airbnb for offices) and finally fintech. There has been a lot of disruption by financial technology of Australia’s financial institutions and this is starting to spill over into real estate fintech.


The Charter Hall PropTech Accelerator was set up in 2017 in collaboration with Collective Campus. It’s an initiative very much led by Coleman: “We received applications from about 50 startups, went through a process of evaluation and shortlisting that reduced the list to 15. These we brought in to a two-day boot camp in Melbourne and took them through a very intensive two days of thrashing out their business case and their business model, culminating in a pitch night to which we invited peers, customers and potential investors.” Out of this group, four startups were invited to join a 13-week programme that stated in February 2018. The four companies have been given intensive training around business and product development, marketing and everything a startup needs to survive and grow. The programme culminates with a demo day when their products will be showcased to Charter Hall leaders and managers, and a range of investors that partner with Charter Hall. Why these technologies are of interest to Charter Hall is a no-brainer


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The four companies Charter Hall is supporting

InSpaceXR Justin Liang, Co-founder and CEO of InspaceXR leads one of the startups recently selected to participate in a 13-week incubation period at Charter Hall. Liang’s virtual reality software helps architects visualise a project in 3D, leading to better design outcomes, reduced iteration times and easier discussions with engineers and project developers. “The majority of the top 10 architecture firms already have VR headsets and younger architects who know it’s the future of the profession, are a lot more active and receptive in picking up the tools. It’s moving in the architecture space, but I’m not sure if we’ll see the same kind of adoption rates across the rest of the industry,” says Liang. With the upcoming launch of his software to market, Liang recognises a mindset challenge in Australia in comparison to the tech hubs of the world. Bricks & Agent, founded by entrepreneurs Jon Stuhl (the son of Shopkins billionaire Manny Stuhl) and Rafael Niesten is a cloud-based platform focused on streamlining residential property management and maintenance. This will now be developed through the Charter Hall incubator program to handle retail property and facilities management. Stuhl said the company had enough

money to self-fund itself indefinitely but would consider taking on investors “if there is a strategic benefit”. “I would describe their product as the Uber for property maintenance,” comments Coleman. “We have 45,000 retail customers and we want to be able to give them some productivity tools so that they can manage their retail shop and easily communicate when they have issues.”

Snaploader Snaploader, which has developed a webviewer that enables potential tenants and investors to access an interactive 3D model of properties, is already being used by Charter Hall’s industrial business to support lease negotiations. The business was founded by former Hugo Boss Australia MD Erik Fink.

Estate Baron Estate Baron is a blockchain-enabled property development and investment crowdfunding platform. Coleman says Charter Hall saw potential synergies with this platform and its emerging millennial investor base: “It’s interesting because it is more investor-focused, having evolved from being a crowdfunding platform for retail investors. We are now looking at how to build a blockchain and streamline our whole retail investment process for what is becoming a very tech savvy and technically aware investor base.”


for Coleman. “We are all about bringing to life the experiences that we can provide to our customers. For example we have investors spread around the globe, and potential tenant customers that we want to bring into our commercial offices, so why not use advanced visualisation technology to give them that experience wherever they are, showing them the fit-outs they might be able to achieve and the potential of the space? Till now we had to show potential clients, in person, our assets in the form of physical models or at best architects’ 3D plans. They may be based in Perth and we might want to take them through that asset in Sydney: virtually reality enables us to bring that experience to life.” Embarking on this process, and the collaboration with Collective Campus, has in a real sense augmented Coleman’s team, or at least the resources available to them. “These four startups are really trying to revolutionise different parts of our business. As the programme ends we can see how to continue to partner with them, whether that may be by investing in their business,

partnering with them as a strategic customer, or simply continuing to leverage the platforms they have developed.” It’s a kind of symbiosis that may have been explored in Silicon Valley, Cambridge or Sophia Antipolis but it is less common in ANZ. “We are blazing a trail here in Australia,” Coleman proclaims with satisfaction. IT at Charter Hall has a very different look and feel today compared with 2014. It has given the company a much more visual experience from the board down through the business units. “All this was a bit of a shock to the system but a shock that was needed in order to effect change,” Coleman concludes. “Now I feel that we have morphed into a steady state. People are very accepting, asking for more, looking to get even more engaged. We have a great cohort of business product owners at all levels of the business full.” More remains to be done in the way of change management and employee experience, but the business is ready now, he feels, to take full advantage of a proptech revolution that is still in its infancy.

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Bringing the five-star treatment to hotel IT

Written by Laura Mullan Produced by Craig Daniels



Set on the iconic Palm Jumeirah island, Atlantis, The Palm has come to characterise the ultimate Dubai experience. With whimsical and luxurious amenities and pragmatic digital tools, the five-star hotel guarantees that you’ll be awe-struck from the moment you check in



ringing the ethereal legend of Atlantis to life, Atlantis, The Palm is easily one of the most recognisable hotels in the Dubai skyline, if not in the world. A record-breaking 15.8mn people visited the dynamic city of Dubai last year, but the hotel’s VP of IT Anthony Lynsdale believes that the five-star property is quickly becoming a destination in itself. “A lot of people want to come here because they’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime-style experience. They want to take away a memory,” Lynsdale muses. “Many of our guests choose to book Atlantis because it’s a destination in itself; it’s a landmark property for Dubai. “There’s lots of competition and there are lots of great hotels in the city,” he continues. “So how do we differentiate ourselves? Our motto is to blow away the customer with amazing experiences – that’s what we live by and that’s what makes us unique.” Located on the Palm Jumeirah,

one of the world’s most iconic holiday destinations, and nestled within 42 acres of lush greenery, the hotel overlooks the sparkling coastline of the Arabian Gulf and offers 1,539 rooms, 23 restaurants, cafes and lounges, a luxurious spa, immersive aquarium, and an awardwinning waterpark for its guests. But with such a mammoth operation, how does Atlantis, The Palm ensure guests receive its acclaimed five-star standard treatment time and time again? For Lynsdale, the answer is simple. Not only does the hotel consistently go the extra mile for its guests, it is also tapping into cutting-edge technologies to ensure that the resort is well-equipped for the digital age. Practical, pragmatic IT Digital transformation and disruption are just some of the many buzzwords that have saturated the tech sphere in recent years. For Lynsdale, the hotel’s digital strategy is not about following trends, it’s about taking pragmatic, practical

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steps to support the business with the very best infrastructure, to help achieve its goals. “Our digital strategy really revolves around partnering with the business and stakeholders, identifying what their pain points are, and prioritising where we can gain efficiencies,” Lynsdale explains. “We really want to make sure that we’re fully utilising the systems that we have today. In IT, there’s often a tendency to shop around and buy

systems, instead of fully optimising the systems already in place. Are we getting the very best from the current vendor, from the system? There’s definitely an aspect of making sure that the systems we have today are reaching their full potential and driving efficiencies. “It’s also about making sure that our systems are future-proof and scalable to support our other property currently under construction, The Royal Atlantis Resort and Residencies,” he adds.


Connecting IT and marketing In our ever-connected world, where devices are endlessly at our fingertips, technology and marketing have become increasingly entwined. The importance of this connection is something which Atlantis, The Palm doesn’t underestimate, and Lynsdale has therefore made significant efforts to elevate the business’ marketing division to bring it to new heights. “Understanding the nature of the hotel business is key – with such a large resort, if you don’t get the marketing right, whether it’s digital or physical, you will miss opportunities to engage with guests,” Lynsdale comments. “Nowadays, everything is at our

The year that Atlantis, The Palm was founded


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fingertips. We’re using mobile apps. We’re using websites. We have access to a lot of information. “We have certain traditional IT systems that need to be maintained, but I think where the real business transformation will come is our strong focus on digital marketing,” he continues. “That’s something I’m conscious of and the key reason I’ve built a strong relationship with our marketing and sales divisions,” concludes Lynsdale. Information at your fingertips None of Atlantis, The Palm’s information points demonstrates this better than its interactive digital signs, which are strategically placed throughout the resort. Brimming with world-class facilities, it could be easy for guests to miss out on some of the resort’s renowned amenities, but thanks to this marketing tool, navigating the resort can seem as easy as walking through your own home. “Atlantis, the Palm has a huge footprint, so it was imperative for us to bring all of our information together by using a best-in-class, centralised content management system,” says Lynsdale. “It’s about making sure we have the relevant information, at the relevant location, at the right time so that our guests can avail of our facilities,

“Our motto is to blow away the customer with amazing experiences – that’s what we live by and that’s what makes us unique” Anthony Lynsdale, VP, IT

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Number of staff working for Atlantis, The Palm

3,100 whether it’s new discounts, happy hours, or water park experiences.” Social-media savvy In a similar vein, the Dubai-based hotel has also focused on boosting its social media presence. Last month, the beach-side resort reached a million Facebook fans. To celebrate this, it created ‘Atlantis Fan Suite’ – a money-can’t-buy hotel experience whereby social media followers were given the chance to stay in one of the hotel’s brand-new rooms, decked out with unique


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social media-inspired innovations, at no cost. Every element of the suite is linked to Facebook, whether it’s unlocking your door with your Facebook login, to ‘poking’ your personal butler if you need assistance. “They furnished it with a little bit of technology, so for instance, it has an interactive mirror that shows your Facebook feed when you check in,” notes Lynsdale. “It’s something quirky, but again, it also shows our continuous innovation and our drive to blow away


the customer with every interaction.” Mobile interactivity Mobile technology is quickly changing the hospitality game and this is something which Atlantis, The Palm has undoubtedly tapped into. Recently, the luxury hotel resort partnered with Wi-Q to develop an intuitive web app that allows guests to order food and drink from the comfort of their sunbeds.

“We’re pushing the menu to them so that they can order items and get them delivered to where they’re located,” explains Lynsdale. “Guests are using more devices, more frequently. Mobility on the guests’ side is increasing and so Atlantis is now working on attracting guests using mobile technology,” he continues. “We want to begin their journey before they arrive by creating an app where they can engage and discuss

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opportunities and activities that they would like to do when they get here. Mobile connectivity is definitely something that we’re keen on bringing to life.” This snowballing effect of mobile technology isn’t just transforming the customer experience, it’s also helping to transform Atlantis, The Palm’s back of house operations. By equipping housekeeping staff, bell service, and front desk staff with mobile devices, the luxury hotel ensures that employees can respond to requests at the touch of a button. “With a resort of this size, we have a lot of staff that are using mobile technology, whether it’s to manage guest requests, or to help manage the hotel’s day-to-day tasks,” notes Lyndale. “We use a system called HotSOS to do this, and housekeeping uses a module of this called REX to manage the rooms. We’ve given our employees more than 200 smart devices, and now they’re operating pretty much in a paperless environment.” Managing a 1,539-bedroom hotel is no easy task, especially when it comes to checking in. Looking at simple ways to try and speed up the process, Atlantis, The Palm has also collaborated with Samsotech and Oracle Hospitality to create

“Guests are using more devices, more frequently. Mobility on the guests’ side is increasing and so Atlantis is now working on attracting guests using mobile technology” Anthony Lynsdale, VP, IT

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“IT needs to be the centre of almost everything. It’s about making sure that we’re continuously improving the guest experience”

Artwork copyright by Wi-Q Limited

Anthony Lynsdale, VP, IT

The web app designed and built by Wi-Q Limited


a passport check-in system that Lynsdale says is the “first system of its kind” in Dubai. A solid IT foundation Yet not all of Atlantis, The Palm’s innovations are future-facing. Some integral digital initiatives have involved tirelessly tinkering away to update legacy systems and creating a hyper-converged infrastructure. “What we’re doing with our infrastructure is a stepping stone for two reasons: one is the ability it gives us to have a disaster recovery site, and secondly it is building the platform for our yet-to-launch sister hotel in Dubai, The Royal Atlantis Resort and Residences,” notes Lynsdale. “We will have a very scalable infrastructure platform going forward. Our team is always looking out for something new, and the business is demanding more from the IT function. They’re pushing us and always looking and searching for the next big thing.” Imparting a lasting travel experience, Atlantis, The Palm has earned its stripes as a five-star hotel and a must-see destination in Dubai, but for Lynsdale, it is technology which has played an integral role in ensuring that guests always receive the bestin-class service it has become renowned for. “IT needs to be the centre of almost everything,” he reflects. “It’s about making sure that we’re continuously improving the guest experience.

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Number of rooms at the Atlantis, The Palm

The area covered by Atlantis, The Palm property


29 hectares 17 hectares

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The area covered by the Aquaventure Waterpark


“Technology has played a key role in the way we manage the business, whether it’s the data that we review, analyse and make decisions on, or how guests consume our services. For us, technology is paramount.” Atlantis, The Palm has seen a root-and-branch transformation of its digital function and although technology has played a pivotal role, Lynsdale says that this is all thanks to his team’s hard work and perseverance. “Without a dedicated team of technology professionals all of this wouldn’t be possible,” he says, candidly. By all accounts, it seems that at Atlantis, The Palm, the company’s staff are its greatest assets. It’s an exciting time for the Atlantis brand – the hotelier is opening a succession of new hotels including Atlantis Sanya in the South China Sea and is exploring expansion opportunities in tourist hotspots such as Hawaii. Amidst this, Atlantis, The Palm hasn’t forgotten the fundamentals of a successful hotel digitisation strategy, and it is this pragmatic thinking which is helping the hotel provide a guest experience like no other.

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Powering ‘SMART’ DIGITISATION in the banking sector

Written by Laura Mullan Produced by Stuart Shirra


Embarking on a root-and-branch transformation to use technology more smartly, United Arab Bank is focused on what matters – its customers


igital transformation and digitisation are just some of the buzzwords which have saturated the banking space in recent years. For United Arab Bank (UAB), the company’s digital strategy isn’t about following trends or excessive expenditure on new technology, it’s about taking pragmatic, informed steps to ensure that the focus is on what matters the most – the customer. With this focus in mind, UAB is using up-to-date technology to realise true potential of digital transformation so that the customer receives the world-class service they expect. UAB’s Chief Operating Officer Izzidin Abusalameh says, “I do believe that behind each service or transaction we do for our customers, there is either a human story or a commercial interest and, in both cases, we cannot miss out on these.


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Therefore, customer service is, and will remain, one of our top priorities.” “Digital transformation is a prime focus for any bank or financial institution, but UAB is keen to achieve this objective through ‘smart digitisation’ by adopting latest technologies and utilising the power of data.” For Abusalameh, UAB’s digital transformation strategy is straightforward – apply the latest technologies in simple, smart and proactive ways while keeping the bank’s customer in mind. “By applying technology in an appropriate way, we aspire to be proactive,” he explains. “This allows us to reach out to our customers who may need help before they even raise their hand to ask for assistance. This proactive approach is the cornerstone of our philosophy on which our digital transformation is based.”


“I do believe that behind each service or transaction we do for our customers, there is either a human story or a commercial aspect and, in both cases, we cannot miss out on these” IZZIDIN ABUSALAMEH Chief Operating Officer

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UAB has a strong reputation in the UAE’s banking industry since it was established in Sharjah about 43 years back. While in 2017, the bank made an annual net profit of AED 17 million, it has clocked an impressive AED 36 million profit in Q1 2018 demonstrating the strength of its ‘core’ business. Smart digitisation To deliver ‘smart digitisation’, Abusalameh says that the bank is working on a plan to consolidate the number of systems it has. In doing so, it is also creating a robust IT structure, using powerful state-of-the-art tools from the tech industry to ensure operational efficiency, productivity


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The United Arab Bank’s profit in Q1 (AED)


and sustainable growth. “It entails careful selection of technologies and only working with the industry leaders in that specific market,” Abusalameh says. “We use industry leading market research rankings and look into certain areas of technology to see who the market leaders are. We deep dive into their functional capabilities and evaluate their technical components according to the bank’s current and future requirements in order to arrive

at an optimal technology stack in sync with the bank’s overall IT architecture. “Working alongside tier one technology providers to implement their “specialised” version with minimum customisations in line with industry best practices has become a guiding principle,” he elaborated. By undertaking a deep level of planning and understanding, the UAEbased firm is getting the maximum potential from its technologies.

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Unlocking the potential of technologies Abusalameh says that this pragmatic approach is helping the bank connect its different technological tools so that it can create one streamlined digital strategy. “UAB is also investing in new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Human Capital Management (HCM) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems from SAP to eliminate non-value added tasks so that staff can focus on their core activities while enhancing productivity. “When you acquire a new global HR system you will also acquire new best practices which,



The year that the United Arab Bank’s was founded

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June 2018


of course, increases efficiency,” he says. “This is also applicable to our other systems such as ERP.” The power of data Today, data is often described as the ‘new oil’ – valuable to have, even more so if it’s refined and used efficiently. UAB recognises the importance of data and is fully committed to utilise data & analytics to drive business growth. “Today, data science is what everyone’s talking about by far,” Abusalameh adds. “Data hasn’t become valuable overnight, it’s always been important but what has significantly changed is the computing power, data storage capability & the means of organising it. “That’s why I always encourage the bank’s head of digital and head of data to work closely together more than ever before. With changing times, our impetus is more towards using statistics and data science to help the bank leverage the power of predictive analytics in real time.” In this way, data ensures that continuous improvement is at the

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cornerstone of UAB’s strategy. The company’s commitment towards being a data driven bank can also be evidenced by the confidence placed in it by Informatica (a leading data management platform) through an award for innovative usage of its data management platform and products last year. In-depth understanding Yet, with ever-more data, this is not only driving efficiency and operational excellence internally, it is also transforming the customer’s experience. “In every bank today, data helps companies gain a 360-degree view of their customers but if you gain even more data, you will be able to predict their behaviour, improve your service, and provide a 3D view of your customers whereby you understand them a bit deeper,” Abusalameh explains. “This can make much a difference if you can then reach out to a customer. The company’s digital transformation has been a huge task but it hasn’t

“We want to be recognised as a bank to stand by, a bank which puts the customer first” IZZIDIN ABUSALAMEH Chief Operating Officer

gone unnoticed by the international tech community, apparent as the bank collected the Genesys Award for Best Use of Technology in the Banking sector last year. A mindset shift Referring to the biggest challenge for the bank, Abusalameh said that the mindset shift that took place to bring digital transformation was a daunting task, but it was successfully implemented by the management. “For any transformation journey, changing the mindset of the company is usually one of the top challenges,” he says. “It basically requires openmindedness and commitment from everyone in the team starting

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from the top management.” In addition, Abusalameh considers rigid technology software another challenge to implement smart digitisation process. “Many of the world’s major technology suppliers need to do more to make their products more flexible and easy to implement & upgrade,” he notes. “The more flexible your platform is, the quicker you can adapt it and take it to market.”

United Arab Bank will always remain known for – its continuous commitment to its customers. “We’re aspiring to give the best customer service in the UAE,” Abusalameh concludes. “We want to be recognised as a bank to stand by, a bank which puts the customer first.”

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