Q & A with Simon Bullers, CEO of RedPixie
To begin can you please tell us about RedPixie and your position?
I am the founder and CEO of RedPixie, a UK services and technology firm, founded in 2010. In my role, I have led the business, and grown its turnover year on year. I have achieved this by championing operational excellence and working closely with the leadership team, employees, customers and partners. Prior to RedPixie, I was at Blackrock, and before that, I had a 15-year career at Barclays Global Investors in varied infrastructure and technology innovation leadership positions.
RedPixie is a privately funded British technology firm, which specialises in transforming IT environments for business success. We are a true British Tech City success story. As a new breed of services and technology provider, our collaborative approach and real-world insights, challenge the ‘old school incumbents’ to enable commercial success for our clients in the global banking and finance sector.
To what extent are banks and financial service companies successfully utilizing new technology?
The short answer is not as much as they should. Many large organisations, including large banks and financial houses have developed very cumbersome processes and IT systems over time that have become their “crutch” and a hindrance to the whole organisation. Most of the big “shops” have vast IT engineering teams at their disposal and in many cases have the capability and technical will to introduce and adopt new technologies. The challenge we see is that not all internal IT teams are equipped to match business strategy and business needs to get the IT strategy.
Often IT teams are watching industry trends and taking a punt that those trends are in line with what their business is likely to need. IT teams would do well to develop an intimate appreciation of what their business needs, at any given point in time, and to demonstrate that they are embracing new technologies and solutions that fit the business requirement. IT teams should form a stronger partnership model with the business. Whilst most IT teams are well intended and want to embrace new technologies to enable their business, they need to connect the need with the solutions they can offer and to be experts at building the business case for IT change.
What are the biggest obstacles IT departments within the financial sector are facing with implementing new technologies?
A clear up-front governance structure to address business needs, realistic budgets and overcoming organisational politics are some of the biggest challenges faced by IT departments today. At the start of any project, a governance framework should be established early to ensure that the requirements are clearly defined and understood. The initial quality discovery and analysis work is necessary to fully understand the challenge for a given organisation. New technology for the sake of it is not always the answer, but it totally depends on the business case established at the initial stage. We have seen far too many examples of finance companies spending large amounts of money on technologies, new or old, and then being disappointed with the returns. Aligning teams and expectations is often the most important stage, but it is often done badly to satisfy internal political pressures.
How can banks align technology with their commercial goals?
One of the fundamental problems we encounter is that IT teams will often set the budget lower than is required, and will underestimate the resources needed for a particular project. IT teams are under pressure to execute against a “number” that is not practical with an outlook of ‘crossing the bridge when they come to it’. IT teams need to do more legwork to demonstrate the business case to ensure they start with a realistic budget. If there is not a business case and it feels difficult to set one, you should be asking yourself why the project is even a consideration. If there is no business case, there should be no project.
How are you able to help businesses develop a solid IT strategy?
We understand that the world of business changes constantly and that the resulting complexities demand intelligent and agile solutions. Working collaboratively, and with the insight we’ve gained from successful implementations, businesses should be able to deliver proven and practical technology solutions in the cloud, as a managed service or on premise. This will help businesses make the most of budget and resource, and importantly, maximise the return on technology investments.
We create practical solutions based on our combination of insight, innovation, and deep knowledge of the subject matter – backed by tools, methodologies, and best practices that reduce the cost and risk of deployments.
What are the top three things you think every CIO should be concerned with?
Cloud: Industry analysts hail cloud as the most important technology in IT infrastructure, proclaiming that it will dramatically change how businesses plan, buy, manage, deploy and charge for their services. Lack of scalability and flexibility in traditional hardware configurations has already helped focus numerous bleeding edge organisations towards a Cloud-based approach. The promise of Cloud within a company’s IT infrastructure, to be more responsive to business needs, is rapidly becoming a top decision factor for the ‘C’ level executives and CIOs need to be concerned with this, and consider what is possible.
BYOD: As BYOD becomes more pervasive; IT departments will look to develop improved mobile device management and governance capabilities. For example the IT department may actively block connections from devices that are not on a list of supported devices. This is a huge area with technological, cultural, employee and business implications. Getting this right is imperative and the CIO needs to understand and get to grips with the pros and cons of the varied BYOD approaches that may suit the organisation.
IT Skills Gap: The skills deficit is still holding the UK back from economic recovery. CIOs should help their companies address the IT skills shortage by investing in training young people, to help close that skills gap. Each company, whether a finance sector company or a services provider should play their role from a commercial and broader industry perspective.