IT Life: Tax Doesn’t Have To Be Taxing

Capgemini’s Graham Cassford talks about Amazon, music and how he helped the HMRC’s self assessment filing system

Graham Cassford is vice president and COO of Application Services at Capgemini UK, one of the largest IT consulting and outsourcing firms in the world. He once wanted to be a musician, but wasn’t very good, and considers Amazon chief Jeff Bezos to be his tech hero. Oh, and if you’ve ever had any problems filing your taxes – it’s his fault.

Tell us about your company, how long have you been in IT and what are your areas of expertise?
I’ve been at Capgemini, a world leader in technology, consulting and outsourcing, for over 13 years and been involved in IT for about 30 years. In that time I’ve made my way through the more technical roles in the industry, from software development through specialising in project and programme management, troubleshooting on projects and more recently working as Delivery Leader on the HMRC Aspire account. My current role is as Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Application Services, Capgemini, UK.

What’s the favourite IT project that you’ve ever worked on?
Graham Cassford CapgeminiThere’s a lot to choose from to be honest and it is difficult to choose just one, but a couple do spring to mind. I would have to say the highlight would be the replacement of the On-line Self-Assessment filing system for HMRC in 2008. The challenges of coping with the load generated by the 31st January filing deadline, in a cost-effective and resilient manner, combined with an immoveable deadline under the spotlight of media attention was unforgettable. The other would be the first project for which I was responsible which involved the replacement of a real-time control system which managed the operations of a brewery in South Wales.

What technologies were you involved with ten years ago?
A decade ago I was starting to work with HMRC on a portfolio of mission critical projects involving everything from legacy mainframe applications to the implementation of SAP and using a combination of waterfall and RUP approaches to delivery.

What do you expect to be using in ten years’ time?
I think it is less about what technologies we will be building with but how those capabilities are delivered. With tablets growing faster than PCs and the increasing wave of the Internet of Things, services will be accessed through a far greater range of devices than ever before which means we will be building and integrating solutions using an ever more diverse set of technologies and App development platforms.

What do you think is the greatest challenge for an IT company or department today?
I think the greatest challenge would be demonstrating that the company or department is adding value to its customers and avoiding becoming a commodity. Technology is becoming so personal to us with the creation of tailored apps, there is now an expectation of the same experience in the corporate world. The pace of the game is changing and it is increasingly difficult to meet the requirements, such as stricter security, needed in the corporate environment.

To cloud or nor to cloud?
Definitely ‘To cloud’ – Looking to the future, an approach of cloud first and then justifying why not. This will enable companies to capitalise on an ever growing range of capabilities and flexible price points. Capgemini has a long history of working with the cloud and as long as the fundamental security requirements are met at a reasonable price point, I don’t really see anything I wouldn’t be prepared to put in there.

Who is your tech hero and who is your tech villain?
Tech Hero – Jeff Bezos. As one of the industry’s leading tech entrepreneurs, with Amazon Web Services (AWS), he has helped redefine IT delivery, creating new business models with a retailer’s perspective. Through Capgemini’s roundtable sessions with the AWS team we can see a growing range of capabilities emerging to help customers migrate even more to the cloud.

Tech Villain – Ian Ertia.  A key villain in the industry is inertia. As Capgemini’s Technovision 2014 shows, there has been many game-changing tech breakthroughs that have the ability to digitally transform businesses. Digital Transformation can help enterprises to grow customer relevance and competitiveness. The speed of change in the business world is more intense than ever and IT needs to be at the forefront of embracing this change.

Gibson guitar rock and roll music © Theophan Konstantinov ShutterstockWhat’s your favourite device ever made and what do you use the most?

It would have to be the mobile phone/PDA. The ability to combine voice, text and data on to a small hand held device is unbelievable and was unimaginable when I started in IT. It’s certainly the device I use the most as well. I admire the ubiquitous nature of it and how you can get a response from someone anywhere in the world at just the touch of a button.

Apart from your own, which company do you admire the most and why?
At Capgemini I get to work with so many great ecosystem partners and alliances that picking one wouldn’t be enough. What I would say is that what I admire most are those companies that are willing to completely redefine themselves to respond to business demand. That takes real business conviction and belief.

What did you want to be when you were a child?
When I was about eight or nine I was taught / learned to play a variety of instruments so I thought I wanted to be a musician, but by the time I was 12 or 13 I realised I wasn’t quite good enough, so continued to just play for fun, which I continue to do to this day, as one means of switching off from the day to day challenges of my job.