IT Life: Keeping It Relevant

Paul Marsh Avanade

The biggest IT challenge is keeping up with the pace of change, says Paul Marsh of Avanade

Paul Marsh  is senior director of technology infrastructure at services and consultancy firm Avanade UK. He’s been in the business for 26 years, and is a specialist in infrastructure transformation.

UEFA Euro 96What has been your favourite project so far?
My most memorable project was way back in 1996 when I acted as the Infrastructure Architect for the UEFA European Football Championships, which were hosted in England. We really pushed the limits of Microsoft technology back then to provide ticketing systems, broadcasting systems, volunteer systems, press systems, and not to mention a web-site receiving real-time data feeds during the matches.

On the down side this had an immovable project deadline, on the plus side I was able to visit all the stadiums of the top English football clubs and get free access into the stadiums to watch the matches.

And on the bizarre side….after a long 7 month project to hit the opening match kick off, we had to decommission everything after 6 weeks!

Moving to Microsoft

What tech were you involved with ten years ago?
Ten years ago I was working for Avanade in its early years focussing on large infrastructure transformation projects (workplace and data centres), moving customers away from non-Microsoft to Microsoft based platforms. If you ask me what I was working on 20 years ago…… 1993 I was transitioning from an IBM mainframe architect role to a new role where I was part of a team investigating how this new Microsoft technology…..Windows NT 3.1 and SMS “Hermes” 1.0 technology could be used in a large retail banking environment. Things have certainly moved on since then.

What tech do you expect to be using in ten years’ time?
The interesting thing for me is not just what technology I’ll be using in 10 years’ time but how technology will change the way I work. I don’t expect to have a laptop in ten years, I don’t expect to have a device with much computing power at all. The operating system I use will be irrelevant, connectivity will be completely pervasive and The Cloud won’t be called “The Cloud”….it will just be available for me to use whenever, wherever, on whatever.

There will be even greater interoperability and I won’t need to think about what apps or devices other people are using. Technology will continue to offer us a more mobile way of working, I expect to visit the office less and working remotely will be the norm with continued breaking down of geographic boundaries.….however the boundaries between work and home life will be even more blurred.

Who’s your tech hero?
I don’t have a particular technology hero, there are too many visionaries and innovators who have helped shape the face of IT over the last 70 years to be able to single out one person. Every invention, no matter how big or small, has influenced how we use IT today – programming languages, the Windows user interface, the mouse, the printer, TCP/IP, the Internet, the mobile phone, laptops, touch screens, DSL, Wi-Fi…

Who’s your tech villain?
I’ll sit on the fence with this one. If someone is classed as a villain, they will most likely have made a significant impact on the industry, which some people will view is good, and others bad. Either way, they will have influenced and shaped the direction technology has taken.

TV remote control hand ©  gielmichal ShutterstockWhat’s your favourite technology ever made? Which do you use most?
I have a few. First of all it has to be the remote control…although my wife may have something to say about that!

Next is the digital camera – how the use of a camera has changed since the days of 35mm film! No longer do you need to worry about using the camera for special occasions, I use it all the time to capture special moments with my family. Finally, it has to be the smartphone – I work from it, shop from it, research from it, control my various devices at home from it (Smart TV, Sonos, NAS, Sky box), take photos, connect with my friends……and sometimes I make phone calls!

What is your budget outlook going forward? 
At Avanade we’re all about growth, growth and more growth. Technology is constantly changing, businesses are constantly looking for competitive advantage, and IT will always be seen as an enabler for this. Growth will always be achievable for those organisations who stay at the forefront of technology, continue to evolve and stay relevant to the market.

Amazon LogoApart from your own, which company do you admire most and why?
Like the Tech Heroes question, there are many to choose from. Apple’s phoenix from the flame rise has to be admired, becoming the most valuable company on the planet through a string of pioneering products that has made technology more relevant for consumers. You also have to admire organisations that have taken the leap of faith through technology and online only business models – eBay, Amazon as an example – again driving a different consumer behaviour and how technology is built to support it.

Pace of change

What’s the greatest challenge for an IT company/department today?
The biggest challenge is always, and has always been, keeping up with the pace of change and maintaining their relevance to the business. I see a continue shift as many organisations decide they are in the business of running their business, not running IT departments. The shape of the IT department will continue to evolve in line with this trend, ensuring business requirements are being delivered through the provision of outsourced, commodity and cloud services.

To Cloud or not to Cloud?
We are now at the point where the default answer should always be Cloud, with the question being why not? This is relevant not only for commodity services such as email and collaboration (like Office365) but also core business systems too. We are seeing many large organisations using cloud, to provide more scalability and agility, for their business critical systems.

What did you want to be when you were a child?
I’m sure at some point I wanted to be any one of spaceman, pilot, fireman, policeman or train driver! As long as I can say I worked hard, had fun, made a difference and most importantly supported my family…I’ll be happy.

Shhh! don’t do our whistleblowers quiz!