IT Life: Tablets, BlackBerrys and Managed Print Services

Nottingham University has 34,000 students and 6.500 employees, spread across five UK campuses. They are all demanding users and it is Jim Reed’s job to satisfy them.

As director of procurement, Jim finds new ways to deliver reliable computing and printing services to the University’s widespread community – and to keep them safe from online nasties.

What has been your favourite project so far?
The project that gave me the most satisfaction came a decade ago, when I outsourced 50 percent of Royal Mail’s IT Service Provision to the Prism Alliance in the largest “single shot” IT outsource ever done in the UK.

At the time, nobody else had attempted an outsourcing project on this scale, as one mega deal. I needed to be absolutely confident in the numbers I put forward. With the hard work of the suppliers, consultants and lawyers, we struck a ten year deal that had an eventual value of £1.5 billion. The deal runs out this summer, and the fact that it’s still going now suggests that we got some crucial decisions right.

What tech were you involved with ten years ago?
I bought the first Blackberry phones and servers and handed them to my legal team at Royal Mail.

The savings of having everyone connected in this way were so clear it quickly caught on. I could ask the finance team a question that needed financial modeling by Blackberry and they would be able to give me an answer of whether it was good value almost immediately.

I also saw the value of tablets very early on after buying an HP Windows XP tablet. We projected the contract from the tablet on a big screen, negotiated changes marking up by stylus and then printed everyone a copy of the agreed markup immediately. We all had a record of the negotiation – amazing.

What tech do you expect to be using in ten years’ time?
Tablets all connected to cloud. Tablets will certainly replace PCs one day. They need better keyboards but this won’t take long. I imagine a dispersed workforce that can turn up to any desk, dock in at the docking station and send data through a secure cloud.

The tablet will also soon be converged with the mobile phone, enabling unified communications to really come about. Get this right and productivity goes through the roof. It does mean that we move to be 24/7 workers though.

Who’s your tech hero?
Steve Jobs. He gave me the first working tablet – the Apple Newton IPAD  – when I met him at the 1993 Ryder Cup.

It was typically beautiful but the handwriting recognition was completely hopeless. I had the original in my attic until a couple of years ago and I regret getting rid of it. On the up-side I have bought myself one of each of almost every tablet on the planet – and two of some!

Who’s your tech villain?
Oracle. At Rolls Royce, Oracle hit us with maintenance costs for its software of 22 percent.

At the time we had the largest SAP installation  in the world, paying around 17 percent for support. However a group of sales people moved from Oracle to SAP and tried to increase it to the same 22 percent, which annoyed us and every other SAP customer.

A bunch of us set up a large SAP user group, and for a while we held back the costs, before the inevitable happened.

What’s your favourite technology ever made? Which do you use most?
The tablet, without question. As I said before I have owned near enough every tablet ever to hit the UK market, and for ten years I have barely been able to function without one.

What is your budget outlook going forward?
I am looking at procuring more and more IT as it powers all business transformation. Every business project in the past eight or nine years seems to have been driven by IT. More and more ventures are underpinned by it. Most companies now recognise that a flexible scalable enterprise-wide IT solution allows them to scale up and down depending on the economy instead of frantically recruiting or shedding jobs.

Apart from your own, which company do you admire most and why?
Rolls Royce – I worked there for seven years from 2004 – as it managed to survive and prosper after 9/11. For an airline engine company to bounce back in this way, and within just a few years, was phenomenal. Whilst others panicked Rolls-Royce simply got its head down and continued designing great engines putting its faith in its engineering excellence. The management and staff showed superb dedication.

By 2005, the orders were coming back in again, far quicker than anyone thought they would recover. It really was a breathtaking transformation and very impressive to be part of.

What’s the greatest challenge for an IT company/department today?
The greatest issue for any organisation is how to set itself up to be most efficient. Should it outsource or insource its services, support and development?

What should it hang on to, and are there things it does well, but an external company can still do better? Are we hanging on to things for the wrong reasons? Is this our intellectual property? Organising processes properly is fundamental to future success.

At the University of Nottingham, we are in the process of outsourcing our printing requirements to Xerox, a huge undertaking but one that is already paying off. Xerox put together a bespoke managed print services model based on our requirements.  Functionality such as defaulting to double sided printing is driving us towards a 40 percent reduction in paper usage and a massive reduction in the amount of physical hardware we use, which has a consequent reduction in the power we use and the money we spend.

The system is also green in two ways – it reduces the energy used – and the University’s carbon footprint – and it also cuts wasted paper.

We have the ability to print from any device to any printer on any UK campus and there are no more unwanted prints left on the printer.

To Cloud or not to Cloud?
I see the cloud as the inevitable progression of IT, both at home and in the workplace. With more rigorous security coming into play, it will soon be illogical to store data, even sensitive data, anywhere else. How that mass of data is then managed however, is another story.

What did you want to be when you were a child?
I wanted to be an electrical engineer – as a farmer’s son I spent a great deal of time playing with equipment that I had to come to understand. I was designing radio control planes at age 11, and etching printer circuit boards in the barn.

It was so much fun, at least for me. In my early career I designed software for a while but got bored. Now, I get to shape the IT for organisations. I even had my house wired with Ethernet when it was built and I have Terabytes of NAS storage plugged in. So I suppose I’m still the engineer I always wanted to be.

Do you know how many Raspberries there are in a Raspberry Pi? Try our quiz!

Peter Judge

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

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