Categories: CloudWorkspace

IT Life: Sweet Success In The Cloud

Stephen Bedford is CEO at cloud software provider Cognisec.

Tell us something about your IT career
I started out as a consultant for a mid-market Systems Integrator called Panacea (based in Basingstoke). This was in the very early 90s when Unis and finance/distribution and manufacturing systems were all the rage (the term ERP started being used a little later). I did this for about five years and had the pleasure of working with some great companies – Motorola, Glaxo-Wellcome (now GSK), Roland UK, Hydron to name a few.

I dealt with MDs, FDs and IT managers in the main and this gave me a very thorough grounding in the importance of simplifying IT use for people across whole organisations and in very diverse industrial sectors.

Sweet success

What was your favourite IT project ever?
Devon Desserts was probably my favourite client – if you ever get to see me you will know why! I moved into pre-sales in about 1997 concentrating on ERP and Business Intelligence sales – we were one of the early partners of Business Objects in the UK and – again – it proved that keeping it simple was a winning formula. Until then extracting “intelligence” from IT systems (especially with mid-market IT budgets) had been fiendishly difficult, relying on fundamental knowledge of underlying database structures and schema, which certainly was not for the faint hearted. We created some very basic structures and simple pre-packaged reporting dashboards to enable customers to extract the most valuable asset from their IT investment.

Having avoided the end of the world (or Y2K as it came to be described!) we had started to realise that customers were becoming tired of never ending strains on capital expenditure and the thankless task of keeping good IT skills internal. We then started Pasporte – about 10 years too early. We had an idea to build a services business that would let companies consume IT on a rental basis, rather than managing lumpy capital expenditures and without the need for complex internal IT infrastructures.

The dot-com bust made us a little nervous about the timing of the company creation but it meant that we had to focus on good old fashioned business values of solid revenue growth, generating cash and creating happy customers. This MSP business as it became known was eventually sold in 2008 and I joined the new group as Technical Director.

The group became known as Niu Solutions and I lasted a very happy 5 years there before we decided to create the Cognisec business. Cognisec was formed to take advantage of the SaaS or cloud opportunity, while not forgetting the enormous investment that still exists in legacy IT. Starting out as CTO, I became CEO of the business in February.

From hosting to embedded chips

What tech were you involved with ten years ago?
Hosting Services using predominantly tech from IBM (servers and storage), Cisco (networking) and Juniper and F5 (security). Personal tech was pretty much just a laptop and a phone – not counting children’s PlayStations (we have a lot of them – children and PlayStations!)

What tech do you expect to be involved with in ten years’ time?
Embedded chips (preferably not in the neck – as that is fat enough) for identity management with seamless access to a multitude of information stores – business and my own. Continued blurring of work/life tasks through anytime, anywhere access to IT.

Who is your tech hero (and why)?
Henry Ford – he made the complex, simple and brought empowering technology to the masses.

Who is your tech villain (and why)?
Online betting exchanges – why – should be obvious to anyone that has ever seen my wallet (empty).

What’s your favourite technology ever made? And which do you use most?
The humble mobile phone (I have an iPhone) – still my favourite ever thing and the thing I use most.

What is your budget outlook? Flat? Growing?
Growing. We are making a large investment in the platform and the company with special focus on the sales and marketing organisation. We expect this to grow further (at least double) through 2015. We will have more than doubled the number of employees in that time.

Apart from your own, which company do you admire most, and why?
(Apart from West Ham FC). Sinclair Research, not necessarily for business acumen but for building on an idea and having the courage to take it to market. The ZX80 contributed massively to personal computer ownership, especially in the UK and introduced computer programming to thousands of spotty teenagers.

Making people happy

What is the greatest challenge for an IT compnay or department today?
Creating happy customers. The ubiquity of personal tech over the last 10-15 years has caused a culture change in the way end users manage their relationship with IT service providers or the IT department. End users expect intuitive products that answer their complex technical requirements while demanding very little technical knowledge to operate. Therefore IT companies need to anticipate customer need and proclivities and build efficient solutions into their products.

To Cloud or not To Cloud?
To Cloud. The cloud doesn’t confuse or surprise anyone anymore. The notion has become intuitive and familiar as we’ve seen common user applications are increasingly tied to the cloud. Comprehension and familiarity has been driven in part by the way in which the cloud now comes bundled with new computers and devices. The average person in the street is already comfortable with the idea of cloud based applications. Company IT departments are catching up fast and consuming these services in increasing volumes as well. Security should still be paramount though – and that’s where we come in.

What else should we have asked you about?
You should be asking everyone: Why don’t you support West Ham?

What did you want to be when you grew up?
An accountant

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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