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CIO owning outsourcing in standardised Countrywide estate

Edward Qualtrough | Dec. 13, 2013
Countrywide CIO Oliver Skagerlind describes current infrastructure transformation and strategy of owning your outsourcing to enable project success

"We're always growing as a business and of course one thing we want to be able to deliver to our customer and to our end-user is the ability to take those new businesses, fold them in quickly and realise the benefits of that.

"If you haven't got a standardised infrastructure, the cost and ownership of doing that is quite high.

"This isn't cutting edge stuff, it's tried and tested technology and the idea is to produce this ability to have a more stable and reliable infrastructure, and more importantly meet some of the demands and align the strategies of the business which is around growth and acquisitions - and also the ability to flex up and down as well."

Thus Countrywide, Skagerlind said, is moving to a consumption-based model that enables them to grow, but if they decided to change their business model "for whatever reason" they will be able to take the cost out very quickly.

Owning your outsourcing
There are just under 50 retained staff that sit within Skagerlind's technology services department, with a further 200 working on the CGI account for Countrywide whom Skagerlind considers his own team.

"My philosophy on outsourcing is, first of all, when you outsource it should become a partnership," he said.

"They become your extended IT team and therefore I treat them as if they are my IT team; they are just slightly removed but they are still part of the group.

"So if anyone asks me how big our department is, I'll say it's around 250 people because that's how many people and resources we have at any one given time on some form of payroll."

Amid the calamitous deals going on in Whitehall, like the recent £40 million write-down on the Department for Work and Pensions 'Universal Credit' progamme, this is perhaps the kind of attitude and outlook towards outsourcing and suppliers that the government could learn from.

"Because what is outsourcing? Crudely, you're essentially selling your IT department and leasing it back - that's ultimately what it is.

"If you just do outsourcing on its own you just take what you've got and give it to somebody else to do.

"But what we are really doing is transforming our core technology from our end-users to our data centre and telephony systems, and how we manage services and procure, stock and distribute technology.

"I've done outsourcing at Countrywide and other places as well. It's important that what you're doing is transforming something you can get value out of and not something that will cost you more down the line."

Moving beyond BlackBerry
Up until a 18 months ago, Countrywide has been "very much a BlackBerry shop". The company still supports a large number of BlackBerry devices, but Skagerlind said that they were trialling smartphones across all divisions - supported by mobile device management tools - with the goal to be device agnostic.


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