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An extreme CTO

Byron Connolly | March 16, 2015
Ash Crick has many strings to his bow. He's been an IBM consultant, video producer, professional skydiver, and musician. These days, he's the chief technology officer (CTO) at Malaysia's iflix.

"Being part of the NAB project when at IBM gave me a good insight into how the banking world operates. It was a super interesting project, something where I fell into a role almost as a co-ordinating point for Oracle, Infosys, Accenture, and IBM," he says.

"It was sort of split outside of the IBM typical role — coordinate all of those [relationships] to bring together ways of automating a lot of things which they needed to do on the NextGen project. It was fascinating to get a good insight into that."

Crick says during this time, he was communicating with people at the highest levels of Big Blue, including with IBM CEO, Ginni Rometty.

"On the banking side, it gave me an insight ... there was an opportunity to move across to one of the big banks but I'm more interested in the fast and agile [companies], and taking a more nimble approach to things," he says.

Before being 'interrupted by Netflix', as he puts it, Crick and another former IBM staffer, Mark Hulme, established Xeoscale, a company that helps businesses automate inefficient manual processes around IT operations, which slow down growth.

"We saw an opportunity for the automation I was developing on behalf of IBM for NAB — to take this outside the bank," he said.

"I actually gave the opportunity to IBM in the initial instance. But the difficult we had was that this automation conflicted with the 'bums on seats' models of large consultancies because it essentially helps replace many people [in jobs].

"For instance, you could have 10 people doing a job that you might require 200 people to do before and we were demonstrating quite well how that actually takes place.

"With a lot of the turmoil that's gone on at IBM in the recent past, it wasn't really front and centre of mind at IBM."

Crick said he and Hulme had built a large IP base at Xeoscale between January and September last year but struggled selling to consultancies firms such as Accenture, Cap Gemini and PwC.

The technology is strong but again, it had the potential to harm the consultancy model of more people resulting in more consultancy fees.

"I think over the next couple of years, the technologies that we've parked and put somewhere are very much going to come into their own because the world will have evolved, and these types of [innovations] will be essential to getting less people doing more," he said.

High risk, big reward

When Crick is not hopping from one 'start-up' to another, he's launching himself out of small planes and falling to Earth faster than gravity. It's an activity that many people find highly risky but it's one that Crick was hooked on from the beginning.


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