Innovation is central to the role of business technology
Innovation is central to the role of business technology. And when it comes to delivering clever solutions for his organisation, Steve Fraser has his own original take on the role of IT leader.
While he has been responsible for managing technology for two decades, the IT leadership role is just one element of Fraser’s broader day-to-day portfolio. Fraser is a Relationship Partner at chartered accountants Monahans, where he divides his time between client advice and technology management. His unique position means he has a direct awareness of how new IT can be related to business demands.
“It works well for me,” he says. “I like the difference between the two roles and it keeps you on your toes.” Fraser is pushing himself as high as possible at the moment, analysing the potential for technology to underpin a business transformation at the firm.
“We know the set-up we’ve got needs to be refreshed,” he says, before suggesting any new digital strategy must consider innovative trends in IT, such as flexible working, mobile devices and consumerisation. For a finance firm, Fraser’s forward-thinking approach might be considered untraditional. He believes, however, innovative IT is a must.
“We’ve tried to push the business to look towards where they would like to be in three to five years,” says Fraser.
“ IT can help the firm meet its business outcomes; technology can drive the business strategy.”
Innovation, he says, must be relative. Monahans has spent time analysing the IT market and initial steps, like storage virtualisation, can break an over-reliance on internal hardware and help the organisation to up-scale flexibly on-demand. Executive support for innovation is essential.
“We looked straightaway at whether the business would be willing to support change,” says Fraser. “There’s no point looking at transformation if the business won’t buy into your ideas for change.” Executive support means he has been able to start talking to suppliers.
BT Engage IT is helping Monahans along the transformation journey, providing expert assistance in regards to technical strategy, tendering and pricing. Fraser says the aim of analysing innovative IT approaches like the cloud and consumerisation is to find the kind of technology that meets business demands for data access, but without compromising information security.
“You should give the business the opportunity to benefit from a higher level of specification if you look outside,” he says. “You must also be conscious that there’s a line between you and the provider. We have requirements under the Data Protection Act and we must prioritise security and availability.”
Moves towards consumerisation, meanwhile, have been driven by internal discussions around the potential adoption of Apple iPads. Fraser says partners in the firm would like to use their own devices to connect, as would the younger generation of tech-savvy employees.
“Managing consumerisation is complicated,” he says. “I’m sure some IT leaders feel as if they wish consumerisation would just go away, but it won’t. Younger workers, in particular, want to use their new technological toys, and they want to use these devices in the workplace so they can make the most of the software and information.” Fraser says the firm needs consumer-like solutions that are right for the business, both now and in the future. “We always need to know more about what the organisation requires in terms of its day-to-day objectives,” he says. “IT should be used to help drive the business strategy, rather than dictate how the organisation evolves.
Apple iPhones are already being provided by the firm to key workers. The strategy with regards to iPads is currently being reviewed, says Fraser. We need to get the policies in place first and look at how more consumer technology will be policed,” he says, before adding that the whole strategy towards innovative IT is about staying flexible and trying to cope with the phenomenal pace of technology-enabled change.
“You must be able to adapt,” says Fraser.
Such best practice advice around adaptability also remains his key internal focus. As Fraser develops a future-proof IT strategy for the firm, he keeps a watchful eye on the transformational power of new approaches to business technology. “It’s all about efficiency, costs savings and flexibility,” he says. “The right strategy will mean we have the ability to add more technology as we move forward as a business. And there will always be another area of new technology to consider.”