A year as CTO: a personal reflection

Taking timeout to reflect in a fast-paced environment can be a challenge, but I felt my first anniversary as CTO at Brightsolid justified this. A year ago, Brightsolid presented a unique opportunity for me to play a key part in transforming the business to become the hybrid cloud managed service provider of choice for Scotland. It was also a special move for me personally as I was re-joining the business (known as Scotland Online at the time) that gave me my first career opportunity after graduating from university too many years ago!

When I joined in November 2019 the business had a clear set of outcomes that had to be achieved by the start of our next financial year (April 2020) to support the execution of our strategy. Brightsolid had a strong track record of delivering colocation and managed private cloud services, but to become a hybrid cloud managed service provider we had a requirement to build out our experience in delivering public cloud managed services. I was looking forward to bringing the significant experience I had in public cloud, specifically AWS, to help bring this transformation to life.

First off, this was not just a technology “only” transformation. Our first steps involved changes to our operating model, introduction of new ways of working and significant investment in our people to engage them on that journey, then develop both knowledge and skills in AWS and toolchains used to build modern cloud-based services.

As well as building out new technology capabilities, we had to transform our existing management tools, such as infrastructure monitoring, to meet the requirements of managing hybrid cloud workloads and IT service management to enhance how we support our customers day-to-day. In particular, our investment in a new infrastructure monitoring solution (Datadog) quickly provided significant value to our customers by being able to provide insight into application issues which were previously not visible.

Importantly though, we were ready in April to launch our hybrid cloud managed service offering and in particular Cloud Foundations and Dynamic Compute – our first set of AWS managed service products.  I’m particularly proud of Cloud Foundations as it enabled our customers to accelerate their adoption of public cloud services leveraging an “out-of-the-box” AWS landing zone with integrated security and compliance controls aligned to industry good practice.   Cloud Foundations includes a significant amount of Brightsolid intellectual property with over 55 compliance rules and over 10,000 lines of code to develop.  I’ve got to call out Pete Cridland, our Head of Cloud Enablement at Brightsolid who I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with over the last 6 years – he knocked it out the park to ensure Cloud Foundations was ready for our customers to use in April!

As well as having our hybrid cloud products and services ready, by April 2020 40% of Brightsolid staff held at least 1 AWS accreditation!… and we’re aiming to be the most certified AWS partner in Scotland soon!

April 2020 was just the beginning and by June 2020 we were ready to launch our first set of hybrid cloud professional services offerings focused on cloud strategy, controls & compliance and cloud migration. From speaking to our customers, we recognised they would need advice and guidance on how to take advantage of hybrid cloud to meet their business needs.

Launching a new set of hybrid cloud managed services and professional service offerings in some respects was the easy part. The hard part comes next – will anyone want to buy them! The good news was yes! We landed our first AWS managed service customer in April 2020 – the same month we launched our hybrid cloud offering. We’ve built on this early success and over the last 6 months delivered a number of successful professional services engagements covering topics such as cloud controls and compliance assessments and cloud migration. We have customers using our Cloud Foundations product and only this week we had our latest customer successfully migrate their digital platform to an AWS solution managed by Brightsolid. This early success also enabled Brightsolid to move up the AWS Consulting Partner tiers in July achieving a further goal.

Overall, it has been an incredible first 12 months at Brightsolid! When I look back, I’m so impressed with what we have achieved as a team in such a short space of time. I can’t stress enough how much of this is down to everyone at Brightsolid, with support from the Board at DC Thomson. Everyone has supported our strategy and pulled together as a team to ensure we not only delivered our goals and outcomes, but also ensuring we were ready to help our customers embrace hybrid cloud to meet their business needs.

The team also never lost focus on our number 1 priority to support our existing customers. Throughout the transformation programme they showed great flexibility to quickly shift focus from a project outcome to supporting a customer with an urgent need.

What also impressed me was we did not let the challenges of Covid-19 get in the way of achieving these successes. The majority of our people seamlessly transitioned to home working from early March 2020, however we did not lose focus and embraced technology to ensure we maintained strong levels of collaboration across our teams and with our customers. I must also thank those that continued to work on site at both our Dundee and Aberdeen data centres to ensure we continued to support our customers during these challenging times.

So, what’s next? Based on feedback from our customers as well as our view of future market demand we have additional hybrid cloud managed service and professional service offerings we are planning to develop and bring to market shortly – watch this space! We will continue to invest in our people to ensure we are well placed to support our customers achieve their business outcomes. We also recognise the need to continually invest in enhancing the overall service we deliver to our customers day-to-day – we will be building on our investment in our toolsets to improve customer insight, increase levels of automation and introduce further self-serve capabilities.

I’m really looking forward to an equally exciting second 12 months!