Q&A: CSC CTIO, Bob Hayward

CSC’s chief technology information officer, Bob Hayward, talks mobility, BYOD, virtual desktops, enterprise app stores and project management

What have you discovered during that first year of running virtual desktops? It has been working well, but we discovered like a lot of people, that your networks have to be up for the job and that performance is an issue. There are differences in the products in the market and some are suited to certain types of works than others. It all comes down to what types of roles people are doing and what their consumption of content is. Are they content consumers or creators? You need to be very granular in your examination of what is the best device for the type of work an employee does.

As an IT provider [CSC] is being asked to provide that kind of service to more and more of our customers so we have to drink our own champagne, as we like to say, through testing and using these products ourselves. We also a have a large number of employees who are mobile, but still require the rich interface and power that laptops provide and which tablets don’t provide just yet.

Defence is also planning an app store; can you expand on why you’re looking at one? It’s another example of something we want to look at ourselves as it is something our bigger customers are beginning to look at as well. Just as you would look at using the Android app store of the Apple app store we would have a list of pre-approved enterprise applications. It would be a catalogue or list of apps, with information about what they do, how much you might get charged for them — through some kind of internal cross-charge mechanism — as well as pre-approved codes so that employees of certain divisions can download certain apps, then away you go.

[software vendors won’t become redundant] as some of these apps are provided by software vendors —they are not all internally developed at CSC. In fact, most would be commercial packaged software as such. It is just that they are delivered and disseminated in a different model than has usually been.

However, it does require that existing software providers to change their existing licencing models. Some of them are gradually doing that but a lot of the newer software companies only offer software as a service. If you were to call them up and say, ‘can I license your software and pay you a maintenance fee and you send me the software on physical media’ they wouldn’t know what you were talking about. Software as a service is gradually becoming the default way things are done.

Could you give an update on CSC’s in-house collaboration tool, C3? That has been a big success for us. It is going from strength to strength and pretty much baked-in to what we do a s company. It is going beyond social networking and blogging and moving into our processes. If there are any announcements from management, or any video interviews from our new CEO or town-hall meetings it is all done through that medium.

Also, our brand new integrated sales catalogue —which defines all our offerings, the codes you need to enter into our sales system, details of the offering, where they are supported, who the contacts are, case studies, references, reference architectures, price guides — all of these different things are all delivered through this mechanism [C3].

What’s the end-state you’re working towards with your IT? I think we still have a lot of work to do around identifying better shared services across our company. We probably have too many different parts of CSC across too many geographies doing their own thing. That is one area that we have some work to do. As with a lot of companies we also have a lot of applications which have been with us a long time. We need to look at how we might modernise them, or make the m more contemporary or re-platform them and make them if the cost is justified.

It is always a risk that when you move from a highly specific, highly customised system which has been made exactly for what you want to a system which you have to share with others that you have to make accommodations. But we recognise that 80 per cent of where you want to be is good enough. It is just too hard to get to 100 per cent. It takes too long and is too expensive.

The days of when you had the luxury of the time and the money to make everything perfect are gone. Things move too quickly. The more you customise the more you lock yourself in and the more you make things difficult for yourself later on. The more vanilla, the more generic the better and you just have to accept that 80 per cent of what you want is good enough and it is a philosophy which will serve you well.

It’s a pity the National Health Service didn’t take that approach with its e-health project...

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