For this segment of our CIO Focus Interview Series, I sat down with our CIO and Managing Director, Kevin Hall. Kevin has an extremely unique perspective as he serves as GreenPages’ CIO as well as the Managing Director of our customer facing Professional Services and Managed Services divisions.
Ben: Can you give me some background on your IT experience?
Kevin: I’ve been a CIO for 17+ years holding roles in both consulting organizations and roles overseeing internal IT. The position I have at GreenPages is very interesting because I am both a Managing Partner of our services business and the CIO of our organization. This is the first time I have held both jobs at the same time in one company
Ben: What are your primary responsibilities for each part of your role then?
Kevin: As CIO, I’m responsible for all aspects of information services. This includes both traditional data center functions, engineering functions, operations functions, and app dev functions. As Managing Director I am responsible for our Professional Services and Managed Services divisions. These divisions provide help to our customers on the same sorts of projects that I am undertaking as CIO.
Ben: Does it help you being in this unique position? Does it allow you to get a better understanding of what GreenPages’ customers are looking for since you experience the same challenges as CIO?
Kevin: Yes, I think it is definitely an advantage. The CIO role is crucial in this era. It has certainly been a challenging job for a long time, and that has magnified in recent years because of the fundamental shift and explosion of the capabilities available to modern day CIOs. Because I am in this rather crazy position, it does help me understand the needs of our customers better. If I was just on the consulting side of the house, I’m not sure I could fully understand or appreciate how difficult some of the choices CIOs are faced with are. I can relate to that feeling of being blocked or trapped because I’ve experienced it. The good news is our CTO and Architects provide real world lessons right here at home for both myself and our IT Director.
Interestingly enough, on the services side of my role, in both the Professional Services and Managed Services division, we are entering our 3rd year of effort to realign those divisions in a way that helps CIOs solve those same demanding needs that I am facing. We’re currently helping companies with pure cloud, hybrid cloud and traditional approaches to information services. I’m both a provider of our services to other organizations as well as a customer of those services. Our internal IT team is actually a customer of our Professional and Managed Services division. We use our CMaaS platform to manage and operate our computing platforms internally. We also use the same help desk team our customers do. Furthermore, we use various architects and engineers that serve our customers to help us with internal projects. For example, we have recently engaged our client-facing App Dev team to help GreenPages reimagine our internal Business Intelligence systems and are underway on developing our next generation BI tools and capabilities. Another example would be a project we recently completed to look at our networking and security infrastructure in order to be prepared to move workloads from on-prem or colo facilities to the cloud. We had to add additional capabilities to our network and went out and got the SOC 2 Type 2 certification which really speaks to the importance we place on security. What I love about working here is that we don’t just talk about hybrid cloud; we are actively and successfully using those models for our own business.
Ben: What are some of your goals for 2015?
Kevin: On the internal IT side, I’m engaged, like many of my colleagues around the globe, on assessing what the new computing paradigm means for our organization. We’re embarked in looking at every aspect of our environment along with our ability to deliver services to the GreenPages’ organization. Our goal is to figure out a way to do this in a cost effective, scalable, and flexible way that meets the needs of our organization.
Ben: Any interesting projects you have going on right now?
Kevin: As we assess our workloads and start trying to understand what the best execution venues for those workloads are, it’s become pretty clear that we are going to be using more than a single venue. For example, one big execution venue for us is VMware’s vCloud Air. We have some workloads that are excellent candidates for that venue. Other workloads are great fits for Microsoft Azure. We have some initiatives, like the BI project, that are going to be an open source project. We’ll be utilizing things like Docker and Hadoop that are most likely going to be highly optimized around Amazon’s capabilities. This is giving me insight into the notion that there are many different capabilities between clouds. The important thing is to make sure every workload is optimized for the right cloud. This is an important ongoing exercise for us in 2015.
Ben: Which area of IT would you say interests you the most?
Kevin: What interests me most about IT is the organizational aspect. How do you organize in a way that creates value for the company? How do you prioritize in terms of people, process and technology? For me, it’s not about one particular aspect; it’s about the entire program and how it all functions.
Ben: What are you looking forward to in 2015 from a technology perspective?
Kevin: I’m really looking forward to our annual Summit event in August. I think it is going to be the best one yet. If you look back several years ago, very few attendees raised their hand when asked if they thought the cloud was real. Last year, most of the hands in the room went up. What will make it especially interesting this year is that we have many customers deeply involved with these types of projects. Four years ago the only option was to sit and listen to presentations, but now our customers will have the opportunity to talk to their peers about how they are actually going about doing cloud. It will be a great event and a fantastic learning opportunity.
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By Ben Stephenson, Emerging Media Specialist