CIO100 2018 #31-100: Thomas Hyde, Beca
“We have upped the ante on two fronts this year, first is moving to a much stronger ‘cloud first’ position, and in parallel, increasing our security maturity,” says Thomas Hyde, Beca CIO.
“These are being treated as an integrated programme of work,” says Hyde.
“In the case of cloud computing we are progressively moving towards full adoption of Office 365, having moved to Exchange Online first, and migrating and re-architecting our intranet and inhouse built practice management system onto Sharepoint Online.
“The next step is to remove our legacy document management system so we can use all the native functionality of Office 365 which we expect to do over the next 12 months, This is giving us more options for device provisioning (with associated cost benefits), which along with deployment of Windows 10 (underway) will give us an evergreen end user environment,” says Hyde.
“In the meantime we are piloting a number of Office 365 collaboration tools (for example Teams, OneNote, OneDrive and so on) with a number of use cases with business teams giving us real efficiency and information sharing benefits.
“Having been an enterprise Lync/Skype business for many years since being an early adopter, we are seeing additional benefits as we leverage more cloud capability.
“We are also leveraging Power BI in the same Azure stack having put a lot of effort into building an appropriate master data store for key data sets to support provisioning of role based multi-dimensional dashboards, with the first of these rolling into pilot late last year.”
Moving to cloud and improving Beca’s security posture both involve significant culture change, he says.
We established a corporate leadership team, a subset of the executive leadership team, he says. “One of the initiatives has been to collectively work on a systems roadmap which is helping raise the level of understanding and alignment on what we need to do.”
This has engendered a lot of positive collaboration on a range of projects, including our management dashboards project, and our procurement strategy with respect to cloud solutions, says Hyde.
“With respect to ICT culture change we have reorganised the team and added some new leadership as well as working on getting buy-in to the ICT strategy and investing in training of key people.”
The enterprise risk approach, which has cyber risk as the second highest risk for the business, has created the platform for excellent board and executive engagement and awareness raising on the topic, he says.
“We recently had a GCSB briefing to the board which was very helpful. This executive support created the mandate to establish our Security and Risk Committee which has broad cross-functional business representation in order to raise awareness and to direct the security programme activities. These in turn are monitored by the Beca Group Board Audit Committee.”
Hyde and his team run a technology incubator. Two years ago, the incubator projects focused on leveraging collaborative engineering design tools and started experimenting with VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) to help designers and clients visualise the things we have been designing.
Now that VR has become mainstream, we have continued our integration of scanning technology using laser scanning and drone data capture to bring together a comprehensive digital delivery capability, he says.
“This has been further enhanced in collaboration with Autodesk out of the US to pioneer the use of in field data capture and use for operations and maintenance.
Overall, he says, this work has positioned Beca as a world leader in the practical application of BIM (building information modelling) and Industry 4.0 with clients such as Auckland Airport and Fonterra.
He says they are also talking to clients in Europe and Asia around providing global services to them. One example application has been to provide VR-based solutions for health and safety training and an AR solution for remote operator training for packaging lines.
Hyde says as part of this innovation incubation activity, Beca actively monitors 30 disruptive technologies and focuses efforts on those that appear to have the most immediate marketability.
“The Internet of Things is an active workstream – we are experimenting with IoT sensors and cloud integration for environmental monitoring during construction, monitoring of kegs for a brewing company, and seismic monitoring of buildings,” he states.
He says a team of young software engineers from Beca recently came second in an IoT hackfest in Melbourne. They developed a prototype for a retirement care monitoring system.
An upcoming thread of investigation is around machine learning and his team has created a chatbot ‘Beckie’ with the prototype in use to see if it will be a useful Q&A support tool. Hyde says the team is also developing a Health and Safety chatbot for client use.
“Machine learning is expected to have a profound impact on the way we deliver our services.”
Hyde has a broad executive and board portfolio. He sits on the Beca Group Board which has a governance role across the whole group and looks after the interests of shareholders (Beca is an employee-owned firm).
“One of the reasons I am on the board is to provide a technology perspective,” says Hyde.
“I wear two hats on the executive leadership team, one for group delivery which is a transformation and support function I designed which includes ICT (and for which activity I also carry the CIO title) and a change PMO.
“My other role is group director – advisory where I lead our market facing advisory team of 600 people, offering a range of business and technology services.”
He is a fan of making sure people understand his team’s purpose.
“In the case of my ICT team it is about creating line of sight between the opportunities and threats that technology presents for the business with where Beca is going as a professional services firm, and the very real difference we make to people and communities on a daily basis.
“We have a growing number of women in senior leadership positions, and are increasing our flexible working arrangements. We moved to a global ICT structure 18 months ago, and this means we have several people in Australia, Indonesia, and Singapore working as an integrated team. I regularly meet with the team to talk about strategy and engage in various social activities.
“Professional development is an important part of our career framework and we invest significantly in people attending technology forums and training as well as leveraging our relationships with key suppliers (for example AT&T, Microsoft, Autodesk) who provide opportunities for knowledge sharing.”