Moving to zero-infrastructure: 5 tips from IT hero Mark Evans

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Voted one of CIO Magazine’s Top 100 UK CIOs in 2016, Mark Evans may be best known as a visionary Head of IT who made Rider Levett Bucknall one of the first companies in the construction industry to implement a zero-infrastructure model.

“I couldn’t see a reason why we needed on-premise servers, and still can’t,” said Mark. “They take up a lot of real estate and don’t cover the rents on that space.”

RLB’s cloud migration has already begun to transform their overseas offices. So we were curious if Mark had any advice for other construction companies who want to move toward a zero-infrastructure model. Here are his five top tips.

1. Choose technology that can grow with you

Mark said RLB’s cloud migration began seven years ago. Their goal was to move into a private cloud environment to achieve cost savings, but retain control. As they became more technologically advanced, they eventually took on Microsoft 365 licensing and moved all of their services into the cloud.

One key takeaway was that the move towards zero-infrastructure is constantly evolving. So companies should prepare by choosing tools that can grow with them.

“Technology is moving so quickly that we’ve already outgrown our existing document management system and are looking to get involved with Dropbox Business, Basecamp and Slack in the future,” said Mark.

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2. Phase the roll out

Moving to a zero-infrastructure model doesn’t happen overnight, Mark says—especially when employees and contractors are working in different locations around the world.

“We’re engaging with a number of ERP providers in the Caribbean and Saudi where our businesses are 100% cloud,” said Mark. “We are using these offices as the test bed for the full zero-infrastructure model because they currently don’t use servers… From a business perspective, it’s a win, win; it gives us the opportunity to test the strategy and develop credibility for the idea, without making a huge technology investment.”

3. Adopt a “pick and mix” approach to IT tools

Mark says IT managers need to realize that in today’s consumer-driven technology market, “one size fits” no longer works. That’s why RLP relied on vendor relationships to give their staff access to the tools to that were most appropriate for doing their job and serving their clients.

“The beauty of subscription-based services is they also provide a known cost,” said Mark. “So we have certainty on budget, month by month. As we move towards a 100% virtual environment, we’ll be able to check costs per employee and make decisions—based on usage data—about where efficiencies can be made.”

4. Get buy-in from the board

One of the main reasons Mark believes RLB has been able to successfully implement the zero-infrastructure model is that his company has an open-minded senior management team. Leasing all their kit on a three-year cycle means they have up-to-date hardware, so their software needs to be just as sophisticated.

“Technology is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t mean anything if the board don’t buy in,” said Mark. “Luckily, our board have an appetite to deliver value to both the business and the client.”

5. Involve your CFO from the outset

“IT is not a technological challenge. It’s a business proposition when done right.”—Mark Evans

Mark says it’s important to make IT a business decision. Though it’s easy to be wowed by technology, this obsession doesn’t transfer well outside of IT and into the wider business.

That’s why he advises getting the CFO or budget holder involved right from the beginning of the project. “In our case, I shared two emails with our CFO,” said Mark. “The new invoice for the cloud model, and an old invoice from the on-premise model.” After demonstrating the cost savings, the CFO was on-board and the implementation was much smoother.

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