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Andy Wilton, Claranet

andy wilton.jpg

Personal Factfile: Andy Wilton 

Name of current organisation: Claranet Group

Job Title: CIO In post since: Oct 2013

Reports to: CEO (Charles Nasser) 

Office location: Holborn, London 

Twitter: @claranet

Company Factfile

Founded in 1996, Claranet is one of Europe's leading managed services provider. They offer businesses hosting, networks and communications services. They have over 4,500 customers and an outstanding record for delivering high quality solutions, across a wide range of industries. With over 800 employees, they are based in 16 offices across Europe.

What does your current role involve?
1. Product and service innovation (internally and externally)
2. Business Systems strategy and implementation across the group
3. Keeping the lights on (Group infrastructure, network etc.)

What was the first Technology job you had?
I worked on computer-aided design at GEC Telecommunications back in 1981. We thought simulation and layout of 2,000 gate ASICs was leading edge, and I guess at the time it was. I had a shiny new VAX 11-780 to play with and it was a revelation compared with the mainframe.

Why did you first get into Technology?
From about age 12 or 13 I used to make electronic gadgets for music, lighting etc. I studied physics as an undergraduate so I could have carried on with physics or electronics but I had access to so much IT kit (from mainframes to microprocessors) that the lure of IT was irresistible.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?
For me it was the step from the comfortable world of academia into the crazy growth of the dot-com boom in the mid 90's. I worked at 3Com which was a great place to be. Essentially the only criterion for investment was time to market so we could do, and did, great things. With my colleagues I built some leading edge infrastructure that scaled up and (sadly) down

Who has been the most influential Technology person in your career to date?
I was very much influenced by the work of Niklaus Wirth. I started programming in languages such as Algol 60, Fortran and PL/1 as well as various assembly languages. When I learned languages such as Pascal and read classic books such as "Algorithms + Data Structures = Programs" I realised code could be elegant as well as functional.

What is your strategy for the business over the next year? 
Organic and acquisitive growth. At Claranet we have tremendous technical heritage and we are making careful acquisitions. For us, synergy is not so much about minor cost reductions (i.e. 2 plus 2 for the price of 3); it is more about 2 plus 2 equals 5 when 2 businesses combine to create new capabilities not just more of the same.

Thoughts Download

Have you/would you consider starting your own Technology company?
I have considered it but never made the move. Partly because I have not had a good enough idea and partly because I am not enough of a risk taker.

What established technology company do you most admire, and why?
I am a big fan of Amazon. As a consumer I find the service to be excellent. From a business perspective it is naïve to think of it just as a books and music business. The AWS business line could turn out to be the most important part of Amazon and for the IT industry it is a game changer.

Which tech Start-up Company excites you most at present?
I don't want to name names in our industry as they might be acquisition targets. In the overall technology space I am excited by 3D-printing. We could literally be printing new body parts within a few years.

What do you see being the biggest technology area of growth - in the next year? 
I read lots of futurist reports. Ultimately I see people's lives being affected more by non-IT things such as by 3D printing, driverless cars. Within the IT industry I think we fail to grasp the implications or continued exponential (Moore's Law) growth. Big data won't just be for the large corporates; we might all need our own analytics to find stuff. We are all creating more and more data. I have more storage on my home computer than we used in the late nineties at 3Com with 500 engineers.

Where do you put the UK in terms of Technology Innovation compared to other countries?
This goes back to my answer above. I think both the entrepreneurs and the financial backers are too risk averse. We punch well above our weight in terms of education and skills but we don't seem to produce the next Google, Amazon, Tesla etc. Perhaps some of the US & China funders with deep pockets should look at funding the UK ideas.

What's the best app you have ever downloaded?
I am very selective, particularly on my phone - an app has to really earn its keep for me to bother using it. What really matters to me is an application's ability to not just deliver content but to make it relevant and useful - so that means travel information such as the train company app. The 30 seconds advantage of knowing which platform to go to means I get a seat instead of standing for an hour.

What is on your iPod/MP3 right now?
I don't have an iPod; I have a 64 GB USB stick plugged into my car which holds my entire music collection. I am listening vary carefully to piano solo work by Ludovico Einaudi, which I am trying to learn to play. It is at an accessible level for a very modest player such as me!

What do you do in your spare time?
Apart from my bad piano playing (digital piano of course), I am a fair-weather amateur astronomer. I have a decent computerised telescope and I would expect to do a lot more astronomy if I didn't have to get up so early.

Interviewed by Dan Shannon, Senior Consultant, Harvey Nash Plc