Getting to know: Rob Holmes
Chief Technology Officer and vCIO at Origin
Rob Holmes leads our consulting team at Origin Group. Originally from the UK, he's twenty years into an ICT career that's spanned two continents and some of the world's biggest infrastructure projects. Many of our clients partner with Rob as their 'virtual CIO' or vCIO. Wondering exactly what that entails? We asked him a few questions to get the inside scoop.
Hi Rob, tell us what you enjoy most about partnering with Origin’s clients as their vCIO.
I've run some pretty big teams in the past, for some of the largest IT projects in the world. While I enjoyed the challenge, I often ended up feeling pretty detached from the bigger 'why' question. The thing I love about working with Origin clients is that I get to understand their businesses intimately. I work with some pretty clever business execs who ask the hard questions as to why they should do something, and what's in it for them? I really enjoy having those tough, robust conversations. What’s even more rewarding is when the conversation ends with the client saying 'I trust you - go make this happen'.
What kind of work do you do for your clients?
All sorts. Anything from budgeting, board reporting and governance, through to business technology strategy, organisational structure or architecture design. We do whatever our clients need to help them achieve their goals faster and smarter, or to allow them to get on with the work that best suits their skill set or inclination.
Most of our clients are really looking to transform their business and believe technology is a tool to help them get there, not the other way around. We’ve done many pieces of work where legacy thinking, systems and processes have really stopped progress. We’re often approached to change that and not only help with the technology transformation, but also lead the cultural side as well. Whether I'm providing strategic guidance, or leading entire large-scale projects, the aim is to support the CIO and their team to achieve their goals for the business.
So what does the partnership look like, in practical terms?
It depends on what needs to be achieved. Sometimes if it's a business transformation piece of work it can be full time for months. On the other hand, some customers just need a few days a month on an ongoing basis.
There are clear lines of accountability and cadence built into engagements. This can be anything from a quarterly deliverables plan that's agreed upfront, to a yearly program plan, to bespoke deliverables.
Why would a business who already has an in-house CIO or CTO use a vCIO?
We work with mid-sized businesses through to large enterprises, so the majority already have an in-house CIO, and sometimes quite a well-resourced IT team. They use our vCIO service to get a broader outside perspective on challenges and opportunities. Working with many clients across multiple market verticals means it's very likely we've seen your particular challenge before, and we can bring some new ideas for how to tackle it.
Sometimes I'm there to fill gaps in capability or resourcing. For example, a CIO might want to focus on their digital transformation strategy, but they need someone to drive the technology strategy and execution to underpin that. It's very hard to do both of those things well concurrently, inhouse. I also act as a bit of a sounding board. There aren't many people at the CIO level in New Zealand, so it can be quite isolating. Our clients really enjoy being able to talk through solutions to complex issues with a peer. And from my perspective, understanding someone’s else ‘world view’ and being able to add value to their business is extremely rewarding.