Paul Burns, Chief Technology Officer
Career so far...
It all started back in the early 80s with my Dad bringing home an RM 380Z computer, which was apparently portable, and me sitting in front of a 10” green screen for hours learning programming (as it was known back then). I followed on from this programming with my first home computer, the famous ZX81.
From this point a career in technology, which was now a major emerging sector, seemed obvious and having studied in the North East graduating and in 1993, I started my first job with an accountancy software provider. In the early days I worked as a COBOL developer, but loved nothing more than tinkering with the hardware and OS technology in the days of Unix and Multiplexors. But most importantly, I loved being out of the office working with customers in the wide ranging industries we supported. I continued programming and added Foxpro skills but also started deploying the software on Novel Netware 3 platforms.
I moved organisations in 1998 to take up a more focused role looking after a newly formed Network Installation team working in the SMB sector and helping to drive a very successful IT company. I was made Technical Director and held this post when we were acquired by TSG in 2003.
Having been with TSG since the start, I have held a variety of management roles, from running the support and service delivery, leading technical sales and now holding the post of CTO. I work mainly with the sales and service teams at TSG, our key suppliers and of course most importantly our customers. I hold a post on the Sophos Security Council and the Microsoft Global Partner Advisory Council. This gives great insight into supplier product roadmaps and also gives us the ability to influence decisions that ultimately bring benefit our clients.
What would you recommend as the most fundamental part of technology in a business?
For me the answer is simple, whilst the architecture is important the key has always been applications. Without business enabling highly efficient, integrated applications businesses will never gain the competitive advantage that today’s technology can offer.
If you could be anyone else for a week, who would you be and why?
A tricky one to answer, but I would have to say that my second passion of cars would lead me to steer towards a formulae one driver like Lewis Hamilton. Getting into the driving seat of some of the most powerful cars would be great and the after parties would be an added bonus!
What will next year’s most overhyped industry buzzword be?
A great question but as we in the IT industry like to constantly create new ones every five minutes there will be a lot of choice. I am going to go with one I heard this week which I really liked: 'Ghostware'. This describes malware like keyloggers that hide themselves & collect data. The difference is once they have captured the data they remove themselves leaving no trace and you with no idea your data has been compromised. A ghost in the machine!
Has 2016 been a good, bad or ugly year? (slightly more than one-word answer please!)
There has been a lot of change during 2016, the adoption of cloud services and in particular the more complex workloads like hosted telecoms have increased substantially. This is due to a number of factors like improved pricing on fixed line communication links through to more of an acceptance of the reliability and security of the hosting vendors. The balance to this has been the large scale data breaches we saw last year and continue to see in 2017.
What would you have as your last meal?
This is an easy one. I will start with fresh barbequed king prawns, for main course it has to be my favorite curry dish, the very hot south Indian dish Jaahl Jul Murgh from our local Indian and finally sticky toffee pudding for dessert. May need a long lie down afterwards!
What keeps you awake at night?
The injustice, lack of tolerance and prejudice that we see in the world today. That and my 3-year-old daughter!
What piece of technology could you not be without?
Lots of choice here and as a techie I think I own most of them, but it will have to be my Surface Pro 4, which I am using currently to write this whilst on a flight to a partner conference. It’s one of the most flexible personal and business devices I have ever owned.
Have any of your predictions come true this year?
As predicted we saw a real growth trend in Ransomware and spearfishing attacks in 2016. We have some great tools to prevent these types of attack, yet many businesses are reluctant to adopt unless they have suffered an attack or loss. Many still believe that traditional anti-Virus or anti-malware systems will prevent Ransomware and Spearfishing attacks, but this is not correct. In fact it is very similar to what we have seen for years in the disaster recovery and business continuity space. Budget is often made available post-incident, but not prior and the true cost of this approach is not evaluated.
What do you see as the channel’s biggest challenge in 2017/18?
Enabling clients for GDPR in May 2018. A single client may have requirements to review and adopt several technology solutions to support their road to compliance on GDPR, yet many are still not ready to move forward on implementing these changes and planning their roadmap. As we get closer to the May 2018 date the tech industry will struggle to provide high quality resource to support the demand being generated.