Thinking outside the box: in the boardroom with Outsourcery CEO Piers Linney

Having shed its former life as a mobile voice and data provider, Outsourcery put all bets on reestablishing itself as a Cloud Service Provider back in 2011. Since then its revenue has been climbing in fits and starts as its reputation as ‘The Cloud Experts’ gathers pace, but it hasn’t forgotten its origins in Unified Communication.

How did you manage the leap from your original business strategy as an enterprise communications vendor to becoming a Cloud Service Provider?

My business partner Simon Newston and I started out by buying up and consolidating the B2B mobile market, then we decided the future lies in replications on devices, so we acquired a couple of small hosting companies and a consultancy company.

But we realised that a lot of existing players think that if you have a traditional business based on selling kit, infrastructure, and software and support contracts, it’s very difficult to transition that kind of business, along with all its people, process, systems, culture and infrastructure, to the cloud. So we basically decided to start from scratch building Outsourcery, as a fully accredited cloud provider.

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It was a risk, but we expensively funded it ourselves and built it to be enterprise grade and credible, so we can provide a service for even the biggest, most security-conscious companies. But all this accreditation comes with a huge cost base.

So far we’ve been building the business, the next step is to bring in the revenue. The way we’ve done things is very difficult – if you started tomorrow building Outsourcery, you’d be where we were two years ago.

How have you tied your expertise in Unified Communications with your cloud business?

We’re still an OFCOM regulated telco in our own right. We provide cloud solutions, apps and infrastructure, but we cover both telecommunications and IT. We recently won the tender to provide the back end to all of Vodafone’s Microsoft communications.

We have a lot of partners, and our offering is across the board, from infrastructure as a service, but what we’re famous for is Skype for Business. A lot of our communication and collaboration solutions are natively voice-enabled.

We see an enormous opportunity in that- things like Skype for Business and Microsoft Link are going to be a major competitive threat to a lot of traditional telephony providers.

We’re the only UK company that has cloud-based Skype for Business government accreditation. It’s more than that though- we have call recording, contact centres, different SLAs, different support.

You’ll never get this stuff from public cloud. If you’re a small company, public cloud is cheap, standardised, and does what it says on the tin. But for a larger company that needs more systems integration, we have more integration points, so we add more value.

The big issue about converged cloud infrastructure is when you want to make phone calls you have to integrate directly with local telecoms partners in terms of accessing the network and also regulation.

That’s where it gets complex, so we need to roll out telecoms infrastructure globally. On the one hand it’s complicated- on the other it’s a massive competitive advantage to be able to do it.

What do you think makes the converged cloud model a winning formula for Outsourcery?

The whole world will move to a cloud deployment option- it’s about economies of scale, cost savings through the subscription models. As you move to the cloud there are various options you can employ Microsoft call it Cloud OS, and we’re very much aligned with Microsoft.

There are solutions, hardware, software and support contracts that are designed and deployed for individual organisations, but as you move forward in time, that model will no longer be sustainable for lots of different reasons.

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In the cloud there are broadly two options: very large public cloud and offerings like Microsoft 365 and Azure, but they tend to be standardised vanilla offerings. Also they can be hosted in the US, so they have data sovereignty issues. They’re typically accessed over the open internet too. We sit in the middle- we do sell Office 365, and can integrate with the Azure stack.

But what we specialise in is providing cloud solutions for companies that may require standardised public solutions but integrated into solutions we provide, so we can add a lot more value.

If you buy a public cloud service from one of the big providers it’s inherently just their technology, but we can add much more, and integrate other technology to provide robust and richer solutions.

In February you won your first public sector contract, for the Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. What do you think is the state of play for the public sector in meeting their cloud procurement targets?

So we have two platforms- one is the O-Cloud, which is government officially accredited.

Most of our business today lives in that platform, but last year we collaborated with Microsoft and Dell to deploy another cloud platform- a highly secure, officially pan-government accredited public services network. It sits on a PSN, so it’s designed to provide cloud services purely to central government.

They have a cloud-first policy with a target of 50% SME uptake, so we spent millions building a platform to offer very robust cloud services for government, all on UK soil, because there is what the government, particularly central government, needs for regulatory reasons.

I’m advising on the SME panel for the cabinet office about procuring small and medium enterprises. In terms of policy, it’s all there and it’s in our favour. The challenge in government is the procurement process, so making sure people look at SMEs and understand the investment requirement, without going through the standardised tender box-ticking process which tends to favour larger providers.

So we need to the get procurement process itself up to speed with policy, because policy reflects what makes business sense. Cloud will save the government a huge amount of money and segregate these very large contracts, some of which have been tied up for decades.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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