CTO Sessions: Toby Alcock, Logicalis

What type of CTO are you? “I'm a CTO who doesn't like jumping straight into technology which surprises people.”

Headshot of Toby Alcock, CTO at Logicalis
Logicalis

Name: Toby Alcock

Company: Logicalis

Job title: Chief Technology Officer

Date started current role: May 2021

Location: Winchester, England

Toby Alcock is the Chief Technology Officer for Logicalis Global and is responsible for developing innovative solutions that help customers to optimise operations, empower employees, connect with customers and unlock potential through digital transformation. Passionate about understanding customer problems, he helps to determine how technology can build a solid foundation for a business’s digital transformation. He believes that increasing the profitability and productivity of a business is only possible when you understand the problems of your customer’s end users and the stakeholders that they serve.

What was your first job? My first job was a vineyard worker, planting grapevines in the Adelaide Hills in Australia. It was a holiday job when I was at university. Post university, I was an IT engineer doing Windows NT 4 rollouts for a company called Commtec which later become Dimension Data.

Did you always want to work in IT? Initially I wanted to be a pilot, like Maverick from Top Gun. I got through to the final medical exam in the Royal Australian Airforce but failed on the hearing test due to having a cold. The Air Force had a policy that you couldn’t reapply within 12 months, so I moved on to computer systems engineering instead. I always liked computers, but I didn’t see it as a career path at the time, I guess I was wrong!

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? Due to my keen interest in technology and computers, I studied Computer Systems Engineering and then Computer Science and Software Engineering. In addition to this, as I progressed through my career, being a Microsoft-focussed partner completed many Microsoft certifications along with the usual IT related certifications such as PRINCE2 and ITIL etc. I’m now working closely with Cisco, so I'll be immersing myself in that world too!

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. There were no major detours but a few twists and turns on the road. Once I left university I started my own company, CNI, which focused on delivering business value through technology. I ran CNI for nearly 20 years until it was acquired by Logicalis in 2019.  This led to me joining Logicalis Australia as CTO to set up their public cloud practise. We realised that the cloud portfolio had global potential so in 2021, I moved to Logicalis Group and recently located to the UK head office as part of my role. So I guess from Australia that's a pretty big detour!

What type of CTO are you? I'm a CTO who doesn't like jumping straight into technology which surprises people. I'm more focussed on understanding a customer challenge, then aligning technology to deliver a business outcome, and how we connect our people with delivering on customer vision.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? IoT, 5G and AI are exciting to me because they bring visibility to what's going on in a business beyond the carpeted areas – and this insight can help a business be more efficient and profitable. We saw Cloud go from emerging technology to the heart of many businesses due to increased digitalisation. But I think there is still a lot of untapped potential, cloud has the ability to solve almost any problem for a business. We can now look at every problem with a magnifying glass and find the appropriate technology solution, from health to retail, to government.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? NFTs and the metaverse in general, both have a disproportionate amount of investment vs the potential to help people in real life. But most early-stage technologies had this same cynicism, so anything is possible.

What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of? Setting up a network of technology experts around the globe has been very powerful for our organisation. We call it the Solutions Technology Advisory Council (STAC), and we get input from the brightest technology minds around the world as we develop innovative solutions while iterating on existing solutions.

I'm proud to be part of this cohort and being able to connect with intelligent people, while elevating their ideas to the global stage.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? Digital transformation is such an overused phrase, but I am helping our organisation become digital-first and generate new revenue streams from digital technologies, so that’s how I define digital transformation. We’re focussed on solving customer outcomes with automation, and this takes significant investment so we've set up a global team to do this at scale so all our regions can benefit, which in itself is a large transformation effort.

What is the biggest issue that you’re helping customers with at the moment? There are a few big themes that customers are looking to us for support with:

  • How do we modernise the hybrid work experience?
  • How do we modernise our infrastructure and IT environment in the midst of skills gap and supply chain issues?
  • How do we secure our environment while still innovating and taking appropriate risks?
  • How do we create visibility around our carbon impact and ESG initiatives?

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? We talk in terms of business outcomes, and how we can deliver these effectively. This can be through optimising operations, empowering employees, connecting with their customers and unlocking the potential in their business.

The how behind that is through technologies, like cloud, security, digital workplace and connectivity solutions. Technology is a business enabler that delivers value. In today's world where the possibilities are limitless, technology can support the outcomes, but it shouldn’t lead.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? Because everything we do is customer and outcomes driven, our technology is integrated with the services and expertise our customers want and need. The products are built around customer challenges and then the services are adjusted depending on the level of our support the customer requires.

What makes an effective tech strategy? Being customer obsessed is vital. The customers will be driving the changes in services based on the demand the market sees, so understanding them and their key challenges is crucial to a successful and effective technology strategy. As technology leaders, we need to ensure our customers get the maximum benefits from our solutions, and that we help achieve their business objectives.

Looking across the board, and at our customers’ tech strategies, it is essential that every facet of the business is considered and can address the key concerns employees may have. This must include an element of security for the hybrid workforce, as well as how the business is planning on improving the sustainability of its IT infrastructure.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? I think the future of the CTO role is one that involves being a bigger part of the strategic leadership team within businesses. However, we need to acknowledge that one person can't possibly have all the answers, so the CTO should bring together ideas from customers, partners and technology experts within their business to stay informed on a wide spectrum of issues. CTOs should be the most aware of what a business’ key problems are, as we have the tech at our fingertips that can help solve it.

It will also be about leading the use of the business’ existing infrastructure efficiently whilst looking for the newest innovations to ensure the strengthening of the company’s position in the market, again leading the way in terms of strategic leadership.

What has been your greatest career achievement? As a business leader seeing my team grow and go on to new global opportunities. Unlocking the potential of people is something I'm very proud of and continue to invest in today.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? Apart from buying shares in Tesla, Apple, Microsoft when they were first founded, I'm happy with where I'm at and the journey I have taken. Any bumps in the road have brought learning opportunities along the way that have brought me to where I am today.

What are you reading now? I always have about 4 books on the go, but two that spring to mind currently are ‘Deep Listening’ by Oscar Trimboli, and ‘The Ducks in the Bathroom are Not Mine’ by David Thorne.

Most people don't know that I… got my first job in IT because I had a forklift licence.

In my spare time, I like to…watch motor racing or get out on a bike ride or a drive. I also love flying and need to get back into my flying lessons post-pandemic

Ask me to do anything but… sing karaoke or dance in front of people. Actually... being trapped in the maze shopping at IKEA is high on that list too, or any shopping in general.