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Q&A with Clive Bortz, Regional CIO, Arup Australasia & East Asia 2021

9 March, 2021

Clive Bortz, Regional CIO of Arup Australasia & East Asia, joins us again for our latest Q&A to provide an update on the Arup Australasia tech agenda and the impact of the global pandemic. Read his pre-pandemic interview here.

Clive is CIO of the ArupAustralasia & East Asia region and has been at Arup for more than 10 years. He is part of the digital technology leadership team & oversees digital strategy across the 28 Arup offices in the Asia Pacific region.

Here's the Q&A:

What was the response to the pandemic from a technology point of view?

Fortunately, a lot of things were already in progress. We had about a week or two to mobilize to work remotely in the Australasia region. We already had everyone on laptops. The majority of people were already working in an activity-based working environment, and it's a flexible working environment.

A lot of the work we had to do was around just scaling the links and scaling the gateways' capacity. The initiatives that kind of kicked off was the next acceleration of certain roll out. Teams for one, we accelerate the rollout because of the benefit of running a cloud service.

We were using Teams for collaboration, but we pushed our voice and other services from Skype for business to Teams in an accelerated way, that went really well. Then we put quite a lot of effort into training getting people up to speed with the features.

When you spoke to us last time, cloud was a key focus. What were the challenges in cloud adoption and how did the pandemic change that?

The main part was getting everyone used to moving to a new platform, with a traditional roll-out where you'd spend quite a lot of time on the front end, training and transitioning.

During the early time of Covid, there was quite a lot of new features being released regularly. So people wanted features and various features were being added at once, and that's the way the cloud works is that it's available, and then it's online. It was just a change in delivering technology projects from traditional long and detailed planning and changing this transition process.

Offices were returning at different times. From a technology perspective, it's almost easier when everyone's in one place. Everyone's working with a platform in one way. Then you're transitioning, and the demands are different everywhere.

I'd say technology has performed well, and everyone's adapted amazingly.

With the popularity of Teams and new communication tools increasing, what do you think about the role of email now?

The type of collaboration in Teams is less formal than in an email. You have to be in an established team, whether that's in your organizational across organizations, to collaborate. That will be federated in some way in order to talk with external IT. As far as initial emails before a team is established or into company, working, email is still the tool for that.

I've noticed fewer emails into teams and inside your own company, but if you're sending something externally and it's not someone in an established Team environment, then I think emails very much still in that space.

The nature of how it's designed is that, t's designed for that collaboration of people that are in a team that you're working with on a regular basis.

Whereas the nature of email is that it's separate, it's like an item that lets you talk to other islands?

Has email become more or less important?

Not necessarily change the importance. It's probably just divided up how correspondence comes in. If you want to keep it formal or if you want to attach something sending externally, you might use email. Even within the same collaboration platform, there's a protocol for how many times you'd go back and forth before you escalate to a phone; cool, how many times you would say that sort of informal communication before you drafted full email? I suppose I couldn't see Teams having the formality that you might put in an email. Teams is a different platform for a different use, so I don't think emails are going away yet.

I think they have different uses, and how they evolve will be interesting, but I think it will come down to how the different collaboration platforms can interact with each other.

What are the risks of today?

I certainly think of cybersecurity, and the risks of phishing and other types of cyber events are high. With a workforce that's spread, that's something you always need to be aware of.

More generally, what other technologies have become more important to you in the post-pandemic world?

Moving ahead with the WEVD, virtual desktops, which we did use at the start of the pandemic, providing extra compute for people working remotely.

Finally, what are your biggest challenges or things on your radar that will be coming up in the next year?

We're on the path to move more and more to the cloud, and that's progressing reasonably well.

I suppose another challenge at the next year is until we're into the to normal, and there's this constant situation where you're returning to offices, and then you could be in a quick look down. It's still a little bit up in the air when we will be back in a normal office environment and what that office environmental looks like.

Thanks Clive! You can find our other Q&As with Arup leadership here:


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