CIO Interview: Colin Windsor, Truphone

Colin Windsor, CIO at mobile operator Truphone, is a techie whose career has included companies offering disruptive technologies

Colin Windsor, CIO at mobile operator Truphone, is a techie who has spent his career with companies offering disruptive technologies.

He worked at Philips Research Labs in the early days of CDs and later became CIO of BT Openreach when it was founded in 2008. Both these companies caused major changes for the industries in which they operated.

The arrival of the CD disrupted the music industry, and Openreach gave BT’s rivals access to its local network.

And it was for similar reasons that he moved to Truphone three years ago. The company provides a different model in the mobile communications space. It offers users a single SIM that gives them the same voice and data service, carrying the same local charge, in 66 countries. 

In these countries, the device connects to the network locally through a network infrastructure that is designed to be global, rather than having separate networks in different countries.

“What attracted me is, like Openreach rewrote how people deliver fixed network services, Truphone is changing how you create a mobile phone company,” says Windsor. “It is disrupting the mobile industry.”

Windsor, who was previously a partner in PwC’s technology practice, has the dual role of CIO and COO at Truphone, which means he looks after all the building and running of systems, as well as the infrastructure and processing people. The company, which operates in 11 countries, has about 300 in-house IT staff out of a total workforce of 900.

IT staff are focused on the things that are unique to Truphone, while Windsor uses external suppliers for anything non-core.

This is one of the strategies he lives by and it has seen the company move applications to the cloud. “We will focus on what is unique to us and everything that is not will be bought in or contracted out,” he says. “If we can buy a SaaS service, we will.” 

The company is a user of and uses SaaS for functions such as HR and payments.

Windsor is also a proponent of a global IT service, with all operations throughout the world using identical IT. Many global businesses try to move to standardised IT across regions via global service delivery outsourcing contracts, but Truphone began that way.

“We will not allow a Truphone operation in a country to have different systems from the rest of the world,” says Windsor.

The nature of the company’s business – offering customers the same mobile experience regardless of where they are – means that a consistent global service is in its DNA, he says. “We were born to be global, which makes us a bit different,” says Windsor. 

All the company's operations across the globe work through one central operation. It has contact centres in London, Hong Kong and Manila, and datacentres in New York, Los Angeles, London, Amsterdam, Hong Kong and Sydney.

We were born to be global, which makes us a bit different

Colin Windsor, CIO, Truphone

Another IT trend that seems a perfect fit with Truphone, with its mobile working enabling network, is bring your own device (BYOD). Windsor says the company allows this with certain caveats. “Staff can bring their own device,” he says. “We have preferred devices. In mobile we are open, because of the business we are in, but with laptops they need to be secure.”

Windsor says he is involved in “a vast array” of IT projects, but has also played a core role in implementing  the company's global network refresh. The network is key to Truphone’s business proposition because it is this that enables customers to access high-quality data and voice services at local prices. 

“In the last two and a half years, we have rebuild the network to be more robust and reduce latency,” he says. “It is a bit different because the network is distributed across the world.” 

Truphone's network uses switching technology from Nokia in each datacentre to enable traffic to be processed locally to where the user is.

To meet business demands, the company is constantly adding capabilities to its infrastructure, says Windsor. For example, it has recently been working on the “system stack” that supports the network, including enabling it to deal in different currencies and languages.

The complexities of running a global business that offers IT services to customers worldwide with an evolving systems estate mean that IT architecture is a key focus, says Windsor.

“I have a massive belief in architecture,” he says. “When you build something big and complex, keeping control of the architecture and ensuring it is adhered to is a core competency.

“Architecture is something you should never outsource and we have a very strong architecture team in-house.”

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