Business transformation is crucial to survival in modern industry as new technologies revolutionise the way we operate. Lee James, CTO EMEA at Rackspace, discusses how the company is helping its customers accelerate their value to the cloud and ensure they have the right support in place for their transformation journey – critical to cloud success.
What has been key to Rackspace’s success?
Primarily, the key is our culture. We have identified that any efforts to build a culture of trust between business and customer will be meaningless if the same principles of trust and transparency are not reflected within the businesses’ own ethos and working culture. By creating a customer-centric in-house culture, we can offer a fanatical experience to our customers across the business, no matter what the touchpoint or service. An example of this is one of our customer services team members was helping a customer and when in conversation, they heard that the customer was going to be in the office for a while and would miss dinner at home. The Racker bought the customer a pizza and had it delivered to their desk. This is just one example of how we thrive to provide not just fanatical support, but a wholly fanatical experience for our customers.
The second factor is our evolution. We have gone from a competitor to a trusted partner of the global public cloud players, like GCP, AWS and Azure. Unlike most service providers – and certainly the big cloud players – we take a wholly unbiased approach to cloud migration, so our customers know that we are advising them to take the cloud platform that will achieve the best outcome for each project.
The company recently underwent a strategy and brand shift towards becoming a technology services company. How does this new strategy reflect changing customer demands?
Our recent rebrand has really been a shift to thematically underpin what we’ve known for a long-time. It is the secret of our success: we put the customer first. We wanted to bring to the fore our philosophy that places both customers and trust at the core of our business. We want our customers to understand and celebrate that no matter who they engage with at Rackspace – whether that’s a technical specialist, customer service agent or the billing team – they will have a fanatical experience centred around enabling their success.
It also reflects the massively diversified services that our customers are now demanding from us as they look for guidance in areas that Rackspace isn’t historically known for, such as our Rackspace Application Services (RAS) that have been built out through the two recent acquisitions of Relation Edge and TriCore.
Ultimately, IT environments are getting harder and there is no way for CIOs and IT Directors to be experts in every new enterprise technology and understand how it can be best applied to their business. Our customers continually look to us – and challenge us – to support them in closing the gap between the complex reality that is their IT environment today and what can be achieved tomorrow through new technologies and practices. Part of our rebrand is celebrating the ability of the Rackspace professional services team in supporting our customers throughout their Digital Transformation journey, whether that’s cloud migration, introducing DevOps practices or application management.
However, it’s not all change. As part of the rebrand, we have retained and refocused on what we know is most important for our customers – accelerating the value of the cloud. Cloud migration remains a ‘critical’ or ‘high priority’ business initiative for most business leaders, but the challenges of predicting costs, execution complexity and delivering on the vision remains a challenge. Where our strategy hasn’t shifted with the rebrand is our dedication to ensuring that we support our customers throughout their cloud journey and help them continually optimise their estates to ensure that they continue to drive value.
What are the biggest challenges and opportunities your customers are currently facing?
Rackspace works with businesses across their entire Digital Transformation process – of which the goals and outcomes can differ significantly between industries – so it’s hard to point to a few key challenges or opportunities that our customers are facing.
However, to draw on a couple of examples, we have some customers whose business is doing so phenomenally well that they need support in ensuring their IT infrastructure is able to support it. For example, Boozt is one of the fastest growing online fashion and beauty companies, which found the demands on its systems were increasing in line with its popularity – particularly around peak periods. To support the company’s small team in managing the growth in and influxes in traffic, we worked with Boozt to migrate to Google Cloud Platform. This helped it manage a 40% hike in customer visits over this particular period – equating to around 50,000 new customers – without a minute of downtime or any performance issues.
Whereas for Trading Point, a large and well-established international investment online brokerage firm, the internal IT team needed to focus on driving value back to the business’ core competencies, so the company started looking for a strategic partner to take on the management of hardware infrastructure and support the firm in the maintenance of its systems. High reliability and low latency are key to ensuring that Trading Point is able to continuously deliver its superior service to its customers. So, for Rackspace, the challenge lay in ensuring that the IT infrastructure was scalable, optimised and secure.
Rackspace recently announced a significant expansion of its operations in Europe. How do these European markets differ and why did Rackspace choose to expand in these areas?
Last year, we announced that Rackspace would be embarking on its most ambitious EMEA expansion plan to date, investing heavily in growing its footprint in Germany and Northern Europe – something that I am personally very excited about.
One reason for this expansion is that we’ve seen massive demand from German companies for local expertise, as well as having the breadth, depth and scale to support them at every stage in their cloud journey. Traditionally in Germany, many firms have been slower to start out on their cloud journey and with their high focus on data security and privacy, having that local support and expertise has been an important factor to reassure them that they’ll still be able to provide the same level of service and data protection to their customers.
In the Netherlands, however, the market is a little more mature, with many companies having already embarked on their cloud journey. With our customers in this area, we saw heightened demand to support them as they take their next steps on their cloud adoption journey and in helping them understand how they can use it to improve sales and drive greater revenue.
What trends are impacting CIOs the most and how is Rackspace supporting customers?
One of the biggest challenges CIOs face is ensuring they’re able to deliver value from their cloud and Digital Transformation projects at cost. A recent global survey of business and IT leaders found that several years into their migration, 40% of businesses said their cloud migration costs were still higher than expected.
Ensuring that our customers are able to use their budget to best accelerate the value of the cloud in their organisation is key. One way we’re assisting them with this is through the launch of our new subscription cloud model, Service Blocks. This works similarly to bolt-on data plans, where you can increase your service based on your immediate needs. For your mobile this might be more data to entertain your kids on a long car journey, in the cloud this could be providing additional expertise to support you in a specific project – whether that’s a ‘Cost Governance as a Service’ or ‘Solution Architect as-a-Service’ to build complex cloud architectures.
Lowering the barrier to consume these new services will enable our customers to accelerate their value to the cloud and ensure that they have the right support when embarking on more complex tasks. Six week waits for statements of work are now dead. We know our customers crave flexibility, the ability to scale up and down and customisable offerings – whether that’s in their operations, resource requirements or service engagements – and that its ultimately critical for their success in the cloud.