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View from the Channel – With Adrian Overall, CEO of CloudStratex

CloudStratex (CSX) is a fast growing,disruptive IT consultancy that helps enterprises leverage next generation services and the cloud to achieve operational efficiency, integration and resilience. Founded in the summer of 2019, the self-funded company has grown rapidly over the last three years, reaching a turnover of £6 million in its first year, £13 million in its second year and a projected > £18 million by the close of its third year. Unlike conventional IT consultancies, CSX doesn’t focus on selling IT support contracts, but instead teaches businesses ‘to fish’ so that they can accelerate towards self-sufficiency and free themselves from excessive consultancy or total dependency on third parties. It achieves this through a five stage incubation and knowledge transfer model that leverages best practice, IP, processes and accelerators to help clients achieve their desired business outcomes and self-sufficiency, after which CSX steps back and gives control to the client. Here, CSX CEO Adrian Overall gives his view from the channel. https://www.cloudstratex.com

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Technology Reseller (TR): How’s business? Better or worse than 12 months ago? And how confident are you about the future?

Adrian Overall (AO): It is fair to say that business is good for us right now, but that doesn’t mask the fact that every day in an environment like ours is a challenge. We are humbled by the fact that our clients see our value and reward us with greater opportunities to work with them, while maintaining a healthy paranoia about ever losing sight of our core values and behaviours.

Our future will be dictated by the continued pursuit of excellence in the work that we do and by striving to do the right thing for our clients on a daily basis. There are many reasons to be optimistic about our market and the fact that technology adoption is core to the future health of many of our clients. We can only influence the things we have direct control over and continue to pursue the type of business that differentiates us and challenges us in equal measure.

TR: In what areas are you experiencing strongest demand?

AO: Many of our clients are wrestling with cloud adoption and operationally integrating next gen technology. Much of the challenge centres around value realisation and the benefits that these technologies should be bringing to their organisations. In many instances we see clients struggle to maximise the value of their investments, before seeking to address the value delta by working with us to determine what ‘good’ looks like for them. Many are seeking operational efficiencies whilst also looking to drive far stronger operational resilience in their environments. Heightened risks and recent high profile examples – too many to mention – have woken everyone up to the fact that they have to invest and protect their digital assets.

It is no surprise that the topic of workforce productivity has taken centre stage after the last couple of years when we, as an industry, have supported the rapid adoption of remote working and all that that entails. Much of our focus has been on the changes required to working practices, service delivery and enablement. We have seen an acceleration in the need to provide common toolsets and secure environments that look and feel the same no matter where you are in the world because it is clear that productivity comes from consistency of experience.

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TR: What recent wins are you most proud of?

AO: I think it is important to put into perspective how hard it is for smaller businesses to be considered by large enterprise-class organisations as the answer to the challenges they face. Many of these corporations have Preferred Supplier Lists that are tightly controlled and typically contain the who’s who of large global SIs and vendors. However, we know that many of these large organisations sometimes find it hard to secure specific, niche skills that are genuinely differentiated in the market, and it is in this arena that we play our best hand. We can’t talk specifics, but we are particularly proud of recent wins in the Finance and Insurance sector, where we competed and won against organisations that dwarf us in scale and which you think would eat us for breakfast. Winning these clients is why we do it.

TR: Where is business proving most difficult?

AO: We all know that there is a war for talent out there and it is throttling our growth. We are doing our best to compete in a talent pool that seems to be shrinking as we struggle to create the type of industry that is attractive to next generation leaders and provides the sorts of career that people aspire to. We have built our Talent Academy for exactly this reason, and we think our approach of giving people accountability and responsibility early on creates the right dynamics for them to learn and grow compared to traditional grad models. We are privileged to be able to do this and I love it that we can set people on their own paths to success and learning.

TR: How have you changed/are you changing business operations to exploit new opportunities?

AO: We always seek to explore new opportunities but are acutely aware that you can’t keep chasing the ball. I have talked to many people over the years about the latest and greatest and bumped into them years afterwards and asked them how it went; most of the time it didn’t work out. My belief is that you need to be known for something and then iterate. I can’t see us jumping on too many of the tickets out there where we have no credibility; sooner or later it will catch up with you. The most important thing is to do things well in your space and to keep turning up for your people and your clients. I am a huge believer that persistence, consistency and resilience are what is required and that is how we try to run our business.

TR: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the industry today?

AO: Talent is on the tip of everyone’s tongue, but perhaps more than that our industry seems to have a stereotypical look and feel. Clearly, we have the dreams of Silicon Valley and what that represents, but we are also male dominated with a demographic that perhaps doesn’t lend itself to selling the diversity of roles and opportunities that genuinely exist in the IT industry. We have lost a little bit of the personality that made the industry exciting; some of the inspiring pioneers, the engineers and leaders, who were also the creatives, aren’t here any more and we seem to have a void that needs to be filled. I think the startup arena is immensely exciting but it needs help, certainly in the UK where we have taken our eye off the ball in terms of education and addressing the multitude of needs a successful individual has. We need to reclaim some of that space and get to the grass roots and start to tell our story.

TR: Are customers become more demanding, and if so, in what ways?

AO: Customers should be, and in my experience always are, demanding. It is all about value and many of our strongest advocates drive us very hard and engage with us very meaningfully. It is inspiring to know that you are working for one of the largest financial institutions on the planet and they are relying on you. You want to be tested, you want to be challenged and you want to go above and beyond. You have to feel like that in order to survive and if we don’t feel that we deserve not to be there.

TR: If you could change one aspect of your job, what would it be and why?

AO: Every day you look for chinks of light that demonstrate growth – growth in people, growth in our maturity, growth in our decision-making, growth in our numbers, growth in the way people operate. These are the things that you cling on to as a CEO and trust that what you see is the truth. We have to keep moving forward as a business, we have to keep failing every day and keep learning. We have to ensure that what we think is the state of play actually is the state of play.

It is important to accept where you are and what you need to do and for that reason I do challenge myself on whether I am feeling the right things, whether I can trust instinct? And by the way, instinct isn’t gut feel; it is honed by experiences from the past that you can correlate to the future.

I don’t think I want to change anything because my personal choice has been to make my job, in some part, my life. That decision has had consequences but it has also stood me in good stead. It isn’t really a job after all; it’s a passion that I find hard to explain.

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TechnologyReseller: 2021