Aug. 2, 2021

Saving Lives Through Digital Transformation

Saving Lives Through Digital Transformation

Danny Attias, CIO for a blood cancer charity, shares his journey with leading digital transformation.

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This week, Ryan interviews Danny Attias, Chief Digital & Information Officer for Anthony Nolan, the UK's national stem cell register. They chat about C-suite technology titles, implementing DevOps, how IT infrastructure's changed over the past 5-10 years, moving past imposter syndrome, and more.


  • The role of the CIO vs CTO or CDO
  • Using DevOps and automated testing while developing a predictive search algorithm for matching blood cancer patients with 40+ million donors around the world (GitHub link for ATLAS)
  • Danny's team's journey to DevOps
  • Do product managers need technical backgrounds?
  • The evolution of virtualization, cloud, and subscriptions
  • Dealing withimposter syndrome while making decisions

Meet Our Guest
Danny Attias is the creator and host of brand-new podcast called‘Sondership’in which he interviews people who are having a positive impact on society and the environment.

Listed by CIO 100 as the most transformational and disruptive CIO in 2020, Danny is a Chief Digital & Information Officer having held roles in multiple industries including Anthony Nolan, the UK’s leading provider of stem cells for life saving transplants. Danny also holds digital advisory roles for several other organisations including Plan International and the World Marrow Donor Association. Danny was previously Global CIO for the Grass Roots Group, delivering employee, customer, and channel partner engagement solutions as well as international event management, he has also held roles in the John Lewis Partnership and Marks & Spencer.

Connect with Danny on LinkedIn.

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Ryan Purvis  0:00  
Hello, and welcome to the digital workspace works podcast. I'm Ryan Purvis, your host supported by producer Heather Bicknell. In this series, you'll hear stories and opinions from experts in the field story from the frontlines, the problems they face and how they solve them. The years they're focused on from technology, people and processes to the approaches they took, they will help you to get to grips with the digital workspace inner workings.

So, welcome to the digital workspace week's podcast, Eddie, and can you give us introduction please?

Danny Attias  0:35  
Thank you very much, Ryan, for having me on here. So I am Danny, I'm hesitating now. Because we just had a conversation about when I record the video with no one watching, and I take about 100 tapes, but forgot to do it live. It's totally fine. So I am the Chief Digital and Information Officer at danti. Nolan. We are the UK National stem cell register, we help save the lives of people with blood cancer by finding them a match. I've been out in Ireland for five years. And before that I worked for the grassroots group, which were part of WP and professional services. space. And before that was in retail with Marks and Spencer in the generous partnership, so predominately focused on infrastructure. So right up until grace, right up until anti Nolan. I was infrastructure manager, head of CIO, but infrastructure focused. Yeah, and, and I'm now in a role where I've got to kind of let that fun stuff go a little so I can concentrate on App Dev and digital and data and all those other exciting things.

Ryan Purvis  1:36  
Which is exactly what are the questions I wanted to ask you do you do you find that when you when you get the title CIO, it means eyes infrastructure. You know,

Danny Attias  1:46  
in my first gig was switched from head of infrastructure to CIO in name, just name, nothing else changed. And I was head of infrastructure. And there was another guy who ran all the app Dev, all the products, all of the data, and, and that was still regarded and recognized as a CIO. But that's, that's probably your first incarnation of CIO from IT director or infrastructure to know how much the mobile phones costing and you still get it today, I still have a finance director come up to me go. How much are we spending on phones and photocopiers? Really, are we having this conversation? If we're not already on their best possible deal, then I probably shouldn't be in this job. So yeah, I think historically, yeah. If you want to do a real quick whistlestop tour of CIO, CTO, CTO, in my book, cio is the kind of all encompassing risk person responsible for technology and digital and data in the works. And it can be used in different ways. But that in my book, that's why CIO is and that's the generic term in the absence of anything else. So CIO, CTO again, in my book is someone who knows technology, who knows technical architecture, someone who's going to lead. So if you were a technology, business, and Netflix, for example, you know, much of what they do is dependent on hard core tech, they probably want a CTO that is making sure that tech is absolutely sweet. And solid, never apply for a CTO role, if done properly, cuz I'm not technical architect, I've never coded well beyond six months of COBOL DB to on the mainframe, it almost doesn't count. And then CDO, I'm wary of CDO, I think if you have a CDO in and also have a CIO, then that mean, is our experience allowed on this podcast? I think that means the organization haven't gotten their shit together. Because it means that they're going, Oh, God, I've got an IT director, but he can't really help us move our business forward. So let me get some marketing guy in to help make the front end stuff look pretty. And it's broken, you know, definitely heavier cmo Chief Marketing Officer, but they've got to be hand in glove hand in hand with the CIO and working together as a team to create that digital outlook.

Ryan Purvis  4:18  
Yeah, it's funny you say that I was, as you say, Now secure where certain organizations that I've worked for wait exactly that that happened. And you could actually see the car crash happening?

Danny Attias  4:26  
Yeah, just it's not dealing with the problem. There's nothing I hate more than that. It's it's working around a problem rather than dealing with a problem and working around problem. And it doesn't matter whether it's your email system design, or it's your C suite design or whatever it might be. If you're working around the problem, it's going to come back and bite you. You know, we are baking enough technical debt into everything we do every single day consciously. That we don't need to add an add to future rows. It's hard enough to just keep up, let alone create more mountains that you have to climb later.

Ryan Purvis  5:02  
Well, that's exactly what you're coding a Kevin, or a huge gap. I remember sitting with the marketing guys under the CDO, and they were doing a whole bunch of stuff. And I said, Could you guys are taking this? Like, you're not even thinking about this from a security point of view or design point of view, you're just buying stuff with your credit card, and you're throwing it in? Yeah. And then you're gonna come to us in six months time and say, oh, nine is integrate with everything else.

Danny Attias  5:26  
And next Monday, there's this element of maturity as well. Yeah, this stuff is hard. And then by no means am I getting it, right. But you often think, can I get this thing? working? If I can get it working? I'm happy. But actually, okay, once you get to the point, you know, you can get this thing, whatever the thing is, again, email website, core product proposition for your external customers. Once you've got it working, then you really also have to be saying, Can I get it secure? Can I get it accessible? Can I get it supportable? Can I get it scalable? Is it going to be performing all of those things, all those non functional things that if you start with, if you start with an immature mindset, you don't know how to do this stuff. And you get bogged down in the layers and layers of of what I've just described, you're never going to get anything live. So it's a bit about prototypes, prototypes, the concepts just get a concept that works. But when you're starting to put public data, live public systems lives, you got to make sure you've got to meet these, these, these steps. My pet love at the moment is DevOps, only because I'm discovering property for the first time. And the idea that you can bake in automation, for a lot of that stuff is just a dream, it is just a dream. Knowing that you've you've got this seemingly invisible thing between creating code or creating solutions and going live. And by invisible, I mean, if you get it right, you wouldn't even know it was there just passes through the gate. But if you haven't, then it's gonna go right. Not only is it not ready to go, but specifically here is where it's failing, here's what needs to be done to get it live. And getting a smart DevOps operation is great, I do a lot of tech reading, but I do enjoy the state of DevOps annual report. And you read through that, and it shows you the correlation between high performance organizations and,

and high performance DevOps within those organizations. And as you know, when you read it, you think it's very technical, really, I think you're just trying to sell a technical architectural technical solution. But when you start doing it, and you see the impact it has on your not only your production, but also your culture within your organization, you get it give you a very quick example, we have just developed or redeveloped a predictive search algorithm for matching blood cancer patients or people in need of stem cell transplant with the 40 plus million donors around the world. And you're not, you're not saying, you know, find me a local restaurant that's open and available. We know at the table, you're saying find me someone with a DNA profile, by the way that DNA profile is raw data that came out of the lab anytime in the last 40 years on 100 different levels of maturity of technology. See, there are gaps all over this data and the predictive that is trying to fill those gaps. I've gone off track here, but let me pull it back. One of the things that was always a problem, we hadn't updated our algorithm for about 15 years. Because it was so hard, it would take a year or two years to go and validate a new algorithm. And we've written 1000s of tests scripts, and created all the test data and all the test scenarios. And in fact, we've written the test scripts in plain English, so the business can have a look at it and see plain English tests that are converted into code, but they're linked together. Which means we can validate everything in under an hour automated. So you can start making little tiny tweaks and keep that algorithm fresh as you discover new factors that impact the quality or the likelihood of a match or or an outcome, a positive outcome for stem cell transfer to DevOps in there has just been and that's automated testing. You appreciate that the That's an incredible example of how you can be stagnant with a solution for 15 years or now you can make updates every every week, every two weeks, every day every every day. You've got a choice, basically. And that's a game changer, right absolute game changer. In fact, it's so good. We're so proud of it. We've made the whole thing open source. We've made it available to every single stem cell registered in the world. It's available on GitHub. We hope people that University studying By informatics, we'll use it. And hopefully, it's not just the gift. Look at us, we're great. Here's the gift, it's actually we want you to use it, we want you to find ways to improve it so that we can more benefit from that. That's, that's something that we've been really focused on absolute priority over the last couple of years is to get that live. And that went live a few weeks ago, in terms of on GitHub. And it's going live in operation and web and API accessible by every single register in the world in the next few months.

Ryan Purvis  10:29  
She's and are you willing, oh, it was good. Let me just get the link for that. So we can share out the GitHub repository

Danny Attias  10:36  
called Atlas. By the way, I didn't mention the name. It's called Atlas, it's tentatively it's loosely based on the Anthony Nolan search algorithm, somewhere in there, you find those letters, but it's good enough. I'm not a big fan of naming products. I leave that to the team's laboratory Information Management System is called llamas, and our initial search algorithm called snover, I have no idea why it's called snover. But the team not not the tech team, the business team named it they love it, they've, they've taken it in like a stray pet and they care for it. And they clean up after it. And that, you know, that is that's a huge win knowing the business who are passionate, whereas before it would take six weeks to get people into a room to have a conversation and half of them wouldn't turn up. Now they're like, lining up at the door for the weekly demos. We were doing fortnightly Sprint's, but that was too slow, we now do weekly spreads because you know, imagine we weren't making changes every every six or 12 months now, two weeks is too long. So we have weekly and every single team across the organization is now working on weekly spreads just brilliant that the business are chomping at the bit they're seeing value every single week. It's that's the that's the kind of the single biggest win is that cultural change.

Ryan Purvis  11:51  
So we do still do do two weekly spreads sorry two week Sprint's but we release every Friday, every Friday. So there's been a sea change, but we still manage the workload, just, you know that what doesn't work through which is

Danny Attias  12:02  
great. And I think with DevOps, what we're doing now is just we're not having release windows anymore. We're just releasing when we get ready to release and we release behind feature flags. And then we coordinate specific features to go live whenever the business are ready for it to go live. But the release schedule is no longer rigid.

Ryan Purvis  12:19  
Yeah. Now that makes sense. Just Just going back to the to the DevOps culture, because I've always seen DevOps as the culture. And then things like ci CD, continuous in continuous integration, continuous deployment as the actual technical piece to it. How have you. How have you got the teams to buy into it?

Danny Attias  12:42  
The big tech teams? Yes. Yeah. It's been kind of a long journey. And I'll do the short version of this. But, you know, when we started, we had three devs. One was developing on VB six still. And one was developing in a slightly more modern version of dotnet. I, I'm not a developer, so I don't always know that the right terms. And then the final one had just taught himself how to code on Google. Yeah, we started off going, Okay, we are not going to be able to make your forgets the ICD. Yeah, we where do we even start here? And I remember seeing a product and I thought this looks like an Access database. What's going on is because there was no concept of even front end development at this point. It was just a screen, whatever screen we can put up. We actually put those three people on to apprenticeships, and just to give you context. So the tenure of the three people was eight years, 15 years and 30 years. Anthony Nolan. Yeah, right. So these are not kids have just come out you need a couple of years to come out of school. So we put them on apprenticeships, we worked with a partner, we defined a technical architecture. And it was just really slow. The idea of working in agile way, the idea of creating API's was just a really slow burn, you just can't come in and go right ci CD pipeline, Scrum sprints, etc. And that's why it's a five year journey. So now we have a load of people who have retrained as developers through the makers, Makers Academy. So they've gone in and retrained as developers of these people, and and the original people as well. are loving learning and growing and doing new things. By definition, yeah, these people generally have chosen to retrain as software developers having been other completely other careers, different different ages, different genders, different backgrounds. So you've now got an environment of people are going what's new, what's different? And then we've got to find the maturity. How, how do we know how to do this because these guys have learned on apprenticeship. These guys have literally just learned how to code. I don't know anything about software development. So we brought in a partner To help without development and kind of start pulling that together. And then about a year and a half ago, we brought in a head of DevOps, who's who's got the experience to kind of just to glue it together not to come in and tell everyone what to do. And we're maturing that. So literally even now we are, whilst I describe that testing, automated testing that we've done, which is amazing, though, that's the only real instance of full scale automated testing that we've done. So we're just kicking off with a partner, a couple of people to spend three months to really bolster our QA capability and start seeing that more mature Lee. And, and also, as part of that review, put in a proper c ICD pipeline. So it's just slow, it's piecemeal, no one has all the answers when they come in. And quite frankly, if you do have the answers, when you come in, you're not going to get the buy in, you're not going to get the culture change, you just got to put a load of people off and they're going to leave, which some people might say, Yeah, that's great. But what we do when we work with DNA, we work with laboratories and research and patients. We love people who know what we do really understand not how that but what we do and why we do it. And in fact, many of our recruits and I've got three starting this month from the business, so their laboratory technicians or their admin Ops, operations, admin staff. And they they go a long way, because they really understand that the fabric and the culture of the business. So yeah,

Ryan Purvis  16:34  
yeah, I mean, that that passion, almost, you get the skills to go with the passion, and they and they fly.

Danny Attias  16:40  
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And that's why we put out a call to look, we want Junior business analysts to join our team from the organization has a starting salary, B for 12 months, as it's fun to get the ball rolling, and we were overwhelmed with recruits. So we increase the number that we were going to take to join the team, like, we're not going to turn these people away, you know, these people have put their hand up and say, I want to progress my career, I want to personally develop, I want to learn, I want to join your team, I'm gonna say no to any of those people. And again, I say these people have had radically different backgrounds. You know, our, we have lots of success stories, but our biggest success story. When I, I've been on the register myself for about 20 years. And I've been called up twice as a potential match. But I've never been a full match. So I've never donated because I've not been, have not been viable. But the last time I was contacted, was about a year before I started working frontierland for you know, ever thought of them as a career destination. And the person who contacted me, the admin that contacted me, is now our Director of Product Development. Oh, wow. Yes. And she is amazing. And I'm not saying that because she's going to listen to this. But she is amazing. And she knows, she knows how the business runs better than anyone else in the business because she has worked in every actually done the work in every single team, you know, end to end donor management pipeline. She was there for the building of our CRM, and then she's grown and develop those skills, no tech background whatsoever, has only been in tech for maybe four years.

Ryan Purvis  18:28  
But I think we're having this debate the other day is a good it's a good for production to have a tech background or not. And often often is the concepts, not the actual estimates.

Danny Attias  18:38  
It's about the way your brains wired, you know, can you can you think logically Can you join the dots? That's the bit that if you can't do that, then No, it's not. But do you need to know how code actually hangs together? And do you need you know, you don't, I mean, I, I was a, I was a COBOL DBT developer for six months of my life. I was a business analyst for about six months, I was a systems analyst for about six months, you can see a trend here. I was okay. Okay, is probably generous, but it wasn't particularly brilliant. And I certainly didn't enjoy it. And those are the two most important things. Do you enjoy it? And are you any good at it? And if the answer to either of those is no then walk away. And then I stumbled into infrastructure project management, bear in mind project management, right. So I'm not building servers, I'm not writing automation scripts. And, and I love that. But more importantly, I found myself in a place where I was surrounded by people who really understood infrastructure, and another group of people who really understood the business and what they wanted to do. And then I was in this kind of lonely is not quite the right word, but I was in this solitary place in the middle, where I could see both and join them together. And I loved it, and I was good at it. And that's the important bit so So I have, I don't have a technical grounding. I didn't study computer science engineer, I did engineering University. So to your product manager, you've got to have the right bits to pull it together. But you don't need to know how the code is created.

Ryan Purvis  20:17  
The only thing though, that are kind of saying that is that the product manager needs to be a product owner to pay what you call, it, needs to have the bullshit factor, they need to be able to call bullshit on something. And that might come, they might come from experience of actually being a developer, or they might come from experience of doing this for long enough that you can smell when when someone's saying something. That's all right.

Danny Attias  20:37  
So give you a very, you know, loosely related example, my last last job, you know, took on this massive infrastructure role. And I felt really out my depth. And they were just in the process of putting a system together for a big product launch. And they'd bought two massive servers to be the database cluster, and like enterprise grade hardware, enterprise grade licensing, and I just looked at and going, why does it cost this much? Well, because ba ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, all these reasons. I'm like, okay, but this is four times the price of that. Are you really ever going to scale up your CPUs on the same box? Or are you going to buy more boxes? Are you going to ever x y Zed, and it was really interesting. So very quickly, without the technical understanding was very quickly able to call bullshit on that. And say, right from now on, we're gonna buy commodity servers, quite simple, you know, plow it with RAM and CPU, but it's fine lines. And when you need more, you put more and use VMware virtualization. It's just makes sense. It's just make sense. And over the period of the next five years, the whole industry then shipped not because of me, obviously, but I just saw the trend. The whole industry shifted to that. And people were just buying commodity pizza boxes, to put their servers in there. VMware was like, No, I need a physical server, because this is more important. And I could just see that. So I remember being I remember being at my first CIO conference ever. This is this is cool. You know, I feel like a bit of a fraud here. But let's, let's see.

Ryan Purvis  22:08  
So now what I want to unpack that feeling because I have the same feeling. But

Danny Attias  22:11  
yeah, yeah. And it was it was it was in the early days of virtualization, server virtualization. VMware, Hyper V, I don't think was even a glint in Steve bombers II or Bill Gates has it at the time. And we did a straw poll, right? How many people have already got their production estate on and I thought, I thought surely I've seen this technology. This is a no brainer. This is the future. This is easy. This is logical. Why would you want to do it the old fashioned way? And I thought, you know, 80 90% would be yes, we're there. And it was like 510 percent. And I'm like, Ah, right. Okay, so we're, we're actually at the beginning of the journey. I thought this is this is like, not cutting early. This is the cutting edge. I thought this is it. So that you, can you can you remember, that would have been? To 2009?

Ryan Purvis  23:05  
Okay. So interesting enough, we were doing virtualization in 2014, a project that we were a small company at the time, and little Marcia partner, and I had to build out. We were building a SharePoint solution that we actually won awards for this, where we deployed SharePoint 22 locations around the world, but you could search any SharePoint, which was Wow, actually, yeah.

Danny Attias  23:26  
Microsoft could No, I talked to Microsoft in 2010. About hold on what you got SharePoint in us and SharePoint in Europe, but they can't see you joking. Yeah, really. That's what the who designed this. It just seems so and don't get at that time. I was already using Google Apps and just sweet. Yeah, so I'm looking at G Suite. And but yeah, so we'll come back to that thing. I just got one more. One more thing. I hate Microsoft. I love them. It's true. But I was in a demo the other day. And and this guy was saying, Look, it's Microsoft Word, and you can collaborate in real time. Let's do a demo. Come on, guys. It's been 15 years. You've only just caught up. It's it was it was embarrassing, but it is amazing that finally they've got there and this stuff worked. Yeah. So let's unpack that, that sense of fraud. So yeah, I mean, I go to my first ever CIO event, really nice venue and I'm thinking surrounded by like proper CIOs, I'm just head of infrastructure. He's just got a new title because I save the company a million pounds. And, and then I start seeing people who can speak really, really clearly and be articulated, but then also seeing the people kind of have got a very old fashioned mindset, I suppose. Probably the best way of putting it kind of stuck in the past I've, I've got this far by doing it a certain way. So I'm going I just keep doing it that way. And I just thought you can do that better, you can do that better. And just remember over time, sitting or watching presentations, and sometimes I'd go, Wow, right. And those wild ones over 20 years stick with me, I can remember them. And I reckon I've still referenced those presentations on a regular basis. But others, I think we've done more than that. We can present better than that. And of course, I hadn't been on the stage at this point at all. And that was around the time, then I started getting on stage and talking about what we've done. But absolutely, whenever you take on this new challenge, you just think, is it good enough? Are we going fast enough? Do I know enough? Am I making the right decisions? And if not, what are the ramifications of making those decisions? And I think if you remind yourself that no one really knows the right answers, and it is through experimentation and learning. So you can kind of ground yourself a little bit more.

Ryan Purvis  25:51  
Yeah, yeah. No, it's interesting, because I mean, obviously, you'd have very similar sort of stories, I came from a technical background. So I was developing a couple years of architecture. But that getting to the middle between technical people and business people is always where I felt the most passion. Because you can hear what they say on one side, you translate it to the other side. And what and sort of the longer my career has gone on, the more I've focused on being in those sort of spots. And sometimes just being a CIO or CTO, whatever it is, is just being the translation layer. And, and being able to filter the right things through between the people. And I'm not saying don't tell the truth, necessarily. But some people don't need to know, all the reasons why we're doing something, they just need to know what they need to do when they need to do it,

Danny Attias  26:37  
articulating it in the right way, and the right thing, and but also, I look at trends. So you know, I grew up in infrastructure, and I was interviewing people in there, say, I want to do my CCNA. And I want to do and I sit with them and go, that's great. That's a very traditional path. But if you've got a Meraki network, you don't need to know anything about networking. So if you want to be a network engineer, you're going to need to work for AWS GCP or zil, because, or Rackspace, because people aren't gonna need networks anymore. They're cloud managed. And no, no, the purists are listen to this guy. What an absolute load. But you just say that and then people taking pride in building Windows Server x or exchange clusters. I'm going this stuff is not relevant. So I migrated a grassroots group to Google Apps, in probably around 2010. Globally, it was early. It was there was like none of the magic tools, migration tools. And some of our I just sat there with the CEO. Sorry, yeah, CEO and founder. And he, he just said, watch our email, keep failing. I said, because it's really old. And it's really tired. And you've got 25 different companies all on different exchange platforms. And it's really complicated to merge. So we said, okay, well, what can I do about it? I said, Well, you can put in a consolidated exchange environment. I don't know how you do that. But I do know, it will cost you a lot of money. Or you could just move your all of your email to the cloud. And at the time, Gmail was the only option. I mean, office 365 was just birthing, but or, basically office 363, because of the amount of downtime they were having, at the time. And it was it was just awful. It was just I mean, it's only really come into its own and probably in the last three or four years, to be perfectly honest.

And he's like, Great, let's do it. I know they're in I learned my first lesson. When the CEO and founder of the almost billion dollar turnover Organization says, Yeah, let's do it doesn't really mean that everyone else is automatically bought it. And it was an uphill struggle, because we literally just announced it to all the MDS and fdws. And said, we're going to do it and they go over out their bodies, and we did it over their dead bodies. It was it was pretty awful from a culture change perspective. But technically, it was working. They never had problems with their email, they can get it on mobile, they could start collaborate on documents that some of them just never accepted it. They pining for the days of Microsoft, because it was forced upon them. But yes, it is a combination of very cultural change, but also the technology and there was no way I was going to get involved in In exchange, and even even now with with Microsoft, like, do we really still have to have a little tiny Exchange Server? Do we really still have to have domain controllers on site? And they're like, Yeah, but not very much. And not for long. You know, we're getting there. We're getting there. Because of course, it's all good. Well, being the new kid on the block Gmail and say, we're gonna, we've got no legacy to deal with. We're just gonna put email in the cloud. with myself. I've got to keep everything backwards compatible. And that's super hard. In fact, Google at the time, Google were better at taking an old word doc, and convert get too deep into Google Docs, then Microsoft Word, taking it from 2003 to 2000, whatever. Because it was core to their business, whereas Microsoft actually didn't want to make it good, because they'd rather you just upgraded your license, you'd have to worry about it. And also, the idea of subscription. So remember, when subscription really started, it was probably Adobe kicked that off proper. And people in outrage, oh, god, they're gonna make us pay all this money every month, I'm going yeah, but look around your business. You've got in our case, we had four different studios, all using different versions of Adobe. And every time you want to do an upgrade, it was a major IT project, it was a major financial project, wouldn't it be easier if we just all paid, think about how much you're paying the person to be a designer. Now think about how much you know now put in context, the cost of paying for that Adobe license, which which are their hammer and chisel, if they're a carpenter, you know, it can't work without put into context. Now everyone's on the same version, everyone's got the latest releases, there's cloud based storage. And we never have to have this conversation about doing a big, big upgrade in the studio ever again. And that is only an I get it from financial perspective. There are those drought times where you want to sweat some assets. And you just don't have the money I get subscriptions going to be a bind in those scenarios, like, but we got to keep paying for these subscriptions. But if other than that 5% of time, if you zoom out, you just save a lot of conversations, a lot of decisions, a lot of budget planning, you just get on with it, you need the tool. And if you don't need it, you just stop paying for it. Yeah, great. And people have got it. Now we use Windows virtual desktop, or as your virtual desktop is, it's just been renamed. And we can have one running or we can have 1000 running will pay to the minute or the hour, I've lost track of how is your day pricing now. But that's really great. So it just scales out for wherever the demand is.

Ryan Purvis  31:57  
Yeah, that I think the if you get the right kind of service, where you're paying that whatever it is 20 bucks a month per user, whatever the number is. And they're taken care of things like offset offsite backups, and cloud connectivity to less stuff, which used to be an IT problem analysis for the dhobi. Your your other challenge now becomes you got to manage them as a provider of that service.

Danny Attias  32:20  
It depends how big the provider is. So if you're using Gmail or office 365, you know, imagine you're running your own local, temporary infrastructure based here, but it doesn't have to be obstruction based. But you're running your own local exchange server, and it goes down. No, panic stations, right. But you're running Google workspace or office 365. And it goes down, you just like, Okay, I'm just gonna sit back and relax, it'll be back up. Before you know it. I don't have to call anyone, I don't have to do anything. In fact, if it's, if it's 5pm, you can just make your way home. And you know, by the time you get home, it's going to be back up again. And you know, sounds blah, say but the end of the day, you are not going to influence Microsoft recovering their UK, South datacenter. They actually, again, early days of cloud people come on this is this is bespoke, proprietary, or something like I don't know, I want multi tenanted if you can't have multi talented, that's crazy. People don't want multi talented, then people might get it your data, or how's the functionality going to work? But I say no, I want multi talented, because then if it goes down, it's your entire business. It's down, you got to get back up. But if it's not multitalented, if I've got my nice bespoke hosted in AWS thing, and it goes down, you're not going to care, because it's only down for one customer. And then I've got to jump up and down to make me the priority for you. And even to to now. We get people it's all cloud hosted. No, it's not. You've just gone and built an AWS environment for us. We're just trying to find a system right now and is going to be multitalented, proper cloud software as a service solution. absolutely essential.

Ryan Purvis  34:08  
I remember that we had a CRM project. And it was exactly that kind of problem where the business wanted some homegrown solution. And the platform we were going to start with that was dynamics. And one of the reasons was the multi tentative multi, I think the geo located was just coming out at that point. And you have business would have their own one, but on the same platform, and it was one of the reasons was affordability that if it went down, you know, Marshall for care. Whereas if it was built in the back of a garage, yes. Okay. But, but they probably not. They're probably hosting it on another platform anyway.

Danny Attias  34:42  
And even Microsoft's journey to dynamics 365 You know, when it was called dynamics 335 at the first time, it was just a load of VMs and you were on a VM? Yes. And they might need to put you on a bigger VM. I might come on guys, you know, application. As a service platform as a service, and now you just saw that Ms. You know, we're not talking about specific servers anymore. And it's scalable. But yeah, Microsoft is taking them a while, but they've got their

Ryan Purvis  35:11  
Yeah, you choose your thing with with Microsoft to get away for version three, four, and then it's okay. Yeah. There was something else you said. So the, the impersonation imposter syndrome? Does that? Do you think that that's just a natural feeling you get when you start anything new, that you kind of lose all your confidence in a sense, and you have to call the backup. And then you get to a point that there was a complacent, but you by the time you get back to that level, again, you kind of look back and go what was wrong? You know why I was so worried about this?

Danny Attias  35:50  
Yeah, I am. I'm going to I'm going to pitch my my good friend, Dr. Mark Reed, who's currently writing a book and doing a study called the imposter phenomenon. And let's share the link to it because you can do a questionnaire and you can measure your level of imposter syndrome. It's absolutely brilliant. I will share that link for Dr. Mark Reed. And so I've done my study, and it's, you know, think about when and I get it all the time, I suppose. Partly, I won't take an opportunity unless it terrifies me. So if I was looking at a job, for example, I'm gonna look at a job. And if I think, yeah, I can do that. I'm not gonna apply for it. If I look at it, and go, and might be able to do that it absolutely terrifies me. Can I do that? Then I'll apply for it. And that's because I want to grow I want to learn all the time, which then subjects me to that doubt, because you kind of go, but can I do it? Have I done it the wrong way? right way? We spent the last three years. And I think what we do, I suppose it's about being very open with yourself with your team. And being very transparent. Sometimes you're saying I don't know. And then when something works, it's looking at, well, how could we have done it differently? It's a retro, you know, perspective. But even if it's one conversation, or it's a three year platform, build, whatever it might be, just go, would I do it any differently next time. And I'm, I'm looking for the good things, and I'm looking for the bad things. And there are some things that I've looked down gone, I wish I'd done it differently. And there are some things that obviously, in the moment, without the benefit of hindsight, you're just wondering, if you suppose is about feeling caught out. And I don't mean caught out embarrassed, but caught out, you've wasted resources, or you've wasted time where you've not attend to try and work with things that have purpose in, in this case, it's saving lives of people with blood cancer and needs are life saving transplants. So I don't want to mess that up. I don't want to use charity, money donated money in the wrong way. Partly, we've gone slowly, the change that we've made has been slow. And I've been criticized by trustees for going too slow and not spending enough money. They have retrospectively come back and said, Actually, we can see that the organization wasn't able to keep up with any faster pace, and you went at the right pace, which is good. But there was definitely doubt, am I going too slow? Could we have done this faster? So I think it plays out in different ways. But you need that you need good quality, you need a good quality feedback mechanism. I suppose that's the thing. You need some really psychologically safe, trusted spaces where people can give you the feedback, and have the conversation with our cmo yesterday, where you don't judge the feedback, just take it and you can choose to do with it what you wish. But if you take some feedback, and you kind of go, No, I hear you, but I don't I don't think that really applies. That's fine. But if you get that same piece of feedback 345 times, then you might want to just look a little deeper. Or if you have certain scenarios that are happening from one company to another, and the only common factor is you. Then again, it's blind spots, right? Yep, we all have blind spots. And we don't know they're literally their blind spots. You don't know what's in there. So yeah, I know all my blind spots. You don't because then they're not your blind spots are they? And no one has 360 degree vision. So it's constantly trying to seek out those blind spots. And that's hard. If you haven't got a safe, fair, open feedback loop, then it's really challenging to find out what other people think. And rather than preempt or judge where their view is coming from, you just need to listen to it and and grow from it. So it's about personal growth, and that includes failure and accepting that failure.

Ryan Purvis  39:56  
Yeah, I think you're right. We took a course a couple years ago, which was to try LBI for reporting and I AP, and we we spent almost six months trying to get it working, we just couldn't get into work. And, you know, it was always that this goes back to the joke about the next version of Microsoft next version. Yeah, probably it was it was we never knew an exhibition was coming. But we ended up redoing everything bespoke. And you know, the thing that I hadn't been listening to was the guys kept saying we can't deploy this in a CI CD pipeline, we can't do the Power BI stuff. And that should have been the, you know, the warning light to be going well, if this is if we want to, if we ever want to go faster. This is this is always gonna slow us down. Yeah. And that's it shouldn't be about the Power BI does work. I mean, it's a great tool that does a lot of things. But when you want to try go faster, it's not the best, you

Danny Attias  40:43  
have to go faster. So we looked at Power BI specifically relative four years ago, and it wasn't ready yet. So part of me was saying, I want that perfectly integrated Microsoft Dynamics office 365 integrated tool that's easily accessible, it's part of that license, but it's not ready. It's not mature enough yet. And we went in a different product, because it was the right thing to do. And we're now migrating to Power BI because it's the right thing to do. It's now ready, we can now do this as your data factory and signups and all these tools, it's a bit it's a bit muddled. Microsoft is still trying to find their way. But it's definitely good enough to get off the ground. And the benefits of having a ecosystem integrated platform outweigh a kind of proprietary expensive solution. So you're right. It's about not yet not Yeah, okay, go. It's not ready. And it's Yeah, biding your time, sometimes you will take a product before it's ready. Because you can see, it's only a matter of time till it's going to get ready. And by the time it's fully rolled out and fully integrated. It's ready to go.

Ryan Purvis  41:45  
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that's, that's usually my feeling with dynamics is that it's, it's pretty much always been borderline, and it's gonna tip over at some point. Yeah. And I think once they get rid of some of the legacy that they've got, it'll be a great product as a CRM as an X ray.

Danny Attias  42:02  
Right? So dynamics, finance, and finance and operations and CRM and business Central, and, you know, then everything very generic. Yeah, as a, as a as an ecosystem. It's not really quite there yet. We just have to find a system go business central to small to simple to basic. Finance and operations. I think that's what it's still called. too big, too expensive, too complex. And, you know, 1000 pound a license or something like that. It's just heavy duty. Fine, if you want to do some, it depends on the size of your organization. I was looking at zero and sage and like, emZ, lightweight, we're not, we're using one module of the simplest SAP solution from 2012. Okay, our requirements are not that big. Yeah. So we just need something simple to get us into a modern state. And we found a product now. And about a year, much as I wanted to use the dynamics, it just it just wasn't right at the time. And, and that's okay. And also you got to be comfortable. You're not making a decision for life. Yes, it is just for Christmas, you just you just need to go. And if we need to change it in a year, that's okay. It's okay. We can change it. That's, you know, you're not committed because you're only paying by the month as well. I've obviously got the knock on my finance system in a year. And, you know, you've got the the overheads of implementation, but generally, if in our HR system, we've had it for about four years now. And, okay, it was what we needed at the time. Is it is it still fit for purpose? Well, in parts it is. And in parts? It isn't. But you know what, I have that conversation with the supplier directly. And so we work together and sometimes and you know, you've got it right. When the supplier says, No, we think you're right, it's, you know, this isn't really for you. My decision to panthenol and office 365 and non Google Apps, or Google workspaces, it's now called, was probably the hardest decision I had to make in my first two years. And I wrestled with it for so long. And in the end, I knew I knew it was the right answer, because it was Google who told me it was. Oh, interesting. Because we were fully invested in Dynamics 365. Okay, yeah, fully invested. We had to track emails, like 50% of staff would have to track email through the CRM. And it was Google who just said, you know, square peg round hole.

Ryan Purvis  44:35  
Yep. Yeah.

Danny Attias  44:37  
So and then, then I was relieved. I was like, Am I am I making Am I I didn't want to buckled everyone going. We want Microsoft, we want Microsoft. Because that's what they've always used in the product still wasn't quite there yet. So yeah, those things you have to be you have to kind of park your ego at the door and really challenge and look at it from different perspectives and look at the legacy that's the key What's the impact? What's the legacy? What's it? What's it going to look like? Forget you what's gonna look like for the organization? What are the implications of those decisions?

Ryan Purvis  45:08  
Yeah, I think you're spot on. And in that, and that's one of those core tools that does does pull for into everything. So if you if you chuck Carrick a complicated, integrated environment, he spent your life maintaining a complicated, integrated environment to do stuff, which still never wants is the new stuff.

Danny Attias  45:27  
Yeah, yeah. I'd like to think everyone wants it. Unfortunately, something has changed. It's different. But I know what you mean. Yeah. Yeah. Once I get comfortable with it, it's like I forget that it was ever new or that it was ever different. But that's, that's change management. And that's part of the job, right?

Ryan Purvis  45:47  
Yeah, exactly. The people stuff. Yeah, that's the fun part. I mean, I enjoy the building solutions and delivering them. But I but actually enjoy the people. You know, like you said that when they when they have bought into it and adopted it, and then they're banging on your door? Because they want to talk about new stuff for that. That's a good sign. Yeah. Great stuff. I think we'd probably tie up here. Do you want to give out some contact details for people to holiday and also your podcast?

Danny Attias  46:13  
Yeah, so Oh, yeah, absolutely. Thank you. So I'm available on LinkedIn. So by all means to connect or follow me on LinkedIn, Danny anteus. And on any other social network, it's just too painful. And life's too short. And, yeah, as a result of having been on a couple of podcasts in the last three months, two months, I decided to start my own. But don't worry, Ryan is not a technical podcast, there's no digital discussions, I talked to the guests, I say, we are not talking about technology at all, to my new podcast, which is just about to land. In the next in next few days, it might be out by the time this comes out who knows is, it's called sponsorship. And you can find, there's a trailer and a blog all about it. And what I'll be doing is I'll be talking to really interesting people, inspiring people hearing their stories about how they found their purpose and trying to make a change in the world. And these changes, the likes of female empowerment, social mobility, climate change, impact, racial equity, it's just finding people who are making a change, they've built a platform or they've just gone the extra, the extra yard to make a difference, then the podcast is just going to be relaxed conversations, just hearing about not the incredible achievement that they've done, but actually more about the journey that they've gone on. And all those doubts and all those tears and all of that hard work. And we hope people be interested listen to it will feel inspired. We'll get them to reflect on their own purpose and the things that they can do. So that's

Ryan Purvis  47:58  
Super, looking forward to the first episodes. Thank you, Ron. Great. Thanks for having you. On. Thanks for coming on at least and obviously do another one. I appreciate it. All right. Thank you for listening today's episode. Hey, the big news app producer, editor. Thank you, Heather. for your hard work for this episode. Please subscribe to the series and rate us on iTunes or the Google Play Store. Follow us on Twitter at the DW w podcast. The show notes and transcripts will be available on the website WWW dot digital workspace that works. Please also visit our website www dot digital workspace that works and subscribe to our newsletter. And lastly, if you found this episode useful, please share with your friends or colleagues.

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Danny Attias

Ranked number 1 CIO in the UK | Mentor | Digital Advisor

A delivery driven Technology Leader who is passionate about using digital transformation to enable organisations achieve their strategic objectives. Highly experienced in taking advantage of new technologies to deliver business outcomes, project delivery and organisational transformation with an inclusive, supportive engagement style. Commercially astute with experience spanning retail, agency and the third sector.
Listed at the top of the 2020 CIO 100. The judges were all hugely impressed by the work Danny has been doing at Anthony Nolan over the past four years and his position atop this year's CIO 100 reflects the achievement of a well-executed digital transformation plan, Scott Carey, Group Editor for Enterprise at the technology publisher IDG and a member of the CIO 100 judging panel said. "His ability to modernise the IT function at the charity is starting to pay dividends in the form of truly lifesaving advances both in the laboratory setting and the way Anthony Nolan finds donors and raises funds, making this accolade truly well-deserved."