UK Cloud Awards Q&A: Frank Bennett

Our head judge explains what he looks for in an awards entry

The UK Cloud Awards 2018 are now open to entries. In their fifth year, the prestigious awards recognise cloud innovation and customer focus by rewarding vendors in categories like best product, best project and individual achievement. Find out more and enter the awards here.

What​ ​inspired​ ​you​ ​to​ ​be​ ​a​ ​judge​ ​of​ the UK Cloud Awards 2018?

Very​ ​simply,​ ​I​ get to ​learn​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​about​ ​how​ ​the​ ​cloud​ ​computing​ ​industry​ ​is​ ​forming​ ​products​ ​and services​ ​that​ ​challenge​ ​the​ ​established​ ​order​ ​of​ ​how​ ​IT​ ​or​ ​more​ ​broadly​ ​technology​ ​delivers value​ ​to​ ​society.

​What​ ​experience​ ​do​ ​you​ ​bring​ ​to​ ​the​ ​judging​ ​process?

I​ ​was​ ​an​ ​early​ ​'as​ ​a​ ​service'​ ​pioneer​ ​(2004-7)​ ​in​ ​a​ ​small​ ​13​ ​FTE​ ​team​ ​developing​ ​an application​ ​on​ ​a​ ​Microsoft​ ​stack​ ​to​ ​deliver​ ​paperless​ ​trading​ ​between​ ​counterparties​ ​in​ ​the supply​ ​chain.​ ​No​ ​Cloud​ ​Industry​ ​Forum​ ​or​ ​anyone​ ​else​ ​to​ ​turn​ ​to​ ​for​ ​experience​ ​then​ ​and that​ ​invention​ ​was​ ​duly​ ​recognised​ ​by​ ​Steve​ ​Ballmer​ ​at​ ​Microsoft​ ​WPC​ ​2007. Since​ ​then​ ​I​ ​have​ ​written​ ​books​ ​for​ ​Microsoft​ ​and​ ​Google​ ​and​ ​advised​ ​numerous​ ​businesses on​ ​their​ ​go​ ​to​ ​market​ ​with​ ​cloud​ ​services.

I​ ​advise​ ​EU​ ​Horizon​ ​2020​ ​CloudWatch​ ​2​ ​Research​ ​&​ ​Innovation​ ​projects​ ​on​ ​their​ ​exploitation and​ ​sustainability​ ​readiness​ ​and​ ​co-invented​ ​the​ ​Market​ ​&​ ​Technology​ ​Readiness​ ​Level method.​ ​There​ ​is​ ​a​ ​huge​ ​push​ ​by​ ​the​ ​EU​ ​to​ ​create​ ​a​ ​strong​ ​digital​ ​market​ ​to​ ​support​ ​trade and​ ​competitiveness​ ​in​ ​a​ ​global​ ​economy.

How​ ​would​ ​you​ ​advise​ ​those​ ​entering​ ​for​ ​our​ ​new​ ​'digital​ ​transformation'​ ​categories to​ ​pitch​ ​their​ ​projects?

That's ​new​ ​and​ ​important​ ​category​ ​for​ ​the UK Cloud Awards​ ​2018​ ​introduced​ ​by​ ​myself. Transformation​ ​is​ ​the​ ​buzzword​ ​of​ ​the​ ​day​ ​-​ ​easy​ ​to​ ​say,​ ​hard​ ​to​ ​do. Those​ ​that​ ​bring​ ​transformation​ ​alive​ ​with​ ​a​ ​story​ ​that​ ​starts​ ​with​ ​an​ ​idea​ ​and​ ​through​ ​sweat and​ ​a​ ​few​ ​tears​ ​delivered​ ​an​ ​outcome​ ​that​ ​is​ ​justifiably​ ​labelled​ ​transformation​ ​will​ ​win​ ​over our​ ​judges.​ ​People,​ ​Process,​ ​Technology,​ ​Brains​ ​-​ ​what​ ​else​ ​made​ ​a​ ​difference?​ ​​ ​What​ ​was that​ ​moment​ ​when​ ​it​ ​all​ ​started?

When​ ​you​ ​read​ ​an​ ​entry,​ ​what​ ​do​ ​you​ ​look​ ​for​ ​that​ ​influences​ ​your​ ​scoring?

If​ ​you​ ​tell​ ​me​ ​no​ ​more​ ​than​ ​I​ ​can​ ​find​ ​on​ ​your​ ​website​ ​then​ ​that​ ​is​ ​a​ ​fail​ ​for​ ​me.​ ​​​What​ ​I​ ​look
for​ ​is​ ​originality​ ​and​ ​that​ ​is​ ​often​ ​found​ ​in​ ​snippets​ ​of​ ​your​ ​conversations​ ​with​ ​customers. Top​ ​tip​ ​-​ ​ditch​ ​the​ ​marketing​ ​spiel.

How​ ​do​ ​you​ ​like​ ​to​ ​describe​ ​'innovation'?

I​ ​think​ ​about​ ​innovation​ ​in​ ​two​ ​parts​ ​both​ ​in​ ​the​ ​hard,​ ​as​ ​in​ ​not​ ​easy​ ​to​ ​do​ ​category.

First​ ​off,​ ​developing​ ​clarity​ ​about​ ​what​ ​is​ ​innovation.​ ​Are​ ​you​ ​improving​ ​on​ ​something​ ​that already​ ​exists​ ​or​ ​being​ ​original?

Next,​ ​and​ ​easy​ ​to​ ​overlook;​ ​who​ ​is​ ​the​ ​innovation​ ​relevant​ ​to​ ​and​ ​why? Without​ ​understanding​ ​both​ ​parts​ ​you​ ​are​ ​flirting​ ​with​ ​innovation.

So​ ​I​ ​describe​ ​innovation​ ​as​ ​having​ ​an​ ​acute​ ​understanding​ ​of​ ​why.​ ​In​ ​another​ ​expression; we​ ​could​ ​make​ ​a​ ​widget​ ​but​ ​do​ ​we​ ​really​ ​understand​ ​why​ ​we​ ​should​ ​do​ ​that?​ ​At​ ​the​ ​end​ ​of the​ ​day​ ​it​ ​is​ ​the​ ​not​ ​the​ ​innovator​ ​who​ ​determines​ ​what​ ​is​ ​innovative.

​Looking​ ​back​ ​on​ ​2017,​ ​what​ ​was​ ​the​ ​one​ ​stand​ ​out​ ​moment​ ​for​ ​you​ ​related​ ​to​ ​UK cloud​ ​computing​ ​industry?

Easy.​​​ ​It​ ​is​ ​the​ ​year​ ​that​ ​everyone​ ​woke​ ​up​ ​to​ ​GDPR.​ ​I​ ​am​ ​following​ ​a​ ​GDPR​ ​programme​ ​at Henley​ ​Business​ ​School​ ​to​ ​understand​ ​its​ ​full​ ​implications​ ​that​ ​will​ ​run​ ​and​ ​run.​ ​It​ ​is​ ​the most​ ​significant​ ​piece​ ​of​ ​legislation​ ​in​ ​20​ ​years​ ​enforcing​ ​​ ​citizen's​ ​right​ ​to​ ​privacy. I​ ​commend​ ​everyone​ ​to​ ​read​ ​the​ ​GDPR​ ​to​ ​know​ ​your​ ​rights​ ​and​ ​to​ ​understand​ ​the complexity​ ​of​ ​​ ​compliance​ ​for​ ​data​ ​controllers​ ​and​ ​data​ ​processors.

What are your​ ​top​ ​three​ ​cloud​ ​predictions​ ​for​ ​2018​?

1.​ ​The​ ​inadequacy​ ​of​ ​UK​ ​mobile​ ​networks​ ​gets​ ​on​ ​the​ ​political​ ​spectrum.​ ​​ ​To​ ​quote​ ​Lord Adonis:​ ​mobile​ ​coverage​ ​is​ ​'deplorable'.​ ​

2.​ ​Cyber​​security​ ​makes​ ​a​ ​full​-time​ ​appearance​ ​on​ ​the​ ​boardroom​ ​agenda.​ ​​What's​ ​this​ ​all about?​ ​Expect​ ​new​ ​board​ ​appointments​ ​of​ ​digital​ ​savvy​ ​non-executive directors.

3.​ ​​​There​ ​will​ ​be​ ​a​ ​record​ ​number​ ​of​ ​UK​ ​Cloud​ ​Awards​ ​entries.

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