This month Simon Banks talks to Kassir Hussain Kayani, Chief Technical Officer at CSL. Kassir has over 24 years of Telecoms, Media and IT industry experience, with a heavy involvement in starting and scaling new business ventures.
During your career so far, you have worked across several Commercial, Product Development, Technology and Innovation Roles. What have you taken from this experience?
That’s a tough question! I’ve been fortunate enough to work for some amazing companies including Hive (British Gas), which I helped to create and then ran for several years, and BSkyB where we launched NOW TV. No matter how big or small, the key take outs for me have been to give customers a great product or service wrapped in a good customer experience. The small details matter, and these are the things customers judge you by. Every single customer touchpoint and interaction tells the customer who you are as a company and what you stand for. Get this right and customers will tell others – they become advocates. Get it wrong and customers will also tell others – they become detractors. Sit in the middle and you’re just one of the herd – non-differentiated with no advocacy or loyalty. It really is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Good ideas are in no shortage, but executing an idea successfully requires painstaking care, attention and long boring hours of designing, building, testing and more testing.
Can you tell us about your role at CSL?
I joined CSL last year and at a critical time. CSL had completed the acquisition of Emizon in 2017 and shortly after I joined, completed the deal to bring WebWay into the CSL Group. This was a hectic time, but against this backdrop we had to stay focused on what matters and continue to deliver. Therefore, juggling all these priorities is a key aspect of what I do. My role at CSL is two-fold. The first is to ensure that the technology works for our customers and our people. For the last 12 months we have been focused on a huge programme of service improvement to improve reliability and efficiency of systems. This has entailed a huge data centre and infrastructure refresh programme spanning every part of the tech stack. The other thing that’s kept us busy is the development of the new DualCom Pro range. We’ve not just developed a new and better product, but also developed a new tech stack that covers everything from sales to support. That is a new e-commerce platform, a new security platform, a new process orchestration tool as well as revamping any of the existing systems. Every part of the product life cycle has been redeveloped. In summary I wear two hats – a business person and a techy!
How does the Fire & Security Sector compare to other industries you have worked in?
The critical nature of the industry poses real day-to-day challenges. Nothing I’ve worked on previously calls for such a high level of reliability and has such a low tolerance for failure. We’re talking about services that protect people’s lives and property. By its very nature you can’t get that wrong. Therefore, the level of quality and robustness required on everything can be daunting. Due to the critical nature of the sector, technology adoption is slower than other industries because you can’t use leading (or bleeding) edge technology that has a higher risk of going wrong. However, conversely, there is sometimes a reluctance to adopt newer technologies that could benefit the industry. It is about finding the right balance of risk and reward, which is never easy. Overall it has been a great challenge and I am learning something new every day.
What are the biggest challenges technology companies face in the next 5 years?
Cyber security is front and centre to everything. Attacks on individuals and businesses are becoming more commonplace and more sophisticated. Hackers are continuously evolving, and the attack vectors change daily. Keeping up with this is critical for any company otherwise you risk breaches that can seriously harm your business. At CSL this is at the forefront of our minds in everything we do, and we are facing this challenge head on.
The other challenge is that technology is moving so quickly and keeping up with this is hard. This is compounded by the fact that consumer technology has moved so quickly and the app-ification (I can do everything with an app on my phone) of life means customers don’t understand why company can’t offer them the same things. Investing in new technology and continually updating it is expensive and time consuming. If anyone hates change, then I’d say avoid technology. Embrace and leverage change for strategic advantage.
Gone are the days of a one-size-fits all product or service. The level of personalisation customers demand means the systems need to be able to accommodate these different customers’ requirements. That is difficult and poses a new challenge for engineers. Companies need to be able to process data in real time and respond quickly. That is easier said than done.