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CIO50 2022 #26-50 Clive Bortz, Arup

  • Name Clive Bortz
  • Title Region chief information officer, Australasia and East Asia
  • Company Arup
  • Commenced role July 2019
  • Reporting Line Group CIO UK
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 123 in IT function, 4 direct reports
  • Related

    As regional CIO with global construction consultancy Arup, Clive Bortz has overseen a dramatic digital transformation that has delivered significant productivity and efficiency gains, while slashing emissions in a sector that’s come under increased pressure to lift its sustainability game. 

    Headquartered in London, the company provides design, engineering, architecture, planning, and advisory services across every aspect of the built environment, employing around 16,000 staff in over 90 offices across 35 countries, while delivering as many fee-paying projects a year. 

    Starting in 2020, Bortz and his team led the migration of 70% of Arup’s systems, applications and data to the cloud.

    “This has been a 2-year extensive transformation initiative, involving every aspect of IT systems, infrastructure, and operations,” he tells CIO Australia.

    He notes that while migrating critical systems to the cloud was a key milestone, it also provided an opportunity to critically evaluate, the. consolidate legacy systems, allowing Arup to reduce its server count by over 70%. This contributed to a 37% reduction in CO2 emissions.

    “The cloud journey has enabled Arup’s digital services business to deliver innovative products and services with solution breadth and delivered with agility previously not available,” Bortz explains. 

    This seeded a number of new solutions including ‘digital twins for the built environment’.

    Engineering data

    Bortz stresses standing up work from home arrangements is especially challenging for construction and engineering firms given they typically deal with large data sets. 

    “Arup provides innovative leading-edge solutions drawing upon highly technical software suites, often with massive data sets, delivered through regional and global inter-office and joint venture collaboration,” he explains.

    Add in “latency sensitive” applications and often constrained bandwidth, and you have a unique set of challenges many other industries were spared throughout the pandemic.

    In response, Bortz and his team deployed a hybrid cloud ecosystem, consolidating systems and data, supported by SaaS based office and engineering application suites, and cloud-based common data environments (CDEs).

    “Despite the challenge of working with the large data sets of engineering applications over internet links, cloud native solutions are delivering substantial performance gains and streamlined collaborative working for internal staff and joint venture projects,” he says. In fact, some staff have reported performance gains of up to four times.

    Supporting the sustainability and cloud journey, Arup needed to evolve from office-based filer-centric storage, to multiple hybrid cloud environments while managing data lifecycle from project inception, through delivery and long-term compliance retention.

    Creating a viable cloud ecosystem demanded a “revolutionary approach”, given many of the technical software suites were built for traditional on-premises use, yet needed to integrate with varying cloud storage options.

    Specialised tooling and orchestration were developed to automate data archiving on closure of projects, reducing the reliance and expense of premium storage and adopting policy driven tiering to cool object storage in cloud.

    Bortz says Arup is now “riding the crest of the wave utilising emerging cloud technologies for storage, CAD-class cloud workstations, common data environments for collaboration on large-scale CAD and BIM environments”, while tracking where project data strands are located as staff navigate and utilise the best-fit technology for their project needs.

    “With a platform change of this magnitude, facilitation across the business is critical to its success,” Bortz says.

    A key success factor was bringing together a wide-ranging team comprising enterprise architects, delivery, cyber, software development, governance, legal, and operations to deliver a holistic outcome.

    The solution has delivered widespread positive results, with improved collaboration and remote working, improved agility and scalability of infrastructure, as well as a downward trajectory of carbon emissions,” Bortz says, boasting that Arup is well on track for net zero by 2030.

    Stakeholder expectations

    A 20-year veteran at Arup, Bortz has a deep sense of the company’s engineering DNA and curiosity, which he says has helped encourage support for more innovative projects over the years.

    “With Arup's DNA being embedded in engineering, there is an inquisitive culture that’s happy to push the norm and challenge the boundaries,” he notes.

    That said, he notes one of his key learnings over the years is that developing solutions internally isn’t always the best option, regardless of whether key stakeholders are demanding it.

    “During technology change there are times when the business is heavily attached to a perceived need. During the transition, gaining stakeholder support successfully can require building a bridge between the old and the new."

    However, Bortz admits that Arup has sometimes invested in, or developed bridging solutions for short term gain, only to be superseded by commercial-off-the-shelf offerings before full value and the ROI has been realised.

    “The lesson learned is sometimes we need to realign stakeholder expectations, and develop a minimum viable product to sufficiently satisfy the burning need, without over-capitalising in an interim solution,” he explains.

    “By acknowledging the need to do-something vs do-nothing (or worse, overcapitalise); the risk of shadow IT solutions being deployed, or stakeholder dissatisfaction are significantly reduced”.

    David Binning

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