Running a slick SaaS IT operation: an interview with BG Group global CIO Angus McCallum

By Danny Palmer
15 Aug 2014 View Comments
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With more than 5,000 employees in over 20 countries, managing infrastructure at multinational oil and gas company BG Group isn't a simple operation. That isn't any different for Angus McCallum, the firm's global CIO who, leading a team of 200 IT staff, has overseen a "journey" of its IT policy.

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"We were what I'd call a federated model, but now we're a truly global model," he told Computing.

"We went from a lot of independent contractors and organisations to being centralised on one company providing infrastructure services, one providing application management, a single provider of the WAN and the data centres, and designed the BG organisation to marry up to that."

The shift towards global thinking has seen BG Group implement a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model for a number of applications, including SunGard's AvantGard Treasury suite which was selected following "an extensive request for proposal".

"It brings benefits because it simplifies processes, and the more we can simplify the IT estate the more we can simplify business processes," said McCallum, who explained how one of the benefits of SaaS is that BG Group won't need to worry about upgrading internal software.

"In five years I'm not upgrading infrastructure to support it and they manage the all patching and upgrading process, so it makes it simpler to operate," he added.

McCallum described how shifting to a SaaS model, where possible, has been a focus for the past 18 months and is already reaping benefits.

"It saves on costs and when they upgrade they'll always invest in developing it to have things like a mobile app and you get to take advantage of things like that which brings business benefits," he said.

However, while enthusiastic about SaaS, McCallum pointed out that it's not possible for all services to go that way.

"What we've developed is a methodology where we can say, yes, that application could go to SaaS, this application definitely wouldn't. We've developed a matrix that enables us to make those calls," he said.

However, one area which BG Group is outsourcing to cloud services is collaboration, an area McCallum told Computing "is key and it's becoming more key".

"What it's demonstrating as we bring in some of these collaboration tools is you move away from what I'd call a hub and spoke company to a much more inclusive company where people talk across countries and it's much easier to maintain contact with each other rather than everything going through a central office," he said.

BG Group has been using Microsoft Lync for some time, enabling everyone within the organisation to have free PC-to-PC calls. The firm is also in the process of deploying cloud storage and file sharing service Box to employees after being impressed with the flexibility it offered during a trial period.

"We've done successful pilots with Box and we'll start to roll that out, enabling people to share documents much more easily," he said.

"The collaboration element was appealing, but being able to access it from a variety of devices was too. Because some people survive off their phone, some people love a PC, some love a tablet and some use all three and it's catering to all of that."

McCallum told Computing that the ability to use Box to securely share documents with people inside and outside BG Group also formed part of the decision.

"We collaborate within and outside the company, so the ability for joint venture partners to access information, the ability for people to manage documents within Box, ease of use, security, they were the key things," he said, adding that the deployment of Box will prevent the use of shadow IT.

"What it gives is a functionality where there's no reason to use those other things anymore. Documents are held in the right place as opposed to people's inboxes. There's always other advantages behind these systems."

The shift towards cloud software has seen the use of more mobile devices, with BG Group altering its Bring Your Own Device policy to cater for this change.

"We provided phones on corporate contracts and now what we do is allow people to choose whatever phone they want and we manage it through MobileIron," said McCallum.

"With a container they've got their BG emails and documents and also they have personal stuff on their phone. We're taking advantage of the corporate apps that people can put on them."

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