Precision engineering: an interview with Buro Happold IT director Shaun Mundy

By Graeme Burton
25 Sep 2012 View Comments
Shaun Mundy

Then, of course, there is the issue of software licensing, which Mundy says is “absolutely vital” before even considering BYOD. Although Buro Happold has enterprise-wide licences for its Autodesk and Microsoft software, the company needs to be clear whether the appropriate software can be loaded onto a staff laptop before embarking on BYOD.

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“Typically, software licences stipulate that it has got to be in your own environment. That’s one of the areas we are looking at to make sure whether our agreements with such companies, and others, won’t affect us in any way because we need to stay on the right side of the law,” says Mundy.

Encouraging collaboration

Far more important to Buro Happold than tablet computers is the potential for online collaboration with staff located around the world and partners. So the company has implemented Microsoft Lync Server (previously OCS).

“The ability to share desktops with Lync and talk things through without having to set up a conference is all there. And the tools that we have got to set up model replication [in Autodesk Revit Server] really helps as well,” says Mundy.

He adds: “We have deployed that along with Polycom HD Telepresence and Video, which serves voice and video to desktops around the globe. It has been a big bonus.”

While standardising the company’s IT environment around largely Microsoft technologies, it has rejected Microsoft Office 365 as it is too expensive on a per-user basis. “But we are using Office 365 to enable some of our partners to work with us, to ‘federate’ with us and to be able to see when some of our people are available,” says Mundy.

However, that is done on an “as needed” basis, paying the utility rate for Office 365 for partners when they work with Buro Happold on a project.

“What it has done is enable us to tap into utility for the first time and, for particular customers, nobody needs to concern themselves with what they have deployed on their desktop because it can be run in the cloud,” says Mundy.

It’s also interesting, he adds, to observe how heavyweight CAD applications have started to embrace the cloud, with such services as Autodesk 360. These enable users to store design files in the cloud for access anytime, anywhere, and to share the files, too.

It can also provide access to extra computing power to help with complex 3D rendering, design optimisation, energy analysis and structural analysis, for example, thereby speeding up a process that can see even the most powerful of workstations grind to a halt for an hour or more.

Next up on Mundy’s agenda is Windows Server 2012 and, more importantly, Microsoft SQL Server 2012 – both released this summer.

“It’s early days at the moment,” he says. “We are just trying to work out what we should do. If anything, Windows Server is less interesting to us than SQL Server because of its business intelligence capabilities.”

Buro Happold also has a keen interest in the next version of SharePoint Server, Microsoft’s enterprise collaboration software, due to the collaborative and social features that Microsoft is expected to build in following its acquisition of Yammer.

In many respects, the fast development of Buro Happold in recent years mirrors the way in which IT will increasingly support collaboration and drive business – perhaps at the expense of airlines as people work together using internet-based tools instead of rushing to clients whenever the phone rings.

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