by CIO New Zealand

CIO100 2018 #31-100: Richard Ertel and Scott Houston, Seequent

Mar 28, 2018
Artificial IntelligenceAugmented RealityBig Data

Seequent (formerly ARANZ Geo) is a world leader in the development of data visualisation software.

Recently, it completed the deployment of an Identity Access Management platform to support the growth in new products and services the company has developed, say Richard Ertel, CIO and Scott Houston, CTO.

The main objectives for this new system are:

  • To provide a unified identity experience for users of company web, mobile and desktop-based solutions

  • To have a migration path from Seequent’s more traditional dongle based licensing system

  • To start to build a better understanding of who, when and how users are consuming services

“We recognised early in the project there were a lot of unknowns especially around the introduction of Identity services into the desktop products,” say Richard and Scott.

Scott Houston

“We found that developing quick prototypes that tested the functionality and answered specific questions were required, to give us confidence the technology was going to be able to work in a secure and practical way.

“From a user’s perspective, a unified identity means they are able to more easily discover, access and use our products and services.

“From our perspective, we are starting to get more insights into user behaviour, what they are looking to do and the products they are using,” they say.

“Some of the value of this project is yet to be recognised, as we are in the process of migrating users from the traditional licensing systems, yet, we already see with the products that are using Identity, it has drastically lowered the cost and time taken to onboard new users.”

This means the company will be able to deploy new products and services to a much larger user base more efficiently, the duo say.

The single biggest challenge Richard and Scott had to overcome was internally how they worked across the development teams around the world, to integrate with the new Identity platform.

“Previously we had several web applications that were using independent login systems. Uniting under one platform meant that teams had to work much closer across time zones and technology platforms to ensure the integrations were a success.

“There is also a large amount of education that needed to go on, both internally and with users, over the benefits of the new Identity platform. We experienced everything from suspicion to frustration and strong resistance.

“This was overcome by looking for early wins that demonstrated the benefits the new Identity platform would provide both customers and internal staff,” Richard and Scott say.

As a 3D modelling company, visualisation is important to Seequent’s customers. Over the past year the IT team developed a number of Virtual and Augmented reality solutions including support for Hololens and Web VR support.

It recently released Leapfrog Works for the civil engineering and environmental industries.

Built on the Leapfrog 3D implicit modelling engine, Leapfrog Works improves understanding, visualisation and communication of subsurface conditions and the interaction with infrastructure.

Leapfrog 3D was first introduced to the mining and minerals industry close to 15 years ago. The 3D geological modelling solutions are now used in other industries to help uncover valuable insights from geological data, and to allow better decision making for earth, environment and energy challenges.

Leapfrog Works allows users to build 3D models from geotechnical data in days, not weeks, in an easy to use workflow.

“We thinking a lot about the use cases for the Geoscience platform,” they state.

“In the mining sectors, there is still some reluctance about moving data to the cloud, not to mention the technical challenges about moving multi-terabyte file sizes. We will also need a highly scalable database to support this environment and this is our top priority for this year.”

‘’The teams have opportunities to work on their own personal projects that are complementary to our business strategy,” they add.

“It may depend on where we are in the development cycle, but historically we have had some great ideas come out of this.”

In December for instance, their team in Calgary team spent a week on an internal hackathon and developed some great VR, Collaboration and User support prototypes.

“I think my experience as CTO at Weta Digital during the Lord of the Rings trilogy (2002 – 2004) taught me that nothing is impossible, if you have the right team around you,” says Scott Houston on an important career experience.

“During this time we were building data centres and getting them into production in the space of weeks.

“Over the past 15 years we have been able to overcome seemingly impossible targets by getting everyone on the same page, getting buy in on the importance of the task, delegating responsibility and then trusting your team,” Houston says.

Richard Ertel says Seequent has grown rapidly over the past five years, ”both in terms of products and services we have developed, but also geographically and culturally. We now have over 20 nationalities”.

“With that much growth and diversity it’s important to make time to reach out and talk to our people around the globe and listen to their challenges and opportunities,” he says.

“Through this you will discover new insights that you would otherwise completely miss, and I believe these are essential to developing a company that is able to successfully operate on a global stage,” says Ertel.