by Divina Paredes

Doing business with Michael Tapp and John Owen of Cyma: Pointers on how to do ‘digital’ properly

May 18, 2016
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John Owen and Michael Tapp of Cyma

Names: Michael Tapp and John Owen

Title: Director Principal Architect, Cyma

Twitter handle: @MichaelTapp2 | @jiowen

How long have you been in your current role?

Michael Tapp: Since we started the company, four years now.

John Owen: I have been running Cyma for over four years together with my two business partners, Vijesh Nangia and Michael Tapp. But I have been in the IT industry for 25 years as a developer, architect, and manager as well as spending five years as Asia, Middle East, and Africa sales manager.

As our work environment and economy changes around us, the importance of ‘current role’ is starting to diminish – it may be better to consider why you are doing something instead. This is as important for the individual as it it for the company, especially as we focus on recruiting younger professionals whose decisions are influenced as much (if not more) by social concerns as by the older values of career and wealth.

What business technology issue is your organisation focusing on?

Michael Tapp: We are focused on helping businesses join the dots between their business strategy and how it is implemented, generally with a technology bias. We are also known as enterprise and solution architects as that is what those roles are typically about.

John Owen: Cyma is young and we have deliberately built our operations around a hosted and paperless model. We understand the value of our customers and our people, and we endeavoured to build our processes and technology around supporting these pillars of our company. A good CRM as well as communication and collaboration tools are the foundation stones.

You should always be able to answer the questions ‘why am I doing this’ and ‘why am I doing this now?’.John Owen, Cyma

Right now we are building out our collaboration tools and support processes as we move away from email and basic messaging services. This is essential if we are to support our staff efficiently and effectively while they work on site with customers. We also see this as a natural way to allow people to work from anywhere and enable us to offer a compelling work environment to prospective employees.

This very much reflects what we do for our clients. We help companies and enterprises look at their strategy and current capabilities, work out what is missing or needs changing, and then help put together a roadmap to move forward through a programme of work that is clearly tied back to the benefits. It’s the same for businesses as it is for people, it is all about purpose. You should always be able to answer the questions “why am I doing this” and “why am I doing this now?”.

What are your interests away from work?

Michael Tapp: Family, football, food and anything new and interesting.

John Owen: I enjoy adventure. This could involve cycling around E Europe, sailing across the Caribbean and Pacific, or simply enjoying the wonderful walks in the Waitakere Ranges. I also try to do my bit for the environment and have spent many of my weekends over the last seven years working to return two large bare paddocks in the Far North back to native bush – I am typing this listening to the sound of birds in the new environment, which is a great reward for the effort.

I am a great believer in lifelong learning, which is handy because I am a slow learner. I can not list all the things I would love to know more about and I am sad that there isnt enough time to satisfy my interests.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Michael Tapp: It’s about the people not the technology.

Rod Drury and Ian McCrae have done great things building locally based, but internationally recognised and successful organisationsMichael Tapp, Cyma

John Owen: It is difficult to pick a specific piece of advice out – I suspect that as a younger person I wasn’t very good at listening to others. The most influential events in my life were during my time at university and shortly after, when two very dear and close friends died in separate incidents. It seemed so unfair and so random, and lead to a strong belief of mine that has lasted though the years – if you really want to do something then don’t wait for permission or approval or for the right time, just get on and do it. Otherwise life, quite literally, will leave you behind.

Professionally, who do you admire most?

Michael Tapp: Difficult question, I think locally both Rod Drury and Ian McCraehave done great things building locally based, but internationally recognised and successful organisations.

Ian McCrae – CEO, Orion Health

Rod Drury – CEO, Xero

John Owen: There are a number of well known enterprise architects who have done some really compelling thinking in our field. Tom Graves is one, he thinks very holistically about enterprise architecture and actively rails against too much of a technology centred view. Nick Malik is another who bought together some previously disparate models and thinking into a compelling framework for thinking about enterprise architecture.

How long have you been working in IT? How did you get into IT?

Michael Tapp: It would be over 20 years now. I was lucky enough to be a teenager when the Commodore 64 and Amiga were around and my school was very progressive about setting up a computer lab. That got me interesting in coding and the wider world of information systems.

John Owen: 25 years. I was supposed to study accountancy but due to an illness before my exams I didn’t quite get the grades needed. Computing was actually my backup option and I started out on a diploma course (my grades were very bad!). I decided I liked it enough and did well enough to upgrade to a BSc and went on to do an MSc.

If you weren’t working in IT, what would you be doing?

Michael Tapp: Something with lots of variety and problem solving required. Running our business (the other half of what I do) is probably a good hint.

John Owen: Not accountancy (sorry Anit!), although I have ended up as the pseudo CFO of Cyma. If I weren’t working right now I would be cycling in Asia or South America with my wife or trying to convince my friends to find a boat in Europe and sail it back to NZ. If I were to choose an alternative career then I would probably choose something in tertiary education.

Can you share a key pointer for success at a time of fast paced technology changes and what Forrester calls ‘the age of the customer’?

Michael Tapp and John Owen: Make sure you are taking a holistic, end to end view of your problem space. The classic example is the hype around “digital”. People often perceive this as purely a technology issue when in fact the challenge is much deeper and more pervasive than that. To do “digital” properly organisations need to have a plan that addresses all the facets needed to successfully establish a business capability i.e. people, process, information and technology.

‘It’s about the people not the technology.’

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Follow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinap

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