by George Nott

CIO50 2017 #26-50: Cameron McFie, Rhipe

Nov 21, 2017
Technology Industry

Rhipe provide licensing, business development and knowledge services that support service providers, system integrators and software vendors accelerate the adoption of the cloud by end customers.

Its solutions and services span intelligent billing and cloud provisioning, as well as Marketing-as-a-Service, Support-as-a-Service and Consulting-as-a-Service offerings. Rhipe aggregates subscription-licensing models from global vendors such as Microsoft, IBM SoftLayer, VMware, Citrix, Red Hat, Trend Micro, Veeam, Zimbra, Acronis and Sinefa.

Two years ago ASX-listed Rhipe invested in a full digital transformation of services. CTO Cameron McFie was charged with designing, developing and deploying an integrated multi-vendor partner portal called The Prime Portal.

This required the consolidation of six legacy portals into one platform, which serves as a ‘virtual account manager’ and allows partners to manage all their licensing and provisioning themselves, including integration with Rhipe’s billing services, and integrate their internal systems with Rhipe’s APIs.

McFie was named in last year’s CIO50 list for his efforts which automated the partner on boarding process and reduced a very complex and cumbersome partner experience that could take up to 72 hours to complete down to a 10 to 15 minute process.

In the last 12 months Rhipe’s IT team has extended the platform to support billing, provisioning and usage reporting in all 26 vendors’ programs (an increase in programs of 766 per cent year on year), giving partners access to more technologies via Prime.

In April 2017 McFie and his 11-strong team delivered a second major release of Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider in Prime Portal, which launched the second version of our partner APIs.

“Using these APIs partners can now integrate their portals with Prime, bundling their services with multiple vendors on one single invoice. We’ve seen strong take-up of these services across B2B and ISV partners across Australia, with partner’s building services on our platform and growing net-new revenue streams,” McFie says.

The portal has been developed using a pure cloud infrastructure (Microsoft Azure) using the latest in single page application (AngularJS, and .NET REST API backend) design. It is backed by custom built Micro Services design.

“This design allows Rhipe to quickly and easily rollout new versions of the micro services with no outage to the system, and scale up and down automatically depending on the load. As one can imagine this scaling mechanism is used every month on our major billing days.A truly agile approach,” McFie says.

Every few months the IT team run a “Tech Debt” sprint – a kind of two-week hackathon – whereby developers are left to find parts of the solution they don’t like and improve them with new design patterns, products or technologies.

In recent months those Tech Debt sprints have delivered improved reliability and customer heirachy models and localisation services to ensure the portal is translated to the local language in the company’s new markets.

A proof of concept project is underway for a voice command service that allows users to interact with Prime for data analysis via natural language commands, for example: Who are my top five Azure customers? What is my profitability so far this month?

A flexible, collaborative team

“I drive my team to continually think of new ways to implement features, drive down manual processes all using the team’s design principles – scalable, secure, highly available, API first, cost effective, fully automated, test driven and so on,” McFie says.

The diverse team – with four nationalities and an industry average busting 40 per cent female representation – are highly collaborative.

“I believe strongly in a collaborative decision-making process. We have a development lead and a senior business analyst which help guide the team although in the greater part, the team makes all of the big decisions together. We draw on the specialties of each and every team member to design and build out best-of-breed solutions no matter how junior or senior they are,” he adds.

The team uses a ‘buddy system’ with every major task is allocated to teams of two people – a junior developer and a more senior developer.

“Not only does it provide training for the more junior member, it also means the knowledge is shared across more than one member of the team,” McFie says.

In the last year the team has introduced brown bag lunch sessions where each of the developers get to present to all others in the team, be it to learn a new feature of Azure, new coding patterns or a minutiae of a recently delivered product. Flexible working is encouraged with more than 60 per cent of the IT team working from home on any given day.

Change the mindset

As CTO McFie takes it on himself to raise the profile of his function within the business. A variety of communications have been tried – including Yammer, research and development committee meetings, and distributing release notes ahead of production deployments. The most effective has proven to be regular web conferences, giving staff throughout the company the chance to see new features in action and ask questions.

“Engaging with the organisation is the biggest challenge of a CTO.Most people look at IT as a necessity and don’t think about how it is changing their daily lives. Big changes for the IT team can mean very little to the rest of the business if not communicated in the right way. It is the job of the CTO to change the mindset of people and make them understand the importance of IT in the business,” McFie says.