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Six into one - how Global CIO Sharon Peters is creating a single platform for Boldyn Networks

Mark Chillingworth Profile picture for user Mark Chillingworth May 10, 2024
Summary:
As Global CIO, Peters and her team have delivered on a platform and tech strategy for consolidation of leading networks company.

Boldyn
(Sharon Peters)

Last summer, six major network infrastructure providers were relaunched as Boldyn Networks. The re-brand was the culmination of five acquisitions made by BAI Communications since 2010, and the increasingly global focus of the business. Boldyn Networks needed more than a re-brand to get business value from its acquisitions; a single technology platform was required; enter Global CIO Sharon Peters.

After taking a majority stake in US firm Transit Wireless in 2010, BAI Communications, originally from Australia, then acquired Newport Beach-headquartered Mobilitie in June 2021 and UK firm Vilicom in December of that year. The following year further US firms were acquired with ZenFi Networks and Signal Point joining the business. This has led to a company that today is one of the largest neutral host providers, and in June 2023 the company rebranded as Boldyn Networks.

The company focuses on four areas of network infrastructure: connected transport, large venues, business customers and connected cities; projects it has been involved in include the free public WiFi network in New York, LinkNYC, mobile coverage on the London Underground, 5G networking in Rome and mobile connectivity to Hornsea 2, one of Europe’s largest offshore wind farms.

With the new brand launched a week into Peters’ career with the company, it needed to simplify and centralise its business processes, including creating a global technology function with a single platform of applications. Peters says:

One of the goals for the transformation was to put in a new Boldyn technology core and to de-couple BAI Communications in Australia, to enable the company to operate as one Boldyn 

That technology core included new devices, user identities, password-less sign-on and a global platform to replace duplicate and legacy technologies. All of this was to be delivered by a technology team based in BAI’s former headquarters in Australia, adding what CIO Peters and her team calls time zone tension.

The transition to the new platforms began in New York and worked against the sun, moving across to Europe and then Asia. With a short timeline, Peters and her team had to do a lift and shift, which digital leaders prefer not to do, but is often the best course of action in order to meet business demands. This was especially the case for Boldyn, who, as well as rebranding, was restructuring the organization.   

Inevitably there were humps in the road. On day one, a series of permissions didn’t move across as planned, and an element of the project had to be rolled back to protect financial data. Rather than stop the project, Peters and her team made the quick decision to de-couple that element of the project to keep up the pace of change. She adds that as the transformation moved from one geography to another, there were nuances and challenges to overcome. Despite these, within one month, the programme was completed on time and on budget.

The platform change prior to the Boldyn Tech Core (BTC) involved the roll out of ServiceNow and Workday Human Capital Management (HCM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) in a managed service provider partnership with Cognizant. These single platforms will replace a range of technologies that have been adopted by each of the different businesses, including Oracle and JD Edwards, and has and still involves a program of simplification to achieve end to end global processes underpinned by technology.

Beyond the migration

Peters team had to lift and shift to the new technology platform in order to aid the re-organization of the new single business. With the migration to a new platform completed, the CIO is now looking at how to optimise the technology and business processes across Boldyn Networks. She explains: 

Now we have one Boldyn technology stack; we are going back and looking at what works and what does not so we can iterate and improve for our colleagues and get the value from the technology. This is more around a continuous improvement mindset and constantly evaluating the value we can demonstrate through partnership across the business teams.

Our new platform or set of platforms has activated a different way of working across the business – delivering the new tech is the start of the journey.

Peters is proud of the team that she leads which has, within a short period, come together and delivered transformation programs.  At times this has really tested resilience. A culture of communication and a regular all hands run by the teams ensures her team stays connected, she says: 

We want to make sure that we have transparency, but not curb the great work that the teams do.

Retail to tech

Peters has spent the bulk of her digital leadership career in retail. She joined UK retail stalwart Marks & Spencer in 2003 and held a range of technology management roles before leaving to join Boldyn Networks. Inevitably, the CIO noticed a cultural shift in moving from retail to technology:

A technology role in a technology-focused organization is very different; if you don’t provide policies that are flexible and secure by design, then in technology organisations, people will find a back way, as they are really smart at technology. My policy as a CIO is that you talk to them and ask them what their pain points are and find somewhere in the middle, and always be transparent.

That last point, she says, is where there is a similarity with her previous roles:

If I am not in touch with the colleagues here, then I will fail, and I learned that at Marks & Spencer where you have to talk to the customer and understand what they want.

For the last four years, Peters has also been mentoring women in business and technology as part of Cajigo, an app and network to help women in technology careers. She got involved during her time at Marks & Spencer and says:

If you don’t see yourself in a role because you don’t see people like you, then the change will never happen. I have a daughter and a son, and you see the drop in interest towards technology in girls as they get older, and I wanted to do something. The thing I can do is tell my story and my journey.

Cajigo organises STEM career talks for Year 7 girls and provides continuous mentoring, while at Boldyn, Peters has formed Bold Women and Allies and for the first time there is a sustainable plan with quarterly outcomes to create the best telco for women to work at.

My take

Fast-growing and acquisitive companies can slow themselves down if they don’t tackle the myriad duplicate systems and business processes that build up post-buyout. Boldyn Networks has used the opportunity of a new name to build new processes and use new technologies. Delivering that change on time and on budget is an early success, an example of how digital leaders continue to meet the expectations of their organizations.

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