CIO100 2018 #14: Mike Jenkins, The Instillery
“The unique thing about The Instillery is that we’re not simply an IT team within a business, technology is the heart and soul of everything we do, it IS our business,” says Mike Jenkins, CEO and founder of the cloud and automation professional and managed services company.
“To be quite honest we’ve just been heads down and bums up for the past four-and-a-half years; so for me personally 2017 was a real breakthrough year for the business reaffirming our transition from a Kiwi startup “story” to the establishment of what I believe is a true enterprise class business that has only started to realise our global potential.”
“We were blown away to be recognised as the 4th Fastest Growing tech company in New Zealand in 2017 as per the Deloitte fast 500 awards,” he says.
“We all contribute to the achievement of the strategic goals of our organisation by delivering true business transformation and tangible 10-times business value for our clients” every single day.
This commitment to delivering ongoing business value and a laser focus on both multi-cloud and automation has enabled us to heavily productise our core offerings; for our clients, this means we can deliver true enterprise class business velocity, at an affordable price.
One of these clients is Fonterra, of which their work has led The Instillery be named as the 2017 Digital Transformer of the Year by IDC Asia Pacific.
The Instillery worked with Fonterra and its respective global team and digital marketing agencies to create a multi-vendor digital project ecosystem that’s flexible, scalable and brings standardised project administration, management, and development processes, workflow and governance. Best of all it ensures an “any cloud” approach to the hosting of digital assets whether that’s on premise IaaS or any one of AWS, Azure, GCP or Alibaba.
This enables Fonterra to collaborate with its global teams, market partners, vendors and implement common processes with defined roles and responsibilities based on predetermined conventions.
“The Instillery’s Pipeline Creation Tool (Pipeline) offers a cloud-based toolset and process framework that includes automated project creation across best practice SaaS tools that encompass the full lifecycle of a digital project’s activation documentation and admin needs,” he says.
The tool automates the entire process from creating a client brief through to code deployment, review, testing, iteration and cloud hosting.
“By introducing the Pipeline SaaS toolset and automating templates across each element of the project, we have developed a repeatable, convention based low-effort project creation, vendor selection and approval process for all Fonterra digital projects. From a digital perspective alone, this has saved millions of dollars a year. While also empowering key Fonterra stakeholders with unprecedented business visibility” says Jenkins.
At the complete opposite end of the spectrum, he says another epic project that comes to mind is the Instillery’s partnership with Knode.
The two exciting Kiwi organisations came together to create an IoT start up focusing on automated monitoring.
“Knode is a mobile friendly IoT platform that helps you track and measure assets that are important to your farm, business or department ranging from Water levels/pressure, LPG and even the real-time location of assets across farms, wineries and even cities,” he explains.
The Instillery delivered a highly automated serverless IoT infrastructure powered by AWS to support the organisation combined with a mobile friendly front end that doesn’t require a PHD student to translate, all for less than $1 a day per customer, he says.
“We then expanded our services leveraging our cloud connectivity prowess to design a unique and cost-effective radio network agnostic integration leveraging both the Sigfox and Lorawan radio networks deployed in NZ. We now deliver the underlying cloud technology in our unique co-pilot fashion giving the Knode team full visibility but allows Richie and his team to focus on cutting code, developing new features and selling their apps, safe in the knowledge that The Instillery team are ensuring their infrastructure is secure, infinitely scalable, rapidly provisioned and always on.”
Jenkins says that the number one priority for The Instillery is ensuring they are actively recruiting the top talent to keep up with the market demand for The Instillery’s Cloud and Automation service products and mass adoption advice.
Part of ensuring a “deep bench” is bringing global and local tech leaders to the team.
“Every month, we invite ground breaking or exciting technologists from around the globe and even here at home to present concepts and ideas or new technologies to the Instillery whanau.
This concept of The Instillery whanau is key to the culture Jenkins has established at the Instillery, with his three kids Kobe, Tamara and Sasha being regular after school visitors to their HQ in Parnell.
“We openly discuss our overall business goals (revenue, growth, project delivery, client satisfaction and sentiment) and performance against these goals, while ensuring that each individual is clear and focused on their own personal and professional goals and what this means in the context of their role in our business success,” says Jenkins.
“These goals include specific training objectives that we fund entirely as a business along with personal goals around work/life balance and workplace flexibility.”
He says The Instillery team are also very active in the pursuit of helping Kiwis “level up” on the tangible benefits that cloud can deliver for business and the NZ economy.
Jenkins and the team regularly attend university and industry events such as meetups and as speakers at corporate events such as the recent Microsoft Elevate conference to encourage young kiwis and in particular, females, to join the IT industry.
“I’m not a big fan about preaching about what makes a great team culture; I just honestly believe that you either have it, or you don’t” and in a competitive ICT marketplace – people will vote with their feet.”
There are a couple of key career lessons that have really hit home for Jenkins since his departure from a corporate career with Logical, IBM and Cisco and with The Instillery’s fifth birthday just around the corner.
“I try to lead by example but I’m quite often wrong – more often that I’d like, particularly when surrounding myself with borderline savant like characters that I’m proud to call The Instillery team.
I fundamentally believe in the saying that if you’re the smartest in the room; you’re probably in the wrong room if you’re looking to grow.
“Stay humble and take ownership for it all,” he says.
“At The Instillery we’ve created a culture for the team to commit fully, to take risks and do the same.
“Nobody has a monopoly on good ideas,” he says.
“Anyone can come up with a good idea – decades of experience, success, and connections have nothing to do with it. If someone wants it bad enough will do whatever it takes to bring that idea to life. In my experience at The Instillery its this fresh young lens that enables us to come up with solutions to business problems that other people just can’t see.
“I am a slow learner. Just because I started the Instillery in 2013 and have literally performed every role that exists today at one point or another since our inception, it doesn’t mean that should always be the way or that I necessarily know best.
With this being said, “it took me a while let my legendary team loose and it was the best thing I ever did for our business and customers - with a bunch of experts at the helm why wouldn’t you?”