CIO100 2017 #31-100: Mike Jenkins, The Instillery
“The Instillery was born at the very beginning of the ‘public cloud era’ and over the past four years we’ve we’ve been providing cloud-first consulting, managed services, automation and analytics, with a particular focus on the Enterprise and SME markets.
“So while a lot of companies are only just dipping their toe in the water with non production workloads in public cloud, The Instillery team are already focusing on the next iteration of business challenges,” says its founder and CEO Mike Jenkins. These include moving enterprise mission critical applications to the public cloud, automating business processes and providing powerful business insights and analytics that are helping internal IT and digital teams transform their perception from an ‘expensive cost centre delivering minimal innovation’ to a critical business unit that provides visibility into meaningful data that could increase sales and improve the customer experience.
He says The Instillery has experienced phenomenal growth over the past year, which he credits to the team finely balancing always-on operational systems with innovation, automation and customer success and a relentless focus on pursuing the globes top cloud talent to join the expanding team and support the growth.
“As our stable of highly valued customers has grown, so too has the size of our engagements. As we engage with a larger variety of business executives as opposed to the traditional ICT stakeholders, our prospective clients are realising the value way beyond material cost take out that can be realised through working with a partner like The Instillery” he states.
Since we founded The Instillery, we now have impressive book of over 200 customers in four countries, he states.
“We work alongside some simply heavy hitting local and global enterprises such as Xero, Link Market Services, Estee Lauder, TSB Bank and Fonterra along with some epic homegrown socially focused SME clients such as Eat My Lunch and Sustainable Coastlines.”
They have also recruited a chief operating officer, Jamie Wallis, to lead and manage the growth of the business, including their global expansion.
Jeremy Nees was also recently employed as chief product officer and will be responsible for the continued evolution of The Instillery’s go to market strategy and enterprise cloud security, visibility and software defined connectivity portfolio.
“We also follow our own clearstate consulting ‘better practice’ principles by implementing cloud-based applications and managed services that means we can save the business money, enhance our own agility and align costs to client revenues,” he says.
Because of this, a significant portion of the team’s time is spent working alongside iconic cloud first teams such as Cloudability, Zscaler, AWS and Azure on research and innovation, and understanding our customers future requirements because “that’s the business we are in”.
“To continue to be at the cutting edge of the industry and maintain our position as NZ’s fastest growing cloud consulting and service providers we absolutely must continue to evolve, shift, move, innovate, automate and grow so that we in turn can help our customers do the same on the global stage.”
Jenkins says they provide a fresh new data driven approach to the delivery of mission critical cloud first ICT services, including a portfolio of affordable cloud services and a team of local experts to help organisations accelerate the transition to the cloud providing while enhancing cost visibility and security posture.
“The unique thing about The Instillery is that we’re not simply a ‘cloud practice’ within a licensing or hardware reseller, Cloud and DevOps are our entire business,” he says, “and we all contribute to the achievement of the strategic goals of our organisation by delivering true business transformation leveraging the power of cloud, automation and analytics for our clients.”
A great example of this was the recent launch of the Clearstate Consulting process. Clearstate provides enterprise, government and SaaS clients with visibility of their hybrid cloud environments and a pathway to realising the benefits of public cloud and microservices.
From global SaaS providers, universities through to banks, healthcare providers and lean social enterprise startups, this approach is literally transforming the way these organisations do business and opening up exciting new opportunities for commercialisation and net new revenue, says Jenkins.
Jenkins says that over the past 12 months, The Instillery has invested 10 percent of its total annual revenue into R&D. “We want to continue to stay at the forefront of the cloud and automation game not just here in NZ but also from a global standpoint. We have the aspirational goal of being the go to team for Cloud advice and thought leadership for global enterprises.”
“In our own in-house innovations, we are evolving internal consulting processes to reduce the reliance on highly-skilled professionals and are moving towards the development of automated applications to complement our services process.
“The driver for the invention of new applications is two fold, we want to make our expertise available to a global audience and it’s near impossible to enable this without a 1000 person cloud army. Furthermore we want to ensure that accessing our IP is affordable for all organisations whether you're a startup, university student experimenting with cloud or an enterprise.”
The Instillery recently unveiled the Clearstate App and is currently undergoing Beta testing with a select group of global and local clients.
The Clearstate app is designed to provide cloud administrators, engineers,developers and C-level executives with knowledge and power to optimise their cloud systems for best performance in diverse, complex production environments.
“We see it as a single pane of glass to view and optimise AWS cloud deployments (including both live and historical data) by monitoring and automating day-to-day cloud administration and management operations.
“The app delivers a common language for both technical and technology experts along with clear and concise information for C-level executives too with an intuitive interface that delivers relevant insights for business stakeholders, ensuring nothing is lost in translation.”
A great example of the value of the Clearstate app was discovered during an early beta deployment with a Kiwi SaaS startup client. Clearstate was live for less than 60 seconds and identified orphaned EBS volumes (“translation: previously established cloud resource that was not being utilised”). The net result was a very material saving of US$7500+ per month for that client and ongoing confidence that that would never be an issue again through real time visibility of the entire AWS environment and logical dependency mapping.
Internally, he says, the staff use a range of tools for collaboration and engage with the team, from face to face discussions to online tools such as AWS Chime, Slack, Google Hangouts, Jira and Confluence.
He says this is why they have purposely established a flat business structure and operate in an open plan in their brand new headquarters in Parnell, Auckland, New Zealand and their international sites that are centrally located co-working spaces in Sydney, San Francisco and London.
Internship with a difference
“Frankly, IT In New Zealand is all cardigans and bow ties and an absolute sausage fest to boot,” he states. “I’ve spoken about this at length at every opportunity I get and while I don’t have the solution changing this up is something I am particularly passionate about, starting with the talent we bring into the Instillery.”
“As a result, we do our best to encourage, recruit, and attract both young women and men to the industry But it’s not easy.... One way we we do this is through The Instillery ‘Wintern Programme’.
“We want to develop new blood in the industry, harnessing the top talent and their passion to provide a level of focus and a platform to be nurtured and experience life in the hi tech fast lane,” says Jenkins.
“We believe ours is an ICT internship with a difference; while we welcome ICT graduates and those still studying, we also open the criteria to school leavers and do not filter by the field of study.
“It’s a matter of attitude and appetite to learn and be open minded to a new world of cloud first technologies. Of course combined with a cultural fit that we are truly focussed on. Aligning the epic youngsters with true thought leaders and industry experts is a formula that we’re seeking to replicate across the globe and we’re actually now seeing some of our clients and partners following in our footsteps” he states.
The new interns spend three months being mentored and working in all areas of the business. Jenkins says: “everyone in our business is customer facing. Ensuring the interns are exposed to this from Day One is a critical part of helping them to understand the real impact our work has on our customers organisations”
“You name it, they’ll be working on it with the support of a dedicated team mentor.”
In our 2016 intern program, The Instillery selected three interns from 129 applicants. All 3 interns have gone on to gain full time employment with the company. One as a project manager, one now heads up the SME business unit and one is a cloud activations engineer.
“We love being able to nurture the next generation of ICT leaders and to provide the opportunity to leverage The Instillery as a launch pad while cutting their own path within the industry,” he states.