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Q&A: Jez Back, UKCA head judge

We talk about all things cloud with the head judge of the UKCA 2019...

Jez Back

What inspired you to be a judge of the UK Cloud Awards 2019?

Our industry has matured. There is greater emphasis on emerging talent, technology and deployment techniques as well as the continual innovation in the market, that is exciting as it means that businesses can focus more on value and outcomes.  It is this that inspires me as a judge in the UK Cloud Awards.

 What experience do you bring to the judging process?

I have been working in the technology industry for over 12 years and have led the Cloud Computing group at several organisations as well as providing advice to clients from SME to global organisations. I have been fortunate enough to straddle both the technical and the strategic sides of cloud technology which allows me to bring perspective from the micro to the macro level.

What advice would you give to those entering this time around?

Firstly, I strongly recommend that entrants read the FAQs on how to write a winning entry. The key is to be able to write succinctly and clearly whilst avoiding using sales or PR material authenticity is very powerful. The judges want to award points for your entries, so give them the reasons to do it.  Focus on short, clearly articulated statements that have detail and evidence, with only 500 words, don't waste your precious content space.

When you read an entry, what do you look for /what influences your scoring?

Personally, I am looking for three things that will influence me to give maximum marks: Evidence, Authenticity and demonstrating Value through business outcomes.  Our industry exists not for the technology's sake but for a positive impact on our customers show and delight me with facts and data backed up with testimonials from your customers.

How do you like to describe 'innovation'?

Innovation is such a tricky word in today's climate. I see innovation in three forms. Firstly, those that do research and discover new concepts, capabilities that are essentially prototypes. Second, those that differentiate from a basic idea and make it their own; and finally, those that take a product or service and make it a readily accessible commodity or utility service. The first definition is hard to prove, the second and third can be expressed much easier in terms of value but all are important.

Looking back on 2018, what was the one stand out moment for you related to UK cloud computing industry?

This is a very difficult question to answer! There have been many successes for the UK, many which have broadly gone unnoticed. In terms of people, I am delighted to see increased diversity in the technology industry. By that I do not just mean more women in technology, I think about socio-economic backgrounds as well as more widely talked about issues such as gender and LGBTQ+. This leads me to thinking about the continued growth of the technology sector in the UK, it has grown at a rate of over 2 times faster than the rest of the economy. You can see that in the investment of tech giants, such as Google and Apple starting to build large offices in London, Alibaba opening its capabilities in the UK, the growth of tech businesses in places such as Manchester and Bristol. There is lots to celebrate!

What are your top three cloud predictions for 2019?

Hybrid Cloud model growth. Many technology organisations are accepting the Hybrid Cloud reality for businesses, irrespective of their philosophy about it. AWS Outpost is a good market indicator of this.

Functions-as-a-Services (aka Serverless) will continue to build momentum.  Awareness and greater common understanding have shifted FaaS from hype to reality I believe that it will start to go mainstream this year in the UK.

More acquisitions and convergence. I expect to see tech giants continue doing some big acquisitions of complementary or competition as certain areas continue towards commodity or utility type services especially in the Open Source arena.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Firstly, I wish to thank Frank Bennett, last year's Head Judge, for a sterling performance and I hope to meet the challenge of Head Judge as well as he did. I also want to thank everyone who supported UKCA 2018 - it was a record year for entries and it also managed to trend in the UK on Twitter during the awards ceremony! With your help, we can raise the bar again with even more competitive entries for UKCA 2019.  I look forward to seeing your entries and meeting those that are shortlisted at the Awards ceremony in May. Best of luck!

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