Adrian Thirkill and the rise of GCI People Cloud

Adrian Thirkill's GCI Vision conference performance last month was indicative of the motivated, energetic culture he has fostered since joining the company in December 2015 as CEO.

With characteristic frankness and enthusiasm Thirkill demonstrates the limitations he sees at the heart of many business organisations - their adherence to a policy of ‘presenteeism'. Down the ages, and unrelated to any strategic need, human potential has been compressed into the confines of an office space, he believes. On coming to office at GCI, one of Thirkill's priorities was to oversee the recasting of internal operations, a task that underlined the ineffectiveness of siloed working as he liberated staff from their desks and reunited them in a People Cloud.

"This means supporting staff to believe and trust in how good they could actually be, enabling them to find their own work/life integration balance with the freedom that other companies don't offer," explained Thirkill. "Part of this is about empowering people to work virtually and not feel paranoid for not being seen in the office. It's about results with a firm steer and a light touch. You can't develop, deploy and use cloud and mobility technology without also applying the same principles to your people. Creating and fostering a GCI People Cloud opened up a whole new talent market for our growth."

Thirkill saw from day one how a GCI People Cloud would work in practice and the improvements in customer relationships it would bring. "I saw the CEO role as a fantastic opportunity to bring good people together and harness their talent to make GCI a company that delivers more for our customers," he added. "My first job was to bring everybody together and break down the walls. To some extent staff were shackled by a siloed approach and by eliminating this it would enable them to see the bigger picture, and empower everyone to make change and deliver what our customers really want from us. Too many companies don't practice what they preach. They're happy to use or sell the technology that makes people mobile and more agile but don't use it themselves. Instead many still foster a culture of presenteeism. This will end."

Having declared himself in stark opposition to business leaders who run their operations under the rubric of ‘Presenteeism', averse to the latent potential of their staff, Thirkill spoke volumes about the big opportunities within GCI's reach having undergone a cultural revolution. "The move towards digital transformation and convergence has accelerated since I joined GCI, and is growing exponentially every single month," he said. "This is what's driving UK PLC and us as a business. Change is the only constant in our industry and technical evolution is quickly rewriting the last 100 years of social evolution. In the immediate business environment the main growth will be UC, cloud security, compliance and IT services. Convergence is driving everything, enabling mobility and digital transformation."

Outcomes only
Resellers should have nothing to do with single point solutions, noted Thirkill, who went on to explain why they have no conceivable interest for today's businesses. "Customers are no longer coming to us wanting a network or firewall, instead they are asking us for resolutions to particular business problems that need specific outcomes," stated Thirkill. "This maps perfectly to what GCI is seeking to do, which is to empower digital transformation within our customers that allows them to be more agile and innovate faster. All channel partners should be able to plug into the new world of convergence and deliver value. We are working with strategic partners that are able to deliver business outcomes for UK PLC."

Meanwhile, fulfilling another obligation of executive leadership, Thirkill is focused on more potential acquisition targets as well as organic growth. "Our acquisition of Blue Chip in July filled a gap in our convergence capability, giving us a ‘fifth service pillar', namely full IT support," he said. "This sits alongside our existing capabilities in UCaaS, cloud, security, compliance, network and infrastructure, and means that we can provide a full range of converged services that underpins our customers as they embark on their digital transformation journeys."

The Blue Chip acquisition is GCI's 18th since it was founded in 2000 by Chairman Wayne Martin. During its 17 years the company has completed over 30,000 technology projects, has a turnover approaching £100 million, 11 offices and employs 500 staff across the UK - 350 of them descended on the East Midlands Conference Centre in Nottingham for last month's GCI Vision event, the firm's largest internal conference to date.

Thirkill joined GCI from Easynet Global Services where he was Managing Director. Previous roles also include Chief Operating Officer & UK Managing Director at Easynet Group and Directorships at COLT Telecom. His greatest career achievement is also his biggest opportunity - keeping an open mind. "It's been quite a journey," added Thirkill.

"We are in a state of constant evolution and reinvention. Anything that is disruptive to business allows innovators to grow. This includes Brexit. In times of business uncertainty open minded organisations strive to get ahead and drive change. We want to work with the innovators and help them succeed in their business goals."