Interview Series: Cleveland Henry, Director of Cloud, UKCloud Health

In our latest edition in our Interview Series, we spoke with Cleveland Henry, Director of Cloud at UKCloud Health.

UKCloud Health are helping advance digital maturity across Health and Care in the UK through utilising cloud technology.

Cleveland starts by telling us about his beginnings in health technology and how his career has developed over the last 30 years…

Can you tell me about yourself and UKCloud Health?

I’m just about to hit 30 years working in technology and digital having started my career in 1990 for what was then a very small health tech start-up; a company which we all now know: EMIS Health. I was one of their very early employees as their 1st every product came to market. I finished my studies at that time and joined EMIS where I started as a support developer and progressed to Support Manager.

I had a successful 5 years at EMIS, and it gave me the confidence to be able to go elsewhere. I have been in IT management since, which has taken me across technology service, software and even a stint at Daimler Chrysler to Lloyds Banking Group and then, about 8 years ago, I returned back to health tech and back to EMIS where they launched what was then a flagship product in EMIS Web. That then led me to NHS Digital where I led NHS Choices and NHSmail, as well as conducting work in Horizon Scanning; looking at digital technology and digital transformation which was out there.

That path then led me to UKCloud 2 years ago, joining their health division, UKCloud Health, to help the health sector adopt digital technology and digital transformation through the use of cloud. My career has taken me around the country and around the world – one of the best career paths to be able to see different cities and different countries!

How have you responded over the past few months to Covid?

At the beginning there was not so much a panic, but a need to do things at pace. We’ve been supporting people in a number of ways; the one that I think everyone has been a part of is enabling people to securely work from home – this continues to be the ‘needs to happen and needed to happen yesterday’. Digital workplaces are nothing new, but actually to do it at pace, at scale and within budget, the cloud is the place for it to happen.

What cloud enables is on-demand and switch it on to make implementation as rapid as it needs to be. We’ve been very busy supporting people with that demand of working from home. Also, we have seen the need for storage and computing at scale where people are moving a lot more data around now than they previously had and at a more rapid pace, the capacity demands usually managed daily became really real. We needed more than ‘can Bob in IT give me an extra GB of memory in a 2-week timeframe once a request has gone through’, it is really about providing capability for rapid implementation and rapid use.

It is about pace, scale and security, and that is what cloud gives you. Working with a significant trust in the south of the country, they needed to remove their process for paper records where they were still using a system of someone wheeling around a trolley with paper records on, handing those out. Clearly, electronic document management are nothing new but, in some trusts, these are commonly undertaken over a 2-year implementation plan, we’ve been working with one of our partners where we’ve enabled the ability for clinicians to view full historical medical records to support treating patients remotely within weeks.

For me, there’s nothing new about it, but Covid has brought it to the fore. We continue to help organisations move from the ‘I just need to have something in place’ to making sure that what they have put in place can now be sustainable and ready for whatever the new norm is.

Can you tell me about one of your customer projects over the past 12 months?

Our strength is data centre modernisation but in essence it is trusts that have a data centre of sorts, which is both becoming end-of-life or possible not future proofed. We are working with one particular trust, that are moving all of their systems and data into our cloud environments.

They want all of their applications, both legacy and new, from the cloud, and therefore they can provide speed, access and security as a service to their community as opposed to having to spend all their time just keeping the lights on and turning the handle. They have essentially lifted and shifted their physical environments into our cloud environments, which allows their IT team to actually focus on implementing the solutions and digital technology that the trust needs.

IT teams typical spend 80% of the time keeping the lights on, and 20% of the time on innovation. So, it is about moving the needle away from keeping the lights on to innovation.

What’s coming up over the next 12 months for UKCloud Health?

We’ve been banging the drum about ‘what cloud can give you’, we’ve been talking to and working with a lot to organisations and the market about that journey. Cloud is nothing new and we all use it in our personal lives; anything from the pictures on our phones, Netflix, all of the streaming services and so on. We’ve been talking about that for some time and we all know the health sector has taken some time to adopt what has become commoditised technology solutions for various reasons – cost, culture, risk appetite and so on. I think Covid-19 has lit the touch paper to say what is actually possible. In particular with remote working and the benefits of cloud computing, where we do not all have to be sat in a particular place, has really demonstrated what cloud connectivity is all about.

For us, the message is going to be easier about the new norm, the future of work, they want to remove the physicality of data and systems on a location and that means moving to a digital workplace as a service. People are now asking the question ‘do I need to have a building of administrative staff where the building is costing us x-amount?’ Where actually those administrative staff can work flexibly from anywhere. Digital workplace and moving that to a sustained area is going to be one of our big areas.

The other area is going to be that whole data centre transformation and modernisation, not only new applications working as a service but actually a lot of the legacy applications to be able to move physically into a service hosted in the cloud to improve accessibility, scale, security and resilience.

Another area is data informatics platforms, where as I always say ‘the NHS is data rich but information poor’ and cloud is creating these big data environments that allows the ingestion of multiple sources of data.  Finally us continuing to support our ecosystem of Healthtech innovators providing them the platforms to innovate and deliver securely at scale.   Data centre modernisation, digital workplace, informatics/big data and enabling health tech innovators to deliver are the areas coming up for us.

What challenges have you faced or facing at the moment?

There’s an adversity to change challenge, and that’s more about cultural and behavioural challenge, and that’s about being risk averse. The what it is and what we can do is a no brainer, but to get some organisations to make a leap of faith is sometimes challenging.

Another challenge in cloud in moving organisations forward is the cost challenge. From a historical standpoint, moving an organisation from physical capital costs when you’re buying something you can touch, to a revenue operational cost of a consumption model; the simplest way to explain it is that nobody pays for their electricity up front, you pay for what you use. It is not the money, it is the type of money, the colour of the money, between capital and revenue consumption based.

It is crazy, I’ve seen from a capital perspective, people spending more money in total than operating in a revenue model which over the period would cost them less. We are all tax payers at the end of the day, I don’t care what that money is but it should be used in the most efficient manner.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve been really lucky to work with some great people. The co-founders of EMIS were absolutely inspirational in where I am today through support guidance. Telling me that age doesn’t matter, it is about always learning and ready to learn to then take that forward and having confidence in your own ability without overstepping the mark.

I’ve always been taught to be personable; understanding and taking time to understand people from their point of view and their challenges. This allows you to empathise and deliver what is needed vs preaching. Even 30 years in the industry, I always make sure I spend the appropriate amount of time in engaging and understanding the person and the challenge. Be personable, listen and learn. 

What’s your go to entertainment in lockdown?

Zoom Socials is quite good entertainment; so, we’ve got group quizzes, beer catchups and all that, and also exercise; I’ve done more exercise in the last 10 weeks than normal.  I’ve done something every day, so that’s either a run, a walk, a HIITs or a bike ride and I’m absolutely loving it, almost addicted to it.