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Interview with Ian Hutchinson, Strategic Alliances Senior Manager at Rackspace

Ian Hutchinson is a successful team-focused professional with more than 15 years experience in the IT industry. His skills include developing partner/alliance strategies, delivering IT transformation programs and projects, vendor contract negotiation and business management.

The Invotra platform is built on AWS (Amazon Web Services) utilising the expertise of Rackspace Managed AWS Services to ensure that it’s using world class standards with security at the forefront of its design.  

So, who are you and what do you do for Rackspace?

I work in the AWS team, in our managed public cloud business. I run the AWS alliance relationship, which basically means I am the subject matter expert for all things AWS. I ensure that the relationships are stable and positive. My role includes governance, quarterly business reviews and generating more sales engagement and increasing awareness within AWS.

How many customers/partners are you responsible for?

For myself, it’s just AWS. In previous roles, I have worked with other major providers but I’ve been working in this role for the last three years. Rackspace also has an Alliance Manager for Google and Microsoft.

Rackspace has a strong foundation in excellent customer service. You’ve often described yourselves as being ‘fanatical’ about this. Tell me what this means to you, and the thousands of ‘Rackers’ who work around the world.

It’s ultimately about providing an exceptional customer experience for every interaction  along the customer’s journey. Whether it’s an initial call to our marketing team or a sales engagement, or a solution architecture query, right the way through to providing ongoing quality managed services. That for me is the key, it’s about providing a great customer experience at every stage of every conversation.

Tell me more about Rackspace’s partnership strategy. Why is a partnership strategy so important in today’s world?

I think in relation to the public cloud providers, including AWS, it’s very important because it’s a great platform for technology and innovation but many customers will struggle to make full use of that.

That’s where the benefit of working with a partner like Rackspace can enable cloud providers to work better for their customers. Working with Rackspace and AWS, we help customers make the best use of the platform. Whether it be innovation, security or cost reduction, we try and make that possible, whereas, if customers are left to their own devices there are often challenges and pitfalls. So, I think the power of partnership is there to provide a good customer outcome. This also applies to working with companies like Invotra, together we can provide a great customer outcome. Rackspace provides a service to Invotra so that it can deliver the best possible service to its customers.

How do ‘Rackers’ learn more about their customers? Are there any metrics and/or qualitative data that you use to measure this?

From what I see, speaking with customers is the first point of call for various teams. It’s about understanding what the customer is trying to achieve, the strategy they’re on and how we can play a part in that.

We have feedback mechanisms, for example, the Net Promoter Score (NPS) which captures customer feedback at the time that they’re consuming services which is really valuable. Rackspace is really good at capturing NPS at both initial onboarding and in our monthly service delivery reviews, and then afterwards in support tickets.

This gives us a good chance to see how we’re performing. We spend time with customers  working on, what we call, the Innovation Technical Plans, where we look at the business at a deep technical level to enable its strategy, it’s a great way to understand how we can improve and move forward.

How does Rackspace keep on top of the latest technological trends in order to provide a superior service?

That boils down to a number of things. Firstly, Rackers love to learn. We have something called Gallop Clifton Strengths that analyses personality traits.  Rackers complete a questionnaire when they first join Rackspace and this helps us all understand their top five strengths (out of 34 categories). ‘Learner’ is one of the top five strengths across the company. It’s the type of character that we look for.

There are various mechanisms we provide to Rackers for learning. There’s incentives for getting AWS certifications as well as other technical certifications. We also use our strong partnership with AWS, as we get access to partner solution architects and product teams that can come in and give us updates on new services and features. We also provide Rackers the opportunity to use a percentage of their time each month for education days or to attend training courses. A combination of all these things helps to drive knowledge and increase the organisation’s expertise.

Talk about the relationship between AWS and Rackspace. How long have you worked together? What brought you together? How do you enhance and complement each other’s services?

We’ve been a partner for about four and a half years. I’ve been here for just over three, managing the AWS relationship. Rackspace took a look at itself about four or five years ago, asking what they wanted to be and what they wanted to do.

It’s the realisation that we are a services organisation. Our job is not to build and run cloud platforms, although we’ve done that for many years. What customers want and get from Rackspace is a top managed consultancy and management service. Rather than competing with the cloud providers, we are now working with them. Together we provide a better customer outcome. That’s probably the main reason we decided to partner and not compete.

Why is Invotra your favourite customer? No seriously, you love us more than anyone else, right?

You are my favorite customer! One of the common use cases we’ve seen is a lot of technology companies that provide software services are leaning towards the cloud and for me, Invotra’s story is a perfect example of that.

Rather than installing or hosting your own infrastructure, you looked at how  you could benefit from the public cloud and focus on what you’re great at which is  providing a SaaS service to your customers. By working with Rackspace, we help you to achieve that by providing  infrastructure support so that you can focus on all your strengths.