In this episode, Clare McDonald, Caroline Donnelly and Brian McKenna discuss the Everywoman in Tech awards and its allied Tech Forum; “digital boilers” that reuse datacentre heat for swimming pools and other venues; and NetSuite’s financial enterprise resource planning (ERP) software-as-a-service used for business transformation at Guinness World Records.
After some light-hearted chat around St Patrick’s Day, on which the trio team were recording, Clare gets the show on the road.
Disclosure and diversity
Clare speaks about her attendance at the recent Everywoman 2023 Women in Tech awards and its related Tech Forum, at which she is a regular.
First launched in 2011, each year the awards aim to celebrate women in tech from across many sectors and organisations. The Tech Forum’s strapline this year was “people, planet, progress”. Clare picked out the theme of disclosure from the discussions at that.
Only an inclusive and safe culture can provide the context for employees to disclose comfortably their LGBTQ+ identities. “You can’t just throw blank policies down and hope they will fit everybody in an organisation,” says Clare. Technological solutions to social and business problems will only ensure progress if the full diversity of organisations is harnessed, embracing neurodivergence and a range of gender identifications.
The team has a discussion about achieving more inclusive cultures, especially in IT departments and companies where football, beer and pizza are not going appeal to all genders and ethnic groups. And they reflect on the brute reality of patriarchal domination outside the oasis of the Everywoman event, and its like. The struggle continues and requires allyship from male agents of change, too.
Digital boilers for swimming pools
Caroline goes on to discuss a story that had a lot of mainstream media interest that week. This was that of Deep Green, a UK startup that provides mini-datacentres, dubbed “digital boilers”, which comprise servers whose waste heat is turned into hot water that can be used by local businesses. The example that grabbed the media’s imagination during the week of the podcast recording was Exmouth Leisure Centre, which is home to the first digital boiler deployment, heating its pool. It is important to note that servers are not dunked in water in this setup.
Caroline notes that there are already advanced examples of this in the Nordics, especially. Trout and lobster farms there have had the heat reuse treatment. And, in the Devon swimming pool story, she writes on how colocation giant Equinix has started building a farm on the roof of one of its datacentre sites in Paris to make use of its waste heat. The French love their food.
One general trend she picks out is putting datacentre compute power close to where users are, in societies that are increasingly digitised. And to reuse datacentre heat somewhere other than Slough.
Leisure centres are under energy cost pressures, and at risk of closure or diminution of service. It would, Caroline suggests, be good to get more people in the UK swimming, for health benefits. And the more people do that, the more likely it is that records will be broken. This leads on to Brian’s discussion of business transformation at Guinness World Records, in part enabled by the company’s use of NetSuite financial management software, delivered as a service.
Guinness World Records continues to blaze a digital trail
We have written about the company before, on its broader journey to the cloud. That was in 2018, and at that time, Rob Howe, director of IT at Guinness World Records, spoke about how cloud technologies were supporting the organisation’s ongoing push to diversify its business.
This time, in the podcast, Brian relates how Guinness World Records has used NetSuite’s financial ERP software as a service to further support its digital transformation. He had interviewed Andy Wood, finance director at the company, at Oracle NetSuite’s SuiteConnect event.
The venture has been around since 1955. Over the past 20 years, it has gone from publishing an annual book of records – still a top Christmas gift – to consultancy and digital content creation on television, the web and social media.
As GWR has diversified, and grown its office footprint globally, it had a need for a cloud-based financial ERP that could offer flexibility – having gone from selling a couple of products to the same retailers every year, to a complex organisation with multiple teams, closing hundreds of deals a year with hundreds of different customers. And NetSuite has enabled that, also hooking up with its Salesforce instance.
The team has a general chat on the podcast about record-breaking as a social phenomenon. And they reflect on Computer Weekly’s own Guinness World Record, for the longest-running weekly puzzle column, The Puzzler, written by Jim Howson, beginning in 1966 and awarded in 1999.