Ronan Murphy, CEO, CWSI

Interview: CWSI’s Ronan Murphy on acquisitions, partnerships and services.

We catch up with CEO Ronan Murphy to find out what CWSI has been up to over the last year.

Over a year on from when we last spoke, how has business been and where have been the greatest developments for CWSI?

We had another incredibly exciting and successful year at CWSI. To support our ambitious growth plans to become a leading pan-European cloud and mobile security provider, we announced new funding of £18 million in April which was led by private equity fund Castlegate Investments.

As part of this growth, we made our first acquisition in mainland Europe with Blaud, a mobility and security specialist based in Utrecht, Netherlands. Servicing both the private and public sectors, Blaud provides technical, consulting, support, and managed services to customers across Unified Endpoint Management (UEM), Mobile Threat Defence (MTD), and enterprise application/software development. There is a strong overlap in our solution areas, value propositions and company cultures, making the acquisition a natural fit. We plan to extend the market for Blaud’s application development services into the UK and Ireland.

Furthermore, in July, we acquired Mobco, a modern workplace and mobility specialist which is expanding our reach into Belgium and Luxembourg. Mobco is a specialist IT integrator supplying, configuring and supporting hardware, software and services with strategic vendor partnerships and a client list which includes many of the top five hundred enterprises and large public sector organisations in Belgium and Luxembourg.

These deals build on CWSI’s acquisition of UK-based AVR in 2021. We are looking forward to continuing this exciting new chapter of the CWSI story in 2023 as we execute on our buy and build strategy.

We were also thrilled to have been named in the prestigious Deloitte Technology Fast 50 list in 2022, as well as one of Deloitte’s “Best Managed Companies” among many of our industry peers. These awards build on our success in last year’s rankings and are testament to the hard work and dedication of CWSI’s teams across the board.

How have things evolved since CWSI acquired Mobco and Blaud?

These deals have enabled us to create one of Europe’s largest teams of enterprise mobility and security experts. The acquisitions cement our European growth strategy, expanding our market opportunity and bringing valuable intellectual property into the group. We share the same DNA and passion for enabling organisations and their employees to work productively and securely. I look forward to enhancing our offering with their respective depths of expertise across modern workplace security and mobility to drive value for our customers, partners, and shareholders.

This year, the shared skillsets and offerings within the enlarged CWSI Group will enable us to continue to find new ways to create value for our customers and solve their security challenges.

What are your plans for further growth?

Completing three acquisitions in the last two years has kept the CWSI team extremely busy. Our focus for the first half of 2023 is to fully complete the integration of the newly acquired businesses, but we are always actively evaluating future acquisition opportunities. Alongside this, we need to continue to deliver strong underlying growth, which we see coming from three key areas. Firstly, our proprietary Workplace software platform, which we believe has the potential to be the go-to solution for digital workplace management. Secondly, by significantly scaling our channel business, through both existing and new channel partners. And thirdly, by extending our expertise and service offering around our key strategic vendor partners, with a strong focus on recurring revenue and managed services.

What challenges, changes and developments have you seen across the channel?

We’ve seen high levels of consolidation in the channel from both a service provider and vendor perspective and we expect this to continue. The biggest market shift we’ve seen is undoubtedly the growth of Microsoft as a serious security player in almost all of the key security categories, a trend that we have capitalised on.

Acquiring and retaining talent has probably been our biggest challenge. What we do requires trained and experienced people who are in high demand and it’s definitely been an employee’s market for the last few years, although we expect this to change a little over the coming year. The high inflation we’re currently seeing has also been frustrating for both ourselves and our customers, particularly with exchange rate fluctuations as we deal with a number of USD-denominated vendors with prices changing almost daily in some cases.

Can you tell us how mobile workplaces have evolved over recent years from your point of view?

Our mantra has always been that work is an activity, not a place and that has never been more true. Covid-19 accelerated hybrid and remote working practices by at least five years almost overnight. Organisations had to find new ways to make company data and applications available to employees without sacrificing security or breaching compliance requirements. For many, this highlighted just how unsuited their existing technology stack was for this kind of working model.

Employees now expect the same simple, consistent experience regardless of the device type or network they are using. The expectation is that technology will be ‘enterprise secure but consumer simple’. As a result, we see a strong market dynamic in the direction of the Digital Employee Experience (DEX), which can encompass everything from how employees are on-boarded, the choice of device they have, how their security works, how easy or hard it is to access the data they need to do their job and how easy it is to get help when they need it.

At the same time, CISOs and CIOs need more visibility and control than ever to help face a growing range of threats. CWSI’s expertise is in balancing these needs to deliver the optimum digital workplace.

Can you tell us more about the cloud space and how CWSI is evolving this offering by enabling organisations to thrive and stay secure in a cloud-first, mobile-first world?

The way we work has changed forever. The traditional perimeter has disappeared, and approaches to the cloud and cyber security must evolve. CWSI has enabled and secured mobile workers since the first smartphones and tablets were introduced to the business market. We have an unrivalled understanding of modern mobile operating systems – how to secure them, and how to integrate them with today’s cloud-based infrastructure and applications – and are uniquely placed to enable customers to get ahead and stay ahead in the modern workplace.

In 2022, CWSI announced that we will reduce over-permission risks for businesses in the UK and Ireland with the launch of Microsoft Entra Permissions Management. CWSI is one of the first Microsoft partners to provide the solution, which we’re introducing in response to increased multi-cloud adoption among our customers.

In an increasingly mobile-first world, hackers are now targeting mobile devices, where smaller screens and distracted users mean a much higher chance of success. We leverage our specialist expertise to design, deploy and manage a range of solutions from industry leading global software providers, and continue to scale new and existing channel partnerships. We are focused on helping clients to create workplaces where employees can work productively, securely, and privately from anywhere, on any device and on any application.

 As modern security is no longer just a ‘nice to have’, how are you supporting your partners to optimise their security infrastructure?

We intentionally focus on providing modern security solutions, partnering with market-leading software vendors, to help clients to get secure and stay secure. We provide and manage security solutions for customers that fit the modern workplace. Our innovative managed tools such as Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, UEM controls, and managed EFOTA for Samsung Android all enable organisations to stay ahead of the ever-evolving curve.

Regular updates and patching on mobile devices are key to ensuring that these critical infrastructure assets are protected and organisations need to ensure they can meet patch deadlines and upgrade their estates within an appropriate timeline. However, patch management on mobile operating systems can be difficult and requires a blended strategy of enforcement and compliance using UEM tools and vendor capabilities – and that’s where we come in. Remember; a small device can be a big threat.

Threat detection, and especially early detection, is critical in today’s uncertain and ever-changing IT landscape. With the increasing volume and sophistication of cyber threats, it’s essential to identify and act accordingly before data can be compromised. The support of a managed security service provider can help to mitigate these risks.

How can companies look to continue to safeguard themselves against adversaries in a space that is constantly evolving and experiencing new threats?

Organisations of all sizes in all industries are on high alert. With cyber threats and technologies evolving at pace, it can be difficult to keep up, and we would advise customers to remain proactive in the face of growing threats.

Social engineering is on the rise and employee awareness training is paramount in identifying and combating phishing threats. Data loss due to malware or ransomware triggered by fraudulent emails is a growing concern for organisations in the decentralised workplace, and it’s evident that employees are the weak link in the security chain. It’s essential that training is kept up-to-date.

Administrators of IT infrastructure such as networks, user endpoint devices, servers and security systems must also be appropriately trained around cyber security and risk management.

In 2022, we announced that we have become one of the first Samsung Knox Managed Service Providers (MSP) in the UK and Ireland. This service will enable customers to leverage Samsung mobile technology within their own organisations, providing a unique level of control with the day-to-day running of the platform managed by CWSI’s mobility experts. This provides peace of mind and frees up customers to focus on their core tasks and own clients to save time, increase productivity and, ultimately, grow their business.

Effective security policies will contribute to organisational success and shouldn’t hamper or hinder productivity or growth. Enlisting the services of a third-party provider will provide peace of mind that all bases are covered in an ever-changing IT landscape, and support often overstretched internal teams.

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