Industry stalwart Rafi Razzak has claimed the rate of change that will occur in the IT industry over the next three years will rival the Stone Age in terms of its historical significance, as he reflected on his 30-plus years at the helm of Centerprise.
Following the appointment of former RAF officer Jeremy Nash as Centerprise's CEO in September, Razzak told CRN that he will gradually hand over control of the company to its new executive leader, and will eventually cease to be involved with the firm on a day-to-day basis.
Centerprise grew rapidly in the 1990s, first through its relationship supplying the Ministry of Defence, and later as a system builder supplying mass retailers such as Dixons and John Lewis. Today, it acts as a system builder, reseller and services firm serving the MoD, public and private sectors, and as a distributor. It turned over nearly £60m in its last financial year on record.
Asked whether he felt the rate of change in the industry is in danger of being over-hyped, Razzak said the rise of the PC in the 1980s will pale in comparison with the breakthroughs that will occur in the IT industry over the coming years.
"I don't think the word 'cloud' is the only word I would use to describe the changes," he said.
"We are in a digital transformation era, and I think history will remember the period 2017 to 2020 just like we view the Stone Age and Bronze Age. It's going to change our lives, and the new generation will have a different concept of the quality of life they will live and what information they will have. I wish I was 20 years younger to experience what will happen in the next 20 years."
Asked to expand on what tech breakthroughs he had in mind, Razzak picked out the rise of data analytics and 'deep computing' as the biggest potential change.
"Today, 95 per cent of companies in the world use a spreadsheet and they don't use a single glass to manage the data for them," he explained. "Managing the data, and presenting the data to the right level of person to be able to make decisions - that to me will be the biggest change we see in the next few years, over and above anything else like AI or IoT."
A new generation of IoT start-ups that will act as enablers or the "glue" in a software stack, will also emerge in the coming years, Razzak added.
"Such companies do not exist at this time. We've seen examples of successful [IoT] implementations, but we haven't seen it at that level of B2B," he said.
"We talk about augmented reality and virtual reality, and the impact of that on our education systems and our training programmes, whether that's in defence in simulation programmes. That's [also] going to make a huge difference."
Asked what he would do differently if he had his time again, Razzak said he was proud of the fact that Centerprise has remained a privately held company.
"I always wanted to be a private company to create a company that would have a legacy beyond my years," he said.
"Do I have any regrets? Could I have been a lot bigger than where I am? Maybe. But I'm quite happy where I am."
Having posted revenues of £59.3m in its year to 31 August 2016, Centerprise grew 26 per cent in 2017, and is on course to match that in its current financial year, Razzak said.
Centerprise has had a CEO before - Nash's predecessor Garry Stevens departed in September 2016 - but Razzak said Nash's arrival will see him step back to focus more on processes and M&A, and away from the daily cut and thrust of the business.
"The plan for me is to gradually hand over the company and I have every confidence that Jeremy will take the company into fields I haven't managed to get into before," Razzak said.
A summary of what you get if you subscribe to our premium market intelligence service
Matthew Polly says CrowdStrike is looking to branch out from the UK and into mainland Europe
Southampton-based VAR states that further acquisitions are in the pipeline
With UKFast launching a public cloud consultancy, Tom Wright asks if this is the way forward for all local hosting providers