Surf the wave of the Industry 4.0

Major industry developments are coming in waves. And just like surfing, catching a wave requires knowledge, skill and the right equipment. The fourth big wave is now coming towards us at full speed. How do you prepare yourself, your organisation and your industrial IT network to safely surf this next wave?

what is industry 4.0

Experts and trend watchers agree: the fourth wave is upon us. This fourth wave is called “Industry 4.0”. This new phase will see machines and other means of production supplemented with intelligence, communicating with each other, and being interconnected. The so-called Internet of Things allows sensors and smart machines to collect valuable data in the production process. For example, they can collect data about wear level of parts, measured temperature, or simply the number of goods produced.

IT and OT

IT systems collect and analyse the data, and then, for example, combine it with data from ERP systems. In short, the world of OT (Operational Technology) is increasingly linked directly to IT (Information Technology).

This combination of both worlds offers many advantages. Monitoring purposes are obvious. But smart planning of preventive maintenance before failures occur is another. The possibilities can go much further. Forerunners in the industry can create fully automatic production lines with smart machines and robots that can control and adjust themselves based on data. And they can do this without any human intervention whatsoever.

Massive risks

This close connection between IT and OT also creates new risks. Risks that cannot be underestimated. Production machines accessible to IT systems via remote connections are also accessible to people with less than honourable intentions.

The possible consequences for the manufacturing industry are disastrous. A hacked machine can literally bring a production line to a screeching and grinding halt. Utility companies particularly, for example, are in the firing line. It does not take much imagination to predict the possible consequences of a hacker taking control of the systems in a nuclear power plant or drinking water treatment plant.

Big waves? No excuse

Grab your board. Big waves are no excuse for not getting out to surf. In fact; they offer opportunities for a better experience than calm rippling water. The same goes for Industry 4.0. The risks of the fourth wave cannot be underestimated. The secret of enjoying success with that wave is to take a “frontside” approach to it – to face up to it. Be aware of the risks, make sure you have the right equipment, and get yourself in the right mindset.

My advice to avoid security wipe outs in your digital factory:

1. Collaborate

What does that mean in practice? First of all, IT and OT must work together. This may be a culture shock for some organisations. Previously, these worlds work often separately. But this mindset is no longer acceptable when navigating the fourth wave. IT must know what OT is doing, and vice versa. They must learn to communicate and overcome their differences.

2. Create visibility

Another important point is to create visibility. In particular, by mapping all the connected assets in a production facility. That is not an unnecessary luxury. If you do not know exactly which assets may be at risk, you cannot secure them.

3. Secure it

As said: surfing big waves requires good equipment. For industry, the required material is not a surfboard, but solid security solutions. Security services tailored for production environments. Solutions that not only keep a close eye on the connections between IT and OT, but also intervene when things go wrong.

Getting more information about Industry 4.0

Would you like to know more about how to safely surf the fourth wave with the right equipment and mindset? We would like to invite you to a no-obligation one-to-one expert session with our surf instructor (no really, he actually is a surf instructor!) to discuss this topic further.

Reach out to me or click here to claim your free session

3 Generations of Women In IT – Volume 2

Continuing on from Part 1 of our blog following Annette, Bharti and Sukh through their respective IT careers, this second part focusses on the career progression of each of these talented women.

We discover how their experiences influenced the choices that were made, and how they dealt with the more challenging aspects of both their roles and a career in IT. Has the industry changed in its attitude to women over the years?

These 3 very different experiences from such extraordinary women will challenge you to decide.


Q1: How has your career progressed from its initial start?

Annette

“I had completed my first and, thankfully, last programming assignment as an Andersen Consultant. Although, with the benefit of hindsight, I say “thankfully” with some reservations.

“That’s because I now recognise the satisfaction that male contemporaries of mine still get from solving technical problems in ServiceNow, the platform that we all work with. The technology has changed dramatically from clunky old IMS DB/DC and COBOL to the elegance that is ServiceNow.

“But there still remains the challenges of knowing how best to use the technology to meet the customer’s requirements. And this is clearly an enjoyable challenge for my contemporaries, as well as for my younger colleagues such as Bharti and Sukh.

“After finishing the assignment on the Slough Trading Estate – where, incidentally, the Mars factory recently celebrated its 100th anniversary – I did a series of small assignments, working for American oil companies who were just beginning to arrive in Europe on the back of the oil (and later gas) boom in the North Sea.

“I was subsequently assigned to a big systems delivery project for Wates, a construction company. I remember we replaced their existing back office systems, some of which were probably paper based, with a set of applications running on an ICL ME29. The ME29 was put into its own air-conditioned room, to which the whole team had access.

“I still recall the Andersen Consulting manager on the project announcing one day that he’d skin alive the next person who accidentally unplugged the computer, by tripping over the cable at the back of the machine.

“These were the days when the lifeblood of a company could be unplugged by the cleaner wanting to use the socket to plug in a vacuum cleaner!  Thankfully a scene that would be unimaginable to IT professionals today, all of whom are used to seeing their hardware tightly guarded in secure data centres.

“I became responsible for understanding the requirements for the Wates payroll systems. Amongst other challenges, I had to get my head around the processing of all the construction work related payments, such as inclement weather payments and protective clothing allowances.

“I quickly learned about managing difficult customers as the weekly payroll manager had direct access to the Managing Director’s office.  The weekly payroll process was business critical to Wates because if it didn’t run on time workers wouldn’t turn up on site and construction would stop.

“On reflection it is clear that some of this stress was self-inflicted as I would argue with the partner on the project, particularly about issues affecting women in the workplace. These were the days of the Guardian’s women’s page and I can remember regularly telling him to read the page to better inform himself about the challenges I was describing.

“Interestingly, many years later, when I was living with my family in Palo Alto (Silicon Valley), I bumped into the same partner in the queue to eat at Il Fornaio. In the late 90s, Il Fornaio was where the VCs and other Silicon Valley hotshots all hung out, so I’m not quite sure why I was even there. I went over to speak to him despite him being the number 3 worldwide in the Andersen Consulting hierarchy.

“Much to my surprise he was not only pleased to see his old sparring partner but he introduced me to his two colleagues with great positivity. He proceeded to bring me up to date with all the changes The Firm had introduced to make careers in the company better for women.

“Who knows, perhaps some of what I told him had penetrated after all?

“After the Wates ordeal, I realised that a career with Andersen Consulting, where such work-related stress was not uncommon, was probably not in my long-term interests. I started looking around for my next career move.

“I eventually found a position as a pre-sales consultant for a US software company whose European base was in Maidenhead in Berkshire.

“When I resigned from Andersen Consulting, the same Head of Recruitment that I encountered on my first day with The Firm informed me that I ‘had only one chance to leave Andersen Consulting.’

“The clear implication was that I was wasting this opportunity. I’m pleased to say I proved him completely wrong – but that’s for another blog.”

Bharti

“Once I had stumbled into the area I so badly wanted to work in – cyber security – it was time to start figuring out what happens next.  On the one hand, I had my foot in the cyber security door where I had always wanted to pursue a career, but on the other hand, it wasn’t the job I wanted to do. 

“In cyber security I discovered what it was like to be a woman in an almost totally male dominated sector. Male colleagues were selected over me for work, even if I had the ability and the interest to learn.

“My male counterparts made inappropriate comments and there was some hostility because I was younger and female. When your male colleagues point out to you how you’re different, you start to realise that something isn’t right.

“As the reality of my situation dawned, I had to choose whether to carry on in this unfavourable environment, or quit.  I knew this was not a place where I could grow, so I made the decision to leave and to pursue the career that I wanted, but in a company that would support me. 

“I now believe that the company has since made efforts to change this hostile culture, and to support women in IT careers in a way they clearly didn’t support me. I don’t know how exactly, but I hope that these steps help them to retain their female talent in the future.

“In order to progress, I felt that I needed to upskill myself if I were to be taken seriously in an interview, knowing that I would be asked lots of technical questions.  My previous interview experience had only led me to conclude that negative assumptions would be made the minute I walked in the door.  I had to prove I was just as technical, if not more so, than my male counterparts on the subject of networks and security.

“To prepare for the interview, I spent a week reading the Checkpoint firewalls book. I knew I was pretty good at networks, as it was my degree subject. I think it did the trick as the look of shock on the manager’s face during the interview process still makes me smile today.

“But in hindsight, it makes me sad. Sad that his initial look conveyed his low expectations of me and sad for the shock I saw, when he realised that I knew my stuff.  This was also the first interview where I had decided to wear a skirt suit rather than trousers. This may not sound like much, but for me this was a big statement.

“Consciously or subconsciously I was separating myself from the men they were interviewing.

“I was offered the job. I didn’t negotiate the salary, as I was just grateful they wanted to hire me. I took hold of the opportunity I was given with both hands and gave my all to the job. I had proven myself in the interview and knew I had set the bar high, which meant I finally had the chance to grow.  I was, of course, the only female in the support team, something that I was now getting used to.

“I picked things up very quickly and, although the role covered both networks and security, I found myself wanting to focus on security.  I had always known this at the back of my mind, but never thought I would be good at it. Turns out I was pretty good at understanding what was needed and how to use that information.

“My aim was to be a well-rounded security person, not just a specialist in one area but one who saw the bigger picture.  I enjoyed several roles over the years that gave me different experiences within cyber security.

“Eventually I progressed into the role of technical support engineer.  As I mentioned in the previous blog, I do love a good puzzle, and this is how I see cyber security and IT.

“Throughout my career, the support I received from my male colleagues has steadily improved.  I am not sure whether this is due to a mind shift about women in Security/IT, or because I have become much better at identifying a good manager, and being more confident in myself.

“Now when I go to an interview, I interview them. Will they be the right fit for me? Do I want to work for them? Will they help my career? I know how important it is to have the right manager more than ever, especially now that I am a mum and my life has very different priorities. 

“I have also been incredibly lucky to have some great supporters amongst the male managers that have hired me, worked alongside me, opened career doors and the colleagues who provided full backing. 

It did not go unnoticed and I will never forget.”

Sukh

“My IT career started about 4 and a half years ago at TeamUltra (now the ServiceNow Centre of Excellence at Computacenter), when I joined their Graduate scheme. At the beginning everything was new, the first few weeks were a whirlwind of crash courses in ITIL and ServiceNow.

“I was assigned to the Service Desk, providing support whilst managing day to day tasks with the rest of the Graduates. This was probably the most daunting part of my career; I was not only new to ITSM and ServiceNow, but new to customer management, another set of skills that I had to acquire quickly.

“I didn’t quite know what to expect working in IT and at the time I was hearing all sorts of chatter from my old classmates which wasn’t filling me with much confidence. I began to wonder if I was out of my depth.

“It was around this time that I began to notice and appreciate the company culture. Everyone was, and still is, so welcoming and supportive. I benefited greatly from an inspiring team spirit that was nurtured from the top, coupled with a community of ServiceNow experts.

“I was soon promoted to an implementation consultant. This was quite a jump and I’m thankful for colleagues that patiently supported me through the transition from the support desk to a whole new way of working on projects.

“Before I knew it, I was gaining experience, learning how to work alongside different colleagues and creating bespoke solutions for customers.

“I have progressed in my career and now proudly occupy the role of a Senior Consultant.  From working on a wide variety of engagements and interacting with a diverse number of people there have been many challenging moments for me.

“Reading both Annette’s and Bharti’s stories, I am grateful that I haven’t experienced anything like the obstacles they faced. A part of me feels very fortunate to have received great support from all of my colleagues, regardless of gender.

“Or perhaps I’m not lucky at all and this is the way it should be in all companies?  Nonetheless, I will take this moment to thank everyone that has helped and supported me throughout my career so far. I’m sure I’ll be relying on them in the future as I continue to grow. I only hope that, in return, I can be someone they can rely on too.”

3 Generations of Women In IT – Volume 1

Reflecting back on your career can elicit a mixture of emotions. For many, our interactions with colleagues evoke the strongest emotions. Because of this, many of our memories stem from events that revolve around people; whether this is our clients, peers or managers.

In this two part blog, Annette, Bharti and Sukh – 3 generations of highly successful women – to talk candidly about their experience of working within the IT sector.  We ask them to share how they first entered the industry, memories of their early experiences and how these influenced decisions on three very different pathways on the career ladder.  

Q1: What was your first exposure to computers?

Annette

“My earliest exposure to the world of computers came from my father who was a Patent Office Examiner. In the early 1960s, when many patent applications were being made for inventions related to computers, he was assigned to the team reviewing them.

“Sadly, much as the technology fascinated him as an electrical engineer, it also overwhelmed him as he wanted to understand it all. Even in the early 60s, this was too much for one person and so he transferred to electronic switchgear.

“But I think he always regretted giving up on computers and remained fascinated by them. He did pass his enthusiasm for them to my brother Neil though, who’s been a software engineer for most of his career.”

Bharti

“My first exposure to the world of computers was when I was quite young and had a Sinclair ZX spectrum to play games on. 

“Later on, when my Dad started his own business, I had access to a desktop PC that ran DOS. We had a few games on there so I would play them when the computer wasn’t being used by my dad.

I had my first experience of the Windows operating system back in the early 90s when I was still in primary school. I didn’t realise at the time that not many people had desktop computers at home.”

Sukh

“My exposure to computers started out in school during the late 90’s. It was mainly using them for basic Microsoft applications.

Over the next few years, I had a desktop computer at home and I started using it for learning, research, gaming and social media, like MSN and Myspace.”

Q2: When did you decide to work in IT?

Annette

“I’m not sure it was a conscious decision. I just found myself accepting a position in my mid-20s with Andersen Consulting – the forerunner to Accenture.

When I left school in the early 70s, and was undecided about what to do, I did a “computer aptitude test” for the engineering consultancy WS Atkins. I failed their test and was dogged for some time by the belief that the world of computing was not for me.

But I was an ambitious young woman. Indeed, for my 18th birthday, a supposedly good friend gave me Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch and inscribed it with the dedication: “To Annette – on the start of her career as one!”  I was also determined to show my doubting mother that I could be more than a housewife and mother.

Working in the computer industry – the term IT industry came later – seemed an attractive option for women like me in the 1970s, especially as it was not seen then as a particularly male dominated industry. But dogged by my perceived lack of “aptitude” I pursued my ambitions elsewhere.

Many years after leaving school, and after a year at Warwick Business School studying for an MSc in Management Science and Operational Research, I accepted an offer from Andersen Consulting. 

Consequently, I found myself on 2nd October 1979, in a room in 1 Surrey Street, WC1 with 10 men and 1 other woman, with no clue what lay ahead!”

Bharti

“Because I was exposed to a PC from quite a young age, when the A-level option to do Computing came up at school, I decided it would be something I would be good at. We were one of the 1st schools to have the Computing A-Level being taught as a subject, as part of a pilot scheme.

“Ironically, I didn’t think I was particularly good at computing and had decided not to pursue it after A-levels, but as I worked though my coursework every evening I realised I really enjoyed investigating the possibilities that computing offered. 

“I did much better in my A-level Computing exam than expected, and my teachers told me that I should have more belief in my abilities.

“Following this, I decided to do a U-turn on my chosen degree and to apply for a Computing degree course instead. I wasn’t great at programming, nor did I enjoy it, so I decided to do a degree that focused on networks and communication.

“During my degree I had the option to select certain modules and I chose security.  Choosing that module determined the route my career would take, as I was fascinated by security. In particular, the rapid changes needed, how clever the hackers were and how important it was to stay ahead of them. I always did love a good challenge!”

Sukh

“Working in IT wasn’t a career I had considered initially. In my senior school there was a compulsory course on IT. This focussed mainly on Microsoft Excel and there was little or nothing taught about IT or Computing. After completing my A-levels, I started training to be a dental nurse.

As I had some free time (my working hours were 09:00 – 15:00), I decided to find a course to fill in the free hours and attended an open evening looking for a suitable course.

I remember walking past the computing stand and thinking it looked new and interesting. After a chat with a few of the people on the stand, I abandoned the idea of becoming a dental nurse and enrolled in a BSc in Computing.

Q3: What was your early experience of working in IT?

Annette

“During my early years I acquired a set of analytical/IT skills and work habits that have stood me in good stead throughout my career.

“Our first few weeks were spent learning to program in Assembler. Back in the 70s this low, almost machine level, language was considered the only one that would give us a sufficiently good grounding in programming to enable us to be thrown into any client situation.

“As part of our training, we were sent for 3 weeks to either their main training headquarters near Chicago, or to the newly established World headquarters in Geneva.

“The Firm had the concept of a worldwide workforce all trained, developed and managed according to a consistent set of standards. This meant that, as project sizes grew, the project teams could be staffed from anywhere in the world The Firm had an office. Imagine my disappointment to discover that my first project was for a company on the Slough Trading Estate. There, after very little exposure to COBOL, I was given an assignment to build a stock control program in IMS DB/DC, a database and an online system I’d had prior exposure to.

“I was given 5 days to complete task, 3 days to code and 2 to test. I did deliver the program but, unsurprisingly, it took me rather longer than 5 days to complete it. Hardly a surprise as, in those days, we were allowed just one compile a day.

Bharti

“The experience from my first couple of jobs was not great, to put it mildly.  I had to deal with sexist comments, with my peers thinking it was not my place to do such technical work.  One male colleague decided I was ‘one of the boys’, and therefore much more acceptable than a female.  

“But I also had men who were fighting my corner.  Their support included helping me to progress my career, providing me with new opportunities to learn and giving me advice.

“I started in IT in a support role and was told by the owner of the small business I worked for that I would never have any issues progressing my career in IT if I could do the basics. Fix a computer, fix software issues, know Exchange and Active Directory, etc.

“He was right, and I took that advice with me to my next job where I learnt more about networks. I became a network support engineer, I did my server exams, my CCNA, and learnt how servers work and are managed. I then moved into security and for some time did both a network and security role in support.

“During the first few years of my career I did consider quitting IT because I realised it was going to be a battle to reach my full potential. I wasn’t sure it was one I would ever succeed in winning. I am glad I never gave up and luckily for me, I always had great supporters which helped to balance out those people that just wanted to hold me back.”

Sukh

“My experience in IT really began in college where I was one of only two girls in my class. It was definitely an odd experience but, as the rest of my (male) peers were welcoming, I didn’t feel out of place. During my studies I was often called ‘one of the lads.’ I also overheard someone shouting from the class next door ‘they have girls in their class’, as if this was something worth noting!

“My first experience of the extent of male dominance in the IT sector happened about 3 months into my first year when I was offered an opportunity to work for an IT support centre. I politely declined, as I already had a part-time job, but was then informed that the employer was looking for women for this role. 

“I asked why this was and the response was that ‘hearing a woman’s voice on the phone, especially when someone is angry, is believed to help defuse a situation’. I laughed it off but was left disappointed that my gender was the main focus, rather than the hard work and effort I had dedicated to gain my IT skills.

“This experience had a huge impact and made me realise there will always be stereotypes in this industry and occasions where I would have to prove myself in a way my male counterparts would not have to. But the experience just made me more determined to succeed.

“I have been lucky to have peers, teachers and friends who have supported my journey and made the overall experience positive.

“I’m still fairly new in my IT career and, reading Annette’s and Bharti’s stories, I’d say I’ve been pretty fortunate to enjoy a positive experience of working in the IT industry.”

Come back soon for part two of this blog, which will continue the story of 3 Generations of Women in IT and bring you up to date with where they currently are in their careers.

Black Is Good: A Celebration of Black History Month

This blog is written by Project Manager Hermine Kudia, as part of our recognition and celebration of this year’s Black History Month. In this blog, she touches on the relevance of black history in 2020, ensuring you use the right terminology, and how to encourage diversity in the workplace.


What is Black History Month? 

Black History Month, marked in the UK in October since 1987, celebrates the culture, contribution and history of those with African or Caribbean heritage.

It’s also an opportunity to learn more about the effects of racism and challenge stereotypes.  

Black History Month was created as a way of remembering the history and achievements of the African diaspora; and through educating and informing society about black heritage and culture in Britain. It is still relevant today, 33 years on. 

2020 has held a mirror up to the world and forced many to see the reality of racism in all its guises. From Black people dying disproportionately in the pandemic and institutionalised racism, to the Black Lives Matter movement, Black History Month is a commitment for real change. It is a time for people to come together and learn lessons from the past, for the present, to reclaim the narrative on how our shared history will be told in the future.

Getting your terminology right

We were in the office and I was sitting next to my colleague. I had to deliver a message to someone who was sitting at the opposite end of the open plan office. My colleague knew the other guy and so was trying to describe his location to me, after squinting, looking, trying to figure out who he meant, I finally said ‘Oh, the one sat next to the black man?’, my statement seemed to have surprised my white colleague, but he responded ‘Yes, that one’. 

You can say Black. Hesitation or discomfort is not necessary. The reluctance to acknowledge race, privilege and oppression in fact does more harm than good. Black is a part of my identity, not my entire identity; if ever in hesitation, it is okay to ask what the appropriate word is to describe someone. 

The term BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) has often been used when talking about diversity. In the 60s and 70s the term BAME came about when people referred to the Black community but when they noticed the Asian community was not represented it became ‘Black and Asian’. It is a term I refute because it is frequently unhelpful and perpetuates erasure and lack of accountability. 

Being specific is important. For example, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, showed that of 268,000 IT specialists in the UK,18% were from BAME backgrounds, but when we drill down into the numbers, we see that only 2% are of Black / African / Caribbean / Black British people, and numbers don’t lie. 

With increased representation we are all winners, increased diversity would mean development in innovation and better outcomes in the tech world.

McKinsey’s* reports, Why diversity matters (2015) and Delivering through diversity (2018) conclude that the relationship between diversity on executive teams and the likelihood of financial outperformance has strengthened over time, thus there is a strong business case to push for diversity.

How to actively encourage a diverse workforce

Diversity asks,  ‘How many more of [pick any minority identity] group do we have this year than last?’

Equality responds, ‘What conditions have we created that maintain certain groups as the perpetual majority here?’

Inclusions asks, ‘Is this environment safe for everyone to feel like they belong?’

Dr D-L Stewart

With diversity comes the responsibility to foster healthy environments that lack microaggressions for Black people in the workplace. Below is a list of ways you can positively impact and encourage a diverse workforce.

Things not say to your Black colleagues:

  • ‘You don’t talk like you’re Black’
  • ‘I don’t see colour’
  • ‘That was aggressive’ (Did you mean I spoke with assertiveness?)
  • ‘You’ve changed your hair…again’ (The policing of Black hairstyles at schools and in the workplace needs to stop, of course you can comment on my hair but something like ‘I like your new hairstyle’, would be more appropriate)
  • ‘Your name is so hard to pronounce’  

Tips for engaging Black people in conversations about race:

  • Ask for permission before engaging
  • Set expectations and boundaries on both sides
  • Talk about your identities
  • Don’t assume Black people are ‘experts’ [on race]
  • Clearly define controversial terms
  • Provide enough context
  • Be respectful 

Mental health for all should mean ‘all’

The 10th October is World Mental Health Day and this year’s theme is ‘mental health for all’.

After the year we have had I think that theme is very appropriate as the effects of social distancing, lockdowns, not seeing friends and family, not being at school as well as the loss of friends and family have all had a huge impact on our mental health.

More and more people will suffer mental health issues

A report by the centre for mental health published this month states:

“Nationally, in England, the model predicts that up to 10 million people (almost 20% of the population) will need either new or additional mental health support as a direct consequence of the crisis. 1.5 million of those will be children and young people under 18.”

Mental health in the younger generation

When we went into lockdown my biggest concern was actually my children’s mental health.  Whilst we traditionally concern ourselves with whether or not our children are happy, we rarely stop to think about their mental health.  In fact, it is not a topic you usually associate with children.

But they have had to deal with so much that is new to them in 2020:  lockdown, school closures and social distancing.  I have never spent so much time with my children stuck inside the house before, especially at this age.  They lost so many social interaction opportunities with anyone else outside of our immediate family, and on top of that they have experienced home schooling with yours truly as a teacher!

My children are still quite young so the impact on their mental health may not be the same as older children who will be more aware of what is going on in the world.

  • 11 years old children have missed out on graduations or prom as they move up to secondary school.
  • In addition to missing out on school events, 16/18 year olds have had the uncertainty of important exams and University places to consider.  All of these are hard enough at the best of times.

For any parent struggling with how to support their children during Covid I highly recommend www.youngminds.co.uk.  One of their articles said:

We carried out a survey with 2,036 young people with a history of mental health needs between Friday 6th June and Monday 5th July, a period in which the Government announced measures to ease restrictions, including the target for schools to reopen to all students in the Autumn term.

The results reveal that:

  • 80% of respondents agreed that the coronavirus pandemic had made their mental health worse. 41% said it had made their mental health “much worse”, up from 32% in the previous survey in March. This was often related to increased feelings of anxiety, isolation, a loss of coping mechanisms or a loss of motivation.
  • 87% of respondents agreed that they had felt lonely or isolated during the lockdown period, even though 71% had been able to stay in touch with friends. 
  • Among more than 1,000 respondents who were accessing mental health support in the three months leading up the crisis (including from the NHS, school and university counsellors, private providers, charities and helplines), 31% said they were no longer able to access support but still needed it.
  • Of those who had not been accessing support immediately before the crisis, 40% said that they had not looked for support but were struggling with their mental health
  • 11% of respondents said that their mental health had improved during the crisis, an increase from 6% in the previous survey. This was often because they felt it was beneficial to be away from the pressures of their normal life (e.g. bullying or academic pressure at school)

I’m quite lucky.  My children’s primary school sent out information during the pandemic about how to support children’s mental health.  They have made plans to celebrate World Mental Health Day at school by asking children to wear a yellow accessory.

The school has held discussions about feelings, mental wellbeing and coping mechanisms.  More schools should be including this as part of the education they provide.

But this level of support shouldn’t be limited to just whilst we are living with the pandemic.  What’s more  carers and parents should have easy access to resources that can help them to better support their children at all times.

Mental health issues in parents

I had a conversation with a friend during the lockdown who was struggling with home schooling her daughter.  When she told me that she would get into arguments with her daughter and that it was hard to juggle home schooling with her own work, I offered the following advice:

“Focus on her mental health and your mental health. Catching up with work and schoolwork might take a few months but it will take years for your mental health to recover.”

My friend described a sense of release.  She was relieved that she wasn’t alone in feeling like she had been feeling. My response to her was, “I didn’t want to force him to learn when he wanted to play, I didn’t want to argue with him to sit at a table, he was already going through so much change.”

She has since thanked me for sharing my experience. It helped make the rest of their lockdown a more pleasant experience. It’s so easy to forget when under pressure what is important and what can wait.

Many parents have described the feeling of inadequacy that comes from reading social media posts from other parents. It can easily seem like they have the perfect life – they were having an amazing time and doing super cool things with their children. It is easy to feel like I wasn’t ‘doing enough’ too.  Unintentionally or not, posts can have a negative impact on our mental wellbeing.  The knock-on effect is that it doesn’t help the children either.

Once children start nursery or school, they are typically away from us 7-8 hours a day.  During lockdown, I suddenly had to get used to having the children around 24 hours a day.

My children have gone to nursery from the age of 1.  The transition to working with our children at home has been difficult.  I am lucky that I have a role that is relatively flexible and a great employer.  The first thing our Divisional Director did issue a message to all staff about working under lockdown conditions.  He explained that we were entering unchartered territory and that we shouldn’t feel bad about children or pets interrupting our calls – something that definitely happened to me.

This was invaluable guidance, because at a stroke, it took the pressure off everyone working from home.

I cannot imagine how people cope if their employer is less understanding or if you were in a role that requires you to be at your desk during set hours.

I am fortunate that I already had a home office.  I have heard stories of parents working around the children in the kitchen or even the living room, or even taking turns at using the only workable table.

Covid must be one of the most stressful times we have ever had to experience.  Trying to combine entertaining the children and find time to home school older children will have affected so many parents.

Mental health in frontline NHS staff

We all know what these heroes have done and continue to do during the crisis. And as much as the applause, retail discounts and the public gratitude means to them, I cannot begin to think what they must have been going through mentally.

I watched the BBC documentary Surviving the Virus: My Brother & Me and although I was aware this has been hard for the hospitals and their staff, it was an eye-opening experience watching the documentary.

The helplessness that they all felt, the uncertainty of having a job where you no longer have any control, seeing all that grief it was enough to bring anyone to tears.

You have to feel for the admin teams struggling to get PPE, medical equipment, manage staff and avoid burnout. There is not enough clapping that can be done for these heroes.  But what I worry the most about is how this will have affected them mentally.

How easy will it be for them to get the support they need?  When will it really dawn on them what they have been through?  This is trauma and it can take years to manifest.

The British Medical Association carried out research in May. It found that one in five doctors feel they do not have access to the help that they need.  45% of doctors are suffering from depression, anxiety, stress, burnout or other mental health conditions relating to, or made worse by, the COVID-19 crisis.

It is essential that support is put in place for the NHS staff. Not just for now but long term.  Therapy is vital but also support for time off, some flexibility in working, and also other support methods.

There are of course many more vulnerable groups such as those living alone, the elderly and those that have been shielding.  Then there are the mums to be who have had to go to medical visits alone.  Some have lost babies and had to deal go through this with no one to hold their hand.

Patients with other illnesses have also suffered, as have their families.  The list goes on, I have only looked at 3 groups.  Every single person has suffered in some way.  Some may have found a way to get through and others may have struggled more.

Access to therapy has been limited over the past 6 months.  Ditto for medical support.  So, what can businesses do to help their employees?

How are your employees coping?

We have a workforce that is largely working remotely.  Some people will be thriving and others not doing so well. There needs to be some way to check in with people.  A questionnaire might work well in the absence of physical check-ins.

A lot of virtual events sprung up, especially during the early part of lockdown but the world of work has not moved on with most people still working from home.  More team/company events are still required so colleagues can still feel connected to each other.

Some employees that must attend their place of work may also be struggling due to using public transport. They may be worried about safety when working inside a building and alongside other people.  We shouldn’t assume that they are okay just because they are back in the workplace.

Are mental health services such as a mental health first aiders available to staff?  Is it available without any judgement or stigma if employees choose to use the service? Is the availability of these services clearly signposted across the organisation on the intranet?

These services should be confidential and easy to access.  The NHS support and charities are really struggling with the sheer volume of people contacting them.  Could employers help ease the burden by offering their employees more assistance and thus reduce the burden faced by the NHS and charities?  There are some great resources for organisations offered by the charities and they are always happy to talk in more detail about options.

  • Mind has lots of useful resources of how your organisation can be prepared to help their employees that may be struggling. Training for mental health first aider and and e-learning courses are also available.
  • Mind has lots of useful resources of how your organisation can be prepared to help their employees that may be struggling. Training for mental health first aider and and e-learning courses are also available.

https://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/training-consultancy/e-learning/

  • The mental health foundation also has lots of information around supporting mental health at work. The PDF has lots of useful information about different ideas that can be used to create a mental wellbeing programme and advice.
  • Acas – the workplace expert in the UK. Acas has a framework for positive mental health at work which can be downloaded.
  • The mental health foundation also has lots of information around supporting mental health at work. The PDF has lots of useful information about different ideas that can be used to create a mental wellbeing programme and advice.
  • Acas – the workplace expert in the UK. Acas has a framework for positive mental health at work which can be downloaded.

If your organisation doesn’t offer much in the way of support, maybe you could suggest some ideas to the right people in the organisation, how you feel things could be improved.  There is a lot of information out there regarding the support available to organisations. The above links are a good place to start.

How I deal with stress

In several of my previous blogs I have talked about the role that exercise plays in my mental health.

I consider myself to be very fortunate to work at an organisation that focuses on this quite heavily. At Computacenter, they have provided access to a Community Online resource that features lots of online content that is delivered live every Thursday and is also available on demand.

There are many fitness, well-being and mindfulness sessions to name but a few.  It goes much further than that – there are sessions for children of all ages, and you can dip in and watch as many or as few as you like.

A happier employee is a more productive employee.  We should all be looking out for each other at time when we have never been so far apart.

After all, mental health support should be open to everyone, and the more people that receive support, the better off we will all be as a whole.

What to do if you’re struggling with your mental health

If you are struggling with your mental health and need to talk to someone the following charities can help, please do reach out to them and don’t suffer in silence:

https://www.mind.org.uk/

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/

https://www.samaritans.org/

https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/

https://youngminds.org.uk/

How Personal Do You Want to be With Your Bank?

As part of Customer Experience Day (#CXDay2020) celebrations that took place on 6th October 2020, we shared a number of blog posts which showed our approach to customer experience.

While the day might be over for another year, we’re continuing our programme with more insight into how and why we put the customer at the heart of everything we do.


Does your bank delight you, exceed your expectations and provide you with a secure house for your hard-earned income?

Or, have you switched in search of a better experience?

In today’s world we expect banking for free with products and services that are super quick to take advantage of and require minimal effort. Customer experience is very much at the forefront of banking strategy and has been for some years now. However, banks recognise that to remain relevant in today’s market they must look at capturing our attention with broader lifestyle offerings.

It is no longer enough to be offering advice on which bank product best suits the customer. In today’s world, it’s about helping people achieve their financial goals, understand where to spend more and where to spend less.

Let’s start by summarising some of the new opportunities and challenges banks face.

The regulators are paying more attention to customer complaints with a view of problematic product sales practices, and therefore banking CEO’s being called up by governments to justify their behaviour. In addition, measures such as Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) will apply across Europe from September 2021, enhancing security and preventing fraud.
So, how do Banks continue protecting customers, and at the same time, demonstrate that “ease-to-do-business” experience that we all crave?

Immense Opportunities


Firstly, with a combination of client data, superior analytics and multi-channel opportunities, banks possess a wealth of knowledge. This knowledge enables them to increase the ‘moments of truth’ that deliver proactive insights, helping customers make the right choices more quickly and easily. Customers like having multi-channel choices (web, mobile app, phone, in-branch), however, they become irritated if when buying they are asked to change channels, in other words begin an on-line process then asked to ‘go to branch’.

For most banks, processes and technology will need to adapt to provide a consistent experience across channel and departments.

The power of artificial intelligence (AI) continues at pace as we take advantage of the data now available to personalise and contextualise interactions, improving processes and giving the impression of a more human interaction without humans. Having said that, organisations realise there is a balance, and human engagement can be modelled on a highly available basis without the specialist ever leaving the office.

Human actions to digital – technologies are evolving from Alexa and Siri type responses to more personalised accents and pronunciations and will become more common place in time.

Superior Personalisation

Delivering personalised experiences is nothing new to the banking sector. It’s has been a cornerstone for marketing activity for decades. That said, expectation is higher than ever before – according to Salesforce, 62% of consumers expect companies to adapt based on their actions and behaviours.

In addition, the study found only 47% of consumers believe they are receiving this level of personalisation today. This is one area some of the smaller and emerging banks are taking advantage.

Two examples:

Bunq, a Dutch international mobile bank introduced ‘Freedom of Choice’, a world first. The freedom to choose what happens with your money, where your deposits are held and how they are used. Bunq claims that no other bank in the world lets you choose what happens with your money. They also pride themselves on an online 5minute sign up to access services.

The bank is run by mostly by young IT specialists and not traditional bankers.

In Spain, BBVA has an app feature called Bconomy, which helps customers set goals, save money and track their progress. It also provides the ability to compare prices on things like groceries and utilities. Another experience feature is the ability to compare spending to similar customers to see if their financial activity is on track.

In just three weeks, Bconomy had half a million users.

That superior personalisation doesn’t necessarily mean providing lots of choice either, it’s about having the right ones. Overall, less choice for customers is clearer and cheaper for any business. For example, one car manufacturer includes full spec on all cars, you may think this is expensive, however costs of multiple production lines and ‘stop-start’ to fit different variations is very expensive.

These examples are certainly appealing to many however for organisations to thrive in decades to come they must weave customer centric experiences into every aspect of their organisation focusing on human centred design. Success will depend on anticipating customer needs and making engagement a pleasant experience.

So, what do banking professionals think?

One customer experience professional working in a large European bank shared their insight into the challenge of balancing customer experience investment with the drive for profitability, something they have worked hard to bring the benefits of customer happiness and financial success.
Being clear on a CX vision and mission with the branding of being a ‘Loveable Bank’ is something they are proud of and have metrics and action to continually improve.

One such example is the ‘butterfly effect’ whereby some 150-positive employee/customer success stories have been captured and promoted. Another example is where employees are brought together to create a ‘Channel Squad’ focused on providing seamless and consistent experiences, whatever a customer’s preferred way of banking is.

Finally, IT plays a vital role in merging technology improvement with CX. For each IT project a ‘one pager statement is generated to outline; 1) how many customers are affected, and 2) what is the likely impact either positive or negative, and if negative what mitigations need to be identified.
Another Banking IT professional spoke about similar challenges in striking a balance of managing costs whilst providing safe and secure banking for clients, and indeed how CX initiatives drive a supporting strategy for maximising customer satisfaction.

Measuring CX is a key factor for the bank and their IT functions, focusing on newer insights from generation topics and social responsibility sources. These are now more widely considered when digitising business, and therefore, how better to connect with clients.

For IT specifically employees are now able to provide ‘real time’ feedback regarding their technology procurement or issues, enabling a much swifter response and connection with the User. The outcome of such enhancements builds trust with employees and demonstrates that the business cares about them personally.

Final Thoughts

There is an emerging realisation that the future of CX in banking isn’t about banking at all, it’s not about account products and mortgages, it’s more about lifestyle choices. Traditional benchmarking against other financial institutes is no longer as important. Today’s banks are looking to benchmark against organisations selling similar experiences and lifestyles as them from other sectors.

For example:
• Hallmark cards output is greeting cards, but they market ‘Expressions’
• Harley Davidson’s product is the motorbike, but they sell ‘Freedom’
The outcome of a banking experience is helping customers ‘achieve financial goal’s’. Customer-centric thinking organisations look at achieving outcomes for customers that relate personally, and therefore become more relevant and valuable to retain customer for the longer term. So…do you want to be more personal with you bank?

Further Reading

Strong Customer Authentication
Managing a customer experience transformation in banking
Customer experience key to the future of banking in 2019

Why CX Is The Key to Unlocking Growth in Your Business

As part of Customer Experience Day (#CXDay2020) celebrations that took place on 6th October 2020, we shared a number of blog posts which showed our approach to customer experience.

While the day might be over for another year, we’re continuing our programme with more insight into how and why we put the customer at the heart of everything we do.


Across all businesses and industries, the “experience economy” now features in every interaction we have.

Differing from services which are delivered on demand, experiences are revealed over a duration of time. Customer Experience (CX) is a perception driven by a simple equation.

CX = The observed performance that a customer has with a supplier, minus their expectation.

CX is not an easily measured operational KPI, but it plays a significant role in overall customer satisfaction and a customer’s choice to spend their money with you.

Research conducted by McKinsey & Company in 2016 showed that for every 10% increase in customer satisfaction a company can increase revenue by 2-3%. So how can you affect CX during interactions with your customers?

Focussing on just a few factors – Time, Convenience & Transparency – can help to make a big impact in your customers experience and therefore, customer satisfaction, potentially netting you greater revenue and encouraging growth.

If you think about these 3 factors in a real-life situation, you can see the affect they have on experience quite easily: say you have received a new laptop, either through a personal purchase or through your workplace and upon unboxing you have trouble logging in for the first time and getting started. After trying a few things yourself, you need help and decide to
call a Service Desk.

The first hurdle you encounter is that you cannot easily locate the phone number. Once you find it, you are immediately placed on hold for ten minutes without so much as a greeting. After speaking to several different people, back and forth on phone calls and spending hours troubleshooting your issue is resolved.

Everyone you dealt with was polite, friendly and genuinely did their best to help you, yet you still come away having a tainted experience.

How could this experience have been better?

Time

We humans are an impatient bunch. The average person starts to get impatient after waiting just 10 seconds waiting for a webpage to load, 17 seconds in a queue for service (though this increases to 5 minutes if the queue is for the bar), 13 minutes waiting in traffic, or 24 minutes for food to be delivered to our table from the time we order. And spare a thought for your friends…we’ll only wait 18 minutes for a friend to return a call before we get annoyed.

In a world that demands almost instant results for everything from food to foreign policy, a good business must keep wait time to a minimum. This includes everything from delivery of products, key projects and services to returning that email query or phone call.

Convenience

Keep it simple, stupid… you’ve heard it plenty of times before, and you seek out convenience in your own life, but how often do you test your customer’s journey for convenience?

Companies are often organised into silos, and each customer journey can
cross multiple siloed functions in a single transaction or interaction, adding complexity and complication.

Take the time to understand the full end-to-end view of a typical customer journey and how their journey maps across your organisation. Then, take steps to ensure that everyone involved understands your customer’s needs, the role they play in delivering positive CX, and consider how the journey could be simplified further.

Think Uber Vs Black Cab; Contactless payment Vs writing a cheque. What processes can you simplify to drive a great customer experience?

Transparency

Transparency is one of the greatest drivers for customer satisfaction. This shouldn’t be surprising, we’ve all been there: interacting with an in-store or call centre employee, an estate agent or salesperson and felt the frustration of being talked around in circles while they evade a direct response to a question or tip toe around some poor product functionality.

As a customer it is frustrating at best, but at its worst, it can create disdain and mistrust. When we lead with transparency, facing issues head on, magic happens.

Interestingly, when it comes to online purchases, an overwhelming 82% of us go straight to negative reviews, bypassing the 5-star ones in favour of reading the 1,2,3 and 4-star reviews to see what those experiences were like.

The fact is customers know that there is not generally a perfect product and
are able to accept that if they know up front what the likely issues are.

Here are some suggestions for how you and your teams can incorporate more transparency into customer experiences.
• Be open about flaws
• Own mistakes
• Design and service with empathy
• Ask for honest feedback and be open to receiving it

By incorporating transparency into CX, you can help build better, longer-lasting relationships, enhancing the experience and as a result, positively influencing customer buying behaviour.

If we think about our earlier real-life example, the experience you had as a customer would have been dramatically different if the phone number to call was clear and easy to find and the detail of your issue was collected at the start of the call using Integrated Voice Response (IVR), reducing the need for multiple interactions and reducing wait times. By focussing only on convenience and time the customer experience can be transformed dramatically.

While focussing on Time, Convenience and Transparency will enhance CX, getting to know your customers, and understanding the order in which they prioritise these will provide the best possible results.

Success in building great CX requires constant iteration, testing and learning. Taking the time to really know your customer and reacting to live feedback from them is often the difference between good and great customer experience, and therefore that decision to spend money with you.

Further Reading

Understanding Customer Experience
Linking the Customer Experience to Value

Why Government Customers are Just Like Holiday Makers

As part of Customer Experience Day (#CXDay2020) celebrations that took place on 6th October 2020, we shared a number of blog posts which showed our approach to customer experience.

While the day might be over for another year, we’re continuing our programme with more insight into how and why we put the customer at the heart of everything we do.


It’s worth reflecting, at a time when government guidelines and decision-making are having such a huge impact on the travel industry, what part these direct and indirect interactions with government agencies e.g. Foreign Commonwealth Office, Passport Office, Border Force etc. are having on the holiday maker experience.

What onward effect could this have on long term behaviour when it comes to taking holidays abroad?

The lines between customers of government and private sector organisations are becoming blurred and we are becoming more demanding of the experience we get.

In my early career I worked for a tour operator, selling mainly summer package holidays at the budget end of the market where it is very easy to misjudge expectations. To start with, my success was determined by ability to quickly relay key information about the package and calculate the correct price. All that information could be found in the brochure, but our task was to navigate that better than direct customers and the travel agencies.

For many customers that was enough, and decisions were made swiftly, holidays secured, hopefully enjoyed. But I soon became aware of the significant repeat business as callers asked for specific colleagues by name i.e. who they’d dealt with year after year.

I wondered what they did differently.

It came to three things, which have served me well in various roles throughout a 20-year IT career journey, beginning at the service desk, helping people navigate their IT effectively.

• They were carefully noting and keeping a track of the customer’s journey from initial call, to processing the booking form, to the issuing tickets and, if possible, their arrival in the resort with local representatives. It was a question of ownership and proactivity long after putting down the phone.
• They learned that there was flexibility in the processes. If decisions taken that moved outside ‘the rules’ were done openly and consultatively, then it was possible to, for example, alter normal departure dates; change the length of stay; squeeze one more person into an accommodation; or upgrade it after a few days.
• They understood who needed to be part of those decisions, so no surprises occurred, and how to communicate what was done at the time. No internal conflict, everyone wins together.

Customer experience in government and public sector

This was a relatively small company. I now work in a world where the potential interactions and touchpoints are vast, the systems complex. Most recently, I’ve been helping drive positive experiences for customers in the retail, media and public sectors. It is the latter that seems to be ripe for a Customer Experience (CX) revolution, specifically government.

The machinery of public sector institutions takes this complexity to another level. In an article last year Forrester reported that ‘the need to upgrade the government customer experience has never been more urgent’, and that this hampers mission success.

The recent pandemic and emergency response must take this to yet greater heights, and companies with business to business relationships in government departments should recognise it as an opportunity.

In a McKinsey study, it was shown that in almost every country, reliability and simplicity – not speed – are the top drivers of government customer experience. We don’t need our passport to arrive quickly, but we do want it to arrive before we must depart.

In other words, we want our needs to be understood and met. Don’t misjudge expectations.

So, when I talk about government customers, I reflect on my own journey as a UK citizen renewing passports, buying a house, giving my kids an education, checking tax issues, accessing health services, but I also consider the people my company supports in their endeavours, working for government departments to generate those services.

If we seek to understand their personas, their specific needs, and the judgements they inevitably make based on the values of their own organisation, we stand a greater chance of ‘helping (them) succeed in a way they feel good about’, which is a thought I took from a book I was recently introduced to as a guide for aspiring sales people (Khalsa, 1999).

Successful outcomes in government such as increased trust, achieving missions, meeting budgetary goals, boosting employee morale are all determined by the effectiveness of the people working across silos and outside partners to keep understanding and meeting or exceeding their expectations.

People who feel good and succeed, come back year after year, having derived value from services and wanting to buy more.

In that sense, where agencies listen to customers, enable and equip their frontline employees – who increasingly need to be attracted into the sector – with both the systems, and empowerment to provide calculated flexibility and proactive advice, then they can also enable life dreams for their customers – us!

In a digital age, success for companies like mine is to recognise our current and future contribution to that and keep it firmly in mind so we can jointly succeed and feel good about it – just like when we go on holiday.

No longer should engaging with government be a chore or something to be feared, it should be playing a supporting lifestyle role.

As this CX message pervades agencies and they evolve, so IT providers need to be ready to support their customers in pursuit of these aims through digital enablement of the journey – allowing them individually to make connections and have a chance to recognise the impact they are having on our lives.

If we first understand their touchpoints through the journey; secondly find a way for increased flexibility through bureaucracy; and thirdly engage and openly communicate to the right people both inside and external to our own organisations, then success and happy travellers are mutually successful rather than exclusive. We disrespect our government customers, and ourselves if we think of them any differently to holiday makers.

Further reading

Our Focus on Experience

As part of Customer Experience Day (#CXDay2020) on 6th October 2020, we will be sharing a number of blog posts which highlight our approach to customer experience, ensuring the customer is always at the heart of everything we do.


Today is Customer Experience Day, a day that celebrates all the teams that genuinely care for customers and make great experiences happen.

Never more so than now, in this ‘unprecedented time’ (had to get that word in here!) has customer service and experience been so important.

This is not an opportunistic moment to reflect and pull out examples of where and how we’ve delivered great experience. A relentless focus on experience should be embedded into the fabric of an organisation, into its culture and the behaviours that are demonstrated every day; something I truly believe that is inherent in our values here at Computacenter.

In the services industry, providing exceptional customer experience has been important for many years, but in more recent times we’ve really seen it coming to the fore as a key business issue. The requirement has evolved from specific focus on customer service during a transact phase, to become a holistic issue.

It is for this reason that I cited Experience as a key trend to focus on in a recent blog post and that it now is a fundamental pillar of our strategy. It is critical for success in the modern competitive landscape.

Classic Perspectives on Experience

A focus on experience can be critical in the ‘war’ for both talent (internal) and the consumer (external).

Let me explain the two contexts to which these relate:

  1. The ‘internal experiences’ of colleagues and staff who use the IT resources of an organisation as part of their purpose to support their customers or their business. We’ve seen over recent years with the growth of the notion of “Digital Workplace.” There is a clear connection between great internal IT experiences, enabling people to collaborate and work flexibly, to employee satisfaction and benefit.
  2. The ‘external experiences’ focussed on the end customer, and their experiences in interacting with your organisation. At the very simplest level this requires the business to provide friendly, intuitive and engaging services, digital or physical, in order to attract and entice consumers. In such a competitive landscape, consumers are often afforded the luxury of choice when it comes to where and how they spend their money, and the tolerance for failure or unappealing
    services is incredibly low.

Broader Perspectives on Experience

Considering experience as a more holistic issue, consideration of experience solely from an engagement touch point is no longer
enough.

Aligned to the 4 trends (Velocity, Vulnerability, Sustainability and Experience), there’s now a much tighter connection between what organisations do, and why and how they do it.

With increased awareness towards key topics such as Sustainability, Diversity and Inclusivity that ultimately form part of a consumer or partner’s evaluation of an organisation.

Having the best online retail presence, the best mobile app or the best customer contact centre are great assets, but are severely compromised if people do not buy in to the business, its values and how it goes about its business.

We’ve seen many examples in recent years of media worthy stories about corporate activities and behaviour, that have fundamentally damaged
consumer trust and confidence, regardless of the quality of the products or service experiences that they offer.

There are many approaches for understanding and measuring customer experience, both internally and externally. Measures such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), or Time to Resolution (TTR) are now common, as are other mechanisms to capture user feedback such as surveys.

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Shaping The Modern Employee Experience

As part of Customer Experience Day (#CXDay2020) on 6th October 2020, we will be sharing a number of blog posts which highlight our approach to customer experience, ensuring the customer is always at the heart of everything we do.


The employee experience has changed dramatically in the past few months, and while some employees are returning to their place of work, the employee experience is different than before Covid-19. There are rules and restrictions to comply to and, for those that work in an office, many are only returning to their workplace part-time.

There have been many articles written about the employee experience post the Covid-19 lockdown, outlining the so called “new normal”. I recently read a Gartner article on “The Modern Employee Experience,” based on a survey of nearly 150 HR executives and 3,000 employees worldwide in 2019. The content is interesting and, although it was written before the Covid-19 pandemic, it is still relevant.

The recommendation is that it is vital that an organisation has a shaping approach to increase employee experience and therefore realise the associated benefits. These benefits include employees being more likely to stay at their current organisation, higher performance and thus, increased probability that the goals of their employer will be achieved.

The Gartner definition of shaping is “an approach to improve employee experience satisfaction that focuses on influencing and improving employees’ feelings about their overall experience using psychological, motivational and social principles.”

There are three core elements to shape how employees feel about their experience.

Calibrate Expectations

A Workstyle Analysis provides the information that an organisation needs to calibrate employee expectations. It captures the voice of the employee, what their experience is today and what they want their experience to be. From the information gathered, common personas can be identified that tailor the experience for groups of employees that work in similar ways. 8 common user personas have been identified to help calibrate individual needs and expectations, and the analysis will also identify if there are bespoke personas relevant to that organisation.

Using these personas organisations can ensure the right people have access to the right resources, boosting user productivity and satisfaction. Taking a more individual approach to workstyles gives users the agility and technologies they need to excel in the digital workplace. It enables an organisation to be able to communicate which of the employees’ expectations will and will not be met, thus calibrating their expectations.

As part of a workstyle analysis Computacenter talked to more than 80 members of staff at a UK health care provider to understand their IT challenges and requirements. Five core workstyles were identified with a different range of devices recommended for each one. This improved the employee experience while increasing patient care, boosting staff productivity and lowering IT support costs.

Some of the information gathered from employees about their experience is subjective. Some employees may state that their “PC is slow”, but how do you measure and calibrate a subjective statement such as “my PC is slow”?
The End User Analytics (EUA) service monitors the performance of devices and applications, providing a view into an employee’s work experience, and quantifies what is impacting their experience. This analysis can be done at an individual, location or departmental level.

Using the data captured by the EUA tool the performance of the employee’s device and applications can be tracked over time to
understand the trends and their impact on the employee experience.

This is especially useful when implementing changes as it enables the organisation to quantify what impact the change had on the employee.

This allows all aspects of employee experience to be calibrated with them.

Personalise Their Day-to-day Experience

Employees want to be able to choose a way of working that is convenient for them. Some employees may want to speak to someone to be assured their incident is known and being progressed, others may prefer to log issues electronically.

AssistMe provides intelligent user support services to empower employees to personalise their day to day experience. Employees can raise incidents or request services via multiple channels for example voice, instant messaging, email, and achieve this from their PC or an app on a phone or tablet.

Users also need to be nudged to try new services. It is vital to make sure that the maximum employee experience is delivered from the investments made in improving employee experience. User Adoption services maximise the employees experience of new services.

Successful user adoption enables employees to be empowered to make the most of the technology in their hands. They will feel that their needs have been directly addressed.

By the end of March this year Computacenter had migrated all their 16,000 users to Microsoft Teams. The target of enabling 70% of employees to work from home was significantly surpassed, with 90% eventually enabled.

At the heart of this success was the User Adoption Framework, ensuring that the facets of communication, training, enablement and support met the needs of all the different end users within the company. And when circumstances changed with the onset of the global pandemic, the company showed great agility in adjusting to meet the changing requirements – such as adapting office-based education and enablement to be delivered remotely by Teams, or the provision of “Working from Home” and “Good
Meeting Etiquette” tips through company webinars.

Feedback from users exceeded expectations, with hundreds of staff
reporting a significant improvement on quality and functionality.

Positive Memories

Organisations must respond quickly when things go wrong and reinforce positive employee experiences. When things go wrong the flexible, personalised, convenient support services provided by Assist Me, with always available, expert assistance, anywhere, at any time provide an employee experience that results in positive memories.

At Eversheds Sutherland their employees have been empowered with multi-channel end user services from its Next Generation Service Desk for all 60 offices around the world, including web chat, 24×7 telephone support, onsite Tech Bars for face-to-face support and 1,200 self-help knowledge articles.

When employees are back at their normal place of work Digital Signage provides an excellent way of displaying reminders of what has been done and how experiences have changed. For employees working remotely there are many applications within the suite of services that can be used to remind employees of their change in employee experience. Whether it is a quick Yammer post, a survey in Forms, a video update in Stream or a meeting in Teams or a Teams Live Event.

Creating a positive employee experience

To deliver a modern employee experience Gartner recommend organisations should shape their employees experience by
calibrating their expectations, empowering them to personalise their day-to-day experience and making their experience memorable.

Computacenter have the services to enable positive employee experiences that live long in their memory.

Visit Computacenter.com