Workspaces of the near, not far, future

Predicting the future is a notoriously difficult business. Nostradamus got away with it by being supremely ambiguous but if you need to be more specific it makes sense to keep timescales tight and start from where you are today. You’ll be unsurprised then, to find that this blog is not about the workspace of 2030, but what will happen in the next 12 months. Considering that the last six months have turned how we work upside down; and things are unlikely to go back to how they were, we need to plan realistically for all that this implies.

I have previously written about the importance of the office. How the tech giants were spending billions creating campuses to entice people to spend more time working collaboratively in one physical space. The world has changed somewhat since then, but those organisations are now well placed to adapt because the workspaces they created are flexible enough for people to work in the ways they want, plus they have the potential to adapt to meet these needs as they evolve.

Speaking to colleagues and friends, what has been obvious is that everyone’s experience of lockdown has been different. It varies wildly depending on factors such as your family circumstances, the environment you work in, the stage you’re at in your career, not to mention the type of work you do. People are social animals and the importance of that should not be overlooked. After the initial enthusiasm for remote working, organisations are also starting to find out that it is not a panacea. Problems can take longer to resolve when people aren’t physically together. New staff and those at the start of their careers aren’t developing and integrating as quickly as they would if they were office-based. Video meeting fatigue is a real thing and productivity is starting to wane as hopes of a quick end to this situation dissipates.

At present, most organisations are not rushing staff back to the workplace. Strategies around the numbers that should return are also being hampered by external factors like childcare and public transport arrangements. Whatever the actual numbers turn out to be, the workplace of the near future needs to be able to flex to accommodate this. Designs, once the exclusive reserve of tech giants and media companies, will need to become a reality for the more ‘traditional’ organisations.

Accepting that it’s unlikely we will ever return to the workplace in the numbers we used to, how do our workspaces need to change? In an article on the BBC website Barclays’ boss Jes Staley has said that the pandemic “has led to a rethink of the bank’s long term ‘location strategy’”. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he predicts that 50% of the company’s employees could be working remotely within the next five to 10 years. It makes sense to me then that more focus is put on regional offices.  The headquarters then become a hub: a central location to bring people together, host customers and hold executive meetings. For this to work, however, we need to re-think how those spaces are used and what experience they offer:

  • Collaboration with remote participants will be the norm
  • Office spaces must better support new hybrid workstyles
  • Buildings need to be smarter to adapt to this changing use and support sustainability targets
  • Employees will need help to make the most of the physical spaces as much as they will the technologies that underpin them

As companies learn to trust staff to be able to know where and how to work most efficiently, there will be a step change in people’s work/life balance.  For the organisations themselves there are obvious benefits in a reduction in office space, fewer expenses, happier and more productive people. Customers too are accepting that most things can be done remotely and spending three hours, each way, travelling to an hour-long meeting is not the best use of anyone’s time.

There are investments that need to be made now to make the workspace safe and begin the return. But the long-term investments need to be in changing how our workspaces operate for the continued benefit of everyone. The office will undoubtedly still be important and play a crucial role in both colleague wellbeing and organisational success. Workspaces will have to adapt to this to thrive and businesses will have to look at investing to compete. The environment you create will be key in both attracting and retaining talent as well as creating an advantage against your competition.

Don’t try and predict the future. Plan and invest for what you know will happen. Prioritise those that need to return, make investments to allow those that want to return to do so and ensure that those working for home don’t suffer from a degraded user experience.  Unless of course, like Nostradamus, you have foreseen the apocalypse in which case you have other things to worry about.   

Claire Harlow, CRN Women In Channel Award Nominee 2020

At Computacenter, we have a strong commitment to promoting, encouraging and progressing the careers of women in tech, and are delighted that this year we have 9 amazing nominees in the CRN Women in Channel Awards 2020! To even be nominated is a fantastic achievement for our talented, hard-working and passionate group of nominees and we would like to send a huge congratulations to all of them.

We are going to be highlighting their individual achievements and journeys to show just how well-deserved these nominations are. The next blog in this series is written by Claire Harlow, IT Technical Services Manager, who reflects on her nomination and career with us at Computacenter so far.


My name is Claire Harlow and I am hugely proud and excited to be representing Computacenter at the CRN Women in Channel Awards 2020 in the Manager of the Year category.

In my current role as IT Technical Services Manager within Group IS, I manage both a Technical and a Support team, and was bowled over to have been nominated by 4 of the amazing women in my team. Here we are celebrating International Women’s Day earlier this year:

My career with Computacenter

I joined Computacenter back in 2014 and immediately felt at home.

I was lucky to be surrounded by great colleagues and was supported by a manager who was more than happy to help me progress. During the first couple of years, I learnt more about Computacenter as a company and GIS, taking on the role as chair of the GIS Employee Forum and becoming an Induction Champion. We had some fun times, including organising a charity “Lunchtime Olympics” event, Senior Management Q&A sessions and of course those delicious Christmas Buffets…

I had expressed an interest in taking on more responsibility and in 2016 was offered the chance to lead a new team, giving me my first official management role. This was a huge moment for me, and I really enjoyed the challenge. It was especially exciting when my old team was incorporated into my “new” team a year later – followed by the Support team shortly after.

Computacenter provided a suite of management training courses and I was lucky enough to be able to learn from experienced role models in my own management chain. But, looking back, what helped the most was the great bunch of people I was managing.

I was delighted to read the following quote from Nick, our GIS Apps Director, during the awards submission process:

“Claire is a pleasure to work with. Since joining the Group Information Services (GIS) Division in 2014 as a systems consultant, she has rapidly progressed as a leader. Claire is a key member of the divisional extended leadership team. Claire’s success is driven by many factors, including her endless levels of day to day enthusiasm and ‘we can do this’ attitude, her excellent organisational and motivational skills, and her high levels of creativity.”

Having had nothing but support and encouragement in my own development journey over the last 6 years, I think one of the reasons I was nominated for the CRN Women in Channel Award is because I’m also passionate about helping others. Not everyone wants to progress up the career ladder at high speed, but most people do want to be supported, respected and given the opportunity to learn and improve in whichever way suits them best. This is what I try to do with everyone in my team and I’m proud of the way the whole team works, both together and within the wider division. I like to think the team is well respected within the division and seen as a team who really ‘gets things done.’

Reading the initial nominations and the (later) supporting statements from the team and management was humbling and something that you don’t often get to do. This kind of experience is a bit strange, because it’s somehow unnatural to shout about yourself from the rooftops; but equally, it made me look back on what I’ve achieved over the last few years with real pride. 

Working through the COVID-19 crisis

The last few months has been enormously challenging, both for me and members of the team. Everyone has had to get used to working from home, juggling childcare, keeping in touch. Strangely, it feels like we have never been busier.

I suppose in a way, that’s a good thing, and everyone has been doing an amazing job both on new customer projects and keeping things ticking over on the BAU side. However, I look forward to a time when we will be able to go back to the office, bounce ideas off each other, spend time in face to face meetings (not too much though) and go out for lunch…

Outside of work

When I’m not at work I enjoy relaxing at home, baking, taking my 2 mini schnauzers out for long walks, and catching up with family and friends. At work, I have office running buddies, and it’s proved a lot harder to motivate myself at home!

I would like to finish with a quote from one of my team, which encapsulates the kind of manager I aspire to be:

“It’s truly motivating to have a manager who is always willing to contribute, as opposed to delegation by default, and I think that this is the perfect time and opportunity for Claire’s efforts to be recognised.”

Having this kind of testimonial from a team member and getting this far in the CRN Women in Channel Awards is truly an honour. I hope it inspires other women to pursue or continue their careers in tech.

Helen Croft, CRN Women In Channel Award Nominee 2020

At Computacenter, we have a strong commitment to promoting, encouraging and progressing the careers of women in tech, and are delighted that this year we have 9 amazing nominees in the CRN Women in Channel Awards 2020! To even be nominated is a fantastic achievement for our talented, hard-working and passionate group of nominees and we would like to send a huge congratulations to all of them.

We are going to be highlighting their individual achievements and journeys to show just how well-deserved these nominations are. The next blog in this series is written by Helen Croft, Workplace Solution Specialist, who reflects on her rewarding career with Computacenter so far.


For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Helen Croft, a Workplace Solution Specialist at Computacenter. 

I joined the Computacenter team back in 2012, following a 10-year career at Bank of America where I was lucky enough to work across several roles, both at individual contributor and leadership levels. During this time I was given the opportunity to work with some phenomenal people, developing their skills and shaping their careers, as well as my own.

Supporting others has always been incredibly important to me, and the pride I felt in my early career years in seeing others develop and progress – while still developing myself – will stay with me forever.  

My Computacenter career so far

I started my time at Computacenter as an Inside Sales Manager back in January 2012, leading two regional internal sales teams who were providing daily support to customers globally.

The team were truly a pleasure to lead; focused, determined, and with absolute drive to strive forwards and deliver exceptional service to our customers. For 4 consecutive years the team progressed, strengthening and growing as a team both in terms of performance and indeed as a group of people genuinely stronger by being a collective. 

One of my proudest moments, in 2015, was when the team were recognised as Inside Sales Team of the Year for their 2014 performance. A fundamental moment for the team and an incredible moment at our annual Sales Kick Off. 

On stage at the Computacenter Group Kick Off event in 2015

In 2016 I took the opportunity myself to join our customer facing sales force, moving into the workplace specialism that I’m still working in today, supporting our customers with workplace services and solutions.   

Moving into the sales team presented a different dynamic; moving towards a unique contributor role, and allowing me to personally explore my true potential within sales. This is an opportunity I have relished, enjoying the customer facing interaction, virtual team orchestration, whilst still working with teams of people to deliver customer outcomes. 

Working through the Coronavirus crisis

2020 has been an interesting year to date. COVID19 has of course impacted a number of plans, but the relationships I have with customers has allowed me to continue progressing our various sales opportunities. I’ve also been incredibly proud to mentor a number of newer sales people into the Computacenter team, and am honored to be nominated in the CRN Women in Channel Awards.

This is incredibly humbling as a sales person, and I am so unbelievably proud to represent the sales team for Computacenter at the CRN awards; it’s also something I hope will help to inspire my two little ladies, Katie and Chloe.   

Nita Voralia, CRN Women In Channel Award Nominee 2020

At Computacenter, we have a strong commitment to promoting, encouraging and progressing the careers of women in tech, and are delighted that this year we have 9 amazing nominees in the CRN Women in Channel Awards 2020! To even be nominated is a fantastic achievement for our talented, hard-working and passionate group of nominees and we would like to send a huge congratulations to all of them.

We are going to be highlighting their individual achievements and journeys to show just how well-deserved these nominations are. The next blog in this series is written by Nita Voralia, Principal Consultant for Workplace and Collaboration, who reflects on her nomination and the work she’s done that has lead her here.


Nita Voralia, a Principal Consultant within Computacenter‘s UK Consultancy division, has been nominated for an award at this year’s CRN Women In Channel Awards in the Unsung Hero Category. Being the only female consultant within the Workplace Collaboration Presales and Architecture Team, she is a huge advocate for women within the sector: “Women in IT should be celebrated,” she says. “I feel that women too have a huge contribution to make.”

In her current role, she both designs and delivers solutions for our based on their individual business requirements. She also takes on presales activities, assisting our solution specialists with putting together costings and proposals for new opportunities. Amazingly, she’s been with Computacenter for over 25 years.

“The roles I have been in during my time here have been both technically focused and challenging, and the solutions and feedback I have received over the years both from customers and colleagues alike has definitely contributed to my CRN Women In Channel Award nomination.”

This isn’t her first award recognition though, having received a silver award for an assignment that was delivered outside of the UK and more recently, earning a nomination for the Computacenter High Performance achievement award.

“I don’t seek the limelight for any work that I do, I just feel that everything should be delivered to the best of my capability; whether that is for a customer or assisting a colleague.” I strongly feel that the work should always be of a high standard.

When she found out about her nomination for the CRN Women In Channel Awards 2020, she was very surprised, and never expected to be nominated! “I feel I’m representing the UK Consultancy practice. I am deeply humbled, honoured and immensely proud to have been nominated.”

Outside of work, Nita helps look after a family member who has Asperger’s syndrome; something that has it’s challenging moments for her. This hasn’t stopped her though, and she still puts her heart and soul into her work. “It helps me overcome a lot of things. In fact, it’s made me more resilient than ever!”

Sharing My Story: Maxi Lawrence, CRN Women In Channel Award Nominee 2020

At Computacenter, we have a strong commitment to promoting, encouraging and progressing the careers of women in tech, and are delighted that this year we have 9 amazing nominees in the CRN Women in Channel Awards 2020! To even be nominated is a fantastic achievement for our talented, hard-working and passionate group of nominees and we would like to send a huge congratulations to all of them.

We are going to be highlighting their individual achievements and journeys to show just how well-deserved these nominations are. The first blog in this series is written by Maxi Lawrence, International Programme Manager, who wanted to share a life-changing experience that she’s recently been through.


Whilst being at home during lockdown, I wanted to use this opportunity to tell you my very personal and positive story; a story of unexpected events, mental strength & fear and fundamental gratitude.

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Maxi Lawrence, 38 years old, grew up in Germany but live in the UK, married and mother of two strong minded little ladies. I am a Programme Manager and have been with Computacenter for 8 years now.  

Maxi Lawrence CRN Women In Channel Award 2020 Nominee

I am hoping I can not only raise awareness, especially in current times, but more importantly offer my support and help to anyone who is going through similar experiences or needs someone to support them.

My story began with a proactive check-up with no symptoms, triggered by a tragic story of my sisters’ friend who was very unexpectedly diagnosed with a football sized tumour aged 42 in her bowel, and ended up being the most challenging, testing, humbling and lucky experience of my life so far.

What the consultant found was a surprise and concern to us all as a family: a very large polyp in my lower bowel. He took some biopsies, sent me immediately for an MRI and CT scan and referred me to a specialist team of experts.

The verdict was the polyp needed removing as soon as possible as well as a need for further checks. After a successful removal and weeks of waiting, I received a message to meet the consultant in person, immediately knowing there was more to this.  

Thankfully, the majority was good news, however there was a small section of cancerous cells which had started to grow in the polyp. The safety margin was small, and the team could only give me 96% assurance that nothing had started to spread. The solution was major surgery. They had to remove 30cm of my bowel.

“Life can be short, so go for what you want to achieve, don’t be scared to take risks and make tough decisions.”

Maxi Lawrence, Computacenter uk

After asking the team what I could do in preparation for my op, I was advised to be as fit as possible. I increased my already active lifestyle with more running, regular Pilates and super healthy eating, all maximising my physical and mental strength and stamina.

I felt as strong and good as I could have done on the day of the operation itself and was ready for what laid ahead – 4-5 hours in surgery.

One very refreshing and positive moment I vividly remember was the two young female surgeons who came to take me through the risks, possible complications & consent form. Being an advocate of female talent in any profession or industry, I loved that two of my team of three surgeons were ladies. They were not only super friendly, positive and upbeat on a Wednesday 7am shift, they also looked incredible. Their behaviour and appearance really made a difference to my slightly sombre mood.

What helped to get me through?

Now 5 months post op, I am delighted to say my operation and post-op recovery could not have gone any better. The consultant surgeon and his team asked if I could be known as their ‘case of the year’ and said it was text book. They have not seen many cases where the recovery has gone this seamlessly.

Women In Channel Awards 2020

I believe many factors contributed positively to my case, firstly the excellent treatment, care and non-disputable support I received from all the medical staff, my family, friends and my team at work. From flowers to post-op visits, they genuinely cared and still do.

I have felt throughout the whole process that I am very much taken seriously, my treatment was managed with urgency and care. The love and support from my husband, family and friends goes beyond all of that and I learnt there is no shame to ask for help, emotional support or whatever you need to look after yourself.

Secondly, my mental and physical strength and overall very positive outlook on life played a key role. At no point did I let my worries or fear overpower my long-term outlook on the very happy life I have and will continue to have. I am excited by what the future holds, both personally and in my career, with an added perspective which I wouldn’t have without this experience.

I have learnt and grown tremendouslythroughout this time. My inquisitive nature and preventative mindset led me to go for the check-up with zero symptoms, otherwise I would have had to wait until I am 65 years old for standard screening. There is no way I would have made it that long without far more advanced stages of the illness.

At times it has been very hard. The not knowing, waiting for results and treatments has been the hardest. Thanks to my naturally positive mindset and self-motivation, I managed to apply several practical things in my day to day life to keep my focus on the positive side of my story. Let’s just say my home office space had more colourful post-it notes than you can imagine.

Computacenter’s Growing Together Programme, promoting and encouraging women in the workplace

Women In Tech Careers

I thank the Growing Together programme for very real and helpful conversations which greatly emphasised my natural behaviour and way of thinking during such testing times.

I am smiling as I tell you this – I genuinely believe many techniques that the programme covers have such a positive impact on anyone, whether the growth mindset or self-fulfilling prophecy, even working on my personal brand just before my story began, resonated with me many times since.

What lessons have I learnt?

Life can be short, so go for what you want to achieve, don’t be scared to take risks and make tough decisions. Be open to accept support or guidance and be kind and understanding about everyone’s personal story.

Whatreally matters when you are at your most vulnerable in a hospital bed, unable to move? What behaviours in a person make all the difference in how you feel and respond to them?

I did reflect on our Computacenter values and behaviours during this time; we strive to be perfect for our customers and I was very much was able to draw a parallel to my situation in recovery.

A thank you to the NHS staff who looked after me  

I was overwhelmed by the reassurance and trust I felt from the credibilityand total confidence all the staff demonstrated. They are experts in their profession, very credible and with huge amount of experience, passion and genuine care.

It made me feel safe, valued and in the best hands possible.

Also, how straight talking and honest they engaged with me. From the first conversation with one of the consultants, to the frequent checks from the nurses on the ward. They told me the truth, honestly yet kindly. They articulated the medical jargon in a way where I could understand every word and took their time to facilitate a two-way conversation.

Finally, the kindness everyone showed towards me was humbling. I have never felt more vulnerable, yet safe, respected and truly taken care off. Their passion for looking after patients and making them better was outstanding and so underrated. Gruelling shifts, modest salaries and less than state of the art facilities don’t dampen the hard work and quality of care I experienced.

It seems very appropriate to share my very positive and lucky story with the NHS right now and to shine a good light on the amazing work they do despite limited resources. In fact, I have written to the CEO and Board of Directors of the NHS trust where I was treated to pay my thanks but equally ask for recognition to all those individuals who looked after me so well.

The journey continues…

As much as I have a further follow-up check-ups, I am super happy, relieved and a little bit proud of the journey I have been on so far. Over and above all I feel extremely lucky. I have learnt a lot about this illness and how for example additional genetic factors can bring your screening age down: please go and get checked if you have any family history. Your GP will listen and offer referrals if needed.

Why did I want to share my story with you? Well, I want to be a positive example to those of you who may also be affected by this or any illness (which so often goes unnoticed for a long time), to not feel alone.

Support is available and on a personal note I am very happy to offer my support to anyone. Being brave is hard sometimes and it is ok to ask for help. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions and dealing with it on your own is even harder.

Be curious and develop a preventative mindset, the earlier it can be caught the more straightforward and successful the treatment and care.

Furthermore, my perspective on life, work and wellbeing has changed somewhat. I have been lucky to have had a balanced lifestyle for years, but more than ever before I realise stress is not good for us – our mind or body – so I urge you all to limit stress and learn to manage it.

Be happy, smile and laugh every day and enjoy the things you do, see the positive in any challenge. It’s good for us. Look after your body, be active and conscious of what you eat and drink. You don’t have to be a saint but be mindful. It won’t just make you feel better, but also help your body fight whatever it needs to one day.

I also want to show it’s ok to talk about these very common illnesses like cancer, they affect 1 of 2 of us in our lifetime. Awareness and education are vital in the successful treatment of cancers.

I am super happy and lucky to be smiling right now, but I would have also told you my story if the outcome would have been less positive. If any of you have questions for me or have similar things going on in your life, please don’t be shy and contact me if I can help in any way.

I recently read a quote by ‘Anais Nin’ which really resonated with me during testing times:

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage”

I will leave you with that and wish you all the health and happiness during these challenging times.

6 digital transformation steps every business leader should take to survive in the post-corona era

Digital transformation has been a buzzword in many organizations in recent years. It has become part of the strategic plans of almost every enterprise in the world. Still, the process itself is often challenging.

The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that companies need to be more flexible and agile. It is now or never to digitise every layer of your organisation. These tips will help you to get started.

The impact of COVID-19

Most business leaders believe their company has already taken its first steps in becoming more digital. However, a web shop or a mobile application may be nice to have for customers, but it is no true digital transformation. Many enterprises discovered this when COVID-19 started to spread and they had to adapt their operations to a new reality. They all feel the urge to transform their business, but usually have a lack of time, money, or other resources.

working post covid

To survive in the post-corona era, digital transformation should be your top priority.

“Never let a good crisis go to waste”, Winston Churchill once proclaimed. Do not wait and hope for the old times to return. The following tips will help you make your business future-proof.

1. Define what digital transformation means to your business

Each company is different and has specific needs and challenges. Therefore, you should start by looking at where your business is standing today. What are you doing right and what do you need to reach your future targets?

Always focus on the perspective of your customers. Digital transformation should be about bridging the gap between their expectations and what you are offering them now. Technology has changed our entire society and customers also engage with companies and brands in different ways. Think about how smartphones allow us to interact from anywhere and at any given moment.

Digital transformation should change interaction with your customers and enable you to accurately respond to questions in the blink of an eye. Your employees also need the tools to connect with each other and share information wherever they are.

To keep up with demands, your entire supply chain must be digital. Even your complete business model should be adapted to benefit from digital solutions in this amazing new world.

2. Train your people

Digital transformation is more than buying new technology. This won’t help you unless you also have the right people and processes. It is a new mindset that should be present in every department of your organisation. Even your management team will benefit from a tech-savvy leader who understands what business needs when decisions about budgets are made. You may even have to redefine certain roles and responsibilities to align the structure of your company with these new targets.

how to start digital transformation

Of course, a digital world also requires new skills.

Some of these profiles – think about data scientists – will be hard to find as they are high in demand. Fortunately, many of these new responsibilities can be covered by training and re-educating your existing workforce. Make sure that your people have time and resources to acquire new skills. Part of their routine work can be solved by automated solutions. This will enable employees to focus on more challenging tasks that will bring more value to your organisation.

3. Evaluate the tools you are currently using

Your organisation can only become more efficient if you understand how your people are working today and what they would need to improve. What tools are they using to share information or to communicate with customers? They are probably using software, but is it still the best solution for your company? New technologies can sometimes offer much better support. Identifying internal and external inefficiencies allows you to optimise the experience of both your employees and your customers.

Of course, do not fall into the trap of over-provisioning. Many organisations pay too much for software, tools and storage space. In this new world, consumption-based IT models offer you fast access to new technology and you only pay for what you actually use. HPE GreenLake is a great example of a solution that simplifies your IT operations by delivering on-demand capacity and planning. It combines the agility and economics of the public cloud for all workloads that cannot be transferred to a public cloud solution.

4. Don’t be afraid to take risks

Change never happens unless you are willing to take risks. Most organisations operate with standard procedures that never seem to fail. However, it also makes them very rigid to deal with unexpected events or trends. The most successful brands are the ones that can predict these trends before they actually occur. Create a safe environment that allows for experimentation, even when success is not guaranteed.

Failure offers organisations the most valuable insights about the future. This is another reason why you need an innovative spirit in your management team.

business leaders enabling digital transformation

Your main concern as a business leader is making sure that the numbers are right to keep your shareholders happy, but you also need people who are capable of asking questions about the way you are handling things. Stimulate this mindset among your employees by showing them the value and benefits of new technology.

5. Optimise operations and evaluate

Once you have a clear vision and a digital road-map, you can start optimising your operations. This is where the value of data comes in. All enterprises own a lot of information that could improve their operations and services. You need analytical models that use the data to provide insights that lead to fast and efficient decision-making.

Remember that digital transformation is never really finished. Each new strategy should be monitored and adjusted to ensure that it still works. A model that can predict trends today will not necessarily be effective one year from now. By then, your company could have grown and even your entire industry might have evolved. Consistent evaluation is the key ingredient to long-term success.

This way, you can also ensure that your employees are using the best tools to do their jobs.

6. Find the right partner to guide you on your digital journey

Digital transformation is a difficult challenge for many organisations, but it should not be so hard. You don’t have to embark on this journey all by yourself. Most business leaders have enough work to deal with the impact of COVID-19 on their organisation. This is why you could reach out to an IT partner that has the expertise to find the best solutions.

The focus of such a company is to make your own organisation more successful. They understand your business, challenges and needs, and know how to make your company future-proof.

Computacenter is the loyal IT partner of many organisations. One solution we can deploy in your company is HPE GreenLake. This is a consumption-based IT model that gives you fast access to the technology you need for your digital transformation. It enables cloud-like benefits for on-premise infrastructure and you only pay for what you really use.

Want to know more?

Download our free e-book about upcoming IT challenges or visit our website to discover how we can accelerate digital transformation in your business.

The Need for More Reality…

If like me you have been working remotely in the wake of the corona-virus lock-down, it will no doubt have increased your need to connect and collaborate more with your friends and colleagues.

Your work days will probably include lots of team meetings, webinars, wind-down quizzes and virtual pub sessions. Exploitation of tools such as Microsoft Teams or other popular video conferencing software will have likely fuelled this adaptation to your working ways.

Whilst these tools are great for plugging the obvious need to connect and collaborate, I have always felt there is more we could do to do to emulate the physical and co-working collaboration we were so used to before.

Seeking to find a richer experience, some companies have taken it to another level. Looking to other technologies such as Virtual Reality when video calling just does not cut it.

Experienced Evolved…

Virtual Reality (VR) has promised for many years to deliver that richer and more connected experience for employees and business to collaborate. However, VR to date has mainly been perceived as a consumer entertainment technology.

With the emergence of better and more usable devices and platforms, using VR for business is becoming ever more serious. Early business use cases are providing the ability to enable a rich consumer experience allowing business to market its products and services in new and exciting ways.

VR is intended to be an immersive experience giving you the ability to experience three dimensional environments in a contained space. Many of the early use cases have focused on training and enablement of employees. However, several innovative vendors such as “The Wild” and “Spatial” are pushing the boundaries further and expanding into providing virtual collaboration and co-working solutions that seek to expand the overall employee experience from our current two dimensional plane to an experience that mirrors some of our real-world collaboration experiences and brings people together no matter where there located.

The Next Computing Platform…

Several industry leaders have stated that VR is the next computing platform. And whilst it’s difficult to predict if this is going to be true, like most disruptive technologies it’s not so much about the technicalities and the platform, it’s more about the use cases. Planning how to use VR to change how we live and do business will determine the true success of VR.

So, if VR is to become the next computing platform what else needs to fall into place? Well like most new technologies hype often exceeds reality, VR is no exception to this rule. Many have touted VR to be big for many years now. But only recently has the technology started to evolve to a point where the expectation starts to meet reality.

Companies such as Facebook and the Oculus product are providing the technology and platforms that allows consumers and business to exploit the potential of VR. However, whilst companies like Facebook have made significant strides in the past few years there are still many mountains to climb. Comparisons to other past/current technologies such as the smartphone will give you a view of how much there is to do and what will make VR a success.

For the Future Look to the Past…

If you can remember what the first smartphone looked like, it was costly, bulky and lacked some killer content and features, and was only used by a handful of early adopters. Fast forward to today and it has become mainstream across the consumer and enterprise, its technologies and capabilities have drastically evolved, putting it firmly into that “I can’t live without this” technology bracket.

Alike the smartphone market, VR will also need to evolve, with development of lighter more powerful devices with improved connectivity and access to engaging content and applications.

If VR is to be the next big platform, then we are likely to be in a world where we no longer look at our smartphones, but rather look into a device to visualise the content in front of our eyes and interact with this device through, voice, visual recognition or hand gestures.

It’s quite hard to imagine that the smartphone as we know it could be significantly diminished in this new future, but then that’s the inevitability of technology it either evolves or dies.

What is evident is that VR is one of the fastest developing technologies of our generation. This is no passing fad. VR promises to deliver our need to learn through experience and touch, rather than through reading and clicking. It’s not quite delivered on the promise that the film “Ready Player One” paints yet, however we’re on the journey and its fast becoming a reality.

Keep Safe

Neil Cant

Return to the “Next Normal”…

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Over the last two months many if not all of us have experienced some of the most drastic changes to all our lives and working patterns. We have had to deal with huge shifts and adaptions in where and how we work and, in some cases, if we could work at all.

As we are all starting to embark on getting back to work or adjusting how we work its important we take time to reflect and factor whats happened, and what we need to do for the future to make the “Return to Next Normal” work for both companies and its employees.

React and Respond…

During this period large numbers of IT providers were the early responders as the corona-virus crisis unfolded. Pulling out all the stops to enable companies and their employees to continue to function. New ways of working were quickly implemented to keep us all working.

However not all decisions that were made were based on long term thinking and rationale thought. This does mean some of these decisions will require a review for their longer-term implications.

This enforced event however has given us all an opportunity to experience change at a rate we were unlikely to experience at any other time. Whilst this has no doubt been disruptive, it has provided companies and their employees with a view of what the future might look like for us all.

The Big Reset….

We have had some time now to be able to evaluate and reflect, and get a sense of things that have worked and things that don’t quite work for us. This provides us all with a unique opportunity to hit the reset button on our old ways of working. Now is the time for companies to review their employee workstyles and patterns, evaluate the policies and actions that were taken during the crisis and review their methods and technologies to see what works and what needs to change for the future.

Key to making the return to ‘next normal’ work effectively is to ensure the needs of the employees are considered: –

  • How will your employees return to work, what is the next normal for them?
  • Will the office work environment be different?
  • Will remote work continue? Will it be for selected groups?
  • Do you have the right technology for remote workers?
  • Is the right network, secure and capable for our employees to work remotely?
  • Do we need to consider how we enforce social distancing at work?

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None of these questions have obvious answers and for some employees’ and their workstyles this will likely be a divisive moment.

Companies must also not ignore the affect this situation has had on its people both emotionally and physically. Factoring in their health and well-being into this review is paramount.

It’s difficult to predict when we will finally emerge from this crisis and what the future of work may become. But what is certain, is we are quite likely to find ourselves in a world that is significantly different from the one before this crisis. It’s very likely that our employees’ workstyles, patterns and behaviours will have changed, and hopefully for some its permanent.

Adapt and Evolve…

The huge shift in employee work patterns we have experienced needs careful consideration on how we are to adapt and evolve how were going to work in the future. Companies need to start now in re-imaging the future of work, use these lessons learned and take the opportunity to adapt and embrace totally new ways of working.

Gaining the buy-in of your employees will be key to making the return phase and beyond work for all. Companies and leaders should be empathetic and demonstrate an understanding that their employees need to come to terms with this new and changing experience.

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Giving them the time to adapt to new ways of working is key. Employees coming back after furlough or a period of remote work may find the physical layout of their workplace changed and their routine adapted. For office workers, returning to a workplace may require a mindset shift for those who’ve adjusted to working remotely. In order to navigate these changes, leaders should make sure employees understand what’s being asked of them and what steps the company is taking to protect them. Companies need to allow employees the chance to voice their views and concerns and be part of the identification of potential problems with their return plans.

Engaging in open trusted communication, is the only way both employees and companies will get through this next phase of the crisis. And hopefully in time provide an opportunity to increase overall employee engagement and boost their productivity.

NOW is the time to work together to get this right, let’s not waste it….

Mental Health: Why Talking and Listening is So Important

This is a blog by Senior Lead Consultant Kevin Sandberg for Mental Health Awareness Week 2020, taking place May 18th – May 24th. In a time where looking after our mental health is more important than ever, Computacenter are proud to be supporting this initiative and spreading the message that #KindnessMatters.


I’ve almost been working for Computacenter’s TU ServiceNow Centre of Excellence for five years. In reality, it should be closer to 7.

Back in 2013, I took a dream trip. I was celebrating my 33rd birthday and I found myself sitting in a pool in Orlando, Florida. Beer in one hand, floating on an inflatable. I was relaxing before going out for a meal with my wife and parents-in-law at the Hard Rock Café. It was everything I could ask for in a holiday, but I was sad.

Hiding the symptoms

This wasn’t the typical birthday blues. I felt down. If I couldn’t be happy in this scenario when could I be? Later that month, I opened up to my wife about it.  At first, she was upset as she hadn’t realised anything was wrong. That wasn’t her fault though; I’d been very good at hiding it.

I realised that I was feeling isolated and started looking for a new job.  My reasoning was that maybe I would be better off in an office-based role with more day to day interaction with other people.

I didn’t feel good enough to do my job.  I didn’t feel up to it and I felt like I was going to be caught out at any minute.  Every day was like treading water.  I was exhausted and I felt like an imposter.

Later that year, I was approached by a former colleague who wanted me to join her team.  I knew a couple of people who worked at her company already, we had all worked together at the NHS.

I thought it would sort everything out. But of course, it didn’t.

New challenge, same me

After an initial bout of feeling good about myself, I quickly reverted to how I was when I was working at home for the TU ServiceNow Centre of Excellence.  I was up and down – more down, though, if I’m being honest.

It was great being with my former colleagues again and I loved managing the team I had. I will always be proud of what they achieved but I wasn’t enjoying my new job.

I missed working with ServiceNow and I felt restricted in what I was doing. I couldn’t seem to achieve what I wanted to.

Coupled with the imposter feeling that I still carried with me, I now felt frustrated that I couldn’t easily do for my team what I could have done if I had different tools.

When life gives you a Volvo

When I took the role there was a possibility the new company would be implementing ServiceNow.  They actually went with another vendor and all of a sudden, I felt like someone had swapped the keys to a Ferrari and given me keys to a second hand Volvo; functional, but lacking.

After a particularly ranty social media post on my part, a former TU ServiceNow Centre of Excellence colleague reached out and said to me, ‘You know Kev, we would love to have you back.’

I thought about it long and hard.

I knew quite soon into the new job that this wasn’t the quick fix I had hoped it would be in terms of my general mood. Logically, coming back to the TU ServiceNow Centre of Excellence was the best choice for my career.

I would make the working from home work. 

I missed that ‘family feeling’ that I had lost when moving to a larger organisation and felt less involved.

It was also nice to feel wanted. I was in the middle of a major project and had to work a 3 month notice period.

So, even though the then TU ServiceNow Centre of Excellence MD asked if I could shorten my notice period as they were keen to get me back, it was important to me that I didn’t let down my new team or my colleague who had offered me the opportunity.

Time for honesty: I suffer from mental health issues

So here goes, full disclosure – I have now realised that I have struggled with mental health issues for years and probably long before I even joined TU ServiceNow Centre of Excellence in 2013.

I have good days, I have bad days. I can have good weeks and I can have bad weeks.

Lately, I have learnt how to manage it better. It’s still hard to talk about. It’s hard to convey what I am feeling as I don’t fully understand it myself, but I deal with it better than I used to. Sometimes. Some days it takes all the effort I can muster to get out of bed and face the day.

My biggest issue at first was that I didn’t know why I felt this way. I had a good job, a good career, lovely colleagues, great friends, great family and a gorgeous loving wife who I adore. I know I had a life a lot of people would give their right arm for, but I still felt really low and unbelievably sad at times.  

I told a former TU ServiceNow Centre of Excellence colleague about my issues and she couldn’t have been more understanding. Eventually, I opened up to more of my colleagues, including my current line manager.

Getting mental health support from my employer

A couple of years ago, I referred myself to NHS Talking Therapy sessions. I was lucky and got an appointment quite quickly. I began to have a weekly 30 minute session, before being referred and having 60 minute sessions each week.

The TU ServiceNow Centre of Excellence have been fantastic, giving me the time off to go and have these sessions in work time.

I couldn’t have gone otherwise, and although I tried not to let it affect my work, I could come out of those sessions on a Friday physically and emotionally drained. I had to sit in the car for a good 10 minutes after one session before I was even up to driving away.

I learned a lot about myself. I also had an event in my life happen at this time which wasn’t nice and that didn’t help, but the support and understanding from people did. I tried anti-depressants to see if they would help. 

The side-effects didn’t outweigh the benefits and eventually, I made the decision to come off them after trying a number of different types. I am aware people have found medication to be a massive help but I have found talking to be the best therapy, and now most of the people I am close to are aware of the struggles I have had.

I call them my ‘fluffy’ periods.

Reaching out and overcoming a reluctance to talk

I understand the reluctance to talk about mental health. I was brought up in the North East of England in a working-class area where you don’t show weakness. Especially the men. It’s a sign that you’re not tough enough.

You definitely don’t talk about it even though that’s the worst thing you could do. And this is what I had been doing for years.

I guess if there is a message in this blog, is that if you can relate to anything that I’ve said and want to talk about it. Reach out.

Reach out to somebody you are comfortable talking to about it. Some people would rather talk to someone they don’t know that well, others want to talk to someone they are close to.

Mental health: An ongoing journey

I am not going to sit here and say I am 100% better now. I have finished my therapy sessions, and I deal with things better. I don’t bottle things up anymore. I’ve learned to reach out if I’m struggling and for me, that’s major progress in itself.

I still feel like I am an imposter at times, that I’m going to get found out at any moment. I’m rubbish at receiving praise and I can tend to focus on the negative. I worry about things I can’t control, and some days I do want to hide away – but I am aware of it now – and I try to manage it and deal with it as best I can.

I went back to Florida with my wife last year, I was in the exact same pool that I had been back in 2013 with a beer and I can honestly say, it was two of the happiest weeks of my life.

If you are struggling please don’t suffer in silence. Please do reach out to someone you feel comfortable with, and if someone reaches out to you, you don’t need to have all the answers – just listen.

You’ll be doing more good than you’ll ever know.

For more information on Mental Health Awareness Week and for support regarding mental health issues, visit the Mental Health Foundation website.

New Normal

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It’s anybody’s guess what the new normal will look like either post lock-down or post corona-virus. The only thing that is certain is that it’s bound to be different from how it was before. The crisis is already pushing the U.K economy into recession and Its certain it will leave a big mark on how consumers live and how they spend their money.

More Pressure…

Retailers in the U.K are facing many different challenges. Some are struggling to scale and keep up with the increased demand as they see their sales rise beyond their capacity; some are taking to limiting sales and customer volume; whilst some are seeing sales suddenly drop off a cliff.

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These opposing challenges force very different responses, whilst one is looking at reducing costs and outgoings others are trying to deal with technical scaling and logistics issues. Never has there been such opposing issues within either the same companies or sector. You might argue that having a scaling issue is a nice problem to have. However, you must have one eye on the future and consider what you might do with all this extra capacity once things return to some level of normality, can you just turn the taps off, is this going to be the same now and in the future?

Customers are in part creating these opposites by doing things they have never done before, the obvious rise in online shopping has had a large effect on how we shop, however what we are buying and the volume of it has also changed.

There are the predictable shifts of using online grocery shopping during this period, but other more bizarre growths in things like garden furniture for instance due to lock-down, and things like gifting-wrapping services due to the fact we cannot do this easily via traditional methods.

Coping and Adapting…

The focus for many retailers now is drifting towards what do I need to think about or do once were back to some level of normality.

This raises an interesting point on what normal might look like. Whilst is difficult to predict the future, it’s quite likely that retailers will need to consider how this has affected their customers’ shopping patterns. Changes in customer behaviours are not likely to one hundred percent be reversed once our situation changes.

Science indicates that it takes something like two months for a behaviour change to become automatic. Something that is likely to influence us all as the situation continues.

I know from personal experience that my family will be continuing their online grocery shopping post this as they have overcome their initial fears and barriers and now see the upsides on this approach. Predictions are that at least 25% of customers will not return to what they did when we get to new normal.

Being close to your customers and understanding their needs has never been more important and will become paramount to succeeding during the new normal. Providing the services, they need, how they want, with minimal disruption and going the extra mile is likely to retain your customers. Focusing on what kind of experience you want to create for your customers, being personal and knowing what they want, giving an opinion and making it memorable.

Many retailers will also have to ask themselves “Can I operate at sub-scale?”, if not what do I need to do to adapt. Retailers will need to understand what new normal means for them, do I need to increase my prices to factor in reduced volume in customers or work out how I can significantly reduce my operating costs. Likely answer might include a bit of both.

The new normal whatever that is…

Retailers are likely to experience a paradigm shift in customers buying patterns and behaviours post lock-down. New normal is going to look significantly different from old normal. Factoring in that customers are going to be fearful of infection and that significant numbers of customers are likely to have less money to spend due furlough or redundancy. Combined with learning new ways to shop from new channels then any expectation that a return to old normal levels of customer behaviours and levels of business seems very unlikely.

Retailers need to be innovative during this period, “How are you going to be different from anybody else?” Providing customers with a better experience, giving them something they can’t get from either your competitors or online needs to be considered.

If you have a large brick and mortar estate, use it to your advantage, create personal experiences that will encourage your customers to make the effort to visit. Being different and providing services that others don’t is likely to be the factor that keeps one company going vs your competition.

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There is also a view that there will be a resurgence of whole localisation of shopping, the traditional high-street if you will. Personally, I’m sure there is place for big outlets and local shopping to co-exist but changes in behaviour driven by the corona-virus to shop more locally and find those local agents could engender a change in our behaviours which will stick and grow in new normal.

As those customers who have adjusted during this period are likely to stick doing what they are doing either for some time or permanently. They will have shifted into other places or channels. This does make it harder to understand what the future state will look like. All we can say is that it won’t be the same as it was.

Keep Safe.

Neil