A little over a month ago we officially opened our new office in Dublin. Along with our UK MD, Neil Hall, we presented the investments we have been making in Computacenter’s portfolio of offerings, and how these can help our Irish customers achieve their goals.
While many of our customers who have a presence in Ireland will already be aware of the Computacenter proposition, many new to Ireland may not. In my presentation, I focussed on a couple of key topics: our relationship and capability around AWS & VMware; and the IP we have developed to help customers accelerate their developments with multiple cloud providers. We subscribe to the school of thought that multi-cloud will continue be the dominant approach towards cloud in the enterprise market, and if that is the case, then we also believe we have some very differentiating IP in our Hybrid Cloud Adoption Framework (HCAF).
Recognition of our investment in HCAF, partnerships and capabilities
I had the opportunity to repeat some of these same messages in Arizona last week, while at VMware’s Partner leadership Summit, where I shared with VMware & their top partners from across EMEA what HCAF is, and why it is important in a market where VMware will be consumed alongside AWS, Azure, GCP, etc. I must have done an OK job, as one of the partners from the Middle East offered to buy the IP! Later the same day, I went on stage to pick up the ‘VMware EMEA Public Cloud Integration’ Award on behalf of Computacenter, recognising the work we have done investing in HCAF and our broader public cloud partnerships and capability. What I find exciting about this recognition is the fact we have not even started to tell the story about the work we have been putting into the infrastructure as code (IaC) and containers space.
When it comes to awards, Computacenter & our hybrid IT & platforms team seem to be on a roll just now receiving some long overdue recognition for the work we have delivered to date. Since the week before the event in Dublin, we have picked up a few notable awards, including:
• VMware UK&I Partner of the Year
• DELL EMC EMEA Partner of the year
• DELL EMC Presidents Circle
• VMWare EMEA Public Cloud Integration
Industry recognition really does helps us differentiate when we are speaking to our customers. Receiving accolades from across several vendors helps even more, as what our customers need right now is not one partner or vendor, but an ecosystem of providers who will work together and collaborate on behalf of the customer, and that is what we strive to deliver. Neither cloud nor multi-cloud represents a finishing line, where it all stops once you are there. The evolution rolls on as the market continues to find new ways of creating solutions that bring additional value and efficiencies.
Realising the value and delivering the business case
But with cloud, some things do need to be finished to realise the value and deliver the business case. In a recent customer example at Eversheds, click here to view the video case study, the greatest satisfaction was not the winning of the project, or delivery of their new cloud platform, it was the pictures of the man with the sweeping brush in the empty DC once we had migrated everything to the cloud and handed the keys back to the customer. While this might not seem like an important task, failure to finish the job and empty the datacenter means it’s still an asset on the customer’s books and the business case is not realised. As much as we herald HCAF, our cloud partnerships and awards plus our ability and track record of closing datacenter’s and handing keys back, are both up there as key components in our cloud value proposition.
Want to know more about the journey of bridging private and public cloud? Watch the Carpool tech Talk with me and Nick McAllister from VMware.
Earlier this week we hosted a round table event to discuss the evolution of the Digital Workplace. We were joined by 12 Industry leaders from a broad range of industries and backgrounds for an evening of discussion and dinner. Thanks to our co-sponsors Microsoft and our hosts Nimbus Ninety for making this event such a success.
We centred the discussion on three topics that continue to inform and intrigue our conversations with customers. Unusually for me it was a change to mostly listen, absorb and reflect on our strategy and approach, and how we might improve.
The topics we addressed over the course of the evening were:
- What are the main features of the digital workplace?
- How do you build a business case for workplace transformation?
- How do you ensure a consistently user-centered approach across workplace transformation initiatives?
There were a number of key insights and findings from what was a thoroughly enjoyable evening of discussion and debate. I’ll cover each of these in turn
It’s NOT about technology
All too often Digital Workplace programmes are rooted in technology change agendas. The Windows 10 transformation, the Office 365 deployment of the deployment of new mobile tools. However, our discussion did not once cover a technology solution area. Of course a couple of solution examples were given to bring points to life, but the conversation centred on a more outcome based approach that can be fulfilled by a range of both technology and procedural responses. For us, as an IT supplier and integrator, it was refreshing and intriguing to elevate ourselves above the technology level and focus in depth on the business value and outcomes from the change agenda.
It IS about People and Culture
A large portion of the evening was spent discussing the user and cultural impact of technology and business change and how to deliver this into your users. Remembering the connection between the internal users (employees/colleagues) and the external users (consumers) of your services. Is there a distinction? Should there be?
What is clear is that many organisations are wrestling with this change, and in a fiercely competitive economy the war for talent is a very real thing. If you fail to engage or enable your users they will simply move to an alternative employer or industry. This is a startling reality that is affecting many businesses and industries now
It IS about a consumer levels of simplicity
I often cite a Gartner definition of Digital workplace, which references a “consumer like experience” in an enterprise context. The feedback from our discussion was overwhelming. It is not about “consumer like” – which infers an attempt to achieve the principles of elegance and simplicity that underpin the digital consumer tools upon which we are all so reliant. The aspiration is for an experience that is equivalent to our consumer experiences. No compromises.
For many this will be a new challenge. We know what good looks like from a consumer perspective, yet we get bogged down in the translation of this to an enterprise context. Various examples were cited of adopting consumer like tools and approaches, yet the enterprise challenges of security and compliance are very real and must not be understated
How do you build and deliver internal platforms that are as intuitive as what we enjoy in our home lives? How do you ensure the “inside out” support experience looks and feels the same as the “outside in” (consumer) lens of their engagement to your organisation to ensure common understanding and empathy? To not strive for this creates a barrier between your employees and your customers that your competitors will be actively looking to exploit with a better platform or better service model.
It IS about Change
We discussed “digital” at length. The context of the evening was “Digital Transformation” but there was an agreement and recognition that organisations have been evolving and changing for a long time. Digital is merely the mantra that is being used at the moment. In order to execute the changes that organisations are trying to achieve, all the classic approaches and principles remain true. The need to secure engagement at every level, from executive to grass roots. The need to address the WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) and the need for strong sponsorship and support to drive the initiatives in both the good times and the challenging times is key.
We spoke about adoption, the challenges here are twofold:
- In not communicating what you are doing, and why, to secure engagement and support that will ultimately lead to usage (adoption) and value to your business
- In declaring success too early. Delivering a solution or outcome and presuming it to be a success, not cognisant that users and consumers can be fickle and there’s a need to continually reinforce and underpin the initial success with an ongoing campaign to promote long term benefits.
NO ONE has all the answers
We brought together 12 leaders from enterprise organisations across a number of verticals. The opportunity to discuss and engage with like-minded people was an invaluable use of time. What was clear was that no one has all the answers, and we should take time not only to learn from our external influences (such as our consumer lives) but from colleagues and peers in adjacent industries. What is clear is we live in a time of unprecedented choice and rate of change, no one has done everything and there is no blueprint for guaranteed success. Sharing knowledge and expertise is fundamentally a core facet of what the Digital Workplace seeks to achieve…. And we learnt a lot from participating in the discussion.
Thanks again to all our guests and our co-hosts Microsoft and Nimbus Ninety for participating in an enjoyable and insightful debate.
Until this year, every year since 2008 has been ‘the year of VDI’. The one where virtual desktop growth would increase exponentially and everything else would be the exception. I did my first virtual desktop project in 2010 (not for Computacenter I hasten to add). I’ll tell you now it was not a great success. Actually, that’s not fair, it did work, there were just some caveats. We explained to the users not to look at web pages with lots of pictures, or view videos (obviously) and to expect some typing delays during busy periods – that sort of thing. I’m sure you can imagine the conversations we had. My efforts to explain how clever it all was were wasted.
That was a while ago. The technology caught up and virtual desktop user experience improved to be at least on a par with their physical counterpart. So why has VDI remained at 10% of the desktop estate for the majority of organisations? Why does no-one talk about the year of VDI anymore and what is the future?
The problem with VDI remains its complexity. Complexity to design, deliver and support. Where mobility and flexibility are important the easiest and most cost-effective solution has been to give users laptops. This left 10% of users for whom virtual desktops made a real difference. These individuals usually worked in areas where focus of return on investment was about enabling ways of working that traditional desktops couldn’t, such as securing access to data from third parties and contractors; where task workers with limited application sets are required (call centres); or to provide the ability to return to a known good state quickly and easily (developers and testers).
Now it’s beginning to feel like VDI numbers are declining or at best have stabilised. The rise of Apple and Google in the enterprise and applications increasingly moving to SaaS (browser-based solutions) means we are no longer so reliant on a Windows operating system. Content management and contextual security has also removed some of the security concerns that previously made the case for VDI.
I’m not suggesting Windows is dead! Yes, device proliferation is a thing, but we will still need to access Windows apps that people lack the desire, or possibly the knowledge, to modernise. What we need is some way of delivering just the application through a client that runs on any OS. We can do that. We’ve been able to do that since 2001 with MetaFrame, earlier if you count WinFrame, so as is often the way, IT solutions previously discounted as ‘old-hat’ has come round again as the solution to all our problems. Things have moved on a bit though.
- Frame gives you the ability to access Windows apps just using a browser
- VMware utilise Windows RDSH through Workspace One to provide a fully integrated solution that can be deployed on premises or public cloud
- Citrix XenApp (the replacement to MetaFrame) can be consumed from the Azure marketplace, any public IaaS platform or on premises
The benefit to the user is the best native experience on the device they have chosen with the ability to access their business applications in a virtually seamless, albeit online-only, manner. The benefit to the organisation is the ability to offer choice while maintaining a simple and secure way of delivering Windows applications. At least it is for the foreseeable future.
I once heard someone say that XenDesktop was a great advertisement for XenApp. When you had a requirement for server-based computing nine times out of ten XenApp was the best answer. The year of VDI never came but server-based computing will be around for a while yet so maybe this year will be the year of the published app. Not that anyone’s going to be stupid enough to prophesy that!
It has been some time since the last blog post, such is the frenetic pace of activity through early 2018 helping our customers with their workplace transformations. This is a topic I’ve spoken of many times, often from a visionary or conceptual level, but I thought maybe now was the time to change the tone of the conversation to focus on HOW you embark on the Digital Workplace journey.
From my engagements with many of our customers throughout the UK and Europe, and recognising that a true Digital Workplace programme comprises a Portfolio of projects and initiatives, I’d summarise the process into the following key pillars
Transform the Foundations
Whilst founded in aspiration towards a radically different state, most conversations related to Workplace Transformation invariably start with, or gravitate to, initiatives that I refer to as “Foundational”. Whether these are remediation of current issues, or basic enablers for a future solution, the key to building an effective Digital Workplace is in “getting the basics” right. These activities often have disproportionate impact in that context, , as often these are the specific issues that are frustrating and inhibiting your users the most.
Key examples of projects at this level are:
- Pervasive Campus WiFi
- Core Platform Upgrades (e.g. SharePoint)
- Facilities Enhancements/Rationalisations
Modernise the Workplace
A lot of the focus of Digital Workplace programmes exhibits itself here. These may be the introduction of flagship programmes to deliver a dramatic change to the user and technology environment. These key projects provide significant modernisation of technologies and a more integrated set of capabilities within a solution that propose to significantly simplify the user experience. Often the initiatives have a significant drivat this stage are driven as much by compelling events as anything, which creates a significant drive to implement them quickly. However it is important to recognise that this cannot be done in isolation, and must be accompanied by adjacent initiatives to secure their success.
Key examples of projects at this level are:
- Cloud Productivity and Collaboration – e.g. Office 365 or G-Suite
- Desktop Modernisation – e.g. Windows 10
- Adoption of End User Cloud services – i.e. SaaS LoB Applications
Digitise the Experience
The final area of the transformation agenda is in initiatives that drive towards a digitalisation of engagement points and interfaces. When we consider the examples of companies we would herald as “Digital Businesses” it is the elegance and simplicity of the points of engagement and interaction that we revere.
Key examples of projects at this level are:
- Digitising Service Desk Engagement via Multi Channel
- Experience Analytics and Automation
- Chatbots / Digital Concierge
A Digital Workplace vision and programme will naturally encompass a range of initiatives from each of the three categories, covering the technology layer. It is key to understand the market hype vs maturity in order to evaluate and time your activities accordingly.
But to reiterate, a true programme will not just consider the technology, it will also be comprised of initiatives addressing culture and user behaviour, organisational and operating models and a range of other factors. To achieve success it’s imperative to consider the portfolio approach and understand how each specific activity relates to, is enabled by, or is dependent upon the others in order to ensure its effectiveness and success.
I’m James Gale, and I’m bringing you the final edition of the Project Management Graduate Blog from the 2017 intake. I’ll pause quickly to allow you to shed a tear… Thank you to my colleagues who have written the editions before me, providing you all with updates regarding our progression through the programme.
The last 7 and a half months have flown by, and we are really starting to feel settled into our projects and working life at Computacenter. In this final edition, I thought it would be a good idea to update you on where everyone is currently working, and how the graduate rotations have helped them so far in their new projects.
Firstly though, please allow me a little self-indulgent waffle! I’m from a town called Lechlade, kind of between Swindon and Oxford, and graduated in July 2017 from the University of Reading with a First Class Honours in Business and Management. My early experiences of work, as a waiter and later as a tennis coach, developed my soft skills and showed me how much I enjoy working with all sorts of customers in different types of teams. These experiences, coupled with an interest in technology developed through a 13 month placement at IBM, is why I thought life as a project manager at Computacenter would suit me.
So far, so good! Since joining Computacenter I have been overwhelmed with the time given to us graduates. Gaining exposure to most areas of Computacenter has accelerated our development and allowed us to build a network that is proving invaluable to our project work.
I’m currently working with Mark Goddard (UK Data Protection Officer) on an internal GDPR implementation project. It’s a fantastic first project to be a part of, helping to shape something very important to Computacenter’s future legal compliance (this is where I insert a subtle plug to do your online training). The knowledge gained through my rotations of project management practices has allowed me to own certain work streams already. Understanding the different departments at Computacenter has enabled me to positively contribute to discussions in my project about how different areas of CC handle personal data. My highlight of the programme so far was travelling to Germany to work on development of an online tool for the GDPR project. Working across the Group has shown me the international scale of Computacenter which has been challenging and rewarding.
Now, back to the group of 2017. We are all fully engaged with our projects, which is allowing us to truly appreciate the benefits from our rotations. Here’s a short update from each of the 2017 Projects Graduates…
- My first project is on the Post Office account in the POL Deployment Team. It’s a very dynamic, reactive role which involves a lot of liaison between scheduling teams, engineers and technical support.
- A fictional project assignment in our rotations gave us some useful exposure to the pre-sales and governance process. Now that I am on a big deployment project, I can really appreciate the logistical problems and challenges during deployment and how difficult prediction is during the Pre-Sales process.
- My highlight of the programme so far was getting our hands dirty with TRG. I will fondly remember my time dismantling and reassembling laptops (probably doing more damage than good)!
- I am currently on the Managed Print project for The Authority. It’s interesting to see how lots of projects fit together to empower the customer’s work force and remain secure.
- Currently I am managing risk, change and tracking finances. The rotations helped me understand how these activities I perform fit into the wider picture at CC, i.e. how the finances I track will input into the E-WIP database and be used to forecast Projects Practices’ contribution to the company.
- There were many highlights during the 6 months of rotations, however the ultimate highlight was the International Project Management rotation in Barcelona. It was my first time in Barcelona and what a great city! Over a few days we learnt the importance of thinking and acting globally to grow and protect our business.
- I am currently working within GMS on various Automation Projects with the aim of driving Service improvements. It’s really interesting to see how we are driving service improvements, creating value for our customers and ourselves.
- The wide exposure to different business units through the rotations has allowed me to understand their key business drivers. Understanding how automation benefits these different units really helps with progressing and overcoming issues that arise.
- The highlight of the rotations for me was travelling around the country and across seas to really understand what Computacenter do for our customers and what sets us apart from competitors. Now putting what I learnt into practice is a huge benefit of the programme to aid my development.
- I’ve been working on the Hays PPO for just over a month now. In this time I’ve grown my project portfolio from just 1 project to 11! I’ve had to quickly become familiar with a PPO structure and processes, along with gaining more knowledge about the different technologies we support.
- From our rotations the most useful knowledge for me has been the different ways the departments within Computacenter are structured. Understanding the priorities, workloads and processes of different teams has helped my interaction with them.
- My highlight was the Service Management rotation, where I went to Edinburgh for 3 weeks to shadow Brian Rutherford on Standard Life and Scottish Power. It really opened my eyes to the services Computacenter provide – which considering the enormity of this side of our company, I had little knowledge of before I went.
- I’m currently working with Hannah Andrews and Angela Smith on Project Charon. It’s an internal project implementing CyberArk technology as the link between Customer environments and our own. It’s stretching me technically and I get to work across a range of customers and ISPs. Throwing in some German occasionally is a bonus!
- The rotations enabled me to hit the ground running. With a strong understanding of how Computacenter operates internally and externally, I feel like I always know where to go whenever there’s something the project needs, which has proved invaluable.
- The highlight of the programme has been my time spent on Customer sites: whether it be Eversheds or Schroders, Tesco or TFL or even Sky or Heathrow, interacting with a range of customers has been a humbling experience as I begin to understand just what it is that Computacenter can deliver.
- My first project is at the Home Office. I am currently in a Data Manager role, so I handle data for over 60,000+ devices, which can be overwhelming sometimes but I have become a pro with excel and I find it fascinating that I know where each device is located.
- I really enjoyed the rotations, apart from increasing my network, I have come to appreciate how each department contributes to the success of delivery of a project.
- My highlight of the programme so far was spending time with the International Projects Team in Barcelona. It was interesting to see the presence we have globally and the world wide opportunities that there are.
- During rotations as part of the Projects Graduate scheme, I was fortunate enough to get an insight into the operational side of the business, including our service offerings and what really sets CC apart from competitors.
- As a result of this time spent in a multitude of areas within the business, it also enabled me to build a network, whom have already demonstrated their willingness to provide guidance and support during my move to the Sales Associate scheme at the beginning of this year.
The next blog post will come from the 2018 Project Management Graduates in August. Most of us have met some of the prospective candidates over the last couple of weeks. I’m sure they will be a great intake to bring more fresh ideas to Computacenter (although I’m also sure their blogs won’t be quite as good). Thanks to everyone we’ve met along our journeys so far for all of your help and support. And thank you for reading this slightly extended blog post. Now it’s time for us to create value for our projects and Computacenter as a whole. See you all around!
2017 Projects Practice Graduates
It has become an intellectual tug of war to determine which is more important in the “connected” or “digital age” – networks or applications. Silly argument I hear you say, it’s obviously the …… not easy to answer. In the pre-connected world (if it really did exist), personal computing was as personal as possible, with no connectivity to / with anyone else. Local application, local storage, local processing and a local user made the need for a network superfluous. Fast forward to the present day with distributed processing, “the Internet”, streaming, “always on”, cloud based interaction and a socio digital culture with collaboration and engagement at its core. Without a network, the media rich, highly collaborative now fundamental “always present and connected” mode we embody at work or play is at best compromised and at worst eliminated.
We cannot envisage a world where the network doesn’t work, whether mobile carrier based entities or the home Wi-Fi, if you can’t connect you won’t connect. I spend most days in positive disruption mode challenging colleagues and customers to rethink the traditional approach to enterprise networking with the onus on automation to unlock agility and consolidation to drive simplification. The enterprise networks that underpin today’s digital reality are a wonderful amalgam of technology, people, process plus twenty years’ experience of “getting things to work”. But more is required by the network than a functional existence, as the carrier of our “Digital DNA” an optimised, flexible, agile network holds to the key to many of our future successes. It’s time to be “bold” – to embark on the network evolution required enterprises must dare to dream and envision the secure transport layer required for enhance current user interaction and energise future business outcomes. And when the dream presents the storyboard of how things should or must be, “make it so”.
Technical feature wars labouring the technology based rationale for network modification will be fruitless with a dead heat between vendors the likely end result. Only a user experience driven or business change inspired network transformation agenda will contain the intellectual and emotional energy required to overcome the cultural tides ahead. Wait and see changes and nothing, the time for change is now. With the right network, with tomorrow’s network today a potentially business limiting factor becomes business enabling. And not forgetting, if you get stuck – drop me a line.
“If you can’t connect you won’t connect”
Until next time.
Chief Technologist Computacenter UK – Networking and Security.
If like me you like to travel, one of the things that makes visiting other places so interesting is experiencing the culture and customs of the country or area that you visit. Seeing how the culture shapes the food, drink, ambience, way of living, work and human interactions add richly to the experience you have. Many times when I’m on holiday or travelling, I see people who limit their enjoyment as they don’t want to experience or embrace that difference of culture, which can even lead to confrontation or misunderstandings.
One of the reoccurring discussions I have with customers is how investing in what they believe to be the right technology does not always result in the outcome that they expect. In general people’s expectation of technology is that it just works, which for the most part it does. I have been in to see customers where I absolutely agree that the technology is the correct choice for their business, however a number of factors mean that users do not adopt or use the technology. This reiterates the point that digital transformation of the workplace or business is far more than simply selecting and deploying a solution or the latest technology.
Culture in the workplace
One of the most overlooked aspects of the workplace is the culture that is built both within teams and across geographic regions. The workplace now has more generations working within it than ever before, but labelling people and culture by age or geography simply doesn’t work. Most businesses will have people of all ages and backgrounds working for and with them, culture builds the bond that enables and shapes team interaction and output. Consumerisation of IT also drives and shapes this culture organically within the workplace. An overriding effect on the culture is that of the leadership and management of these teams and this has the potential to have a detrimental impact on any transformation in the business.
One customer that I worked with had created a vision of remote working for the majority of the business, providing remote access tools and virtual desktops to facilitate a “work from anywhere culture” however, my engagement with the business lead me to ascertain that only about 20% of people were using the solution to work remotely. the business asked me “Why?”
Computacenter run an advisory service called Workstyle Analysis which involves interviewing users to understand what they do, how they work and the challenges that they face doing their role. We can also back this up with analytics to provide qualitative and quantitative feedback to help build a picture of the workplace. In this particular instance, it was found that the technology worked and provided the functionality that people required. However, some people crave the social bond that physically working in a team and with people creates, additionally their managers expected to see them at their desks and would make disparaging remarks when people decided to work from home or remotely. In addition, some of the tools provided for collaboration and communication were not adopted, as the culture that some of the users had grown into or accepted was that people needed to be together, face to face to “get things done”.
Now whilst some of the culture was driven by people’s background and life experience, the overriding one was that of their managers. If someone wanted to embrace the new culture or experiment with new ways of working, much like those who refuse to allow cultural experience to enhance who, what and how they see things; those managers were causing conflict and tension – and stopping meaningful change within the business.
This is not an uncommon problem that I see when engaging with customers, so in order for digital transformation to work, senior stakeholders in the business need to ensure that the culture of the workplace is a key factor that is taken into account as much as the technology solutions to ensure better success and the expected business outcomes.
Shaping the future
Culture is also important in the workplace for the following reasons:
- The culture reflects on the ability of the company to realise its promises and commitments. If the company stated core values are not reflected in the culture of the business, the seriousness of stated promises can be devalued
- The company culture shapes how potential and current employees view the company. People want to feel part of the culture at work, so it is vital to build or shape a culture that attracts talent and retains those already there
Of course there are times when culture needs to be adapted or shaped to help drive modernisation or digital change, but understanding the culture first is a vital component to helping drive meaningful and productive change.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of a difference of culture within the business, ask yourself, can I be more accepting and understanding of the nuances of culture within the workplace; if you are the one driving the change, ask yourself, do I truly understand the workplace culture and what that means to those who embrace it, so that I can help effect business change for the better.