There is no “Agile” outcome if the network “isn’t”.

I must start this blog with an apology (sorry) – the grammatical form of the title would have me struck down by my primary school English teacher, however I can find no other way to convey my meaning. “Agile” is the current next big thing and rightly so for many organisations whether development, operations or both. If speed of development (application), accelerated time to market and potentially reduced development costs are the primary aims of the enterprise, “Agile” delivers immense value.

But the euphoria seems to drive a mushroom cloud of activity involving selected internal operational and technology areas, for example servers, storage and compute. It’s clear “Agile” discussions ignite wholesale changes in those common areas, but has been slow to affect others most notably networking & security – and there lies a problem. At present application development teams, IT operations functions and most importantly the line of business teams are proactively gravitating towards each other as the “Agile” train pulls into the station. The cultural, emotional and operational shift required to make “Agile” a reality is now very real with green shoots of benefit now starting to appear.

But I challenge the effectiveness of the current “Agile” momentum due to a major elephant remaining in the room – network readiness. At present I view first hand many organisations with “Agile” transformation a fundamental element of their corporate manifesto but continuing with a network that may be highly reliable and functional but one not lubricating or accelerating the agile journey. Does this instantly fast forward to a software defined networking discussion – my heart says no but finally my head overrules with yes. Software defined networking is NOT networking without hardware – unless everything we know is physics is to be rewritten or eliminated that will never happen. But it is networking optimised by the use of software to increase programmability (and therefore personalisation) and automation (and therefore consistency and efficiency).

The benefit software defined ideals deliver to networking outcomes are many fold but must notably security benefits, speed and consistency of change which in turn makes the network agile. Surely this must signpost a notable change of priority, to shift network transformation further up the business technology priority list to enable tangible business value – if your network is not agile “is the business truly delivering agile operational or workload outcomes”.

Agile development is here to stay and with businesses now operating at warp speed agile is helping to drive organisations into the brave new ever changing world. But a network however stable, ridden with complexity and human latency MUST now change to be the optimum transport of digital change. It’s time to ask your organisation if the network is really making the business agile – if not, now is the time for change.

Computacenter can help.

Until next time

Colin W

Twitter: @colinwccuk

 

An update from our 2016 Associates

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In the spirit of alternating between Service & Sales associates, and following Bryony’s blog earlier this month, I now have the chance to get you caught up on what the Sales Associates have been up to.  For anyone that has met me, my approach to telling this story will come as no surprise, we are going down a sports route!

Jessica closed off by talking about her rotations with Inside Sales, Bid Management & her Sector, TMT & Retail. I would like to take the opportunity to echo her comments in particular with respect to Bid Management.  I too had the dawning realisation that I was owning and driving a bid for a real customer!  Scary stuff but to pull out this blog’s first sporting reference, punch bags are all good, but you learn a lot when you take one on the jaw!

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This leads me onto one thing I feel compelled to do, June saw the very sad passing of a legend, icon, champion, and visionary in and outside of the ring.  Muhammad Ali is somebody I spent a lot of time watching over the last 10 years, and the world is a less talented place today than it was last week as I write this.

My blog will cover off three recent experiences the programme has given me; my time in sector, returning to my old department, Group Partner Management, and sharing the opportunities at Computacenter with university students.

Spending time with different Computacenter people, at numerous & varied customers has been a really insightful learning opportunity.  Not only is what our customers do very different, the ways in which they work, the people we engage with and their goals and objectives are equally if not more different!  The Associate programme is a great platform in allowing you to experience these differences and get an appreciation of the intricacies and nuances to overcome in the sales role. Much like the NFL quarterbacks of today, the small gaps they throw into, all the while being chased down by 300+ lbs defenders, selling is complex, with lots of moving parts. It’s making sure they all come together on time, that’s the key.

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My most recent rotation took me back to Group Partner Management where my Computacenter journey started.  This allowed me to really push myself into new areas of the technology stack.  Workplace coupled with Unified Communications stand out to me as areas in which I really grew my understanding.  I really appreciate the effort the teams made to help us as a cohort meet with both the GPM specialists, and the partners themselves.  Equally, it’s always nice to see my former colleagues and catch up, however I’m not sure my ankles will ever look the same after one particular 5 a side session, you know who you are!

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The recruitment process for the 2017 intake of Associates is about to begin.  I had the real pleasure of joining Nathan & Lowri from the Service Management programme at my alma mater, Nottingham Trent University, for their graduate careers day. It was hard to believe we are already six months in!  We spent the day selling to students the great opportunities here at Computacenter and got really some really positive interactions from students throughout the day, and we look forward to seeing some come through the recruitment process in the coming months. I am excited to be helping the next group of Associates through their programme, joining team Computacenter!

The programme is really flying by, up next, our presentations to Kevin James & senior sales management before heading out to grow our understanding of the Solutions business.

Next up we’ll be hearing from Priya.

Promote business champions to lead technological adoption in your workforce

In my last blog, we began to uncover the value a super user can bring to modern working environments and the need to bring these unknowing super users out of the shadows. Modern IT service desks should be the central hub for technological innovation within the workplace and empower users with the knowledge, technology and support they need. This will allow your workforce to solve their own day-to-day IT issues and champion wider innovative solutions throughout their career.

A recent example of where this has worked is with Hays Recruitment who wanted to provide employees with a broader choice of engagement channels to interact with IT service teams. This was in a drive for increased productivity enabled through the minimisation of system downtime. Hays has historically been positioned as the leading digital recruitment agency, being the first in the industry to adopt truly digital recruitment selection and placement. Revenue generation at Hays is dependent on the productivity of its 2,200-plus UK sales consultants, and with technology playing an ever-increasing role in the selection and placement of client’s, employees’ IT queries and issues need to be dealt with quickly.

At the end of 2015, Hays became an early adopter of Computacenter’s Next Generation Service Desk (NGSD) solution. The NGSD offering was well positioned to manage the business needs of Hays, providing a consumer-like, user-centric experience with anytime, anywhere IT support and knowledge delivered via an intuitive online portal and mobile app.

Although the NGSD solution can be integrated and laid on top of existing infrastructure, the success of the solution was not simply a golden bullet. Instead, Computacenter and the team at Hays needed to create a desirable business environment that would encourage the whole workforce to truly understand the capabilities of the technology, adopting the behaviour into their working norms. In order for this to take place, we offered a new approach to service desk deployment asking internal employees to agree, nominate or suggest business champions for each team, division or office.

The business champions are a perfect depiction of Computacenter’s overall approach to solution deployment, focusing on customer-centricity. The champions’ involvement in the concept formulisation stage are a vital aspect of the success of a modern service desk deployment, as they can tailor internal communication and drive behavioural change, whilst integrating unique capabilities that will benefit their internal workforce. Stephen Gerhardt, IT Production Services Director at Hays believes this was a key to its success, “The business champions helped drive the piloting and testing phases, and remain a great conduit for feedback from the user base.”

Through implementing the solution, a number of success factors were achieved including:

  • 60% of IT support transactions at Hays Recruitment now happen online
  • An average of 1,180 web chats and 370 self-logged incidents per month
  • Hays does not display or offer the help desk phone number anywhere within the Hays ecosystem, replacing that with an NGSD widget
  • Staff outside of the UK can log an incident at any time instead of having to wait for the service desk to open at 7am

By providing relevant and responsive support 24 hours a day, Hays are able to maximise the time that staff spend on revenue generating activities, which helps to drive profitable growth. The user-centric support experience will also contribute to greater staff retention and satisfaction moving forward.

Service desks have been involved in business operations for decades and have been doing a reasonable job at coping with operational IT service issues. By bringing exceptional user experience, combined with popular consumer features and a fully engaged workforce, an effective and streamlined service desk will transform productivity and efficiency whilst encouraging innovative developments in workplace technology. This enables the service desk and the workforce itself to move from an operational technology to a enablement experience, in relation to driving change and hosting innovative solutions.

Stay tuned for my next blog where I will explore the implementation techniques that allow the NGSD proposition to differentiate itself from market norms. To find out more on the rapid implementation that we rolled out with Hays, see the full case study here.

An update from our 2016 Associates

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First of all I would like to thank Hollie for the previous blog.  The Services University was a great day and I’m sure everyone else enjoyed it just as much as I did.

I can hardly believe that I have already been at Computacenter for almost 5 months.  Everyone said the time would fly by and believe me it has.  It seems like only yesterday that we arrived, in our new suits, on January the 11th.  When I said to my friends that I was becoming a Service Management Associate, I got a sea of blank faces.  Even now I’m not sure they really know what I do!  I think this is down to the fact that you can never really know what day you are going to have when you turn up at the office.  This is what I really like about this job.  The variety.

So before I carry on to tell you about my time so far at Computacenter, I will tell you a little bit about myself.  Prior to starting at Computacenter, I lived in both Germany and the Netherlands before completing my degree in London.  I recently returned from a 5 month backpacking trip through Asia and Australasia.  So stepping into the Associate Programme was certainly stepping into the unknown!

But one of the really great things about working for Computacenter is you don’t necessarily have to have an IT background.  All of us Service Management Associates have varying degrees and backgrounds from History to Geography.  But this doesn’t hinder, rather enhance discussions and conversations.  It is also nice to know that you are not the only one who is learning about the difference between Linux and Unix or Mainframes and Iseries.

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All of us Service Management Associates are now on our second Home Account Rotation.  We have all been placed on varying accounts.  Myself on TFL and others on accounts such as NHS Worcester, UBS and VISA.  Although these are all very varied accounts, I think all of us would agree that it is nice to be getting our hands dirty and learning more about what it will be like to become a Service Manager at the end of the Associate Programme.

I have really enjoyed the time that I have spent so far on TfL.  I am able to get involved in the day to day events that take place on the account.  From the daily service reviews to implementing new reporting methods.  It is great to feel part of the team and put some of the theory that I have learnt into practice.  Even though I am on the same account for a couple of weeks I am still learning from different areas, from the scheduling function, to the engineering function and also from different service providers on the account.

How could I complain whilst working in a location with this for a view?!

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Whilst talking to other graduates on similar service management programmes this afternoon, I realised what an opportunity we have with Computacenter.  We are lucky enough to be able to rotate around not only different accounts but also different areas of the business, meaning 18 months down the line when we become Service Managers, we really do understand the internal processes.  We are able to learn from all of the people that we meet and build those all-important relationships for the future.

We have one week left on our home account rotations, before moving on to our Commercial and Governance Rotation.  I am looking forward to learning about a new area of Computacenter and how this will help me in the future.  Furthermore it will give all of us Service Management Associates a chance to work together again.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, next month we will hear from Alex Griffin.

 

There will never be “silence” in the information security world – nor should there be !!

“There will never be “silence” in the information security world.”

As the world at large reluctantly accepts digital data flows are fast becoming as important as air (ok, that’s stretching the concept slightly but it’s not completely outlandish), protection of those data flows becomes as important as protecting any other key to life. But every day new threats appear, new security challenges become apparent and our attempts to keep them at bay continue to look futile.

Today news of a Stuxnet clone has surfaced that seems to expose links to the now infamous malware that affected SCADA industrial control systems – how long it has existed or evidence of compromise is unknown. IBM researchers have discovered increased coverage of the mobile banking malware Marcher, thus increasing the target landscape of unsuspecting mobile users who may succumb to fictitious notification of funds availability. And the ever present curse of zero day, is again top of mind with Trustwave researchers highlighting as many as 1.5 billion unpatched devices may be vulnerable to a recently discovered Microsoft exploit.

I have highlighted just a few of the ongoing public announcements of security threat and compromise, a full chronicle would be never ending as new information appears in real time minute by minute. Emotionally, some may deem defence against attack a battle that cannot be won with strong evidence to support the point but that is potentially an over simplification. Fundamental security principles and good practice, no different from those applied in non-information technology arenas will help thwart attacks, increase awareness and visibility of an attack in process and accelerate remediation after attack (plus signpost future steps to realise better defence).

I started this outline with a view there will never be “silence” in the security world and for me long may that continue. Both users and organisations should adopt a state of ongoing vigilance, zero complacency and never believe the security problem is solved or the battle won. By getting the basics right, improving understanding of known good states, increasing visibility and measurement of the changes of state from known states (or the highlight of unknown or inconsistent states) and a pragmatic approach to defence based on prioritisation of the “noise” beyond the silence will help to drive positive security solutions rather than signify problems.

Want to know more, keen to rethink security – visit the Computacenter team at Infosec Europe at Olympia London from Tuesday 7th June to Thursday 9th June, stand #E295. We look forward to hosting you and will have a team of business and technology aware security specialists available to discuss security impacts – your way. I hope to see you there.

Until Infosec at Olympia

Colin W

Twitter @colinwccuk

Chief Technologist: Networking, Security and Collaboration

Super users – arise!

We’ve all been there – we’ve gone to book a holiday or shop online, filled in our information and entered credit card details, only for the connection to crash; or we need to update a plug in to latest version of Adobe to open PDFs.

When this happens at home, would you give up if you didn’t understand how to rectify the issue?

No, of course you wouldn’t. You would resolve the problem as quickly as possible, using your existing knowledge of software updates, reconnecting to local Wi-Fi networks or even switching devices to increase speed of response.

However, if we put the same individual in a professional environment with identical issues, using work-issued devices on a corporate network, the trouble-shooting nature of that person drastically changes. The tech-savvy, problem-solving ‘Super User’ that was actively resolving IT issues at home is now a shadow of their former self, relying on help desks, or IT teams, to take charge of the problem.

Why stay in the shadows?

This knee-jerk reaction to ask for help eats into both the employee’s and IT staff’s time. While the problem is being worked on, the user often can’t work, just as the IT team can’t focus on bigger, more challenging issues happening across the organisation.

I fully believe that the majority of employees have the knowledge when it comes to solving basic IT issues. However, many choose to rely on the IT team when in the office – perhaps out of habit or maybe even fear of creating a larger problem.

If an organisation has a group of skilled users and empowers them to address their own low-priority everyday problems, such as resetting passwords and lost files, not only would it increase the productivity of the employees, but also that of the IT team. These ‘Super Users’ should be embraced and encouraged by businesses, allowing IT to reinvest time and resources into other , more strategic areas, such as  cloud enabled technologies and increasing security in an ever growing device driven office.

Empowering your employees

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To enable employees to find their inner super user, organisations must prioritise the development and deployment of user-centric technology to encourage and incentivise employees to act when a problem strikes.

This means giving employees access to the devices they are used to using at home and empowering them with a sense of freedom to fixing problems and not dread. This will motivate them into acting when something goes wrong and quickly move their mind-set away from picking the phone up to call the IT team for help.

The expectation and demand for IT Service Desks are evolving beyond our imagination, creating a distinct need for agile, flexible and innovative solutions to meet rapidly changing business and individual needs.

Modern IT service desks are and will be positioned as the central hub for technological innovation within the workplace, offering and enabling users to empower themselves and their peers. Seamless integration between platforms, devices and applications are a desire for modern IT teams and by integrating intelligent service desk functions, this can be bolstered to maximum potential.

So with this in mind, I am urging management teams to find a way to uncover the Super Users in their workforce and enable those skilled individuals amongst us to step out of the shadows and start acting as they would when dealing with an IT issue outside of the office. That might be by pinpointing those who have a different device for every aspect of their lives, leaning on generation Z employees or just putting people on the spot.

Modern systems are designed and developed with the desire to be as user-centric as possible, as such meaning systems should work consistently and users shouldn’t experience issues of technological downtimes, however we are not quite there yet.

For these initiatives to become the working norm and adopted by all, it is down to the Super User champions in the workforce to drive the technology and functions.  By working together, we can solve trivial IT issues, boost productivity and have a business full of IT superheroes.

Stay tuned for my next blog where I will explore our NGSD proposition in more detail, and the work we have done to create Super Users in organisations such as Hays. To find out more on the work to date, see the full case study here.

An update from our 2016 associates…

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Hi everyone;

First of all a big thank you to Jess for last month’s insight into Inside Sales and Bid Management; as a Service Management Associate it’s great to hear what happens on the other side of the programme and what we have to look forward to on our Bid Management rotation in September.

When I graduated from the University of Southampton in the summer of 2014 in Management Sciences and Spanish I thought that my learning days were over. However, this has been far from the truth. Since starting at Computacenter in January I have been constantly listening, learning and trying to get my head around how vast and complex the business is. Two integral divisions within the company are GSD (Global Service Desk) and GIO (Global Infrastructure Operations), with whom I have spent the past month along with my fellow Service Management Associates. Understanding all aspects of Computacenter, and how they pull together to deliver a great service and delight our customers is fundamental to the programme and also my own future success.

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My GSD rotation took me to Milton Keynes to spend two weeks with all the teams on the desk. I listened in to various calls to understand an average day in the life of an analyst, and also spoke to the Team Leaders and Operational Managers. This exposure has provided me with first-hand experience of the desk which will enable me to articulate the services we can provide to our customers. I am also now aware of the main pain points felt by the desk and how this relates to the pain felt by Contractual Services. As a group we also conducted a project to investigate the relationship between the Service Desk, Service Managers on each respective account and the Customer. It was apparent to us that these relationships are just as pivotal as any other I’ve come across, and reiterates how important it is to get to know the people you are working with at all levels within Computacenter.

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This concept is also transferable to GIO, who like GSD are one of the company’s internal service providers. It is evident that good and effective communication drives the business to work together and consequently deliver excellent service rather than acting in silos, which is crucial to take into consideration as there are twenty-four service lines just within GIO. It’s safe to say that after spending two weeks meeting all the teams and learning about their different functions, my brain was a tiny bit overloaded with new information. Nonetheless, I am looking forward to applying this knowledge and utilising all the new relationships I’ve formed on my aligned home account – Hays Recruitment Specialists – one of the largest Managed Service accounts we have.

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And if you thought my learning halted to a stop there, you’d be wrong! On Friday 13th May my University days were resurrected, when I attended the Services University which is hosted by our programme sponsor Julie O’Hara. The past two blogs have touched on the success of the Group Kick Off in Barcelona, which is for the sales side of the business; whereas this event is hosted for Service Management. Although we weren’t quite fortunate enough to jet off to sunny Barcelona, the sun did shine over the Radisson Blu Edwardian Heathrow where the conference took place. Meeting early Friday morning, we enjoyed some bacon sandwiches and croissants whilst exploring the Knowledge Village – which gave the chance for our own internal service providers and additionally third party vendors to represent their business, position in the market and most importantly to engage with the Service Management community. This was probably the highlight of the day for myself, and when I asked Julie what she liked best about the day she told me that she also enjoys the vendor/ISP village – “it’s a great opportunity to catch-up with partners but to also meet and say hello to as many of our SM’s as possible”.

The day then started with a welcome from Julie before handing over to Kevin James, who marked his first time at Services University and gave an overview of 2015 and the future of 2016 from a sales perspective. Next we welcomed Michael Weiss all the way from Germany who looked at our strategy for the coming year; followed by John Beard who spoke about customer proximity and our podium customers. There was a warm welcome as Julie took back to the stage with Nat Ives, looking at our roadmap and accelerating change. Julie also highlighted that part of this change involved our own people and applauded all new starters (including us Associates!) and those going through the Services Academy and Career Development Board.

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Julie touched on three main points when I asked her what she identified as the key takeaways for the Service Management community from the day: the ‘One Customer, one team’ approach; customer satisfaction and also learning, saying that “we are all continuing to learn and we have to learn and adapt – whether that be knowledge of the market; customers; industry; ourselves!  Having a PDP helps us stay focused on moving forwards individually and therefore as a team.  Be inquisitive and inspired to learn and grow”. It’s very clear that Julie is a big driver in personal development and it’s great to recognise this in our programme sponsor.

With all this talk of change we had a lecture hosted by Joel Anderson where we were encouraged to take a moment and think about change, and how to positively channel our energy to embrace change as an opportunity and to successfully adapt to the fast pace of the industry. We also had a commercial lecture led by Fraser Phillips, Julian Wase and James March, and Neil Eke covered the Joining the Dots lecture which drew attention to the need to join up Contractual and Professional Services.

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The sessions were wrapped up by Mike Norris who spoke about our financial position last year and long-term aspirations of the company, inspiring success in everyone present. Afterwards, we all turned into Superheroes (quite literally with Julie appearing as Batman), we sat down for some food and drinks to celebrate everyone’s hard work over the past year and held a ceremony to give the most deserved accounts and Service Managers awards. However, it’s not just about the winners as Julie tells me, “it’s a great opportunity to recognise exceptional team and individual performances. The decision about the winners can be hard, but even being nominated is a huge achievement”. It’s no surprise that the evening was a huge success and I’m already looking forward to next year!

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All in all the Services University was a fantastic day and for me personally, a brilliant opportunity to network and have the chance to put some faces to names and also meet Service Managers on other accounts. To finish off I’ll leave you with a few words from our TMT & Retail Services Director Paul McAulay, which I think nicely sum up what the event is all about:

“The point of the day is to get all of the teams together and have an impact. We want everyone to know what we are trying to do and to understand how massive the opportunity is. We have the opportunity to be part of something special that other parts of the business don’t have, to be engaged and be better.”

Thank you all for reading, next month we’ll hear from Bryony Cooper.