I remember clearly the day it seemed that VMworld ‘jumped the shark‘ (follow the link if you’re too young to get the reference). It was 2014 and Pat Gelsinger (VMware CEO) was giving his keynote speech. Behind him the enormous screens were repeatedly displaying the words ‘Brave’ and ‘Fluid’. Where was the technology? Where was the cool stuff? Thinking back though, maybe I was wrong to be so scathing.
It’s certainly true, that the pace at which technology is developing means it is no longer an obstacle to addressing most business problems. The challenge now, is how we position it, how we apply it, how we explain its value to people and how we help them get the most out of it. Maybe there was something in it after all. I was right about Evo:Rail though, Pat.
As my colleague, Paul Bray wrote in ‘The Shifting Role of IT in the Digital Workplace’, the IT department is contending with the move from an environment designed for stability to one designed for agility (or, in other words, fluidity). This is as much a cultural change for the people who have spent their careers focused on managing the pace of change and being risk adverse, as it is for the users having to adopt it. It is fair to say though, that not all users or businesses are that demanding of technology. It’s in these situations that IT staff need to perform a role that they are often not confident in doing or able to do effectively. They need to engage with the business (gasp!) They need to be able to translate business requirements into technology solutions and they need to communicate how those solutions can be measured against business metrics to show their value. IT can then have an input into the business case, without owning it.
Here’s an example – Business A has identified that it takes 60 days for sales staff to be ready for their first customer engagement and feels this is losing them the competitive edge. IT identifies that new starters have to be trained on 12 different systems. Booking and completing these courses takes valuable time and effort. In consolidating those 12 systems the business can provide a better user experience, reduce support costs and enable new sales staff to be productive much more quickly. The costs of the software that will do this can then be directly related to the increased speed at which new starters are out selling and being productive, and so the business case is created. In this way IT proves its value to the business and fights off the competition that often comes from disgruntled employees with a credit card.
Here’s another example that’s close to my heart. It’s time to roll out Windows 10. There’s no point burying your head in the sand, you’ve got till 14 January 2020 to get off Windows 7 (like you didn’t know). On its own it’s hard to push the benefits – better security, device support, blah, blah, blah… Windows 10 is just a platform for you to build your Digital Transformation on. Talk to the business, talk to the users. How would they like to work? How is the IT they currently use preventing them from doing that? What is the business plan for the next five years? How can the solutions you want to deploy support that? Or at the very least not be a hindrance to it. Then when you’ve introduced those solutions you will need to constantly innovate and measure their uptake as well as understanding what’s worked well and what hasn’t. In this way the ‘Evergreen’ nature of Windows 10 does help. The new normal is going to be constant change.
So yes, IT, you have to be ‘brave’ and you have to be ‘fluid’. You have to accept that the world is changing fast and there are new skills that have to be learnt in order to survive. The pace of that change brings with it a fluidity that needs to be managed and its benefits explained. What’s the alternative? As we see the continuing drive from vendors to consume everything as a service, IT is under real pressure to show its value, to be defined not as cost centre but as an innovator and enabler in the Digital World. That starts with being able to identify business needs and then recommend solutions for them. Telling the CxO that you’d like to roll out a new product so that users can search for things more easily is not explaining its value. IT needs to understand the language of business, support the organisation’s aspirations and provide metrics to show success.
The future of internal IT is becoming less and less technical as a result of this. Those that don’t embrace this and fail to see the importance of the ‘productisation’ of IT risk becoming irrelevant to the very businesses they support.
I’m Isobel or Issie for short, and I would like to welcome you to the Christmas edition of the Projects Practice Graduate blog. Thank you to Tom for running through the many things we have learned over the past month and for thanking everyone that has hosted us. In this edition I will take you through some of our most recent tours, rotations and Christmas parties.
Before I get into what we have been up to these past weeks, here is a little bit about me; I am originally from the Isle of Man but have now moved to the big vibrant city of London. Which as you can imagine was a bit of a culture shock, causing me and the Sat Nav to become joined at the hip. I graduated this year with a 1st class honours in Psychology at Nottingham Trent University and jumped straight into the graduate scheme here at Computacenter.
Whilst our time here at Computacenter has been short, I think all the Grads would agree that we have learnt an exceptional amount, not only about projects but about the Computacenter values and the many different teams involved in delivering a great service for our customers. I would like to thank all the teams we have met for taking the time to speak to us and for all the help and support that has been offered along the way. In particular I would like to give a little shout out to our buddies from all of the Grads, for really going the extra mile to make us feel welcome and preparing us for starting on an account in February. Thanks Ben Rodney!
Over the past couple of weeks we have been very busy, starting off with the RDC tour; where we learnt about the different services RDC can provide us and our customers and saw in action the capabilities of the giant shredder prepared to securely destroy data and devices. A big thank you to Jodie for hosting us. In this same week, we also had the opportunity to tour the London datacentre where we learned the extreme examples of good and bad cabling. Along with getting an insight into what our datacentres can provide our customers in terms of security and maintenance. If you get the chance I would strongly recommend visiting, thank you Chris for showing us round.
A major highlight for all the Grads was the Computacenter Christmas party at Willows Farm, it was bigger and better than any of us could have imagined and it was a lot of fun catching up with some of the people we met whilst on our rotations! For those of you that couldn’t make it, the night was filled with giant dancing skeletons, dancers, cocktails and casinos. To the 2016 Grads, James and I won on the bumper cars!
The final rotation of 2017, a personal favourite of mine, was the opportunity for us to fly out to Barcelona to meet the International team. It was a brilliant insight into the international capability that Computacenter has and the vital role international plays in its growth. It was a great experience meeting some of our Barcelona colleagues and seeing how our values align so well across the wider organization. It also gave Alex and I, a chance to practice the Spanish we had been learning in preparation for the trip. Gracias Mark Peter, Ben Lawton y Computacenter Barcelona, fue excelente! (Thank you Mark Peter, Ben Lawton and Computacenter Barcelona, it was excellent!)
So as we prepare for the challenges of the New Year and reflect over the lessons and experiences of 2017, we can look to how we can improve in the future. For me the way I start off is by thinking about my new year’s resolutions and particularly since starting at Computacenter, how I can improve on our values, not only in working life but also in my personal. Although I will be working on all of them, in particular I will be focusing on ‘Inspiring Success’ within Computacenter and recruitment …… What will you choose?
Thank you very much for reading my first blog post, I hope you enjoyed it. The next update will be brought to you by Tom Darwin.
Happy Holidays everyone and a Happy New Year!
Once again we’re heading towards the end of another year…. I am not sure if its age or the much quoted “rate of change” in our industry but 12 months seems to feel shorter and shorter!
2017 has been a fascinating year in a number of ways. We’ve seen key strategy and organisational changes from a number of our key partners, a major ramp up in activity of our customers and the market in their quest for “Digital Transformation”, and as ever, technology has continued to evolve, morph and transform our thoughts of what is and could be possible.
Before I turn my thoughts to what the next 12 months may have in store, let’s recap on the key topics and themes that have dominated my agenda this year. I’ll keep it to a “top 3”
1. Adoption is Key for Digital Workplace Success.
I often cite in my presentations to colleagues and customers alike, that my focus is less on the technology, and more on driving cultural and user behavioural change to maximise the benefits of Digital Workplace transformations. Throughout 2017 adoption has been the most prevalent topic of conversation. Many customers have made sound technology and platform decisions, have invested wisely, often deployed modern features but have then struggled to achieve the anticipated business value and benefits. The reason for this is invariably down to poor user adoption. This is not communication as we have classically known it, but a more meaningful, ongoing effort to understand the requirements of users, deliver solutions and capability in context of their needs, and then campaign users to embrace the features and drive changes to their behaviour and working practices.
As far back as February I signposted the tensions that exist in this area and it has been a prevalent theme throughout the year. We often say we don’t deliver technology for technology sake, but it would appear we might have been doing that and have failed to create the connection to the users. Expect more on this in 2018 as the transformation agenda ramps up.
2. “Evergreen IT”
The dramatic change across all sectors of our industry to “as a Service” is having two profound and related effects. The first is a transition in budgets from a traditional “Capex” model towards an operating expenditure (Opex) bias, but also the inherent rate and pace of change of these platforms and the impacts and pressures this has on customers (both at a business and a technology level).
In Computacenter, and more widely we’ve labelled this “Evergreen IT” to reflect the need to maintain platforms at a highly current level. Quite a challenge for the large scale enterprises we deal with when these changes can be quarterly, or at best bi-annually and represent a lot of “heavy lifting”
Most of 2017 has been dominated in this context by Windows 10 Evergreen (Windows as a Service) though the concept pervades all cloud platforms (e.g. SaaS including Office 365, Salesforce, Workday etc). We’ve spent a lot of time working with key vendors, building robust service models and educating our customers and the market on what this shift actually means. It is a profound and fundamental shift in our entire industry and we’re just at the start of delivering and operating in this way, but it’s certainly here to stay!
3. “Small t” transformation
Had a small personal fight with myself to pick theme number 3 of my self-imposed limit, but in reflecting on the year, I’ve gone with “small t” transformation.
First I need to explain what I mean by this. We are engaged in a raft of transformational activity across a vast array of customers. Many of them are doing fascinating and ground breaking things in their B2C business model which is to be heralded widely. What we’ve tried to do is encourage such ambition into the end user enablement agenda, i.e. the “Digital Workplace”. Through Digithons, workshops and other engagements throughout 2017 (and before), we’ve seen and heard all kinds of topics and agenda in this area.
However, perhaps controversially I would define what we’ve seen and heard (in the main) as transformation with a small t. The requirements and objectives have been around projects that you might term as “fix the basics”, “quick win” or “foundational” (I prefer the latter term) to address immediate and existing challenges and frustrations in the user experience and ways of working (poor WiFi, ineffective meeting room systems, aged hardware etc). Each of these things are VERY important, to quote the term above they represent the FOUNDATION upon which an effective Digital Workplace needs to be built.
However we need to move quickly to a more connected agenda, looking at how we enable and support business outcomes – really exploiting the tools and functionality to challenge and modernise business processes and ways of working – as that’s where the opportunity and return from the Digital Workplace investments exists.
Hopefully this blog does not end on a negative note. There has been lots of great development and activity in 2017 and we expect it to continue and accelerate further in 2018. But this is largely the story of the year (my year) and so inevitably will be a core part of my focus for 2018.
As this blog has now got quite lengthy I’ll defer my star gazing to the 2018 agenda and cover this in the next blog post…..in early January after a bit of a rest!
I’m Tom and welcome to the fourth instalment of the Projects Practice Graduate Blogs. We’ve been with Computacenter around four months and have had the opportunity to experience many different parts of the business. I’m here to take you through the most recent month of our rotations which we have spent with Consultancy, GIO, Presales and TRG.
But first, some background info about me. I’m originally from Peterborough and studied French, German and (a bit of) Spanish at the University of Exeter. So as a company with major bases across the European mainland and operations across the globe, Computacenter is a perfect fit for any graduate with an international outlook.
As someone who is technically minded, our rotations with Consultancy and GIO were two of the rotations I have been most looking forward to – and I wasn’t disappointed by them. With Consultancy Practice, we had the opportunity to meet key members of the Consultancy team and also witness their expertise ‘in the field’ at customer sites. The highlight for me was most definitely the time I spent collaborating with one of our data analytics partners, Splunk, at Transport for London. The session was all about helping TfL learn how they can best make use of Splunk’s powerful analytics intelligence and it was great to see Computacenter working with our partners and our customers in the same room to achieve a common goal. Our thanks to Jay Horsley for organising the week.
Our time with Global Infrastructure Operations (GIO) was an opportunity for us to discover our managed services from another perspective. Over the week we learnt how GIO operates a 24/7 service with global reach, meeting members of every Service Line team to give us a full understanding of the services we can provide to our customers. From a projects perspective, this was an important rotation as it teaches us the need to communicate well with the GIO teams from the start of a project when we are transitioning a Customer’s service to a CC provided solution. This focus on collaboration is something we are all hoping to bring back to the Projects Practice at the end of our rotations. Many thanks to Karen, Louise and Jo for organising the week.
Our week with Presales was a particular highlight for the whole graduate group. Nigel Reeve, the Practice Lead aligned to Presales, arranged for us to take part in the fantastic Commercial Negotiation course alongside some of last year’s graduates and other members of the Projects Practice. This was an incredible learning opportunity for us since this course is usually only reserved for Level 2 Project Managers and Senior Project Managers. There are two main lessons I took away from the course: Firstly, a negotiation will only go as well as the planning and preparation that goes into it. Secondly, a negotiation is about establishing a Win-Win with our Customers, not a Win-Lose. This means that collaborating with our Customers is the key to both of our successes. A thank you on behalf of all the graduates to Nigel for a great week.
Our most recent rotation has been with the Technical Resources Group (TRG) where we had the opportunity to learn more about Computacenter’s largest department. My highlight of this week was seeing our engineering team in action at Heathrow and Sky: both were busy Customer sites undergoing lots of changes and our engineering team are at the forefront of enabling this. Something that has been mentioned to us as projects graduates is that we are often some of the best sales representatives of Computacenter as we are constantly working with the Customer at their sites. Though this is true, it’s only half the story: it is in fact our engineering team who have the most day-to-day interaction with the Customer’s end-users and they’re the ones who ultimately effect a change or resolve an issue for the user. As a result, it was great to hear some of the fantastic customer feedback about our engineering presence at Heathrow and Sky. Thank you Bhupa for organising a fantastic week.
What I want to leave you on is this: the thing that has struck me most since joining CC is our can-do collaborative attitude. No matter how technically challenging, no matter how nascent a solution and no matter how tough a customer request may seem at face-value, as long as it’s good business for Computacenter, we always go the extra mile for our Customers. We work with our Customers to enable their users and their business to achieve their goals. This is something we have seen internally as our rotation hosts go the extra mile for us projects graduates, and externally as we have visited various customer sites where Computacenter collaborates for a Win-Win with all our Customers.
Over the coming weeks we will be on the road visiting our device recycling partner RDC, our Romford Datacenter and will be jetting off for a very exciting trip to Barcelona to see our International team in action; but I’ll let Issie Ferris tell you all about that as she will be writing the next blog.
Thanks for reading!
“Which of these do you agree with?”
- Intelligence is fixed at birth.
- Some people are creative, others aren’t.
- You can become a world-class expert through enough practice, whatever your starting point.
- You can change your personality.
“If you agreed with the first two statements, you’re coming from a fixed mindset. If you agreed with the second two, you’ve got a growth mindset.”
Welcome to another edition of the graduate blogs! Just wanted to stimulate your thinking with the opening pop quiz.
I will tell you a little about myself. My first name Arolape is from the Yoruba culture in Nigeria. Proud as I am to bear the name, I prefer to be called Rolape. I come from a Royal family in a village called EPE. I moved to the UK in 2011 to start my A levels in Bristol. Thereafter, I moved to Kent, where I attended the University of Kent and graduated with a First class Honours degree in Computing with Consultancy.
Subsequently, I decided to take a few months off from the academic/career side of things to travel as there is so little you can do with a 23-day travel allowance. I went to Barcelona, Dubai, Miami, Nigeria, Philadelphia, Singapore and Washington. It was truly a remarkable experience meeting new people and embracing new cultures. I came back refreshed and ready to start at Computacenter.
I remember my first day in Hatfield; my assessment day. Driving through the business park and looking at how big the CC Estate was, walking through the glass doors filled with so many people, it was where I wanted to be. When I got the call that I was one of the 8 selected from the over 700 candidates who applied I was ecstatic!
It’s fascinating how quickly time flies when you’re occupied with things to do. We started here just over 3 months ago. I remember my first 3 weeks, meeting so many people all from different streams in the business, people who had been here before I was even born. Being the traveller that I am, I get bored from just staying in one place for such a long period of time. I remember thinking don’t they get bored? But every day, every new person I meet, attributes to the fundamental principles that CC is built on: “Understanding that people matter”. It’s been an interesting journey so far and I anticipate that the remaining 15 months of our 18 month scheme will be as great if not greater!
As Alex and Laura said, we have had an induction for 3 weeks, meeting people in Projects Practice such as Andy Moffitt, Zam Kaderkutty, Project leads and a couple of Senior Project managers. We then went to the CPO, scheduling, BECS, Practice leads, Sales, PPO’s and are currently with the Consultancy Practice, gaining good insight as to how they work closely with Project managers and engage with clients. We will be moving on to spend a week with GIO. My time at the Hays PPO has exceeded all rotations and been the best experience for me. It was a good time to actually engage in live, active projects and get a taste of what life as a Project Manager really is. The team I was working with were so supportive, the PPO Lead Tanya Hayes, was so supportive and encouraging. She literally allowed me “get down into the mud”. By Day 2, I was already handling my first project, with my buddy, Fahad who coincidentally was on the Hays account! He explained all the templates, took me through raising my first MARs request and so much more.
The biggest project I did on the Hays account comprised of decommissioning servers. I had to facilitate the initiation of this project and communicate with over 10 ISPs. It was a very interesting challenge but very good experience in seeing how, as a PM engaging with ISPs differ and is not just a standard process. The Hays PPO team were fantastic and I thank them all and really enjoyed the experience. It was sad to say goodbye but who knows I might be back sooner than I know it!
My future at CC is looking bright! I anticipate that the upcoming rotations to be intellectually stimulating as the first few have been. There are still so many fantastic people to meet and great minds to collaborate with. I hope to increase my network over time. Do tune in next time to read a fantastic blog written by Thomas Weston!
I decided to leave you with a riddle. Think outside the box, and feel free to let me know what you come up with! Do have a great week and hope you have enjoyed my blog!
Alright I admit it, I’m jealous. I joined a start-up! I’ve seen Silicon Valley! We were going to change the world, I was going to be rich beyond the dreams of avarice, leave the rat race behind and open a beach bar somewhere. But you’ll have guessed by the fact that I’m writing this blog that that never happened. With hindsight, I would have joined Frame, the (fairly) new face of cloud-hosted application delivery. Their premise is simple; run any Windows application in the cloud and access it via a browser, no plugins required.
Originally called MainFrame2, the company began life enabling ISVs to offer applications as a service. It got off to a good start but its fortunes improved massively when the focus changed to end users and the business was relaunched as Frame. With recent investments from Microsoft Ventures, Bain Capital Ventures and In-Q-Tel growth continues at pace. On top of that they recently signed a major partnership with VMware to become part of their Workspace One offering with App Express.
Frame is essentially an Application-as-a-Service company, built for the cloud in the cloud. You install the applications into a sandbox environment and then, when you are ready, publish them to the Frame Desktop (as above) for users to consume. Your applications are installed onto Windows 2012 servers (the roadmap is for Windows 2016 and 10 soon) with the ability to make use of the GPUs offered by AWS and Azure to handle even the most intensive graphical applications. Those screen images are then delivered by Frame’s encrypted and highly compressed display-protocol to the end user allowing any application to run on almost any computer. Removing the complexity usually associated with virtual desktop computing to a few clicks.
So what are the uses for technology like this? Here are a few examples:
- Think about those expensive CAD and desktop publishing packages. With Frame you can centralise them in the public cloud of your choice, share the licensing costs, utilise cloud storage to make collaboration easy and reduce the need for expensive workstation hardware*
- Consider the education sector and the ability to use inexpensive Chromebooks to access any type of application and then not having to pay for those resources during the holidays
- Mobilise legacy business applications by migrating them to the cloud and using Frame to provide browser-based access without having to install anything on the client
* and not just hardware as Microsoft have brought in a new Windows 10 Pro for Workstation licence that affects any machine that has an Intel Xeon or AMD Opteron processor.
However, Frame is not for everyone or every use case. It’s not going to be a way to deal with legacy applications to aid that Windows 10 migration. If it won’t install on Windows Server 2012 it isn’t going to work. You also need to understand your responsibilities as a customer. Although you don’t need to licence the OS you still need to patch it, supply your own anti-virus client, update those applications and then secure the network access to it. And don’t think you can escape the fun that is Evergreen!
Cost-wise there’s a $ per month, per-user charge based on standard, pro or enterprise levels of functionality. Then an hourly rate based on usage and the resources that your VMs consume. Automation is key to controlling those costs ensuring that machines are not costing you money when they aren’t being used. There are features within the administrative console and the REST API to schedule the number of machines available and for those machines to be powered off when they aren’t required. Calculating the overall cost, like a lot of cloud initiatives, is not an easy one though and may not be necessarily cheaper than your current on premises solution. But there are features and functionality that no on premises solution will ever give you.
The big differentiator for Frame is its simplicity and ease of use. When you need to bring additional services you just plug them in. You need identity services? Frame supports them. You want to use your user profile management tool? No problem. Want to connect to Dropbox, Box or Google Drive? A couple of clicks and it’s setup, appearing as a mapped drive within the Frame explorer. Want to share your session with someone else to work on a document or drawing simply email them a link to the session? Need additional local storage or a database? Just click the utility server option and select your services.
Just as data and business applications are moving to the cloud, it makes sense for client applications to follow them. Another nice thing about Frame is that where companies utilise multiple clouds you have the ability to place your applications in the best location to serve them avoiding any lock-in. Also, as client estates become more diverse and the demand from users to work from anywhere increases so the ability to deliver applications simply through a browser becomes increasingly enticing.
Frame is very cool technology. If you’re currently considering XenApp running in Azure or XenApp Essentials, or considering at how to mobilise those legacy applications, then you need to take a look. There are limitations as to where it fits as a solution but where it is right there are clear benefits. Frame enables powerful applications to be accessed from almost any device. It enables applications to be delivered to an entire business anywhere in the world minutes after installing it once, regardless of the endpoint they are using.
So my dalliance with the world of start-ups was not a great success. For the guys at Frame I can see a much brighter future. The question though is how long will it last before someone swallows them up?
I’m Laura Springall and welcome to the second edition of the Project Management Graduates blog update. Many thanks to Alex for an excellent update about the whirlwind of our first two months at Computacenter.
To give some background about myself, I am from St. Albans and I graduated this year with 1st class honours in Sociology from The University of Manchester. My biggest misconception of joining Computacenter was that everyone who works at Computacenter comes from an IT background. With applications open for the next year of graduates, I encourage anyone without an IT related degree to not be deterred from applying to the Project Management Graduate programme. A top tip I can give for anyone applying is to not focus on promoting your technical skills, but instead focus on promoting your soft skills. These soft skills are so very critical to the Project Manager role, such as excellent communication, proactivity and leadership.
Computacenter is fantastic for personal development and this has been recognised by The Job Crowd for being a top company for early careers. If you haven’t already, I recommend seeing if Computacenter is visiting your University’s Graduate Fair for some extra hints and tips about the application process and what to expect.
A personal highlight of the Graduate programme so far has been our rotation with the Practice Leads. Over a week we covered many grounds, discussing from the future of the digital workplace to why the Service Operating Model (SOM) emerged, to the Practice Leads’ own career journeys and lessons learned which they kindly passed onto us. The rotation also got pretty intense when a competition was introduced on one of days, all about Digital Me hosted by Steve Hyde, Faizal Ali and Amit Mistry. Unexpectedly it brought out all our competitive sides! Congratulations to James Gale, the (lucky) winner. Thanks again to the Practice Leads for taking time out of your schedules.
The sales rotation also sticks out in my mind as a high point. This was a one week period where we gained an understanding of the different divisions within sales, both the Account Manager and Solutions Specialist role, and a sales perspective of what makes a good Project Manager. A key take away from the rotation was how by only being transparent with customers, gaining their trust and putting them first we can do business. Towards the end of the week, we were also introduced to Basement Jacks, which was a great opportunity to network with the sales team and hear about their journeys into sales.
More recently, over the last two weeks us Graduates have begun our Projects Portfolio Office (PPO) rotation. I am currently on the Post Office PPO and based up in Manchester. I’ve loved being back in Manchester and it’s been great getting to work with the team. It’s also nice to see some familiar friendly faces from Central Projects Office (CPO) who we met a few months before on our rotation. As much as us Graduates are missing each other, we are all thoroughly enjoying this new experience. This rotation allows us to get hands on with smaller projects where we can see them from the beginning of their life cycle right to the end. The rotation further offers the opportunity to put into practice what we have learnt so far, for instance SOM is no longer just theoretical! I have seen first-hand how it fits into the customer request process and the benefits it brings to Computacenter’s projects. I look forward to seeing what the next two weeks of the PPO rotation will bring!
Finally, I like to set a new motivational quote as my iPhone’s background each week, so I thought I would end my blog post by sharing this week’s quote which I felt has been relevant to me starting the PPO rotation and Graduate scheme as a whole.
As cliché as it sounds, I think it’s something all us Graduates believe and we are very grateful for the time and energy that has been invested in us since we joined in August.
Thank you very much for reading my first blog post. The next update will be brought to you by Arolape Adebowale.