Archive | December 2012

2012, a year to forget or a step in the right direction?

Few people would argue that this year has been one of very big highs and lows.  From a personal perspective, 2012 will be remembered for the Olympics and Ryder Cup (great), weather (expletive deleted!) and the continued challenges of the economy, both home but especially in the Eurozone.

It’s been pretty interesting in the IT space too.  The rise and rise of Apple (that has understandably cooled down a bit of late), the continued pressing of the metaphorical self-harm button within HP and an emerging feeling that Microsoft’s continued success is inextricably linked to the success of Windows 8.

We’ve reached a fascinating time in the Global business environment.  On one hand, there’s no doubt that (some of) the big are getting very much bigger.  You don’t need to look further than the IT distribution channel to see a great example of this.  The ‘big 4’ of Arrow, Avnet, Ingram Micro and Tech Data are all acquiring smaller companies at a rapid rate in order to leverage economies of scale in global logistics, emerging technologies and vendor negotiation.  We’ve seen already huge companies such as Apple and Samsung (deliberately put in the same sentence!) grow significantly this year and both lead with hardware.  In a world where purportedly you “have to be in services to survive”, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for Apple and Samsung to take exception to this (Lenovo might join them).

On the other hand, some big companies have failed to capitalise on their position and or messed up strategically.  Notwithstanding HP’s woes, the ‘best’ recent example I can think of is Kodak.  The once globally dominant imaging company and inventor of digital photography kept digital on the back burner for fear of ruining their lucrative film margins.  Companies such as Canon and Nikon embraced digital and were soon followed by many others.  The rest as they say is history, certainly for Kodak.

Technology companies of all sizes are being acquired by larger players, often for what appears to be incredibly high valuations.  There’s a feeding frenzy going on and if you’re not in the thick of it, you’ll be left behind.  Or will you?  I would humbly suggest that HP succumbed to this frenzy during Leo Apotheker’s brief but calamitous reign at HP.  The recent $8.8bn write-down of their Autonomy acquisition (following a similar $8bn action on EDS) left Meg Whitman and her management team with a mighty task of re-establishing HP’s credibility.  Is it even possible to think that its future independence is in doubt?

It’s impossible to avoid Cloud at the moment and bemusing that an industry – that’s managed to confuse more people through the use of jargon and acronyms than any other – has now created a whole new market for a service that’s been around for years.  Still, once a good idea always a good idea and because of Cloud, lots of new businesses have been and will be created developing ideas and alternate solutions that challenge the established companies, including Computacenter, to up their game.  This should be good for the most important people in all of this, our customers.

The reason I love this industry is that although it excites and frustrates (often in equal measure!), it’s never, ever dull.  With emerging trends such as BYOD, Automation & Orchestration, Software Defined Data Centres, Mobilisation, Analytics, not to mention Cloud, this trend is set to continue.  For this reason alone, I’ll take 2012 as a step in the right direction and if I could have just two wishes for the coming year, it would be a return to stability for the Eurozone and a return to form for HP.

Wishing you a happy and peaceful festive season and successful 2013.

Just because they make “IT” in your size doesnt mean “IT” suits you ! – Long live ROI

There is a rather brutal statement in fashion that utters “just because they make it in your size doesn’t mean it suits you”. As a somewhat crazy comparison with technology, at times products and solutions are acquired because of familiarity and proximity. There is an awareness of the technology and brand, the funds and access to the solution are within reach – with the result someone will subsequently convince or emotionally justify the need.

Often luck and good fortune ensures the acquisition finds its niche and delivers value (and in many cases not the originally envisaged value but at least some value), in all too many other cases the value can’t be realised, the introduction of a “somewhat distorted” solution adds to the overall complexity across the estate and any likelihood of an ROI just isn’t a discussion.

This journey through the dawn of this IT centric business revolution was previously acceptable, at times the norm and viewed humorously because it was all too common. However in these times of austerity, IT complexity, and the need for “accelerated time to value or real world ROI”, white elephant IT purchases can greatly hinder an organisation and its market leading aims.

The solution is not a difficult one, but does involve a behavioural and psychological shift. It means IT decisions made for technology reasons (upgrade, end of product life, new model) without a business impact analysis should be referred for further scrutiny. And that scrutiny whilst best validated via robust financial ROI aligned ideals could equally be driven via a more operational “value based” validation that may be less numerate (for the non accountants) but will still calibrate technology introduction and change against a realisable “business related” outcome.  You may say, this is surely the norm today and at times you will be correct, but all too often ROI & benefits realisation become afterthoughts over “get the solution in and get it in now !!”.

The onus is on IT systems integrators to help customers via intelligent probing, consultative solution sales engagements and “thought leadership”, to hold all accountable for the measurable benefits expected from the solution. As market aware trusted advisors that’s the minimum duty of care that will not only spotlight “business transforming” systems integrators from general services providers, but equally deliver the success criteria that both the customer solution buyer and systems integrator should measure success.  Its the Computacenter way…..

To return to the start of this blog, great systems integrators like Computacenter will ensure not only your “IT” clothes fit but you will look and feel good in them too (increasing your likelihood of trading with that systems integrator again).

“Happy IT solutions shopping”

Until next time (Happy Christmas and get ready for a fantastic 2013)

Colin W

Twitter @colinwccuk

Can RIM stop the blackberry rot?

Research in Motion (RIM) (much like Nokia), have seen their once dominant market position in corporate mobile fall from a great height in the last two years. The company’s seen a huge fall in stock price and more importantly market share and penetration, currently running around circa 8% of market share, with continual quarter upon quarter of declines.

In Q1 2013, RIM are to release their first generation of Blackberry 10 devices.  Blackberry 10 has long been touted as the next big thing from RIM, but will it be enough to arrest the decline of the last 5 years?  Or will the problems they’ve suffered the last year with very embarrassing service outages, a tablet product that was an undeniable flop commercially and the rise of BYO programs finally bring to an end this once unassailable organisation?

Blackberry really brought corporate email and calendaring to the mainstream and was responsible for the wide scale birth of mobility for corporates.  It was secure, it worked well (though let’s not talk about calendar synchronisation), had a proper qwerty keyboard that enabled you to type mails really well for a small mobile device.  It provided predictable mobile and data cost plans from a CFO point of view, removing the spiralling uncertainty of other mobile service offerings. 

Over the last 2 years with the rise and rise of BYOD programs, more and more organisations are opening up user device choice for mobile phones (though not for computers, we’ll cover that another day).  We’ve seen many corporates move from Blackberry onto MDM enabled programs (such as Good technology), whereby they can provide secure, controlled and auditable mail calendaring & intranet services but on a wider portfolio of device choices. Blackberry, whilst once innovative and cool, is now the much maligned device that is no longer in vogue, and doesn’t provide well integrated services or the user experience of Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

Mobile phone technology is still in the main a disposable technology rather than a strategic long term platform choice of something like an organisations CRM platform.  Every 2 years or so we dispose of these older devices, and move onto the fashion item of the moment.  iPhone has transformed the user experience of mobile devices, initiating the wide scale improvements we’ve seen in user interfaces and provided a benchmark for ease of use.  BB10 has a tough act to follow as it looks to improve on previous incarnations and meet the expectations of its once adoring user base.  With a market increasingly driven by the cool factor and demanding constant innovation though, RIM needs to address the perception that in the last few years they have really failed to deliver in either of these two areas with any real success.

With the increasing rise and domination of Android in the wider mobile phone sector,  Apple establishing itself as the premium brand product of choice and Microsoft finally having developed a corporately integrated secure mobile phone platform with Windows Phone 8 that end users doesn’t want to set fire to (Windows mobile 6 anyone?), what is it going to take to stop the rot for Blackberry? 

RIM’s market USP’s are no longer unique.  The network providers now provide good data tariffs at fixed prices, and importantly at very affordable prices.  It’s possible to provide a compliant secure corporate experience via an MDM product, and the mobility space is fast moving onto data sharing across multiple devices, integrating into corporately application delivery eco systems, none of which Blackberry can do on any other platform than their own (despite what they say).

RIM really can only rely on some really compelling corporate integration features, opening up their technology stack to support further mobile device platforms to be managed and secured and probably offer their devices at an extremely low price to be able to maintain any level of corporate adoption.  They’ve got to find ways to get developers to bolster the platforms application portfolios considerably (currently around 60k apps – a long way short of IOS, Android or even Windows mobile) or the long term sustainability of RIM lies in the balance.

It appears RIM have a long way to go to turn around the oil tanker, (just look how long it’s taken Nokia to get to the bottom of the curve), so let’s hope (for their sake) that BB10 offers some inspiration for the world at large to remain with them.  Right now, if you’re currently reviewing your approach to corporate corporately provided devices and like most you’re a Microsoft house then Windows Phone 8 looks like a very interesting proposition indeed.  For wider corporate choice, BYO still remains the fruit fly feasting on the remains of the once ripe and plump blackberry.

Spotlight on Software

With software taking up an ever-increasing share of an organisation’s IT budget, it is becoming increasingly important to manage, control and protect your software assets. Having great control of the software life-cycle process and understanding your license position can definitely help your organisation avoid unnecessary expenditure and potentially save money!

As a result, we’ve been busy this year developing our capabilities around helping our clients to manage and control their software estates.  We understand that the cornerstone of developing a Software Asset Management (SAM) strategy is to create an Effective License Position (ELP) i.e. understand what you have actually purchased versus what you are actually using versus what you actually need. It is also becoming increasingly more difficult to develop this multi-dimensional view as it contains aspects of commercial and technical information and can span assets that cover a wide and distributed estate.

To this end, earlier this year we launched our C3 Software service which is a suite of SAM services that can be delivered either as individual components or as a complete solution through Computacenter. Stage one of developing an effective strategy is to provide the visibility of the licenses that have been procured and acquired across the business. To cut the time and expense associated with developing this view, we have worked with one of our partners – License Dashboard to build this aspect as a “cloud” service where we have taken all of the pain associated with designing and staging the platform and turned it into a secure, accessible service that can be procured and used on a consumption basis . This easy-to-use deployment model and interface enables any organisation to start taking control of the full ISO/IEC 19770-1 Software Asset Management life-cycle without needing extensive, in-house license management knowledge or invest in significant infrastructure.

We think it is a service that many of our customers could benefit from and with the growing list of challenges in:

  • consumerisation
  • data storage & retrieval
  • mobility & remote working
  • workplace modernisation
  • and not to mention “the cloud”

The need for an organisation to develop an ELP that can cope with this diversity is only going to grow and we don’t believe that any other solution can  help build an ELP faster!

We’ve been delighted by the response to our service and while we are on-boarding our first clients we were also thrilled to win Innovation Partner of the Year  at the recent 2012 License Dashboard awards. If you are interested in learning more, you can read about our wider C3 Software solution approach in our online Briefing Guide here