Archive | May 2014

Old, New or just a Mash-Up?

One of the areas that I’m increasingly reflecting on in my day to day dealings with partners and customers is the changing nature of some of the established IT ecosystems and the disruptive influence that the SMAC stack (Social, Mobile, Analytics & Cloud) is having on them. The changes are far-reaching and permeating all layers of traditional IT infrastructure such as Software, End Points, Networking and Datacenter technologies.

Nothing is making this more apparent to me than in our Group Mobile project that we are running to deliver enhanced capabilities and improved ways of working for our own staff and ultimately our clients looking to embrace this next wave of opportunity, innovation and efficiency.

During a recent analyst event we held, one of our customers who a leading global automotive manufacturer was sharing the exponential growth of end-points expected to impact their infrastructure over the coming years. I was somewhat startled at the predictions as I was purely thinking in the context of their employees and their growing demand for mobility until it was pointed out that they are also intending to bring their production vehicles on-stream over the coming years! The opportunity for them to collect analytics from the use and performance of their ‘product’ will provide insight to improving every single aspect of their value chain in the years to come.

Whether it is the “Internet of Things” or increasing demands for employee flexibility and mobility the infrastructure of tomorrow will increasingly require horizontal interoperability between the various vertical markets and IT ecosystems to enable the full potential of a connected experience. Creating platforms that are communicable, operable and programmable across devices – regardless of manufacturer, model or vertical sector – will be required. The vision is that connectivity between people, processes and ‘things’ should work seamlessly for businesses to truly flourish at scale.

Despite the fact that many emerging vendors are working towards interoperability (just look at the recent change in strategy from Microsoft to enable Office on Apple devices), the present fragmentation – in terms of devices, operating systems, software and a wide range of different connectivity protocols – remains in my view one of the greatest barriers for IT to crack to enable broader adoption. However, we do see some players out there taking the lead in building Enterprise grade platforms that allow us to abstract some of these dependencies and allow IT to enable their businesses through exploiting intelligence, agility and user/consumer empowerment with architectures that transform the way they engage with their systems.

We’re getting close to deploying a platform of this type into production ourselves. Our aim? – to really validate whether this provides us the opportunity to build our own particular ecosystem of technology partners and systems (old and new) to improve not only our own ways of working but drive Enterprise Mobility in this brave new world of consumer led products and services.

An update from our 2014 Associates

Hello, Bonjour and Hallo to the whole of Computacenter!  I’m Jack Parfitt and I am aligned to the Public and SI Sector.

I have been handed the daunting task of writing the third Associate blog post. During my time at CC a lot of people ask, ‘so what do associates actually do?’  With that in mind, I will endeavour to give you an insight into the life of a Computacenter Sales Associate……

Firstly the Sales Associate Programme is an 18 month programme with the end goal of becoming an Account Manager.  Over the 18 months we spend time in different areas of the business on ‘rotation’.

On the 13th of January 2014 I and 13 other associates turned up at Hatfield for our first day as Associates. We spent the first 3 weeks in Hatfield for an intensive ‘induction’ period; during this time we met senior people from all areas of the business who gave us an overview of their line of business.  These 3 weeks flew by and before I knew it I was being sent out into the business to start my first rotation.

For each rotation we are issued with a brief. We are expected to fully understand the functions and responsibilities for that area of the business and how it fits in to the wider group. This is achieved in a number of different ways; shadowing people, attending meetings and getting hands on experience doing the job.

At the end of each rotation we present to the Senior Managers  to demonstrate what we have been up to and what we have learned, we are then marked on this. The marks are then collated and turned in to a percentage to dictate how much we receive for our performance related bonus at the end of the year.

Spending time with different teams around the business allows us to build our network and meet people we otherwise wouldn’t have met. It also allows us to develop a better understanding of what Computacenter actually does and how we fit in to that as future account managers.

What else do we get up to? Every 6 months we have to present to Neil Muller and Mike Norris. These are fast approaching as our first ones to Neil are in July, wish us luck!

Last week we all had dinner with Mike Norris, Sue Harris, Clare Parry-Jones and Isabelle Roux-Buisson who is the new Managing Director of Computacenter France. The dinner was great, we got so speak to Mike on a personal level and find out what makes him tick. I also got to put my GCSE French to the test, which didn’t go so well, I quickly resorted to speaking to Isabelle in English.

I hope I have given you a little insight to what we associates do and what we have been up to. So far I am thoroughly enjoying myself and looking forward to the upcoming challenges.

Jack
Sales Associate

Top 5 Considerations for Driving Enterprise Mobility

Mobility is the key theme of 2014. Whether we’re talking about employees and embracing mobile workstyles to address user expectations and work/life balance pressures, or thinking more broadly about a “Mobile First” strategy for IT, Mobility is definitely top of mind.

Mobility can deliver massive benefits across a number of different areas, and depending on the organisation in question mobility can mean different things.  What we’re providing through mobility is a path to deliver increased efficiency and effectiveness to business, by transforming where, when and how users can work and transforming the workplace for the 21st century.

What does Mobility mean to you?

Now this may sound strange, but the first thing to do is to define what you mean by ‘mobility’ as it’s a very broad term and increasingly is encompassing many different things.

Are you talking about being more mobile within the enterprise environment? Perhaps your definition of mobility is focused on the ability to seamlessly roam within the office with Desktop Virtualisation solutions, or benefit from consistent WiFi connectivity allowing you to use our laptop seamlessly whether sat at a desk, or in a meeting room or collaborative area?

Perhaps mobility for you is the ability to work outside of the enterprise, so mobility becomes Remote Access to our corporate systems and applications, meaning you can work from home, customer premises, or airports and coffee shops

Maybe you want to capitalise on the smartphone and tablet trend and provide a solution to our users that lets them consume and create content so that they’re consistently within reach of the services and tools they need to be productive? Or does mobile offer new opportunities to the business to deliver line of business services or revenue generation services to your customers that previously were not possible?  There are so many different scenarios, it’s important to know which provides the maximum opportunity to your business or what your key challenges need to be resolved

What devices do you need?

Now you’ve defined what Mobility means to you, it invariably leads to a device selection.  Mobility can extend beyond all form factors, ranging from traditional devices such as thin clients and thick clients (laptops) to the newer smartphone, tablet and “ultramobile” form factors.  The opportunity and potential for mobile workstyles spans all of these devices, and we recognise that users won’t have just a single device. 

But critically these days, it’s not just a one-stop Microsoft shop.  With the dominance of Apple and Android in the consumer environment, we’re already starting to see significant adoption of these platforms in the enterprise, not just from a BYOD perspective but from mainstream enterprise adoption.  For IT this poses a new set of challenges as to how to provide service to a wider platform environment

Manage the Device or Manage the App?

The first generation mobile solutions focussed on Device Management (MDM).  This provided full device policy control and restriction which was at odds with trends such as BYOD, where users did not want to sacrifice full control of their device and personal content in order to exploit the technology for work purposes.

This led to the emergence of MAM (Mobile Application Management) solutions, which “containerise” or “sandbox” the business applications and content away from the personal content.  Policy and controls are applied only to the specific business content, and personal data is left untouched and safe from risk of policy restrictions, or worst case data wiping.

However it’s not just from one solution to another.  MDM still offers significant value particularly in certain sectors.  The security control and restrictions that can be applied, such as Geo-fencing offers key benefits for certain use cases.

Developing and Delivering Applications

There are broadly two approaches for mobile applications, the first is developing platform specific mobile applications- which can be feature rich, intuitive and slick, versus HTML5 based applications, which are more platform agnostic but can provide a slightly less integrated user experience.

The reality is that most enterprises will typically employ both approaches.  Many ISVs are developing the feature rich mobile applications that most users would want, but that in a hybrid platform environment could cause additional complexity.   HTML5 has come a long way and is wholly appropriate for the mobile era, offering the flexibility required at a relatively small feature/user experience penalty.

Whilst wrestling with these decisions for new development, there is clearly the issue of mobilising the legacy applications upon which businesses run.  Some applications will be withdrawn over time and replaced with new solutions as explained above, other legacy applications are more prominent and delivering true mobility to key users requires approaches to serve these out to the new mobile devices, including sourcing new applications and capabilities from the cloud to further capitalise on mobilising business processes that was previously not possible.

Delivering Content

The final, often overlooked consideration for delivering a true mobility platform is how you deliver data and content to users.  Many organisations are dependent on “unstructured data” sources and repositories to drive key business processes, and to any user, a mobile device can only truly be functional if they can access the data and content they access through their more traditional desktop or laptop device.

As new devices have entered the enterprise via BYOD initiatives we’ve seen the emergence of consumer solutions to address this need.  Consumer “sync and share” data tools that cause issues over data sovereignty and compliance are not the answer, but users expect the same intuitive usability and the sophisticated but subtle features and functions to be provided by IT.

Conclusion

Mobility isn’t about working locations, it’s not about devices, mobile applications or accessing content.  True enterprise mobility is finding the harmony of all these things, allowing businesses and users to transform working behaviours and business processes to capitalise on the technology enhancements, presenting opportunity to manage our work/life balance and maximise our efficiency and effectiveness.  Most importantly, our users now have vastly different experiences and expectations from IT based upon their consumer technology experience, and enterprises need to recognise the significance of this trend and accommodate it across all decisions that affect the end user interaction (both employee and customer) with the business.