Archive | July 2014

An update from our 2014 Associates

Hello all and thanks in advance for reading the latest associate blog. My name’s Sean Eyles and I’m a Sales Associate aligned to the Financial Services & Retail Sector. The other Associates and I have now been here for 6 months and I’m going to talk to you about a major milestone that we’ve just completed. The Sales Associate’s half-year presentations to Neil Muller (UK Managing Director).

This presentation is a rite of passage for individuals on the programme and is always delivered to one of the most senior members of the organisation. We were asked to speak for 15 minutes; covering what we’ve learnt so far, how we have developed and what we plan to do next. The difficulty is that Neil has sat through these same presentations from the last few intakes of Sales Associates; so how do you differentiate from everyone who has gone before you and everyone who will come after? What do you tell the man who’s heard everything?

We all began our task of summarising the last 6 months of our lives using varying techniques and approaches. The thing that really struck me was just how much we’ve all done since starting, and how difficult it was to prioritise what you wanted to highlight in your 15 minutes.

As we got closer to the day, concerns turned to the Q&A session that would follow each presentation. All of the Associates sought guidance from their respective sponsors, mentors, coaches, buddies and best friend’s pets to get an idea of how the questioning and general atmosphere might be. The consensus was that Neil is very observant, and that if he wants to challenge you, he will. I have to admit, and I’m sure my colleagues would agree, this information made us considerably more nervous.

So the big day arrived and we arrived in Birmingham after an evening of final rehearsals and slide re-jigging. Each of us entered the room in turn and presented to Neil Muller (UK Managing Director), Clare Parry-Jones (Business Enablement Director), Sue Harris (Head of Knowledge & Associate Programme) and Laura Lewis (Senior HR Consultant). All of the build up and nerves had boiled down to this. And something amazing happened………… IT WASN’T THAT BAD. In fact, it was actually quite good!

Everyone went through their presentations with varying degrees of confidence; however it was the Q&A session that proved a pleasant surprise. All of the questioning centred around our development, and what we need to be doing next in order to continue improving. The questions were also surrounded by sound advice and guidance. I think this will be my biggest take-away from the session; the sheer level of support and commitment that we are receiving from the business to ensure that we develop and succeed.

I’ll leave you on that note and invite you to read our next blog in August, which will be brought to you by Mitch Smith, Workplace Line of Business Associate.

Thanks very much,

Sean
Sales Associates

Is Storage Brand Loyalty a Thing of the Past?

I was asked by a vendor recently why customers would purchase another vendor’s storage solution when theirs could offer both the functionality and performance at a lower price. Whilst there can be many answers to such a question, and I did supply several, the one that got me thinking was ‘Because they know it, they like it  and because it has never let them down’.  In other words the same reason that the chap asking the question was on his 5th BMW, he liked and trusted the brand.

However, in the wonderful world of data all you need to understand is that things ain’t what they used to be. More than perhaps ever before, success, maybe even survival, may depend on a company’s ability to cultivate loyal, maybe even devoted, repeat customers. The thing about loyalty is that it isn’t always as pure as we’d like it to be. Sometimes (ideally) it’s earned, but sometimes it can be all but forced upon us for technical or commercial reasons, or possibly the disruption is too excessive to consider change.

Storage vendors have become very good at offering competitive upgrade programs designed to retain the customer, and in general these work very well for both the vendor (who retains the footprint) and the customer (who gets a commercially compelling deal). Equally vendors can offer deals to replace another technology with their own, whilst enabling ease of migration between platforms. But therein lies the challenge; technology is always unique to a single storage vendor; whilst the underlying disk technology may be the same the connections and access methods are invariably incompatible.

Now, it’s very possible to carry out data-in-place upgrades to controllers, with the existing disk technology remaining in place, with this type of solution available from the majority of vendors, and that does encourage a sense of loyalty to vendors. Obviously the decision to change technology in an environment is a hard, or brave, decision to make, and certainly not an easy one. Therefore in many circumstances it simply becomes easier for customers to stick with what they have in place.

However, as I said earlier, times they are a changin’, and the world of data and storage is changing more rapidly than other areas, and these changes may make it harder for incumbent vendors to retain their existing customer base. As we enter the world where software is king and everything assumes the software defined banner then suddenly the need to stick with a previously preferred vendor disappears. Going further, by removing the intelligence previously provided by the disk controllers to a software layer not only removes the need to have loyalty to a vendor, it also removes the need to be tied to dedicated block, file or object based arrays and removes the need to be tied to specific features of an existing array.

New and emerging vendors are already using commodity components and are providing their USP and value through their unique software, but even this can become compromised as the software layer evolves.

It’s a challenge that all existing storage vendors will have to face; this rise of commodity infrastructure in all its guises is coming fast and not stopping, and whilst this applies to all infrastructures it’s at the data layer where the most radical changes may occur.

As always, it’s a really interesting time to be working in storage and data.

The Three C’s of 3 Screen Working

We are all starting to use an increasing number of devices in the course of our work and home lives.  The blurring of the boundaries for home and work continues to be a challenge for many, but equally having separate home and work technology  increases complexity and frustration for many people.

There is the general principle of “3 screen working” these days. Put simply this is the scenario where you have a smartphone, tablet and some sort of productivity device (for many users this will be a laptop or a more modern ultra-book type device).  These devices clearly vary in features – not least processing power, weight, form factor and functionality.  We should be aiming to take advantage of these newer technologies to make us all more efficient and more effective.

BYOD caused this, when users brought iPads (other tablets are available!) into work – this was for two primary reasons

  1. Access to basic corporate services such as email – but on a device that was less onerous to use
  2. Replacing existing methods and processes – a classic example for the professional being note taking in meetings

I would probably have classified myself until recently as a 1.5 device worker (yet another grey area!) with a fairly standard, functional laptop and a mobile device.   The reason I term it 1.5 is that on the mobile device in addition to telephony function I could do email and PIM functions, but not much more.  Until the market we now know as the mobile market opened up this was OK but it did have some big drawbacks in terms of working on the move, having a suitable device for meetings and events, and having to carry around paper notepads etc.

I resisted BYOD, mainly because it would have been an additional device adding to my travel load, and lacking the integration I would have needed to actually make me more productive.  That said, I did suffer some of the frustrations of my 1.5 device working in terms ease and speed of use, battery life and flexibility – so I did need something to change.

Through our GME programme we are moving towards embracing a 3 screen world. In doing so it’s crystallised for me how we can take advantage of the various devices that are available, used for the right purpose.  The diagram below depicts the 3 screen scenarios, and the key overlays between the devices. Overlays are important. While you can use any device for a specific function, clearly there are trade-offs to be made – and I do continue to find it interesting as I watch people trying to use a particular device type for something that it was never really meant to do!

3screenblog

I see three main use profiles, which are as follows – the 3 Cs if you will:

  • Consumption
  • Creation
  • Collaboration

The laptop is the de-facto productivity device, where you do content creation.  I’d personally classify myself as a fairly basic but heavy user: email, productivity applications and web browsing constitute the vast majority of my use.

Tablets are light creation device for fairly simple things like note taking and basic document creation, but for the most part it’s used as a consumption device.  The major advantages of this kind of device is clearly portability, battery life and ease of use – which make it great for more ad-hoc, mobile or general basic activities.

Then there is the smartphone.  Unlike the other two this is the device you probably always have with you.  In exchange for a convenient size, you trade off some of the features and functions.

In terms of how these devices overlap, it’s broadly as follows:

  • C1           –              I use my laptop and smartphone for what I’d term Collaboration functions.  That is everything from telephony, email, instant messaging, web and audio conferences etc
  • C2           –              I use my laptop and tablet for Creation of content, to different degrees as explained earlier, but depending on where I am and what I need to do –both are viable
  • C3           –              I use my tablet and smartphone for Consumption of content, typically accessing materials on the go – whether that’s emails and attachments, web sites or some other applications.

At the intersect of each of these devices is the common zone.  The point where you could use any of the devices to do a particular task. It’s where individual preference, circumstance or logistic take over.  For me this is basic email, PIM and browsing functions – I’ll use the device I have to hand to achieve the function.

Nowadays everybody seems to have a ‘weapon of choice’ – a particular form factor or operating platform, and the consumerisation phenomenon has really opened that up to enterprise opportunity.  Mobility solutions are quickly catching up to provide a  greater mobilisation of key applications and services that help us adapt our work styles, and make use of technology for content consumption, collaboration and creation that were previously quite constrained.

The interesting part is, it all comes down to people – there’s no hard and fast rules to this, and I’m sure we’ll continue to see people trying to do all kinds of tasks on a particular device, when there may be a better option available.

To me, working more efficiently and effectively means 3 screens – and using the right tool for the job

 

Paul

(Written on a laptop, proof read on a smartphone, uploaded on a tablet)

Driving Enterprise Mobility

We recently hosted a number of our partners and customers at our “Driving Enterprise Mobility” events in Manchester and London. The feedback and dialogue at these events was excellent as we explored a number of topics and challenges in how to embrace the mobility trend that we hear so much about in the market. This blog summarises the key messages from the events, and we hope it inspires you to attend some of our future events.

As you will be aware, Computacenter has recently changed our strapline from “Services and Solutions” to “Enabling Users”. With that our emphasis on providing the best service and solution to users, and viewing the world through their eyes in everything we do has been reinforced. Our overall strategy is influenced by what is known as the “SMAC stack” – the trends of Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud which dominate the IT agenda. Mobile is clearly a central aspect of our strategy and we shared an update on our own internal mobile initiative which has been running since early 2014, and we have called our “Group Mobile Engine”.

Customers face a number of challenges and a raft of competing priorities, perhaps more so than ever with the sheer pace of change in the market and the growing expectations and demands of their user base. We recognise a number of different challenges that organisations face across three main pillars:

  • Market – this addresses the volatility, uncertainty, innovation and change that is occurring in our market place, that we need to understand and plan a response to
  • Operational – the need to “keep the lights on”. Notwithstanding the opportunity that innovation and new technology provides, the need to manage cost, efficiency and improve the delivery of core IT services is the core need
  • Users – Managing and catering to the needs of a more expectant user base, both in terms of Generation Y and Z, but also the more fundamental impacts of consumerisation and a drive towards the latest technology and the simplest user experience.

Much focus around mobility is centred on smartphone and tablet technology, but with a number of our key partners supporting the events we were able to provide a showcase of the latest technology from these manufacturers. From traditional laptops through to ultra-mobile and hybrid devices, the range of End-User hardware technology and innovation, and the opportunities this presents to meet modern work styles is immense.

With that in mind we established our “Right Advice to Right Device” approach of Workstyle analysis, where we seek to understand and analyse the varied user profiles within an organisation and align the appropriate solution to that need. Important to note here is that this is not solely about the device technology, but the ability to support and manage the device in accordance with factors such as data security, as well as the applications and services that the user requires, so that the device compliments and supports the nature of their work.

Recognising the various workstyles that exist in the modern world, the requirement and demands to cater for multiple ownership models such as BYOD or COPE (Corporately Owned Personally Enabled), and the plethora of devices that are available – both in terms of hardware varieties and Operating Systems with the mobile shift in full force presents for a complex model. Our “Contemporary Workplace” approach pictured below demonstrates how we go about helping organisations navigate through this complexity and work towards a future state with the flexibility to accommodate the diversity which is now the key aspect of the modern workplace environment.

CCCW

At the event, we were supported by Citrix and Intel who are key partners. Each explained the effect that mobility is having on their businesses and solutions and how they are addressing these needs through their own offerings and strategy.

The events provided an overview of what we see in the market, and what we are doing through our own mobility project and initiatives. Mobility is clearly a very broad topic which extends from changing the technology in an individual users hand all the way to full Workplace Enablement and Transformation initiatives. The latter seeks to redefine the whole working environment and context to cater for future ways of working – including mobility, flexible working, collaboration and office rationalisation and re-design.

As it stands we are very close to some key milestones relating to our own mobility project which was of great interest to the attendees, many of whom are also seeking to define their own mobile strategy and understand how ‘Going Mobile’ can provide business value, efficiency, better user satisfaction and increased market opportunity in their own markets.