A Brilliant Start at Computacenter
Welcome to the first blog written by Computacenter’s 2015 intake of new associates. This year the intake includes 7 Sales Associates and 5 Service Management Associates.
Stepping through the doors of Computacenter the morning of the 12th of January 2015 was an adrenaline-fuelled jumble of feelings from overwhelming excitement to extreme anxiety. Fortunately the wonderful welcome from everybody calmed these nerves and the last two months have flown by. I’ve experienced a whole host of additional emotions since, although some of these can be attributed to being so close to the England Rugby Team at the Millennium Stadium for our annual UK Sales Kick Off!
Our first three weeks in the company were based in Hatfield for our induction. We had many introductions from some inspirational speakers, such as Mike Norris (CEO), Chris Webb (Group COO) and Kevin James (Director of UK Country Unit). Pete Groushko (Sales Manager for Workplace), Mark Griffin (Datacenter Solutions Manager), the Sector Directors and many more also gave us their personal Computacenter journeys. Aside from the crucial insight from senior managers, we had a number of extremely useful sessions including the IT solutions life cycle 101, sales 101 and current trends in IT.
One of the most interesting days included in the induction was Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI) training. SDI is a self-assessment tool that helps us understand what it is that gives us a sense of self-worth and what’s important to us when relating with others. It allows us to understand what motivates us and therefore how to build effective relationships both professionally and personally. In relation to the sales process this will improve performance through: effective communication; more positive thinking; creating energy within individuals and teams; enabling more constructive debates; reducing stress and the cost of conflict.
Following on from our induction we have all been on rotations through departments in the company. So far I have spent time with Inside Sales, my own sector (Capital Markets and TMT) and look forward to the Partner Management rotation next month. A successful team makes a deal happen. Therefore, rotations enable us to grow strong networks and develop the underlying skills needed to be a great salesperson and work together as a business to succeed. A fundamental understanding of roles and responsibilities within a team is imperative to maintaining the complex relationships established during a sale bid, successful win and a mutually beneficial, long lasting relationship with the client.
I would like to take this time to thank Sue Harris (Head of Knowledge & Associate Programmes) and Adriana Mills (Knowledge Campaign Manager) for organising a brilliant and invaluable three weeks and all those who took time out of their busy schedules to present to us.
Thank you for reading the first blog brought to you by the 2015 Associates. Tune in next month to hear from Tom O’Brian our Service Management Associate where he will be covering the important roles of our buddies, coaches, mentors and sponsors.
Please send us your thoughts,
Software defined networking (SDN) continues to be a major customer discussion within both the specialist networking and enterprise datacenter arenas. After bubbling under in the mindshare league well below cloud, virtualisation and mobility for quite a while SDN is starting to move up the ranking. However this is not without a fair degree of murmured discontent.
Enterprises, whilst digesting the technical concepts behind SDN are struggling to understand the most effective SDN solution design approach and focus in on the business problem / outcome resolved by SDN. At the highest most strategic level, there are numerous benefits that can include operation efficiencies, network agility and simplicity to name a few. But however compelling they all are, they currently do not seem compelling enough (unless a convenient infrastructure upgrade requirement is often factored into the SDN discussion). This could be the result of looking at something so hard that the some of the more obvious benefits are overlooked and in the case of SDN one said benefits is certainly security.
Networking in software (prior to SDN) had already found its home in the middle of a hypervisor as part of a virtualised compute environment, with the result some degree of understanding of the use of software in enterprise computing to realise networking outcomes is already known. But with the unrelenting growth of server virtualisation beneath a hypervisor with the resulting change to network traffic flows (much of it remaining within the hypervisor or physical host) a hidden challenge became the norm – securing virtualised workloads. The drive by many towards a virtualised enterprise changes decades of traditional design norms of physical perimeter security device placement with the requirement to reproduce a revised ideal for the virtualised workload world.
Enter software defined security (SDS) included within or as a by-product of an SDN strategy. The ability to micro segment virtual workloads using internal virtualised firewalls and controls in software with the reduced need for traffic to flow out of the virtual environment and back to determine the security state is surely a “killer outcome mobilised by SDS or SDN. And before you state it, a secure environment in a virtualised context can be realised today without the use of SDN and software defined security implementation, but SDN makes it much easier, tightly couples it with management and automation frameworks with the result reduced time to value. There are numerous software defined security approaches from standard functionality within specialist SDN overlay networks through to dedicated SDS (software defined security) solutions from specialist vendors with next generation security at the heart. And with enterprises wrestling with the urgent need to secure physical, virtual, hybrid and cloud environments working together as one, a new approach to solving this KEY enterprise IT infrastructure security challenge is surely required.
Software defined security alone isn’t the answer, SDN in isolation isn’t the answer but they are both serious and viable considerations to deliver security outcomes today aligned with problems of tomorrow. To that end, software defined security (SDS) may well be the “killer outcome” that kick starts the SDN change.
Until next time.
If you were to ask any of your colleagues or peers about their work life balance, I am sure you’ll get a broad range of answers. It seems we are all striving to achieve this mythical utopia. Many organisations are seeking to support and promote it too. A healthy work-life balance is a good thing, but how do we achieve it?
There are various approaches; ranging from providing health facilities at work locations, flexible working hours, changes to office spaces, to embracing mobility and flexible working. In the fast paced modern economy, it can be difficult for people to take the down-time that they need. Providing technology solutions to help people achieve a better work-life balance can have adverse effects. You provide someone with a mobility solution so they can work more flexibly, and now they are working more than they did previously. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Is it their own choice to work longer, or is the provision of the tools an inference of the new level of demand that the organisation places on its people?
More fundamentally, can we split work and life? When you meet someone for the first time, finding out what they do for a living is one of the first conversation topics. What we do is a key part of who we are, isn’t it? Please share a comment and let us know your views!
If we look at a typical example, relating to the world of mobile technology, there are two schools of thought. One side have a business phone and a personal phone. They suffer the “inconvenience” of carrying two devices so that outside work they can leave the business phone behind, and thus they detach from work. On the other side, many people have one phone; they don’t distinguish at a technology level between work and life and I presume that influences their wider mindset as they float seamlessly between work and non-work.
Ultimately this quandary affects each person differently. We all have our own thoughts on what this means to us, that affects how we behave and react. That’s what makes this difficult, where do we start and where do we stop?
This is a problem faced largely by the professional/corporate world. For retail employees or task workers, work is more clearly defined. Same too for some specific sectors of industry where there are ingrained cultures relating to work. Whether this makes these places destination employers for Generation Y and Z time will tell!
For those in the professional world, there are some key pillars of enablement to support the quest for work life balance
- Redefinition of work places to move away from the traditional “organisational prisons”, where visible presence was a critical factor for control of people. We need to move towards a more open and dynamic work place that supports interaction, collaboration and freedom,
- Exploiting new technology that provides people with the flexibility and opportunities to work in ways that best suit themselves and the nature of the work itself. Mobile solutions and communications and collaboration systems mean we can get stuff done more effectively than ever, reducing pressures from every angle
- A change in culture to promote trust between employers and employees. Enabling us to fulfil the vision of work being something you do rather than somewhere you go
With these pillars in place, the work life balance becomes less of an issue. In the organisations that have traits such as these, we see the effects in terms of their performance and position in the market. We also know these organisations attract the highest calibre of people, and retain them through high employee satisfaction.
So while the debate continues let’s start with these specific practical steps as the foundations to enable people to strike their own balance, as it’s the user who we need to focus on as we look towards the Contemporary Workplace.
Our de-facto mode of communication in business is email. In 2014 over 108 BILLION business emails were sent and received daily, forecast to grow at 7% year on year through 2018 (Figures courtesy of Radacati). Email dominates our communication professionally, however in our home lives; email has been relegated; with instant messaging, video calls and text messaging taking precedence. Occasionally, some people even make phone calls on their mobile devices!
Something is not right with our relationship with email in business . We’ve become too reliant on it and are drowning under the volume of messages that we receive, and that benefits no-one. For many people, their work seems to be servicing email rather than creating, producing and engaging. These far higher value outcomes of our human intelligence are being stifled by a need to service the email beast.
In order to qualify our dysfunctional relationship, let’s look at a few examples and challenges of a world based on modern email:
- We send and receive too many messages, and spend too much time servicing email. I recall working on a challenging customer engagement; receiving over 300 email per day, and sending a similar amount to “keep up”. We are subject to an incomprehensible amount of information to absorb and act on via email.
- One of our first activities daily is to “triage” out the unnecessary emails we have received. Cascades, bulletins, marketing mails, spam. So clearly we are over-using the tool when we should perhaps be exploiting different mediums
- Email volume is often seen as a badge of honour, a sign of how important or busy we are. How many people have you heard proudly announce how many emails they have returned to after a period of annual leave? (As an aside, Traditional mobility solutions did nothing to dispel this myth, with mobile devices originally only being given to the most “important” people, further fuelling our dependence on email).
- We use email as our natural mode of communication. Even when people are sat within the same office space emails get sent. (Yes I’ve done it and I’m sure you have too!)
All of these issues are prevalent even before we get into the subtleties of email usage; individual variation in adoption and usage of email, etiquette, and the opportunity cost of not exploiting other more effective channels for real time communication that we now have at our disposal.
Email is a key business tool, but as we strive towards our vision of the Contemporary Workplace we need to redefine its position and use. The future workplace is more collaborative and engaging by nature. As we redefine workspaces to be open, collaborative and more social, email begins to look like a blunt tool. Face to face communication (whether real or virtual), instant messaging and social networking give us opportunity to expand our network, collaborate more, find answers quicker and engage with each other on a more direct and personal nature, leaving space for email to be redefined for more formal or less critical communication flows that don’t require real time response.
Several organisations have quite famously either banned email or sought to remove the dependence by creating “no email days”, but this doesn’t solve the problems unless we evolve our workspaces and behaviour to capabilities now at our disposal. As we often talk about, our Generation Y and Z colleagues entering the market have never had such reliance on this tool and want to engage differently using the same kind of tools that we’ve so quickly exploited in the consumer side of our lives.
Given email is the lifeblood of many businesses this isn’t a change that’s going to occur overnight, but we should start to strive towards change. And on that note; my inbox is filling up so I had better get back to work!
Why simple IT matters?
As the last ‘blogger’ in the series of 2014 Associates, it seems apt to reflect back on how my concept of IT has shifted since joining Computacenter from a sociological nicety to Darwinist necessity. More specifically; my new (and improved) perception of how IT enables everything!
Of course as a ‘Generation Y’ stereotype, I had a keen sense of how technology and computers were shaping not only how we work, but live our everyday lives (e.g. playing computer games!). However, the pervasive layers of how the IT industry have driven advances in healthcare, education and especially enterprise were largely lost on me. The bounding advancements have occurred in swan-like fashion; seemingly moving effortlessly forward, whilst in reality paddling furiously beneath the surface. But when you step back and try and find perspective in what has occurred over the last couple of decades, I find that the beginning is always a good place to start.
When was the last time anybody actually thought about where the term IT came from? The two words of ‘Information’ & ‘Technology’ do not naturally interlink. The first use of this term was found in an article by Leavitt & Whisler contained in a Harvard Business Journal in 1958. “The branch of technology concerned with the dissemination, processing, and storage of information, esp. by means of computers”. The advances of technology from 1958 to modern-day are beyond comprehension, however, the basic concept of the use of technology to process, store and utilise information is even more relevant now than ever before! We’ve just become better at doing it.
Going back to some of the messaging from Computacenter’s UK Kick Off Conference earlier this year, we have to think of the bigger picture. Core and Edge technologies are simply vehicles which provide information (or data) to the user. This data needs to be stored efficiently, processed quickly, transmitted securely and accessed easily. So why is IT so complex? The true genius behind ground-breaking technological advances are the ones in which the underlying IT complexity is hidden and often missed completely by the users.
For example, let me take you back to Andy Murray’s 2013 Wimbledon Championship triumph, which marked the end of decades of British disappointment. The wiser (or more emotionally-fragile) of us may have been avoiding the Marry/Djokovic final, due to true British pessimism. However, as the excitement of centre-court mounted, spectators in the stands were utilising mobile technology to vent their elation and share the events via social media (#omgmurraywinning). Analytical software monitoring the ‘twitter-sphere’ instantaneously provisioned more compute and storage resources to the BBC.com web servers, dynamically bursting into 3rd party cloud environments. To the typical user; all that preceded was the ability to check the tennis score on the BBC website, however, the underlying SMAC processes that ensured that all information was readily available and easily accessible was far beyond this.
So why does this matter? To maintain focus on how our customers are going to continue to gain value; it seems to me that simplicity will be the best motivator. Whether this manifests as faster ‘tin’, less management or more consumption-based expenditure, customers are looking to us for solutions to drive out complexity. As an associate, I am more than aware of the vast (and seemingly unconquerable) technical depths of the products I am meant to be selling, however, the best advice that I have been given during my 14 months with Computacenter (and it has been evident in several different guises), is that the simple story is often what’s most compelling.
Thanks for reading. We are now passing on the batton to this years intake of Associates.
Line of Business Associate
Every organisation is constantly seeking to enable their users. At Computacenter it is our mission (to “enable users and their business”), but how do we practically make this happen? Do we and can we achieve user enablement and effectiveness by delivering new technology or do we need to look deeper and more holistically to affect the changes we need to be more effective?
Whilst it’s critical to understand the business outcomes we are trying to achieve, we must also take time to understand what the users need (and want!) from their working experience. It is the people (users) that drive the business processes and deliver innovation, not the technology that we deploy to support and enable them.
A key part of the shift towards a Contemporary Workplace is a change to workplace culture, but perhaps the component we speak of least. Technology is an enabler for how people work, but isn’t alone an answer to many specific problems. The culture is an inherent part of what will make a modern business successful. Culture sets the tone and outlook for how an organisation thinks, how they deliver services, compete in the market, innovate and service their customers and their employees. When you think about those organisations that we know do this really well, often we learn that a modern culture, breeding more flexible working approaches is at the heart of what drives their success.
So the question perhaps becomes how do you adapt towards a working culture that supports and enables business development and growth. They are, by their nature intangible and deep rooted to the very fabric of the organisation, the unwritten code that largely dictate how and why things get done, and how people behave. This becomes increasingly important in the modern world; a global war for talent drives a need to provide the right kind of workplace experiences (environments, technology and cultures) to attract the best of the new labour force. And these things also reflect in the way our organisations are regarded by, and the way our customers interact with, our organisation and staff which influences our relevance and success in the market.
In our mission to move towards our vision of the Contemporary Workplace, how do we balance the culture vs technical enablement?
Collaboration is very much in vogue as a way of enhancing engagement of employees, with social networks tools starting to emerge in enterprise. These largely informal modes of communicating within and across teams and departments enable new levels of engagement, and provide access to information and knowledge that was previously locked within the enterprise. But these tools are only effective if they are adopted and used, and maintaining that isn’t a technical answer. On the other hand the increasing move towards mobility serves to empower users to work more intelligently and flexibly. This should bring about some changes to the organisation culture as the workspace spans the constrained walls of the office. We need to support and embrace this to capitalise on the opportunity of a collaborative and mobile world.
As the technical world continues to evolve, opportunities present themselves and promise significant benefits. With so much innovation and so much potential ahead, the real problem is in fulfilling and meeting all of these high expectations. Our world is mobile, social, and online by default, and gives us more technical capability and tools than we perhaps ever imagined was possible. But do we understand how best to make use of them and exploit the opportunity? How do we inspire users and encourage adoption of new attitudes and approaches so that we can exploit technology to deliver the solutions that are key to our business outcomes.