Archive | December 2015

Round Up on 2015….

As has become customary, my final blog of the year is a reflection on 2015 with some crystal ball gazing as to what may befall us in 2016.

2015 has flown by at a pace, and it’s continued to be a very exciting time in the Workplace and Mobile market.  The SMAC stack is still providing the technical capability that underpins many of the Workplace transformation we are seeing, however 2015 has seen us leverage SMAC to focus on the “Digital” agenda that seems now to be dominating conversations.

The market has continued to be volatile.  Whilst not strictly my area of expertise, no commentary on 2015 could ignore the mammoth Dell/EMC arrangement and the impact it has had and will have on the market.  Equally from Citrix, we’ve seen significant strategic activity with their long standing CEO standing down from his post and the Elliot group taking a significant stake in ownership and direction of the business moving forwards.   What this will mean to Citrix and the market in 2016, under increasing competition from VMWare in their “core” technology area remains to be seen.

We also saw the launch of  Windows, with good success and feedback overall from the market…. Even I am using it on my device (the fact the Start Button has stopped working probably justifies the prevalent guidance that mass adoption into enterprise should wait a while yet!).  However with at last estimates some 120m devices running Windows 10, and a lot of customer interest in pilots and trial deployments – its poised for success.

Around the Microsoft portfolio we’ve also seen other significant developments, Office 365 continues to be highly relevant – and will no doubt approach ubiquity from a Business Productivity perspective, and the Microsoft UK data centres were a big announcement last quarter that hopefully we’ll see come online late in 2016.

As we looked out from 2014 into 2015 I commented on wearables.  This year we gained the Apple Watch, but pretty much lost Google Glasses.  This serves to remind us that we’re looking at an immature market – the potential for innovative use cases is far away from meaningful outcomes as yet.   That said, the whole topic of “things” (IOT) has exploded and is now front of mind for many businesses for the potential opportunities it brings to improve current services and exploit new opportunities.

Without doubt the major trend for 2016 will be “Digital” focussed.  The opportunities seem endless, whether exploitation of Digital in channel strategies or development of a Digital Workplace as just two examples.  What is commonly termed as “two speed” (or Bi-modal) IT was sign-posted in last year’s blog post, and is now almost mandatory in order to manage the complex world of “classic” and new technology platforms and solutions to meet business objectives.

Much as this time last year, we await the New Year with excitement, whilst also expecting volatility, some uncertainty and a great deal of opportunity!  Can’t wait to get started!

Wishing you all a Happy New Year!!!

Revealed: Do we now have available the most valuable currency “ever” (potentially)

The title of this blog may seem somewhat sensationalist (probably). It was driven by my recent retail consumer navigation (“last minute present time”), common to many through the Christmas season to date. And the aforementioned “valuable currency”, first off to avoid the numerous cries of foul,  I will eliminate the obvious and fundamental elements for life (air, food, etc) from the rather grand boast of the title. But I hope on conclusion of this brief scribble its clear why I hold this special “currency” in such high regard.

From the dawn of not just modern society, but any society, humans traded in some way, shape or form. Sellers sought to seller their wares to buyers keen to buy (and sometimes not so keen) with the optimum marriage, a product available for sale at the perfect time (and price) to a surplus number of buyers. The final element has remained the sales Holy Grail and to realise that seller buyer perfect relationship the profession of marketing rose from the ashes with the impossible task of stargazing the wants needs and desires of all.  That truly impossible task became probable as marketers leveraged science and human psychology to bind products to potential target customers and often with amazing degrees of effectiveness and accuracy. But still when questioned industry leaders continued to question marketing effectiveness often citing return on investment and other metric driven formulae for less than perfect results.  Until now….

Through the advent of a perfect storm of IT systems at the right price / performance levels, secure enterprise grade connectivity “everywhere”, advanced analytical algorithms / models with near human insight, data structures / repositories capable of previously unimagined data storage / manipulation and finally digital data generated by “things” we now have realised our own “digital alchemy” use to create the most valuable currency ever – “big data”.

At this point after such a monumental build up, the temptation for you to yawn and hit delete may appear (suppress it), but that is somewhat premature with more of the story to unfold.

My Christmas social and retail journey is a current storyboard of the stealth like use of big data today that helps to optimise many of my interactions with people and systems. Websites that know who I am and offer me gift ideas aligned with the season for friends and family based on my past purchases and an awareness of their demographic. Retail stores track my in store movement as a mobile user and leverage my location and browsing habits to make products for sale more attractive to me (via price or enhanced visibility). Payment systems utilise my smart watch which in turn leverages multiple data driven security authorisation/authentication and financial information stores to validate me based on behaviour, location and activity to confirm that I have indeed attempted a financial transaction. I could continue and include my previously low tech bank debit card that has now unleashed via contactless transactions has the potential to be much much more in future. And the unifying factors behind it all, secure network connectivity of people to things to allow them to do previously unimagined “things” but with real-time availability / accessibility to a bordering on human store of digital data insight we now called “big data”. The highly pervasive, always on, now always everywhere, NETWORK is making big data – bigger!

Big data is no longer a “fad” or something leveraged by others – it is fast becoming “the” most “valuable currency” ever. It has the potential to digitally stargaze via advanced data analysis & data joins and deliver a result at an accuracy level and a speed impossible for a human (or banks of humans) to achieve (have a quick look at IBM Watson). Now is the time to make big data less of a conversation for technologists and instead the heartbeat of business. At Computacenter we are not waiting, we deem it so paramount we have our own data analytics Chief Technologist (welcome Aleem Cummings, look out for his blog). The importance enterprises are now placing on the need to leverage and maximise big data to propel business forward makes it a top “C suite” priority.

The network provides the secure connectivity layer to allow “things” to interact with other “things” and for humans to personally, socially and emotionally benefit from that interaction (I promise no mention of IOT, ooops too late). And the information created with that data whether small or big will be the “digital currency” that delivers evidence based proof of value.

Big data doesnt just help to create / find answers its so valuable it can be extracted and traded in its own right. And if this digital, big data is such a value personal and business asset, validated security and secure interaction becomes a precursor to future success. “but is it?”. One for another day I think.

Until next time

Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2016

Colin W @colinccuk – Chief Technologist, Networking, Security and UC.

 

 

 

Born Digital or Going Digital?

There is no doubt that technology is moving at an ever increasing pace.  Even from the time I joined the professional workforce the capability of the technology at your fingertips (literally! – who’d have thought it!) has exploded beyond all recognition.

For many years we’ve looked at the technology as the driver of change.  The functions and benefits it provides to users and business processes.  We must also look at it from the other end of the telescope via our Digital Natives campaign.

I’ve spoken of Digital Natives in previous blog posts, and the challenge and opportunity of enabling this new breed of users with solutions that are more akin to their experiences as they’ve grown up – call this the ‘Facebook experience’ if you wish, but ultimately it’s the online, mobile, information driven world that we’re all already immersed in within our personal lives.

What has become clear as we’ve researched this more and spoken with our customers, is that the major business imperative is not directly empowering the “Natives” via these new approaches with which they are most familiar.  Consideration of that is important and an inherent part of the Contemporary Workplace transformation.  The bigger business challenge is the integration of a more diverse workforce – from Baby Boomers to Generation Z, into a more coherent and collaborative user community.  Technology is just one part of it – a means to an end, but not the end itself!

It would be easy to get transfixed on the notion of Digital Natives (Gen Y and Z) versus the “others” – however consider the ongoing changes in the labour market we see (Retirement ages etc) and its clear that a hybrid world is going to be prevalent for a long while yet.

Furthermore, the notion that Digital Natives “get” technology and everyone else doesn’t also paints a binary perspective skewed from reality.  Not all Natives are on board and adept with social networks, instant messaging and smartphones, and not all novices are laggards.  For evidence of this you just have to look around at the consumer penetration of these prevalent technologies, where it works and enables users – chances are it’ll be adopted by all kinds of users.

What resonates more is the combined value of an increasingly diverse workforce.  The potential, energy and motivation of Digital Natives matched with the business and industry insight, expertise and experience of the incumbent labour force creates a powerful combination.  The role of technology is not to drive a wedge between users, but to be the enabler of communication and collaboration outcomes to enable people to work in new ways, spanning broader locations to promote productivity and new opportunity.

Businesses need to be cognisant of the subtle (or not so subtle) different ways that users operate – but to do so by demographic alone is very limiting and risky.  An effective business is one that enables all its users.  The differences between us as individuals or demographic groups in our attitude and adoption of technology makes for interesting observations, but technology itself is not the barrier –which hopefully reassures everybody whether you’re “Digitally Native” or a Digital Novice.

Global Data Cooling – My Iceberg is not Melting

glacier_iceberg_under_water

It feels slightly strange sitting in Scotland in December and its 12 degrees outside, we’re much more used to snow and a white Christmas. No doubt that Global Warming has affected our weather systems here.

However, in the world of data it’s becoming a polar opposite (see what I did there?).  Data continues to grow and get colder by the day. We’ve become a society of data hoarders, we continue to store everything, never accessing but keeping it for that ‘just in case’ moment. This has led to the rise of ROT data; Redundant, Obsolete or Trivial content that is never accessed but continues to consume valuable resources.

A recent Veritas survey shows that only 14% of our data is accessed regularly, with a further 32% being classified as ROT data. The worrying statistic is the one I’ve not yet quoted; this means that 54% of our data is simply unknown, and like the majority of an iceberg sits unseen below our visibility.

databerg

This dark data may have business value, or may be valueless, but the crucial point being that it remains unknown. More worryingly, this dark data may contain personal customer information, non-compliant data or other high-risk corporate data, with the potential for critical risks at the core of a business.

Recent legislation changes mean that Data Governance has to become more critical to business operations, location of data, content of repositories and the ability to search and discover data of relevance, upon demand, is placing new and unique challenges for IT operations, challenges that they have never previously faced.

Illuminating dark data is not easy, it requires elimination of ROT, it requires understanding of corporate data and what data may have business value, and it requires further understanding of legislation relative to the customer environment. Finally the ability to find that needle requires the use of tools and the knowledge to understand what you are looking for.

Having the ability to seek across all data sets, and having the ability to apply filters to the searches is not an easy task, but one that you will face at some point. Identifying the process and the tools is a mission that needs addressing now, when you are asked for it may be too late to avoid significant costs and the potential for large fines if data cannot be produced in a timely manner.

The Data Iceberg is not melting, but at least we can understand the 54% not immediately visible to us. Our data hoarding exacerbates the problem, time to shine a light in the darkness.

Now, where’s my sunglasses?

*Information has been sourced from the recent Veritas publication; The Databerg Report: See What Others Don’t

 

The ongoing education and evolution of a “Digital Inspirer”.

Digitisation and the impact across generations is now an interesting and valuable debate. There should be no doubt that digitisation is already delivering immense value but is the relentless drive to “digitise” everything unifying or dividing the social and working world (a discussion for another day)?. ‎

My passport details do not hide the fact I am “Generation X” therefore hailing from an era without “digital personas” at the core but I am equally fortunate to possess a digital journey that did not commence at the dawn of the Smartphone era or more recently the industry restart of the digitisation agenda. I can fondly recount my early days in information technology (which span back to punched cards and mainframe tapes !!) when the “digital” world we now deem our norm first spawned. Back then a fair degree of resistance to information technology (IT) was evident due to natural human fears of change and equally the unexpected results delivered by IT systems of the day. And as many prepare for the new Star Wars extravaganza, concerns of “beings from out outer space” and even the potential takeover of the society and humanity we hold dear by “the machines” were ever present.

If I fast forward to now, the binding between humans and technology is very different – we have an umbilical style dependency on digital technology without a fear of inconsistent results, in fact quite the opposite due to a common reliance on IT solutions to deliver workload “consistency”. And the human concerns of “the machines” taking over the world have been replaced by a global “welcome mat” for technology based assets driving digital elements forward at warp speed to do just that, “run our lives”.

It is this humble journey of that has allowed me to tag myself a “Digital Inspirer” (albeit a reluctant one at times) as I have enjoyed my role as one of the human change agents flying a flag for IT and digital technologies from the dawn of the modern computing era to the present day. Does this history deliver extra credence or deeper immersion into all things digital, potentially but through my own experience heavily tempered by a perspective that places human expectations at the core of all technology aligned outcomes?

A temptation may exist if people flip into enthused technologist mode to “do digital” or “become digital” with the drive to force technology forward without a qualified and validated overwhelming human need to embrace it. This mistake has been made with numerous technology centric “must have” initiatives over the past 30 years (and many years prior) resulting in a fundamental stall prior to solution adoption. Fortunately the digitisation drive today is different from those past technology led initiatives that remained “technology centric” interpretations. From a two year old child swiping the screen of an ipad mini to a £100000 production car handshaking continually for updates with the internet, the digitisation template we are now absorbing feels more human, more personal than any previous technology led evolution. The poster child for digitisation, the Internet of Everything (IOE) is already with us but the “everything” annotated will be a number of connected and different devices beyond our widest dreams. It is for me one of the most exciting and potentially human impacting digitisation perspectives as our imagination will be the only limiting factor that impedes progress.

2016 is set to be an amazing year with the digitisation impact at the heart.

Until next time.

Colin W

Chief Technologist – Computacenter UK, Networking, Security & UC

Computacenter Wins 7 lots on the coveted Welsh IT framework.

Our Cardiff office is at the heart of our Wales operation, which has grown 10 fold since the start of the previous Value Wales Framework ITEAS. This increase in business has seen additional skilled jobs including an additional Customer Executive as well as our first trainee for our prestigious Graduate Entry Program. More recently, we appointed three Cardiff-based technical sales people for our Workplace, Datacenter and Network businesses. In addition, a number of our UK wide consultancy team, engineers, service delivery personnel, project staff and technical specialists are now employed from the Wales office.

Since the inception of ITEAS in 2012 we have seen our customer base grow from 18 to 42. With the increase in customer base and technology scope we have been able to work with vendors across the Workplace, Datacenter & Network to drive down the cost of products and solutions.

With Computacenter’s expertise Welsh customers have experienced both innovation and cost savings including;

  • An Agile and Dynamic Datacenter project created for a number of authorities in South Wales.
  • Agile mobility solution was implemented for a number of Local Authorities in West Wales
  • An innovative procurement route for North Wales was created to meet their individual needs.

Computacenter have been awarded a place on 7 lots including;

  • Lot 1: Desktop Software and Associated Products and Services
  • Lot 4: End User Hardware and Associated Products and Services
  • Lot 5: Infrastructure Software and Associated Products and Services
  • Lot 6: Servers, Storage and Storage Devices and Associated Products and Services
  • Lot 7: Network Equipment and Associated Products and Services
  • Lot 8: Network Firewall and Associated Products and Services
  • Lot 12: Integrated Systems

This enables Computacenter to continue growing the Welsh business by making investments in both people and the technology we offer to our customers. Computacenter and the One Wales team will be continuing to work with Wales and Welsh Customers to increase innovation and drive down costs associated with the Public sector.

This new framework gives Computacenter a great opportunity to continue our strategic growth, enables us to work with Welsh customers to drive costs and increase innovation and offers Wales better value for money.

It may be time to retire the term “Unified Communications (UC)”.

I start this week’s blog in provocative mode crying out (loudly) for the retirement of the IT term “Unified Communications (UC)”. Why so passionate – whilst a very sound technical description for the outcome delivered when multiple communications technologies or channels work seamlessly together, there lies the problem – it’s a technical description. Users are unlikely to describe the communications devices or outcomes they embrace or desire in such a manner so now may be the time for the IT industry to let go of the Unified Communications (UC) moniker as a primary descriptor.

Currently it’s becoming hard to find a device not Unified Communications capable with even the most simplest of collaboration devices capable of more than one task, unified with another. For example a laptop can deliver a unified communications outcome due to the ability to act as a soft phone, video, fax, email, instant message and a multitude of other things. A smartphone can mimic a similar outcome to the laptop but adds a person centric rich mobile experience to the mix. And as we consider specialist user outcomes that may include tablets, telepresence units, video kiosks and the mass of current and future devices all will absorb the various and now common communications channels, unified to continue to evolve the next generation user communications and collaboration experience.

And there lies the most important component of all, “experience”. The various communications channels used in isolation or together are only of value when the user realizes the outcome or experience they expected. Therefore both vendors and solution providers must lead with a maniacal focus on the user experience(s) and reverse engineer it to sign post the technology required to ensure the term “Unified Communications” is required no more. Instead the outcome will be the outcome desired, described in the words of the user.

It may be time to retire the UC term and with it the historical viewpoints of poor user experience and flawed communications technologies. With the rich features now available on multiple device formats via on premise or cloud service delivery within the digital communications and collaboration technology portfolio, the only thing standing in the way of success is a lack of imagination.

Unified Communications (UC) has never been more relevant than now as the core technology fundamentals (even the traditional elements) are the transport for digital conversation in the 21st century world. But to make UC real for the user it’s essential to start by stopping any attempts to sell UC at all.  Focus on the user outcome, discussed in the language of business and the technology will select itself. Then and only then will the end user realise a true Unified Communications “experience”.

Until next time.

Colin W

Twitter: @colinwccuk

Chief Technologist – Networking, UC and Security (Computacenter UK).