Archive | April 2016

An update from our 2016 associates

Hi everyone;

Thank you Greg for kicking off the blog last month. Now it’s my turn to tell you about my first few months in Computacenter. I remember when applying to the programme how much I wanted to know exactly what the job of a Sales Associate entailed. Now I know there is no way of easily describing it, given that it changes every month! This edition of the blog will therefore focus on the first two rotations I’ve been through: Inside Sales and Bid Management, to hopefully help any prospective applicants get a better picture of what we do. Before I dive in, I would like to tell you a little bit more about myself. My name is Jessica and I come from France. I studied Maths and Physics at Durham University, and I graduated from an Erasmus Mundus masters in Biology in August last year, so this is my first step into the real world of work. For me, the Associate Programme is an incredible experience to get visibility throughout the business and develop an invaluable professional network. When reflecting on my first three months in Computacenter, I have already come a long way, from being a student to a professional, but I also feel like there is so much left for me to learn. Over the three months so far, the highlight of my time at Computacenter is still without doubt the Kick Off in Barcelona, where I got a first taste of Computacenter’s Winning Together values.

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As Greg said last month, the race is on for a FMES jacket!

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After spending a month in the TMT & Retail team, getting to know the various customers and understanding the different roles within a sector, I set off for my rotation in Inside Sales. The TMT and Retail Customer Executives are mainly based in Reading, the land of free toast, where I spent most of my rotation.

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I sat with many CEs, learning to place orders and quotes, raise material requests and ask for Proof of Delivery.  Not only did I get to grips with the administrative tasks, and hopefully help out more than hindered with all my OneTouch related questions, but I also realised how much more the Customer Execs are responsible for. They are generally the first point of contact with the customer for queries, and they are the people who manage on a daily basis what goes through the account. They know about products, distribution, delivery processes and much more. The aim for this rotation was to allow us, the new Sales Associates, to understand the internal process which underpins every sale Computacenter makes. It was also a great opportunity to build a relationship with Inside Sales teams, for us to be able to work with them best in the future.

Following this rotation, I came back to Hatfield to spend a month in Bid Management. I was told this was an intense rotation and I was not disappointed. From day one, before even having our rotation induction, I was asked to run a Kick Off meeting for a bid. After the initial “Oh my god I don’t know what I’m doing!” panic moment, I got started. The role of a Bid Manager is, amongst others, to make sure all elements of a bid are written (management summaries, responses to questions etc) and put together on time. This requires a lot of chasing people up, along with the management of many versions of an excel spreadsheet. Overall, I was given two live bids to manage, and two other bids to help out on, therefore time management and organisational skills are a must for getting through this rotation.

Since starting at Computacenter, I already feel that I’m starting to build a better understanding of the company and the IT industry, through vendor accreditations and the Knowledge Programme. One of the most exciting aspects of the Associate Programme is the exposure we get to the rest of the company. Not only will we work in most areas of the business, but we also have the opportunity to meet with the senior management team. So far having met Amir Klaus and Mike Rodwell, I’ve learnt to never accept a challenge at noughts and crosses when the person opposite knows more than you do, and that incredibly, the iPad has only been around 6 years, making the next 6 years in the IT industry very exciting indeed…

Thanks for reading and next month we’ll hear from Hollie Cousins.

 

 

Why you should already be planning for Windows 10…

If you have not already started doing so, then now is definately the time to be planning for the adoption of Windows 10 into your business.  There are several good reasons why this is the case, but I am going to focus on just 4.

Windows 10 has now been available for just under 12 months, in that time it has taken approximately 14% market share. So far general perception has been positive, and whilst device shipment volumes have continued to decline across the market, Windows 10 continues to have a high degree of interest, particularly across business users.

There are a number of factors that are driving Windows 10 adoption, these are rapidly converging to form  a “pincer movement”.  As such the time to act and plan for the future is now.

User Expectation

The first factor, one we speak of often, is Users and User Expectation.  Clearly adoption of Windows 10 has been focussed in the consumer environment, so awareness of and interest in the platform is high from a user perspective.  Users are starting to take advantage of some of the modern features and benefits that Windows 10 has to offer.  In today’s world of highly influential and “tech-savvy” users, driving Windows 10 as part of your Digital Workplace strategies is a good way to deliver higher user engagement, greater satisfaction and enhanced productivity by using modern tools.  To the IT department, Windows 10 is clearly a core pillar upon which other services will be layered on and integrated to.

Skylake Supportability

The next factor which is highly significant to many organisations relates to the hardware market.  As you may have seen recently, Microsoft has altered its position regarding support to existing platforms (Windows 7 and Windows 8.1) on current Skylake chipset technology.  These OS will now only be supported on these platforms until July 2018, meaning that if they haven’t already, organisations need to start their planning to move to Windows 10 in order to stay supported on their current hardware and best exploit the investments they have made.

Windows 7/8.1 Retirement

Notwithstanding the above, the final date for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 support is January 2020 and January 2023 respectively.  With Windows 7 currently holding c52% of market share and Windows 8/8.1 only c12%, clearly the compelling date is the sooner one!

While Windows 10 offers several enhancements to make the transition from old to new platforms much simpler, the planning for mainstream Windows 10 deployment and adoption across large organisations needs to begin with earnest to ensure your business and users are ready and don’t fall into the kind of “supportability gap” we saw with the XP transition.  Appropriate up front planning will ensure the maximum opportunity to exploit new features and capabilities to enhance user experience and make your users more productive and effective.

Business Opportunities

Many organisations have struggled to fully exploit modern ways of working based on legacy Microsoft platforms.  Windows 7 and 8.x did not provide the kind of mobile experience that users demanded, which in part no doubt led to the BYOD trends we saw emerge over the past few years.  With Windows 10, the business and IT benefit from what is a viable platform to support modern workstyles including mobile and remote workers, across a vast range of use cases.  The technical capabilities of Windows 10 will help organisations be more secure in the modern world of cyber threats, as well as make users more productive and effective with enhanced capabilities and new features that are provided through the new platform.

So…?

The time for action is now. If you are not already piloting or planning for Windows 10 in your business, the time is right to do so.  Whether the starting point is qualifying what it will deliver to your users via a Workstyle assessment, undertaking a Readiness Assessment of your infrastructure to integrate Windows 10, or moving into a pilot or proof of concept, there are a range of activities that can be undertaken to help you prepare for and exploit the opportunities… and importantly, avoid another last minute “XP replacement” rush!

 

‘Retail Analytics’ A Modern Day Revolution

The first industrial revolution started just over 250 years ago. It was followed by a second industrial revolution just under 150 years ago. In my opinion, we are now in the midst of a third industrial revolution. Rather than steam power or electricity being the catalyst, this revolution is driven by big data and datImage 2a analytics. Data is the new currency.

I often hear the terms ‘big data’ and ‘data analytics’ being used interchangeably. I am not particularly precious about terms. What I am completely focused on however, is enabling the realisation of busin
ess value and competitive advantage from the promise of this third industrial revolution.

So, what is retail analytics? The answer is refreshingly simple. It is data analytics in a retail context. In other words, the prevailing use cases are retail focused. Data analytics is essentially defined by its use case. With this in mind, it can be shaped to pretty much any context. For example; service analytics, business analytics, digital marketing analytics, security analytics. This list goes on and on

Ultimately, the basic goals of data analytics and consequently retail analytics are to:

  1. Transform data to information, to knowledge and to wisdom
  2. Drive the creation of actions based on this resulting wisdom (insight)
  3. Anticipate what is likely to happen and prepare for it
  4. Influence what may happen to gain competitive advantage

I have also heard this described by Splunk as ‘making data accessible, usable and valuable to everyone’. What sets data analytics apart from traditional business intelligence is that the focus is on real time insight, allowing today’s decisions to be based on today’s data. The art of the possible in terms of queries do not need to be specified ahead of time. Once you have the data, you can ask whatever you like, however you like. I must admit that I tend to favour the term ‘right time’ over ‘real time’. Use case workshops are very useful in determining how quickly data needs to be collected and reported or acted upon. Real time does not be an incendiary concept. It needs to be a standard option based on business requirements.

As a general rule, the quicker you can put in to the finger tips of the decision makers, those beacons of enlightenment, based on what has actually happened, the more resilient and effective those decisions can be. This is especially true if decisions need to be made in real time and there is an appetite to automate decision making and instigating process and work flows based on those decisions. Automation should of course be for known good processes.

One of the most critical decisions an online retailer can make is when to put up a holding or busy page on their website to protect it from being overwhelmed by sheer load from visitor traffic. This decision has profound implications for key success factors such as customer experience, ability to trade and brand credibility. We have all seen the newspaper headlines around ‘Black Friday’ trading. Optimised application of well-formed data analytics can make the difference between glorious peak trading and painful peak profile.

 

Virtual Desktop Solution Evaluation – an Update

As I mentioned in my last post we have been spending time doing a lot of work related to Virtual Desktop platforms in our Global Solution Centres.  That, alongside lots of other activity in the world of Workplace and Mobility, means I am slightly behind in my updates.

So where did we get to?

We recently completed the first stage of our testing and the results obtained have been quite surprising.  Our intent was to assess a range of different platforms and evaluate how they performed against a defined measurement criteria that covered:

  • Technical Performance
  • Commercial Viability
  • Design, Implementation and Integration
  • Operations and Management

We noted a number of interesting variations across the different technologies we tested, clearly enforcing the view that there’s no “one size fits all” from a Virtual Desktop perspective.  Whilst some of the technologies suit certain workloads, such as a Shared Desktop Platform for Office/Task workers, other platforms did seem more suited towards delivery of Virtual Desktops.  As the market has moved and modern technology and solutions have become prevalent, the original price penalty which historically constrained virtual desktop deployments has somewhat diminished, making it suitable for a broader range of use cases.

To give an insight into some of our test results, we set out to assess the performance of each platform in terms of the number of sessions it could deliver before hitting a range of thresholds we had defined on the infrastructure (to avoid overloading). We used LoginVSI for this testing, which is the industry standard tool for this type of work.

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An extract of our findings is provided in the chart below. At 100% the platform will have delivered what was originally specified without hitting any of the defined thresholds, but you can see a very broad spectrum of results both above and below 100%.  The impacts of this test identify potential business risks from undersized platforms, impacts to end user performance but also potential commercial optimisation where a platform delivers +100% of the anticipated load.

This is just one insight from the testing and just to ‘tease’ you with others, we also noted significantly capability differences as it relates to the ability to manage, operate and service the various platforms -which can cause key implications for providing an effective Virtual Desktop Service to your users.

Next Steps

As we move towards this notion of the Digital Workplace (some term it Next Generation Workplace), Virtual Desktop technologies still have a significant role to play.  Some of our customers are looking at Virtual Desktop as a mechanism to mitigate the impacts of Windows 10 and its continuous updates.  Others are using Virtual Desktop technologies as an enabler of their future desktop by providing an alternative Application Delivery approach.

Office 365 is hugely relevant to many organisations, yet the challenges of integrating these solutions into Virtual Desktop technologies (and classic technologies) can still be significant.  We are now extending our work to address this and show how cloud content and services can fit with a Virtual Desktop Solution.

We have a full report of the results of our tests available for discussion with you, covering each of the topics listed at the start of this blog, aside from our wider market insights on how, when and why to transform your Workplace environment (Virtual or not).  If you’d like to discuss further, please leave us a comment and we’ll make sure we get in touch.

Ransom the everywhere

Three recent cyber security stories have recently appeared that combine to make a potentially wicked brew.  Firstly, ransomware authors have realised that it is possible to improve monetisation from all their mischief by knocking out businesses in one go rather than individual computers one at a time, as witnessed by the attacks on hospitals in the US.  The second is reports that the next generation of ransomware might allow malware to pass from server to server, rather than just from Internet to workstation and finally is the major announcement, due on April 12th 2016, regarding the Badlock vulnerability in the SMB/Samba technology that computers use to communicate with one another on local networks.

If it proves possible to combine these three factors into a workable attack before critical systems are patched then a whole business could be hijacked by a user clicking on a single malicious link in an Email or on a website, just as long as they were also connected to their corporate network drives shares such as home drives.

To take a step back, traditional ransomware works by persuading a user to download software, either through a malicious website or via spam Email.  This is normally simple code that downloads a seperate malicious payload in such a way to try and fool antivirus and other traditional protection.  The payload then encrypts files on the computers drives, or network drives and then extorts a ransom from the user to get the files decrypted.

Up to now such losses have generally effected individual users or a single computer but what if that has now changed, and are designed to infect server and storage farms?  The impact may well be to make paying the ransom the only way that time critical business systems can be recovered by their IT departments and get users back to work.

Returning to the attack I describe at the beginning of this post, the user who clicked on a link and infected their own laptop, that infects the home drive and with a little help from Badlock proceeds onwards across the network isn’t really on the edge of the network at all, it has the reach into the network as though it is part the core of the network but is more likely to be running an older operating system, such as Windows 7, be less well maintained than servers and contain a far more uncontrolled software than any server would be allowed to have.

So, what is the real difference between a computer at the edge of corporate network where convenience drives design descisions and at the data centre core where availability is king?  When confronted by well-motivated and profitable criminals, maybe the answer is nothing at all.

For more information:

Badlock Samba vulnerability http://badlock.org

Ransomware targeting servers (from Computer weekly)

http://www.computerweekly.com/news/450280137/Security-researchers-warn-of-server-attacking-ransomware

Targetting of hospitals in the USA (from health care news)

http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/two-more-hospitals-struck-ransomware-california-and-indiana

An update from our 2016 Associates…

Hello everyone and welcome to the very first Computacenter blog from AP16. It’s that time of the year where we, the new intake of Sales and Service Management Associates, start our Computacenter journey and keep you regaled each month with tales of our exploits throughout the company and what we’ve learnt along the way.

I would like to start by taking the opportunity to thank the class of 2015 for doing a fantastic job at maintaining the blog and providing us with their thought provoking and insightful views on Computacenter, the graduate programme and everything in between.

Before I go on to talk about the whirlwind which has been our first weeks of induction culminating with the Group Kick Off, which was a brilliant introduction to Computacenter, I would like to take a moment to introduce the new batch of associates.

Sales

Alex Griffin, Harry Walkden, Henry Lord, Jessica Savage, James Crook, Jos Pralle, Lewis Troughton, Greg Simpson

Service Management

Bryony Cooper, Callum Hepworth, Dominic Saunders, Hollie Cousins, Lowri Davies, Nathan Gill, Priya Dale

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You can view our biogs on Browzaplus if you haven’t seen them already!

 So what did our first month entail? After being kitted out with our new laptops and I-phones, we spent our first week drawing on the experience of people from all over the business. It is a testament to the value attributed to this programme from people in the company that I can say that I don’t have the word count to mention everyone who was involved, but on behalf of all of us I would like to give a huge thank you to everyone who gave their time sharing their personal journeys through Computacenter, introducing us to the different parts of the business and beginning to train us in all the skills we need to be a success here.

From the weeks that followed, highlights include SDI training with Jes Chandi, where we learnt a lot about ourselves and each other, a day spent learning about supply chain, a tour of the automated warehouse at Hatfield, where we were all highly impressed by the scale and complexity of the infrastructure there and two days of top sales training with Mark Griffin where we learnt about the art of selling, the difference between Smurfs and Jedis, and the importance of language in communication.

Our first month culminated with the Sales Associates boarding a plane and jetting off to Barcelona to attend the first ever group kick off. None of us really knew what to expect and we were blown away by the magnitude of the event. The vendor village gave us an amazing opportunity to meet our partners for the first time, begin to build relationships with them and really understand the value and services which they have to offer. A stand out from Group Kick Off was hearing our chairman Greg Lock talk about what it is to be a good sales person, how appropriate for us. Of course the jewel in the crown was the awards ceremony on the Saturday evening and it was here that we got our first tangible sense of the community values which bind everyone at Computacenter together, the pride we have for each other’s achievements and the passion to succeed and win together. I can tell you that all of the Sales Associates have our minds firmly set on receiving our own FMES jacket (the race is on!).

Nothing in my mind underpins the ‘family’ values which make Computacenter so special more than the awarding of these jackets; a ceremony made even more poignant due to the presence of our founders Phillip Hulme and Peter Ogden. The pure, unbridled pride and delight shown, not only by the recipients of these coveted prizes, but by everyone in the room, roaring and cheering their colleagues on was powerful and at times overwhelming. It proved that the concept of ‘Winning Together’ is not just a clever tag line; but is a real, physical code of conduct by which everyone here at Computacenter lives by.

Wow! What an opportunity we have as Associates to learn, grow and develop here.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, next month we will hear from Jessica Savage.