Archive | January 2017

Gearing up your Organisation for the Internet of Things

Picture this – your alarm clock goes off, you reach across the bed and take a look at your phone; it’s woken you up 30 minutes early – why? Well you have a meeting at 9:30am, but your car is running low on fuel so filling up will take 15 minutes, and traffic is a little worse than normal, so it will take an extra 15 minutes to get to the meeting. Welcome to the Internet of Things (IoT) a world where your phone can play your day ahead and your fridge knows when it’s running dry and orders the groceries itself.

IoT has captured the imagination of industry visionaries and the public for some time now; devices sending and receiving data, opening the door to a futuristic world previously the stuff of science fiction.

As the cities we live in grow into digital ecosystems, the networks around us will connect every individual device, enabling billions of new data exchanges. Industries will enter a new era, from medical devices that talk directly to medical professionals, to the emergence of smart homes that manage themselves efficiently, ensuring energy usage is checked and bills paid on time.

In the workplace it’s equally easy to see the potential advantages of the connections between devices, from intelligent service desk support through to printers, computers and other devices interacting with each other to deliver tangible user and business benefits.

The service desk is a key component for businesses in the digital age, acting as a communication hub for IT issues, a reference point for technology requirements and a tool for asset visibility. Organisations must ask themselves if their current service desk has the technological capacity and capability to manage the multitude of device and operational data in an efficient manner. An intelligent service desk can be the lifeblood of IoT implementation within businesses and enable automation to be realised.

A connected printer in a business ecosystem, for example, could effectively self-serve its own peripheral needs and order its own supplies when needed. However, the management of that data, effective registration and logging of the incident, as well as notification to the financial and technical teams would not be possible without an intelligent service desk – especially when you elevate this to an enterprise scale, with possibly hundreds of connected printers or devices.

When discussing the “connected office”, IT managers will understandably raise concerns around security. The more devices that are connected, the further the periphery is pushed, increasing potential entry points there are into a network.

An intelligent service desk will enable whitelisting to be integrated into communication protocols. This is a process which gathers and groups trusted individuals and their devices into a known category. This will enable any unusual requests from either IoT enabled devices or employee requests to be automatically flagged and questioned before action or access is given.

It is in this scenario that IT managers can reap the benefits of IoT, service desk and employee synchronisation. Through the IoT device communicating with the service desk, the service desk effectively managing all end points and the employee working in tandem with the service desk software, the minimisation of internal security risks can be achieved.

While much of this sounds quite out of reach, the benefits of IoT and service desk communication are already evident today, through use cases that are currently very fluid, personalised and often driven by an imaginative use of existing and sometimes emerging technology. Peripheral IT product vending machines holding keyboards and mice, for example, allow the realisation of this relationship to be seen.

However, with so much data being transferred and the IoT still very ‘new’, there are a number of challenges, the most critical being visibility of assets connected and operating under the network.

Communication between all end points and visibility should be fundamental considerations when planning for an IoT based implementation. Intelligent service desks, that can enrich the IT support experience as well as integrate and communicate with the business ecosystem, can host the technology capability to have oversight, communication and visibility of device end points communicating with a network.

While this may appear to be a straightforward concept, often enthusiasm to implement and complexity of service desk and technology transformation has a tendency to drown out and bypass the fundamentals – leaving potential backdoors open.

To ensure that there is a holistic approach toward securing connections with the IoT, organisations must challenge all stakeholders (vendors, integrators and consultants) to apply secure IoT principles to the service desk solution and IT operational unit, right from the “drawing board” phase.

2017 “Don’t let mediocre become your GOOD”.

Straight talking time (again), “Don’t let mediocre become your GOOD”. I have realized, in fact I have always known, that I have a problem with “mediocrity”, I really do. We live in potentially the best version of society to date for self or group learning to allow us to make our bad better and our good better than good (just have a look at how much life help exists on YouTube).

So why are so many people settling for, “OK” or “alright”, that’s not what this version of life should be about. Now I’m not talking about Olympian grade investment in skills or sacrifice, far from it. I’m just talking about wanting a little more, investing in knowledge (and self) to improve or gain more skill, to feel better / do better and through it refusing to settle for “OK” or “mediocre“.

If living for all of the amazing joy it delivers is hard, and it is, surely one rung higher than now is a better life than one rung lower or the same. Whether self-taught, peer taught or life taught, today is the day to decide you want a life better than this (even slightly) and that’s the life you are going to “invest in” to realize everything you seek with intent.

And don’t instantly think I’m talking about monetary gain, acting “better” as a person is as valuable as “earning” better. Sorry about the rant but its January and I see so many people already tolerant or at times happy with “mediocre”.

No not this time, not this year, not this life. Aim just a little higher as you surely deserve better. When 2017 ends I care not if I’m 1%, 5% or 100% better than the person I was in 2016, I know I will just be better as I will not tolerate staying the same – that’s not what I deserve or am here for.

Until next time

Colin W

Twitter: @colinwccuk

Chief Technologist Computacenter UK – Networking, Security and Collaboration

 

Note: All views articulated are my own and do not constitute an opinion or recommendation from Computacenter.

Digital Workspace Innovations with Citrix IOT

A lot of the focus of previous blogs has been on the creation of an effective Digital Workplace for the individual.  Invariably this has focused on the accepted outcomes of a Digital Workplace strategy such as mobility and collaboration.  Yet whilst sat here in our newly refurbished London office, it is evident that a true Digital Workplace experience must transcend the virtual and the physical world.  One example of this is where the user meets the office and meeting room scenario.

Picture the scene. I’m sure like me, many of you have been here before.  The experience of finding a desk when you visit the office, followed by  the ‘complications’ of hosting and attending effective meetings with all of the challenges of work space IT and remote collaboration.  For many of us this leads to lost productivity, increased travel costs and general day to day frustration caused by a lack of “fluidity” in our physical workplace environment.  An environment that doesn’t reflect and can’t adapt to our needs.

Many meeting space solutions exist to address points within this scenario, whether meeting room booking, or collaboration tools.  Yet the piece that seems to be missing is the end to end integration that creates an effective experience.

Recently, whilst attending Citrix Summit I was introduced to a solution called Citrix Smart Spaces for Collaboration.  This solution addresses many of the common challenges and frustrations by integrating a number of different technologies, using Citrix’ Octoblu platform, which sits at the heart of Citrix’ Workplace IOT strategy.

Rather than explain the solution in words, we took the opportunity whilst attending the event to record a short video.  In the video, Darron Knibbs (Infrastructure Architect for Computacenter) and John Moody (Citrix Systems Engineer) talk through the solution and some of the key scenarios and use cases that the solution addresses.

For me, there are two key takeaways having watched this short overview.  The first is clearly the wider opportunity presented by IOT and the Octoblu platform to optimise the work environment and accelerate the digitisation of mundane, but critical processes.  The second is of the significant benefits that exist by removing these basic points of friction that exist across the tools that form the Digital Workplace.  This is just one example… there are many others!

Hope you enjoy the video!

My hiring story – Dennis Hamaker

I started to work here on 8 November, 2016.

My interview was pretty thorough. It became clear that (as with every changing environment) there were pros and cons to consider before stepping in.

The individual teams had gone through the setup and (partly) stabilisation phases, and now headed for the next phase which was increasing quality and pro-active services.

That’s exactly where I see the challenge now, empowering our team members, extending quality, growing the centre and as such the possibilities for all our valued team members.

My first days at Computacenter confirmed already that we have great people on board. Any job in a helpdesk environment is a challenge, as it is all about providing the right help to another person in need of that help at the right time. How to do that the best is the game we are in, reminding ourselves that we are customers too, and how we expect to be treated has a lot of influence on how we fulfil this role to others.  Why I mention this is because I believe top down and back the agents are the real backbone of our service, and we should take care of a good positive environment, good training to increase the skills, and provide the right setup for them to be able to do their job right.  For example some of our agents are freshly graduated, so it is our responsible is to make them feel comfortable in the new environment, but also into a working environment and industry in general (as this is their first chance to experience this).

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I believe that one of the best vibes within a centre you can have if everyone feels they are part of it, not only within the specific account, or Budapest, but globally. I see people are most of time locked to their account, but in 2017 we should really start to feel as one. This requires bringing people together and make them understand what everyone is doing to add to the total picture. Help us to help you and you to help us is what we call winning together, and alongside our recent comprehensive development program (called ascension) I’ve already seen examples where our team members are moving forward into 2017 into different roles and adventures providing their next steps in career.

My work  will be (and is) much more diverse then expected, which is good. I see a lot of things have stabilised, but there are still a lot of areas where we have to manage and develop, not mentioning the incoming new projects that need to boarded.

We have to create the culture of growth, development, and making this place not just a workplace but a home for people. Computacenter is not as well-known  (or established) as others centres in Budapest yet. That is actually one of our targets, to get into the top three of the best centres to work for.

After the first two months, I’ve not change my mind or perception. We are re-structuring some of the operational management layer, we are looking at how we can provide more tools and information to our agents to be more agile, and I can see in general plenty of examples of small steps being taken throughout the centre which will define the base for leaps taking us forward.  If this does not sound like we are moving forward, then join us, and see for yourself.

Dennis Hamaker, Head of Operations – Group Service Desk, Hungary

Empower your Users, Empower your Organisation

In the quest for digital transformation and its numerous benefits, user adoption and behaviour is often overlooked as part of the transformation process. A clear understanding between organisational culture and technology is essential to ensure that tools, processes and systems realise their full potential and are not left by the way side as “another” failed initiative.

The Tech-Savvy Employee

As a plethora of devices and applications continue to find their way into working lives, organisations need to create a dynamic workplace environment which fosters a self-service culture among employees in relation to technology. The more compatibility  that enters an organisation, the more potential issues that may arise when using these on a daily basis, which all have to be managed and responded to accordingly. Organisational culture should be focused around making the employees feel supported and empowered enough to manage and resolve any issue themselves, especially when related to technology. Issues should be prevented in the first place, however when issues due occur, encouraging users to solve their own issues, results in a workforce that is agile and able to act faster and more effectively; to seize opportunities, resolve issues, improve quality, and ultimately exceed customer expectations.

Visibility of available supportive resources is important, and digital tools, such as mobile apps and intuitive web portals, ensure that employees are able to access the information they need, from a wide range of locations, at any time. This serves to drive overall operational efficiency, as employees can self-serve their own IT issues and gain knowledge articles or support, to future proof their device issues in relation to general issues, e.g. password resets or software upgrades. Over time this will deliver positive outcomes that will result in behavioural change, as employees will not be dependent on IT or technical teams to resolve the majority of issues that arise, minimising employee and system downtime. It also enables employees to collaborate across departments and locations, improve decision-making and critically reduce time-to-market.

The key thing to remember here is that successful digital transformation should enrich working lives, promote improved work/life balance and improve productivity and therefore results – a win-win for employer and employee.

Business Champions – Digital Transformation Leaders

As the IT service desk evolves, its role as the central hub for technological innovation within the workplace remains. However, the first step in a transformation strategy, is culture. Culture incentivises behaviour, and companies must begin by ensuring workforce behaviour is well-suited to the technology solution at hand, to truly maximise its adoption and use throughout the workforce.

One approach to ensuring desirable behaviour is instilled amongst the workforce is through the deployment of “business champions” when adopting new solutions or technologies. These are appointed members of the workforce who help foster change and act as a conduit for feedback from the wider workforce, ensuring behavioural change matches working needs.

A recent example of where this has worked is with Hays Recruitment who wanted to provide employees with a broader choice of engagement channels to interact with IT service teams. This was in a drive for increased productivity enabled through the minimisation of system downtime. Hays have historically been positioned as the leading digital recruitment agency, being the first in the industry to adopt truly digital recruitment selection and placement. Revenue generation at Hays is dependent on the productivity of its 2,200-plus UK sales consultants, and with technology playing an ever-increasing role in the selection and placement of client’s, employees’ IT queries and issues need to be dealt with quickly. If using webchat they can continue to work whilst getting help.

At the end of 2015, Hays became an early adopter of Computacenter’s Next Generation Service Desk (NGSD) solution. The NGSD offering was well positioned to manage the business needs of Hays, providing a consumer-like, user-centric experience with anytime, anywhere IT support and knowledge delivered via an intuitive online portal and mobile app.

Although the NGSD solution can be integrated to existing infrastructure, the success of the solution was not simply a silver bullet. Instead, Computacenter and the team at Hays needed to create a desirable business environment that would encourage the whole workforce to truly understand the capabilities of the technology, adopting the behaviour into their working norms. In order for this to take place, Computacenter offered a new approach to service desk deployment asking internal employees to agree, nominate or suggest business champions for each team, division or office.

Proof is in the Productivity

In the case of Hays, NGSD helped to transform the employer – through service desk interaction – and the proof is in the productivity. Hays reported over 60 per cent of transactions take place directly through the portal – well above the original target of 50 per cent.

What’s more, in an age of messaging apps, online chat capability remains imperative. Hays registered approximately 1,180 chats per month since the adoption of NGSD and over 370 self-logged incidents per month compared with 40 previously.

Importantly, self-service portals such as NGSD are 24/7, so employees in any location, working any particular hours can log incidents at all times instead of having to wait for the service desk to open.

The bottom line is simple – by taking a user-centric, digitised approach to IT support, organisations can maximise staff productivity, drive profitable growth, and both attract and retain the very best talent inside a cutting edge digital workplace.