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World Youth Skills Day: The Importance of Apprentices

Every year, WorldSkills International and The United Nations recognise the 15th of July as World Youth Skills Day (WYSD). Designed to raise awareness on the importance of technical, vocational education, and training, WYSD works towards reducing unemployment and underemployment among youths across the globe.

Ahead of WYSD 2017, we spoke to Martin Pickering, Apprentice Program Manager at Computacenter, and current apprentice Zach Kirk-Gray, 1st Line Support Analyst, about the importance of promoting vocational training, and the benefits to businesses and apprentices alike.

Why should companies invest in technical and vocational education?

For businesses, vocational education is a way to invest in the company culture from the offset. “With apprentices, it really gives us the opportunity to grow grass-roots, technical staff, using the Computacenter brand. This not only gives young people a foot in the door, but at the same time allows companies to fill the gaps that they are finding in their operations” says Martin.

“Some legacy technologies are slowly becoming difficult to employ against, such as mainframes launched in the 70’s and 80’s. The 40 years of service that these technologies have are now bringing the initial starters of that generation towards the end of their careers, and businesses need to realise the value of bringing young blood back into their organisation.

“Not only this, but the youth of today are digital natives, and are also at a stage in their lives when they are really tuned into learning and are extremely flexible with their talents. It’s here that we can start to use the younger generation to really get stuck in and learn about new technologies, such as cloud adoption, and use them as the next generation in an area that can often be very expensive to train staff in, and difficult for older members of staff to be trained on.”

Zach agrees that learning on the job is one of the best things about his apprenticeship: “It’s great to learn with the technologies. Vocational training is important to me because you really have a hands-on experience all the time, and get a lot of face-time with experts in those fields.

“At college, I was only really studying theory, which I felt wasn’t going to help me later in my life, and I found it difficult to learn just looking at books. Going for a practical apprenticeship has been absolutely brilliant.”

Why is it important to offer this type of training to today’s youth?

“Apprenticeship programs are not just about delivering a group of young adults to a team and getting them to do low skilled work,” continues Martin. “This for me is about creating opportunity.”

“I class the apprenticeship as a golden ticket. At Computacenter, we heavily invest the time of our technology experts into developing our analyst apprentices technically, but we also look at soft skills to develop them in the business world. This is an extremely important part of offering training to today’s youth, as many come straight out of college or school without any experience of working in a formal business environment. Even those who leave university with a degree are still under-experienced in the real-world applications of their skills.

“So, not only is vocational training important for their area of expertise, but also to develop their skills outside of technical delivery so that they are transferrable to any role they might hold in the future.

“My hope is that we create the opportunity for them to look back in years to come and see that Computacenter helped them achieve their goals.

How are apprentices valuable to Computacenter?

Martin can’t help but sing their praises: “Apprentices are fantastic and come with a great attitude towards learning. We spend the first three months of the program training them, and they are able to take in all the information like sponges and can retain more than mature analysts that have been in the business world for years – it’s really amazing. Following this, they can then deliver and fill any gaps in the business with attrition at a lower cost.

“When speaking to customers, talking about investing in apprentices is always good news. My hopes are that more businesses realise the value of apprentices, and that more young people become aware of the benefits of vocational education themselves. Perhaps one day one of our apprentices will become the mentors of new programs to come.”

Finally, Zach agrees with promoting apprenticeships to young people, and why they should start considering this educational path: “Being an apprentice gives you the opportunities in life and trains you up to progress through the company, with hands-on training and mentorship. If I was to give any advice to young people deciding which path to take, I’d tell them to definitely go for an apprenticeship.

“I know people that have gone to university, but when they come out the other side they feel like they don’t have the practical knowledge or business acumen to really go out and get that foot in the door. With an apprenticeship, you’re already on your way.”

TECHUK Annual Dinner Competition 2017

Are you a UK tech start-up? Win a place at TechUK’s Annual Dinner & connect with tech industry movers & shakers!

Computacenter and Dell-EMC are sponsoring this year’s TechUK’s Annual Dinner, which will take place on the evening of Wednesday 19th July 2017.

Senior figures from across the UK tech industry, including government and civil services, will gather to network and celebrate the achievements of our industry. Attendees will hear thought-provoking speeches from the likes of Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and Laura Kuenssberg, Political Editor, BBC, before enjoying an open discussion over a three-course meal.

Leading tech executives across the industry were in attendance last year, with three quarters of attendees at either Managing Director level, or above. Media attendees from the Daily Telegraph, Bloomberg and Computer Weekly were also out in full force.

Computacenter is offering one lucky UK tech start-up the opportunity to attend this prestigious event, and get in front of some of the UK’s most senior tech leaders.

To win your place at the event, all you have to do is tweet @Computacenter, using the hashtag #techUKAD17 describing your UK tech start-up in four words, beginning with T, E, C and H.

The winner will be chosen at random.

The competition is open from Monday 26th June 2017 – Friday 7th July 2017, so get your thinking caps on before it’s too late.

Please see below for the full Terms & Conditions.

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Terms and conditions

  1. The promoter is: Computacenter plc whose registered office is at Computacenter House, Blackfriars Rd, London SE1 8HL.
  2. The competition is open to residents of the United Kingdom that are employed by a UK based technology start-up company, except employees of Computacenter plc and their close relatives, and anyone otherwise connected with the organisation or judging of the competition.
  3. There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this competition.
  4. By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.
  5. Only one entry will be accepted per person. Multiple entries from the same person will be disqualified.
  6. Closing date for entry will be 7th July 2017. After this date no further entries to the competition will be permitted or accepted.
  7. No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received for whatever reason.
  8. The rules of the competition and how to enter are as follows:

Tweet @Computacenter, using the hashtag #techUKAD17, describing your UK tech start-up in four words, beginning with T, E, C and H

  1. The promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice in the event of a catastrophe outside of its control, or any actual or anticipated breach of any applicable law or regulation or any other event outside of the promoter’s control. Any changes to the competition will be notified to entrants as soon as possible by the promoter.
  2. The promoter is not responsible for inaccurate prize details supplied to any entrant by any third party connected with this competition.
  3. The prize is as follows: One ticket for the techUK 2017 annual dinner
  4. The prize is as stated and no cash or other alternatives will be offered. The prizes are not transferable.
  5. Winners will be chosen by random.
  6. The winner will be notified by DM on Twitter within 7 days of the closing date. If the winner cannot be contacted or does not claim the prize within 7 days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner.
  7. The promoter will notify the winner when and where the prize can be collected/is delivered.
  8. The promoter’s decision in respect of all matters to do with the competition will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  9. By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.
  10. The competition and these terms and conditions will be governed by English law and any disputes will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England.
  11. The winner agrees to the use of his/her name and image in any publicity material, as well as their entry. Any personal data relating to the winner or any other entrants will be used solely in accordance with current UK data protection legislation and will not be disclosed to a third party without the entrant’s prior consent.
  12. Entry into the competition will be deemed as acceptance of these terms and conditions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

James Nelson – My hiring story

How did you find Computacenter Hungary?

I found Computacenter Hungary from social media advertising and also at the same time via a recruitment agency. I started work here in January this year.

When was your interview, and how did it go?

I had two rounds of interview, and the first one was  a Telepresence inteview with my line manager, who is in the United Kingdome. The interview was thorough and I gained a good impression about the company, and the department. My second round interview was with the group Finance Director, who came here to conduct personal interviews and I seem to remember the interview was long and in some depth, but a great conversation and helped me develop a more complete picture of the company and the role. I think the job offer then come quite soon after – in fact it was just before Christmas, so great timing in fact!

What is your opininon about the recruitment process? Would you recommend anything to improve?

Thinking about the first round, I was rejected first for the first role I have applied for, the Head of GSD, and the second one was the Head of Shared Services. I gained a positive insight to Computacenter from the first interview that prompted me to persist when the second role came along. I was happy with the recruitment process and I was introduced to the Recruitment Manager at a pre-Christmas event to talk briefly about the roles on offer. As a candidate, I felt the feedback was good and its always helpful to hear feedback whether the application is successful or not which the company did well.

How did you manage to fit in? And how do you feel yourself at Computacenter now?

I think the culture of the company is a empowering and delegating culture, and this is an environment where I work well. I think the people are very friendly, which is helped me to get estabilished.  And that helps a lot.

What do you like in your current position? What are your challanges?

I think there are many opportunities for the function to develop and improve, and I think I can help to achieve that. There is a very capable and enthusiastic team, who are great to work with and an inspiration. I think the challange  of developing this SSC is very interesting to work with.

What are the differences between your previous and current workplace?

I was leading an SSC before as well in Hungary. Computacenter Hungary is more recently estabilished, which gives a lot of opportunity to shape it and to make the organisation meet stakeholder expectations and grow and develop as we deliver operational results and drive business enablement. It is a fast growing company with many career opportunities, meaning there is no better time like the present to join the team at Computacenter!

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

‘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.