Archive by Author | Computacenter

3 Generations of Women In IT – Volume 2

Continuing on from Part 1 of our blog following Annette, Bharti and Sukh through their respective IT careers, this second part focusses on the career progression of each of these talented women.

We discover how their experiences influenced the choices that were made, and how they dealt with the more challenging aspects of both their roles and a career in IT. Has the industry changed in its attitude to women over the years?

These 3 very different experiences from such extraordinary women will challenge you to decide.


Q1: How has your career progressed from its initial start?

Annette

“I had completed my first and, thankfully, last programming assignment as an Andersen Consultant. Although, with the benefit of hindsight, I say “thankfully” with some reservations.

“That’s because I now recognise the satisfaction that male contemporaries of mine still get from solving technical problems in ServiceNow, the platform that we all work with. The technology has changed dramatically from clunky old IMS DB/DC and COBOL to the elegance that is ServiceNow.

“But there still remains the challenges of knowing how best to use the technology to meet the customer’s requirements. And this is clearly an enjoyable challenge for my contemporaries, as well as for my younger colleagues such as Bharti and Sukh.

“After finishing the assignment on the Slough Trading Estate – where, incidentally, the Mars factory recently celebrated its 100th anniversary – I did a series of small assignments, working for American oil companies who were just beginning to arrive in Europe on the back of the oil (and later gas) boom in the North Sea.

“I was subsequently assigned to a big systems delivery project for Wates, a construction company. I remember we replaced their existing back office systems, some of which were probably paper based, with a set of applications running on an ICL ME29. The ME29 was put into its own air-conditioned room, to which the whole team had access.

“I still recall the Andersen Consulting manager on the project announcing one day that he’d skin alive the next person who accidentally unplugged the computer, by tripping over the cable at the back of the machine.

“These were the days when the lifeblood of a company could be unplugged by the cleaner wanting to use the socket to plug in a vacuum cleaner!  Thankfully a scene that would be unimaginable to IT professionals today, all of whom are used to seeing their hardware tightly guarded in secure data centres.

“I became responsible for understanding the requirements for the Wates payroll systems. Amongst other challenges, I had to get my head around the processing of all the construction work related payments, such as inclement weather payments and protective clothing allowances.

“I quickly learned about managing difficult customers as the weekly payroll manager had direct access to the Managing Director’s office.  The weekly payroll process was business critical to Wates because if it didn’t run on time workers wouldn’t turn up on site and construction would stop.

“On reflection it is clear that some of this stress was self-inflicted as I would argue with the partner on the project, particularly about issues affecting women in the workplace. These were the days of the Guardian’s women’s page and I can remember regularly telling him to read the page to better inform himself about the challenges I was describing.

“Interestingly, many years later, when I was living with my family in Palo Alto (Silicon Valley), I bumped into the same partner in the queue to eat at Il Fornaio. In the late 90s, Il Fornaio was where the VCs and other Silicon Valley hotshots all hung out, so I’m not quite sure why I was even there. I went over to speak to him despite him being the number 3 worldwide in the Andersen Consulting hierarchy.

“Much to my surprise he was not only pleased to see his old sparring partner but he introduced me to his two colleagues with great positivity. He proceeded to bring me up to date with all the changes The Firm had introduced to make careers in the company better for women.

“Who knows, perhaps some of what I told him had penetrated after all?

“After the Wates ordeal, I realised that a career with Andersen Consulting, where such work-related stress was not uncommon, was probably not in my long-term interests. I started looking around for my next career move.

“I eventually found a position as a pre-sales consultant for a US software company whose European base was in Maidenhead in Berkshire.

“When I resigned from Andersen Consulting, the same Head of Recruitment that I encountered on my first day with The Firm informed me that I ‘had only one chance to leave Andersen Consulting.’

“The clear implication was that I was wasting this opportunity. I’m pleased to say I proved him completely wrong – but that’s for another blog.”

Bharti

“Once I had stumbled into the area I so badly wanted to work in – cyber security – it was time to start figuring out what happens next.  On the one hand, I had my foot in the cyber security door where I had always wanted to pursue a career, but on the other hand, it wasn’t the job I wanted to do. 

“In cyber security I discovered what it was like to be a woman in an almost totally male dominated sector. Male colleagues were selected over me for work, even if I had the ability and the interest to learn.

“My male counterparts made inappropriate comments and there was some hostility because I was younger and female. When your male colleagues point out to you how you’re different, you start to realise that something isn’t right.

“As the reality of my situation dawned, I had to choose whether to carry on in this unfavourable environment, or quit.  I knew this was not a place where I could grow, so I made the decision to leave and to pursue the career that I wanted, but in a company that would support me. 

“I now believe that the company has since made efforts to change this hostile culture, and to support women in IT careers in a way they clearly didn’t support me. I don’t know how exactly, but I hope that these steps help them to retain their female talent in the future.

“In order to progress, I felt that I needed to upskill myself if I were to be taken seriously in an interview, knowing that I would be asked lots of technical questions.  My previous interview experience had only led me to conclude that negative assumptions would be made the minute I walked in the door.  I had to prove I was just as technical, if not more so, than my male counterparts on the subject of networks and security.

“To prepare for the interview, I spent a week reading the Checkpoint firewalls book. I knew I was pretty good at networks, as it was my degree subject. I think it did the trick as the look of shock on the manager’s face during the interview process still makes me smile today.

“But in hindsight, it makes me sad. Sad that his initial look conveyed his low expectations of me and sad for the shock I saw, when he realised that I knew my stuff.  This was also the first interview where I had decided to wear a skirt suit rather than trousers. This may not sound like much, but for me this was a big statement.

“Consciously or subconsciously I was separating myself from the men they were interviewing.

“I was offered the job. I didn’t negotiate the salary, as I was just grateful they wanted to hire me. I took hold of the opportunity I was given with both hands and gave my all to the job. I had proven myself in the interview and knew I had set the bar high, which meant I finally had the chance to grow.  I was, of course, the only female in the support team, something that I was now getting used to.

“I picked things up very quickly and, although the role covered both networks and security, I found myself wanting to focus on security.  I had always known this at the back of my mind, but never thought I would be good at it. Turns out I was pretty good at understanding what was needed and how to use that information.

“My aim was to be a well-rounded security person, not just a specialist in one area but one who saw the bigger picture.  I enjoyed several roles over the years that gave me different experiences within cyber security.

“Eventually I progressed into the role of technical support engineer.  As I mentioned in the previous blog, I do love a good puzzle, and this is how I see cyber security and IT.

“Throughout my career, the support I received from my male colleagues has steadily improved.  I am not sure whether this is due to a mind shift about women in Security/IT, or because I have become much better at identifying a good manager, and being more confident in myself.

“Now when I go to an interview, I interview them. Will they be the right fit for me? Do I want to work for them? Will they help my career? I know how important it is to have the right manager more than ever, especially now that I am a mum and my life has very different priorities. 

“I have also been incredibly lucky to have some great supporters amongst the male managers that have hired me, worked alongside me, opened career doors and the colleagues who provided full backing. 

It did not go unnoticed and I will never forget.”

Sukh

“My IT career started about 4 and a half years ago at TeamUltra (now the ServiceNow Centre of Excellence at Computacenter), when I joined their Graduate scheme. At the beginning everything was new, the first few weeks were a whirlwind of crash courses in ITIL and ServiceNow.

“I was assigned to the Service Desk, providing support whilst managing day to day tasks with the rest of the Graduates. This was probably the most daunting part of my career; I was not only new to ITSM and ServiceNow, but new to customer management, another set of skills that I had to acquire quickly.

“I didn’t quite know what to expect working in IT and at the time I was hearing all sorts of chatter from my old classmates which wasn’t filling me with much confidence. I began to wonder if I was out of my depth.

“It was around this time that I began to notice and appreciate the company culture. Everyone was, and still is, so welcoming and supportive. I benefited greatly from an inspiring team spirit that was nurtured from the top, coupled with a community of ServiceNow experts.

“I was soon promoted to an implementation consultant. This was quite a jump and I’m thankful for colleagues that patiently supported me through the transition from the support desk to a whole new way of working on projects.

“Before I knew it, I was gaining experience, learning how to work alongside different colleagues and creating bespoke solutions for customers.

“I have progressed in my career and now proudly occupy the role of a Senior Consultant.  From working on a wide variety of engagements and interacting with a diverse number of people there have been many challenging moments for me.

“Reading both Annette’s and Bharti’s stories, I am grateful that I haven’t experienced anything like the obstacles they faced. A part of me feels very fortunate to have received great support from all of my colleagues, regardless of gender.

“Or perhaps I’m not lucky at all and this is the way it should be in all companies?  Nonetheless, I will take this moment to thank everyone that has helped and supported me throughout my career so far. I’m sure I’ll be relying on them in the future as I continue to grow. I only hope that, in return, I can be someone they can rely on too.”

3 Generations of Women In IT – Volume 1

Reflecting back on your career can elicit a mixture of emotions. For many, our interactions with colleagues evoke the strongest emotions. Because of this, many of our memories stem from events that revolve around people; whether this is our clients, peers or managers.

In this two part blog, Annette, Bharti and Sukh – 3 generations of highly successful women – to talk candidly about their experience of working within the IT sector.  We ask them to share how they first entered the industry, memories of their early experiences and how these influenced decisions on three very different pathways on the career ladder.  

Q1: What was your first exposure to computers?

Annette

“My earliest exposure to the world of computers came from my father who was a Patent Office Examiner. In the early 1960s, when many patent applications were being made for inventions related to computers, he was assigned to the team reviewing them.

“Sadly, much as the technology fascinated him as an electrical engineer, it also overwhelmed him as he wanted to understand it all. Even in the early 60s, this was too much for one person and so he transferred to electronic switchgear.

“But I think he always regretted giving up on computers and remained fascinated by them. He did pass his enthusiasm for them to my brother Neil though, who’s been a software engineer for most of his career.”

Bharti

“My first exposure to the world of computers was when I was quite young and had a Sinclair ZX spectrum to play games on. 

“Later on, when my Dad started his own business, I had access to a desktop PC that ran DOS. We had a few games on there so I would play them when the computer wasn’t being used by my dad.

I had my first experience of the Windows operating system back in the early 90s when I was still in primary school. I didn’t realise at the time that not many people had desktop computers at home.”

Sukh

“My exposure to computers started out in school during the late 90’s. It was mainly using them for basic Microsoft applications.

Over the next few years, I had a desktop computer at home and I started using it for learning, research, gaming and social media, like MSN and Myspace.”

Q2: When did you decide to work in IT?

Annette

“I’m not sure it was a conscious decision. I just found myself accepting a position in my mid-20s with Andersen Consulting – the forerunner to Accenture.

When I left school in the early 70s, and was undecided about what to do, I did a “computer aptitude test” for the engineering consultancy WS Atkins. I failed their test and was dogged for some time by the belief that the world of computing was not for me.

But I was an ambitious young woman. Indeed, for my 18th birthday, a supposedly good friend gave me Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch and inscribed it with the dedication: “To Annette – on the start of her career as one!”  I was also determined to show my doubting mother that I could be more than a housewife and mother.

Working in the computer industry – the term IT industry came later – seemed an attractive option for women like me in the 1970s, especially as it was not seen then as a particularly male dominated industry. But dogged by my perceived lack of “aptitude” I pursued my ambitions elsewhere.

Many years after leaving school, and after a year at Warwick Business School studying for an MSc in Management Science and Operational Research, I accepted an offer from Andersen Consulting. 

Consequently, I found myself on 2nd October 1979, in a room in 1 Surrey Street, WC1 with 10 men and 1 other woman, with no clue what lay ahead!”

Bharti

“Because I was exposed to a PC from quite a young age, when the A-level option to do Computing came up at school, I decided it would be something I would be good at. We were one of the 1st schools to have the Computing A-Level being taught as a subject, as part of a pilot scheme.

“Ironically, I didn’t think I was particularly good at computing and had decided not to pursue it after A-levels, but as I worked though my coursework every evening I realised I really enjoyed investigating the possibilities that computing offered. 

“I did much better in my A-level Computing exam than expected, and my teachers told me that I should have more belief in my abilities.

“Following this, I decided to do a U-turn on my chosen degree and to apply for a Computing degree course instead. I wasn’t great at programming, nor did I enjoy it, so I decided to do a degree that focused on networks and communication.

“During my degree I had the option to select certain modules and I chose security.  Choosing that module determined the route my career would take, as I was fascinated by security. In particular, the rapid changes needed, how clever the hackers were and how important it was to stay ahead of them. I always did love a good challenge!”

Sukh

“Working in IT wasn’t a career I had considered initially. In my senior school there was a compulsory course on IT. This focussed mainly on Microsoft Excel and there was little or nothing taught about IT or Computing. After completing my A-levels, I started training to be a dental nurse.

As I had some free time (my working hours were 09:00 – 15:00), I decided to find a course to fill in the free hours and attended an open evening looking for a suitable course.

I remember walking past the computing stand and thinking it looked new and interesting. After a chat with a few of the people on the stand, I abandoned the idea of becoming a dental nurse and enrolled in a BSc in Computing.

Q3: What was your early experience of working in IT?

Annette

“During my early years I acquired a set of analytical/IT skills and work habits that have stood me in good stead throughout my career.

“Our first few weeks were spent learning to program in Assembler. Back in the 70s this low, almost machine level, language was considered the only one that would give us a sufficiently good grounding in programming to enable us to be thrown into any client situation.

“As part of our training, we were sent for 3 weeks to either their main training headquarters near Chicago, or to the newly established World headquarters in Geneva.

“The Firm had the concept of a worldwide workforce all trained, developed and managed according to a consistent set of standards. This meant that, as project sizes grew, the project teams could be staffed from anywhere in the world The Firm had an office. Imagine my disappointment to discover that my first project was for a company on the Slough Trading Estate. There, after very little exposure to COBOL, I was given an assignment to build a stock control program in IMS DB/DC, a database and an online system I’d had prior exposure to.

“I was given 5 days to complete task, 3 days to code and 2 to test. I did deliver the program but, unsurprisingly, it took me rather longer than 5 days to complete it. Hardly a surprise as, in those days, we were allowed just one compile a day.

Bharti

“The experience from my first couple of jobs was not great, to put it mildly.  I had to deal with sexist comments, with my peers thinking it was not my place to do such technical work.  One male colleague decided I was ‘one of the boys’, and therefore much more acceptable than a female.  

“But I also had men who were fighting my corner.  Their support included helping me to progress my career, providing me with new opportunities to learn and giving me advice.

“I started in IT in a support role and was told by the owner of the small business I worked for that I would never have any issues progressing my career in IT if I could do the basics. Fix a computer, fix software issues, know Exchange and Active Directory, etc.

“He was right, and I took that advice with me to my next job where I learnt more about networks. I became a network support engineer, I did my server exams, my CCNA, and learnt how servers work and are managed. I then moved into security and for some time did both a network and security role in support.

“During the first few years of my career I did consider quitting IT because I realised it was going to be a battle to reach my full potential. I wasn’t sure it was one I would ever succeed in winning. I am glad I never gave up and luckily for me, I always had great supporters which helped to balance out those people that just wanted to hold me back.”

Sukh

“My experience in IT really began in college where I was one of only two girls in my class. It was definitely an odd experience but, as the rest of my (male) peers were welcoming, I didn’t feel out of place. During my studies I was often called ‘one of the lads.’ I also overheard someone shouting from the class next door ‘they have girls in their class’, as if this was something worth noting!

“My first experience of the extent of male dominance in the IT sector happened about 3 months into my first year when I was offered an opportunity to work for an IT support centre. I politely declined, as I already had a part-time job, but was then informed that the employer was looking for women for this role. 

“I asked why this was and the response was that ‘hearing a woman’s voice on the phone, especially when someone is angry, is believed to help defuse a situation’. I laughed it off but was left disappointed that my gender was the main focus, rather than the hard work and effort I had dedicated to gain my IT skills.

“This experience had a huge impact and made me realise there will always be stereotypes in this industry and occasions where I would have to prove myself in a way my male counterparts would not have to. But the experience just made me more determined to succeed.

“I have been lucky to have peers, teachers and friends who have supported my journey and made the overall experience positive.

“I’m still fairly new in my IT career and, reading Annette’s and Bharti’s stories, I’d say I’ve been pretty fortunate to enjoy a positive experience of working in the IT industry.”

Come back soon for part two of this blog, which will continue the story of 3 Generations of Women in IT and bring you up to date with where they currently are in their careers.

Black Is Good: A Celebration of Black History Month

This blog is written by Project Manager Hermine Kudia, as part of our recognition and celebration of this year’s Black History Month. In this blog, she touches on the relevance of black history in 2020, ensuring you use the right terminology, and how to encourage diversity in the workplace.


What is Black History Month? 

Black History Month, marked in the UK in October since 1987, celebrates the culture, contribution and history of those with African or Caribbean heritage.

It’s also an opportunity to learn more about the effects of racism and challenge stereotypes.  

Black History Month was created as a way of remembering the history and achievements of the African diaspora; and through educating and informing society about black heritage and culture in Britain. It is still relevant today, 33 years on. 

2020 has held a mirror up to the world and forced many to see the reality of racism in all its guises. From Black people dying disproportionately in the pandemic and institutionalised racism, to the Black Lives Matter movement, Black History Month is a commitment for real change. It is a time for people to come together and learn lessons from the past, for the present, to reclaim the narrative on how our shared history will be told in the future.

Getting your terminology right

We were in the office and I was sitting next to my colleague. I had to deliver a message to someone who was sitting at the opposite end of the open plan office. My colleague knew the other guy and so was trying to describe his location to me, after squinting, looking, trying to figure out who he meant, I finally said ‘Oh, the one sat next to the black man?’, my statement seemed to have surprised my white colleague, but he responded ‘Yes, that one’. 

You can say Black. Hesitation or discomfort is not necessary. The reluctance to acknowledge race, privilege and oppression in fact does more harm than good. Black is a part of my identity, not my entire identity; if ever in hesitation, it is okay to ask what the appropriate word is to describe someone. 

The term BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) has often been used when talking about diversity. In the 60s and 70s the term BAME came about when people referred to the Black community but when they noticed the Asian community was not represented it became ‘Black and Asian’. It is a term I refute because it is frequently unhelpful and perpetuates erasure and lack of accountability. 

Being specific is important. For example, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, showed that of 268,000 IT specialists in the UK,18% were from BAME backgrounds, but when we drill down into the numbers, we see that only 2% are of Black / African / Caribbean / Black British people, and numbers don’t lie. 

With increased representation we are all winners, increased diversity would mean development in innovation and better outcomes in the tech world.

McKinsey’s* reports, Why diversity matters (2015) and Delivering through diversity (2018) conclude that the relationship between diversity on executive teams and the likelihood of financial outperformance has strengthened over time, thus there is a strong business case to push for diversity.

How to actively encourage a diverse workforce

Diversity asks,  ‘How many more of [pick any minority identity] group do we have this year than last?’

Equality responds, ‘What conditions have we created that maintain certain groups as the perpetual majority here?’

Inclusions asks, ‘Is this environment safe for everyone to feel like they belong?’

Dr D-L Stewart

With diversity comes the responsibility to foster healthy environments that lack microaggressions for Black people in the workplace. Below is a list of ways you can positively impact and encourage a diverse workforce.

Things not say to your Black colleagues:

  • ‘You don’t talk like you’re Black’
  • ‘I don’t see colour’
  • ‘That was aggressive’ (Did you mean I spoke with assertiveness?)
  • ‘You’ve changed your hair…again’ (The policing of Black hairstyles at schools and in the workplace needs to stop, of course you can comment on my hair but something like ‘I like your new hairstyle’, would be more appropriate)
  • ‘Your name is so hard to pronounce’  

Tips for engaging Black people in conversations about race:

  • Ask for permission before engaging
  • Set expectations and boundaries on both sides
  • Talk about your identities
  • Don’t assume Black people are ‘experts’ [on race]
  • Clearly define controversial terms
  • Provide enough context
  • Be respectful 

How Personal Do You Want to be With Your Bank?

As part of Customer Experience Day (#CXDay2020) celebrations that took place on 6th October 2020, we shared a number of blog posts which showed our approach to customer experience.

While the day might be over for another year, we’re continuing our programme with more insight into how and why we put the customer at the heart of everything we do.


Does your bank delight you, exceed your expectations and provide you with a secure house for your hard-earned income?

Or, have you switched in search of a better experience?

In today’s world we expect banking for free with products and services that are super quick to take advantage of and require minimal effort. Customer experience is very much at the forefront of banking strategy and has been for some years now. However, banks recognise that to remain relevant in today’s market they must look at capturing our attention with broader lifestyle offerings.

It is no longer enough to be offering advice on which bank product best suits the customer. In today’s world, it’s about helping people achieve their financial goals, understand where to spend more and where to spend less.

Let’s start by summarising some of the new opportunities and challenges banks face.

The regulators are paying more attention to customer complaints with a view of problematic product sales practices, and therefore banking CEO’s being called up by governments to justify their behaviour. In addition, measures such as Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) will apply across Europe from September 2021, enhancing security and preventing fraud.
So, how do Banks continue protecting customers, and at the same time, demonstrate that “ease-to-do-business” experience that we all crave?

Immense Opportunities


Firstly, with a combination of client data, superior analytics and multi-channel opportunities, banks possess a wealth of knowledge. This knowledge enables them to increase the ‘moments of truth’ that deliver proactive insights, helping customers make the right choices more quickly and easily. Customers like having multi-channel choices (web, mobile app, phone, in-branch), however, they become irritated if when buying they are asked to change channels, in other words begin an on-line process then asked to ‘go to branch’.

For most banks, processes and technology will need to adapt to provide a consistent experience across channel and departments.

The power of artificial intelligence (AI) continues at pace as we take advantage of the data now available to personalise and contextualise interactions, improving processes and giving the impression of a more human interaction without humans. Having said that, organisations realise there is a balance, and human engagement can be modelled on a highly available basis without the specialist ever leaving the office.

Human actions to digital – technologies are evolving from Alexa and Siri type responses to more personalised accents and pronunciations and will become more common place in time.

Superior Personalisation

Delivering personalised experiences is nothing new to the banking sector. It’s has been a cornerstone for marketing activity for decades. That said, expectation is higher than ever before – according to Salesforce, 62% of consumers expect companies to adapt based on their actions and behaviours.

In addition, the study found only 47% of consumers believe they are receiving this level of personalisation today. This is one area some of the smaller and emerging banks are taking advantage.

Two examples:

Bunq, a Dutch international mobile bank introduced ‘Freedom of Choice’, a world first. The freedom to choose what happens with your money, where your deposits are held and how they are used. Bunq claims that no other bank in the world lets you choose what happens with your money. They also pride themselves on an online 5minute sign up to access services.

The bank is run by mostly by young IT specialists and not traditional bankers.

In Spain, BBVA has an app feature called Bconomy, which helps customers set goals, save money and track their progress. It also provides the ability to compare prices on things like groceries and utilities. Another experience feature is the ability to compare spending to similar customers to see if their financial activity is on track.

In just three weeks, Bconomy had half a million users.

That superior personalisation doesn’t necessarily mean providing lots of choice either, it’s about having the right ones. Overall, less choice for customers is clearer and cheaper for any business. For example, one car manufacturer includes full spec on all cars, you may think this is expensive, however costs of multiple production lines and ‘stop-start’ to fit different variations is very expensive.

These examples are certainly appealing to many however for organisations to thrive in decades to come they must weave customer centric experiences into every aspect of their organisation focusing on human centred design. Success will depend on anticipating customer needs and making engagement a pleasant experience.

So, what do banking professionals think?

One customer experience professional working in a large European bank shared their insight into the challenge of balancing customer experience investment with the drive for profitability, something they have worked hard to bring the benefits of customer happiness and financial success.
Being clear on a CX vision and mission with the branding of being a ‘Loveable Bank’ is something they are proud of and have metrics and action to continually improve.

One such example is the ‘butterfly effect’ whereby some 150-positive employee/customer success stories have been captured and promoted. Another example is where employees are brought together to create a ‘Channel Squad’ focused on providing seamless and consistent experiences, whatever a customer’s preferred way of banking is.

Finally, IT plays a vital role in merging technology improvement with CX. For each IT project a ‘one pager statement is generated to outline; 1) how many customers are affected, and 2) what is the likely impact either positive or negative, and if negative what mitigations need to be identified.
Another Banking IT professional spoke about similar challenges in striking a balance of managing costs whilst providing safe and secure banking for clients, and indeed how CX initiatives drive a supporting strategy for maximising customer satisfaction.

Measuring CX is a key factor for the bank and their IT functions, focusing on newer insights from generation topics and social responsibility sources. These are now more widely considered when digitising business, and therefore, how better to connect with clients.

For IT specifically employees are now able to provide ‘real time’ feedback regarding their technology procurement or issues, enabling a much swifter response and connection with the User. The outcome of such enhancements builds trust with employees and demonstrates that the business cares about them personally.

Final Thoughts

There is an emerging realisation that the future of CX in banking isn’t about banking at all, it’s not about account products and mortgages, it’s more about lifestyle choices. Traditional benchmarking against other financial institutes is no longer as important. Today’s banks are looking to benchmark against organisations selling similar experiences and lifestyles as them from other sectors.

For example:
• Hallmark cards output is greeting cards, but they market ‘Expressions’
• Harley Davidson’s product is the motorbike, but they sell ‘Freedom’
The outcome of a banking experience is helping customers ‘achieve financial goal’s’. Customer-centric thinking organisations look at achieving outcomes for customers that relate personally, and therefore become more relevant and valuable to retain customer for the longer term. So…do you want to be more personal with you bank?

Further Reading

Strong Customer Authentication
Managing a customer experience transformation in banking
Customer experience key to the future of banking in 2019

Why CX Is The Key to Unlocking Growth in Your Business

As part of Customer Experience Day (#CXDay2020) celebrations that took place on 6th October 2020, we shared a number of blog posts which showed our approach to customer experience.

While the day might be over for another year, we’re continuing our programme with more insight into how and why we put the customer at the heart of everything we do.


Across all businesses and industries, the “experience economy” now features in every interaction we have.

Differing from services which are delivered on demand, experiences are revealed over a duration of time. Customer Experience (CX) is a perception driven by a simple equation.

CX = The observed performance that a customer has with a supplier, minus their expectation.

CX is not an easily measured operational KPI, but it plays a significant role in overall customer satisfaction and a customer’s choice to spend their money with you.

Research conducted by McKinsey & Company in 2016 showed that for every 10% increase in customer satisfaction a company can increase revenue by 2-3%. So how can you affect CX during interactions with your customers?

Focussing on just a few factors – Time, Convenience & Transparency – can help to make a big impact in your customers experience and therefore, customer satisfaction, potentially netting you greater revenue and encouraging growth.

If you think about these 3 factors in a real-life situation, you can see the affect they have on experience quite easily: say you have received a new laptop, either through a personal purchase or through your workplace and upon unboxing you have trouble logging in for the first time and getting started. After trying a few things yourself, you need help and decide to
call a Service Desk.

The first hurdle you encounter is that you cannot easily locate the phone number. Once you find it, you are immediately placed on hold for ten minutes without so much as a greeting. After speaking to several different people, back and forth on phone calls and spending hours troubleshooting your issue is resolved.

Everyone you dealt with was polite, friendly and genuinely did their best to help you, yet you still come away having a tainted experience.

How could this experience have been better?

Time

We humans are an impatient bunch. The average person starts to get impatient after waiting just 10 seconds waiting for a webpage to load, 17 seconds in a queue for service (though this increases to 5 minutes if the queue is for the bar), 13 minutes waiting in traffic, or 24 minutes for food to be delivered to our table from the time we order. And spare a thought for your friends…we’ll only wait 18 minutes for a friend to return a call before we get annoyed.

In a world that demands almost instant results for everything from food to foreign policy, a good business must keep wait time to a minimum. This includes everything from delivery of products, key projects and services to returning that email query or phone call.

Convenience

Keep it simple, stupid… you’ve heard it plenty of times before, and you seek out convenience in your own life, but how often do you test your customer’s journey for convenience?

Companies are often organised into silos, and each customer journey can
cross multiple siloed functions in a single transaction or interaction, adding complexity and complication.

Take the time to understand the full end-to-end view of a typical customer journey and how their journey maps across your organisation. Then, take steps to ensure that everyone involved understands your customer’s needs, the role they play in delivering positive CX, and consider how the journey could be simplified further.

Think Uber Vs Black Cab; Contactless payment Vs writing a cheque. What processes can you simplify to drive a great customer experience?

Transparency

Transparency is one of the greatest drivers for customer satisfaction. This shouldn’t be surprising, we’ve all been there: interacting with an in-store or call centre employee, an estate agent or salesperson and felt the frustration of being talked around in circles while they evade a direct response to a question or tip toe around some poor product functionality.

As a customer it is frustrating at best, but at its worst, it can create disdain and mistrust. When we lead with transparency, facing issues head on, magic happens.

Interestingly, when it comes to online purchases, an overwhelming 82% of us go straight to negative reviews, bypassing the 5-star ones in favour of reading the 1,2,3 and 4-star reviews to see what those experiences were like.

The fact is customers know that there is not generally a perfect product and
are able to accept that if they know up front what the likely issues are.

Here are some suggestions for how you and your teams can incorporate more transparency into customer experiences.
• Be open about flaws
• Own mistakes
• Design and service with empathy
• Ask for honest feedback and be open to receiving it

By incorporating transparency into CX, you can help build better, longer-lasting relationships, enhancing the experience and as a result, positively influencing customer buying behaviour.

If we think about our earlier real-life example, the experience you had as a customer would have been dramatically different if the phone number to call was clear and easy to find and the detail of your issue was collected at the start of the call using Integrated Voice Response (IVR), reducing the need for multiple interactions and reducing wait times. By focussing only on convenience and time the customer experience can be transformed dramatically.

While focussing on Time, Convenience and Transparency will enhance CX, getting to know your customers, and understanding the order in which they prioritise these will provide the best possible results.

Success in building great CX requires constant iteration, testing and learning. Taking the time to really know your customer and reacting to live feedback from them is often the difference between good and great customer experience, and therefore that decision to spend money with you.

Further Reading

Understanding Customer Experience
Linking the Customer Experience to Value

Why Government Customers are Just Like Holiday Makers

As part of Customer Experience Day (#CXDay2020) celebrations that took place on 6th October 2020, we shared a number of blog posts which showed our approach to customer experience.

While the day might be over for another year, we’re continuing our programme with more insight into how and why we put the customer at the heart of everything we do.


It’s worth reflecting, at a time when government guidelines and decision-making are having such a huge impact on the travel industry, what part these direct and indirect interactions with government agencies e.g. Foreign Commonwealth Office, Passport Office, Border Force etc. are having on the holiday maker experience.

What onward effect could this have on long term behaviour when it comes to taking holidays abroad?

The lines between customers of government and private sector organisations are becoming blurred and we are becoming more demanding of the experience we get.

In my early career I worked for a tour operator, selling mainly summer package holidays at the budget end of the market where it is very easy to misjudge expectations. To start with, my success was determined by ability to quickly relay key information about the package and calculate the correct price. All that information could be found in the brochure, but our task was to navigate that better than direct customers and the travel agencies.

For many customers that was enough, and decisions were made swiftly, holidays secured, hopefully enjoyed. But I soon became aware of the significant repeat business as callers asked for specific colleagues by name i.e. who they’d dealt with year after year.

I wondered what they did differently.

It came to three things, which have served me well in various roles throughout a 20-year IT career journey, beginning at the service desk, helping people navigate their IT effectively.

• They were carefully noting and keeping a track of the customer’s journey from initial call, to processing the booking form, to the issuing tickets and, if possible, their arrival in the resort with local representatives. It was a question of ownership and proactivity long after putting down the phone.
• They learned that there was flexibility in the processes. If decisions taken that moved outside ‘the rules’ were done openly and consultatively, then it was possible to, for example, alter normal departure dates; change the length of stay; squeeze one more person into an accommodation; or upgrade it after a few days.
• They understood who needed to be part of those decisions, so no surprises occurred, and how to communicate what was done at the time. No internal conflict, everyone wins together.

Customer experience in government and public sector

This was a relatively small company. I now work in a world where the potential interactions and touchpoints are vast, the systems complex. Most recently, I’ve been helping drive positive experiences for customers in the retail, media and public sectors. It is the latter that seems to be ripe for a Customer Experience (CX) revolution, specifically government.

The machinery of public sector institutions takes this complexity to another level. In an article last year Forrester reported that ‘the need to upgrade the government customer experience has never been more urgent’, and that this hampers mission success.

The recent pandemic and emergency response must take this to yet greater heights, and companies with business to business relationships in government departments should recognise it as an opportunity.

In a McKinsey study, it was shown that in almost every country, reliability and simplicity – not speed – are the top drivers of government customer experience. We don’t need our passport to arrive quickly, but we do want it to arrive before we must depart.

In other words, we want our needs to be understood and met. Don’t misjudge expectations.

So, when I talk about government customers, I reflect on my own journey as a UK citizen renewing passports, buying a house, giving my kids an education, checking tax issues, accessing health services, but I also consider the people my company supports in their endeavours, working for government departments to generate those services.

If we seek to understand their personas, their specific needs, and the judgements they inevitably make based on the values of their own organisation, we stand a greater chance of ‘helping (them) succeed in a way they feel good about’, which is a thought I took from a book I was recently introduced to as a guide for aspiring sales people (Khalsa, 1999).

Successful outcomes in government such as increased trust, achieving missions, meeting budgetary goals, boosting employee morale are all determined by the effectiveness of the people working across silos and outside partners to keep understanding and meeting or exceeding their expectations.

People who feel good and succeed, come back year after year, having derived value from services and wanting to buy more.

In that sense, where agencies listen to customers, enable and equip their frontline employees – who increasingly need to be attracted into the sector – with both the systems, and empowerment to provide calculated flexibility and proactive advice, then they can also enable life dreams for their customers – us!

In a digital age, success for companies like mine is to recognise our current and future contribution to that and keep it firmly in mind so we can jointly succeed and feel good about it – just like when we go on holiday.

No longer should engaging with government be a chore or something to be feared, it should be playing a supporting lifestyle role.

As this CX message pervades agencies and they evolve, so IT providers need to be ready to support their customers in pursuit of these aims through digital enablement of the journey – allowing them individually to make connections and have a chance to recognise the impact they are having on our lives.

If we first understand their touchpoints through the journey; secondly find a way for increased flexibility through bureaucracy; and thirdly engage and openly communicate to the right people both inside and external to our own organisations, then success and happy travellers are mutually successful rather than exclusive. We disrespect our government customers, and ourselves if we think of them any differently to holiday makers.

Further reading

Shaping The Modern Employee Experience

As part of Customer Experience Day (#CXDay2020) on 6th October 2020, we will be sharing a number of blog posts which highlight our approach to customer experience, ensuring the customer is always at the heart of everything we do.


The employee experience has changed dramatically in the past few months, and while some employees are returning to their place of work, the employee experience is different than before Covid-19. There are rules and restrictions to comply to and, for those that work in an office, many are only returning to their workplace part-time.

There have been many articles written about the employee experience post the Covid-19 lockdown, outlining the so called “new normal”. I recently read a Gartner article on “The Modern Employee Experience,” based on a survey of nearly 150 HR executives and 3,000 employees worldwide in 2019. The content is interesting and, although it was written before the Covid-19 pandemic, it is still relevant.

The recommendation is that it is vital that an organisation has a shaping approach to increase employee experience and therefore realise the associated benefits. These benefits include employees being more likely to stay at their current organisation, higher performance and thus, increased probability that the goals of their employer will be achieved.

The Gartner definition of shaping is “an approach to improve employee experience satisfaction that focuses on influencing and improving employees’ feelings about their overall experience using psychological, motivational and social principles.”

There are three core elements to shape how employees feel about their experience.

Calibrate Expectations

A Workstyle Analysis provides the information that an organisation needs to calibrate employee expectations. It captures the voice of the employee, what their experience is today and what they want their experience to be. From the information gathered, common personas can be identified that tailor the experience for groups of employees that work in similar ways. 8 common user personas have been identified to help calibrate individual needs and expectations, and the analysis will also identify if there are bespoke personas relevant to that organisation.

Using these personas organisations can ensure the right people have access to the right resources, boosting user productivity and satisfaction. Taking a more individual approach to workstyles gives users the agility and technologies they need to excel in the digital workplace. It enables an organisation to be able to communicate which of the employees’ expectations will and will not be met, thus calibrating their expectations.

As part of a workstyle analysis Computacenter talked to more than 80 members of staff at a UK health care provider to understand their IT challenges and requirements. Five core workstyles were identified with a different range of devices recommended for each one. This improved the employee experience while increasing patient care, boosting staff productivity and lowering IT support costs.

Some of the information gathered from employees about their experience is subjective. Some employees may state that their “PC is slow”, but how do you measure and calibrate a subjective statement such as “my PC is slow”?
The End User Analytics (EUA) service monitors the performance of devices and applications, providing a view into an employee’s work experience, and quantifies what is impacting their experience. This analysis can be done at an individual, location or departmental level.

Using the data captured by the EUA tool the performance of the employee’s device and applications can be tracked over time to
understand the trends and their impact on the employee experience.

This is especially useful when implementing changes as it enables the organisation to quantify what impact the change had on the employee.

This allows all aspects of employee experience to be calibrated with them.

Personalise Their Day-to-day Experience

Employees want to be able to choose a way of working that is convenient for them. Some employees may want to speak to someone to be assured their incident is known and being progressed, others may prefer to log issues electronically.

AssistMe provides intelligent user support services to empower employees to personalise their day to day experience. Employees can raise incidents or request services via multiple channels for example voice, instant messaging, email, and achieve this from their PC or an app on a phone or tablet.

Users also need to be nudged to try new services. It is vital to make sure that the maximum employee experience is delivered from the investments made in improving employee experience. User Adoption services maximise the employees experience of new services.

Successful user adoption enables employees to be empowered to make the most of the technology in their hands. They will feel that their needs have been directly addressed.

By the end of March this year Computacenter had migrated all their 16,000 users to Microsoft Teams. The target of enabling 70% of employees to work from home was significantly surpassed, with 90% eventually enabled.

At the heart of this success was the User Adoption Framework, ensuring that the facets of communication, training, enablement and support met the needs of all the different end users within the company. And when circumstances changed with the onset of the global pandemic, the company showed great agility in adjusting to meet the changing requirements – such as adapting office-based education and enablement to be delivered remotely by Teams, or the provision of “Working from Home” and “Good
Meeting Etiquette” tips through company webinars.

Feedback from users exceeded expectations, with hundreds of staff
reporting a significant improvement on quality and functionality.

Positive Memories

Organisations must respond quickly when things go wrong and reinforce positive employee experiences. When things go wrong the flexible, personalised, convenient support services provided by Assist Me, with always available, expert assistance, anywhere, at any time provide an employee experience that results in positive memories.

At Eversheds Sutherland their employees have been empowered with multi-channel end user services from its Next Generation Service Desk for all 60 offices around the world, including web chat, 24×7 telephone support, onsite Tech Bars for face-to-face support and 1,200 self-help knowledge articles.

When employees are back at their normal place of work Digital Signage provides an excellent way of displaying reminders of what has been done and how experiences have changed. For employees working remotely there are many applications within the suite of services that can be used to remind employees of their change in employee experience. Whether it is a quick Yammer post, a survey in Forms, a video update in Stream or a meeting in Teams or a Teams Live Event.

Creating a positive employee experience

To deliver a modern employee experience Gartner recommend organisations should shape their employees experience by
calibrating their expectations, empowering them to personalise their day-to-day experience and making their experience memorable.

Computacenter have the services to enable positive employee experiences that live long in their memory.

Visit Computacenter.com

Group Service Take-on: Managing Successful Change To Enhance Customer Experience

As part of Customer Experience Day (#CXDay2020) on 6th October 2020, we will be sharing a number of blog posts which highlights our approach to customer experience, ensuring the customer is always at the heart of everything we do.


Our customers are facing unprecedented demand for a change in how IT services are delivered to their users. Transitioning a customer from a legacy IT provider to a new IT service can have many complexities and unforeseen challenges.

In this article, we share two Service Desk examples where Computacenter have adapted and delivered new services, with customer experience very much at the forefront.  

Implementing a new dedicated Service Desk in Cape Town

This service desk had to support 28,000 end users across 500 locations and provide a new portal to enable multi-channel service access, aimed at improving the end user experience.

Three weeks prior to the planned cutover date of 1st April 2020, Computacenter had to design, implement and test a new home-based infrastructure solution to enable all the Service Desk staff to work remotely from home. This was the first time that Computacenter had ever implemented a home-based working solution for a dedicated IT Service Desk, and it was successfully implemented on the planned cutover date.

Key to success:

  1. Diligence and flexibility – Computacenter’s ability and foresight were cited by the customer as ever-changing working patterns became a fundamental project success factor.  
  2. Seamless transition – Service levels exceeded expectations right from the onset with customer stakeholders praising Computacenter’s interactions throughout the process resolving challenges collaboratively and with the User experience headlining the outcomes      

User experience continues to be enhanced with use of the Self-Service functionality – including access to Knowledge articles, web chats with desk agents and self-logging of incidents has increased since the cutover. 

Cutting over a new virtual Service Desk and Service Desk Portal

The second customer example required remote working for the joint project team from the design stage through to implementation into service, with no impact on timescales.

Computacenter cut over a new virtual Service Desk and Service Desk Portal (in South Africa, Spain and Malaysia) for 5,000 users across 23 countries in five languages (English, French, German, Business Chinese and Italian) with the Major Incident Management service, as a “big bang” Go Live. Change Management followed one week later in August 2020.

Key to success:

  1. Intelligent adaptive design – Computacenter’s ‘hothouse’ approach to engaging customer stakeholders with the outcome to agree simple IT service interactions for users attracted positive results
     
  2. Highly collaborative – Joint service readiness testing was comprehensive and complimented by Computacenter’s structured approach to controlling scope through Change Management.

The elapsed time for the project was ahead of schedule enabling early adoption. The average daily percentage of self-service contacts made by end users has already exceeded target.

Streamlining the onboarding process for Service Desk staff

In the last year, Computacenter has streamlined its onboarding process for new Service Desk staff.

Further opportunities for simplifying the tools, technology, testing and integration required for our transitions are being investigated. We have recognised that the way in which customers work will not return to how things were prior to the pandemic. 

Therefore, in order to enhance end-user and customer experience we need to continually adapt to help our customers manage change as seamlessly as possible. 

Visit computacenter.com

Annabelle Meek, CRN Women In Channel Award Nominee 2020

At Computacenter, we have a strong commitment to promoting, encouraging and progressing the careers of women in tech, and are delighted that this year we have 9 amazing nominees in the CRN Women in Channel Awards 2020! To even be nominated is a fantastic achievement for our talented, hard-working and passionate group of nominees and we would like to send a huge congratulations to all of them.

We are highlighting their individual achievements and journeys to show just how well-deserved these nominations are. The next blog in this series is written by Annabelle Meek, our Lead Security Manager, who reflects on her achievements with Computacenter so far and how it feels to be nominated for such an important award.


Annabelle Meek has been with us at Computacenter for almost 3 years, currently working as the Lead Security Manager for one of our most high-profile customers.

“This is a highly complex account which challenges me in every aspect of security management,” she says. “It varies from incident management, patch management, vulnerability management, change management and continual project innovation.”

Within her role, she has played a big part in mentoring a number of our Industrial Placement Students over the years; a role she took on as an addition to her technical day-to-day responsibilities.

“I love to inspire people into pursuing technology careers and enabling our junior members of the team to grow in the cyber security sector.”

Over her 15 years’ experience working in various managed services companies, Annabelle has worked with a range of high-profile customers, which has given her the opportunity to develop her skills, helping her build the foundations that have enabled her to get to where she is in her career today.

“Computacenter has been a roller-coaster of a journey in the short time I have been here,” she says. “I cannot believe how fast time flies when you are having so much fun working in a role you absolutely love.” 

Being nominated for this award is something that Annabelle doesn’t take lightly, and she is immensely proud to be up there among other Computacenter colleagues.

“I am absolutely over the moon to have been nominated by Computacenter for the CRN Women in Channel Awards 2020. To have this kind of significant recognition has made me so proud to represent women who work in technology.”

Having had a mentor herself, Annabelle is now a role model in her own right. One of our Cyber Security Industrial Placement students shared just how much of an impact Annabelle has had:

“I feel a deep sense of gratitude for Annabelle. She has shown indispensable support and encouragement throughout my time at Computacenter and beyond. 

She taught me how to work hard and keep going during adversity. Annabelle is a kind, caring, and nurturing person. 

Without her, I would not have been so lucky to receive the opportunities I have experienced to this date. I can proudly say that you are one of my role models.’’

When she isn’t protecting our top customers from cyber crime and cyber security attacks, Annabelle is a mother to two children. Raising children, running a home and working full time keeps her extremely busy, but she still finds time to enjoy plenty of time for dog walks and exploring at the weekends!

When asked about her nomination, Annabelle said:

“I am honoured to be recognised as an inspirational woman in tech. I truly hope I can inspire others to mentor young women to step in to the world of technology, as I have loved every minute of my career in Computacenter.”

Back to computacenter.com

Claire Harlow, CRN Women In Channel Award Nominee 2020

At Computacenter, we have a strong commitment to promoting, encouraging and progressing the careers of women in tech, and are delighted that this year we have 9 amazing nominees in the CRN Women in Channel Awards 2020! To even be nominated is a fantastic achievement for our talented, hard-working and passionate group of nominees and we would like to send a huge congratulations to all of them.

We are going to be highlighting their individual achievements and journeys to show just how well-deserved these nominations are. The next blog in this series is written by Claire Harlow, IT Technical Services Manager, who reflects on her nomination and career with us at Computacenter so far.


My name is Claire Harlow and I am hugely proud and excited to be representing Computacenter at the CRN Women in Channel Awards 2020 in the Manager of the Year category.

In my current role as IT Technical Services Manager within Group IS, I manage both a Technical and a Support team, and was bowled over to have been nominated by 4 of the amazing women in my team. Here we are celebrating International Women’s Day earlier this year:

My career with Computacenter

I joined Computacenter back in 2014 and immediately felt at home.

I was lucky to be surrounded by great colleagues and was supported by a manager who was more than happy to help me progress. During the first couple of years, I learnt more about Computacenter as a company and GIS, taking on the role as chair of the GIS Employee Forum and becoming an Induction Champion. We had some fun times, including organising a charity “Lunchtime Olympics” event, Senior Management Q&A sessions and of course those delicious Christmas Buffets…

I had expressed an interest in taking on more responsibility and in 2016 was offered the chance to lead a new team, giving me my first official management role. This was a huge moment for me, and I really enjoyed the challenge. It was especially exciting when my old team was incorporated into my “new” team a year later – followed by the Support team shortly after.

Computacenter provided a suite of management training courses and I was lucky enough to be able to learn from experienced role models in my own management chain. But, looking back, what helped the most was the great bunch of people I was managing.

I was delighted to read the following quote from Nick, our GIS Apps Director, during the awards submission process:

“Claire is a pleasure to work with. Since joining the Group Information Services (GIS) Division in 2014 as a systems consultant, she has rapidly progressed as a leader. Claire is a key member of the divisional extended leadership team. Claire’s success is driven by many factors, including her endless levels of day to day enthusiasm and ‘we can do this’ attitude, her excellent organisational and motivational skills, and her high levels of creativity.”

Having had nothing but support and encouragement in my own development journey over the last 6 years, I think one of the reasons I was nominated for the CRN Women in Channel Award is because I’m also passionate about helping others. Not everyone wants to progress up the career ladder at high speed, but most people do want to be supported, respected and given the opportunity to learn and improve in whichever way suits them best. This is what I try to do with everyone in my team and I’m proud of the way the whole team works, both together and within the wider division. I like to think the team is well respected within the division and seen as a team who really ‘gets things done.’

Reading the initial nominations and the (later) supporting statements from the team and management was humbling and something that you don’t often get to do. This kind of experience is a bit strange, because it’s somehow unnatural to shout about yourself from the rooftops; but equally, it made me look back on what I’ve achieved over the last few years with real pride. 

Working through the COVID-19 crisis

The last few months has been enormously challenging, both for me and members of the team. Everyone has had to get used to working from home, juggling childcare, keeping in touch. Strangely, it feels like we have never been busier.

I suppose in a way, that’s a good thing, and everyone has been doing an amazing job both on new customer projects and keeping things ticking over on the BAU side. However, I look forward to a time when we will be able to go back to the office, bounce ideas off each other, spend time in face to face meetings (not too much though) and go out for lunch…

Outside of work

When I’m not at work I enjoy relaxing at home, baking, taking my 2 mini schnauzers out for long walks, and catching up with family and friends. At work, I have office running buddies, and it’s proved a lot harder to motivate myself at home!

I would like to finish with a quote from one of my team, which encapsulates the kind of manager I aspire to be:

“It’s truly motivating to have a manager who is always willing to contribute, as opposed to delegation by default, and I think that this is the perfect time and opportunity for Claire’s efforts to be recognised.”

Having this kind of testimonial from a team member and getting this far in the CRN Women in Channel Awards is truly an honour. I hope it inspires other women to pursue or continue their careers in tech.