Archive by Author | Colin Williams

Black History Month – “Time to stand proud”​

October is Black History month and celebrated as such in the UK, USA, Canada, Irish Republic and the Netherlands to name a few nations. It reflects on the history of the African, African American, Afro Caribbean community and its experiences both negative and positive within the world as we know it. I have been torn for many years on my viewpoint of the use of a single month in the year to celebrate the achievements of Black people – we are no different from every other race with experiences and achievements illuminated daily through the course of normal life, so why the focus on a single month.

However my stance has softened somewhat in recent years in the midst of the lack of focus and importance placed on reflecting on historical experiences in the many forms irrespective of race, or colour as constant digital recalibration of the past becomes the historical signpost for our future. We live in an information rich world with access greater than ever before to the amazing historical insight available and via the magic of AI & ML now have a platform to “what if” the future. The film “Hidden Figures” told the story of three Black women mathematicians who were fundamental the success of early NASA Apollo space programmes. If the “Black History Month” moniker results in more positive historical stories of a similar nature to be told and heard, it will help so many unwind public domain, lazy stereotypes that may exist.

But our absorption of those knowledge nuggets can be somewhat compromised by the harsh realisation that “written doesn’t mean real” with fake news at times impossible to discern from real news (and who validates real as real). With all of the above guiding our historical lenses, it’s essential an underrepresented community at times from a “good historical news” standpoint is granted a stage or a spotlight to expose past and showcase current good news stories for the present generation to reflect on and learn from.

This post isn’t the forum to chronicle the achievements of black people and how they have positively affected humanity, many are well documented elsewhere. But it is to radiate a digital smile that for at least one month in the year children, adults, all people of all races within the countries that celebrate black History month can be informed, stimulated and educated based on valuable historical information that without focus they may have no imperative to seek out and consume.

Black History Month October 2018

Until Next Time.

Colin W

Twitter: @colinwccuk

LOB CTO UK – Networking and Security

The rise of machines – “Time to worry about the digital soul within”​.

Things just became really interesting.

The recent news is awash with worrying claims from a credible source of “hidden” spying chips embedded within the motherboard of a leading server manufacturer. As yet, no manufacturer has released a statement confirming their existence but the information illuminating the potential is compelling. Surely it forces us all to consider our own personal, personal and professional “digital state” in this heavily connected world. Do we technically appraise every computer based device we use at design and component level to determine the source, use and security impact of all of the minute elements that make the device work. Of course we don’t, not only would the majority of us struggle to find out how to even open the device (have you tried to open a modern mobile phone with the myriad of specialist tools and hidden pressure points to make things pop open), we no way of actually understanding the function and outcome delivered by the components (when they work in harmony).

Can we be sure the most innocuous of household device has no secret and potentially malicious embedded elements that whilst not explicitly installed to be utilized in a nefarious way in the right hands can’t be leveraged to invoke a surveillance, recording or tracking function? It is this total ambivalence to the likelihood of it, until possibly today that means the potential may be more likely that we ever dreamed.

The days of hardcoded firmware delivering static intelligence to all but the most expensive and programmable devices is from a bygone era. Even the simplest digital device consists of user or system driven remotely programmable aspects that in some cases are core to the function of the device. Whether it’s used from software updates, device troubleshooting or in the case of some advanced modern vehicles to deliver totally new functionality, device or system programmability is a fundamental aspect of modern IT that enhances the consumer or user experience by making it “personal”.

Could we be shifting to a position of worry so great that we “sweep for bugs” when entering a room or prior to switching a device on in true James Bond mode – highly unlikely. But I suggest the recent announcements will ensure many IT leaders and operational teams increase the priority of network based security visibility platforms, AI or machine learning systems that examine and re-examine the most granular elements of telemetry and security aware behavioral analytics platforms that understand things we can’t comprehend.

Ask yourself when considering the IT platforms that underpin your business (or social existence), what can you really see, are you sure you know how they work and do you really understand the security heart that beats within?

Who would have thought, we are not even close to the iconic year 2020 and already we may be worrying about the moral intent in the digital soul of our machines. The future ahead is likely to be way more interesting than we have ever previously dreamed.

Until next time.

Colin W

Twitter: @colinwccuk

LOB CTO UK – Computacenter Networking and Security

Time for network change: “If you can’t connect you won’t connect.”

It has become an intellectual tug of war to determine which is more important in the “connected” or “digital age” – networks or applications. Silly argument I hear you say, it’s obviously the …… not easy to answer. In the pre-connected world (if it really did exist), personal computing was as personal as possible, with no connectivity to / with anyone else. Local application, local storage, local processing and a local user made the need for a network superfluous. Fast forward to the present day with distributed processing, “the Internet”, streaming, “always on”, cloud based interaction and a socio digital culture with collaboration and engagement at its core. Without a network, the media rich, highly collaborative now fundamental “always present and connected” mode we embody at work or play is at best compromised and at worst eliminated.

We cannot envisage a world where the network doesn’t work, whether mobile carrier based entities or the home Wi-Fi, if you can’t connect you won’t connect. I spend most days in positive disruption mode challenging colleagues and customers to rethink the traditional approach to enterprise networking with the onus on automation to unlock agility and consolidation to drive simplification. The enterprise networks that underpin today’s digital reality are a wonderful amalgam of technology, people, process plus twenty years’ experience of “getting things to work”. But more is required by the network than a functional existence, as the carrier of our “Digital DNA” an optimised, flexible, agile network holds to the key to many of our future successes. It’s time to be “bold” – to embark on the network evolution required enterprises must dare to dream and envision the secure transport layer required for enhance current user interaction and energise future business outcomes. And when the dream presents the storyboard of how things should or must be, “make it so”.

Technical feature wars labouring the technology based rationale for network modification will be fruitless with a dead heat between vendors the likely end result. Only a user experience driven or business change inspired network transformation agenda will contain the intellectual and emotional energy required to overcome the cultural tides ahead. Wait and see changes and nothing, the time for change is now. With the right network, with tomorrow’s network today a potentially business limiting factor becomes business enabling. And not forgetting, if you get stuck – drop me a line.

“If you can’t connect you won’t connect”

Until next time.

Colin W

Twitter @colinwccuk

Chief Technologist Computacenter UK – Networking and Security.

GDPR Remediation – “Something positive to shout about”

It is impossible to ignore the momentum behind the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance requirement. It stimulates many process, information governance and security related discussions as its swings between saint and sinner in the minds of legal, business and technology based personnel. May 25th 2018 is the ICO issued GDPR compliance deadline, however Gartner believes 50% of organisations affected will not be complaint by the end of 2018 (Gartner, May 2017).

GDPR cannot and should not be considered a short term fix but instead a pragmatic review and recalibration of security controls to effectively manage “EU” user centric digital assets in the 21st century. It’s time to shift GDPR to a positive, business enhancing consideration rather than a board level topic of dread based on sluggish progress and hard to quantify expense. Expanding beyond “doing the minimum required” will highlight the fundamental relationship between consumer / user trust in a digital world and secure information handling. Few data assets can be more important to a user / consumer or the organisation than PII information based on its digital representation of the persona of an individual.

The relentless rise and rise of the digital economy is underpinned by confidence, trust and uncorroborated belief in a mass of interconnected IT systems that users / consumers cannot see and often have little access to. GDPR attempts to bolster that confidence by highlighting organisations that leverage good practices and deliver certainty to user centric digital data processing and management elements to reinforce “trust” in a very fluid digital world. Now is the time to accelerate GDPR activities to realise the business and consumer benefits of compliance faster. This is unlikely to occur from hard work alone (but that is certainly required), it requires a reframed philosophical viewpoint conveyed to all involved in the GDPR working party of review and remediation.

The GDPR compliance team must be motivated and inspired to undertake their work with urgency, passionately volunteering regular stakeholder progress updates to the exec board – the importance of GDPR stakeholder information updates to convey the importance and ongoing benefits cannot be overplayed. GDPR progress bulletins will energise all involved in GDPR remediation with the knowledge that everything they do enhances the overall security posture of the organisation, delivers optimum management of user / consumer personal data assets and therefore improves both the internal and external company perception to a measurable degree.

These small changes will help to evolve the intellectual view of the GDPR from a compliance work programme to one of the most important consumer and business impacting information management activities in recent times. Serious stuff….

Until next time.

Colin W

Twitter: Colinwccuk

Chief Technologist: Networking, Security & Collaboration. Computacenter UK

 

Citation: 1 http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3701117

 

Arise the new Cisco. Why the innovators dilemma has become the “innovation imperative”.

After a few silent months away from from philosophical scribbling about market, societal and technology based change, something has caused me to reach again for my pen (“what pen I hear you say”, stay with me on this one).

In the digital age, “do nothing” delivers the worst possible outcome – “nothing”. Does this mean a relentless march forward ideally at “digital” speed is the order of the day – to a degree, yes but not without thought or calibration. Harvard’s, Clayton Christensen formulated a memorable principle in his seminar book the Innovators Dilemma in 1997, “An organization’s capabilities define its disabilities”. Put simply, an organisation should rightly be validated for the actionable elements it delivers over pomp, history or rhetoric.

Surely this is obvious stuff, but changing focus, reinventing successful products or undertaking “blank sheet of paper” style development is time consuming, challenging, provides no guarantee of success and is downright risky. With the result, many crank the handle on the “same old way”, turning the handle faster as competition, market saturation and reducing income signposts the race may be close to being run. But that isn’t the only way, “do nothing” or “do the same something” whilst safe is a sure-fire way of ensuring the only future ahead is one as “yesterday’s great”. As the digital age drives our personal and business lives forward pressing reset on everything safe and known at a speed we can barely consume (much less digest), the winners will be those who manage to maintain a level of effective competitiveness within existing markets whilst guiding existing customers and new prospects to take advantage of adjacent or original innovations that unlock reliable and previous unforeseen benefits.

I was compelled to scribble this post by a recent and potentially market defining strategic announcement from Cisco. As the campus and datacentre network infrastructure market leader by some magnitude, “do nothing” for Cisco could still have some mileage. By using superior purchasing power to develop products at market prices others may struggle to match profitably or via customer loyalty plays to retain and maximise existing advocates, Cisco could continue to maintain a slightly better version of “the good old way”. Or they could flip script with a fundamental reframe of everything known, building on existing legacy value, but enhanced for the future via insight and innovation – that’s what Cisco has done. Cisco DNA (Digital Network Architecture) and SDA (Software Defined Access) is so new in the market, the ink has barely dried but initial observations point to a technical philosophy that will redefine strategic, functional, operational and technology based customer outcomes.

The ability to deliver local and in time wide area secure network connectivity, that self-configures, is rich with relevant user or network insight, is policy drive, self-heals, is adaptive, abstracts complexity, is API open, secure by design, enhanced by automation reads like a CIO wish list to Santa. But this is just a selection of announced initial release functionality inherent within the DNA and SDA footprint from Cisco. It leaves me encouraged, inspired and enthused, not because it signals a one vendor world of customer benefits as that equally delivers the fear of “lock in”, but based on the potential for a vendor and market open platform that will bring together co existing and competing vendors integrated by APIs to deliver an autonomic secure network layer to underpin digital transformation.

Forget dilemmas, it’s time for the “innovation imperative”. As Cisco reinvents itself to guide both customers and the industry forward, the game changes for everyone. Competitors will be compelled to respond fuelled by their own innovation imperative, partners inspired to retool and reskill to service & support the new normal and lastly customers whilst initially confused will soon be engulfed by a wave of excitement that old problems may soon be eliminated by new solutions.

I’m not just a Cisco fan, I’m also seeing mind blowing innovation from the top ten networking & security industry leaders and the next ten UK, San Jose or Israel based emerging technology startups as they paint the new picture for business enabled IT. What a fantastic transformational journey we have ahead as we march towards that spiritual IT milestone date of 2020.

Who knows, as digitisation becomes the DNA of societal and business existence, a flawed something may far outweigh a perfect something. Time to get involved.

Until next time.

Colin W

Chief Technologist – Computacenter UK, Networking, Security and Collaboration.

Twitter: @colinwccuk

Business success in the digital age – Are you, will you be “brave enough”?

Darwin is frequently quoted in the midst of furious discussions about change. Whether it’s the mention of “the survival of the fittest or the most adaptable” (and not forgetting many question whether either statement was made by Darwin), change consistently invokes one human emotion with the power to nullify every others – “fear”.

Information technology (IT) for all of the seemingly endless change over the past 30 years has been somewhat consistent. Technology, with every new product launch via an endless release of “features” often dictated the “potential” for human benefit. And the result, technology vendors & the IT industry told the story of the future for an eager business (and more recently social) consumer to consume.

There was a reduced need for the IT buyer or user to appraise to a granular degree how the technology delivered impact or benefit, it was almost assumed that “newer” was better resulting in an upgrade to the “next or latest version” becoming standard behaviour. The balance of power rested with the “technology industry” and the user / consumer was at times a passive recipient of endless technological advancement. But as we enter 2017 the power base is shifting (some may say has “shifted”).

The user or IT consumer is now the power broker with the ability to dismantle 30 years of elegantly crafted IT system and process via a move to hybrid systems (combining traditional with public) or fully public IT service delivery. ‎”Feature glut” no longer rules the day, replaced by the need for consumer realised benefits or “standard service offerings with the potential for agile evolution”. This wholesale reset of everything deemed normal in IT and business is here and here to stay. But a move away from the safe “the old way” requires courageous decision making.

But the winners, whether consumer or IT service provider may not be those to accept “safe” or “old normal” but instead those willing to “be brave” and challenge “the old or known way” to evolve to a sustainable service consumption or delivery template viable for the dynamic, digital age. The buzz words are endless with digitisation, hybrid cloud, IOT, mobility, just a few. However with “solution relevance” a key consumer buying criteria, “buzz word bingo” will no longer find an audience, instead replaced by “win win” consultative solution selling driven by the value of positive disruption and “measurable” benefits for the consumer.

“Being brave” may result in human destabilisation as the status quo is defended and protected and “risk” as existing service delivery approaches move away from safety but the benefits are not potential, they are very real and highly realisable. The gateway to a new age exposed by the digitisation drive is positively transforming IT, business and the user with all likely to embrace a sustainable, enhanced experience. But that change of experience starts with a level of bravely not everyone can muster. “Can you, will you, be brave enough”?

Until next time.

Colin W

Twitter: @colinwccuk

Chief Technologist: Networking, Security and Collaboration – Computacenter UK

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time

Colin W

Twitter: @colinwccuk

Chief Technologist Computacenter UK – Networking, Security and Collaboration

 

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