Archive by Author | Ashley Richardson

Embracing the Culture

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Uncultured?

If like me you like to travel, one of the things that makes visiting other places so interesting is experiencing the culture and customs of the country or area that you visit. Seeing how the culture shapes the food, drink, ambience, way of living, work and human interactions add richly to the experience you have. Many times when I’m on holiday or travelling, I see people who limit their enjoyment as they don’t want to experience or embrace that difference of culture, which can even lead to confrontation or misunderstandings.

One of the reoccurring discussions I have with customers is how investing in what they believe to be the right technology does not always result in the outcome that they expect. In general people’s expectation of technology is that it just works, which for the most part it does. I have been in to see customers where I absolutely agree that the technology is the correct choice for their business, however a number of factors mean that users do not adopt or use the technology. This reiterates the point that digital transformation of the workplace or business is far more than simply selecting and deploying a solution or the latest technology.

Culture in the workplace

One of the most overlooked aspects of the workplace is the culture that is built both within teams and across geographic regions. The workplace now has more generations working within it than ever before, but labelling people and culture by age or geography simply doesn’t work. Most businesses will have people of all ages and backgrounds working for and with them, culture builds the bond that enables and shapes team interaction and output. Consumerisation of IT also drives and shapes this culture organically within the workplace. An overriding effect on the culture is that of the leadership and management of these teams and this has the potential to have a detrimental impact on any transformation in the business.

Example

One customer that I worked with had created a vision of remote working for the majority of the business, providing remote access tools and virtual desktops to facilitate a “work from anywhere culture” however, my engagement with the business lead me to ascertain that only about 20% of people were using the solution to work remotely. the business asked me “Why?”

Computacenter run an advisory service called Workstyle Analysis which involves interviewing users to understand what they do, how they work and the challenges that they face doing their role. We can also back this up with analytics to provide qualitative and quantitative feedback to help build a picture of the workplace. In this particular instance, it was found that the technology worked and provided the functionality that people required. However, some people crave the social bond that physically working in a team and with people creates, additionally their managers expected to see them at their desks and would make disparaging remarks when people decided to work from home or remotely. In addition, some of the tools provided for collaboration and communication were not adopted, as the culture that some of the users had grown into or accepted was that people needed to be together, face to face to “get things done”.

Now whilst some of the culture was driven by people’s background and life experience, the overriding one was that of their managers. If someone wanted to embrace the new culture or experiment with new ways of working, much like those who refuse to allow cultural experience to enhance who, what and how they see things; those managers were causing conflict and tension – and stopping meaningful change within the business.

This is not an uncommon problem that I see when engaging with customers, so in order for digital transformation to work, senior stakeholders in the business need to ensure that the culture of the workplace is a key factor that is taken into account as much as the technology solutions to ensure better success and the expected business outcomes.

Shaping the future

Culture is also important in the workplace for the following reasons:

  1. The culture reflects on the ability of the company to realise its promises and commitments. If the company stated core values are not reflected in the culture of the business, the seriousness of stated promises can be devalued
  2. The company culture shapes how potential and current employees view the company. People want to feel part of the culture at work, so it is vital to build or shape a culture that attracts talent and retains those already there

Of course there are times when culture needs to be adapted or shaped to help drive modernisation or digital change, but understanding the culture first is a vital component to helping drive meaningful and productive change.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of a difference of culture within the business, ask yourself, can I be more accepting and understanding of the nuances of culture within the workplace; if you are the one driving the change, ask yourself, do I truly understand the workplace culture and what that means to those who embrace it, so that I can help effect business change for the better.

Stick to what you know or Change is good ?

As we move through life, many of us will pick up sayings that we have heard along the way, whether from our parents, friends or otherwise. Sometimes though these sayings conflict with one another and have the potential to leave you in a quandary.

For instance, let us take the following two examples: “Stick to what you know” and “Change is good

On the surface of it you have two sayings that could be used to influence your business strategy. At a second glance, it also seems that the two are in conflict with each other. But lets briefly examine the two sayings in context and walk through the thought process of each and see what we can learn from this, and indeed whether the two statements are actually contradictory.

Stick to what you know!

Many people I have spoken to when asked about a strategy to help the business develop and keep pace with the modern world in which we live, simply continue to do things the way they have always done because traditionally it has worked. Nothing wrong with that on the surface of things, why change a tried and tested method. The issue comes about when the market dynamic (both employee and customer) starts to change and puts the business in danger of appealing to a ever decreasing audience. Where in the past business was done face-to-face (as in actually being there), the market has now shifted away from this with people looking at and ordering products online rather than venturing out of the door. Depending on your business, this also means you might not need a physical space that has to be manned, so again providing tools to enable staff to work effectively from wherever makes good business sense; why rent a plush office if staff can work from home or another location.

Obviously this will not work for all companies, however those who not only survived the challenging market conditions but flourished, have actually applied both sayings in their business; stick to what you know and change is good.

Change is Good!

Certain elements of business need not change, if you provide good customer service, at a great price with a quality product and that works for you, why would you change it? The change comes in how you enable your business to provide the things that you are good at and known for, to the widest audience whilst reducing costs. Sounds like a pipe dream? Unified communications and collaboration technology enable businesses to do just that, leveraging the strengths of a business but enabling technology to drive business outcomes and ultimately increase revenue. As an example, look at businesses such as Amazon and eBay, primarily product sales to a large userbase using unified communications and collaboration technology.

An eBay user can use a number of devices to upload and make available content such as words and pictures in order to achieve sales, add into the fact that you can also transact payments from these devices really highlights the any device, any where, any time world that we have all come to live in. Using these technologies as well as others such as voice and video over the internet to drive that return to face-to-face communication and great customer service helps to drive customer retention and increased sales.

So in effect, stick to what you know – do the things that you have always done well, but do them better; but change is good – you might just need assistance in using some of the newer tools available to build and accelerate your company growth and performance and reach a wider audience and empower employees. Thats where we come in; looking at your business goals and aims, speaking with different part of the business to understand the pain points you experience right now, coupled with understanding where you are going allows us to provide a Unified Communications and Collaboration assessment service to you, a customised roadmap service helping you to get where you want to be.

Look Beyond The Technology

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IOS vs AndroidWindows vs OSXCisco vs Polycom; you could insert any two competing technologies or companies into a sentence and the chances are that in an office or pub somewhere, someone is having a debate about which is better and why. Marketing companies go into overdrive to advertise the features and functionality of product X, or other subjective testing takes place to validate why vendor or manufacturer Y is better than Z or vice versa.

Generally we seem to buy into this mentality, driven by features and functionality of gadgets and products for home, car or office; many get sucked into a series of perpetual upgrade cycles driven by brand loyalty and feature sheets. Its no wonder then, that when it comes to customers purchasing IT and especially unified communications and collaboration (UCC) technologies, that there is a constant fixation on features and functionality.

Don’t get me wrong, features and functionality are important, but they must be addressed in the correct manner. I have seen far too many times where technology, features and functions have been shoehorned into a solution for a company, had next to zero uptake or a protracted user adoption period, purely because someone believed that the more features and functions technology has, the better it must be. This cycle has to be broken to truly derive business benefits from a UCC solution.

What should I choose?

When talking to a customer, one should never start talking about technology before truly understanding what the customers goals and objectives are, or what business problem(s) or compelling event is driving the necessity for change. Technology can provide a solution to enable businesses to be more competitive, or more agile or more anything, but without the context of customer requirement and a solid business understanding, technology is simply that…..technology.

Look beyond the technology, get to understand the real drivers behind any required changes, don’t fall for the marketing hype or feature list. Investing in IT solutions is not like buying a phone or a computer for personal use. The decisions made at this level affect the ability of the company to execute against business plans, to empower and enable staff, to communicate with customers and partners, in essence all of these things to enable businesses to make money. Investing in solutions purely from a capability perspective will not necessarily reap the expected rewards or benefits.

Another major factor in the success of the solution is enabling ease of adoption within the user community, but that’s a discussion for another blog.

Both as a consumer and as a service provider, look at where the business is at right now, examine where you want to go in the future. Document the expectations of the business in everyday terms, i.e. “I want to grow market awareness of the business“, “I want to increase sales of x by a factor of y” or “I want to improve customer service”. 

The basic business requirements in everyday speak can then be mapped to a technology stack or solution that enables those business drivers, it should always be done that way. Once the business drivers have been identified, how you might achieve those can be mapped out to a solution that enables the business to move to the target state. This is where Computacenter can help; not being aligned to any vendor, our desire is to help our customers achieve their goals. We have a dedicated UCC team with the ability to assist in creating roadmap services around not just UCC but all technology stacks. We can help turn those business goals into a solution that is the best fit for your company, but also with the realisation that moving towards those goals may required a number of steps; we are here to help you on that journey.

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Consumerisation of IT

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Raising a child has been one of the proudest moments of my life, and being a fan of technology and gadgets it was a given that my son would follow in my footsteps. Now my son is not even 3 years old yet, but give him an i-device and he is more than capable of navigating it to find and use what he wants. The thing is, he expects everything to work like an i-device. He touches and swipes on the TV screen and wonders why nothing happens and expects everything with a screen to respond to swipes and touches.

His frustration at the lack of continuity across devices reflects what I see and hear from customers with regard to unified communications and collaboration. I get questions such as “why can’t I perform what should be an easy task on device x that I can do on device y?” or “why do I have to do things differently at work from at home to get the outcome I require?

The consumer world will always be more integrated and support a larger number of devices and features than corporate environments and this causes frustration, especially to the younger workers; this is for many reasons which we will not discuss here, but the way many modern businesses work restricts the adoption, interoperability or functionality of many modern collaborative tools and in turn their employees productivity, but that’s a subject for another blog.

What I like about i-devices is their ease of use, my son at 2 years old observed me using these devices and picked up the use of them pretty much instantly. Much of that comes down to the way that the user interface works. The other factor which is not specific to i-devices is that the user experience appeals to the senses to engage the user; I see and then I touch and something happens, sometimes visually, sometimes auditory or sometimes both, pretty much like reality. The virtual environment on the screen responds to your interactions just as you’d expect from the real world.

If we extend that to a wider audience, we get a similar experience with most of the tools that we use today, telephones all work in pretty much the same way, numbers remain the same, dialling is the same, email, text messaging, facebook, twitter etc. All function similarly in that the backend infrastructure can be accessed on many devices, be they tablet, phone or computer to provide mostly the same functionality regardless of the device used.

You could argue that it really doesn’t matter what device you use to create or access resources and information, as today most devices are good enough, and the user experience created by the application user interface is what separates a successful platform from an average one. Forcing people to change the way that they are and the way they work is not conducive to productivity. From my experience, good applications provide the best user interfaces to suit the device that the application is being accessed from. This is where I believe the future of unified communications will be. The device will simply become a tool that allows us to do what it is we want and need to do. The user interface and how it allows the user to access whatever, whenever will be the differentiator moving forward. Personally I can use pretty much any device to access what I need, what bothers me is badly written user interfaces  which prevents me from doing what I need to do or precluding me from accessing something because I don’t have the right device.

The challenge for application developers is to ensure that your user interfaces are usable and intuitive and that the back end protocols are inter-operable with other vendors; the challenge for Computacenter? Working with you to help guide innovation, change and collaboration without disrupting the workplace and making everything work seamlessly in the background so you don’t have to……

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