At the start of 2020 I was thinking about our customers, our partners and the market. I was trying to identify the key trends that are, or will, impact all these areas. In the course of that reflection, I came up with 4 key words describing this complex dynamic. Those four words were Velocity, Vulnerability, Sustainability and Experience.
What I hadn’t foreseen or accounted for was Covid-19, and the impact this would have upon our customers, our partners, the market and the wider world. But when I think about the past 5-6 months, I think there’s a context (somewhat different to that which I’d intended!) that gives those 4 words a powerful relevance and meaning.
That aside, as this isn’t another blog about Covid-19 – I see people, and businesses starting to plan and look towards their future. These trends feel as relevant now as they ever did, perhaps even more so.
I thought I would share my view of how I see the market, expressed through these 4 words. But before you read on, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then this short video should hopefully set the tone for what I’m about to write:
Industries are changing at an incredible pace. Look at the technology market as an example, but the same applies in retail, manufacturing, public services and beyond. We used to call this “digital transformation”, that term is fatigued now – but nonetheless it’s true that the pace of change is un-abating. What this means to our customers (or ourselves) is that the ‘time to follow’ is so much reduced from what it was before – literally in some instances from months and years to days and weeks. This creates tension and challenge, as much more that we must deal with is “new”, and there’s no established blueprint or playbook. This does however create the opportunity in co-creation and partnerships, identifying and leveraging specific expertise to unlock value and creativity to deliver the innovative outcomes that our customers demand and that offer us competitive advantage…. for the short while that that lasts!
It would be easy to presume that I mean Vulnerability as a proxy for Security. Security is paramount, particularly in the context of the changes we see in the world and in the technology landscape. But I see vulnerability as a far more profound issue. It covers the full breadth of impacts and disruption that organisations face, that they did not choose nor often foresee (look at Covid-19). Every business, every person, everything is vulnerable, so the mitigation to this is to be flexible and adaptable. Those that are flexible and adaptive can potentially thrive, whilst those that appear strong today, but are inflexible will not. Time has offered us many examples that prove this to be true – Blockbusters, Kodak etc. You cannot eliminate vulnerability, but it can be managed and reduced.
This is SUCH a huge topic now. Sustainability/CSR or whatever label you wish to apply has, in recent years, moved from being a peripheral consideration to something that sits at the heart of businesses’ identity and values. Consumers, partners, suppliers are no longer expecting, they are demanding that organisations operate responsibly and in a value driven way within their communities and ecosystems. When it comes to partnering, businesses will choose to work with organisations that share similar visions and values and will penalise those that do not. This topic is not just about “green credentials” – sustainability is about supporting communities and people – themes of equity and inclusivity start to be introduced (check out the concept of the “Triple Bottom Line“).
I speak to many large organisations with “big visions” for their future, and for the world. Being aligned to these visions and supporting them is not optional anymore.
I have spent a lot of time talking about experience from the perspective of Workplace solutions. This is still relevant, providing great Employee Value is key in the ongoing war for talent we see across markets and industries. It has been proven that providing a great place to work leads to better customer satisfaction, leads to better returns, and the cycle continues. The trend of experience also encompasses the experience of the consumer of the services. Providing compelling and engaging services and touch points is imperative in the battle for the consumer. We all see, experience and act on this in our home lives – we are increasingly intolerant of poor experiences or those that do not meet our expectations. A relentless focus on experience, both internally and externally is key to success.
When I think back to all the conversations I’ve had with customers, they anchor back to one or more of these trends. There are nuances by industry as you would expect, but they form a bedrock to help understand the challenges and opportunities businesses face as they look towards their future.
Coming next…. Our response and role in helping to respond to these challenges will feature in upcoming blogs. In the meantime, check out the insights from our UK Chief Technologists in our latest publication.
Does anybody remember the 23rd March 2020? Will that date become so profound in the future that we recall it with the same significance that we feel it now? Clearly that was the date the UK officially entered “lockdown”, 31 days ago. How has it felt for you?
My last post on 26th March spoke a lot about the personal (and to some extent my personal) impact of transitioning to a work from home “steady state”. Over the past 4 weeks I’ve had the opportunity to observe my own organisation’s response to this situation, alongside many of our customers and partners as we come to terms with huge disruption to our businesses. Even the most optimistic of us probably didn’t expect the lockdown to last just 3 weeks, but what has become apparent recently is that we are likely to be in this situation (or something very similar to it!) for the long haul. We now talk of social distancing as the new normal, with all the implications this holds for our lives and our work.
Whilst I spoke a lot about user and user experience impacts in my last blog post, followed by a post from Ashley, our Workplace CTO who addressed collaboration and security best practices. I wanted now to take the opportunity to share some wider observations.
From Workplace Enablement to Workplace Optimisation
Initially we saw a wave of activity as organisations looked to procure laptops, desktops, whatever they could get their hands on in order to assure themselves that they could equip their user for home working.
As this initial momentum has settled, the dynamic has changed. Beyond initial device provision, when you’re working from a fixed position 5 days a week, your desire or need for a premium device soon becomes secondary to: the need for an external mouse or keyboard for health and safety/RSI needs, the need for a quality headset to supress background noise and enable you to engage in video call and the need for an external display to provide access to a larger screen.
We are seeing these elements of the workplace environment become critical to supporting user performance and user health and wellbeing. In summary, for the short term, working at home on a laptop is fine . For the medium or long term you need to really think about your work space – technically and ergonomically and how you create a sustainable working environment.
Enhancing the Infrastructure Underpinnings
“There’s a problem with the network”
Everybody always says that! – Whether it’s the network’s fault or not, the network gets blamed. Its same with the internet at home when your favourite app won’t reload.
By the way, we’re all now dependant on the internet as the network – its our lifeline to the video calls we spend our working days on, our connectivity to corporate systems and in many instances to our customers.
The point I am making relates to my second trend. Once we’ve enabled people able to work, i.e. with a device in hand, we need to ensure that they can work. By this we need to ensure that the infrastructure that runs these services is online, available, performant and scaled for the new demands it faces.
Many of these infrastructures simply weren’t designed for this, and quick adaptations have been required to increase capacity. Whether it is Virtual Desktop platforms, storage infrastructure, or platforms for online services, everything has needed to be assessed, underpinned tactically, and then a more considered decision made as to how to scale these services for future needs.
Whether you are an end-user within an organisation, or a consumer of an organisation’s services, we know that patience and tolerance for poor performance is low, and therefore ensuring that platforms are performant and available is the current challenge. We’ve seen, anecdotally, huge pressures on public cloud platforms in response to this situation – as demand and consumption has scaled beyond any sort of projections of what was possible in such a short time period.
Evolving the Support Model
Technology, People and Process are the 3 classic dimensions of impact. I’ve spoken a lot about the technology dynamics, so the final area to cover blends People and Process.
When we step back and think about what has happened – thousands of people who typically work in an office IT environment have been asked to work from their homes. Distanced from both the peer and IT support they depend on to be effective in their roles and to resolve their issues – they’re now left to “fend for themselves” in an isolated environment. Service desk contacts have grown significantly as users come to terms with the new technology, a new “friction” they didn’t ask for.
This is the new normal. We need to provide innovative and flexible ways to support users, and augment the support capability to cater for “unknowns” in the home setup – home printing, spurious WiFi setups etc. We’ve adapted to provide home deployment services for users and have introduced virtual support services so that we can provide the “Tech Bar” experience that users were becoming accustomed to in the office, now over Microsoft Teams, Skype or Zoom. We always spoke of a “future workplace” where people worked more remotely, and now we’ve been forced to deliver that promise – it’s now our reality and we must re-gear our services to cater to users wherever they are – literally!
I’ve touched on 3 major trends and dynamics I have observed. There’s far more detail than be covered in a single blog post. The situation will continue to evolve – and its important that IT continues to adapt to cater for the needs of users and optimise the services to enable businesses to continue.
But equally, look at what has been achieved in the past few weeks. A product of circumstance, of a “can-do” attitude and a rapid acceleration of digital strategies. There’s lots more to come over the coming weeks and months to ensure we stay ahead and support users and leverage technology to help guide businesses through these unprecedented times.
Take care of yourselves and your families,
Up until about 3 weeks ago, the conversation about productivity and effectiveness in our home and work lives were discreet, but inevitably connected topics. The events of the past few weeks has involved many HUGE changes, thrusting swathes of workers for whom “normal”, was to go to work and interact with people, to now have to operate in a completely remote manner. If that were not difficult enough for many people, the broader circumstances of school closures and being “locked down” have made this a very challenging period.
There have been monumental efforts of IT departments, service providers and of course users that has enabled this to happen in such a dramatic and rapid fashion. It is a credit to those involved that so many people are now able to work effectively during this time. When we look at organisations up and across the country (and world), their offices – tangible icons of a company’s power and presence are deserted. Teams and departments are now operating in a fundamentally different virtual mode of operation – and this will persist, it seems, for a foreseeable period.
My focus is on the impact of this change, and what it will mean to users in the coming weeks. Many organisations have implemented the shift, and users are now working at home and those that haven’t yet, soon will. The initial frantic activity to equip and enabling users to access resources remotely will die down, and we should divert our attentions to focus on the impacts that this shift will have on users.
Working from home used to be a privilege for many, but it can be and always was difficult to do effectively. Many people have learnt the lessons and can apply these in the current situation we find ourselves in. But for many, this is a whole new world. Some observations and “watch points” for your users and teams to potentially consider:
- We are not used to working in this way: Fairly obvious, but these are challenging and uncertain times for many people. People are now isolated within their own homes, and from their teams and other support networks. Its important to consider after the initial melee of getting users set up for work, how they’re feeling and ensuring they are connected and engaged with work. Over the next few months as we continue to adapt to this new normal, that will no doubt become more difficult as the novelty of virtualised social activities potentially starts to wear off.
- We need to strike a balance between home and work: This is incredibly difficult now. Many people are unprepared for long stints of working from home, so potentially don’t have the equipment and physical space to have a designated “work zone”. Add to this the complexity of children being at home, and I imagine the challenge becomes exponentially worse. If we can’t achieve demarcation through the space in the home, then it’s important to try to do this through time. It’s easy to work a little earlier or later and just finish that “one more thing”, but this just makes it harder to take the break and focus the mind on other topics, allowing you to do both work and life with a freshness and energy required
- We cant be “always on calls”: The collaboration technologies that are enabling us to work this way are a huge bonus. I think had this situation occurred 5/10 years ago when we only had email and phone – what that would have meant for viability of this working model and the engagement of people in these circumstances. But the calls/meetings can be relentless. Its easy (I’ve done it) to sit for 6/7 hours a day without particularly stopping for a break, venturing outside for fresh air or taking a proper meal break. I’ve suffered head-ache, back-ache to name just two impacts of how I’m working today – and I’m lucky with a good home office set up to accommodate this. The individual needs to manage this – take more breaks than usual, create specific working or planning time to give you time to do the important stuff and achieve objectives
- It feels like Groundhog Day: I am not sure how you’re finding it, but I typically knew where in the week it was because if it was Monday or Friday I’d probably be working at home. Now everyday blends into all the others, and without the natural variety of work travel, different types of meetings – the days can feel very “samey”. I’d encourage people to think about different “events” in their week that they can use to anchor a sense of time – maybe the run you do on a Tuesday before work? Or the virtual social you do once a week with the team – just to get some context
We need to consider this as a journey. Whilst it’s been difficult so far, equipping users is just step one, and a onetime event. The next challenge is more enduring to supporting users as they adapt to this situation and become effective – for however long it lasts. This could be in the provision of new tools and functionality, training on new features, or more pastoral or health and well-being support to ensure users are able to be productive. And when we are out of this, and we again redefine what “normal” is, how do we optimise to take the best of what we’ve learnt and implemented – from technology platforms to user behaviour and re-strike a balance that better supports and enables people to work wherever and however they choose.
As we get closer to getting out of this, more answers on what to take and learn from this will become much clearer, giving us a window of opportunity to act and make changes that could benefit users and businesses moving forwards.
Take care of yourselves and your families,
We’ve known this date is coming for a while, but today marks exactly one year to the end of Windows 7 support, and therefore the deadline date for your transformation to a “Modern Client” platform such as Windows 10.
No doubt you’ve been thinking about this a lot, and many organisations are already progressing their activities to meet this deadline. However there may be some who are taking a different approach, and asking themselves “what exactly is there to worry about” – for example:
- Nothing will actually stop working on January 14 2020 – if we’re still on Windows 7 it will continue to work – wont it?
- Microsoft announced last year that they were extending support for Windows 7 through to 2023 – didn’t they?
- We’ve been told the transition to Windows 10 is the simplest and easiest yet – isn’t it?
All of the above statements are true, to a degree, but I’d like to flip the conversation around. The market has been dominated with the impact of “Windows as a Service” (Evergreen) and the challenges and problems that a regular update cycle will present. The above questions pose more of a “Why do I need to?” rather than a “Why should I?”. Let’s answer both.
Why do I need to move off Windows 7 by January 14th 2020?
- Microsoft will stop providing security and update patches on this date, leaving your devices exposed to security vulnerabilities and your organisation potentially open to compliance issues.
- The “Extended Support Updates” to 2023 are not free – and the price is high for something that’s not moving you forward at all.
- Your organisation and users are using 10 year old technology (Windows 7 was released in 2009). Think about what has changed in the technology world in 10 years and the opportunities you are inevitably missing out on by using old tech
- Your application providers and partners will be modernising their solutions to work on modern technology and keep pace with the market. How long will they support the “legacy?”
So that’s the negative, arguably the “FUD” angle. Now look at this the other way around:
Why should I be running a modern platform such as Windows 10?
- Significant security enhancements within the Operating System, and integrated in the hardware to mitigate security threats of the modern connected world.
- Enhanced mobility with an effective touch interface – meaning your users can work flexibly on the device of their choice in an array of location and circumstances.
- A modern look and feel – more commensurate with what people are used to at home, supporting the ethos of “Digital Workplace”.
- Better user experiences – higher performance, more stable, more functionality, and more regularly updated
There are a range of other benefits, these are just a few examples – but it’s clear there should be a “Pull” to upgrade as well as a “Push”.
Or from another perspective….
So all of this is logical and evolutionary. What about a more radical revolutionary approach?
In the world of consumer choice, cloud services and pervasive mobility there are other options. You don’t need to continually furrow a Windows platform strategy. What about adopting Apple to delight your users? We’re seeing significant growth of Mac in enterprise and it’s viable for all use cases now. What about alternative technology types? Does it need to be a PC – what about a Tablet or Smartphone to help your users mobility to be productive and improve customer service? With some minor tweaks you can radically change your workflows and provide a step change in how you engage your customers and enable your people.
There are various options – the point is you don’t NEED to relentlessly pursue a Windows only option – there are now very viable alternatives.
Either way, it’s going to be a busy 2019 – and its only just begun! So if you need any help to get started or accelerate your activities, feel free to get in touch
September has certainly been a busy month for people involved in the End User marketplace and particularly those tracking the Windows 7 to Windows 10 transition.
A couple of weeks ago I posted about two really key announcements, the first relating to the extension to Windows as a Service (or Evergreen) support ability for Enterprise users (up to 30 months) and also the confirmed availability of Extended Security Updates (ESU) for Windows 7 beyond its planned end date of January 2020.
Both of these announcements are good news for businesses. The first giving more time to deploy updates in complex estates and providing more stability to the desktop environment. The second provides transparency to customers on the impact of not completing their migration from Windows 7 by 2020. To take ESU will get expensive for customers of a given scale, but its a back-stop solution and allows for an informed business case for completing the move to Windows 10. The harsh reality is the enterprise was never going to have completed this by January 2020 anyway, so Microsoft providing an option early diffuses the issue somewhat.
But that’s old news. In the past two weeks there have been two other announcements that are worth noting, as placed alongside the existing announcements add more option, maybe more complexity to the migration planning situation
Microsoft Managed Device (MMD)
Computacenter are delighted to have been chosen as an initial launch partner for Microsoft’s “MMD” offering. We have been working closely with Microsoft as the MMD concept has developed and matured and are excited about the opportunity this brings both to ourselves and our customers in helping them transform to a Modern Workplace powered by Microsoft 365 and cloud technologies.
This strategy aligns completely to our Digital Me proposition which we’ve been using to help our customers transform to a modern workplace environment and enable their users and develop significant business performance from a truly mobile and collaborative workplace.
We will be working in partnership with Microsoft as MMD develops in the coming months and are excited by the opportunities to enhance our existing solutions and accelerate the transformation to the Modern Workplace.
For further details, we’ll be talking about this topic in a specific presentation at Microsoft Future Decoded on 31st October at the London ExCel centre.
Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD)
At Microsoft Ignite in Orlando this week, Microsoft announced WVD. This is a very significant, not least as Microsoft themselves have held up this market for many years with complicated and restrictive licensing models that effectively prohibited running Client Operating Systems in this kind of way.
But times change and Microsoft have now announced that this too will be available (Soon) allowing you to run Windows 10 Virtual Desktops in the Azure platform. Citrix were also quick out of the blocks to build on this announcement, adding more capability and function to the base Microsoft offer.
The really interesting bit in this is not the headline announcement itself. Why? My view is that Public Cloud Desktop as a Service will find its own trajectory in the market based on organisations public cloud and security appetite and the classic application adjacency and performance issues – but nice that there is now a viable option in the market.
What caught my eye most was that Microsoft are offering Windows 7 ESU for free within the WVD proposition. What does this mean? Basically you can charge on with the deployment to Windows 10 but for any of those troublesome apps or workstyles that Windows 7 is creating a constraint, you now have a containment strategy to host them on WVD without incurring the additional support costs. There are nuances, you’ll clearly have to pay for the Azure resources to run this, but it gives yet another option to deal with the Windows 10 migration challenge.
WVD is in a limited preview stage and we’re awaiting more details on formal launch
Piece all of these announcements together and we’ve now got a number of different options and solutions to content with the transition to a Modern Desktop. A few weeks all we really had was a date in early Jan 2020 that we knew the market was going to struggle to hit. Microsoft have responded, and responded in force.
We’re looking forward to talking to customers about MMD in particular, but even aside from that all the other announcements are going to create some different customer conversations through the rest of 2018 and 2019
Contact us for more details or come and see us at Future Decoded
A week ago today (6th September) Microsoft made two significant announcements relating to the Support of Windows 7 and the Servicing Model for Windows 10, commonly known as “Windows as a Service” or “Evergreen”.
Many organisations have been progressing at pace with the planning and delivery of their Workplace transformations, and these important announcements come at a critical time with approximately 15 months remaining support on the original Windows 7 End of Extended Support Deadline of 14 January 2020.
What Was Announced ?
Permanent Extension to Windows 10 Support Model
Microsoft operate a bi-annual release strategy for Windows 10, described commonly “Windows as a Service” (alternatively “Windows Evergreen”). Each version of Windows 10 was to be supported for 18 months, significantly shorter than any previous version of Windows – and the source of much tension and concern within enterprise organisations. For those who have been following this as closely as I have, this culminated in an “Open Letter” to Microsoft about some of the issues that the regularity of these updates are causing, as well as the quality of the updates when issued!
Microsoft have now decided to amend the Windows service model, providing a longer support period for Enterprise and Education products . Moving forwards Windows 10 will comprise a “Spring Release” (launched in circa March of each calendar year) and a “Fall Release” (launched in circa September of each calendar year). Importantly, the Spring release will retain the default 18 month support lifecycle whilst the Fall release will be supported for 30 months. The reason for the shorter support period for the Spring release is somewhat unclear, Microsoft suggest this is for customers with the agility to adopt at a faster pace, but this now seems unnecessary and uptake from enterprise organisations will, I feel, be very minimal for Spring release.
This announcement also applies to all existing (supported) versions of Windows 10, from 1607 onwards.
Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) to January 2023
Windows 7 was due to end its extended support lifecycle on January 14th 2020 and it is this date that is helping to drive the transformation to the Modern Workplace and Windows 10. Microsoft have announced they will now offer Windows 7 Security Updates through to 2023 for customers within the Volume Licensing Programmes.
This support will be available on a paid for basis (per device) and the costs for this support will increase year on year from 2020 to 2023 in order to encourage the transition to Windows 10.
What does this mean to my organisation?
These announcements are significant, and the fact that both changes were announced at the same time is an interesting move from Microsoft. With over 250m commercial users of Windows 10 , the move from Win 7 to Windows 10 seemed to be a fairly embedded motion, and whilst these things are always complicated – many organisations are well progressed on this. That said, estimates range that enterprise adoption of Windows 10 was sub 10%, and so clearly Microsoft needed to act and respond to feedback.
The extension to the support lifecycle for Windows 10 offers two key advantages. The first is consistency of the version of Windows 10 being deployed into larger estates. Under the former model, the length of support allied with the rate of transition meant that many organisations would need to intercept a new Win 10 version midst their migration programme, and so potentially would have multiple “flavours” of Windows 10 in their environment. With a longer support period this should be mitigated for many organisations. Furthermore with an extended period of support gives a chance for a period of greater stability and for customers to extract further value from each release deployed.
What Should I do Next?
These announcements should not be a reason for complacency or to delay current activities. Windows 7 was released in 2009 and in that time both the security landscape as well as the user experience expectations of users has changed dramatically. Windows 10 offers a fresh and modern workplace platform that is more secure and enables your users to be more productive and effective t.
We’d encourage organisations to continue to work towards the original January 2020 date for Windows 7 replacement within their estate. Whilst the cost for the further extended Win 7 support is not intended by Microsoft to be punitive, the funds could be better invested in more progressive solutions rather than in maintenance of older platforms.
However as ever, things are not always that simple and there are various other dynamics and considerations to contend with. We are at a key point with regards to hardware chipsets transitions that impacts Windows 7 and Windows 10 supportability, with significant commercial considerations that need to be evaluated. Added to that are the prevalent topics throughout 2018 of “Device as a Service” procurement models and technology evolution to modernise Deployment and Provisioning as just a few examples. All of these factors need to be considered not least to enable you to make the transition to a Modern Workplace, but allow you to operate and manage it effectively in a world where the rate of change is going to be much faster than we’ve ever experienced below.
Finally just to say that in the cold light of these announcements Windows 10 is a three year old product, it is mature and a significant improvement on the prevalent Windows 7 environments within corporate IT. Computacenter have been helping customers deploy and manage Windows 10 throughout this time period, so if you need any help or advice in this process, feel free to make contact with us.
Earlier this week we hosted a round table event to discuss the evolution of the Digital Workplace. We were joined by 12 Industry leaders from a broad range of industries and backgrounds for an evening of discussion and dinner. Thanks to our co-sponsors Microsoft and our hosts Nimbus Ninety for making this event such a success.
We centred the discussion on three topics that continue to inform and intrigue our conversations with customers. Unusually for me it was a change to mostly listen, absorb and reflect on our strategy and approach, and how we might improve.
The topics we addressed over the course of the evening were:
- What are the main features of the digital workplace?
- How do you build a business case for workplace transformation?
- How do you ensure a consistently user-centered approach across workplace transformation initiatives?
There were a number of key insights and findings from what was a thoroughly enjoyable evening of discussion and debate. I’ll cover each of these in turn
It’s NOT about technology
All too often Digital Workplace programmes are rooted in technology change agendas. The Windows 10 transformation, the Office 365 deployment of the deployment of new mobile tools. However, our discussion did not once cover a technology solution area. Of course a couple of solution examples were given to bring points to life, but the conversation centred on a more outcome based approach that can be fulfilled by a range of both technology and procedural responses. For us, as an IT supplier and integrator, it was refreshing and intriguing to elevate ourselves above the technology level and focus in depth on the business value and outcomes from the change agenda.
It IS about People and Culture
A large portion of the evening was spent discussing the user and cultural impact of technology and business change and how to deliver this into your users. Remembering the connection between the internal users (employees/colleagues) and the external users (consumers) of your services. Is there a distinction? Should there be?
What is clear is that many organisations are wrestling with this change, and in a fiercely competitive economy the war for talent is a very real thing. If you fail to engage or enable your users they will simply move to an alternative employer or industry. This is a startling reality that is affecting many businesses and industries now
It IS about a consumer levels of simplicity
I often cite a Gartner definition of Digital workplace, which references a “consumer like experience” in an enterprise context. The feedback from our discussion was overwhelming. It is not about “consumer like” – which infers an attempt to achieve the principles of elegance and simplicity that underpin the digital consumer tools upon which we are all so reliant. The aspiration is for an experience that is equivalent to our consumer experiences. No compromises.
For many this will be a new challenge. We know what good looks like from a consumer perspective, yet we get bogged down in the translation of this to an enterprise context. Various examples were cited of adopting consumer like tools and approaches, yet the enterprise challenges of security and compliance are very real and must not be understated
How do you build and deliver internal platforms that are as intuitive as what we enjoy in our home lives? How do you ensure the “inside out” support experience looks and feels the same as the “outside in” (consumer) lens of their engagement to your organisation to ensure common understanding and empathy? To not strive for this creates a barrier between your employees and your customers that your competitors will be actively looking to exploit with a better platform or better service model.
It IS about Change
We discussed “digital” at length. The context of the evening was “Digital Transformation” but there was an agreement and recognition that organisations have been evolving and changing for a long time. Digital is merely the mantra that is being used at the moment. In order to execute the changes that organisations are trying to achieve, all the classic approaches and principles remain true. The need to secure engagement at every level, from executive to grass roots. The need to address the WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) and the need for strong sponsorship and support to drive the initiatives in both the good times and the challenging times is key.
We spoke about adoption, the challenges here are twofold:
- In not communicating what you are doing, and why, to secure engagement and support that will ultimately lead to usage (adoption) and value to your business
- In declaring success too early. Delivering a solution or outcome and presuming it to be a success, not cognisant that users and consumers can be fickle and there’s a need to continually reinforce and underpin the initial success with an ongoing campaign to promote long term benefits.
NO ONE has all the answers
We brought together 12 leaders from enterprise organisations across a number of verticals. The opportunity to discuss and engage with like-minded people was an invaluable use of time. What was clear was that no one has all the answers, and we should take time not only to learn from our external influences (such as our consumer lives) but from colleagues and peers in adjacent industries. What is clear is we live in a time of unprecedented choice and rate of change, no one has done everything and there is no blueprint for guaranteed success. Sharing knowledge and expertise is fundamentally a core facet of what the Digital Workplace seeks to achieve…. And we learnt a lot from participating in the discussion.
Thanks again to all our guests and our co-hosts Microsoft and Nimbus Ninety for participating in an enjoyable and insightful debate.
It has been some time since the last blog post, such is the frenetic pace of activity through early 2018 helping our customers with their workplace transformations. This is a topic I’ve spoken of many times, often from a visionary or conceptual level, but I thought maybe now was the time to change the tone of the conversation to focus on HOW you embark on the Digital Workplace journey.
From my engagements with many of our customers throughout the UK and Europe, and recognising that a true Digital Workplace programme comprises a Portfolio of projects and initiatives, I’d summarise the process into the following key pillars
Transform the Foundations
Whilst founded in aspiration towards a radically different state, most conversations related to Workplace Transformation invariably start with, or gravitate to, initiatives that I refer to as “Foundational”. Whether these are remediation of current issues, or basic enablers for a future solution, the key to building an effective Digital Workplace is in “getting the basics” right. These activities often have disproportionate impact in that context, , as often these are the specific issues that are frustrating and inhibiting your users the most.
Key examples of projects at this level are:
- Pervasive Campus WiFi
- Core Platform Upgrades (e.g. SharePoint)
- Facilities Enhancements/Rationalisations
Modernise the Workplace
A lot of the focus of Digital Workplace programmes exhibits itself here. These may be the introduction of flagship programmes to deliver a dramatic change to the user and technology environment. These key projects provide significant modernisation of technologies and a more integrated set of capabilities within a solution that propose to significantly simplify the user experience. Often the initiatives have a significant drivat this stage are driven as much by compelling events as anything, which creates a significant drive to implement them quickly. However it is important to recognise that this cannot be done in isolation, and must be accompanied by adjacent initiatives to secure their success.
Key examples of projects at this level are:
- Cloud Productivity and Collaboration – e.g. Office 365 or G-Suite
- Desktop Modernisation – e.g. Windows 10
- Adoption of End User Cloud services – i.e. SaaS LoB Applications
Digitise the Experience
The final area of the transformation agenda is in initiatives that drive towards a digitalisation of engagement points and interfaces. When we consider the examples of companies we would herald as “Digital Businesses” it is the elegance and simplicity of the points of engagement and interaction that we revere.
Key examples of projects at this level are:
- Digitising Service Desk Engagement via Multi Channel
- Experience Analytics and Automation
- Chatbots / Digital Concierge
A Digital Workplace vision and programme will naturally encompass a range of initiatives from each of the three categories, covering the technology layer. It is key to understand the market hype vs maturity in order to evaluate and time your activities accordingly.
But to reiterate, a true programme will not just consider the technology, it will also be comprised of initiatives addressing culture and user behaviour, organisational and operating models and a range of other factors. To achieve success it’s imperative to consider the portfolio approach and understand how each specific activity relates to, is enabled by, or is dependent upon the others in order to ensure its effectiveness and success.
We’re already pretty much through January and with the volume of activity in the first month alone, we can be in no doubt that 2018 is going to be a pivotal year for the Digital Workplace.
There are a number of themes and considerations that I’m expecting to be highly prevalent this year, so I wanted to share my thoughts on them with you.
The Digital Workplace is a lot more than just Windows 10, and the client environment clearly has other key platforms. However Windows 10 IS the most topical subject in the End User market today. From the conversations I’ve had throughout the past 12 months with customers and partners, it is clear that “the market” is not where it needs to be from a deployment and adoption perspective.
I hope you won’t need reminding that there are less than 24 months before Windows 7 goes out of support by Microsoft and all enterprises need to have moved into Windows 10 (or alternate platform) to avoid security and compliance issues. Also key to consider that from a User Experience perspective the vast majority of enterprise users are using an Operating System released in 2009 (Windows 7). The world has changed dramatically since then, as too has the IT landscape, user demands and security landscape!
Key to a Digital Workplace is a modern platform that is engaging to users, secure, performant and reliable. For very large organisations, the time to act is now. You may not realise but if you’re not already well progressed in your Windows 10 programme, you’re on the critical path towards January 2020 and a potentially significant issue. Not least you are compromising your wider Digital Workplace ambitions. We can help and are helping many organisations with this today!
The next area that needs attention is the “User Experience” being offered to users. Whilst quite nebulous, User Experience transcends everything from the devices and technologies to the ‘workspace’ environments (i.e. physical environments) and the engagement and business processes that users need to follow. We represent all of these aspects and the importance of a positive user experience throughout them through our unique Digital Workplace Vision.
We have been observing for several years a degree of “user fatigue” within the workplace. Whether it’s failing to report troublesome issues with their IT equipment, to not exploiting technical capabilities that are being provided such as mobile devices or collaboration tools, the user experience of Enterprise IT is definitely something that needs to be addressed and enhanced.
We still talk of a “Consumer like experience” for the Digital Workplace, yet our consumer (Home) experiences continue to run ahead of the enterprise solutions. Whether it’s in the identification and selection of appropriate solutions, or ensuring the adoption of transformational technologies in 2018 we need to ensure we are driving the benefits of these investments to enhance the effectiveness and engagement of our users.
Embracing Diversity and Choice
The fundamental challenge of building a Digital Workplace, that is the diversity and choices that are available to you. Indeed, often the Digital Workplace lacks a specific definition. I met two customers this week, both of whom had wildly different definitions of what a Digital Workplace meant to them. Neither was wrong, as it was their needs they were expressing.
One of the key areas we’ve helped our customers with is in setting a defined vision for the Digital Workplace that encompasses everything we see as relevant to its scope, from ‘Workspaces’ through to Technology and Supporting Services. With our established blueprints and solutions we’ve been able to guide our customers into focusing on key areas, understanding maturity and dependencies and building relevant programmes for change.
With the rate of change in this market place, the proliferation of tools from established and new vendors, establishing a vision and a path for delivering your Digital Workplace should be a key priority for early 2018 if you do not already have it. We’re helping lots of customers do this and can help you too
Hopefully this helps give you some ideas as to what to focus on in 2018. Knowingly or not, most organisations are moving towards a Digital Workplace, but there are a number of significant events and some key topics to cover as part of that, and so 2018 is a key year to ensure you’ve establishing a core ‘fabric’ that will underpin its success.
Once again we’re heading towards the end of another year…. I am not sure if its age or the much quoted “rate of change” in our industry but 12 months seems to feel shorter and shorter!
2017 has been a fascinating year in a number of ways. We’ve seen key strategy and organisational changes from a number of our key partners, a major ramp up in activity of our customers and the market in their quest for “Digital Transformation”, and as ever, technology has continued to evolve, morph and transform our thoughts of what is and could be possible.
Before I turn my thoughts to what the next 12 months may have in store, let’s recap on the key topics and themes that have dominated my agenda this year. I’ll keep it to a “top 3”
1. Adoption is Key for Digital Workplace Success.
I often cite in my presentations to colleagues and customers alike, that my focus is less on the technology, and more on driving cultural and user behavioural change to maximise the benefits of Digital Workplace transformations. Throughout 2017 adoption has been the most prevalent topic of conversation. Many customers have made sound technology and platform decisions, have invested wisely, often deployed modern features but have then struggled to achieve the anticipated business value and benefits. The reason for this is invariably down to poor user adoption. This is not communication as we have classically known it, but a more meaningful, ongoing effort to understand the requirements of users, deliver solutions and capability in context of their needs, and then campaign users to embrace the features and drive changes to their behaviour and working practices.
As far back as February I signposted the tensions that exist in this area and it has been a prevalent theme throughout the year. We often say we don’t deliver technology for technology sake, but it would appear we might have been doing that and have failed to create the connection to the users. Expect more on this in 2018 as the transformation agenda ramps up.
2. “Evergreen IT”
The dramatic change across all sectors of our industry to “as a Service” is having two profound and related effects. The first is a transition in budgets from a traditional “Capex” model towards an operating expenditure (Opex) bias, but also the inherent rate and pace of change of these platforms and the impacts and pressures this has on customers (both at a business and a technology level).
In Computacenter, and more widely we’ve labelled this “Evergreen IT” to reflect the need to maintain platforms at a highly current level. Quite a challenge for the large scale enterprises we deal with when these changes can be quarterly, or at best bi-annually and represent a lot of “heavy lifting”
Most of 2017 has been dominated in this context by Windows 10 Evergreen (Windows as a Service) though the concept pervades all cloud platforms (e.g. SaaS including Office 365, Salesforce, Workday etc). We’ve spent a lot of time working with key vendors, building robust service models and educating our customers and the market on what this shift actually means. It is a profound and fundamental shift in our entire industry and we’re just at the start of delivering and operating in this way, but it’s certainly here to stay!
3. “Small t” transformation
Had a small personal fight with myself to pick theme number 3 of my self-imposed limit, but in reflecting on the year, I’ve gone with “small t” transformation.
First I need to explain what I mean by this. We are engaged in a raft of transformational activity across a vast array of customers. Many of them are doing fascinating and ground breaking things in their B2C business model which is to be heralded widely. What we’ve tried to do is encourage such ambition into the end user enablement agenda, i.e. the “Digital Workplace”. Through Digithons, workshops and other engagements throughout 2017 (and before), we’ve seen and heard all kinds of topics and agenda in this area.
However, perhaps controversially I would define what we’ve seen and heard (in the main) as transformation with a small t. The requirements and objectives have been around projects that you might term as “fix the basics”, “quick win” or “foundational” (I prefer the latter term) to address immediate and existing challenges and frustrations in the user experience and ways of working (poor WiFi, ineffective meeting room systems, aged hardware etc). Each of these things are VERY important, to quote the term above they represent the FOUNDATION upon which an effective Digital Workplace needs to be built.
However we need to move quickly to a more connected agenda, looking at how we enable and support business outcomes – really exploiting the tools and functionality to challenge and modernise business processes and ways of working – as that’s where the opportunity and return from the Digital Workplace investments exists.
Hopefully this blog does not end on a negative note. There has been lots of great development and activity in 2017 and we expect it to continue and accelerate further in 2018. But this is largely the story of the year (my year) and so inevitably will be a core part of my focus for 2018.
As this blog has now got quite lengthy I’ll defer my star gazing to the 2018 agenda and cover this in the next blog post…..in early January after a bit of a rest!