Digitisalisation is having a profound effect on us all. Across both our professional and our home lives, the maturity of technology and the rapid rate of change are having staggering impacts. In the business world, no industries are immune from these effects. New products are emerging, whilst older more established products or suppliers are leaving the marketplace. Disruption is becoming the new normal, and it’s uncomfortable for many of us.
Across our broad range of customers, and the market as a whole, we are seeing common themes; threats and opportunities that need to be addressed to harness the potential of “the digital age”. To do this, we need to “re-imagine” our businesses, and look at change at every level. Now “Digital” is a very broad subject, and so I need to focus this conversation around Workplace IT. In order to achieve the “Digital Workplace” working approaches, processes, tools and culture need to change radically. To help explain this we have developed a blueprint for the Digital Workplace, as shown in the diagram below:
We haven’t exposed the whole picture… yet. There are a number of key topics, each of which warrant explanation in turn, which I will provide through a series of blogs over the coming weeks. Eventually we’ll have the full “big picture” view to draw it all together.
To start off, let’s look at the demands and drivers for a Digital Workplace environment. This will be followed by posts addressing the shifting role of IT, the user implications, , and the ways in which you need to run and operate these environments in order to continue to achieve the promise of the Digital Workplace vision.
Demands and Drivers of the Digital Workplace
We continue to see, and are often inadvertently led by, technical innovations and opportunities, and seek to call this assembly of technology a “Digital Workplace”. But a real Digital Workplace is so much more than just a technology solution. We are often quick to launch a Pilot or a Proof of Concept, without clear understanding of the business challenge or opportunity that it may help to address. The current “hot” technologies are IOT, Cognitive services and Analytics… it’s tempting to look at spinning up that Proof of Concept isn’t it!?
Looking top down from the business level, we need to continually respond to the demands and expectations of our customers, and to the competitive threats we face, many of which are exploiting “Digital” to accelerate their progress and growth. So we must look at how we can exploit new technologies and our methods of delivery in order to compete, differentiate and optimise our businesses.
We need to shift towards digital touch points with the “agents” that interact with us (consumers, suppliers, employees) in order to provide a modern and fluid experience that meets both their needs and expectations. User familiarity with modern technology has already achieved one outcome, a dramatic fall in tolerance of poor or substandard performance and service (check social media of some of your favoured brands for brutal examples of this!) – so we need to continue to innovate and change in order to continue to delight our customers and users.
To succeed, this requires change in businesses at every level. From the line of business functions all the way through to the IT department, significant change and disruption needs to happen in order to re-calibrate for the modern world. This will involve looking inwardly at our processes, tools and resources, and disrupting ourselves, before it is done unto us. However we cannot shy away from these difficult decisions and activities, as need for change is absolute and clear.
In the next blog, we’ll cover the shifting role of the IT department in this context, and how the IT department is and must change to become an enabler of the digital business…..
As individuals we create increasing amounts of personal data, this data can be hugely valuable to businesses allowing them to turn your raw data into valuable business information. Businesses use information you provide to target both you and people from similar backgrounds with whatever product they happen to be marketing.
The interesting question is who actually owns the data we provide. Who is responsible for the data we supply? In general, people naturally assume that businesses own this data and will protect it and use it responsibly. However as we’ve seen recently this is not always the case.
Recent data breaches, with Experian in the USA being a recent example, have shown that our personal information is not always as safe as we would like to hope. We get no visibility of how our data is being used, protected or what is done with it after we willingly supply it. With constant and increasing numbers of data breaches our data becomes more vulnerable. Remember data is more valuable than oil.
There are many example of data misuse, ranging from nuisance phone calls, spam mails and unsolicited post. However, this may all be about to change. Under the forthcoming GDPR regulations businesses will become simply custodians of my data.
It’s important for organisations to realise that IT departments do not own the data, they simply provide the infrastructure to allow access to data through a series of applications. The business is responsible for the data held, and to continue to get value from it they will have to treat it differently going forward.
Businesses will need to become more transparent in their dealing with external customers, through showing what data is held, and even why it remains held, either through showing agreement to allow data to be held verbally or through the dreaded tick box.
Inevitably this will lead to a change in business processes, which is why at Computacenter we have seen a rise in demand for data masking and Anonymisation. This allows organisations to translate their data held into valuable information without the risk of items being personally identifiable.
Possibly the most important thing for businesses to do over the coming months is to start to understand what data they have, what is valuable to them and can be translated to Information, what new or existing sources of data they have and how they treat it to ensure regulatory compliance.
My data belongs to me now, I may let organisations use it in return for a service I deem of value but ultimately it is personal and belongs to me.
There’s a new sheriff in town…..
The smart office has become more common in workplaces across the country. The Digital workplace has evolved to make our workplaces more efficient and adaptable to the changing needs of users.
By incorporating smart devices such as motion sensors, thermostats, smart switches and cameras organisations can reduce energy consumption, improve staff morale and improve productivity. Since commercial buildings account for around 40% of global energy consumption embedding sensors in walls and ceilings can have significant impact on the only using resources such as lighting, heating or cooling only when staff are present.
These sensors can be connected to the company network and using visualisation techniques can provide a view of working patterns. In turn, this can lead to energy savings of between 20-40%. Whilst the cost of creating the smart office is not insignificant potential benefits for businesses can be realised in relatively short periods.
The rise and growth of these IoT devices continues exponentially and helps create efficiencies in floor space usage and space planning. These devices can improve the experience for workers and allow the creation of personalised workspaces where individual lighting and cooling can be controlled either by an App or by your smart desk.
However, this does not come without its privacy challenges. If your smart desk recognises you through RFID tagging as you approach, and creates your personalised settings you are immediately engaged and hopefully more efficient.
The challenge comes with how much your desk then knows about you. Heat and motion sensors, RFID tags and proximity sensors mean that workers are potentially under constant surveillance. Sensors can track when people are at desks, moving around, present or not present, whether individual workers are happy with this level of surveillance remains to be seen.
Concerns are starting to be raised around what data may be being collected by sensors. We come back to the privacy paradox around what people are willing to sacrifice in terms of their privacy for convenience. Most data will be collected anonymously bit that does not preclude future use for other purposes. There is a fine line between efficiency and surveillance as some organisations have found out to their cost.
We may be entering the age of the Smart Building, but it may find itself in competition with the smart human. Will the last person to leave switch off the lights? no need for that the building will do that itself. It may not be Big Brother that is watching you; it may be Big Building.
I unlock my phone by looking at it in a meaningful way; it trusts me and unlocks. Despite the rumours I’ve yet to be able to unlock with a photo.
Both my face and yours has 83 data points that technology can recognise to ensure we are actually who we say we are. So if I can unlock my phone what else can I do with my face? Over the past few years computers are becoming increasingly good at recognising faces by using these data points and by measuring the distance between them.
We’re seeing solutions come to market to provide enhanced convenience to users, and also to provide surveillance capabilities to authorities. We’re already seeing developments in China around extensive use of facial recognition; walk up to the barrier at a train station and the gate opens for you, assuming your face resembles your national identity card. No worries if you’re feeling rough or having a bad hair day, there are sufficient data points to allow you through the barrier.
This negates the need for the widespread use of contactless cards that we currently see used extensively in the UK. This then has an impact on our banking regimes, as the technology advances we may see reduced demands for passwords and PIN numbers as we may just simply look at the ATM and ask for cash; ‘Alexa, can I have £60 please?’
It’s already possible to transfer money using an app and your face to authorise. Again in China 120 million people have access to a mobile payment app using their face as credentials. It’s possible to both transfer money and also get a loan simply by using your face as identification.
Ticket touts are the current scourge of getting into concerts (something close to my heart), but if your ticket is matched to your face then there is no unauthorised secondary ticket market. Getting access to sporting events could be made easier for the fan, whilst saving costs for the club.
In addition, whilst surveillance is still considered a delicate subject, tracking of movement through a venue allows for efficiencies in access areas and the targeting of relevant services to individuals. It could also allow tracking of movement through public transport systems for improved customer experiences.
We’ve heard a lot about body-worn police cameras recently. Ultimately these could be linked to central resources for the identification of known criminals making our streets a safer place.
Cars could be enabled to recognise an authorised driver, meaning no stolen cars and no lost keys. The list goes on.
Obviously this relies on a few things, one of the reasons that China is a large market for this is the large national database for identification purposes, and whilst some may not be comfortable with this in the Western world, there is a decision as to whether the benefits outweigh the use of your personal data – The Privacy Paradox applies.
It would also rely on suitably responsive infrastructure to support the use cases, but with the technology evolution you’ll soon be able to use public transport, buy goods and when you walk into Starbucks they will no longer need to ask your name, you’ll be recognised as you walk in, and this time the cup will have your correct name on it.
Now where is that false beard?
It looks like I’m last up to write the final projects practice gradate blog. Best to last I guess! Thank you to all my graduate colleagues for their previous blogs and hearing how we have all progressed and settled into the company so well. This is my first EVER blog because I don’t really do writing, I’m a talker. However before I begin here is a little about me: I studied Information Technology Management for Business at the University of Hertfordshire and graduated last year with a First Class honours. I have 3 family businesses and I like food. Anyone who wants to win me over, food is your answer! I used to Box and reached a National level, however food took over my life. After 12 months at O2 as UK audio manager and my final academic year at University, I find myself within a growing company with endless opportunities, CC.
So believe it or not, it’s been a year since we started. I think it’s fair to say, it has not felt like it. It means another 8 months of the Graduate programme remain before we “graduate”. It’s crazy thinking this time last year I was at University doing what most University students do. I’ll leave that to your imagination but I was studying!
So before I get carried away, it’s right to begin by saying a huge thank you to everyone who has sponsored and supported the programme and a farewell to Martin Jones who without, the projects grads would not be here. Furthermore a huge welcome to Zameer Kaderkutty (Zam) and the new 2017 intake of Projects Practice graduates. I wish you all the best within CC.
So this week I had the opportunity to meet the new intake of grads and ease them into the world of CC. However it was odd knowing this time last year, I was sat there all ‘suited and booted’ thinking I don’t understand any of these acronyms. And there I was bellowing, “GIO, TRG, ISP” and so on… it’s now just second nature. The best advice I suggested was that it takes time to understand a complex organisation and how everything amalgamates therefore if it takes time to grasp, it really does not matter. Everyone in CC is welcoming and is willing to help so never be shy to ask questions or for any support/advice.
As my colleagues have previously mentioned, “Rotations” are up and we are now knee deep into project work. Customer sites, the travelling, the underground and dealing with customers is all part of the job and I am relishing every moment of it. I have learnt tremendous amounts by working on fluctuating accounts and projects which vary in size, risk and category but one key aspect I’ve learnt is that projects do not always go to plan but the transparency and commitment we deliver to keep customers as happy as possible is second to none. This is one of many reasons why I love working for Computacenter.
Other than my day to day job, I have been fortunate enough to be a Brand ambassador for the University of Hertfordshire. Attending many careers fairs has been a wonderful experience and there is nothing better to share how successful the programme and company has been especially to students my age. This has recently been certified as Computacenter has been ranked in the Top 100 Graduate Employers for second year running. This is a huge achievement!!!
For me there has been so many memories throughout the first 12 months but the one which comes to mind first is the Practice Wide Meeting held on the 5th May in Leicester. It was an insightful day hearing presentations from Chris Webb, Andy Moffitt and Martin Jones around key aspects of the company and how current and future progress looks. Other than being forced to dance to Mamma Mia in the competition in which Hatfield came third so well done all who participated (clearly thanks to my dance moves), it was a lovely evening to network and enjoy ‘down time’ with colleagues you spend a lot of time with day to day in a “working” environment. However, there was nothing better than seeing Martin Jones and all my colleagues on the dance door “attempting” Bhangra to Punjabi MC. I will leave it on that note.
Thank you for reading my first ever blog. It has been an amazing 12 months at the start of my career and I look forward to all the opportunities and challenges my role brings. It’s now onto the completion of the programme and hopefully promotion. For now, it’s been a pleasure!
Oh and here is me in fighting action (I’m in the black vest):
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.
Chief Technologist: Networking, Security & Collaboration. Computacenter UK
Citation: 1 http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3701117
Every year, WorldSkills International and The United Nations recognise the 15th of July as World Youth Skills Day (WYSD). Designed to raise awareness on the importance of technical, vocational education, and training, WYSD works towards reducing unemployment and underemployment among youths across the globe.
Ahead of WYSD 2017, we spoke to Martin Pickering, Apprentice Program Manager at Computacenter, and current apprentice Zach Kirk-Gray, 1st Line Support Analyst, about the importance of promoting vocational training, and the benefits to businesses and apprentices alike.
Why should companies invest in technical and vocational education?
For businesses, vocational education is a way to invest in the company culture from the offset. “With apprentices, it really gives us the opportunity to grow grass-roots, technical staff, using the Computacenter brand. This not only gives young people a foot in the door, but at the same time allows companies to fill the gaps that they are finding in their operations” says Martin.
“Some legacy technologies are slowly becoming difficult to employ against, such as mainframes launched in the 70’s and 80’s. The 40 years of service that these technologies have are now bringing the initial starters of that generation towards the end of their careers, and businesses need to realise the value of bringing young blood back into their organisation.
“Not only this, but the youth of today are digital natives, and are also at a stage in their lives when they are really tuned into learning and are extremely flexible with their talents. It’s here that we can start to use the younger generation to really get stuck in and learn about new technologies, such as cloud adoption, and use them as the next generation in an area that can often be very expensive to train staff in, and difficult for older members of staff to be trained on.”
Zach agrees that learning on the job is one of the best things about his apprenticeship: “It’s great to learn with the technologies. Vocational training is important to me because you really have a hands-on experience all the time, and get a lot of face-time with experts in those fields.
“At college, I was only really studying theory, which I felt wasn’t going to help me later in my life, and I found it difficult to learn just looking at books. Going for a practical apprenticeship has been absolutely brilliant.”
Why is it important to offer this type of training to today’s youth?
“Apprenticeship programs are not just about delivering a group of young adults to a team and getting them to do low skilled work,” continues Martin. “This for me is about creating opportunity.”
“I class the apprenticeship as a golden ticket. At Computacenter, we heavily invest the time of our technology experts into developing our analyst apprentices technically, but we also look at soft skills to develop them in the business world. This is an extremely important part of offering training to today’s youth, as many come straight out of college or school without any experience of working in a formal business environment. Even those who leave university with a degree are still under-experienced in the real-world applications of their skills.
“So, not only is vocational training important for their area of expertise, but also to develop their skills outside of technical delivery so that they are transferrable to any role they might hold in the future.
“My hope is that we create the opportunity for them to look back in years to come and see that Computacenter helped them achieve their goals.
How are apprentices valuable to Computacenter?
Martin can’t help but sing their praises: “Apprentices are fantastic and come with a great attitude towards learning. We spend the first three months of the program training them, and they are able to take in all the information like sponges and can retain more than mature analysts that have been in the business world for years – it’s really amazing. Following this, they can then deliver and fill any gaps in the business with attrition at a lower cost.
“When speaking to customers, talking about investing in apprentices is always good news. My hopes are that more businesses realise the value of apprentices, and that more young people become aware of the benefits of vocational education themselves. Perhaps one day one of our apprentices will become the mentors of new programs to come.”
Finally, Zach agrees with promoting apprenticeships to young people, and why they should start considering this educational path: “Being an apprentice gives you the opportunities in life and trains you up to progress through the company, with hands-on training and mentorship. If I was to give any advice to young people deciding which path to take, I’d tell them to definitely go for an apprenticeship.
“I know people that have gone to university, but when they come out the other side they feel like they don’t have the practical knowledge or business acumen to really go out and get that foot in the door. With an apprenticeship, you’re already on your way.”