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.

Digital Workspace Innovations with Citrix IOT

A lot of the focus of previous blogs has been on the creation of an effective Digital Workplace for the individual.  Invariably this has focused on the accepted outcomes of a Digital Workplace strategy such as mobility and collaboration.  Yet whilst sat here in our newly refurbished London office, it is evident that a true Digital Workplace experience must transcend the virtual and the physical world.  One example of this is where the user meets the office and meeting room scenario.

Picture the scene. I’m sure like me, many of you have been here before.  The experience of finding a desk when you visit the office, followed by  the ‘complications’ of hosting and attending effective meetings with all of the challenges of work space IT and remote collaboration.  For many of us this leads to lost productivity, increased travel costs and general day to day frustration caused by a lack of “fluidity” in our physical workplace environment.  An environment that doesn’t reflect and can’t adapt to our needs.

Many meeting space solutions exist to address points within this scenario, whether meeting room booking, or collaboration tools.  Yet the piece that seems to be missing is the end to end integration that creates an effective experience.

Recently, whilst attending Citrix Summit I was introduced to a solution called Citrix Smart Spaces for Collaboration.  This solution addresses many of the common challenges and frustrations by integrating a number of different technologies, using Citrix’ Octoblu platform, which sits at the heart of Citrix’ Workplace IOT strategy.

Rather than explain the solution in words, we took the opportunity whilst attending the event to record a short video.  In the video, Darron Knibbs (Infrastructure Architect for Computacenter) and John Moody (Citrix Systems Engineer) talk through the solution and some of the key scenarios and use cases that the solution addresses.

For me, there are two key takeaways having watched this short overview.  The first is clearly the wider opportunity presented by IOT and the Octoblu platform to optimise the work environment and accelerate the digitisation of mundane, but critical processes.  The second is of the significant benefits that exist by removing these basic points of friction that exist across the tools that form the Digital Workplace.  This is just one example… there are many others!

Hope you enjoy the video!

My hiring story – Dennis Hamaker

I started to work here on 8 November, 2016.

My interview was pretty thorough. It became clear that (as with every changing environment) there were pros and cons to consider before stepping in.

The individual teams had gone through the setup and (partly) stabilisation phases, and now headed for the next phase which was increasing quality and pro-active services.

That’s exactly where I see the challenge now, empowering our team members, extending quality, growing the centre and as such the possibilities for all our valued team members.

My first days at Computacenter confirmed already that we have great people on board. Any job in a helpdesk environment is a challenge, as it is all about providing the right help to another person in need of that help at the right time. How to do that the best is the game we are in, reminding ourselves that we are customers too, and how we expect to be treated has a lot of influence on how we fulfil this role to others.  Why I mention this is because I believe top down and back the agents are the real backbone of our service, and we should take care of a good positive environment, good training to increase the skills, and provide the right setup for them to be able to do their job right.  For example some of our agents are freshly graduated, so it is our responsible is to make them feel comfortable in the new environment, but also into a working environment and industry in general (as this is their first chance to experience this).

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I believe that one of the best vibes within a centre you can have if everyone feels they are part of it, not only within the specific account, or Budapest, but globally. I see people are most of time locked to their account, but in 2017 we should really start to feel as one. This requires bringing people together and make them understand what everyone is doing to add to the total picture. Help us to help you and you to help us is what we call winning together, and alongside our recent comprehensive development program (called ascension) I’ve already seen examples where our team members are moving forward into 2017 into different roles and adventures providing their next steps in career.

My work  will be (and is) much more diverse then expected, which is good. I see a lot of things have stabilised, but there are still a lot of areas where we have to manage and develop, not mentioning the incoming new projects that need to boarded.

We have to create the culture of growth, development, and making this place not just a workplace but a home for people. Computacenter is not as well-known  (or established) as others centres in Budapest yet. That is actually one of our targets, to get into the top three of the best centres to work for.

After the first two months, I’ve not change my mind or perception. We are re-structuring some of the operational management layer, we are looking at how we can provide more tools and information to our agents to be more agile, and I can see in general plenty of examples of small steps being taken throughout the centre which will define the base for leaps taking us forward.  If this does not sound like we are moving forward, then join us, and see for yourself.

Dennis Hamaker, Head of Operations – Group Service Desk, Hungary

Empower your Users, Empower your Organisation

In the quest for digital transformation and its numerous benefits, user adoption and behaviour is often overlooked as part of the transformation process. A clear understanding between organisational culture and technology is essential to ensure that tools, processes and systems realise their full potential and are not left by the way side as “another” failed initiative.

The Tech-Savvy Employee

As a plethora of devices and applications continue to find their way into working lives, organisations need to create a dynamic workplace environment which fosters a self-service culture among employees in relation to technology. The more compatibility  that enters an organisation, the more potential issues that may arise when using these on a daily basis, which all have to be managed and responded to accordingly. Organisational culture should be focused around making the employees feel supported and empowered enough to manage and resolve any issue themselves, especially when related to technology. Issues should be prevented in the first place, however when issues due occur, encouraging users to solve their own issues, results in a workforce that is agile and able to act faster and more effectively; to seize opportunities, resolve issues, improve quality, and ultimately exceed customer expectations.

Visibility of available supportive resources is important, and digital tools, such as mobile apps and intuitive web portals, ensure that employees are able to access the information they need, from a wide range of locations, at any time. This serves to drive overall operational efficiency, as employees can self-serve their own IT issues and gain knowledge articles or support, to future proof their device issues in relation to general issues, e.g. password resets or software upgrades. Over time this will deliver positive outcomes that will result in behavioural change, as employees will not be dependent on IT or technical teams to resolve the majority of issues that arise, minimising employee and system downtime. It also enables employees to collaborate across departments and locations, improve decision-making and critically reduce time-to-market.

The key thing to remember here is that successful digital transformation should enrich working lives, promote improved work/life balance and improve productivity and therefore results – a win-win for employer and employee.

Business Champions – Digital Transformation Leaders

As the IT service desk evolves, its role as the central hub for technological innovation within the workplace remains. However, the first step in a transformation strategy, is culture. Culture incentivises behaviour, and companies must begin by ensuring workforce behaviour is well-suited to the technology solution at hand, to truly maximise its adoption and use throughout the workforce.

One approach to ensuring desirable behaviour is instilled amongst the workforce is through the deployment of “business champions” when adopting new solutions or technologies. These are appointed members of the workforce who help foster change and act as a conduit for feedback from the wider workforce, ensuring behavioural change matches working needs.

A recent example of where this has worked is with Hays Recruitment who wanted to provide employees with a broader choice of engagement channels to interact with IT service teams. This was in a drive for increased productivity enabled through the minimisation of system downtime. Hays have historically been positioned as the leading digital recruitment agency, being the first in the industry to adopt truly digital recruitment selection and placement. Revenue generation at Hays is dependent on the productivity of its 2,200-plus UK sales consultants, and with technology playing an ever-increasing role in the selection and placement of client’s, employees’ IT queries and issues need to be dealt with quickly. If using webchat they can continue to work whilst getting help.

At the end of 2015, Hays became an early adopter of Computacenter’s Next Generation Service Desk (NGSD) solution. The NGSD offering was well positioned to manage the business needs of Hays, providing a consumer-like, user-centric experience with anytime, anywhere IT support and knowledge delivered via an intuitive online portal and mobile app.

Although the NGSD solution can be integrated to existing infrastructure, the success of the solution was not simply a silver bullet. Instead, Computacenter and the team at Hays needed to create a desirable business environment that would encourage the whole workforce to truly understand the capabilities of the technology, adopting the behaviour into their working norms. In order for this to take place, Computacenter offered a new approach to service desk deployment asking internal employees to agree, nominate or suggest business champions for each team, division or office.

Proof is in the Productivity

In the case of Hays, NGSD helped to transform the employer – through service desk interaction – and the proof is in the productivity. Hays reported over 60 per cent of transactions take place directly through the portal – well above the original target of 50 per cent.

What’s more, in an age of messaging apps, online chat capability remains imperative. Hays registered approximately 1,180 chats per month since the adoption of NGSD and over 370 self-logged incidents per month compared with 40 previously.

Importantly, self-service portals such as NGSD are 24/7, so employees in any location, working any particular hours can log incidents at all times instead of having to wait for the service desk to open.

The bottom line is simple – by taking a user-centric, digitised approach to IT support, organisations can maximise staff productivity, drive profitable growth, and both attract and retain the very best talent inside a cutting edge digital workplace.

Telling the NGSD story

Last month, we had the privilege of attending the 25th Annual IT Service Management (ITSM) conference in London. It was great to see so many energised service management comrades at the event, where we delivered a keynote presentation on Computacenter’s Next Generation Service Desk (NGSD) solution that we deployed with Hays recruitment. This was the first time presenting at the conference and it certainly lived up to expectations. I co-presented with Simon Gerhardt, who was the main lead on the NGSD project and acts as the IT Operations Director at Hays Recruitment.

As a leading recruitment services company Hays is dependent on the productivity of its employees, and with technology playing an ever-increasing role in streamlining the recruitment process, employees’ IT queries and issues need to be dealt with quickly. To give users greater choice about when and how they engage, we worked with Hays to help digitise their IT support through NGSD. The solution offers an online portal and intuitive mobile app which allows employees, to obtain a user-centric experience with anytime, anywhere IT support and a wealth of knowledge banks to self-serve their own IT issues.

We had a strong attendance during the presentation itself and it was great to see a wide range of engaged, seasoned professionals in one room, all willing to listen and pose questions. During our presentation, I detailed some common trends around service desk demand as well as workforce expectation in relation to technology, that allowed us to illustrate the vitality of intelligent service desk’s in modern organisations. We drew on a variety of research studies and customer feedback reports, that uncovered statistics such as 53% of employees are frustrated by a lack of flexibility in working practices and 41% of workforces will consider moving to a new role if they don’t get the support they require. Simon Gerhardt, did a great job illustrating the tangible impact that NGSD has delivered for Hays Recruitment.

It was fantastic to be able to relive some of the challenges, successes and outcomes of the NGSD project with Hays, to an audience completely unfamiliar with the solution itself.

A key highlight in the delivery of the project that raised eyebrows and encouraged positive feedback was focused around the implementation timeline. In the early stages of the project, we conducted a one day hot-house with the internal members of the Hays development team, that played a big part in the rapid implementation time of the project. By having a collaborative approach to the solution design and the onboarding process for the wider workforce, it fast tracked a number of weeks of traditional planning, meaning NGSD went live on time, in just eight weeks.

As well as implementation timeline, the lack of disruption to working norms during the implementation itself, stood out as a notable crowd pleaser. NGSD can integrate seamlessly into any IT service management platform, which removes a major challenge when transforming the key system of engagement for a given workforce. The existing platform that the employee interacts with remains unchanged as the underlying platform is being updated to the NGSD solution.

This means that no disruption is caused from the integration of the solution, maximising productivity and eliminating IT downtime.

Don’t take my word for it, Barclay Rae Interim CEO at ITSMF UK said when he awarded Computacenter with the SDI Best Managed Service Desk award – “The three finalists all demonstrated mature service desk operations plus excellent customer engagement and relationships. What marked Computacenter out was their practical focus on innovating for their customers’ customers. Their ‘next generation service desk’ showed how MSPs can lead for their customers and the industry by driving through solutions and innovations that deliver direct customer experience and continual service improvement. This is a great example for the MSP community”

I would certainly recommend all service management professionals to attend the ITSMF event, it is an excellent platform to meet with and network across the industry.

See you next year!

An Update from the 2016 Graduates

Welcome to the 2nd edition of the Projects Practice Graduate Blog. A big thank you to Will for sharing his experience of his first few weeks at Computacenter along with many of the useful tips he gave us regarding how best to utilise our time here at Computacenter. The rest of the Graduates are now coming to the end of their rotations and the time has certainly flown by. I think we would all agree a lot of information has been taken in (usually in the form of a slide deck). Nonetheless it is fascinating how far we have all come since starting four months ago and scary that in just over 2 months we will become fully fledged Project Co-ordinators.

Looking back it seems as though we’ve been to almost every area of the company now. When Will last posted we had just completed our two week rotation with members of the Solution Sales team. Since then we have been exposed to many other divisions within the business. Given that our time rotating around the organisation is coming to an end, and Christmas is fast approaching, I’d like to take a look back and highlight some of the most valuable experiences I’ve come across so far. I have undoubtedly grown my knowledge of the company, have a understanding of how we deliver IT services using the Tempo methodology and have built up a network of very helpful people to make my transition into working life that bit smoother.

Firstly I have to mention our Technical Resource Group (TRG) rotation. This was a really enjoyable experience where we got to take apart a laptop, visit customer sites and present our findings in the form of a gameshow. However taking a key board off a laptop proved a step too far for one of the Graduates as the keyboard lost some keys in the process…

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Nevertheless it was great to get some hands on experience and feel what it’s like for the CC engineers who are constantly fixing and repairing products under increasing pressure from customers. Furthermore visiting customer sites was very impressive. I got to visit the likes of Eversheds and UBS to get a real feel for the projects that were going on there. To give a bit of background on myself I’m from a small village in the heart of Northern Ireland and am used to waking up to an array of fields and cows, so seeing some of these offices really was remarkable and I look forward to working alongside different customers in the future. Finally Bhupendra Hirani decided to keep things interesting by setting us the task of presenting TRG BrowzaPlus collateral in the form of a game show. This was definitely a twist on the end of rotation task but one that was clearly welcomed as some of the ideas were very creative, including the ‘Million Coin Drop’ and a mash up from one team including ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’, ‘Countdown’ and ‘Split or Steal’. Unfortunately no real money was to be won but chocolate made for a good substitute prize.

Another highlight of the programme was the Consultancy rotation where each day we were introduced to a new technology tower. During this week we all put our technical hats on and attempted to digest some of the information regarding the technologies CC are currently delivering. I feel we all coped well with the technical detail and as a result have an understanding of how these technologies are changing the way we work. It has highlighted the movement towards a digital workplace and workforce. From Cloud computing to virtualization we had our brains stretched but we came out the other end better for it and wait with anticipation to get involved in managing the delivery of some of these technologies in the future.

At present all the graduates are currently on their PPO rotations. I can speak on behalf of all to say this is something we have each been looking forward to. It presents a wonderful opportunity to start to apply some of the invaluable skills and tips we’ve learnt from moving around the business to a real life situation. I’m currently on the Hays PPO account where it’s been great meeting the team situated there and I have recently completed my first piece of real project work! I genuinely can’t wait to throw myself into the project over the next few weeks and welcome any challenges that will be thrown my way. The PPO rotations are a great stepping stone for each of the graduates to prepare us for becoming PC’s at the beginning of February.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, I hope you found at least some of it interesting. I would just like to finish by reiterating that my journey through CC has been absolutely wonderful. The help and support I have received along the way has been second to none and I couldn’t have asked for a better transition into the industry. That’s it from me, thankfully, the next blog will be brought to you Angela Vane.

 

 

 

 

Amazon GO – “Technology evolution / retail progression or ……..”

Just when things look like they may stay the same, they change…

Amazon recently launched its first checkout and employee free retail site in the America as a natural complement to the existing Amazon web and mobile shopping experience. Products can be purchased via the existing Amazon web or mobile app and collected without Amazon employee intervention in the store. Or purchased in store from a limited selection based on a wholly store based experience with no in store Amazon employee oriented human interaction. This really is an example of digitisation “plus” at work where the historical customer buying cycle of instore person to person interaction with additional onus on the integrity of the financial transaction at the end of the cycle, has been reengineered to become a fully technology enabled experience.

Self-scanning checkouts in retail started the trend and are now somewhat accepted (if at times still challenging to use), but the human option for person to person engagement remained a key element of the instore experience based on the importance of cash collection and a customer satisfying end to the retail interaction. But could this be a “reset” of the customer retail purchasing script delivered in one swipe by the completely new Amazon retail approach. The Amazon experiment or pilot may signpost with tangible evidence the changing state of the workforce where system driven automation may augment or totally replace person to person engagement.

The Amazon GO launch has delivered a degree of shock and awe to both customers and the industry in equal measure and whilst much of the discussion has focused on the impact on jobs, i.e. the detrimental human labour effect, it further signposts the ever increasing importance of information technology in our professional and social lives. Secure wireless networking, high definition cameras, advanced AI, big data and analytics, IOT sensors and the sheer volume of IT elements required that must work in harmony with zero failure is immense. With the end result, promotion of the IT system from technology to augment human actions & intellect to a mission critical platform fundamental to both the business and customer experience. ‎Via this new IT persona, failure, downtime or system breach is no longer an option – for any reason. Tomorrow’s user is already here today and deems a “Digital Me” experience, the only experience – the amalgam of imagination, technology and process allows that to happen.

Whether you are a supporter or detractor of this fundamentally new approach to retailing, the innovation and bravery of Amazon must be admired as the pilot of anything new of this style may suffer from the usual first mover teething challenges (shrinkage, reliability, miss set expectation issues). However, this really is a new dawn for the use of new technology, IOT and actionable AI in a real world customer centric environment. Personally, irrespective of the success or not of this Amazon initiative I have no doubt other retailers will be seriously considering this new customer engagement mode as the potential within is clear for all to see.

In my option human intelligence will NEVER be replaced by IT based systems, but standardised, repeatable human activity that can be automated and “systemised” certainly will be.

Forward now looks very very interesting

Until next time.

Colin W

Twitter: @colinwccuk

Chief Technologist – Computacenter UK: Networking, Security, Collaboration