Time now for collaboration and action harnessing the best of UK tech

The much anticipated and long awaited Government Transformation Strategy (GTS) was published last week by Ben Gummer MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, The strategy provides a clear and solid framework for the future direction of public services transformation, looking ahead to 2020 and beyond.

The priorities identified in the Strategy are all sensible and highly relevant. They include back-office redesign, a focus on securing and retaining the right people and skills, better use of data, cross-department collaboration, developing Government-as-a-Platform and internal government transformation, giving civil servants the right work tools.

So far so good. The ambition, vision and aims are all spot on.  It is also clear that the market has been listened to and the more ‘collaborative’ style of engagement with all is welcome.

However, as the GTS document notes, that is not to take-away but build on the very significant progress towards digital government and public services transformation over the last five years.

What next? Here’s our take on two areas in the Strategy that GDS and departments should prioritise:

Right people and right skills: the GTS aims to tackle deep change, transforming the way Government operates, from the front end to the back office.  To do this, it needs to urgently develop a plan for ensuring greater investment & focus on developing the right commercial skills and understanding to enable a genuine partnership with industry and in doing so create a level playing field.  The likely impact of IR35 needs to be urgently understood and gaps addressed.

Transparency & strong engagement: as a centre of digital expertise, GDS needs to take a leadership role and support departments to develop early market engagement mechanisms into their business planning as well as give civil servants the skills to have a robust and effective dialogue with suppliers based on transparency and trust.

Home grown British tech companies, large and small, are the engine of our economy.  The Industrial strategy launched earlier this month makes an explicit commitment by Government to using public procurement to drive innovation and deliver more diverse supply chains. The benefits are clear – allowing Government to harness industry expertise and knowledge to become a more demanding customer as well as help commissioners and policy makers experiment and innovate more successfully with technology.

Computacenter are proud to be working with the UK Government and challenger new entrants like us have an important role in the delivery of the Strategy and in ensuring UK remains a global leader in its approach to public service delivery.  We will support the implementation of this strategy both directly as a supplier to the public sector and through our leadership roles with industry body’s techUK and CBI.

Let’s now work together, on the detail and the plan, to deliver the transformation we all want.

Click here to find out more about Computacenter’s Public Sector work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time.

Colin W

Twitter: @colinwccuk

Chief Technologist: Networking, Security and Collaboration – Computacenter UK

 

Adoption is Key for Digital Workplace Success

I speak to many customers.  Each of them has their own unique challenges, and each of whom are at various points in what we would term their “Digital Workplace” journey.  Clearly we have those organisations whose businesses are being fundamentally disrupted by Digital.  And we have those for whom this disruption is yet to really manifest itself.

The point is, everybody seems to be doing something – and many organisations are doing quite similar things.  If I were asked for my top 3, businesses are seeking to:

  • reduce their legacy footprint;
  • exploit new collaboration and mobility solutions;
  • consolidate their platforms to a number of key vendors

The last one is interesting in many ways.  We’ve ridden a wave of customers looking at “best of breed” and I now see a trend back towards suites of functionality – where the functionality is good enough to meet their needs, but that being balanced against the integration benefits of using a sole provider.

In each of the objectives above Adoption remains a key, but often little understood concept that can make or break the initiative. We’ve seen a general shift towards a more user focused approach, however it continues to surprise me how little focus is placed upon ensuring the use (Adoption) of the solutions both immediately post deployment and critically through the life cycle of its use.

In order for an initiative to be successful, it needs to be used and valued by its users (think about all those mobile apps you have on your device that sounded great as a concept, but are little used!).  This is where the adoption cycle comes in.  When I speak to customers about Digital Workplace transformations, refer to the following five points:

  1. Ensuring the solutions fit the users
  2. Engaging users in the journey
  3. Balancing user ‘want’ to business ‘need’
  4. Measuring satisfaction
  5. Democratising feedback

Point 1 is easy to talk to, as I’ve covered it several times in terms of understanding users.  Solutions like Workstyle Analysis can and have helped many customers in this area.  This starts the user engagement process but it is important to continue this throughout the life cycle of the initiative to maintain the engagement and enthusiasm of your users for what is about to happen (think of any good teaser marketing campaign you’ve seen in the consumer world!).

However many fear that with such an approach you will create a ‘bow wave’ of user expectation, the proverbial shopping list of wants from users that cannot be rationalised to budgetary, timescale or other constraints that the business may face.  The interesting thing I’ve observed is that while this may be thought of as a disincentive for people to engage the process for fear of this consequence, actually tackling it head on and engaging the users simply builds more understanding and support.

The final two points are really important.  Clearly you should measure the output of your initiative.  This is 101 stuff.  However equally important I’ve found is in democratising that feedback and results, making it available not only to the project sponsors and decision makers, but to the users also.  In being transparent, you can unlock the next level of feedback and support in something of a virtuous cycle that allows you to build upon the benefits and extend their applicability, as well as collectively managing any challenges that may have occurred.

 

These are just my own perspectives on Adoption.  Such is the importance of the topic, and the range of debate it attracts, we’ve created a full Insight Guide featuring myself and a number of my colleagues from Computacenter, Intel and QA.  You can find this here

Gearing up your Organisation for the Internet of Things

Picture this – your alarm clock goes off, you reach across the bed and take a look at your phone; it’s woken you up 30 minutes early – why? Well you have a meeting at 9:30am, but your car is running low on fuel so filling up will take 15 minutes, and traffic is a little worse than normal, so it will take an extra 15 minutes to get to the meeting. Welcome to the Internet of Things (IoT) a world where your phone can play your day ahead and your fridge knows when it’s running dry and orders the groceries itself.

IoT has captured the imagination of industry visionaries and the public for some time now; devices sending and receiving data, opening the door to a futuristic world previously the stuff of science fiction.

As the cities we live in grow into digital ecosystems, the networks around us will connect every individual device, enabling billions of new data exchanges. Industries will enter a new era, from medical devices that talk directly to medical professionals, to the emergence of smart homes that manage themselves efficiently, ensuring energy usage is checked and bills paid on time.

In the workplace it’s equally easy to see the potential advantages of the connections between devices, from intelligent service desk support through to printers, computers and other devices interacting with each other to deliver tangible user and business benefits.

The service desk is a key component for businesses in the digital age, acting as a communication hub for IT issues, a reference point for technology requirements and a tool for asset visibility. Organisations must ask themselves if their current service desk has the technological capacity and capability to manage the multitude of device and operational data in an efficient manner. An intelligent service desk can be the lifeblood of IoT implementation within businesses and enable automation to be realised.

A connected printer in a business ecosystem, for example, could effectively self-serve its own peripheral needs and order its own supplies when needed. However, the management of that data, effective registration and logging of the incident, as well as notification to the financial and technical teams would not be possible without an intelligent service desk – especially when you elevate this to an enterprise scale, with possibly hundreds of connected printers or devices.

When discussing the “connected office”, IT managers will understandably raise concerns around security. The more devices that are connected, the further the periphery is pushed, increasing potential entry points there are into a network.

An intelligent service desk will enable whitelisting to be integrated into communication protocols. This is a process which gathers and groups trusted individuals and their devices into a known category. This will enable any unusual requests from either IoT enabled devices or employee requests to be automatically flagged and questioned before action or access is given.

It is in this scenario that IT managers can reap the benefits of IoT, service desk and employee synchronisation. Through the IoT device communicating with the service desk, the service desk effectively managing all end points and the employee working in tandem with the service desk software, the minimisation of internal security risks can be achieved.

While much of this sounds quite out of reach, the benefits of IoT and service desk communication are already evident today, through use cases that are currently very fluid, personalised and often driven by an imaginative use of existing and sometimes emerging technology. Peripheral IT product vending machines holding keyboards and mice, for example, allow the realisation of this relationship to be seen.

However, with so much data being transferred and the IoT still very ‘new’, there are a number of challenges, the most critical being visibility of assets connected and operating under the network.

Communication between all end points and visibility should be fundamental considerations when planning for an IoT based implementation. Intelligent service desks, that can enrich the IT support experience as well as integrate and communicate with the business ecosystem, can host the technology capability to have oversight, communication and visibility of device end points communicating with a network.

While this may appear to be a straightforward concept, often enthusiasm to implement and complexity of service desk and technology transformation has a tendency to drown out and bypass the fundamentals – leaving potential backdoors open.

To ensure that there is a holistic approach toward securing connections with the IoT, organisations must challenge all stakeholders (vendors, integrators and consultants) to apply secure IoT principles to the service desk solution and IT operational unit, right from the “drawing board” phase.

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