A few years ago it looked like an inevitability – better connectivity, better remote-working solutions and collaboration tools combined with the drive to save money meant the office was finished. The daily commute would become as rare as telephone boxes or eating your hamburger with a knife and fork. So, with the end of office working looking like a safe bet for futurologists why are the most technologically advanced and disruptive companies now spending billions on flagship buildings?
Maybe because although software solutions have matured and developed and high-speed Internet access at home is now ubiquitous, face-to-face interactions remain far and away the most effective way to collaborate. It also turns out that people like being around other people (mostly) and the more time we spend at home the more we notice the jobs we’ve been prevaricating over. So perhaps the office isn’t dead, but it will need to look very different from the current offerings before we maximise its potential.
Today’s open plan offices were designed to enhance teamwork and encourage the exchange of ideas but the reality is somewhat different. Modern office designs are blamed for everything from reduced job satisfaction and productivity to increased stress and sickness. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has decided to stay at home because I’ve had some work to get on with. Google and Facebook (to name just two) recognise that getting people to work together effectively means giving them an environment that enables it, that they enjoy being in and which creates a culture that drives them. Cynically, some may say, it is also in their interest to create an atmosphere that encourages and facilitates people to spend longer at work.
The speed at which new ideas can be turned into profitable services is critical to success and relevance in the digital age. The buzz words now are all about activity-based working. The new spaces are not going to look like the offices most of us have spent time in. They offer a range of spaces that allow you to be effective whatever the type of work you want to carry out be that an impromptu meeting, a private phone call or a workshop. Match those spaces to technology and workstyles and it all starts to make sense.
How does it support Digital working?
As much as technology can be a barrier to good user experience so can physical workspaces. By offering different types of spaces people are not dictated to about how they should work or even where they should work. The role of the modern office is to allow people to access the spaces required for the tasks they need wish to carry out. Making these changes has other far-reaching effects.
Brand perception – A clean, modern website can pique interest in a company but that can disappear if the offices don’t match the image. Disruptive and innovative companies, more often than not, have disruptive and innovative office designs that represent the type of company they are and their culture.
Improved collaboration and communication – Modern workspace design is about enabling better collaboration and communication. Being able to socialise at work can build stronger relationships and improve the network you can draw upon through contact with colleagues outside your immediate circle.
Create or drive culture – The types of spaces you create can drive certain behaviours and motivate employees to try new ways of working and thinking, thus allowing the company more input into establishing or building on the culture it is striving for.
Maximise productivity – The open plan office is efficient in terms of space but a common complaint is the number of distractions, which can impact productivity. The latest office designs are about creating multiple types of spaces that mean people can find the place to work how they want.
Attract talent – Companies are fighting to attract and retain the talent. The balancing act is offering the technology to allow them to work effectively from wherever they want but also a physical environment that offers collaborative and social elements to balance work and life.
Boost staff morale – Once you’ve attracted talent you have to keep it. Time away from work can enhance the time at work so there’s a balance to be struck between areas designed to be productive in and those designed for pure fun. Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, schedules two hours of uninterrupted thinking time per day. Bill Gates reputedly took a week off twice a year just to reflect without being disturbed. Think micro breaks though not half a day sitting round a swimming pool.
What’s the future?
The direction set by digital disruptors will no doubt be taken up by the corporates to some degree. For smaller companies and start-ups more innovative working styles have already started to emerge. Coworking is a style of work that involves a shared environment that contains people from more than one company. Believed to have begun in San Francisco in 2005 the number of seats has roughly doubled every year since. The concept began with tech start-ups looking to work somewhere other than coffee shops and home workers looking for more human interaction during their working day. People are seeing them as more than just a physical space now but as a way of networking and building a community of likeminded people.
There seems no slowing in the growth of co-working fuelled by the gig economy and the predicted rise in the numbers of contractors employed by companies. People will always want the social element of work and the networking opportunity that working alongside people from other businesses is a bonus.
It’s also likely that other industries will start to make use of shared working environments as they look to collaborate outside their own sphere. Businesses focusing on science, robotics and AI will move from out of town to make use of the urban tech hubs that are developing in areas like Old Street.
So, the Office is not dead!
Even with technology’s exponential rate of development there is no substitute for physical interaction. It is crucial to consider the human element of why we work the way we do and why the social side of that is so important to our overall health.
However, the reality for most companies is that office space is shrinking. Nearly all new designs have fewer desks than people and so rely on remote working to an extent. This only increases the need for whatever space remains works as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Not all companies are going to build Olympic-style running tracks on the roof of their building or full-size basketball courts in a bid to draw people into the office. The reality for most is that a certain amount of home working is now enforced as the ratio of desks/people decreases. The potential outcomes are the same though. By putting more thought into the spaces that people need for work the time they do spend there will be much more productive and enjoyable. Until then, if you need to get on with something and don’t want to work from home just put your headset on, listen to some calming music and pretend you’re on a conference call. You didn’t hear that from me right?
Welcome to the first 2018 edition of the Project Practice Graduate blogs. In the last blog we had finished our rotation in the international team and were shortly to be heading off into the Christmas break. I am writing this now as we end our time rotating around the business and are eagerly taking up roles on our first projects.
First off and an introduction to myself. I studied Management at the University of Hertfordshire, during this I spent a year’s internship working for Hewlett Packard which sparked my interest in the technology sector. Whilst at, and then having left University I took a role in the public sector working for the emergency services, which was extremely eye opening to say the least. This gave me the opportunity to see a world of extremes, the happiest moments in life and the not so. On a personal note, I enjoy spending time with Family and Friends, who you’ll find me with most of the time. More recently I have taken up going on a number of camping holidays and spending my free time (when the weathers nice) to be outdoors.
From a work life perspective I find it fascinating how technology is rapidly changing the world we live in. The new opportunities it brings, and in fact some of the fundamental improvements it can make whether that be in peoples working or private lives. I have always wanted a career that is focused around people and customers, so project management fits quite nicely into this. I could see an opportunity to progress and succeed and so far with everyone that I have come to pass, and those that have invested their time in the programme, this has become ever apparent.
The past six months, which having read earlier blogs from my colleagues, would have given you an insight to the areas of the business we have undertaken. Our time with various areas of the business will be invaluable during our future with Computacenter. It is only now going onto projects that the true value of getting a guided tour around a large proportion of Computacenter will show its true worth in allowing us to be effective and of value to both our colleagues and our customers. For me this is what the rotations have been about.
With the initial rotations around the business at an end I feel it best to thank everyone that has given up their time to input into the programme so far, there were many of you! So thankyou! On behalf of all the grads on the programme.
Our most recent and last rotation was with Service Management. I was lucky enough to join the team for three weeks at HSBC. This gave a real insight into how we engage with our customers on managed service engagements. On a personal note a thankyou Ed Kwok for your time over the 3 weeks!
My first project is internally within the Group Managed Services (GMS) focusing on cloud and automation which I was looking forward to. I am ending my fourth week on the project whilst writing this blog. So far, so good. The project so far has given me the opportunity to understand GMS further and in addition to this develop my understand around how Computacenter delivers outcomes for our customers through the managed services we provide. Not being technical by any measure this has allowed me to broaden my technical knowledge in the automation space.
From my personal perspective and that I am sure my colleagues on the programme would agree with, is that now, being on our first project within our first teams outside of Project Practice it is nice to be able to ‘Earn our Stripes’. On that note I will leave it there, the next entry will come from James Gale.
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.
I remember clearly the day it seemed that VMworld ‘jumped the shark‘ (follow the link if you’re too young to get the reference). It was 2014 and Pat Gelsinger (VMware CEO) was giving his keynote speech. Behind him the enormous screens were repeatedly displaying the words ‘Brave’ and ‘Fluid’. Where was the technology? Where was the cool stuff? Thinking back though, maybe I was wrong to be so scathing.
It’s certainly true, that the pace at which technology is developing means it is no longer an obstacle to addressing most business problems. The challenge now, is how we position it, how we apply it, how we explain its value to people and how we help them get the most out of it. Maybe there was something in it after all. I was right about Evo:Rail though, Pat.
As my colleague, Paul Bray wrote in ‘The Shifting Role of IT in the Digital Workplace’, the IT department is contending with the move from an environment designed for stability to one designed for agility (or, in other words, fluidity). This is as much a cultural change for the people who have spent their careers focused on managing the pace of change and being risk adverse, as it is for the users having to adopt it. It is fair to say though, that not all users or businesses are that demanding of technology. It’s in these situations that IT staff need to perform a role that they are often not confident in doing or able to do effectively. They need to engage with the business (gasp!) They need to be able to translate business requirements into technology solutions and they need to communicate how those solutions can be measured against business metrics to show their value. IT can then have an input into the business case, without owning it.
Here’s an example – Business A has identified that it takes 60 days for sales staff to be ready for their first customer engagement and feels this is losing them the competitive edge. IT identifies that new starters have to be trained on 12 different systems. Booking and completing these courses takes valuable time and effort. In consolidating those 12 systems the business can provide a better user experience, reduce support costs and enable new sales staff to be productive much more quickly. The costs of the software that will do this can then be directly related to the increased speed at which new starters are out selling and being productive, and so the business case is created. In this way IT proves its value to the business and fights off the competition that often comes from disgruntled employees with a credit card.
Here’s another example that’s close to my heart. It’s time to roll out Windows 10. There’s no point burying your head in the sand, you’ve got till 14 January 2020 to get off Windows 7 (like you didn’t know). On its own it’s hard to push the benefits – better security, device support, blah, blah, blah… Windows 10 is just a platform for you to build your Digital Transformation on. Talk to the business, talk to the users. How would they like to work? How is the IT they currently use preventing them from doing that? What is the business plan for the next five years? How can the solutions you want to deploy support that? Or at the very least not be a hindrance to it. Then when you’ve introduced those solutions you will need to constantly innovate and measure their uptake as well as understanding what’s worked well and what hasn’t. In this way the ‘Evergreen’ nature of Windows 10 does help. The new normal is going to be constant change.
So yes, IT, you have to be ‘brave’ and you have to be ‘fluid’. You have to accept that the world is changing fast and there are new skills that have to be learnt in order to survive. The pace of that change brings with it a fluidity that needs to be managed and its benefits explained. What’s the alternative? As we see the continuing drive from vendors to consume everything as a service, IT is under real pressure to show its value, to be defined not as cost centre but as an innovator and enabler in the Digital World. That starts with being able to identify business needs and then recommend solutions for them. Telling the CxO that you’d like to roll out a new product so that users can search for things more easily is not explaining its value. IT needs to understand the language of business, support the organisation’s aspirations and provide metrics to show success.
The future of internal IT is becoming less and less technical as a result of this. Those that don’t embrace this and fail to see the importance of the ‘productisation’ of IT risk becoming irrelevant to the very businesses they support.
I’m Isobel or Issie for short, and I would like to welcome you to the Christmas edition of the Projects Practice Graduate blog. Thank you to Tom for running through the many things we have learned over the past month and for thanking everyone that has hosted us. In this edition I will take you through some of our most recent tours, rotations and Christmas parties.
Before I get into what we have been up to these past weeks, here is a little bit about me; I am originally from the Isle of Man but have now moved to the big vibrant city of London. Which as you can imagine was a bit of a culture shock, causing me and the Sat Nav to become joined at the hip. I graduated this year with a 1st class honours in Psychology at Nottingham Trent University and jumped straight into the graduate scheme here at Computacenter.
Whilst our time here at Computacenter has been short, I think all the Grads would agree that we have learnt an exceptional amount, not only about projects but about the Computacenter values and the many different teams involved in delivering a great service for our customers. I would like to thank all the teams we have met for taking the time to speak to us and for all the help and support that has been offered along the way. In particular I would like to give a little shout out to our buddies from all of the Grads, for really going the extra mile to make us feel welcome and preparing us for starting on an account in February. Thanks Ben Rodney!
Over the past couple of weeks we have been very busy, starting off with the RDC tour; where we learnt about the different services RDC can provide us and our customers and saw in action the capabilities of the giant shredder prepared to securely destroy data and devices. A big thank you to Jodie for hosting us. In this same week, we also had the opportunity to tour the London datacentre where we learned the extreme examples of good and bad cabling. Along with getting an insight into what our datacentres can provide our customers in terms of security and maintenance. If you get the chance I would strongly recommend visiting, thank you Chris for showing us round.
A major highlight for all the Grads was the Computacenter Christmas party at Willows Farm, it was bigger and better than any of us could have imagined and it was a lot of fun catching up with some of the people we met whilst on our rotations! For those of you that couldn’t make it, the night was filled with giant dancing skeletons, dancers, cocktails and casinos. To the 2016 Grads, James and I won on the bumper cars!
The final rotation of 2017, a personal favourite of mine, was the opportunity for us to fly out to Barcelona to meet the International team. It was a brilliant insight into the international capability that Computacenter has and the vital role international plays in its growth. It was a great experience meeting some of our Barcelona colleagues and seeing how our values align so well across the wider organization. It also gave Alex and I, a chance to practice the Spanish we had been learning in preparation for the trip. Gracias Mark Peter, Ben Lawton y Computacenter Barcelona, fue excelente! (Thank you Mark Peter, Ben Lawton and Computacenter Barcelona, it was excellent!)
So as we prepare for the challenges of the New Year and reflect over the lessons and experiences of 2017, we can look to how we can improve in the future. For me the way I start off is by thinking about my new year’s resolutions and particularly since starting at Computacenter, how I can improve on our values, not only in working life but also in my personal. Although I will be working on all of them, in particular I will be focusing on ‘Inspiring Success’ within Computacenter and recruitment …… What will you choose?
Thank you very much for reading my first blog post, I hope you enjoyed it. The next update will be brought to you by Tom Darwin.
Happy Holidays everyone and a Happy New Year!
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!
I’m Tom and welcome to the fourth instalment of the Projects Practice Graduate Blogs. We’ve been with Computacenter around four months and have had the opportunity to experience many different parts of the business. I’m here to take you through the most recent month of our rotations which we have spent with Consultancy, GIO, Presales and TRG.
But first, some background info about me. I’m originally from Peterborough and studied French, German and (a bit of) Spanish at the University of Exeter. So as a company with major bases across the European mainland and operations across the globe, Computacenter is a perfect fit for any graduate with an international outlook.
As someone who is technically minded, our rotations with Consultancy and GIO were two of the rotations I have been most looking forward to – and I wasn’t disappointed by them. With Consultancy Practice, we had the opportunity to meet key members of the Consultancy team and also witness their expertise ‘in the field’ at customer sites. The highlight for me was most definitely the time I spent collaborating with one of our data analytics partners, Splunk, at Transport for London. The session was all about helping TfL learn how they can best make use of Splunk’s powerful analytics intelligence and it was great to see Computacenter working with our partners and our customers in the same room to achieve a common goal. Our thanks to Jay Horsley for organising the week.
Our time with Global Infrastructure Operations (GIO) was an opportunity for us to discover our managed services from another perspective. Over the week we learnt how GIO operates a 24/7 service with global reach, meeting members of every Service Line team to give us a full understanding of the services we can provide to our customers. From a projects perspective, this was an important rotation as it teaches us the need to communicate well with the GIO teams from the start of a project when we are transitioning a Customer’s service to a CC provided solution. This focus on collaboration is something we are all hoping to bring back to the Projects Practice at the end of our rotations. Many thanks to Karen, Louise and Jo for organising the week.
Our week with Presales was a particular highlight for the whole graduate group. Nigel Reeve, the Practice Lead aligned to Presales, arranged for us to take part in the fantastic Commercial Negotiation course alongside some of last year’s graduates and other members of the Projects Practice. This was an incredible learning opportunity for us since this course is usually only reserved for Level 2 Project Managers and Senior Project Managers. There are two main lessons I took away from the course: Firstly, a negotiation will only go as well as the planning and preparation that goes into it. Secondly, a negotiation is about establishing a Win-Win with our Customers, not a Win-Lose. This means that collaborating with our Customers is the key to both of our successes. A thank you on behalf of all the graduates to Nigel for a great week.
Our most recent rotation has been with the Technical Resources Group (TRG) where we had the opportunity to learn more about Computacenter’s largest department. My highlight of this week was seeing our engineering team in action at Heathrow and Sky: both were busy Customer sites undergoing lots of changes and our engineering team are at the forefront of enabling this. Something that has been mentioned to us as projects graduates is that we are often some of the best sales representatives of Computacenter as we are constantly working with the Customer at their sites. Though this is true, it’s only half the story: it is in fact our engineering team who have the most day-to-day interaction with the Customer’s end-users and they’re the ones who ultimately effect a change or resolve an issue for the user. As a result, it was great to hear some of the fantastic customer feedback about our engineering presence at Heathrow and Sky. Thank you Bhupa for organising a fantastic week.
What I want to leave you on is this: the thing that has struck me most since joining CC is our can-do collaborative attitude. No matter how technically challenging, no matter how nascent a solution and no matter how tough a customer request may seem at face-value, as long as it’s good business for Computacenter, we always go the extra mile for our Customers. We work with our Customers to enable their users and their business to achieve their goals. This is something we have seen internally as our rotation hosts go the extra mile for us projects graduates, and externally as we have visited various customer sites where Computacenter collaborates for a Win-Win with all our Customers.
Over the coming weeks we will be on the road visiting our device recycling partner RDC, our Romford Datacenter and will be jetting off for a very exciting trip to Barcelona to see our International team in action; but I’ll let Issie Ferris tell you all about that as she will be writing the next blog.
Thanks for reading!