It has been some time since the last blog post, such is the frenetic pace of activity through early 2018 helping our customers with their workplace transformations. This is a topic I’ve spoken of many times, often from a visionary or conceptual level, but I thought maybe now was the time to change the tone of the conversation to focus on HOW you embark on the Digital Workplace journey.
From my engagements with many of our customers throughout the UK and Europe, and recognising that a true Digital Workplace programme comprises a Portfolio of projects and initiatives, I’d summarise the process into the following key pillars
Transform the Foundations
Whilst founded in aspiration towards a radically different state, most conversations related to Workplace Transformation invariably start with, or gravitate to, initiatives that I refer to as “Foundational”. Whether these are remediation of current issues, or basic enablers for a future solution, the key to building an effective Digital Workplace is in “getting the basics” right. These activities often have disproportionate impact in that context, , as often these are the specific issues that are frustrating and inhibiting your users the most.
Key examples of projects at this level are:
- Pervasive Campus WiFi
- Core Platform Upgrades (e.g. SharePoint)
- Facilities Enhancements/Rationalisations
Modernise the Workplace
A lot of the focus of Digital Workplace programmes exhibits itself here. These may be the introduction of flagship programmes to deliver a dramatic change to the user and technology environment. These key projects provide significant modernisation of technologies and a more integrated set of capabilities within a solution that propose to significantly simplify the user experience. Often the initiatives have a significant drivat this stage are driven as much by compelling events as anything, which creates a significant drive to implement them quickly. However it is important to recognise that this cannot be done in isolation, and must be accompanied by adjacent initiatives to secure their success.
Key examples of projects at this level are:
- Cloud Productivity and Collaboration – e.g. Office 365 or G-Suite
- Desktop Modernisation – e.g. Windows 10
- Adoption of End User Cloud services – i.e. SaaS LoB Applications
Digitise the Experience
The final area of the transformation agenda is in initiatives that drive towards a digitalisation of engagement points and interfaces. When we consider the examples of companies we would herald as “Digital Businesses” it is the elegance and simplicity of the points of engagement and interaction that we revere.
Key examples of projects at this level are:
- Digitising Service Desk Engagement via Multi Channel
- Experience Analytics and Automation
- Chatbots / Digital Concierge
A Digital Workplace vision and programme will naturally encompass a range of initiatives from each of the three categories, covering the technology layer. It is key to understand the market hype vs maturity in order to evaluate and time your activities accordingly.
But to reiterate, a true programme will not just consider the technology, it will also be comprised of initiatives addressing culture and user behaviour, organisational and operating models and a range of other factors. To achieve success it’s imperative to consider the portfolio approach and understand how each specific activity relates to, is enabled by, or is dependent upon the others in order to ensure its effectiveness and success.
I’m James Gale, and I’m bringing you the final edition of the Project Management Graduate Blog from the 2017 intake. I’ll pause quickly to allow you to shed a tear… Thank you to my colleagues who have written the editions before me, providing you all with updates regarding our progression through the programme.
The last 7 and a half months have flown by, and we are really starting to feel settled into our projects and working life at Computacenter. In this final edition, I thought it would be a good idea to update you on where everyone is currently working, and how the graduate rotations have helped them so far in their new projects.
Firstly though, please allow me a little self-indulgent waffle! I’m from a town called Lechlade, kind of between Swindon and Oxford, and graduated in July 2017 from the University of Reading with a First Class Honours in Business and Management. My early experiences of work, as a waiter and later as a tennis coach, developed my soft skills and showed me how much I enjoy working with all sorts of customers in different types of teams. These experiences, coupled with an interest in technology developed through a 13 month placement at IBM, is why I thought life as a project manager at Computacenter would suit me.
So far, so good! Since joining Computacenter I have been overwhelmed with the time given to us graduates. Gaining exposure to most areas of Computacenter has accelerated our development and allowed us to build a network that is proving invaluable to our project work.
I’m currently working with Mark Goddard (UK Data Protection Officer) on an internal GDPR implementation project. It’s a fantastic first project to be a part of, helping to shape something very important to Computacenter’s future legal compliance (this is where I insert a subtle plug to do your online training). The knowledge gained through my rotations of project management practices has allowed me to own certain work streams already. Understanding the different departments at Computacenter has enabled me to positively contribute to discussions in my project about how different areas of CC handle personal data. My highlight of the programme so far was travelling to Germany to work on development of an online tool for the GDPR project. Working across the Group has shown me the international scale of Computacenter which has been challenging and rewarding.
Now, back to the group of 2017. We are all fully engaged with our projects, which is allowing us to truly appreciate the benefits from our rotations. Here’s a short update from each of the 2017 Projects Graduates…
- My first project is on the Post Office account in the POL Deployment Team. It’s a very dynamic, reactive role which involves a lot of liaison between scheduling teams, engineers and technical support.
- A fictional project assignment in our rotations gave us some useful exposure to the pre-sales and governance process. Now that I am on a big deployment project, I can really appreciate the logistical problems and challenges during deployment and how difficult prediction is during the Pre-Sales process.
- My highlight of the programme so far was getting our hands dirty with TRG. I will fondly remember my time dismantling and reassembling laptops (probably doing more damage than good)!
- I am currently on the Managed Print project for The Authority. It’s interesting to see how lots of projects fit together to empower the customer’s work force and remain secure.
- Currently I am managing risk, change and tracking finances. The rotations helped me understand how these activities I perform fit into the wider picture at CC, i.e. how the finances I track will input into the E-WIP database and be used to forecast Projects Practices’ contribution to the company.
- There were many highlights during the 6 months of rotations, however the ultimate highlight was the International Project Management rotation in Barcelona. It was my first time in Barcelona and what a great city! Over a few days we learnt the importance of thinking and acting globally to grow and protect our business.
- I am currently working within GMS on various Automation Projects with the aim of driving Service improvements. It’s really interesting to see how we are driving service improvements, creating value for our customers and ourselves.
- The wide exposure to different business units through the rotations has allowed me to understand their key business drivers. Understanding how automation benefits these different units really helps with progressing and overcoming issues that arise.
- The highlight of the rotations for me was travelling around the country and across seas to really understand what Computacenter do for our customers and what sets us apart from competitors. Now putting what I learnt into practice is a huge benefit of the programme to aid my development.
- I’ve been working on the Hays PPO for just over a month now. In this time I’ve grown my project portfolio from just 1 project to 11! I’ve had to quickly become familiar with a PPO structure and processes, along with gaining more knowledge about the different technologies we support.
- From our rotations the most useful knowledge for me has been the different ways the departments within Computacenter are structured. Understanding the priorities, workloads and processes of different teams has helped my interaction with them.
- My highlight was the Service Management rotation, where I went to Edinburgh for 3 weeks to shadow Brian Rutherford on Standard Life and Scottish Power. It really opened my eyes to the services Computacenter provide – which considering the enormity of this side of our company, I had little knowledge of before I went.
- I’m currently working with Hannah Andrews and Angela Smith on Project Charon. It’s an internal project implementing CyberArk technology as the link between Customer environments and our own. It’s stretching me technically and I get to work across a range of customers and ISPs. Throwing in some German occasionally is a bonus!
- The rotations enabled me to hit the ground running. With a strong understanding of how Computacenter operates internally and externally, I feel like I always know where to go whenever there’s something the project needs, which has proved invaluable.
- The highlight of the programme has been my time spent on Customer sites: whether it be Eversheds or Schroders, Tesco or TFL or even Sky or Heathrow, interacting with a range of customers has been a humbling experience as I begin to understand just what it is that Computacenter can deliver.
- My first project is at the Home Office. I am currently in a Data Manager role, so I handle data for over 60,000+ devices, which can be overwhelming sometimes but I have become a pro with excel and I find it fascinating that I know where each device is located.
- I really enjoyed the rotations, apart from increasing my network, I have come to appreciate how each department contributes to the success of delivery of a project.
- My highlight of the programme so far was spending time with the International Projects Team in Barcelona. It was interesting to see the presence we have globally and the world wide opportunities that there are.
- During rotations as part of the Projects Graduate scheme, I was fortunate enough to get an insight into the operational side of the business, including our service offerings and what really sets CC apart from competitors.
- As a result of this time spent in a multitude of areas within the business, it also enabled me to build a network, whom have already demonstrated their willingness to provide guidance and support during my move to the Sales Associate scheme at the beginning of this year.
The next blog post will come from the 2018 Project Management Graduates in August. Most of us have met some of the prospective candidates over the last couple of weeks. I’m sure they will be a great intake to bring more fresh ideas to Computacenter (although I’m also sure their blogs won’t be quite as good). Thanks to everyone we’ve met along our journeys so far for all of your help and support. And thank you for reading this slightly extended blog post. Now it’s time for us to create value for our projects and Computacenter as a whole. See you all around!
2017 Projects Practice Graduates
It has become an intellectual tug of war to determine which is more important in the “connected” or “digital age” – networks or applications. Silly argument I hear you say, it’s obviously the …… not easy to answer. In the pre-connected world (if it really did exist), personal computing was as personal as possible, with no connectivity to / with anyone else. Local application, local storage, local processing and a local user made the need for a network superfluous. Fast forward to the present day with distributed processing, “the Internet”, streaming, “always on”, cloud based interaction and a socio digital culture with collaboration and engagement at its core. Without a network, the media rich, highly collaborative now fundamental “always present and connected” mode we embody at work or play is at best compromised and at worst eliminated.
We cannot envisage a world where the network doesn’t work, whether mobile carrier based entities or the home Wi-Fi, if you can’t connect you won’t connect. I spend most days in positive disruption mode challenging colleagues and customers to rethink the traditional approach to enterprise networking with the onus on automation to unlock agility and consolidation to drive simplification. The enterprise networks that underpin today’s digital reality are a wonderful amalgam of technology, people, process plus twenty years’ experience of “getting things to work”. But more is required by the network than a functional existence, as the carrier of our “Digital DNA” an optimised, flexible, agile network holds to the key to many of our future successes. It’s time to be “bold” – to embark on the network evolution required enterprises must dare to dream and envision the secure transport layer required for enhance current user interaction and energise future business outcomes. And when the dream presents the storyboard of how things should or must be, “make it so”.
Technical feature wars labouring the technology based rationale for network modification will be fruitless with a dead heat between vendors the likely end result. Only a user experience driven or business change inspired network transformation agenda will contain the intellectual and emotional energy required to overcome the cultural tides ahead. Wait and see changes and nothing, the time for change is now. With the right network, with tomorrow’s network today a potentially business limiting factor becomes business enabling. And not forgetting, if you get stuck – drop me a line.
“If you can’t connect you won’t connect”
Until next time.
Chief Technologist Computacenter UK – Networking and Security.
If like me you like to travel, one of the things that makes visiting other places so interesting is experiencing the culture and customs of the country or area that you visit. Seeing how the culture shapes the food, drink, ambience, way of living, work and human interactions add richly to the experience you have. Many times when I’m on holiday or travelling, I see people who limit their enjoyment as they don’t want to experience or embrace that difference of culture, which can even lead to confrontation or misunderstandings.
One of the reoccurring discussions I have with customers is how investing in what they believe to be the right technology does not always result in the outcome that they expect. In general people’s expectation of technology is that it just works, which for the most part it does. I have been in to see customers where I absolutely agree that the technology is the correct choice for their business, however a number of factors mean that users do not adopt or use the technology. This reiterates the point that digital transformation of the workplace or business is far more than simply selecting and deploying a solution or the latest technology.
Culture in the workplace
One of the most overlooked aspects of the workplace is the culture that is built both within teams and across geographic regions. The workplace now has more generations working within it than ever before, but labelling people and culture by age or geography simply doesn’t work. Most businesses will have people of all ages and backgrounds working for and with them, culture builds the bond that enables and shapes team interaction and output. Consumerisation of IT also drives and shapes this culture organically within the workplace. An overriding effect on the culture is that of the leadership and management of these teams and this has the potential to have a detrimental impact on any transformation in the business.
One customer that I worked with had created a vision of remote working for the majority of the business, providing remote access tools and virtual desktops to facilitate a “work from anywhere culture” however, my engagement with the business lead me to ascertain that only about 20% of people were using the solution to work remotely. the business asked me “Why?”
Computacenter run an advisory service called Workstyle Analysis which involves interviewing users to understand what they do, how they work and the challenges that they face doing their role. We can also back this up with analytics to provide qualitative and quantitative feedback to help build a picture of the workplace. In this particular instance, it was found that the technology worked and provided the functionality that people required. However, some people crave the social bond that physically working in a team and with people creates, additionally their managers expected to see them at their desks and would make disparaging remarks when people decided to work from home or remotely. In addition, some of the tools provided for collaboration and communication were not adopted, as the culture that some of the users had grown into or accepted was that people needed to be together, face to face to “get things done”.
Now whilst some of the culture was driven by people’s background and life experience, the overriding one was that of their managers. If someone wanted to embrace the new culture or experiment with new ways of working, much like those who refuse to allow cultural experience to enhance who, what and how they see things; those managers were causing conflict and tension – and stopping meaningful change within the business.
This is not an uncommon problem that I see when engaging with customers, so in order for digital transformation to work, senior stakeholders in the business need to ensure that the culture of the workplace is a key factor that is taken into account as much as the technology solutions to ensure better success and the expected business outcomes.
Shaping the future
Culture is also important in the workplace for the following reasons:
- The culture reflects on the ability of the company to realise its promises and commitments. If the company stated core values are not reflected in the culture of the business, the seriousness of stated promises can be devalued
- The company culture shapes how potential and current employees view the company. People want to feel part of the culture at work, so it is vital to build or shape a culture that attracts talent and retains those already there
Of course there are times when culture needs to be adapted or shaped to help drive modernisation or digital change, but understanding the culture first is a vital component to helping drive meaningful and productive change.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of a difference of culture within the business, ask yourself, can I be more accepting and understanding of the nuances of culture within the workplace; if you are the one driving the change, ask yourself, do I truly understand the workplace culture and what that means to those who embrace it, so that I can help effect business change for the better.
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.