Digitally Speaking
Data lake benefits

Team Logicalis
August 28, 2019

When implemented correctly, a data lake can really benefit organisations by helping them to efficiently extract business value from their data environment.

View our infographic to see how a governed data lake could help you gain control of your data.

Data lake benefits

  • Easier data access to a broad range of data across the organisation
    With a governed data lake, users can access structured and unstructured data located both on premises and in the cloud. They can access what they need, when they need it, without sending time-consuming requests to IT.
  • Faster data preparation
    A data lake can accelerate data preparation in several ways. For example, implementing a data catalogue helps increase knowledge and understanding of the data, which in turn accelerates data preparation. In addition, building a data lake with a hybrid cloud infrastructure gives organisations the ability to store data on the platform most appropriate for its use. When data is placed in its ideal location, it takes less time to locate and access it, thereby speeding up data preparation and reuse efforts.
  • Enhanced agility
    Faster data preparation lets users explore more. Components of the data lake can be employed as a sandbox that enables users to build and test analytics models with greater agility. They can experiment with analytics and—in some cases— “fail fast” to move on to the most productive avenues more quickly.
  • More accurate insights, stronger decisions
    By providing access to more data, accelerating data preparation and letting users experiment with data, a data lake can help organisations generate more accurate insights. A well-constructed data lake can also track data lineage to help ensure data is trustworthy. All of these capabilities help organisations make better business decisions.

Read more: Five data lake myths

If you’re thinking it’s time to make waves with data in your business, register for a Logicalis Data Services Workshop.  We’ll carry out a robust gap analysis exercise to help you define the practical next steps towards a successful governed data approach – and help you avoid the dreaded data swamp!

Find out more 

Category: Security

Jump data lake

Team Logicalis
August 23, 2019

Data has ability to create new opportunities and revenue models for organisations, but how to manage all that data generated and drive useful insights is something IT leaders are still grappling with. For good reason, data lakes continue to get a lot of attention, however misconceptions remain. Read these five data lake myths before taking the plunge….

Myth one: A data lake is a product which you can buy

A data lake is a reference architecture that is independent of technology. It’s an approach that an organisation can use to put data at the heart of its operation that includes governance, quality and management of data, thereby enabling self-service analytics to empower all consumers of data.

As helpful as it would be, a data lake is not a product that you can just purchase. You can’t just buy any data warehouse solution and call it a data lake.

Myth two: There is only one data lake solution

A data lake could be developed and used based on many relational database management systems – you’re not tied into the prominent names, there are lots of vendors and systems available.

A data lake combines a variety of technologies to establish systems of insight to provide agile data exploration for data scientists to address business needs.

Myth three: Data lakes are for dumping data (and forgetting about governance)

While software and hardware are key components of a data lake solution, equally important is the cataloguing of data, quality of data, and data governance and management processes.

Just as some data warehouses have become massive black holes from which vast amounts of data never escape, a data lake can become a data swamp if good governance policies are not applied.

All data in a data lake must be catalogued, accessible, trusted, and usable; active governance, quality and information management are indispensable parts of the data lake.

Myth four: Delivering access to the data lake success is a measure of success

Having data in a central location is not a true analytics solution. The goal is to run data analyses that produce meaningful business insights; to uncover new revenue streams, customer retention models or product extensions.

But that data must be trusted, relevant, and available for all consumers of data. A data lake needs an intelligent metadata catalogue that can relate to business terminology, moving cryptic-coded data and making it more understandable with context. It will also attribute to the source and quality of data from both structured and unstructured information assets and governance fabric to ensure that information is protected, standardised, efficiently managed, and trustworthy.

Myth five: The data lake is a replacement for a data warehouse

The data lake can incorporate multiple enterprise data warehouses (EDW), plus other data sources such as those from social media or IoT. These all come together in the data lake where governance can be embedded, simplifying trusted discovery of data for users throughout the organisation.

Therefore, a data lake augments EDW environments to allow, enable or empower data scientists and analysts to easily explore their data; discover new perspectives, insights, and to accelerate innovation and business growth.

Thanks to mobile devices, apps and IoT, for example, the amount of unstructured data is growing exponentially, so it’s no wonder the demand for data storage is intensifying.  According to IDC, data lake adoption is expected to rise from 30% of organisations worldwide, to 90% within the next three years; to see if this approach could be a solution for your organisation, download our latest infographic  if you’d like to know more and identify some practical next steps, why not register for one of our Data Services Workshops?

Find out more 

Data lake women end pier

Team Logicalis
August 16, 2019


Data, data everywhere but not a drop to use, that’s how the poem goes, doesn’t it? Something like that anyway…. Is a data lake the answer to the challenge of making the most of ever-growing data volumes?  Organisations we’re working with are increasingly exploring this approach to address demands for an agile yet secure and well-governed data environment.

What is a data lake?

A data lake is a shared data environment that comprises multiple repositories and capitalises on big data technologies.  Unlike a data warehouse, a data lake uses a flat architecture that keeps data in its native format until it’s needed. It allows rapid landing and storage of data, and it provides ready, unfettered self-service access to data for analysis. Comprehensive governance capabilities help ensure data can be easily found, understood and stored without duplication.

For more information on the difference between a data lake and a data warehouse, we like this ‘super simple data lake explanation’ from Forbes.

How might a data lake address some of your data challenges?

A well-governed data lake will:

  • Enable swift access to a full range of data in a timely fashion for business users, analysts, data scientists and developers, so they can generate accurate, meaningful insights
  • Accelerate analytics and data preparation to keep up with the speed of business
  • Facilitate collaboration between knowledge workers, data scientists (when deeper analytic capabilities are required) and data engineers (when it’s time to deploy data lake–based applications to line-of-business users).
  • Ensure data quality, security and governance to provide users with trusted, understandable data while protecting privacy and maintaining compliance with regulations
  • Accommodate a rapidly growing collection of data with a scalable approach to storage that supports fast-growing data volumes cost-effectively while maximizing existing resources.

Download our infographic to see how a data lake could help your business

Considering taking the plunge into the data lake? Sign up to one of our Data Services Workshops where our data experts will get to grips with your current data environment and infrastructure, your business challenges and data goals, and then give you practical advice and achievable milestones to help you meet your data aspirations.

Find out more  

Data analysis

Richard Simmons
July 30, 2019

Guest blog. Data has become a fundamental tool in decision making for big businesses. Data analysis, along with the entire process that moves it and shapes it, has become a strategic asset that helps improve and evolve large organizations.

I’m delighted to introduce a guest to our Digitally Speaking blog – Sergio San Martín, Head of Data Analytics at Ferrovial Services. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Sergio for a number of years as the global IoT team here at Logicalis had the privilege of helping Ferrovial Services create the intelligent city waste collection system he references in his article.  Sergio is hugely experienced in supporting businesses to build the right culture and approach to maximise the value of data and I found his blog extremely interesting.  Everyone is always quick to highlight the value of data and the risks associated with not implementing data management strategies but very rarely do you hear how this should be approached.  To hear from Sergio some practical advice though on how to actually implement such a strategy and take a business through the transformation is fantastic.

 

This article was originally posted on 5th July, 2019 on the Ferrovial blog and was written by Sergio San Martín, Head of Data Analytics. 

Sergio San Martin Ferrovial Services
Sergio San Martín Head of Data Services, Ferrovial Services

 

I firmly believe in the power of data. I believe in its unquestionable impact and influence on the strategic decision-making process, when based on empirical evidence. But I question its influence on business transformation when more importance is attached to data per se than to the processes for guiding and governing it and transforming it into knowledge.

There are success stories that show how brave companies understood data as a strategic asset and created the necessary ecosystem to ensure that it was governed and guided to its full extent. These are companies that revolutionized their industries, turning conventional wisdom on its head and leaving other companies that were incapable of seeing that everything had changed in the dust. 

Netflix is a case in point. It’s obviously a classic, but it’s nonetheless a clear case of how a company that was in the business of renting DVDs by mail saw that the conditions were ripe (digital screens, bandwidth, streaming technology) to transform the TV industry, and it became a giant in the world communications industry. All of this started from an age-old principle that is deceptively simple: “You must understand your customers.” 

think that the key to Netflix’s success was not only its ability to acquire, integrate, and analyze all sorts of data related to how its customers use its platform. They succeeded by taking data as the starting point, focusing on governing it, and developing processes to turn it into knowledge. I can’t ignore its latest move into interactive content, where the user chooses the plot of a chapter in a series. That is simply brilliant. Did they create this interactive content to satisfy the user, or is it a way of extracting more data from the user while entertaining them at the same time? I have no doubt what the answer is: it is a new way of gaining deeper insights into user tastes and preferences focused on ad hoc content creation. 

This dynamic strategy denotes a high degree of maturity

During my career, I have had the good fortune to work in a range of industries. In recent years, my current company, Ferrovial Services — which operates in infrastructure and services for cities — has developed a range of projects and initiatives in the area of data analytics, some based on traditional statistical methods, others on new analytical techniques such as artificial intelligenceAll these endeavors had a clear goal: to promote data-based management, so as to reduce energy costs  in building maintenanceunderstand the dynamics of a city through urban data, optimize routes and propose dynamic approaches to waste collection, keep our workers safe, perform predictive maintenance for assets, and use image recognition techniques to analyze the status of critical infrastructures.

Generally, based on my experience, I believe that if you want to incorporate data-based management into a company, you have to start with a diagnosis. In particular, a company that does not have data in its DNA must calibrate its transformation in terms of its actual ability to adopt and change. It’s like the process by which a child moves from solving basic jigsaw puzzles up to completing ones with thousands of pieces: 

When a 3-year-old starts with jigsaws, they use a trial and error method that involves trying out every single piece until they find one that fits. Little by little, they develop simple strategies that enable them to group pieces by color or picture and, in this way, they can build fragments of the puzzle — little victories that keep up their morale and enable them to advance towards new challenges. 

As the puzzles become more complex, the old techniques no longer work. There comes a time when new strategies are needed, based on more complex methodologies. This happens because, as the child plays with jigsaws, they mature cognitively. They develop problem-solving abilities, learn to draw up strategies and follow them, and acquire spatial and visual skills.

  • The key to success:being able to identify the child’s degree of maturity throughout the process of playing and learning. This way, when we see the need, we can introduce the most appropriate techniques and methodologies for addressing more complex challenges so that the child can move toward the final goal: having fun and finishing the puzzle.
  • Learning: if we get ahead of ourselves and adopt a strategy that is too advanced, that curtails the learning mechanisms and demoralizes the child, eliminating the dimension of play and fun. On the other hand, if we are not capable of gradually elevating the maturity level of the child’s game with new techniques and methodologies, there will come a time when they cannot solve complex puzzles and, as a result, will feel frustrated and lose interest in the game. 

Data analysis puzzle

An organization must ensure that it constructs and uses processes and methodologies for guiding and governing data that are in line with its degree of maturity. Ferrovial Services, a multinational company, is addressing the challenges arising from the complexity and variety of data in its business units and the services it operates. In recent years, we have acquired skills and honed our abilities, supported by implementing scalable, sustainable data analytics projects.  

If we extend the previous analogy, we face a global, multi-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. To this end, we have equipped ourselves with a strategic data plan and a program to promote data-based management of the business. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that, at all times, appropriate processes are applied to guide the business on this journey, which seeks to transform data into knowledge, and that knowledge into decisions. Decisions that are better informed, and often more judicious. 

Prior experience in industries where data-based knowledge is already a reality shows that there is no one formula, no predefined path. This shows us the power of data to its fullest extent. A power that has transformed industries while sinking companies that failed to appreciate it. A power that must be used and cannot be ignored. A power that will exist only if the right processes, at any given time, are created to guide and manage data. 

Category: Analytics

CRN Women in Channel Awards

Jen Molyneux
July 25, 2019

The Women in Channel Awards, hosted by CRN, recognise the achievements of the leaders and exceptional employees who act as role models for young women considering a career in IT.

The shortlist has just been announced and we’re very proud to say we have four finalists!

So, who are the Logicalis UK employees who are influencing, challenging and reshaping the tech industry in 2019, and what have they been nominated for?

  • Amanda Nelson, Head of Sales Support – Manager of the Year
  • Kate Dadlani, Chief Information Security Officer – Rising Star
  • Reg Bluman, Marketing Programme Manager – Rising Star
  • Sarah Pidgeon, Sales Operations Manager – Sales Employee of the Year

The award ceremony takes place in London in October, so we have a little time to wait before we know if we can repeat the success of last year when Wendy Paine was crowned Technical Employee of the Year and Natalie Matthews was awarded Role Model of the Year.

Congratulations to Amanda, Kate, Reg and Sarah – we’re all very proud of you; and good luck to everyone who has been shortlisted!

Category: News

Stars

Jen Molyneux
July 22, 2019

Never ones to shy away from endorsing employees, we’re thrilled that our CISO is a finalist in Computing’s inaugural Rising Star Awards.

These new awards celebrate the best new IT talent in the UK, and the sector’s future leaders. Not about young versus old; they are about shining a spotlight on the success of those at the beginning of their career.

Nominated as a rising star of the year for large organisations, Kate Dadlani joined Logicalis UK two years ago as a Security Manager. She’s now our CISO, has completed our European High Potential Programme and has numerous new certifications to her name. Kate is bridging the gap between the business and our leadership team and is excelling at maintaining the organisations focus on security. Mark Lewis, Logicalis FD said “Kate is full of energy and highly motivated to protect Logicalis. She is doing a fantastic job of creating a security-conscious culture throughout the business. This not only supports us and our customers, but the fresh thinking she brings to security-based activities also helps her colleagues outside of work.”

Kate Dadlani Computing Rising Star Awards

Kate told us “I always knew I wanted to work in technology and that I wanted to excel in my career, but I didn’t always have a clear vision of how I was going to get there! So, my approach is to utilise every experience I encounter to identify elements of roles that I enjoy and want to pursue – Logicalis is giving plenty of opportunities to hone my skills, take on responsibility and make a lasting impact relatively early in my career.”

Congratulations to Kate, and indeed all the finalists, we’re looking forward to hearing your stories at the award ceremony on Wednesday 9 October in London.

Category: News

The digital factory

Richard Simmons
June 26, 2019

In the world of manufacturing Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), flooring is a great visual metaphor for two, often-conflicting, sides of the business. The carpet tiles of the office – governed by IT, versus the epoxy resin floor of the factory – governed by operational technology (OT). Business needs, procurement cycles, downtime allowances; everything is different. And here lies the first, and often biggest, challenge in the journey towards the ‘digital factory’: harmonising two separate worlds.

Like the interchangeable carpet tiles, the IT equipment in the office is refreshed during relatively short investment cycles. But with costs running into the tens of millions, the plant, machinery and assets of the industrial side, like the long-wearing resin floor beneath, are expected to perform for decades.

With such colossal differences, it’s often difficult to get IT and OT to work together and consider each other’s business needs. But if the two can unify, there are real savings and improvements to be had, in terms of efficiencies, data and business insight, cost reductions and productivity.

What is a ‘digital factory’?

Industry 4.0. It’s the latest buzzword in IT and manufacturing and is generating lots of noise. But away from the chatter most manufacturers are actually focused on business as usual. Aside from the difficulty in breaking down the barriers between the office and factory, the term ‘digital factory’ itself has been a source of confusion.

When you delve further into what is required to deliver a digital factory, it quickly gets complicated. A manufacturer would have to build capability in a number of different areas to get to the point of maturity needed to achieve ‘digital factory’ status. They’d need to be generating data about what’s happening on the factory floor, driven by centres or actuators; things that are either generating data or that you can pass messages through to act based on your data.

Then comes the need for networking and connectivity – both within the plant environment and industrial areas as well as within the IT areas. Next, you’d need data and analytics platforms, enabling you to bring that data together and then run analytics, which would then move into areas like machine learning and AI. And then the most valuable element: how you build out the business process, creating workflows to start automating these processes.

While there is some value in having a dashboard that shows if a machine is working as effectively as it should, the real value is to be able to start tuning that machine in real time using your data.

A true digital factory is made up of many layers. At the centre are devices, connectivity, data and analytics, and automation. And, as you can imagine, that’s quite a complicated mix for manufacturers that might be early-on in their digital transformation journey and may not have the platforms in place or the in-house skills to manage them.

While IT equipment is refreshed every few years, the opportunity to update and upgrade plant equipment, machines and assets is hampered by eye-watering capex costs and downtime – a very real challenge. Machinery and equipment will run constantly for months and even years, so maintenance periods are few and the ability to install new technology is limited. Digitising and automating this environment is a long journey, and many OT teams simply don’t know where to start.

For those just setting off, it’s common to see small pilot projects. Perhaps a few sensors to condition and monitor the health of machinery, or to generate data for understanding machine efficiency. We’re talking small-scale, relatively inexpensive pilots to test and learn. But that’s still a long way from manufacturers investing millions to refresh entire operating environments, fully-integrated with IT, and used to make tangible operations savings.

So how can we get closer?

The first step is getting the two sides talking and working together. What’s needed is a unifying, cross-departmental manager who can engage the OT and IT sides of the business to develop a strategy whilst taking ownership of the delivery. Mythical though it may sound, little by little, the role of Head of Digital or Head of 4.0 is actually starting to appear in a handful of manufacturing firms.

The Head of Digital will be the architect of change; their role absolutely critical to the success of digitising the factory. Just having that view across the business; having the responsibility to integrate IT and OT without a bias in either direction, could help elevate projects above the common roadblocks, and see successful pilot projects move through to production.

Unifying people, culture and entrenched processes are key challenges that this role will have to manage. Change brings the greatest resistance, so, along with technical know-how, the Head of Digital will need impeccable people skills to break down the silos between the office and the factory.

For manufacturers just starting out on the journey to design a digital factory, the destination must feel like the summit of Mt. Everest, viewed from the foot. It’s a long, steep climb and not to be embarked upon lightly. My money would be on the Head of Digital to cut the best path to the top without leaving anyone behind.

In digital the spending between business innovation and digital platforms is balanced

Chris Gabriel
June 13, 2019

The world is awash with digital transformation excitement.

Digital is happening around us all day, every day, in the way we work, socialise, learn, purchase goods, entertain ourselves, live in our cities and receive treatment by the health service. And in large or small ways, digital is changing, augmenting or transforming the way things are done in every industry.

Some of those digital things delight us and we adopt them with speed and passion and never look back. And many of those digital things are foisted upon us and take a while for us to accept or enjoy our lives being digitised for us.

In digital the spending between business innovation and digital platforms is balanced

According to International Data Corporation (IDC), global DX (Digital) spending will reach $1.18trillion in 2019, an increase of 17.9% over 2018.  Over the next four years, an additional $4trillion will be spent by organisations on digital initiatives that they hope will give them a competitive edge or, in the case of government, better serve the needs of their population.

So, with just over £5trillion of investment in the next few years, where is all that money going?  IDC’s research paints a picture of the business and the CIO having shared responsibility to use this growing pot of money to drive digital transformation.

What’s getting the businesses investment? Spending in autonomous operations ($52billion), robotic manufacturing ($45billion), freight management ($41billion) and root cause technologies ($35billion) show that digital investments are systemically changing industries. Boards are clearly realising the potential of making the world a smarter, more efficient, more productive and more reliable place.

But, according to IDC, it’s the CIO who is being given the lion’s share of this investment pile, building and operating the underlying infrastructure that digital businesses will now rely on.

In fact, hardware and digital services to develop, integrate, and support digital will grab 75% of all digital spend in 2019.

Connectivity ($102billion), IT Services ($154billion) take 25% of all spending, and enterprise hardware from cloud infrastructure to enterprise servers, storage, and end devices will devour $253billion between them.

Adaptable and progressive – innovation will power the best digital platforms

If one thing jumps out at me from the IDC survey it is that the stuff being invested in by the business sounds a lot cooler than the connectivity, IT services and hardware that the CIO is building to support new digital business models.  It feels big on ideas and big on business impact. It feels full of AI and machine learning, autonomous and automation.  If you pardon an old man trying to sound cool – it sounds dope.

If the business stuff sounds transformational; the IT stuff sounds transactional.

But, while the names for the near 75% of digital foundations purchased by IT sound the same as they ever were (we have been buying connectivity and servers for decades), the new generation of platforms that will support digital initiatives are just as progressive as the autonomous, AI, predicative, smart machines and things that will rely on them.

Today’s networking engineer must be as familiar with automation as their autonomous factory colleague.  Today’s data centre server specialist must be adept at automating the provision of applications and their container services to any location as their AI enabled supply chain colleagues.  Today’s security specialist will be using more AI to secure their business than their colleagues developing the next intelligent health screening system.

And of course, in a world where DevOps is creating a flood of new digital applications, your networking, data centre, cloud or security engineer of the future will also be disruptive developers.

Cisco, the company that connected the world through the internet, has over 600,000 members of their development community DevNet; pushing the potential of digital platforms as much as any Apple or Android games developer community ever has on those funkier platforms.

And while IDC classifies lots of spending in hardware, today there is really no such thing as a hardware driven IT strategy.  The network switch, the physical server, the security appliance, are now hosts for software that is transforming once static IT hardware into a new generation of highly adaptable digital platforms.

We live in a world of Software Defined, where digital platforms can be integrated, automated, developed and adapted to the exact requirements of every part of the digital business model.  And of course, in the digital world it is crucial that they can.

If 75% of the investment companies are making into digital business models is being directed at the underpinning digital platforms, the pressure is on those platforms to support transformation over time.  In the old world, big technology platforms support static business models, and were complicated and slow to change.  In the digital world, in the application world, agile is everything.

That $800billion of investment must provide a perfect digital service in a changing world, from the first sensor or robot installed in the autonomous factory, or connected asset, or intelligent building to the last.  There is no room for the status quo in the digital world; change is a given.

So, CIO’s will use their money wisely and become the hotbed for progressive digital platforms that will ensure that £1.18trillion delivers maximum economic return for the organisations and the society that will be transformed not overnight, but over time.

 

Category: Hybrid IT

TechXLR8 IoT and advanced analytics

Richard Simmons
June 4, 2019

Join Logicalis to witness how Industry 4.0 is playing an increasingly pivotal role in helping eliminate food waste and to learn how to get hyped IoT and AI pilot projects fully adopted.

London Tech Week is back. During the second week of June the city will see a festival of live events showcasing the best of UK tech and innovation.

We’re delighted to be playing our part by joining IBM on 12 -13 June at TechXLR8, London Tech Week’s flagship event. Based at ExCel and home to seven of the biggest technology conferences, including the AI Summit, IoT World Europe and Cloud & Devops World, TechXLR8 aims to connect people to the technologies that are driving digital transformation and revolutionising businesses.

Visit our demo booth at BC106, ExCel London…
We’ll be exploring how IoT and Advanced Analytics can be used to create zero-waste food production methods, eliminate over-production and better respond to market demand. You will:

  • See how IoT and Advanced Analytics can improve business processes, implement predictive maintenance and enhance demand forecasting
  • Experience how IBM Visual Recognition can help better sort waste (such as coffee cups, meal deals or water bottles) to minimise improper disposal and begin to make the zero-waste movement a reality
  • Learn how we’ve applied IoT to drive value in industrial, retail and smart environmental settings

Register now for your bespoke demo on the day. 

… and hear how we can help you make your IoT and AI visions a reality at IBM’s silent theatre
While there is a huge growth in the number of businesses embarking on IoT and AI pilot projects, according to IDC up to 75% fail to move into production. The primary cause is the lack of understanding of the impact to the key enterprise architectures to allow a pilot project to scale into a secure, performant production environment.

Join Richard Simmons, Head of the European IoT & AI Practice at Logicalis at 11am on Wednesday 12 June to hear about practical approaches that will help you overcome IoT and AI adoption challenges – before it’s too late to turn projects around.

TechXLR8, 12 – 13 June 2019, ExCel London, stand BC106

Your agenda:

  • Register for TechXLR8, for free – https://tmt.knect365.com/techxlr8/
  • Lear how to unlock the real value of IoT with Advanced Analytics at IBM’s stand – BC106
  • Hear how Logicalis can help you overcome IoT and AI challenges at 11am on 12 June at IBM’s silent theatre
  • Follow #TechXLR8 and #LTW for all latest news

Category: Analytics

Chris Gabriel
May 17, 2019

Why Higher Education CIOs have to manage exceptional expectations through adaptable investments.

Imagine being an IT Leader working for a firm that replaced 25% of its workforce every year with new employees who were paying you to come to work and who were of a demographic that demanded the very best in technology services, then being surveyed constantly with the results published to the world about how well you met their expectations.  Not a job you would imagine a queue around the corner for.

Of course, that isn’t the description most Universities publish when looking for a CIO, but, that is the challenge of expectation that comes with this unique role in IT.

It is difficult to think of a more demanding role.

Now factor in that you are helping run a large complex campus that serves tens of thousands of students, hundreds of academics, research environments and in many cases private sector business users doing cutting edge research projects.  An environment that comprises tens if not hundreds of buildings.  A transport hub.  Retailers.  A place of learning, life and entertainment.  Where people expect to be kept safe and secure.  Sounds exciting. Tempted?

Well, what if you had to do all of that for the price of a latte per user per day?

CV in the post is it?

Getting more from less – theory v reality

In an age of growing transparency, Universities are ever more encouraged and regulated to publish a breakdown of how the £9600 per year student fee is spent.  How much on teaching, buildings, admin, research, and, of course IT.  The Office for Students, the sectors new financial regulator, and others, including the Minster of State, are creating a reporting environment that is giving students ever more detailed access to how their fees are spent, linked to the concept of value for money.

In a report published in November 2018 by the Higher Education Policy Institute[1], and one that garnered many negative headlines in national news media[2], this independent policy think tank published analysis of several leading institutions spending habits of their students hard found fees.

Any prospective CIO would likely look at the reality of their budget prospects and run a mile.

Investments in IT services varied across the report, but spending ranged from a low of £520 and averaged at around £580 per share of student annual fees.  Now in percentage terms that’s 5% at the lowest spend with some institutions investing up to 9% in technology services. Sounds generous.

But, if you break that down by the number of days a student spends on campus you have the grand total of around £2.36 per day, per student, to run IT services.  We aren’t even in large latte territory.  CIOs are delivering IT services for the price of a flat white.

When you break the numbers down, the reality of running one of the world’s toughest IT gigs on a budget that expects you to deliver not just world-class services but exceptional experiences that differentiate your institution against your competitors is daunting to say the least.

The CIO wishlist

So, is it any wonder why this year’s UCISA* conference was a hot bed of discussion on topics such as automation, adaptable digital platforms, data driven decision making and the priority of demonstrating that IT investments can benefit every aspect of campus life such as student safety and security?

CIOs came with an appetite to discuss and drive change in how what they and their team do can better impact a range of outcomes; so, what was on their hot list of topics?

  • Automation of major IT platforms to reduce the cost of operations, shifting resources to experiential roles rather than traditional IT service admin.
  • IT platform investments adapting to longer term requirements; using the latest in software defined automation and innovations such API platform development to better integrate investments.
  • Building better strategic platform roadmaps so investments shift from being depreciating assets to ones that demonstrate increasing value over time.
  • Platforms such as the digital network becoming multifunction investments; not just supporting students and their devices, but playing a role in the connected campus, IoT and student safety.
  • Data as a key decision-making tool for the CIO and the right data being made available to all stakeholders across their institution; but not in backward looking reports, for real-time decision making.
  • Governance and control of resources is now key; the rush to the cloud for desktops has been followed by major application workloads, but the CIO is now looking to put controls and governance in place to ensure the cloud doesn’t become a cost or a risk.

Lessons to be learnt

The key to this major feat of investment sleight of hand must be adaptability.  No longer can a network, or data centre, security investment or data source become an asset that stays stagnant to only perform the job it was initially designed for.  Nothing can be left to depreciate – because the network bought this year is serving a new cohort of students next year.  And it is expected to support IoT campus security in three years.  A data centre platform this year must extend to the cloud next year as applications and data can be shifted to the most cost-effective location.

IT operations cannot stand still either; automation that is impacting every industry must be embraced in full to prove that human resources are being used as the truly valuable resources they are in delivering high-value experiences, and software and automation takes the strain of repetition.

And of course, at UCISA whilst the CIO was looking for ‘technology life hacks’ to show that the money they are being trusted with delivers increasing value, they are also looking for partners who are able to shift their focus to more value-driven relationships.

They don’t want partners who just look at how much budget there is to spend on a major tech re-fresh, but a partner who demonstrates that an in investment can deliver accentuated value over time.

The world of the CIO in Higher Education must be one of the most exciting roles in the industry; and by partnering in a different way we can shift the focus on how much money is being spent on IT services – stop the headlines castigating institutions for investing in anything but teaching – and show that the CIO and their partners are focused on turning the money we are entrusted with is continually delivering differentiated experiences for every University stakeholder.

If we can do all of that for the price of a flat white, then the drinks are definitely on us.

 

 

* UCISA is the member-led professional body for digital practitioners within education.

[1] https://www.hepi.ac.uk/2018/11/22/new-report-calls-universities-tell-students-fees-go-new-figures-reveal-half-fee-income-goes-teaching-rest-also-benefits-students/

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/nov/22/less-than-half of-tuition-fees-spent-on-teaching-at-english-universities

Category: SDN / Mobility

Richard Simmons
April 26, 2019

If you work in IT like myself, you’ll know what a struggle it can be to explain to your family and friends exactly what you do for a living. More specifically, that your job is probably so much more than fixing a laptop – although this is something that I must admit people still ask me to do now and then…

Not being able to easily explain to people what I do and the value of it was frustrating, but now this is changing along with the nature of my job. In the past two years I have been heavily involved in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). Now the solutions that I’m developing and the projects that I’m working with are having a direct impact on people, communities, and even potentially broader societies. From flood prevention to waste optimisation and robotic process automation, the application of technology is changing the way people live and work. So now, when I give examples of my work, people can relate to or even be amazed by how far technology has come.

Moving past repetitive tasks…

The impact of technology, and particularly the development of AI on businesses and society, is something that I spend a lot of time discussing with customers and partners. The advent of Cloud computing has enabled us to analyse vast quantities of data with ever more powerful computers, which is extending the possibilities of what we can do. Recently, there has been a lot of discussion around AI programs that have excelled at a particular task, predominantly a type of game. The AI could be trained to execute a specific task to a level beyond human capabilities. We see this approach being applied within manufacturing, where robots can be programmed to repeat a particular task to a precision and speed that a human would struggle to match, and can learn from their experience to develop more efficient ways of working.

The focus now for companies like Deepmind is to develop a general AI that can be good at more than one task. For Deepmind, this was initially also focused on games and the ability for machines to learn independently, until they are at a level to outperform humans. The hope is that these general AI programs will be able to apply this approach to multiple real-world problems, reducing the time they need to become effective. The concern though is that we will reach a point, sometimes called the Singularity, when we will develop an AI that has the ability to learn and apply itself to any problem, without needing input from human programmers. It is easy to see that this could have huge benefits, but for me, it is also a cause for concern.

Autonomous cars are  a good example of this dilemma. We know that leveraging autonomous cars could have a huge impact on society. For the elderly or disabled it could open up much greater freedom and mobility than is currently possible. For governments and councils, it would allow them to get greater efficiency out of the infrastructure that is in place and manage the increased demands from a growing population. But they will never be entirely safe and they also raise a fundamental problem; how do we program an AI with the rules and ethics that we as humans live by?

The most widely known example of this is the runaway car. A car is travelling down a hill, it cannot be stopped but can be directed to move. On one side is a cliff, on the other side is a child, in the middle of the road are two adults. What should the AI in the car do? Swerve over the cliff and kill you, as you are in the car, but save the child and adults? Swerve and kill the child but save you and the adults? Or not move at all and kill the two adults but save you and the child? What if there were two children not one, or what if the two adults were pregnant women, or perhaps there are children in the car? All of these situations would need to be defined in a set of rules, and even then you may need to agree to have a setting in the car, which would allow you as the occupant, to decide whether the car should put more value on your life or on others, as not everyone’s values are the same.

So what’s next?

This for me highlights one of the key points around the development of technology in the next few years. Technology will not suddenly take over, nor will AI dominate and compete directly with humans, unless we let it. Stephen Hawking, the world-renowned theoretical physicist, expressed his fear that AI might replace humans altogether. He believed that we should still move forward on Artificial Intelligence development, but we also need to be mindful of its very real dangers.

It is up to each business to decide if AI should replace a human and if they do, whether the employees can be given more rewarding work or be made redundant. It is up to society and governments to decide if AI should be applied to urban mobility and how they mitigate the impact on those that work in those sectors currently. What we can do with technology will have a direct impact on all of us, but I strongly believe that it is humans that will determine how that develops and how it is applied. Perhaps in trying to replicate how humans behave in AI solutions, we will actually learn a lot more about what makes us human in the first place.

Fork in the road

Chris Gabriel
April 11, 2019

A recent report featured in TechRepublic claimed that 41% of business leaders thought their ‘digital transformation programme’ had been a waste of time and money.

Reasons for this near 50% failure rate in delivering on business expectations were varied, from a lack of engagement with front line colleagues (63%) to a lack of engagement with business analysts (39%), and strikingly 79% of executives saying they had failed to analyse existing business processes and assess where improvements could be made before striking out on transformation.

Given those responses, it wasn’t a surprise to find that 42% of senior business leaders had no idea where to start in finding areas of their business where some sort of digital intervention could deliver improvements.

On the face of it, it all sounds a bit of muddle, and clearly, this article points out some rather obvious gotchas.

Never start a major investment without a clear reason for doing so

Unlike in the old-world (BD – Before Digital), the challenge today is there is always a moving end-goal that organisations will only ever get to in stages. Digital is not an overnight sensation.  Digital takes time and time is an organisations biggest advantage and greatest enemy.

Imagine being a UK bank that announced a major branch opening program in the heady days of 2006?  Within a year or two the economic crash, change in customer behavior and the launch of the iPhone meant that online and mobile banking would become the norm.   That first banking app was pretty basic.  Now you can transfer money to friends on the fly, pay for a coffee through tap payments, and save the change from a transaction to an investment account.  But that took 10 years to develop; and who could have guessed right back then how mobile banking would pan out?

I have some sympathy with those executives who do not know where to start or feel they have wasted time and money because their first attempts to ‘go digital’ have not returned all they expected.

But, being sympathetic is cold comfort to those embarking for the first or second time on a delivering some new business outcomes through digital investments.

So, when the CEO, CFO, COO and CIO sit down around a table and discuss digital and ponder the time it may take or the destination they may reach, I think there is a key word they should all keep in mind, and that is adaptability.

As a famous US general once said, there are known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns. The best thing you can do is assume that during a transformation initiative they will all happen, so try to plan accordingly.

Think adaptability as your new value proposition back to your business

Build adaptable operational models, adaptable platforms, and a new set of skills that can adapt what you invest in not only to the immediate business need, but also to the changes that will inevitably come over time.

Application developers have been agile and scrumming for a while now; that’s how that banking app keeps on adapting to changing consumer behavior and industry changes. So, let’s scrum down on platforms as much as we do on the applications that use them.

Cloud is a great example (or should be) of creating adaptable into the model.

Remember when the rule was no cloud, but the business moved CRM there anyway? When owning the largest data center in your sector was a badge of honor?   Adaptable IT Departments now use cloud services as adaptable resources, consuming services as they make sense to their business, and ensuring they can wrap security, governance, integration, cost control and workload mobility around those services.  Now they are seamlessly connecting their internal compute and storage resources to public cloud services, so they can adapt workloads to the most appropriate location and maintain full governance and control.

Remember when you bought a firewall and you were told to a) put some rules in to protect your business and b) never ever touch the thing again without a 3-month sign off process from the business.  In the world of static threats that was sensible model. But in a world of social change, hyper-connectivity and mobile working, and a changing threat landscape, the smart CISO is building an adaptable intelligent security operating model that protects their organisation far more effectively than the static firewall ever could and delivers on the flexibility the business demands.

If the digital initiative happens to be IoT the network must be ready to adapt many times over; in fact, it will never stop.  That very first POC of a connected home to deliver health and social care in the NHS will likely involve 1 central location and 10 homes, but will if successful soon be 100, 1000, or 10,000 homes and is going to need a network that can adapt quickly and securely.

So, to those business leaders who are starting out on the digital journey, do your homework, gather your evidence, engage with your people, and get into those business processes to ensure you know why you are starting.  But, don’t be concerned if you cannot pick the day and time of the first benefits accurately, or if you have to change course as new evidence appears and fresh opportunities present themselves.

Adaptability is your friend; you have time on your side.

Category: News

Data storage

Gary Lomas
April 5, 2019

Three quarters of UK enterprises with 500+ employees think their current data environment/ storage infrastructure ‘does not meet their needs well’: but what are they planning to do about it?

The storage landscape is changing rapidly as businesses strive to deal with an ever-increasing volume of data. To discover more about the challenges of operating current storage infrastructures and what this means for near-future storage strategies, we surveyed those at the sharp end of the data explosion to create ‘The State of Data Storage in UK Enterprises’ research report.

Download the report

 A snapshot

The three biggest challenges of operating current storage infrastructures

  • Security and compliance
  • The complexity of diverse systems
  • An over-stretched IT team

The three biggest storage headaches for 2019

  • Security and compliance
  • Increasing volumes of data
  • Choosing the right storage option for specific business needs

These pressures are creating major headaches for IT professionals, who must manage and monitor ever-expanding storage infrastructure while keeping an accurate and up-to-the minute view of available capacity. The task is further complicated by the multitude of storage options now in common use – including on-premise, public and private cloud, and hybrid solutions – and exacerbated by the current scarcity of skilled and experienced IT staff.

Preparing for the challenge of Artificial Intelligence and IoT

The report highlights a spike in the accumulation of unstructured data. New technology – from machine learning to IoT and AI – is creating an avalanche of digital information. And of course, new data compliance regulations mean that more information must be safely stored in a way that also makes it easy to find, retrieve and, if necessary, delete.

For respondents who indicate an intention to adopt new storage technology in 2019, the drivers behind investment mirror the challenges they currently face. The highest number (22%) want to replace legacy infrastructure, while 16% want to add capacity and 13% want new storage technology to help them fulfil security or compliance obligations. 15% of respondents want to simplify their storage management processes and 20% are keen to add scalability to their storage infrastructure, so they can easily boost or reduce capacity as circumstances dictate.

Explore our in-depth research on the biggest challenges associated with operating current storage infrastructures and how your peers are planning to tackle them.

Category: Hybrid IT

Data backup

Alastair Broom
March 28, 2019

This Sunday marks the 8th year of World Backup Day. What began as a light-hearted campaign to encourage end-users to create secure copies of their treasured photos and files is slowing morphing into a message for the business community: without data there is no business.

Most UK businesses are now part way through digital transformation, which is fuelled by data. Almost every business decision is based upon the data held, yet losing that data is worryingly easy. From equipment theft and accidents to security breaches and simply failing to backup, businesses have to work hard to safeguard their data. And with the growing sophistication of cyber attacks, both the prevention measures and the price you pay for failure are increasing.

In February, hackers breached the servers of a US email provider, wiping the data from its US servers in what was termed an ‘attack and destroy’ incident. The firm did have backup measures but they weren’t secure enough to prevent the attackers from infiltrating their backup servers. No ransom, just an act of vandalism that put the company out of business overnight.

This senseless attack illustrates the point: we cannot overestimate the importance of data or its security. Fortunately, there are steps all businesses can take to protect their most precious asset.

Understand the value and location of your data

Your critical data is not just in your datacentre. It’s likely to be dispersed right across the organisation, from HR and marketing to sales databases and financial systems. It could be a spreadsheet attached to an email, but if that’s the only copy, and that data has a high value to the organisation, then that spreadsheet is critical data.

Understanding where the data is located and knowing its value is essential to determining your data protection policy. It’s not feasible to back up every single piece of data, so knowing what matters is crucial. This is where data discovery and classification do the heavy lifting, increasing your visibility of where data resides on the network, the endpoint and in the cloud, and allowing you to create scalable security solutions to protect that data.

Arm yourself against ransomware

While it’s not an uncommon occurrence for organisations to lose servers or for data centres to go down and return without their data, most businesses do now have their most important data backed up. This has historically been used as protection against ransomware, a form of malware which locks the user out of their device or files and then demands a monetary ransom to restore access. However, cyber criminals have evolved their malware to search out and encrypt backup servers as well as the primary data store so it is important to ensure backup systems are adequately protected from attack.

In 2018 there were 4.7 million ransomware attacks, down 50% from the previous year, but still alarmingly high. And while attacks have decreased, they have become more targeted meaning Enterprises and SMBs alike need to do more to protect their data.

Backup is critical as it enables lost or ransomed data to be restored and business disruption minimised. Encrypting data will protect against data theft but without appropriate protection for the data backups, corporate data can still be destroyed or rendered inaccessible during a cyber attack. Making sure backup systems are suitably distanced from the primary data is critical, if there is a link, cybercriminals can find a way in.

Put the right policies in place

It bears repeating that businesses must understand the value of their data and where it’s located. Discovery and classification enable a security policy to be applied to data and provides a platform for automated backup policies.

In order to build the most effective defences, you need a policy which delivers a level of protection that is appropriate to the value of the data. The policy should dictate different levels of resilience for your tiers of data. For really critical data, the best line of defence is to keep it secure on a completely different, non-digital system.

Don’t forget your role in cloud security

If you put your data into the cloud, don’t be fooled into thinking your cloud providers are responsible for security. They will, of course, ensure your data is secure from external attacks, but they can’t control your access policy. If you get breached internally then criminals can get access to your cloud-stored data. Poor user awareness and lax password policies can leave the door to the cloud wide open, so security must be made a high priority.

As with any security threat, internal training can create an extra line of defence. By training employees to spot and stop phishing emails and other forms of social engineering, organisations can prevent accounts becoming compromised and protect their data and backups from attack.

Your data is a valuable commodity and should be treated as such. By understanding its value, taking steps to remove links between your operating environment and your backup servers, and by protecting your business from ransomware attacks, you know you’ve done the best job you can.

World Backup day

(This page is not officially supported or endorsed by World Backup Day)

 

Category: Security

Women in Channel A list

Jen Molyneux
March 25, 2019

Back in October, leading IT channel publication CRN hosted its inaugural Women in Channel Awards. Five Logicalis UK employees were shortlisted, with two going on to win their categories!  And now, five are on the A-List!

Determined to continue their efforts to recognise the individuals who are influencing, challenging and reshaping the tech industry, CRN have since launched the first Women in Channel A-List. Modelled on the annual who’s who of the channel, which this year included both our MD and COO, it’s described as an annual guide that features the wave makers of those working in the channel. We’re proud to announce that five of our employees have made it onto the list, giving their opinions on how the industry can become more diverse, ways to encourage more women into the IT sector, and their career top tips.

Logicalis Women in Channel A-List

Andreea Ceasar, Marketing Campaign Manager at Logicalis UK and an A-Lister said ‘no matter how you look at it, there is a painful gender deficit in the UK IT channel. Any initiative that tries to bridge the gender gap, as the Women in Channel A-list does, should be supported by the entire industry. Women in tech need to be heard and seen, because only with real examples can we change mentalities and misconceptions. Being a very small part of this movement feels really good.”

We’d like to congratulate all of our A-Listers who continue to rework the tech sector and encourage other women to join the industry:

View the full Women in Channel A-list 2019.

Category: Security, Women in IT

Students working together at university

Richard Simmons
March 20, 2019

If you’re attending next week’s UCISA Leadership Conference, make sure to visit the Logicalis stand 83-90 to meet our higher education experts and see first hand how technology can create a connected campus to improve student safety, reduce costs and transform experiences.

The UCISA19 Leadership Conference takes place between 27 and 29 March at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. The highlight of our presence at the event will be a live demonstration of a connected campus, which aims to show how investment in foundation services can help to bring previously siloed technologies and datasets together. By making the network the enabler, we’ll show how campus furniture – in this case a lamppost – can be used to securely collect actionable sensor data, which when analysed can enable, for example, student safety measures.

UCISA logo
As Cisco’s UK & Irelands first IoT authorised partner we will be demonstrating the latest in digital network automation to show how this can improve the IT team’s ability to design, provision and manage network services, creating seamless secure experiences across any network or device.

Register for a demonstration

Logicalis UK’s strong track record within higher education (we work with over 40 universities), is evidenced by our work with the University of Wolverhampton on an IT transformation project that enabled it not only to meet current needs, but also to provide a platform for future digital innovation. This partnership has, so far, resulted in a number of benefits for the University’s community. Savings of £33,000 have been made by retiring unused applications and transitioning from legacy systems and an 83% reduction in the cost of creating and operating a virtualised server has been achieved. Speak to our on-stand experts to learn how we can achieve similar for other academic institutions.

To keep up to date with all our activities make sure you follow us on social media:

Category: News

Gary Lomas
March 13, 2019

The role of the CIO is transforming, from its position in the C-suite hierarchy to the very footprint it covers. This week, we welcome guest blogger Paul Pugh, Mason Advisory Director, to give his view on the Logicalis Global CIO survey findings and tell us what’s keeping his clients awake at night.

Security is top of the agenda

We live in an age where IT is no longer just an enabler but is now becoming an integral part of the business. In many cases, IT is actually the business’ competitive advantage. And with the growing importance of IT to the operation and continued growth of the vast majority of business sectors, it’s little wonder that the number one concern and biggest source of investment for CIOs is information security.

The more we digitise our businesses; the more we empower the end user, the more important information security becomes. And with the growing threat of intrusion the more proactive CIOs must be.

Historically, information security was all about being reactive. But in this ever-changing threat landscape, CIOs are focusing on proactive security, channelling investment into systems that stop threats happening.

Cyber resilience combines defence with detection and recovery; accepting some attacks are going to make it through the toughest of barriers. This move to a cyber resilience posture is a growing trend among our clients. Effective cyber risk management involves a much wider approach to information security, and this year we have certainly witnessed the human dimension of cyber security gain more attention.

According to research from the recent CIO Survey, while ransomware, crypto-jacking and social engineering remain a key focus for CIOs, there has been growing concern over the lack of staff training and awareness, data breaches and malicious insiders. CIOs are now considering the ‘human firewall’ alongside traditional security technology.

Innovation earns IT its place at the top table

Over the last ten years, we’ve witnessed the changing role of the CIO and this trend is really gathering momentum. The need to innovate is possibly the biggest catalyst for change. One area of focus is within DevOps. There seems to be a growing mentality of continual release where newer, richer functionality is continually being delivered to the end user, and the CIO is integral to that.

Today, better, faster, more scalable technology is almost a given. Now, innovation is how we can support the business to provide a better experience to the end user, and how we can make sure our internal processes are more agile, more secure, more available and performant.

The new breed of CIO is coming to the table with an appetite to understand more, to adopt new ways of working and to drive business strategy.

The anatomy of the IT estate is changing

The Global CIO Survey talks of the expanding footprint but shrinking core of the IT estate, in which the core – technology and services hosted on-premises and managed in-house – now accounts for less than two thirds (64%) of the IT estate. We have certainly witnessed this trend of CIOs moving services to the cloud and into the hands of third-party providers.

Lots of organisations are looking at SaaS products which allow them to manage costs more effectively. There will always be services that organisations have to customise or develop in-house. But for the more common services, there are benefits – not least financial – to moving to a SaaS system, as long as the appropriate governance is in place, otherwise the move to the cloud can offer additional service and commercial challenges.

As cloud security and reliability grows, many organisations are putting their faith in cloud services, from email and security to CRM and data storage. The CIO Survey results show that 24% of the IT estate is now in the cloud, whether that be managed in-house or by third parties.

The move to outsourcing and moving services to the cloud is driven, in part, by the need to devote more time to innovation and activities that drive business growth. As this movement continues, we will see the role of the CIO continue to be shaped by the need to innovate with technology, delivering better communication, more transparency and improved security. The pressures are certainly growing – but so is confidence to decide which systems and services to keep in-house and which to migrate to the cloud and third-parties. It’s certainly an exciting time to be a CIO.

Category: News

Richard Simmons
February 18, 2019

Peel away the shiny facade of any great business and you’ll no doubt see the same things. Data. People. Process. This combination, when correctly tuned, is the critical factor in the success of businesses today. So I’m always surprised when I work with clients who haven’t yet discovered this ‘secret sauce’ and who aren’t yet driving value from their data.

Reassuringly, up to 75 percent of CIOs are now harnessing their data effectively, according to Logicalis’ recent global survey of CIOs. In today’s challenging trading conditions, organisations that combine business intelligence (BI) and analytics to enhance customer service, delivery and supply are the ones that will thrive. Never has there been more pressure on CIOs to put data in the driving seat for real competitive advantage. In fact, if CIOs are not driving value from their business intelligence, they may struggle to stay in business.

Quality in, quality out

Successful use of BI and analytics starts with knowing what makes good data. You can provide the most stunning visualisation for a business but the output will only ever be as good as the data going in.

From the perspective of the customer, good data, or rather, correct data is critical. From personalised emails that label you the wrong gender, to clumsy sales calls for services you don’t need, we’ve all been at the receiving end of misplaced marketing messages where the data held on you doesn’t quite match up. If customer data is wrong then, undoubtedly, the customer experience is not going to be a good one.

But changes are afoot, driven in part by data governance. GDPR has been a contributory factor in improving the way many businesses handle data. It now costs resource and money to store and secure customer data, so if it’s not adding value then there’s no point keeping it.

From a business perspective, data must be linked to business objectives. Our survey has revealed 25% of CIOs simply don’t know whether benefits are being derived from BI and analytics, suggesting that some CIOs are involved in delivering data projects without fully understanding how they will be used. Similarly, 41% of CIOs stressed that having no clear business brief is a barrier to moving forward with BI and analytics projects.

Manage what you mine

Next to quality, management is the next critical factor. I have worked with clients whose marketing teams spend as much as 80% of their time creating data sets and 20% of their time on analysing it. With all their time tied up at the front end of the machine, they have no time to analyse and action the insights they’re getting. If you can’t make your data work for you, what’s the point in mining it?

In the last two years, 90% of the world’s data has been created. Knowing what to do with it is far from straightforward. I often go into businesses that have so much data they get overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. That’s where curation comes in.

A key challenge in maximising data is knowing which of it to use, and when. When you don’t know what you don’t know, how can you effectively explore the data you produce? Data curation is a relatively new function that, by combining the skills of data scientists and data analysts, allows businesses to determine what information is worth saving and for how long.

It’s the difference between looking for a book on Amazon or going into a Waterstones store. The former will present you with a million options. The latter uses expert sales staff to find out what you’re looking for and guide you to a range of options.

Businesses looking to enable self-service analytics will utilise data curation to give internal teams quicker access to the data they need to make commercial decisions. This could be in the form of an in-house data curator or support from an external team. But the outcome is what’s important.

Make your data project pay from the start

Getting tangible benefits from BI and analytics requires resource, but it also requires ongoing investment. And where there is investment, there must be strategy. Joined-up thinking across the business and a laser focus on the return on investment can help businesses avoid common stumbling blocks when starting BI and analytics programmes for the first time.

It’s sadly quite common for organisations to jump into data projects without ensuring the ground-work is in place, with the digital wing of the business introducing new BI and analytics process only to be tripped up by old business practises in other areas.

There can be a tendency to overlook the ROI of BI and analytics projects, which can be a huge risk to the business. My advice is to break the project down to start driving outputs and getting results you can use quickly. I have seen many organisations stall because they embark on huge, monolithic projects that take years to complete and can become outdated during the time of implementation. This can be easily avoided by adopting agile working practices – going through cycles and iterations that produce results you can start using immediately.

Is respect for data a cultural thing?

BI and analytics are essential for innovation; the pace of which is defined by the pace of valuable insight coming into the business. So developing a data-driven culture is a critical component.

We need to change the way we interact with data, from the customer data we store to the intelligence we mine and use to make better decisions. With a clearer focus on business outcomes, organisations can harvest their data more effectively or even decide whether or not to invest in large BI and analytics projects. I still go into businesses that want to introduce BI and analytics without truly understanding the business challenge. If your business is running effectively then why implement it?

So how do we build a data-driven culture? It must start from the top down. BI and analytics advancement can improve business practices and help make better decisions, but they must be part of, and driven by, strategy.

The cultural shift is already happening. Our understanding and use of data is changing as new blood enters the market. Today’s entrants have grown up with data, at home with functions like Apple Siri and Amazon Alexa, which allow us to get answers really easily. This is truly a data-driven generation.

We’re almost at a cusp where for every CIO used to the old world, there is a new data-savvy millennial joining the industry. It’s no longer just about the technology, it’s the people and processes behind the tech that are driving change and changing company culture.

Where we see BI and analytics really pulling their weight is where CIOs aren’t afraid to experiment with their data, using agile working to go through cycles and iterations rather than attempting large scale, monolithic BI. Getting results you can use straight away to improve the business is the secret to bringing the rest of the C-suite on-board for the journey.

Category: Analytics

Justin Price
February 7, 2019

It’s an undeniable fact that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing the way we live. From facial recognition and voice technology assistants to self-driving cars, AI has crept into our lives and as consumers we use it without a second thought.

But its impact across a wide range of business sectors is perhaps the hottest topic in tech right now. AI has developed and matured to the stage where, for some functions and operations, the levels of accuracy have overtaken human skills.

Yet with stories of mind-boggling complexity, escalating project timescales and spiralling costs, the much-hyped technology is still regarded by many business owners with confusion and as a risk. Justin Price, Data Scientist and AI lead here at Logicalis recently led a webinar about the business reality of AI. One of his key points was that knowing what you want to achieve and setting realistic expectations are the best guarantees of a successful first AI adoption.

Choose the right AI tool for your business need

During my meetings with clients, and from talking to CIOs, it has become apparent that confusion reigns over the terminology used to describe Artificial Intelligence.

There are three key terms at play. All three fall under the umbrella term of AI, and are often used interchangeably but each has a different meaning. AI is a technology that retrains or ‘learns’ patterns and other specified behaviours to achieve a set goal. Crucially, it is about producing something which didn’t exist before.

Other types of AI behaviour include:

  • Robotic Process Automation or RPA – a software designed to reduce the burden of simple but repetitive tasks done by humans
  • Machine Learning – essentially probability mathematics used to spot patterns in very large samples of data
  • Deep Learning – a Neural Network which mimics the way the human brain works to examine large data sets, and unstructured data formats such as HD images and video

Being aware of the subtle differences and uses of these terms allows a greater understanding of which tool will best-support your business’ data insight needs.

Make sure your data is up to the job

When delivering an AI project, around 80% of the total effort and time will go into making sure your data is correct. Underestimating the importance of top-quality data is a common pitfall for organisations because, just like any other IT tool, AI will perform poorly if you have low quality data.

Data must be well structured, and it must be in format that’s consistent and compatible with the AI model. Don’t forget that AI is a process which must be regularly re-trained to ensure accuracy, so ongoing maintenance is essential.

Brace yourself for complexity

Never underestimate the breadth and complexity of what is involved in building and delivering an AI project. For many CIOs this will be their first experience of AI and, even with the right data, there are many variables at play that can add to both the costs and timescale of implementation.

Working with the right partner is essential to guide you through the first project. We recommend undertaking an initial project with a fixed fee whereby you can deliver a functioning result while you establish trust and credibility with your solution provider.

As well as the importance of good data, another critical factor in delivering a successful AI project is finding a solution that is scalable. It’s one thing to write an AI model on a laptop, but it’s a completely different thing to write a model in a way that will survive deployment across a business. Getting expert advice will help you decide on the right foundation to support your project. This is where Logicalis can add real value.  We have the skills and know how to advise whether your AI initiatives can use existing infrastructure, or if the AI applications would require new servers with new performance capabilities.  And if new infrastructure is needed, we can guide your organisation toward on-premise or a hybrid-cloud expansion.

Know when AI is (and isn’t) the right tool for the job

With a plethora of impressive use cases available to businesses spanning most sectors, it’s no wonder AI is the tech tool of the moment.

But AI is just another technology and won’t be the right choice for every business looking to gain insight from their data. The importance of prioritising people, process and culture in any AI project has already been discussed by my colleague Fanni Vig in a previous blog, and is absolutely essential to ensure your business isn’t trying to use AI where a different tool could deliver the desired results.

At the highest level, AI allows you to work through far larger data sets than previously possible. It can be used to help automate your data workflows, redirecting low-difficulty but high-repetition task to bots, which allows people previously engaged in these tasks to work more efficiently.

This process creates a new way of working that may have greater implications across the business as roles change and skills need to be channelled in different directions.

Introducing AI is a truly cross-business decision. And let’s not forget that, at the most fundamental level, using AI to harness your data is an investment that must show a return.

AI adoption steps

Finally, get advice from the experts

While the impetus to adopt AI may come from the IT department, the results generated can help drive cross-company productivity; help differentiate businesses from their competitors; and delight your customers through a more tailored service. The impact cannot be underestimated. But neither can the complexity.

If you’re considering whether AI could help you get more from your data, let Logicalis guide you through your first successful deployment. We will collaborate with you every step of the way to:

  • Help you decide which area(s) of your business will benefit most from AI
  • Help you identify where the relevant data resides and help you access and structure it
  • Deliver a business-ready solution which is scalable to meet your needs
  • Advise on infrastructure requirements
  • Analyse the data to provide rich insights in to your business

 

Category: Analytics

Richard Simmons
January 25, 2019

If you’re heading to Cisco Live, make sure you visit the Logicalis booth (S6) to meet our Cisco, security and IoT experts and find out how we can help you enhance business agility through digital transformation.

Cisco Live EMEA takes place between 28 January and 1 February at the Fira Gran Via in Barcelona, and we’re exhibiting in the ‘World of Solutions’ as well as presenting during the Cybersecurity Partner Day. This annual customer conference aims to inspire IT leaders and champions of digital transformation.  It presents a unique opportunity to acquire cutting-edge knowledge and skills on the technology that is already in use, and those that we’ll rely on in the future through meetings with, and presentations by Cisco experts and partners and unparalleled networking opportunities.  And that’s where we come in

Logicalis has a long history and strong relationship with Cisco. We’re one of only six Global Gold Partners and in November last year we scooped 14 Partner Summit awards across multiple territories and categories.

Meet us in Barcelona

We’ll be on stand S6 in the ‘World of Solutions’ for the whole week, so feel free to pop by for a chat with one of the team, or to view one of two demonstrations.

  • Digital Network Architecture – a roadmap to digitisation
    Find out how we integrate Cisco software defined access with industrial networking and IoT solution
  • Predictive threat analytics – automated detection and response
    Discover how we integrate Cisco Stealthwatch with IBM QRadar to provide full context and rich visibility into security information and event management (SIEM) applications.

David Angulo, Security BDM Consultant from our team in Spain will also be discussing integrating Cisco’s Behavioural Analytics Technology Stealthwatch with IBM’s SIEM QRadar during the Cybersecurity Partner Day on January 28 at our booth at 4pm.

Plenty of ways to keep in touch if you can’t make it to Barcelona!

To keep up to date with all our activities make sure you follow us on social media.

Cisco will be live steaming a lot of the show, so if you want to feel like you’re there and watch in real time visit CiscoLive.com/emea or YouTube.

Category: News

Alastair Broom
January 18, 2019

We spoke to Paul Graziano, Cyber Security Compliance Manager at Transport for London (TFL), about his job to defend the UK’s largest public transport network through innovative approaches.

The transport system is part of our critical national infrastructure – how do you see the cyber threat against this evolving?

I think cyber security within critical national infrastructure is becoming an increasingly complex task. A common security challenge is that many of the systems and devices we rely on were built when security wasn’t really an issue. They were designed for only a few people to have access to them. Now, more and more modern industrial control systems are being connected by IT Infrastructure, which is of course a positive thing.

However this means we don’t design ourselves into a position where we have to break in security to protect residency devices, which is what we’re currently working on. Instead of having security by design, we need to put the monitoring around these systems, so we know what users are accessing, know what they’re doing, as well as the network monitoring around these devices too.

What can we do to protect our critical infrastructure against attack

There’s no simple answer to this. In some ways, what we’re trying to do now is use a framework we’ve adopted in Information Technology (IT) to protect Operational Technologies (OT) which involves a security strategy. Security needs to start right from the beginning of the procurement of new systems and IT needs to make sure any new systems meet our security requirements.

I think we need to assume that we will be compromised. As long as the Security Operations team have that visibility, we will be able to respond to any incidents if need be and they’ll also need to be able to pull the plug in worst case scenarios.

A lot of work has been done within the government to help us out. The Centre for Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI), a UK government body, released a number of frameworks for industrial control systems. They believe we should structure our industrial control systems to make them secure and deploy frameworks around them to achieve that.

What are your thoughts on the value of threat intelligence and and security analytics in the fight against cybercrime?

Both are extremely important and a vital part of Security Operations. Threat intelligence is a necessity as we need to understand what the new threats are and how that could morph into an attack on TFL.

Security analytics is just as important because to protect your network you need to have good visibility over it and you can only really achieve that through security log analytics. To do this you need to have the capability to sort logs from a range of sources and correlate these for suspicious activity. This enables you to benchmark it in order to understand what normal looks like and then you can look out for anomalies.

Will the Internet of Things change the way you address cyber crime?

Absolutely. Up until recently, the increasing number of devices being connected to the internet were mainly from the commercial side, but now it is entering the business side too. Every connected device is a potential target for botnet activities because they are not inherently secure, so they’re easily targeted and taken over as part of a larger attack. This is a very difficult problem to solve and we can’t be isolated as a business in dealing with it, there needs to be a consolidated effort.

How are you using virtualisation to transform your business?

TFL are hugely into virtualisation. A really good example of this would be TFL.gov.uk, our public facing API that’s used for TFL’s journey planner, which powers applications like Citymapper too.

In terms of its impact on our business, it has changed the way in which we think about new projects and new applications. Previously we had to rack up a new server every time we started a project. Now we can rapidly develop, build and test prototypes for new applications at very little cost. It gives us a lot of flexibility as we can scale up pretty much automatically when we need to, which we would never have been in a position to do before virtualisation.

There is a renewal aspect to it too, that if configured correctly, it’s relatively simple to spin up a new server if your prime one goes down. So there are many great benefits to virtualisation.

What other technologies would you suggest adopting in the fight against cyber-crime?

My idea is not so much a technology, but an awareness strategy. If you look at the number of the high profile attacks over the last year, a lot of them started with simple phishing attacks. Our spam filters will never be able to spot the first email from a newly setup phishing campaign and they’re purposefully designed to do that. One of the only ways to protect against this is to ensure our users are sufficiently trained to detect suspicious emails. I think improving communication with employees and making them aware of the impact an attack could potentially have, is vital.

In terms of actual technology, I think privileged identity access management is also key to a security team. It’s important to understand who has access to the most critical parts of your business as during a compromised attack, hackers will look for the business’ ‘crown jewels’.

One of the technologies that the industry is looking at more widely is called ‘deceptive security technology’, this is essentially a very old security component called a ‘honeypot’. A honeypot is a system that is built to be insecure and placed in a public part of your network. By doing so, you can see who finds it and what they do to it. This enables you to understand what sort of attacks are being targeted at it, providing a wider picture of the threat landscape. It is essentially a piece of proactive threat intelligence to find out if people are attacking parts of your network.

Thank you very much for answering all of our questions Paul and we wish you a fruitful career at TFL.

Category: Security

Fanni Vig
January 11, 2019

In years to come, it’s possible that we’ll look back on 2018 as the year that Artificial Intelligence (AI) really arrived. When potential became possible, and hype gave way to enterprise adoption. But how much influence are CIO’s having in its adoption, and how well understood is the term?

AI and innovation

We recently launched the sixth edition of the annual Logicalis Global CIO Survey, which gathered the views of more than 840 CIOs in a number of areas. Innovation was a dominant theme, with this year’s survey demonstrating real progress in the role of the CIO in this area. CIOs are finding that they are very much at the heart of the action – with 83% either leading (32%) or enabling (51%) innovation. It’s an area they’re being increasingly judged on too, with half (50%) now being measured according to their ability to deliver service innovation.

Given that technology now pervades innovation – either delivering it or enabling it – we were keen to understand how CIO’s view the rate of adoption, utility and impact of emerging technologies – particularly Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Whilst IoT shows signs of becoming more mature in its use, AI and Machine Learning, appear to be in an earlier phase of the hype cycle – possibly where IoT was 12 months ago. Nearly a fifth (19%) of CIOs claim that their organisations are already using AI. That adoption seems likely to continue at pace, with 66% saying AI will be in use in their organisations within three years.

Understanding who is responsible for AI

Before we get too excited about AI changing the face of business, it’s important that we stop and question just how the term is understood. Like IoT, AI is really complex, and many of the use cases we’ve seen up until now are just scraping the surface. The technology industry is still collectively scratching its head to work out what it really means, as the hype continues and threatens to dilute the concept. Do CIOs perceive AI simply as autonomous automated services and interfaces essentially guided by complex manually created rules? Or do they see it in its purest form, as technology that is not just autonomous and automated, but also able to learn and adapt independently based on context? In truth, it’s probably a bit of both.

The big issue facing CIOs when it comes to AI is less about the technology itself, and more about the people, process and culture which support its adoption. Whilst there’s clearly a value in products being ‘AI-ready’, the hangover from the rise of Shadow IT – which saw departments and individuals investing in their own hardware, software, apps and services – is organisations that have huge swathes of data residing in a wide range of places, some out of sight of the CIO.

When asked about where AI and machine learning were in use within their organisations, it was no surprise to see the CIOs we surveyed point to the IT department as the leading area. That’s likely because this is the department they’ve got the most sight of. The siloed nature of organisations, and the distributed data residing within, causes a headache in terms of ownership. Most business have a variety of people who own the data in each department, but few who want to be responsible. That’s where the CIO comes in, as issues such as data security and compliance sit squarely within their remit.

The opportunity for AI

So where can the CIO start, in order to truly realise the potential of AI? The first step is to get people together to understand and agree their processes around data. People and processes can change really quickly, so taking the time to agree a clear approach is important. Those silos aren’t going to be broken down overnight, so the CIO also needs to be realistic. Only then can you think about how to leverage what you’ve got in place, but even then this needs to be done in the right way, with issues such as security, performance and cost-effectiveness at front of mind.

From the survey findings, it was encouraging to see CIOs so bullish about their ability to engage with AI. This, more than anything, will be vital if organisations are to derive true value from AI. At present, rates of use across various business departments are low – with the exception of IT and customer service – which suggests operational, fringe and test cases. However, this also seems to be an opportunity for CIOs to build a culture of experimentation and small-scale deployments driven by clear customer or market needs.

AI should not be seen as a silver bullet. It isn’t the answer to everything. It needs more data, more resources and you need the right foundations and infrastructure in place and ready to go. Otherwise there is going to be a huge amount of inefficiency. Especially as the speed of change in technology terms is unbelievable, with new vendors and solutions springing up on a regular basis. To understand whether these new options are to deliver against your objectives it’s imperative that you look at the entire ecosystem, with people, culture and process playing a pivotal role.

Jen Molyneux
January 7, 2019

It’s been an exciting few months for female employees of Logicalis, who continue to demonstrate their challenging of the male-dominated tech industry. Hot on the heels of our five nominations and two winners at the Women in Channel Awards and the inclusion of five of our team in the inaugural CRN Women in Channel A-List , we’re delighted to announce more awards success with two shortlisted nominations for the forthcoming Women in IT awards.

Organised by business technology site Information Age, the Women in IT Awards were launched in 2015 as a platform to celebrate women in technology. Now a series of global events, it aims to tackle the issue of recruiting and retaining female tech talent and redress the gender imbalance, by showcasing the achievements of women in the sector and identifying new role models.

About our nominees

First up is Natasha Darbyshire, Head of IT, shortlisted for Future CIO of the Year. Natasha is currently leading a digital transformation programme of works covering everything from Logicalis UK’s core infrastructure and networking, through to collaboration technologies, back-office systems, data analytics, AI and IoT.

Our other nominated employee is Wendy Paine, Technical Integration Services Manager, for our Cloud and Hybrid IT practice, shortlisted for Digital Leader of the Year. Wendy is one of 14 women in EMEA and 28 worldwide who hold a double HPE-MASE certification and co-leads an all-male team of 23 at Logicalis UK.

The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on 30 January 2019 at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. Congratulations and good luck to Natasha and Wendy.

Natasha Darbyshire and Wendy Paine
Natasha Darbyshire and Wendy Paine

Category: Women in IT

Team Logicalis
January 2, 2019

Business leaders around the world are discussing a common dilemma: how to create transformative and creative experiences and business models that improve their customer’s lives, drive growth and boost profitability.

What was once a predictable operating landscape where five-year strategies punctuated by major IT investment was the norm, is now fast being replaced by a rapid series of digital business initiatives, platform redesigns and line of business-driven demands. The inexorable rise in customer expectations characterised by a growing demand for seamless, on demand experiences with real-time feedback where expectations aren’t met, is forcing businesses to fundamentally rethink the role which IT plays in supporting staff, partners and customers in the pursuit of service improvement.

For most companies, the strategic imperative should not just to be doing things right and more efficiently. Leaders must also determine the right things to do. Now is the time to reflect and consider the fundamentals of value created by technology investment. Customers’ own choice has never been more readily available, their ability to select services at a global scale and switch to alternative solutions, is a reality every business needs to address.

New disruptive pure-play companies whose businesses have been conceived and built in a digital world have arrived. Faster, simpler and better optimised, these businesses are the legacy players. Category disruptors like AirBnB or Uber have successfully challenged existing business models and by doing so changed their sectors forever. Today’s competitive marketplace requires a different and deeper level of change; reinvention of core services, transformation of process and the wider integration of technology and frameworks across open platforms.

The broadly accepted premise that the Cloud could provide the new levels of innovation required to transform business is certainly true for those willing to go “all-in” and develop new service offerings born and built in the cloud. However, transforming an established business into a Cloud native, agile and inventive organisation, requires not only a deep-rooted commitment at board level, but also a solid foundation of legacy intelligence, securely linked at every level to ensure business continuity and overall customer service integrity.

The big questions

The process of digital transformation starts with a very honest and open appraisal of the business today; what do you do well? Which services could generate greater profits or improve customer retention, if only technology didn’t get in the way? How could you unlock new revenue streams by reducing the time to market for new services, and by doing so reach the target audience before the competition?

Cloud Computing has fuelled some of the most successful business transformations in recent decades, not because of its cost or scale, but rather its ability to break down traditional methods of service and application development into collaborative, visual and user accessible environments. However, as with all things, this new-found agility comes with an increased exposure to the unknown, moving to cloud, developing on cloud and ultimately managing cloud, requires a completely fresh approach to IT operations and service management.

As such, many earlier adopters are finding cloud management a challenge they hadn’t fully prepared for. But help is at hand if it feels like understanding and navigating your way through this new landscape is a full-time job. Instead of tackling this transformation by yourself, you can enlist the help of a company that can underpin and enable your journey so your move to the cloud is as stress free as possible.

Category: Hybrid IT

Alastair Broom
January 2, 2019

With high profile breaches for the likes of Facebook, British Airways and Marriott fresh in the mind, it’s no surprise to see a backlash against the companies that hold our data and a new impetus to take back control. But how are CIOs tackling the information security challenge, and what do we expect the future to hold?

Assessing the threat

According to more than 840 CIOs that we interviewed for the sixth edition of the annual Logicalis Global CIO Survey, the role of the CIO is in flux. A traditional focus on “keeping the lights on” has seemingly given way to more strategic activities around service and product innovation as organisations take to the cloud and expand their IT estate. Despite all this, security continues to dominate CIO’s time and attention, with 93% saying that they devote between 10% and 50% of their time to information security – with 54% spending at least 30% of their time on it.

CIOs are right to remain vigilant, as all evidence points to the fact that threats are definitely increasing. We’re seeing no sign that external threats such as malware, ransomware, crypto-jacking and phishing are going anywhere, especially because it’s become even easier for the bad guys to launch these type of attacks. They’re low cost and have the potential to reach either massive or highly targeted audiences.

One trend that has emerged from the survey is that CIOs are now far more focused on the human dimension of cyber risk than before. Whilst the 2017 report cited external threats as the clear focus, this year’s findings saw lack of staff awareness and mistakes as a concern for more than half (56%) of CIOs, while 39% are concerned about malicious insiders. The human dimension is interesting, and we’d certainly say that people and process should always be the place to start. This attitude doesn’t particularly bear out in what we’ve seen before, however, as technology tends to take precedence over training.

The expansion of the IT footprint and the ever evolving threat landscape have clear implications for security, and most CIOs signal that they are moving away from a purely defensive footing to one of cyber resilience, which brings together defence with detection and recovery. More than a third (37%) of CIOs say their organisation now adopts a resilience-based information security footing. This stance will be aided by some element of automation within the process, as the rate at which threats are accelerating is outpacing our ability to develop skills. AI represents an opportunity to keep pace, particularly when it comes to threat detection and response. We’d expect developments in this area to focus on the ‘response’ part of this process, although it will require something of a cultural leap to allow technology to make decisions for us.

The value of data

Data breaches were cited as a concern by 54% of CIOs, demonstrating how CIOs are attuned to the broader debate around data privacy and management. Despite measures introduced this year, it’s still very difficult to understand and manage data permissions, for both consumers and the businesses that own their data, and there’s a lot more that needs to be done to clean up the ethics around this.

According to our CIO sample, the impact of GDPR has fallen far short of the dire predictions with nearly three quarters (71%) saying that GDPR passing into law has had no impact on their organisation at all. Based on what we heard from customers, GDPR was significantly overplayed and organisations became apathetic long before the May deadline. Faced by business trying to sell them solutions to address their GDPR requirements, a lack of understanding of what their liability was and a misconception that they were too small to be significant, fed-up businesses appear to have opted for a view that “we only need to be as good as our neighbour”.

It would be wrong to suggest that GDPR in, and of itself, had no effect. Rather that most organisations did a great job of implementation, as those with longer memories will recall from Y2K. The Logicalis Global CIO Survey also assessed the cost of GDPR compliance and, again, the reality fell well short of the hype. Though the average investment of up to £25,000 is not insignificant, it suggests that the process was well and efficiently handled.

So what happens now?

Even though the fines for non-compliance are considerable, we’d expect the biggest financial impact in a post GDPR world to be seen in class-action lawsuits arising as a result of data breaches. The huge numbers of customers affected by these large data breaches make this inevitable. But this also has the potential to be hijacked by ‘ambulance-chasers’, and our survey found that 6% of CIOs have already been targeted by opportunists seeking to profit from non-compliance. So expect those PPI and whiplash calls on your phone to be replaced by an automated voice asking about the data breach that compromised your personal information.

We’re certainly at the point now where data breaches should be viewed as ‘when’ and not ‘if’. We’d expect organisations to be increasingly turning to encryption as a way to minimise the impact when a breach does happen, a trend that has been slow to date because of the costs associated. Perhaps the threat of users removing their personal data, and a greater understanding of its value to the business world will be the catalyst this needs.

Category: Security

Pepper, the humanoid robot talks AI

Justin Price
December 10, 2018

Logicalis recently attended IBM’s Think London event where Pepper the Robot was our honorary guest. With people lining up to talk to Pepper, we battled through the crowds to ask a few questions about the hot topics of the day, such as implementing AI. 

Q. Hi Pepper! Can you tell us about Think London?

IBM Think London was an incredible event where technology met humanity. There were a range of industry leaders and experts there to advise people on topics such as choosing the best fit cloud model for your business, leveraging data better, and innovating faster.

I was delighted to join my friends at Logicalis at the show, informing visitors about how they can modernise infrastructures, transform the way IT is delivered, and unlock the value of data. As ‘architects of change’, Logicalis were able to give me lots of examples of where they have delivered solutions and services that take advantage of the benefits driven by cloud, mobility, big data analytics and AI.

Pepper the humanoid robot at the Logicalis stand at IBM Think London

Q. There was a lot of talk about Artificial Intelligence at the show. Can you tell us a bit more?

Everyone is talking about Artificial Intelligence currently and the hype around it in the media is extraordinary. Logicalis recently released its sixth annual global CIO survey  which revealed that nearly a fifth (19%) of CIOs claim their organisations are already using AI. Moreover, 66% said that AI will be in use within their organisations within three years. In reality though, only 4% of organisations have successfully deployed AI.

Exciting times, yet the report also sounded a note of caution about how to make the best use of AI. You need a partner with strong capabilities and know how to help you implement it correctly. And it’s worth noting that, outside of the IT department, the business area most likely to use AI is customer service (17% say it is in use here). Old style chat bots have got nothing on AI in its purest form – technology that is able to learn and adapt independently based on context. Like yours truly…

Q. What sectors are driving AI adoption? 

Last year financial fraud losses in the UK totalled £768 million. AI is a powerful tool that can provide financial organisations with the ability to combat this fraud challenge; from automating risk analysis, detecting and investigating fraud, assisting regulatory intelligence and automating IT functions.

AI can also provide retail organisations with a range of benefits including personalised shopping experiences, dynamic pricing or the use of real time tracking to optimise logistics.

Given the potential of AI, it’s not surprising that many businesses want to introduce it into their organisation to increase competitive advantage.

Thank you for chatting with us and giving us an insight into the event Pepper!

Want to learn more about implementing AI?

Join our live webinar on Wednesday 19th December at 11am to hear Justin Price, AI Lead and Chief Data Scientist and Scott Hodges, Solutions Architect discuss how to deliver a scalable AI strategy.

You will discover:

  • The main challenges businesses face in implementing AI 
  • How to put AI into practice inside your organisation
  • Powerful Artificial Intelligence and machine learning use cases
  • Practical advice for an AI-ready infrastructure

Register now

 

 

CIOs: Agents of Innovation

Gary Lomas
November 19, 2018

The role of the CIO is shifting dramatically away from day-to-day activity and ‘keeping the lights on’ towards a long-desired strategic focus, according to the findings of the sixth annual Logicalis Global CIO Survey. The global survey of more than 840 CIOs has identified long overdue, significant change in the role of CIOs across Europe, the Americas, the Far East and Australia.

Key Findings:

  • Innovation accounts for around 25% of the modern CIO’s role, with strategic activity (including innovation) accounting for around half of the role.
  • 94% of respondents spend between 10% and 50% of their time on innovation and other strategic activities, 38% spend at least 30% of their time on this area.
  • 73% of CIOs are measured on system availability and 62% on their success in reducing the cost of IT and risk mitigation
  • 22% of IT is now managed by external suppliers, and 24% is outside the corporate footprint.
  • 31% delegate day to day IT tasks due to lack internal resources or know-how

With great(er) power comes great(er) responsibility

This time last year we were hearing from CIOs that their roles were dominated by day to day IT management. In the 2017-18 survey, the majority of CIOs were spending between 60% and 80% of their time on ‘keeping the lights on’ and remained frustrated in their desire to spend up to 70% of their time on strategy.

It seems that their progress towards that goal over the last 12 months has been significant. Today, 94% of these IT leaders spend between 10% and 50% of their time on innovation and other strategic activities, and 38% spend at least 30% of their time on this area. On average, innovation accounts for around a quarter of the modern CIO’s role, with strategic activity (including innovation) accounting for around half of the role.

But, with this shift comes a seeming increase in expectation when it comes to measurement. Tellingly, half of CIOs (50%) now see their performance measured according to their ability to deliver service innovation and more than a third (35%) are expected to make a direct contribution to revenue growth – perhaps through digital transformation and by enabling product and service innovation through digital technology.

Against this backdrop it’s no surprise, then, to see CIOs more willing to seek outside help to manage day to day IT.  Overall 22% of the average CIO’s IT estate is now managed by third parties. What’s more, CIOs’ success in taking on a more strategic role appears to be enabling new, more agile and adaptable approaches to organisational innovation.

The way organisations think about innovation is changing, with strategies for innovation now most commonly about enabling small scale, everyday experimentation. Over a third (34%) of organisations now take that approach, with the large-scale projects that once dominated now accounting for less than a quarter (23%).

CIOs are playing a crucial role in this new approach to innovation.  When asked what role they play in organisation-wide innovation, 32% said they played a leading role, while a further 51% pointed to an enabling role. Innovation isn’t for all it seems, though, with an unlucky 13% admitting to playing only a peripheral role and 4% playing no role at all.

How CIOs are now spending their time

Positive signs for the future

These findings complement a number of key takeaways in a recent survey of CIOs by Gartner (2019 CIO Agenda: Secure the Foundation for Digital Business). It reports that digital progress has reached a tipping point where a half of respondents say their organisation’s business model has already changed or is changing. 95% of the Gartner respondents believe security threats will increase and calls for CIOs to: “Build relationships with the business and other stakeholders while communicating the value of IT for digital business”, something the Logicalis survey shows they are doing as “agents of innovation”.

We’re delighted to see CIOs enjoying success in taking on a long-desired more strategic role – no doubt helped by their increasing reliance on trusted third parties to take on more of the heavy lifting associated with day to day activities.

Most importantly, this shift seems to have enabled CIOs to take central roles in innovation. This is essential given that digital technology now sits at the heart of innovation, not just enabling better service delivery, communication or collaboration, but defining entirely new business propositions.

There is still a long way to go if organisations are to realise the full benefits of digital transformation. But the fact that CIOs and technology leaders are central to this innovation – rather than struggling to keep up – can only give us real optimism for the future.

The results of the global survey of more than 840 CIOs can be accessed here: https://www.logicalis-thinkhub.com/

Category: News

Jen Molyneux
November 16, 2018

This week saw the publication of CRN’s A-List, an annual guide that lists, in the words of the publication, “some of the movers and shakers that make up the channel elite”.

We’re delighted that two of our management team have been included, Managing Director Bob Swallow and COO Natalie Matthews (hot on the heels of her Women in Channel award), giving their views on on a variety of topics, ranging from who they would have play them in a film of their life, to their guiltiest pleasure, to the biggest untapped opportunity facing the channel.

Among the highlights were one Logicalis executive nominating Ray Winstone to play them in a film – your guess as to which of the two said this – and Natalie’s admission that her love of scented candles and roses may draw comparisons to Elton John! Bob identified the development of talent as the biggest opportunity for the channel, whilst Natalie cited doing digital transformation properly as a cause to get behind.

It’s a glowing endorsement of Logicalis UK that two of our executives were invited to take part, and you can find out more about what Bob and Natalie had to say – the full list is here.

Category: News

Richard Simmons
November 5, 2018

Nowadays, when it comes to digital, employee expectations are at an all time high and, with the industry-wide skills gap proving a difficult problem to solve, often the greatest challenge faced by organisations is not only sourcing the right people, but keeping them.

If your employees are motivated and committed, then individual targets are more likely to be met and business objectives are more likely to be achieved. If not, then your workforce, and available skill pool, is likely to dwindle. In the current climate, attracting and subsequently retaining talent is one of the biggest dilemmas faced by businesses of all sizes.

This is why user experience should be the driving force behind any changes to your digital landscape.

‘The Workplace’- A new definition

There’s no getting away from the fact that things are changing. ‘The Workplace’ used to be similar to an engine room where any and all work was completed. Employees came in at 9am and left at 5pm each day, completing all their assigned tasks whilst staring at the same four walls.

Then along came agile technologies, empowering employees to leave the office and enabling them to work with a level of flexibility that had never been achieved before. They can work at any time and from anywhere. ‘The Workplace’ is no longer a desk in an office. It can be anything an individual would like it to be; whether that is a cafe, the family living room or a park bench. And what’s more, time constraints are a thing of the past. Of course, the dreaded deadlines are still unavoidable but working hours are no longer dictated by a lack of efficient technology.

All in all, the ability to offer some form of flexible working has become an important part of attracting your workforce. In fact, a recent report conducted by global recruitment expert Hydrogen discovered that 81% of people look for flexible working options before joining a new company. The same report also found that 88% of technology professionals consider flexible working to be more important than other benefits and 60% of those questioned would chose it over a 5% salary increase. It’s no longer optional for businesses – if you don’t invest in the technologies to support flexible working initiatives then potential, talented candidates will look elsewhere.

And flexible working doesn’t just play a role in the hiring process, agile technologies and the new workplace can also help businesses to retain talent.

If employees can work flexibly, they can better manage their work/life balance. They can choose to work longer – and at a more flexible rate – if they wish meaning that more experienced generations will be able to educate and pass on specialised skill sets to the younger, up and coming workforce. And, thanks to agile technologies, they will no longer have to be there physically to do so.

In fact, with flexible working initiatives, if employees are coming into the office it will often be because they’ve chosen to or because they would like to meet others there. As a result, ‘The Workplace’ is transformed into a social hub, where relationships are formed and maintained, rather than a space where deadlines have to be met. Better relationships with co-workers leads to happier employees who are more invested in the company culture and so less likely to leave.

Listening to the data

There are the obvious benefits associated with flexible working initiatives for employees but installing agile working technologies also enables businesses to capture informative data.

You see, in our online world, every single action generates data. Every website visited, every message sent, every document created has a record somewhere. For businesses, this data can be used to measure employee activity and ensure that any facilities and services are meeting the standards of today’s workforce.

After all, at the heart of this new digital workplace is user experience. By monitoring the data that they are able to collect via agile technologies, businesses can essentially listen to their employees needs and ensure that they’re supporting them.

And, if you can work out which environments produce the best results in your workforce then you can look to emulate this elsewhere. For example, if there is a room in the building where people prefer to meet or are able to work more productively, data will reveal this. This intel can then be used to influence and optimise the whole office space so that your business can make the most out of its environment. So agile technologies are not only changing the ‘workplace’ as a concept, they can also be used to change it physically.

The re-definition of ‘the workplace’ has opened up a whole host of opportunities for businesses and for employees alike. Empowering your workforce and granting your people an element of choice by enabling them to work how they would like to is important for both attracting and retaining talent. As is also updating physical spaces to improve employee satisfaction and – as a direct result – productivity. After all, your workforce is your most valuable asset and if you invest in them then your entire business will reap the rewards.

Category: Analytics

IT Leaders' Summit

Richard Simmons
October 25, 2018

Last week, we sponsored Computing’s annual IT Leaders’ Summit which took place at Carlton House, London. The summit provided an opportunity for senior IT executives across all industries to discuss how they can drive digital transformation in areas such as the cloud and Artificial Intelligence.

Richard Simmons, our Head of European AI & IoT Practice presented to a packed house and hosted a round table; here’s a quick recap of our day.

The hype of AI

Artificial Intelligence has become the latest focal point in the conversation around data insights. Yet, contrary to the volume of noise surrounding it, according to industry studies only 4% of organisations have actually deployed AI*, with most of these businesses still in the early phases of AI adoption and facing unexpected challenges. Richard took to the stage to bust some myths and to provide the facts about AI that have been overlooked in the hype.

“AI is not the answer to everything. It needs more data, it requires more resources, you need the right foundations in place and your infrastructure has to be ready, otherwise there is a huge amount of inefficiency” he said. “You cannot underestimate the time it will take to develop and build. It can take weeks, even months, to get an AI strategy up and running and a massive 80% of an AI project’s time is spent in the data preparation phase.”

Richard also highlighted the extremely long training times required. This is partly due to the different sets of skills needed to fine-tune and deploy it – the skill set of the person managing an AI project will be vastly different to the skill set of the person building it.

“After you have worked on a business strategy, then spent a long time preparing the data, you have to experience all that pain again. Because the more data you give an AI project, the more accurately it performs.  If you want to really drive value from the data you have, the project is never ending. AI is not a quick fix.”

Opening the discussion

Following Richard’s presentation, our over-subscribed (it’s almost like it’s a hot topic!) IT leaders round table began, where we discussed the key factors and approaches to be considered to deliver a scalable AI strategy.

The discussion started with the question ‘who on this table has deployed an AI project in their company?’. Out of 29 people, only five IT leaders said yes. Those who responded with yes reinforced that their projects were in the early phases and were starting small before they scaled up.

“It can take a lot of time with very little return at the start of an AI strategy. So, it can be hard to encourage the rest of the business to support the project when they can’t see the rewards. This is why starting modest and breaking it down into smaller projects can help. You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew” agreed Richard.

Sharing is caring

We are currently seeing a great push for data sharing across businesses, a concern that was raised during the discussion. As Richard said, AI operates most efficiently when it has been fed a lot of data therefore it would make sense for businesses to share already processed and interpreted data with others in a similar sector. So why aren’t businesses doing this?

“There isn’t always a desire to share what you’ve worked so hard on. If you do share your data, there is a huge risk that the person you’ve shared it with will implement it and use the data better. If you share your work, get ready for the competition to begin.”

Who owns the data?

One topic that dominated the round table was the ownership of data within a business. Many of those who sat at the table expressed the desire to be a data-run business, but getting to that stage wasn’t as easy as they hoped. According to Richard, if a company wants to be data led and to use AI efficiently, there needs to be a “new culture built internally. Every part of the business needs to work with data in mind, not just the IT department and those involved with the AI process.”

This is where data ownership is a necessity. It was mentioned that whilst employees may be really interested in deploying AI, no one was excited about the management, governance and upkeep of the data needed for the AI to work efficiently! To combat this, one person said that their company recently wrote a data strategy – from compliance, to governance, to how the company values and uses data – in order for every employee to be on the same page.

As a final note, Richard said “getting every part of the business on board is vital, but it will take work. This culture change to a data driven enterprise will not happen overnight, it should be on going just like the AI project itself.”

Is your business ready for AI?  Is your infrastructure?  Find out how Logicalis UK and IBM can help you overcome AI infrastructure limitations and access an IDC expert infrastructure readiness report – Finance or Retail and Manufacturing.  

Logicalis UK would like to thank Computing for hosting us at the IT Leaders’ Summit and to those who joined us at our panel session and the round table.

*Gartner

Jen Molyneux
October 22, 2018

It was a night of celebration for Logicalis UK at the inaugural CRN Women in Channel Awards, as two of our five shortlisted employees walked away with the top prize in their category.

These awards recognise the achievements of the entrepreneurs, leaders and exceptional employees who act as role models for young females considering a career in this fast-paced, dynamic industry. We were therefore delighted – but not surprised – to see Wendy Paine recognised as Technical Employee of the Year and Natalie Matthews crowned Role Model of the Year.

Natalie, who is Logicalis UK Chief Operating Officer said “it was an honour to be shortlisted, and to be joined by four of my colleagues is testament to the progress that Logicalis is making to address gender equality.” Natalie’s win was not only an acknowledgement of her role as COO but also to her commitment in encouraging other women to succeed in IT through mentoring.

Bob Swallow, MD at Logicalis UK is delighted that Natalie has been recognised “Natalie has been an incredible mentor and role model to so many people in Logicalis. Since taking over as COO in 2016 no-one has delivered more in terms of the development of our people and in more than 40 years in the industry I haven’t met anyone who made a greater positive impact on people.”

Following CRN’s announcement that Wendy had been awarded the Technical Employee of the Year, she tweeted “I’m humbled and proud to be chosen from a group of fantastic women.”

Wendy Paine Gary Lomas WiC Awards 18
Wendy Paine, Technical Employee of the Year, and UK Sales Director Gary Lomas at the CRN Women in Channel Awards

 

Wendy’s outstanding work as team leader for Technical Integration Services at Logicalis UK is one of the many reasons she was awarded Technical Employee of the Year. In response to Wendy’s win, Mark Best, Services Director said “Wendy takes on challenges with such confidence. She takes ownership, is diligent, conscientious and caring for her team and is an example of the power of women in business.”

Joining the nominees at the event was Gary Lomas, UK Sales Director at Logicalis UK who said, “it was refreshing to attend an IT event that was 80% female as opposed to the usual 80% male.”

“To have five employees nominated and two winners is brilliant, especially considering the size of our business compared to some of the other winners. Logicalis is privileged to have these individuals working for us” Gary added.

Everyone here at Logicalis would like to congratulate all our shortlisted employees: Jane Emerson, Fanni Vig, Natasha Darbyshire, Wendy Paine and Natalie Matthews.

 

Category: Women in IT

Jen Molyneux
October 18, 2018

“The art of the possible with technology is incredible. We need to give the younger generation the opportunity to be able to envisage what is possible in the world with IT’s help.” We talked to Natasha Darbyshire, Head of IT at Logicalis UK, who has been nominated for Manager of the Year.

Starting out

Natasha’s interest in the IT industry started early on in her career. Whilst studying for her degree in marketing and advertising, she worked part-time with her father for an IT Systems Integrator. Being Managing Director of the company, Natasha’s father provided ample inspiration for her.

“It was a cool and fun environment to work in, especially at 19. I saw my father work hard, and I saw the hard work pay off when the company won big deals and they celebrated. I got the chance to see first-hand how technology was changing and improving businesses and this early exposure to the technology sector was crucial to driving my career later on.”

Falling into IT

On completing her degree, Natasha moved from New Zealand to London. She started her first full-time role as a sales rep in a company with its headquarters in New Zealand, which “felt a bit like home.”

However, four weeks into the role, Natasha was able to identify all the inefficiencies and the lack of automation within the company. Eager to stay working in the company but aware of the need for change, Natasha delivered a report on how to fix the problem and proposed implementing a new software system.

“Within a week of giving the report in, I was working on a solution that improved productivity by 75%. We then implemented the same solution in the Australian and New Zealand branches of the company. I was thrown into the deep end, but it cemented my passion to improve business through technology.”

Driving change at Logicalis

Natasha’s fellow CRN award nominee and colleague, Natalie Matthews, saw the potential in Natasha and believed she would fit the bill for the role of Head of IT.

“I never pictured myself in that role and I had to consider the offer of promotion before I accepted it. Not because I didn’t want it, but because I had never imagined myself as Head of IT. But I saw Natalie work her way up to COO and it inspired me, along with other women in Logicalis UK.”

Tech is changing

When asked what the one thing Natasha would do to encourage more women into the IT sector, she says “give it the ‘Apple’ effect. IT is becoming sexy, but old stereotypes of the IT industry are still intact.”

To encourage the younger generation to consider a career in technology, Natasha believes we have to provide them with more opportunities to see the more inspiring side of technology.

“The art of the possible with technology is unbelievable. We need to invite young people to trade days to open their eyes, so they envisage what is possible in the world with IT’s help. They need early exposure to the excitement, like I had.”

Top tips

“Be inquisitive. Ask your questions without any fear, because no question is a stupid question. I have often had to ask many very technical people to explain to me in non-technical language what they mean, and that’s not a weakness.”

The CRN Women in Channel Awards will be announced on the 18th October. Good luck to all of the nominees!

 

Category: Women in IT

Jen Molyneux
October 16, 2018

IT never seemed like a weird place for a woman to work. I saw the industry as an opportunity for myself.”  We met up with Wendy Paine, team leader for Technical Integration Services at Logicalis UK, to talk all things tech.

Wendy is one of only 14 women in EMEA and 28 worldwide to hold a double HPE Master ASE certification and has been nominated for the Technical Employee of the Year Award.

Inspiration

During the late 70s and early 80s, Wendy’s grandmother worked at GEC-Marconi in the IT department managing their backup. In those days it was regarded as fairly unusual for a woman to work in that role.

“From an early age, I often went to work with my grandmother and it sparked my passion for all things tech. Because of this, IT never seemed like a weird place for a woman to work. I saw the industry as an opportunity for myself”.

The shining moment

Wendy has worked her way up from hardware support roles, to solutions and software design, before embarking on the mission of becoming a consultant.

Throughout her long and successful career, there is one project that particularly shines. Wendy worked as part of a team on a transformation project for an oil and gas company in Kazakhstan which successfully reduced the company’s datacentres from 36 to 3 and provided many cost savings and efficiencies.

During the project Wendy realised that individual expertise is key in securing big deals, but certifications and qualifications really helped customers to trust people’s knowledge and capability. She encouraged companies to invest more in their employees to help them gain certifications and went on to win an award for her work.

“The award encouraged me to push harder in my career because I proved I was capable to succeed. As a woman working on this project in an emerging territory, I think I stood out more.”

The technical talk

In her role at Logicalis UK, Wendy leads an all-male team. When asked if she finds this challenging at times, Wendy said “I think there is a perception that women can’t do tech heavy jobs because they may not understand what’s involved. I’ve worked hard in my career to build up my knowledge and become an expert in what I do, gaining respect and trust in the process.”

Like in any career, Wendy knows you have to believe in yourself in order to succeed, perhaps even more so when you’re in the minority in your industry. “I still find it hard to believe in my ability and I’m not always confident, but I can talk tech and I’m proud of that” she said.

Leaders at Logicalis

Being one of the only females has been the norm throughout Wendy’s working life. She once attended a tech conference of 1,200 people where only 35 attendees were female, and this was not a rare occurrence.

“I think the lack of women in IT is a big is issue for businesses. Logicalis helps to combat this by actively helping women to achieve their goals. The company does not subscribe to the perception that IT is just for men and working here you feel encouraged to strive in your career.”

Top tips

“It’s so important to find a job doing something you love. If you love it then you are passionate about it, and if you are passionate about it, you believe in what you say. So take the time to explore the IT industry and figure out what suits you. There is a huge variety of jobs under the umbrella of technology to try.”

CRN’s Women in Channel Awards will be announced on the 18th October. We wish all of the nominees good luck and have our fingers crossed!

Category: Women in IT

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