Digitally Speaking
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

Scott Reynolds
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

Scott Reynolds
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

Dean Mitchell
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

Jen Molyneux
October 15, 2018

We are encouraged to have a voice, be innovative and not be afraid to speak up. It’s all about feeling part of the company and the team we work for.”

 

We talked to Jane Emerson, Client Director at Logicalis UK, who has been nominated for Sales Employee of the Year.

 

Starting out in tech

Jane’s career in IT started at IBM where she joined as a sponsored student through the University of Nottingham. After graduating from university, Jane started full time at IBM where she worked for 10 years, with 2 years spent in the US on secondment. Following her time at IBM, Jane worked for a further 10 years at a business partner of IBM, before joining Logicalis UK.

Talking about what inspired her to pursue a career in tech, Jane said “initially it was what IBM had to offer; education combined with a practical experience and a breadth of career choices. It seemed like an industry with opportunities for me.”

 

Learning from the big deals

Throughout Jane’s career, there have been challenges, but these have often been met with success. The most complex project she undertook was the deal between Unilever and IBM in 2015, worth £32m.

 

“The hard work from the IBM, Logicalis and Unilever team led to the ultimate success of the project. It was inspiring to have the opportunity to work on a successful deal which resulted from amazing teamwork and partnerships.”

 

“It taught me that maintaining and keeping the customer happy is key – people buy people.”

 

Changes at Logicals UK

Jane has been at Logicalis UK for just over 8 years and during this time she believes there have been too many positive changes to list. She said, “nothing is more certain than change and it’s a must in our industry if we are to keep that edge and survive.”

 

One change that Jane thinks is worth highlighting is the increased number of women in management roles at Logicalis UK.

 

“I don’t think women get treated any differently to men here and that’s the key to its female employees progressing within the company. I am often the only woman in the room and I don’t even notice. We are encouraged to have a voice, be innovative and not be afraid to speak up. It’s all about feeling part of the company and the team we work for.”

 

Despite changes at the company, there is one aspect that remains central and constant; “the people and the passion. When we pull together, there is no better team.”

 

Top tip

“Treat people as you want to be treated yourself. IT is a small industry so never forget that. If you believe in yourself and believe in others, you can be a great team player.”

 

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

Jen Molyneux
October 11, 2018

“It is a wonderful moment when you realise the only thing holding you back in your career, is yourself.” Here we meet Natalie Matthews, COO of Logicalis UK, who is shortlisted for the Role Model of the Year Award.

Introducing Natalie

Natalie’s career began at IBM as a trainee Personal Assistant on their Youth Training Scheme. Following this, Natalie joined a small business and worked her way up to become part of their Senior Management Team, which was later acquired by Logicalis. During the acquisition, she was offered the role of VP of Operations at Logicalis UK, a proposal she was surprised by. “When I think back to my first day with IBM, with little education and no experience in tech, it would have seemed like a near impossibility that I would hold such a position in a well-known IT company” she said.

As VP of Operations, Natalie consistently demonstrated her ability as a leader. Two and a half years ago, her hard work paid off and she was appointed as Chief Operating Officer. Today she is responsible for over 80 employees in Operations, HR, IT, Marketing, Operational Development, Vendor Management and Marketing, and has recently taken over responsibility for Maintenance Sales.

Turning negatives into positives

During her career, Natalie has always had a fear of public speaking, a skill that is required in her job. However, she learnt to overcome this by being honest about her struggle and through this approach, Natalie has helped others who shared her fear.

“It has been overwhelming to see how many people also find public speaking a daunting task. But by sharing my experience, I encouraged others to be open about their struggle.”

To offer further help, Natalie launched an intensive two-day public speaking training course at Logicalis, which was available to anyone who wanted to improve their skills and confidence.

With success comes challenges

Like any successful career, there have been challenges. “Initially, being the sole woman on IT company boards was intimidating and I often felt inferior. I was in awe of strategic thinkers who could imagine great company visions and I wished I could be more like them” she said.

However, feeling inferior is now a thing of the past. Nowadays, Natalie views being a woman as a benefit.

“I realised that I bring something different to the group and started noticing my own strengths; my ability to implement change, develop people and bringing a simplistic approach to strategies. It is a wonderful moment when you realise the only thing holding you back, is yourself.”

Changing Logicalis UK

When Natalie started at Logicalis UK thirteen years ago, there was only a small percentage of female employees. She has made it her ongoing mission to change this and uses her position to identify and mentor those with potential to develop their careers.

“The number of female employees, especially managers, has increased dramatically during my time, which makes me very proud. To see my fellow colleagues flourish is extremely rewarding. IT can often feel like a man’s world, but it needs diverse skills and fresh ideas, which women can bring.”

Talking about the importance of being a mentor she said “if every woman in IT mentored a handful of female colleagues and encouraged them to rise up the ranks, we would see a revolution in the tech sector.”

Top tips for women in IT

“Don’t hold back. The strategy that I have applied throughout my career has been to say yes to every opportunity and challenge to push myself. You need to be yourself, not someone that you think people want you to be. Just have confidence in your ability.”

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

Jen Molyneux
October 4, 2018

The current statistics of women who work in IT aren’t wholly optimistic. According to Women in Tech, only one-in-six tech specialists and only one-in-ten IT leaders are women.

In the coming months, leading IT channel publication CRN is aiming to understand this problem of gender diversity in their Women in Channel debate. They are asking the big questions; is our education system failing to encourage women to study tech subjects? Is there a work culture that discourages women from joining or progressing in IT businesses?

Yet, whilst the figures of women currently employed in IT are not excellent, there is certainly no shortage of talented females in tech. Alongside their debate, CRN are also hosting the Women in Channel Awards which will recognise the individuals who are influencing, challenging and reshaping the tech industry.

At Logicalis UK, we are not in short supply of female employees who are reworking and challenging the male-dominated tech industry. We are extremely proud to announce that five of our employees have been shortlisted for the awards.

Meet our nominees

First up is Natasha Darbyshire, Head of IT, shortlisted for Manager 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.

Second up is Logicalis UK’s Chief Operating Officer, Natalie Matthews, who has been shortlisted for Role Model of the Year. With over 25 years of experience in IT which began with IBM’s Youth Train-ing Scheme, Natalie has developed from a PA to a Senior Leadership position, often finding herself as the only woman on the board of various companies.
Our third nominee is Wendy Paine, TIS Team Leader shortlisted for Technical Employee of the Year. Wendy is one of 14 women in EMEA and 28 worldwide who hold a double HPE-MASE certification and currently manages an all male team of 23 at Logicalis UK.

Nominated for Sales Employee of the Year, our fourth nominee is Jane Emerson, Client Director, who has been at the company for eight years. In this time, Jane has facilitated vital collaboration between teams and customers, resulting in winning new clients and expanding Logicalis UK’s engagement with their client portfolio.

Last but certainly not least, our fifth nominee, Fanni Vig has been nominated for Entrepreneur of the Year. Fanni has been leading the Data and IoT Business Unit within Logicalis since its creation three years ago. Within this time, Fanni’s team has delivered a 150% top-line and a 300% bottomline growth, resulting in it becoming one of the most profitable areas within the wider group.

The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on 18 October 2018 at the Hilton London Bankside Hotel. Congratulations and good luck to all of those who are shortlisted and we look forward to an evening of celebrating – we’re keeping our fingers crossed!

Category: Women in IT

Scott Reynolds
May 10, 2018

As the benefits of hybrid IT have become clear, it has evolved from a temporary state to the chosen environment for many organisations looking to thrive.

Every organisation, regardless of size or sector, has a digital strategy. In fact, it’s hard to believe that IT once lingered on the fringes of business operations and decisions when today it is front and centre – a driving force behind both individual projects and overall business objectives.

And for the vast majority of organisations, it’s difficult to speak about digital strategy without mentioning cloud.

In fact, cloud’s ever-growing role and potential benefits are so widely publicised that it can feel almost unavoidable. After all, if your competitors adopt ‘cloud first’ strategies and you chose not to- don’t you risk getting left behind?

But, cloud doesn’t have to be all or nothing…

Enter hybrid IT

With hybrid IT, organisations can bring in cloud-based services that will run in parallel with their existing on-premise hardware. This may not necessarily be a new concept. However, its full potential is rarely realised.

Instead, more often than not, hybrid IT is built into digital strategies as a stepping stone to cloud and, as such, considered the transitional phase on a much bigger journey. It’s useful, but it’s also temporary… Simply a vehicle to get you and your organisation where you need to be by enabling you to join the elite and become a ‘cloud first’ company.

And it’s true, hybrid IT is a very useful tool for organisations looking to make the first small steps into a new cloud-centric world. You can test the waters by investing in new cloud-based technologies, without being all-in.

But hybrid IT can also open up the door to a whole new world of possibilities, enabling businesses to operate in- and therefore reap the benefits associated with- both on-premise and cloud environments.

Many organisations have started to realise this and- as a result- the concept of hybrid IT is transitioning from a temporary phase to a preferred way to do business. In fact, according to Gartner, by 2020 90% of organisations will have adopted a hybrid infrastructure.

But what are the key drivers behind this shift?

The best of both worlds

Traditional IT or cloud technologies… it used to be a one-stop choice that organisations had to make. And once you made it, all your application workloads and databases were assigned to one environment. You were effectively tied into that environment until you actively decided to change and, with significant effort and probably financial cost, you made steps to convert.

But, by using hybrid IT, organisations no longer have to commit to a single environment. They can have the best of both worlds and benefit from aligning specific workloads and applications to specific platforms. hybrid IT grants:

The scalability and cost efficiency of cloud technologies

There’s no doubt about it, scaling a traditional infrastructure can be very expensive. By making the most of hybrid IT- and utilising the public cloud and private cloud environments, businesses can upscale IT operations quickly and at minimal cost – which is particularly useful for shorter-term projects. But, it doesn’t stop there… with hybrid IT, organisations can also downscale their operations. In effect, everything can be driven to reflect the actual demands being placed upon the business, saving both resource and money.

And if organisations are saving resource in those areas, it leaves more room for innovation. The exciting new projects that often have to be pushed aside due to more pressing concerns, such as keeping the lights on, can become a reality.

The security and consistency of traditional IT

IDC recently discovered that the number one barrier to adopting cloud-based technologies continues to be security concerns – with 72% of business leaders agreeing it was a real issue. Whether these fears are well founded or not, the fact remains that- sometimes- public cloud may not meet an organisation’s strict security requirements. Hybrid IT grants peace of mind, enabling organisations to benefit from cloud technologies while keeping their most valuable and sensitive data on premise.

Hybrid IT is also often used in disaster recovery strategies. In our digital world, suffering an IT outage is every organisation’s worst nightmare. Why? Because the downtime that organisations suffer as a result can have a devastating and lasting impact, both financially and in terms of future reputation. By having primary data copied and stored in two different locations, organisations can recover faster while keeping downtime to a minimum.

Above all, hybrid IT gives organisations the freedom to make their own choices. It merges the best of old world technology with new world thinking. And, just as digital is no longer the sole territory of IT departments, it’s set to infiltrate the boardroom and play a key role in all future business decisions.

After all, hybrid IT is an enabler, allowing business leaders to make the right digital decision for their business, whether that is traditional IT, cloud-based technologies or a mixture of the two.

Contact us to find out more about Hybrid IT and how we can help you leverage it

Originally posted on Information Age, 24 April 2018

 

Category: Hybrid IT

Ismail El Kadiri
April 4, 2018

Over the past decade or so, numerous planning and analytics solutions have come out in an effort to catch up with the complex business environment. Most solutions compete around speed, scalability, visualisation capabilities, scenario modelling and excel integration. Our recent Global CIO survey revealed that analytics is still considered ‘very important’ or ‘critical’ for driving innovation and decision-making across the business.

Traditionally, planning tools have been aimed at the department of Finance. Budgeting and forecasting needs, P&Ls, balance sheets and cash flows have been the bread and butter of planning and reporting solutions. However, this only scratches the surface of what can be achieved in the world of business planning. We are in an era when a truly successful planning practice is not solely based upon financial-focused analytics, but also includes customer, sales performance and workforce analytics.

Planning and analytics for the entire business

Although Finance is usually the right strategic area to begin implementing any planning solution, it should just serve as a starting point. A truly successful planning solution should incorporate your operational planning, giving you a more accurate and all-encompassing view of your business.

Apart from Finance, almost all business functions can benefit from agile planning processes and data analytics with payroll, sales and asset management at the top of the list.

Payroll analytics to decrease manual work

Payroll planning can be a very complex and frequently it’s a manual task for modern organisations. HR employees responsible for payroll face multiple components that influence the complexity of the payroll process, such as NI adjustments, complex bonus schemes, salary increases and benefits. Taking into consideration ongoing government changes, regulatory updates and HR related modifications, payroll can prove to be a stressful and time-consuming process.

The most effective way to evolve a historically manual process and increase the speed and accuracy of payroll planning is through data. By taking advantage of analytics, you can create timely, reliable payroll plans to put employee and business insight into action.  You can benefit from faster processes and a uniform view of the data and simplify analytical processes, that HR employees might not be able to execute.

Accurate sales forecasting with planning analytics

Sales is another department of an organisation that can greatly benefit from planning analytics. For most organisations, sales planning and forecasting is their life-blood – as it directs the efforts of each department and helps define the overall strategy. Therefore, it is crucial to set realistic and accurate targets based on existing data.

With agile planning and analytics, businesses today can forecast sales volumes and adjust cost and price centrally to see the bottom line impact of the Sales department. More than in any other part of the organisation, this is the ideal area to take advantage of seasonality forecasting, what if scenario modelling and phasing. This will result in successfully steering sales activities, maintaining margins and delivering value, both to the client and the business.

Asset Management simplified through planning analytics

Often the biggest hurdle that companies face when managing their assets is the volume of data that needs to be collected, analysed and maintained. Increasing cost pressure, complex structures in supply chains and rising risks due to complex procurement mechanisms are just part of the challenge for modern businesses.

Effective and flexible networking of data is crucial in order to make fast and accurate decisions. With advanced planning and analytics, organisations can apply profiles to the assets to plan for depreciation and asset control.

At Logicalis, we have a holistic approach to planning analytics, moving beyond finance and helping you take data-driven decisions for the entire business.

Talk to our team of experts and discover how to make start your planning journey.

 

digital transformation

Tim Wadey
March 19, 2018

What is your approach to Digital Transformation and is your business structured for it?

 

All modern companies are looking at digital transformation, and the key decision they need to make is whether to “become digital” or to “do digital”. “Becoming digital” is deciding to turn the whole business or business unit digital, re-engineering from the ground up to take full advantage of the benefits of technology across the value chain. “Doing digital” implies taking specific processes, maybe a customer interaction or a B2B transaction process, and making it digital. Depending on which of these options a business chooses to take, the approach and qualities of the Digital Transformation function will change.

Digital transformation has grown as a concept over the last few years, but in general, is taken to mean building additional business benefit on the data and data processes that a business owns. This can mean finding efficiencies through process improvement and automation, new opportunities buried within the value of corporate data or new digital routes to market. A full transformation embraces all of these and more; the emergence of a connected environment, now known as IoT, is opening new opportunities with every technological development.

Becoming Digital: starts with a solid digital business culture

If a business has chosen to “become digital”, the leadership team needs to embrace the objective and fully support the change initiative. That said, the scale of investment and impact of the programme means that a single point of oversight is essential. In some businesses this might fall to a CIO, in others a Chief Digital Officer, however, these leaders will need support from a team with excellent project and technical skills. In addition, the cultural change will require consideration throughout the process. Probably the most critical attributes that the transformation leaders will need to have are a clear vision of what digital looks like, the skills to understand how it will be delivered and, most importantly, the drive to sustain a multi-year transformational programme.

In many ways, the Digital Transformation Officer will have to lead the senior team through this programme, and these qualities combined with the soft skills to enable this leadership will eventually determine the success of the programme. This role is well suited to an interventional style – enabling the business to focus on BAU while the digital programme is delivered in a defined manner. There have been well-publicised initiatives similar to this in major UK retail banks and across industries, like the airlines, where all aspects of customer interaction have become fully digital.

Doing Digital: requires greater focus on technical skills

Alternatively, if the choice is to “do digital”, the transformation challenge is much more bounded. In this case, the challenge is more to do with having the technical understanding and project management skills to deliver tightly defined digital projects. While these transform the particular process involved, they do not require wholesale change across the business. For most organisations, this will be the chosen option as there is less risk and disruption in such an iterative approach. We are seeing programs like this often linked to IoT initiatives across our customer base.

Clearly the CEO will take a close interest in any of these initiatives, however with the choice to “become digital” he or she is betting the company and as such will want the transformation leadership to be part of his senior team and empowered to drive the vision to a conclusion. In choosing to “do digital”, the CEO contains the risk to particular areas and should use his management team to direct these initiatives through a skilled and technically able programme manager. Whatever the approach, there will be a material cost and the benefits realisation after go-live needs to be driven and measured with similar control and vigour.

No matter what direction you choose to take, speak to one of our experts to help you through your digital transformation journey.

professional meeting

Natalie Goodwin
February 20, 2018

Digital Workplace is not a one size fits all approach

“Workplace of the Future’’, “Digital Workplace” and ‘‘Future Digital Employee Experience” are definitely the latest buzz phrases in the HR world! Today we work anywhere at almost any time. We work in cafeterias, airport waiting areas, cars, with mobile devices, desktops, laptops, tablets, and the list goes on.

Delivering a great digital workplace in today’s business environment is tricky and one of the most important things a business can achieve – not to add the support of simultaneous communication across different devices and regardless of geo location.

Nonetheless, not many businesses have identified the appropriate tools and processes to create an effective and user-friendly modern workplace. If one takes into consideration the diverse and geographically scattered organisations, it is easy to understand why businesses should have a tailored approach, focusing on retaining talent, ensuring employee wellbeing and engagement, which are all greatly supported by the collaboration tools employees are given.

Digital Workplace in 2018 is all about Engagement, Experience, and Empowerment

Increasing Employee Engagement
Engagement means all employees can feel connected and part of the same team, no matter where they are located.

Engaged employees can increase a company’s performance by up to 202%
(Article by -Engage for success, the importance of employee engagement, Aug 2016).

With advances in technology, from software defined WAN to tailored applications, co-workers are able to stay in constant communication and feel a part of the team, whenever they are based. The easy to use, natural interfaces of UC application tools today allow employers to maximise adoption and bring measurable engagement through the built-in analytics capabilities.

Elevating Employee Experience
Gen X, Gen Y and now Gen Z talent represents a massive shift towards a more collaborative, connected and faster paced workplace, in which self-expression is encouraged, and autonomy, recognition and global awareness are core terms of employment.

The changing dynamic of a digital savvy workforce means organisations must address and tap into analytics and consider harnessing ‘as a service’ delivery models to raise the bar on talent acquisition, as well as to offer employees a productive, engaging and enjoyable work experience.

A recent study Deloitte completed with Facebook found that only 14 percent of companies believe their internal processes for collaboration and decision making are working well, and 77 percent believe email is no longer a viable tool for effective communication.

A great example of this is organisations starting to redesign their recruitment experience to resemble the consumer experience on e-commerce and social media platforms. They have examined how people search for common items, such as cars, music or major purchase and are now looking to weave that into their online recruitment campaign.

Digital Workspace Employee Empowerment
Employees feel trusted when they are given the power to work when and where they want. When non-desk workers feel included and part of the team, they’re more productive. Every business wants empowered employees, because they have been shown to be more satisfied in their roles, and thus more productive. Investing in your business’s digital workspace and enhancing your employees work experience is one way to make that happen.

Most organisations today are likely to have a ‘digital workspace’ of some sort, and it will only grow in the years to come. Competitive advantage increasingly comes from providing the right set of collaborative tools letting employees use technology in the way they want to and a business culture that puts people first.

Exclusive roundtable: The Future of Work in 2018
Join us and Fuze on March 21st at the Sky Garden for an exclusive roundtable dinner to discuss the future of work in 2018. In this session we will look into how employees’ demands create a complex environment for IT leaders, but on the same time are an opportunity to drive innovation and bolster productivity.

In particular, we will go through:
– The role of technology as the enabler of the future of work
– How to increase user adoption as well as workforce mobility and productivity
– How to reduce application sprawl and shadow IT

So bring your questions to the table and let’s see how we can help you get ahead of the changing working landscape.

Category: Collaboration

series of padlocks on brick wall, data privacy related words on the rights side

Tim Wadey
January 28, 2018

Data Privacy on the spotlight!

Data Privacy Day may not be an official holiday for your IT department, but it definitely should remind you that you need to focus and do more to protect confidential data.

The Data Privacy Day was first introduced in 2009 by the Online Trust Alliance (OTA) in response to the increasing number of cybersecurity attacks and data privacy breaches, emphasising the need for effective data protection regulations and transparent processes for collecting and using personally identifiable information (PII).

Examples of PII that fall under data protection regulations are:
• Name;
• Social Security number, full and truncated;
• Driver’s license and other government identification numbers;
• Citizenship, legal status, gender, race/ethnicity;
• Birth date, place of birth;
• Biometrics;
• Home and personal cell telephone numbers;
• Personal email address, mailing and home address;
• Security clearance;
• Financial information, medical information, disability information;
• Law enforcement information, employment information, educational information

If one considers the sources that PII can be collected from and how many new are added on a daily basis – big data, the internet of things, wearable technology – it is easy to understand why data privacy has become increasingly challenging. And let’s not forget the ransomware attacks, which are the latest major data privacy challenge.

Despite the size of the recent ransomware attacks, the majority of organisations still don’t have structured processes in place to prepare themselves and keep confidential data safe. Although there are effective steps for protection against ransomware threats, their number has significantly increased and companies delay to announce in fear of negative publicity.

In order to stop such actions from happening and improve the current data privacy practices, the European Union is introducing the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) taking effect in May 2018. This is the biggest shake up of data protection laws in the last 20 years.

What is GDPR?

GDPR is the latest set of regulation law framework across the EU that aims to increase data privacy for individuals, and gives regulatory authorities greater power to take action against businesses that breach the new data privacy laws. GDPR also introduces rules relating to the free movement of personal data within and outside the EU.
In particular, GDPR involves:
• Obtaining consent for processing personal data must be clear and must seek an affirmative response.

• Data subjects have the right to be forgotten and erased from records.

• Users may request a copy of personal data in a profile format.

• Parental consent is required for the processing of personal data of children under the age of 16.

As a result, organisations need to be extremely aware of these changes as they can face very strict fines in the cases of non-compliance. Can your organisation afford to be fined up to £20 million for failing this data privacy regulation or 4% of annual global revenue, as required by the new General Data Protection Regulation?

 

24% are unaware of the incoming data protection legislation, while one in three companies believe that GDPR isn’t relevant to them.*

Get Started with a GDPR Readiness Assessment

In response to the fast approaching data protection regulation, Logicalis UK Advisory Services team have developed a GDPR Readiness Assessment that will allow us to help you understand and frame your thoughts on your journey to compliance.

The Logicalis GDPR Readiness Assessment will help you answer a key question – Where am I on my journey to data privacy compliance, today? By investigating elements of your organisational landscape, we will produce an ‘as is’ assessment, where we will be able to gauge where you are on a standardised maturity curve, considering all things around cybersecurity and data protection.

Get in touch with our Advisory Services to discuss how we can help you in your journey to GDPR Readiness.

 

 

*London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, https://www.londonchamber.co.uk/news/press-releases/one-in-four-london-businesses-unaware-of-new-data/ 

man working with servers, IT gear

Dean Mitchell
January 18, 2018

In the previous blog post on Capacity Management, we explored why IT projects fail and what you can do to prevent it.  What is even more important is to understand why, when it comes to securing your business, product alone isn’t the answer.

 Ransomware, data breaches, insider threats, phishing scams… we’ve all seen the headlines. And, although these words, once reserved for IT departments, are becoming a part of everyday vocabulary, that doesn’t make them any less concerning. They have the power to derail your entire business- everything that you’ve built- within seconds.

Nowadays, cybercrime is big business, and you can guarantee that for every security solution churned out by vendors, someone, somewhere is creating a brand new malicious code to target other vulnerabilities you didn’t even know existed within your organisation. Add to that modern working habits, with more and more businesses needing to adopt cloud and IoT for day-to-day operations, to keep up with their competitors, but subsequently increasing the potential attack surface, and you soon see that organisations are under siege from all angles.

To state the obvious; cybersecurity is no longer optional.

And this is something that all CIOs are more than aware of. In fact, in our 2017 global CIO Survey, security was cited as the number one concern when it came to an increase in the use of cloud services, with 70% of respondents citing it as a challenge.

So the problem is common knowledge, but what’s the solution?

Well, if your automatic answer is ‘by investing in security products’, then you’re not alone. Many business leaders define ‘security strategy’ as lots of different solutions coming together to work as one protective shield. Each solution is built to defend against a single threat vector, so various email, cloud and web products all become separate pieces of a much larger security puzzle.

Given the sheer volume of security products readily available, it’s no surprise that this puzzle doesn’t come cheap and that certain pieces aren’t as effective as others. But, surely the more products you deploy- effective or otherwise- the more significant your overall security capabilities and the better the protection for your organisation. After all, it’s better to be safe, and slightly out of pocket, than sorry… right?

 It’s an easy trap to fall into.

In reality, a growing number of point solutions patched together is no longer an effective strategy. Instead, this method compounds complexity and creates the very vulnerabilities that it is meant to be mitigating against.

This is because security devices raise an alert for each threat that they detect- that’s how they work. And when you have multiple tools in place, each detecting multiple threats, the chances are that alerts will be going off almost constantly. This is fine; it shows that the solutions are working.

But, it’s unlikely that a single organisation will have the manpower needed to deal with each alert simultaneously. Instead, overwhelmed and underresourced IT teams will probably try to prioritise and as a result many of the alerts, and therefore threats, are ignored, making your organisation vulnerable.

So, when it comes to protecting your business, spending thousands and thousands of pounds worth of your budget on product alone is futile. It’s clear that the ‘best of breed approach’ has had its day, with an increasing number of organisations coming to the realisation that it’s not about how many solutions you have in place, it’s about how you’re using them.

 A problem shared is a problem halved

To simplify things, you can strip your security strategy back to three key areas that all need to be done well; threat insight, vulnerability management and managed endpoint security.

Then, you need to make sure that the solutions you have within these areas are being used correctly. The easiest way to do this, and to make the most out of your resources, is to undertake a collaborative approach.

Take the heat off your own IT team and share the security burden with a partner who can help you to plug the gaps with managed solutions like:

–       Managed SIEM/SIRM- A Security Incident Event Management service working in conjunction with a Security Incident Response Management service will provide optimal threat insights. It will solve the biggest and longest headache for your internal IT team- the one that began when you started installing security solutions… External engineering teams will analyse and, effectively, filter the never-ending stream of alerts so that, before they even reach your team, they are prioritised in terms of risk to your business and have clear actions on how to stop them in their tracks.

–       Patch management- By combining patch management services with existing vulnerability scanning in a single service you can achieve optimal vulnerability management. Believe it or not, this service will fill any gaps in your security wall automatically. This is because networks will be regularly scanned for vulnerabilities with any intel gathered then being rolled into a patching program. Obviously, this will significantly reduce the time between when a vulnerability is identified and when it is patched.

 –       Security device management- This incorporates all endpoint security, including antivirus solutions, firewalls and device control, as a single managed service. Delivered via software on laptops, desktops and servers, the service can also detect rogue devices attaching to the network and provide web filtering.

The bottom line is that cybersecurity is not about product. It’s about people, processes and technology working coherently to manage risk and protect your organisation. Often, working collaboratively with providers who can manage your security can be the better option. They will have the resourcing and the skillset to help you deal with any potential threats, while offering more peace of mind.

Today, a third of CIOs see security as the most prominent barrier towards digital transformation. Outsourcing can change that by granting your internal IT teams the gift of time… time that can be used to pursue other areas of your business’ IT strategy.

Talk to us to find out how we can help you.

 

Originally posted on CBR, 21 November 2017

 

Category: Security

Alastair Broom
December 13, 2017

Ransomware is a hot topic at the moment and the “attack du jour” for cybercriminals.   The code is easy to obtain and campaigns simple to execute thanks to the industrialised infrastructure that supports it.  The result – a rapidly growing market that is already estimated to be worth in excess of $1 billion.

Criminal gangs provide “ransomware as a service” with everything from code provision through to the monetisation of the attack making it easy to both execute and profit from.  Other types of cyber-attacks may involve complex, time-consuming or risky steps for the criminals but ransomware profits are immediate, usually via Bitcoin payment into the criminal’s wallet.

The traditional approach to cyber security has been to deploy more and more technology to protect against the evolving threat.  This has led to uncontrolled technology sprawl creating a security management nightmare.  Throwing more technology at the problem implies more resources to manage the estate and security resources are hard to come by.  According to research by the recruitment company

Despite the increased level of sophistication and frequency of ransomware attacks, by following the steps described below, organisations can significantly reduce their risk.

Step 1: Security Awareness Training

Although technology plays an important part, the majority of malware and ransomware attacks involve a user doing something they shouldn’t, such as clicking on a malicious web link, opening an email attachment or installing a new application.  Usually this is due to a lack of understanding of the security risks associated with such actions.  Phishing, a form of social engineering is a common technique used to get ransomware inside an organisation, effectively duping users into downloading malicious code or otherwise opening up the organisation’s network to cyber-attack.

Many organisations provide basic security training as part of company induction or as one-off exercises to address audit requirements.  However, security training should be a regular part of users’ development and regularly updated.   Training should be delivered at a pace and frequency that fits in with the employees’ work schedules with progress monitored and tested for effectiveness as part of the program.  Security awareness is a critical part of any organisation’s security program and is fundamental to several security frameworks such as the UK National Cyber Security Centre’s “10 Steps to Cyber Security” program

Step 2:  Vulnerability Management

Most malware infections, including ransomware, compromise our systems due to vulnerabilities in the operating systems and applications.  All too often, these vulnerabilities remain unpatched for months or even years allowing criminals to exploit the same flaws time and time again.

In 2015, of exploited vulnerabilities have had a patch for more than one year and it doesn’t look as though that’s changing.  In addition, IBM research shows that when new vulnerabilities are discovered, the average time taken for hackers to exploit them has decreased from 45 days ten years ago to 15 days today.

Effective vulnerability management is critical in ensuring that existing vulnerabilities are dealt with and new ones are patched quickly before they can be are exploited.

Step 3:  Web Protection

Almost all ransomware is delivered across the web.  Regardless of whether the initial infection is via email or a malicious/compromised web site, the malware will normally attempt to contact a remote server to download additional software such as exploit kits or encryption software.  Web security solutions can be used to detect this suspicious activity, preventing the dangerous malware payloads from being downloaded – even if the initial infection is successful.  Modern web security solutions make use of advanced threat intelligence to identify malicious domains and web servers and prevent the malware from receiving its instructions.

Step 4:  Endpoint Protection

Ransomware infection inevitably happens at the endpoint.  Typically, a laptop, PC or server will be compromised and used to propagate the malware throughout the network.  Traditional signature-base anti-malware solutions are largely ineffective against modern malware due to rapidly changing code and the time taken by security vendors to identify new malware variants and create and distribute signatures.  Behaviour-based endpoint protection is much more effective in dealing with modern malware as it will identify malicious behaviour such as file substitution and registry changes rather than looking for a specific malware fingerprint in an ever increasing signature database.

Step 5:  Security Analytics

Steps 1 to 4 above will provide an effective defence against ransomware and malware in general.  However, it is impractical to expect your systems never to be breached so it is imperative that you have visibility into the activity in your environment and the ability to identify breaches and react when they occur.  This visibility and identification is provided by a Security Incident & Event Management (SIEM) platform.  This software will ingest logs from your security infrastructure, servers, routers etc. and search for suspicious activity that could signal a breach.  SIEM provides a “single pane of glass” view into disparate technology overcoming many of the problems associated with the technology sprawl mentioned earlier and enabling security events to identified so they can be dealt with quickly.

Ransomware is a plague that threatens the availability of the data we rely on for our businesses to operate.  If successful, ransomware attacks can bring organisations to their knees and result in substantial financial loss in ransom payments, system restoration, clean-up and the growing impact of regulatory fines. Following these 5 steps will significantly reduce the risk of ransomware attacks.   Logicalis can help you with solutions to address each of these steps helping you navigate to a more secure environment.  For more details, please feel free to contact us.

Category: Security

Dean Mitchell
December 5, 2017

Whether part of a large, international enterprise, a medium-sized organisation or a small startup, in this day and age, undertaking new IT projects is essential.

Businesses need to adopt new technologies in order to get all the benefits associated with new, innovative IT projects. However, it’s more than that… In our fast-moving digitally-competitive world, if you don’t adapt, you get left behind.For all organisations, it really is survival of the fittest, and the fittest are those who embrace new technologies and invest in new innovative IT projects. Think about it- how can you stand up to your competitors if they’re constantly three digital steps ahead?

Undertaking new innovative IT projects has become the key focus of CIOs everywhere. You can spend weeks, even months pushing a project through the planning stages; going over the specific schedule and timings, working out the breakdown and total costings and redefining the objectives. But what happens if it then falls down?

Failure isn’t something that anyone wants to experience. When you’re a CIO who’s spent huge amounts of time and energy working on getting a proposed project through all the usual barriers to implementation, failure can be even more difficult to accept. And, obviously taking the size of your organisation into consideration, the larger the project, the larger, and more expensive the problem, if it does fail.

A recent global study from Fujitsu found that on average organisations lose £483,690 for every cancelled digital project. That’s a lot of money for a single project, especially for an outcome that could have potentially been avoided.

Why do IT projects fail?

Well, it all comes back to resourcing. When times get tough, CIOs have to throw their efforts into ‘keeping the lights on’, rather than implementing the exciting and innovative new projects that are designed to give their organisations the upper hand against competitors.

Often this will mean that they are working with limited resources from the offset, when it comes to new IT projects and to try and combat this, projects will be run in series, rather than parallel.

However, the fact is that, a lot of the time, various projects rely on the same elements or components. Each project will have a benefit realisation target, which will be recognised upon completion.

If there is a slippage during the implementation of the first project in the series, then the benefit realisation target is not met on time. This then has a knock-on effect; it results in resources being tied up for longer than initially planned which, in turn, affects all the other projects in the series. How can you start a new project when all your assets are tied up somewhere else? Simply put: you can’t, and this is what leads to stalled, and even failed, projects.

But why are resources so far and few between?

Interestingly, a recent independent survey discovered that 22% of CIO’s see a lack of skills as the biggest barrier to achieving their objectives. This came ahead of money, culture, alignment and even technology.

So, even if you have the correct amount of solutions and technologies in place to complete a project, often it’s the human skills needed to implement them that are tied up; stalling projects and leading to their failure.

Why? Well, both the business landscape and our working habits have changed dramatically over the last decade or so. Whereas previous generations might have secured a job in their 20s and stayed with the same company until retirement, now it’s more common to change jobs every 2 or 3 years. And when people leave, they take their specialist in-house knowledge and their skillset with them, creating a lag or gap.

Add to this the fact that technology is constantly changing at an ever-increasing speed and the problem only becomes more exacerbated. In order to keep up, often employees are more focused on, and therefore more skilled in, one sort of technology or in one area.

However, this means that when they leave the company, their absence is strongly felt. The cyber security skills gap is something that everyone has heard of; it’s well documented. But, the truth is that this skills gap is IT industry-wide.

In fact, according to figures released by Indeed in October, since 2014 demand for software developers and machine learning engineers has increased by 485% in the UK, with there now being an average of 2.3 jobs available for every qualified candidate. It’s no wonder that many organisations are feeling the pinch on the skills front!

All in all, resources are tight. There is very little wiggle-room- especially when it comes to human expertise and technical talent.

You need to focus on keeping business operations running as usual before you even start thinking about additional projects. But you need these additional projects in order to avoid falling behind your competitors in the innovation stakes. And with the speed that technology is changing, you ideally need to be undertaking multiple new innovative projects simultaneously.

So what can be done?

Simply put, there just are not enough resources to do everything.

Or are there?…

It’s true, you can’t just pull extra time and technical know-how out of thin air, or magically create an immediately accessible pool of skills where there isn’t one. It’s clear that, this time, the answers aren’t going to be found within your organisation- so why not look somewhere else?

Talk to us to help you with all the extra resources you need to invest in innovation while ‘keeping the lights on.’ It no longer has to be a dreaded choice, with the need to keep the business running as usual, stifling any form of innovation. Instead, by collaborating, you can have it all.

 

Originally posted on Information Age, 14 November 2017

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