Archive for the ‘Adrian Polley’ Category

Identifying priorities in IT security spending

August 20, 2012

Understanding your business’ priorities in terms of security spending is simple.  It starts and ends with protecting your reputation and therefore your customer data. Identifying what those specific priorities are does, however, take a little more time, but not necessarily investment.

Avoiding a situation where hackers post a file that contains passwords of over six million of your customers to the web (LinkedIn in June 2012) could be classed as priority in terms of security spending. You may suffer a virus attack internally, which whilst it might be somewhat annoying, is largely irrelevant as long as your customer’s data is not compromised – unless of course it affects customer service, which will of course also affect your reputation.

Therefore, it is up to anyone with externally facing systems to determine what and how the information they hold about their customers is protected.  The way to do this is to regularly test your defences with external third-party vulnerability testing. This activity cannot be seen as a project but an on-going process. From this, a business can identify its risks and decide how to tackle them based on their impact to reputation and customer data.

In addition, businesses must also conduct their own internal assessment of all risk. There is of course some necessary spend on the hygiene products to ensure a decent perimeter security system, such as anti-virus and anti-spy ware, but after that, to avoid wasting money, risks have to be prioritised according to your business environment. For example, you can invest in some sophisticated security event logging software which is useful when a security event happens, but you’d rather invest in preventing that event from happening in the first place…first.

There is a perception that security breaches take place where clever hackers find some kind of technical weakness in a company’s systems, which means you have to spend lots on even more clever security software, but largely this is not the case. Most breaches are down to people making mistakes internally. This might be mistakes in how a system is configured or simply carelessness in handling data.  Businesses would be far better off spending time, rather than money looking at avoiding these problems.

Adrian Polley, Director

Friend Suggestion. Facebook, the unlikely ally for the humble PC.

May 29, 2012

There’s been a lot of debate about Facebook’s valuation, exacerbated by the fact that the shares fell sharply on both days following the IPO.  Of course, what something is worth is primarily a factor of what someone is prepared to pay.  But people like something concrete on which to make a valuation, and unfortunately Facebook’s price seems based on the prediction that it will grow revenues and profits massively in the next few years.

To justify its price,  Facebook really has to start making big bucks. Yet, despite speculation of future revenue in its social graphs and personal profile databases, right now, Facebook makes a comparatively small amount of money through revenue share agreements with app developers, and the majority from acting as an advertising platform.  Nothing else.

In light of the IPO, the press has been highlighting Facebook’s slowing revenue growth and drawing our attentions to its debatable advertising models including Sponsored Stories.  Besides the moral and privacy arguments of Sponsored Stories, it also happens to be Facebook’s only form of mobile advertising available.  And that’s the big issue.  Mobile users of Facebook have come to expect free and instant communication that the social network is struggling to present effective advertising on mobile devices without really annoying the user.  There just simply isn’t anywhere to display them.

So with pressures of profit and challenges in mobile advertising, Facebook might find a new friend in the passé PC.

The image of the poor PC has been suffering for some time.  HP, one of the largest producers, even announced that they were pulling out of the PC market before making a dramatic about face, and there are plenty of stories that with the move to mobile technology, the PC is dead.  But that can’t be true.  Mobile devices are great and have brought us new ways of working – but they’ve not really replaced our need for PCs.  Anyone who thinks a standard office is going to move wholesale to tablets and other mobile devices in the near future doesn’t really understand how most business interact with their software.

However, for Facebook, the PC has lots to offer over its smartphone and tablet counterparts.  Speed, storage and importantly screen space, where advertising can un-intrusively co-habit (well, it’s less annoying anyway) alongside our personal social networking activity.

So, at least in the medium-term, Facebook has a vested interest in ensuring that there’s still a place for PCs amongst its users and is likely to want to try and increase our 10.5 billion minutes* we spend a day on its website over its mobile application.  If that’s a combination of limiting the functionality of the mobile app or giving us more reasons to visit its website, it’s all good news for a potential resurgence of PCs.

Hmm, how’s the share price in Dell looking these days?

*Source – http://www.zdnet.com/blog/facebook/105-billion-minutes-spent-on-facebook-daily-excluding-mobile/11034

Image

Adrian Polley, Director

NEWS: Plan-Net wins 5-year IT outsourcing deal with Davenport Lyons

October 31, 2011

IT Services provider Plan-Net plc have agreed a 5-year IT outsourcing contract with the west end law firm Davenport Lyons.

Plan-Net will provide Davenport Lyons with a new virtual infrastructure and 24/7 support delivered from an onsite team and dedicated legal IT support centre based in central London.

Plan-Net Director Adrian Polley commented:

‘We are extremely pleased to be adding Davenport Lyons to our growing list of legal clients and look forward to delivering the high levels service required in this sector.’

  • For more information contact:

Samantha Selvini

Press Officer, Plan-Net plc

Tel: 020 7632 7990

Email: samantha.selvini@plan-net.co.uk

  • About Plan-Net

A specialist in transforming IT operations into high-performance, cost-efficient platforms for business success, Plan-Net works with clients of all sizes and needs to help them maintain high levels of service while still meeting demands for a reduction in IT spending.

Plan-Net has helped to enhance performance, flexibility, security, cost-efficiency and, ultimately, user productivity at clients large and small over the two prosperous decades of its existence.

Website: www.plan-net.co.uk

Blog: https://plannetplc.wordpress.com/

Twitter: www.twitter.com/PlanNetplc

What is the impact of the Cloud on the existing IT environment?

March 10, 2011

As organisations look to embrace the cost-efficiency opportunities deriving from new technologies and services, there is a lot of talk about the benefits, risks and possible ROI of the blanket concept of ‘Cloud computing’. However, it is still unclear how using Cloud services will affect the existing network infrastructure and what impact it can have on IT support roles and the way end users deal with incidents.

The effect on an organisation’s infrastructure depends on the Cloud model adopted, which may vary based on company size. For example, small organisations which are less worried about owning IT and have simpler, more generic IT needs might want to buy a large part of their infrastructure as a shared service, purchasing on-demand software from different vendors.

Buying into the Software as a Service model has the benefit of simplicity and cheapness, as it cuts out much of the responsibility and costs involved, which is a great advantage for SMEs. This solution also allows 24/7 service availability, something that small firms might not be able to afford otherwise. The lack of flexibility of this service, due to the impossibility to customise software, is less of a problem for these types of organisations. But there are still risks related to performance, and vendor lock-in.

Using this model, a small company’s retained IT infrastructure can be relatively simple, and therefore there might be little need for specialist technical skills within the IT department. A new skill set is required, however: IT personnel will need to be able to manage all the different relationships with the various vendors, checking that the service purchased is performing as agreed and that they are getting the quality they are paying for. The IT Service Desk will therefore require a smaller number of engineers, less technical but more commercially savvy. More specialist skills will shift towards the provider and 1st line analysts will have to escalate more calls to the various vendors.

Larger organisations, on the other hand, may well be keen on retaining more control over their infrastructure and purchasing IT resources on-demand. With this model, the organisation still manages much of its infrastructure but at a virtual level – the vendor might provide them with hardware resources on-demand, for instance. The main advantage of this model is that it allows the existing infrastructure to be incredibly flexible and scalable, able to adapt to changing business needs. For example, building a data centre is lengthy and expensive, therefore not convenient for expansion. But by using a “virtual datacentre” provider, capacity can be increased in the space of an online card transaction, with great financial benefits – in the Cloud model only the necessary resources are paid for without investment in hardware or its maintenance.

With this second model, the change in the roles within the IT department will mainly regard an increased need, as in the other model, for vendor management skills. Monitoring KPIs, SLAs and billing will be a day-to-day task although there will still be the need for engineers to deal with the real and virtual infrastructure.

Both models generally have very little impact on the end user if the IT Service Desk has been running efficiently, as this does not disappear as a first point of contact. However, in certain cases the change might be more visible, for instance if desk-side support is eliminated – a cultural change that may need some adapting to.

All in all, change is not to be feared – with the necessary awareness, embracing Cloud services can improve IT efficiency significantly, and align it to the business. By leaving some IT support and management issues to expert providers an organisation can gain major strategic advantage, saving money and time that they can ultimately use in their search for business success.

 

Adrian Polley, Technical Services Director

This article appears on the National Outsourcing Association’s (NOA) online publication Sourcing Focus: http://www.sourcingfocus.com/index.php/site/featuresitem/3318/

10 things we learnt in 2010 that can help make 2011 better

December 23, 2010

This is the end of a tough year for many organisations across all sectors. We found ourselves snowed-in last winter, were stuck abroad due to a volcano eruption in spring, suffered from the announcement of a tightened budget in summer, and had to start making drastic cost-saving plans following the Comprehensive Spending Review in autumn. Data security breaches and issues with unreliable service providers have also populated the press.

Somehow the majority of us have managed to survive all that; some better than others. As another winter approaches it is time to ask ourselves: what helped us through the hard times and what can we do better to prevent IT disruptions, data breaches and money loss in the future?

Here are some things to learn from 2010 that may help us avoid repeating errors and at the same time increase awareness of current issues, for a more efficient, productive and fruitful 2011:

1- VDI to work from home or the Maldives

Plenty of things prevented us getting to work in 2010; natural disasters, severe weather and industrial disputes being the biggest culprits. Remote access solutions have been around for a long time, but desktop virtualisation has taken things a stage further. With a virtual desktop, you’re accessing your own complete and customised workspace when out of the office, with similar performance to working in the office. Provided there’s a strong and reliable connection, VDI minimises the technical need to be physically close to your IT.

2- Business continuity and resilience with server virtualisation

Server virtualisation is now mainstream, but there are plenty of organisations large and small who have yet to virtualise their server platform. When disaster strikes, those who have virtualised are at a real advantage – the ability to build an all-encompassing recovery solution when you’ve virtualised your servers is just so much easier than having to deal with individual physical kit and the applications running on them. For anyone who has yet to fully embrace the virtualisation path, it’s time to reassess that decision as you prepare for 2011.

3- Good Service Management to beat economic restrictions

With the recent economic crisis and the unstable business climate, the general message is that people should be doing more with less. It’s easy to delay capital expenditure (unless there’s a pressing need to replace something that’s broken or out of warranty) but how else to go about saving money? Surprising, effective Service Management can help deliver significant cost-efficiencies through efficient management of processes, tools and staff. Techniques include rearrangement of roles within the IT Service Desk to get higher levels of fix quicker in the support process, and adoption of some automatic tools to deal with the most common repeat incidents. Also getting proper and effective measures on the service, down to the individuals delivering it, helps to set the bar of expectation, to monitor performance and improve processes’ success.

4- Flexible support for variable business

An unstable economic climate means that staffing may need to be reduced or increased for certain periods of time, but may need rescaling shortly afterwards. At the same time epidemics, natural disasters and severe weather conditions may require extra staff to cover for absences, often at the last minute. Not all organisations, however, can afford to have a ‘floating’ team paid to be available in case of need or manage to get contractors easily and rapidly. An IT Support provider that can offer flexibility and scalability may help minimise these kinds of disruption. In fact, some providers will have a team of widely-skilled multi-site engineers which can be sent to any site in need of extra support, and kept only until no longer needed, without major contractual restrictions.

5- Look beyond the PC

Apple’s iPad captured the imagination this year. It’s seen as a “cool” device but its success stems as much from the wide range of applications available for it as for its innate functionality. The success of the iPad is prompting organisations to look beyond the PC in delivering IT to their user base. Perhaps a more surprising story was the rise of the Amazon Kindle, which resurrected the idea of a single function device. The Kindle is good because it’s relatively cheap, delivers well on its specific function, is easy to use and has long battery life. As a single function device, it’s also extremely easy to manage. Given the choice, I’d rather the challenge of managing and securing a fleet of Kindles than Apple iPads which for all its sexiness adds another set of security management challenges.

6- Protecting data from people

Even a secured police environment can become the setting for a data protection breach, as Gwent Police taught us. A mistake due to the recipient auto-complete function led an officer to send some 10,000 unencrypted criminal records to a journalist. If a data classification system had been in place, where every document created is routinely classified with different levels of sensitivity and restricted to the only view of authorised people, the breach would have not taken place as the information couldn’t have been set. We can all learn from this incident – human error will occur and there is no way to avoid it completely, so counter measures have to be implemented upfront to prevent breaches.

7- ISO27001 compliance to avoid tougher ICO fines

The Data Protection Act was enforced last year with stricter rules and higher fines, with the ICO able to impose a £500,000 payment over a data breach. This resulted in organisations paying the highest fines ever seen. For instance Zurich Insurance which, after the loss of 46,000 records containing customers’ personal information, had to pay over £2m – but it would have been higher if they hadn’t agreed to settle at an early stage of the FSA investigation. ISO 27001 has gained advocates in the last year because it tackles the broad spectrum of good information security practice, and not just the obvious points of exposure. A gap analysis and alignment with the ISO 27001 standards is a great first step to stay on the safe side. However, it is important that any improved security measure is accompanied by extensive training, where all staff who may deal with the systems can gain a strong awareness of regulations, breaches and consequences.

8- IT is not just IT’s business – it is the business’ business as well

In an atmosphere where organisations are watching every penny, CFOs acquired a stronger presence in IT although neither they nor the IT heads were particularly prepared for this move. For this reason, now the CIO has to find ways to justify costs concretely, using financial language to propose projects and explain their possible ROI. Role changes will concern the CFO as well, with a need to acquire a better knowledge of IT so as to be able to discuss strategies and investments with the IT department.

9- Choose your outsourcing strategy and partner carefully

In 2010 we heard about companies dropping their outsourcing partner and moving their Service Desk back in-house or to a safer Managed Service solution; we heard about Virgin Blue losing reputation due to a faulty booking system, managed by a provider; and Singapore bank DBS, which suffered a critical IT failure that caused many inconveniences among customers. In 2011, outsourcing should not be avoided but the strategy should include solutions which allow more control over assets, IP and data, and less upheaval should the choice of outsourcing partner prove to be the wrong one.

10- Education, awareness, training – efficiency starts from people

There is no use in having the latest technologies, best practice processes and security policies in place if staff are not trained to put them to use, as the events that occurred in 2010 have largely demonstrated. Data protection awareness is vital to avoid information security breaches; training to use the latest applications will drastically reduce the amount of incident calls; and education to best practices will smooth operations and allow the organisations to achieve the cost-efficiencies sought.

Adrian Polley, CEO

This article has been published on Tech Republic: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/10things/?p=2100

The peculiarities of Metro Bank’s IT outsourcing model

October 20, 2010

Recently-launched Metro Bank has made headlines these last few months for more than one reason: it is the first high-street bank to launch in over 100 years; it follows a retail store model, offering longer opening hours and no weekly closing day; and virtually all of their IT is outsourced to a Managed Services provider.

The news of a bank outsourcing its IT does not come as a complete surprise, as many banks outsource certain functions such as software development, IT Support etc. There are elements of novelty in this choice, though – for instance the fact everything but security and the local networks and terminal devices is being outsourced, which puts a lot of technology in the hands of the provider. It is also unusual that they have chosen a new provider, niu Solutions, which is a merger of four different IT and telecom providers and has little track record as a unified company. And finally, what is most interesting about Metro Bank’s set-up is that they are using a new ‘pay-as-you-grow’ Managed Service model that is highly-virtualised, flexible and scalable – something only a start-up is likely to have considered.

Some publications reported that the bank is using cloud computing, but they are probably mistaking the somewhat flimsy term with plain virtualisation. This is not a shared service – the bank has paid upfront for the hardware and has employed the provider to manage their systems, which run remotely from two data centres in the UK.   While it’s likely that the provider will be looking to add customers to the model, there’s little doubt that Metro will insist upon a high degree of separation of “their” equipment in the provider’s datacentre to help minimise security risks.

With any financial firm, but particularly a retail bank, information security is an overriding concern.  As well as the detailed personal and financial records they hold for their customers, there is also concern about who has access to the various financial systems that are used for recording and executing financial transactions.

Locating kit at a provider’s premises introduces a transfer of control issue, but Metro bank will mitigate that by ensuring data at rest is encrypted, and that the right security standards are enforced at the provider’s datacentres.

Clearly it is in the provider’s interest to supply a good and secure service to retain their clients and their reputation, and the advantage of dealing with a supplier is that roles and responsibilities should be clearly defined and contracted.  This is in contrast to relying on internal staff – the assumption might be that this improves security, but it also introduces the risk that there is less formality and, consequently, fewer proper control measures.

The biggest concern in a modern bank is logical security, rather than physical. Access to accounts and key financial systems will be highly restricted and audited. Since operational security at Metro Bank is retained in-house, the risks of a provider’s rogue employee having the level of access necessary to steal data or using the system for criminal purposes is relatively low.

A concern in any outsourcing arrangement is the financial stability of your chosen partner.  Such concerns would be particularly acute for Metro Bank as there would be serious repercussions if, for example, a company failure meant it couldn’t get access to its systems.  Clearly Metro will have done its homework on its chosen provider and insisted on various safeguards and insurances.

The new ‘pay-as-you-grow’ model appears to be convenient especially because of its scalability potentials – after an upfront payment for hardware, the bank pays a cost per user and increases its spend as the client and user base grows. With any new venture, it can be difficult to predict what the level of growth will be, and by adopting this model Metro will only pay for the growth as it’s achieved – rather than needing to make significant upfront investments to ensure growth isn’t hindered. Also, by leaving IT to the experts the bank is able to concentrate on customers and operations without having to worry about IT availability and support, sure of getting a high quality service thanks to SLAs.

This model is certainly interesting, but needs to show it can work in order to gain more trust among both banks and bank customers, and therefore be embraced by a larger number of companies. Retail banking is a better candidate for the model than, say, Investment Banking where the breadth of systems typically used and high-speed real-time requirements for data delivery might deter the organisation from being so bold. Nevertheless, this innovation can create many benefits from a business point of view: if this model manages to work over time, it could create many more opportunities for service providers to enlarge their range of work, and for banks to embrace cost-efficiencies that will enhance their competitive value and, ultimately, their potential for success.

Adrian Polley, CEO

Organisations live in the past when it comes to IT

July 30, 2010
Press release

A Plan-Net survey reveals that 76% of organisations still run on Windows XP 10 years after its release, and 44% are not planning to change. Also, 87% use Exchange 2003 or previous versions, which do not support virtualisation or 64-bit systems. An upgrade would allow organisations to achieve cost-efficiencies, Plan-Net advises.

Reasons behind the lack of modernisation are reduced budgets due to the recession; wariness towards later versions deemed defective; other projects being given priority; and failure to recognise sufficient reasons for change. However, using an obsolete system can prevent organisations from cost savings and efficiencies made possible by new technologies such as virtualisation, continuous replication and unified communication tools.

Adrian Polley, Technical Services Director at Plan-Net comments: “The unstable economy and reduced finances have made organisations wary of investments deemed inessential. But the challenging climate has also brought people to focus on cost-efficiencies and ‘doing more with less’.”

“Investing in good management of the IT Service Desk can reduce losses caused by inefficiencies and free up resources that can be invested in technical projects such as upgrading to Exchange 2010 and Windows 7. This can allow access to technologies and achieve benefits in a way which is not possible with earlier systems, and which in turn, will help the Service Desk run more smoothly and create other cost savings, thus engaging in a cycle of reciprocal benefits.”

The survey was carried out on 100 IT decision makers working in City-based businesses of over 250 users. For both Windows XP and Exchange 2003, standard support expired last year. Plan-Net experts say upgrades to Windows 7 and Exchange 2010 are advisable.

Keith Smith, Senior Consultant says: “Windows 7 has had positive feedback from early adopters and expert analysts such as Gartner. It is more secure, faster and makes it easier to share resources. As for Exchange 2010, it simplifies high availability, making continuity and resilience much easier, and, also, virtualisation with all the benefits that entails.”

For more information:

Samantha Selvini
Press Assistant, Plan-Net plc
Tel: 020 7632 7990
Email: samantha.selvini@plan-net.co.uk

Microsoft should fear not – is Apple even in the same league?

June 25, 2010

There has been a lot of hoopla in the press in the last couple of weeks regarding Apple overtaking Microsoft’s place in the sun. Various commentators have declared that Apple is now the biggest technology company in the world, implying that whilst it is going from strength to strength, Microsoft has become yesterday’s news.

The term “biggest”, however, is rather ambiguous – what metrics are used to measure it? Most commentators seem to base their claims solely on figures such as their relative Market Capitalisations (or worth). From this point of view, Apple is leader as its Market Cap recently hit $245b whereas Microsoft’s has dropped to $220b. But this is all based on share price, which obviously includes investor expectations rather than simply being a snapshot of the current revenues being produced.

If you look at the financials, the picture is a bit different. In the last quarter, Microsoft’s and Apple’s revenues were similar at around $14b, but Microsoft made net profits after tax of $4bn compared to Apple’s $3bn. Three months before that, Microsoft made $6.6b in profit compared to Apple’s $3.3b.

There is an even more important question to be raised: can we really place the two ‘giants’ in the same category under the general term ‘technology’? Although there is the possibility that this might change with the recently launched iPad, most of Apple’s revenue does not derive from computers – the large majority of their earnings come from mobile telephony and media players, and all the related software and applications. Data published in April this year show that in the last quarter, Apple have earned about $3.7bn from sales of desktops and laptops, and over $9bn from sales of iPod and iPhone alone.

In the same period, Microsoft earned $7.7bn from Windows products, Servers and Tools, and only $1.66 bn from entertainment devices such as the Xbox. Microsoft is also thought to own 90% of the computer operating system market.

From this data we could say that, at least for now, Microsoft is still by far the biggest computer technology company – Apple still has some way to go before overtaking its place in the world of computing.

What’s getting people excited is Apple’s apparent ability to keep producing new and aesthetically pleasant gadgets that people want to buy. Whilst the iPhone 4 looks great, the jury is still out on whether the iPad will maintain the impetus surrounding its launch, and the adoption of both for business use is still dubious. We could in fact say that even if Apple’s Tablet manages to increase their earnings from computer products, the two giants can still coexist in the market as they have two different customers – Apple’s bias is towards the consumer market, whereas Microsoft dominates the business market.

Adrian Polley, CEO

Find this article online on Computing: http://www.computing.co.uk/computing/comment/2265488/microsoft-should-fear-apple

Will Tablets rule the future?

June 17, 2010

Apple CEO Steve Jobs recently announced the start of a new, post-PC era, declaring that Tablets such as the iPod might be replacing PCs just like ‘old trucks were replaced by modern cars’. Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer reacted by saying that PCs are undergoing many transformations and tablets are just one of the experimental forms we will see, adding that the PC market has still a lot to grow.

As an experiment Keith Smith, Senior Consultant and Adrian Polley, Technical Services Director take the sides of Jobs and Ballmer and discuss the two different viewpoints.

Are Tablets the future? 

It’s a strong possibility.

Keith Smith, Senior Consultant

Nowadays there is an increasing need for light and easily transportable devices, which are at the same time aesthetically pleasing. From this point of view, Tablets tick all the boxes: they offer flexibility and mobility in use as they are not restricted to a keyboard, and because of their shape they can be used in places or positions not conducive to a notebook such as in bed, standing or with one hand. Apart from this, what differentiates Tablets is that they give users the possibility to write directly into the device using their own handwriting, which is something normal laptops do not allow. Users can then share their “ink”, the data which is input and displayed as handwriting, with other tablet and non-tablet users and integrate it with other business applications, for instance Word. There is also the option of using the traditional mouse-keyboard combination, although the elements have to be purchased separately.

After the warm welcome the iPad received, it may prove difficult to go back to portable PCs as we know them. This is especially because the Tablet offers the “touch environment” which makes navigation easier than notebook equivalents of keyboard, mouse and touchpad in certain situations, and offers faster input for creating diagrams or playing games.

The fact that users can use a stylus to input information, which builds on peoples’ traditional use of a pen, makes it even more accessible as for a lot of people it is easier to use than a keyboard.

The functions that characterise Tablets make it ideal for personal use first, which may then leak into the business world when issues such as security will be properly addressed. Although a lot of work still needs to be done, especially to gain credibility in a business environment, Tablets can be seen as the first step to a technology that is minimal, versatile and why not, democratic.

 __________________________________________________

I don’t think so!

Adrian Polley, Technical Services Director

There is a lot of fervour around this ‘innovative’ piece of technology, but contrary to what many seem to believe, Tablets are not so shockingly original, nor can really be considered the anti-PC – there have in fact been PC-based Tablets since 2001. These are generally standard Laptops with a rotating screen that can be used to write on, so that they have the general functionality of a laptop with the convenience of a pen-based device. This device was lauded as the natural successor to the laptop, but even though marketing enthusiasm has increased with both the Windows Vista and then the Windows 7 launches, take up has been relatively small compared to overall laptop sales. The dual functionality made these types of Tablets considerably more expensive than comparable laptops, which could be a reason for their limited success. There is commercial appeal in the iPad because of its ease of portability and accessible price, but these are both possible because it lacks traditional PC or Mac components. This might make it lighter and sexier, but does it meet normal functionality needs?

There is a major issue with Tablets that concerns user input.  In spite of 20 years’ worth of development of voice and handwriting-based input, the vast majority of user input to a computer is still done via the keyboard, which is considered to be fast and accurate. The lack of an equally efficient means of input into a Tablet device relegates it to those tasks which are primarily consumer based, such as viewing and interacting with content that is provided without having to input a lot of information.  This may suit consumer applications, but only a certain class of business applications. Until the input problem is resolved, Tablets will always be an item in the business world that is niche and not mainstream.  As has already been proven with PC-based Tablets, users are generally unwilling to pay the premium required to get the Tablet functions on top of a standard laptop, let alone to lose some of its main functions completely.

Apple’s Tablet may have sold to millions of technology fans, but widespread day-to-day and business adoption is probably not going to become a reality anytime soon.

Disclaimer: this is a role-play exercise and may not represent the writers’ real views on the subject.

Getting back to work – but with a service provider

June 16, 2010

IT professionals can learn from the tough times.

As the UK officially leaves the recession, although, it must be said, staggering instead of marching triumphantly, the IT job market seems to be coming back to life, but with a substantially changed face. IT professionals looking to get back to work after they were made redundant or to make that career move they postponed while things were tough, should take this opportunity to learn from the past twelve months and make a more informed choice when choosing their new employer.

As IT Support and Managed Services acquire larger space in the UK business services market, the timing is right to take IT professionals through the characteristics, as well as the advantages, of working for an IT services provider. It is also important to raise awareness of the skills and role shift that is occurring, which can have a strong influence on one’s decision.

Working for an IT Services company

When working for a service provider you are able to acquire experience in different sectors, depending on the spread of clients, of course. Working on different client sites means gaining the sort of experience normally associated with a number of jobs while keeping the security of continuous unbroken employment. For those IT professionals looking to specialise in a certain sector, there are service providers with extremely niche specialisms that are able to cater for this. Thanks to this, technicians get to practise and develop a great variety of skills, keeping up-to-date with the latest technologies and practices as the provider will want to keep them appropriately skilled.

When Service Level Agreements are involved, the performance of each individual is monitored and assessed. Thanks to this, engineers learn to keep their standards high and therefore become acquainted to being at their most efficient.

Most of the professional advantages can also be seen on a more ‘personal’ level. Being in a variety of environments can help keep one’s enthusiasm fresh, and staff can get to experience different organisations, verticals, technologies and ways of working. This is crucial to deciding which best fit their personality and ambitions. Unlike what happens in non-IT organisations, where it is not unlikely that CIOs, IT Directors and managers do not come from an IT background, engineers find themselves dealing with IT professionals who fully understand their personal and professional skills, which are appropriately valued. Finally, there is also a personal investment in the company which is sustained through a continuous employment.

The changing IT job market

Many analysts have announced a growth in demand of permanent IT staff, in fact research conducted by e-Skills UK shows that the IT industry will continue to grow at a rate of 1.3% per annum, more than four times the average growth rate for all sectors (0.3%). However, the IT workforce is experiencing a restructuring and skills shift, partly because some work is being outsourced, partly due to a standardisation of IT assets and procedures, and also because of the IT environment switching to a software-intensive platform. Jobs related to management, strategy, planning and software development are on the increase, whereas there is less need for more hardware-related or admin jobs such as line repairer and database assistant. According to the survey ‘Technology Counts: IT & Telecoms Insights 2010’, by 2018, the number of IT managers is expected to represent 27% of the IT workforce, strategy and planning professionals 13%, and software professionals will cover 32%. Computer engineers, on the contrary, have an average growth of -0.2% per annum, meaning that in 2018 they are expected to represent only a 3% of IT professionals.

Agile skills

New technologies and job roles bring along a shift in skills. Organisations are now looking for agile skills in their Service Desk engineers: support personnel have to be able to successfully implement new processes based on standard Best Practice, and be familiar with the latest tools that can speed up operations. Adoption of ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) practices is becoming essential, as is a knowledge of virtualisation. Thanks to an accurate selection of software to help with first-line resolution, and the use of outsourced devices such as servers and data centres whose management is the provider’s responsibility, basic and complex incidents are being taken care of, and on-site engineers are left with anything in the middle. The role of first-line engineers is then extended to some of the tasks originally belonging to second-line technicians, and because of these changes first-line engineers will need to have a broader technological knowledge.

As for higher-level IT professionals, the current upskilling requirements identified by eSkills UK concern the management of business process change, data management and security, leadership and business. The increased need for business skills is due to the fact that the IT department is acquiring a more strategic position within an organisation. Now that the more technical part of IT is moving towards a commoditisation and starting to be easier to deal with, managers and directors need to be able to focus on ROI and cost-effectiveness, and to have the ability to handle increasingly global supplier relationships. As organisations adopt a holistic view, IT is seen as part of the business and not as a service, and IT and business people work together for business transformation – the latter gaining awareness of the power of technology, and the former acquiring broader and deeper business skills, in order to create business value.

The right place to be

Working for a service provider, then, has never been so attractive. A more strategic use of IT means many organisations will search for appropriately-skilled staff externally, leaving selection and management to an expert service provider in order to focus on more strategic parts of the business, and surely IT professionals will want to be in the right place when this happens.

Adrian Polley, CEO

This article appeared in the May/June edition of ITNOW