Success stories

2021: be agile, be positive, be kind

Happy New Year to all our customers, partners, colleagues and blog readers! A new year is typically a time of planning, resolutions and excitement about the future. This year is no different at Cloud Business. Although 2020 was challenging for everyone, and just days into 2021 the UK is back in lockdown, we’re optimistic and continuing to push forward with ambitious plans for 2021.

This year there are 3 important things we’re focusing on: agility, positivity and kindness. Not your typical business objectives, but we believe that these values are essential to support our strategic plans.

Here’s why:

Be agile

Agility is highly desirable at times of change and in 2020 we certainly saw how agile business models helped organisations cope with remote working and the move from on-premise to online. As digital transformation experts, we’ve been at the forefront of supporting our customers’ remote working strategies and helping them get the agility, flexibility and scalability they need.

To us, agility is also about creativity and approaching things from a different perspective. We’ve always been the people who solve our customers’ challenges and that often means changing the way we do things. While our experience and best practice provides valuable insights to draw on for approaching new challenges, we encourage our team to ditch any preconceived ideas and assumptions, and tackle problems with creativity.

Be positive

It’s hard to be upbeat all the time, especially with Covid cases surging and continued economic uncertainty. But positivity is a powerful force which can’t be underestimated. We see proof of this time and time again on our Service Desk. Customers contact us because of an IT issue, sometimes worried, frustrated or feeling negative. Our Service Desk analysts soon turn that around with a positive and proactive response, and the right strategy to resolve their ticket.

Even when it seems quite bleak out there, we’re trying to inject some positivity into all our interactions with customers, partners and colleagues. We want to make sure we do our bit to make your day better.

Be kind

The language of business is changing. Over the last year we’ve seen more emphasis on collaboration, looking after each other and being kind. We’re ‘in it together’ has been a strong message throughout the pandemic, and one of the positive outcomes of remote working is an increased awareness of the importance of work-life balance and self-care.

It’s not always easy when your workforce is working from home to know when someone is finding things tough. But we can all do our best to ensure we look out for each other with meaning. Every contact we have – instant message, ticket update, email or call – will in some way affect the state of the person on the receiving end. We’ve made a resolution at Cloud Business to choose our words carefully to make sure we are respectful at all times, whether we’re talking to colleagues or customers.

2021 is already looking up. The vaccine roll out is a game changer which will truly help us get back to ‘normal’. However, what the pandemic has taught us is the importance agility, positivity and kindness, and we plan to make these our mantra throughout 2021 and beyond.

The biggest IT trends in 2020

Despite its significant challenges, 2020 has been a monumental year for IT and technology in businesses across many industries. Out of necessity, the world has undergone rapid adoption of remote working solutions, but we’ve also seen technology utilised in more innovative, niche ways. Here are some of the biggest IT trends we’ve seen in 2020.

Self-service, AI and machine automation

In the hospitality and retail industries, self-service has been on the rise. Customers are encouraged to user self-scanners and check-in without human interaction, while employees shift to more warehouse-focused roles to keep up with demand for online services and click & collect. Meanwhile, other industries are trending towards full automation. In some hotels, staff have been replaced by room service robots, while factory and online customer service workers have been substituted for machines and AI bots. Though these highly impactful changes were in progress prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, the pandemic has spurred rapid acceleration.

As the pandemic has progressed, businesses have also turned to offering virtual experiences in order to continue operations. Concerts, tradeshows and sporting events continue to be hosted and streamed successfully online. Estate agents are providing fully virtual viewings.

Digital transformation and Covid-19

There has also been a huge and natural adoption of cloud computing tools across businesses of all shapes and sizes. As a software provider, Microsoft leaned into this new market and has achieved staggering success, with its Teams platform reaching 4.1 billion meeting minutes in a single day. Globally, 85% of companies have accelerated their use of collaboration technology this year, with 35% claiming digitisation of their supply chain.

Get in touch if you would like to discuss how to further accelerate your organisation’s digital transformation >

This rapid evolution of technology has undoubtedly saved companies and lives, but challenges have been met along the way. Companies have been forced to adapt their security and IT practices quickly which, for large enterprises, has led to many complications and disasters. A Nintendo breach earlier this year saw 300,000 user accounts compromised. Twitter’s spearphishing attack saw cyber attackers posting as some of the most influential people in the world. EasyJet reported the breach of 9 million data records, including 2,200 credit card entries. Marriott saw 5.2 million hotel guests impacted after the hack of two employee accounts.

Cyber security training and awareness

These breaches have resulted in a tough year for consumer trust, but the world has learned some important lessons about security. As we move into 2021, businesses will be more aware of cyber security than ever, regardless of their industry, size or operating model.

Crucially, organisations should be aware that end-user training on cloud technology and security is vital to keep businesses protected. It is definitely harder to educate employees as we all work from home, but organisations should rise to that challenge and embrace the remote working era. Many industries have thrived working remotely despite thinking it impossible before, and many benefits have been realised.

The modern workplace

AI and automation, too, have accelerated in popularity and adoption. The widespread use of robotic and machine learning technology has enabled rapid advancements and significant cost savings. Adoption and benefits will continue long after the pandemic subsides, so businesses, employees, and governments should embrace and adapt to these modern working conditions and methods.

Finally, and perhaps most crucially, organisations should use Covid-19 as a reminder that disasters do happen and should be planned for. Regardless of size, businesses should have specific procedures in place to weather unexpected circumstances.

Keeping up with the latest technological trends is an important part of this. Companies who test and implement modern solutions on a regular basis will naturally run into fewer risks when forced to roll them out on a mass scale. Being proactive with technology almost always leads to benefits in the long term.

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Reimagining the workplace post Covid-19

Here we explore the modern workplace post Covid-19. What will it look like? What technology will be needed? And what roles will support the new normal?

With the heavy impact Covid-19 has had on economies, jobs, business operations and the workplace, the prevailing question is “when will everything go back to normal?”. The security and resilience many organisations previously enjoyed has been in flux as they’ve been forced to adapt to regulations that are changing daily.

As we head into 2021, there’s hope on the horizon. Vaccines are progressing, with the results of major trials looking positive. However, with their global effectiveness unclear and the prospect of new virus strains appearing, a return to our old ways is not on the horizon. One thing’s for sure – the workforce and the workplace will feel the impact of the pandemic for decades to come.

Accelerated digital transformation

Pre-pandemic, businesses were adopting new technology at a quick but premeditated rate. It was important to carefully plan out the integration of new services rather than throw caution to the wind. Covid-19 has changed that, forcing them to adapt overnight or risk failure.

“We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months”, said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in an April earnings report. In Microsoft Teams, he continued, they saw over 4.1 billion meeting minutes in a single day – a ground-breaking statistic.

A recent survey of 800 executives, carried out by McKinsey, found that 85% of businesses have accelerated the implementation of collaboration and communication technologies. 35% of executives said their company has digitised its supply chain. Many have also jumped on automation and AI technologies to reduce physical human interaction, in an effort to adhere to social distancing rules.

Whilst companies and their employees are starting to see the benefits of these technologies, it’s unlikely that things will return to a fraction of what they were any time soon. Though most don’t plan to implement remote working policies for everyone, some of the businesses surveyed intend to offer a percentage of their workforce more time at home. 20% of UK executives said they plan to allow at least a tenth of their workforce to work remotely for two or more days per week.

Employees have started to realise the financial and mental benefits of working from home, while c-level executives have seen that with the right technology, their workforce can be just as productive. While remote working adoption will never be all-encompassing, due to the very nature of some jobs and sectors, there’s clear interest.

New jobs to support the modern workplace

Due to the rise in remote working, new and more diverse roles in cyber security are required. Businesses now face the daunting challenge of protecting devices from any location and across a variety of internet services. Because of this, there has been a significant shift in security culture towards cloud security, as well as consideration for how businesses protect AI and automation technologies.

IBM, for example, has seen a surge in clients using its AI platform, Watson. With it, companies can deploy chatbots, accelerate financial services, analyse vast amounts of cybersecurity data, and more.  With cost-cuts increasingly required and social distancing a necessity, there’s been a strong incentive to replace humans with robots. In supermarkets across the UK, there has been a push towards “Scan & go” and self-service technology, while chatbots can in some cases replace the jobs of multiple call centre employees.

In the short-term, the pandemic is also leading to a mass-increase in health and safety roles, many of which, such as on-site sanitising, don’t require much training. In the long-term, though, the pandemic may lead to a reduction of unskilled positions, replaced by automated technology and agile working roles. The economic uncertainty of Covid-19 isn’t going to go away overnight, and the push for automation to cut costs is likely to make such solutions even more viable.

There could be concern ahead for permanent workers as well. When the executives surveyed by McKinsey do hire for on-site roles in the future, they’re now more inclined to use contractors and temporary workers. As high as 70% of those surveyed stated they would use more temporary workers over the next two years in a bid to increase resilience. So far, between May and July, the number of temporary employees rose by 3% in the UK year-over-year, but as we see an end to government support schemes, it could accelerate further.

The bottom line, then, is that Covid has already changed the way jobs are done and technology is utilised. Even after the pandemic subsides, these trends are likely to continue due to economic uncertainty, meaning the post-pandemic world may not end up looking as “normal” as you would expect.

With such uncertainty, it can be good to have a helping hand with your organisation’s technology, from experts in the field. Get in touch to see how we can help align your technology with the modern, post-pandemic, workplace and protect your business.

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Generation Z will transform the workplace over the next decade, how will you support them?

Over the next decade Generation Z, those born in the mid to late 90s, will be entering the workplace in large numbers and disrupting the way we work well into the future.

We’re already experiencing the impact of their older siblings, the Millennials in our workplaces, we expect these new recruits to continue transforming the modern workplace, aided and abetted by technology. 

To get ahead of the curve, how can you align your workplace, culture and working methods to attract and retain Gen Z?  

Digital transformation is a key part of optimising your workplace for future generations, download our definitive guide here to learn more >>> 

How to optimise your workplace for Generation Z 

Whatever your feelings about a generation that is sometimes derogatory called the ‘Snowflake Generation’, businesses and organisations need Gen Z. In 2020 this age group are expected to make up 24% of the global workforce, and rising. While the Millennials and Gen X are level pegging on 35%, any business leader that wants to future proof their recruitment and engagement strategies should be thinking about Gen Z. 

There are numerous articles, reports and surveys sharing what Generation Z wants, but how do these trends and needs fit into the modern workplace? Below I share my thoughts: 

Work life balance 

According to a Gallup poll 7 in 10 young employees experience burnout, up 7% on older generations. Also, 3 in 10 young employees say they are very often or always burned out at work. That makes them more likely to take time off work, and more likely to quit altogether. What they want is a way to achieve a better work life balance that helps them manage stress and burnout. 

Increasing mobility is one way to do this. Flexible and remote working policies are a great way to attract talent who want the autonomy to manage their time both at work and at play. In fact, flextime (such as working longer days for a shorter week) or telecommuting is no longer viewed as a perk but as a standard work function. After all, flexible and remote working policies have been shown to increase productivity and reduces absenteeism, so why wouldn’t you allow staff to benefit from better work life balance?  

More opportunities to collaborate with colleagues 

It goes without saying that Gen Z are digitally savvy, the first fully digital generation. However, they also want human contact and to work with colleagues rather than in isolation. Whether that’s as a result of a digital backlash or because teaching methods in schools and universities are far more collaborative than in previous decades, Gen Z likes human interaction. 

In recent years we’ve seen how workplace design has changed to offer employees more opportunities to collaborate. From informal meeting spaces to hotdesks and brainstorming spaces, the modern workplace provides physical space to work alongside colleagues from across an organisation. The modern workplace can also enhance this experience using digital solutions such as Office 365 and SharePoint. This ensures remote workers also get the opportunities they want to collaborate, albeit without the face-to-face contact. 

DIY mentality 

As members of the digital generation, Gen Z employees are highly skilled at finding solutions and getting on with a task by themselves. Their working methods might be different to previous generations but often they’re more effective; cutting out red tape and admin, and delivering results. Preconceived ideas about how to approach a problem go out the window with a digitally empowered workforce. 

Many organisations might view this as a risky practice. For example, employees using their own device and apps for business activities can expose a company to compliance or security risks. However, preventing Gen Z from using technology in such an intuitive way is not, in my view, the answer. Instead I believe we should be building a culture that supports BYOD, employees using their own apps and productivity tools, and employees working in ‘unconventional’ ways. Solutions such as Microsoft Intune can help your organisation get the benefits of BYOD without the associated risks. Embrace these new working methods! 

Entrepreneurial spirit 

Many surveys have shown that Generation Z has higher levels of entrepreneurial spirit than previous generations. Approximately half of Gen Z say they would like to run their own business, while others are highly focused on career progression and expect their employers to provide opportunities to succeed on their chosen path. 

Retaining talented and innovative individuals therefore becomes a priority, and organisations should explore ways to give employees the tools they need to perform at their best. Agile and innovative organisations have an advantage, particularly if they also promote innovation and allow employees to pursue their own projects. Technology has naturally created opportunities to disrupt traditional business models as well as design new solutions. Generation Z has the right mindset and skills to accelerate innovation if you provide them with the right tools. 

What does the future hold? 

Organisations that want to grow, compete and succeed over the next decade need to optimise their workplace for Generation Z. From culture, workplace design to digital technology, now’s the time to start creating an environment that allows them to thrive and use their skills, DIY attitude, and entrepreneurial spirit to help your organisation thrive. 

If you would like to explore how digital transformation can help you achieve this, please get in touch. 

cloud vs. on-premise

Cloud vs. on-premise: cost differences

Is cost a key driver in your IT decision making process?

As with most business decisions, cost is inevitably a key consideration when choosing between different solutions. When it comes to your IT infrastructure, understanding the cost difference between cloud vs. on-premise IT solutions is an important factor.

Here we look at the different costs involved in storing data, and compare cloud storage with on-premise servers.

Are you ready for the cloud? Download our Cloud Readiness worksheet to find out >

Cost differences between cloud vs. on-premise servers

Start up costs

It is clearly cheaper to opt for cloud storage over on-premise servers when considering start up costs. The cost of hardware, server room and power needed to implement on-premise storage is far greater than signing up to a cloud solution. Labour costs should also be factored in, setting up a new server and integrating it with your existing IT needs resources.

Cloud storage is a clear winner if you’re starting from scratch.

Maintenance costs

Cloud providers are responsible for all upgrades, patching and other maintenance. You’re responsible for your on-premise servers. While your monthly cloud subscription fee pays for maintenance, as cloud providers use a shared service business model long term it’s a fraction of the cost of maintaining on-premise IT hardware. Day-to-day running costs for on-premise servers are mostly confined to power usage, however regular upgrades are needed to ensure optimal performance and therefore you need to factor in labour costs. Whether this is done by someone in-house, or an external IT technician, these costs add up considerably.

Over time cloud storage is cheaper than on-premise.

Security costs

As with general maintenance, cloud providers are also responsible for implementing and maintaining appropriate security tools. Although it is your organisation’s responsibility for ensuring that data is protected, stored and managed in a compliant way. As well as the cloud provider’s your business may also need to implement security solutions which might range from basic security best practices to additional tools. On-premise servers are your responsibility to protect and ensure that security tools are fit for purpose.

Cloud storage providers include IT security tools which may reduce overall costs.

Cost of storage

Here’s how cloud providers make their money. They charge for storage. While they’ll probably give away some free storage, many will offer between 5GB to 15GB free, many organisations need a lot more than that.

On-premise servers are effectively free.

Scalability costs

Is your organisation growing and may need to increase its data storage? Here’s another cost where cloud storage wins hands down. The cost of increase data storage on-premise, if you’re operating at capacity involves those initial start up costs again. Buying hardware, installing it, having the physical space, an increase in power usage and additional maintenance costs. One of the cloud’s USPs is it’s scalability, you can upgrade your service at a click of a button for a fraction of the cost of purchasing a new server.

Cloud storage beats on-premise for scalability and respective costs.

Legacy costs

A major challenge for many organisations is their legacy IT infrastructure. When systems and hardware have been superseded with new technology, maintaining legacy IT infrastructure can be expensive and can limit IT’s ability to develop solutions that support the business proactively. Cloud providers are responsible for their technology and need to be innovative to be competitive. Many businesses choose to use a cloud provider to get access to technology they can’t afford to continually upgrade on-premise.

Cloud wins with no legacy costs.

Downtime and loss of productivity costs

A cost that can be difficult to quantify but an important one. Any disruption to critical systems that causes downtime or a loss of productivity, costs organisations. Cloud providers are not immune from outages and other service disruptions, but on average on-premise solutions experience more downtime than the cloud. In fact, migrating to cloud solutions to reduce the risk of downtime is another common reason that businesses move their storage. Cloud providers use failover solutions to ensure business continuity, and any remedial costs are incurred by them.

Cloud providers stipulate their commitment to service uptime and connectivity in Service Level Agreements, which are legally binding. They also set out how they will compensate customers if they fall short. However, it’s important to conduct a risk analysis when considering cloud storage which  includes the cost of downtime on your organisation.

Cloud storage may not be risk free but remediation won’t cost your organisation.

Total cost of ownership

Try out Microsoft Azure’s Total Cost of Ownership Calculator here to get an estimate of the cost savings your organisation could make by moving from on-premise to the cloud.

Ultimately, while the cloud offers many benefits and cost savings, it will depend on your organisation, internal capacity, the amount of storage required and your risk analysis whether it’s a better and cheaper solution for you.

If you want to discuss any of the subjects raised in this blog post, please get in touch.

cloud readiness

How digital transformation is changing the workplace for the better

Last week, we held our Digital Productivity in the Workplace Seminar. There was a lot of great insight into how tools like Office 365 are changing the workplace for the better. 

We’ll be making presentation slides from the seminar available soon, but we wanted to share a summary of each presentation with you now. 

‘The opportunity to innovate, differentiate and thrive’

Robert-Jan Gerrits, Digital Transformation and Unified Communications Strategist at Microsoft 

According to Microsoft, digital transformation is ‘the use of digital competencies to drive disruptive changes’ using technology such as the cloud and enterprise mobility.

The driving forces behind this are:

  • Data
  • Analytics
  • Cloud

But it’s not just about technology. Business leaders and models need to change in order to embrace it.

Business models are becoming less about physical assets and more about concepts, and using the cloud to drive them. 

‘Digital transformation in the workplace’ 

James Butler, Managing Director at Cloud Business

50% of the workforce will be millennials in 2020. James asked what’s their psychology, and what will this mean for the workplace.

First up, the psychology: 

  • 74% of millennials want flexible work schedules.
  •  88% prefer a collaborative work culture.
  • 69% believe office attendance is unnecessary on a regular basis.
  • 84% want to make a positive impact.

Next, how the workplace can change:

  • To encourage a collaborative workspace, you can use forms, mini apps, and social apps like Skype for Business and Yammer.
  • You can make searching for people and workloads in your organisation easier with apps like Delve, SharePoint and a company directory.
  • To ensure security, you can move your servers to the cloud where compliance and systems are updating automatically in the background.

Preparing for a digital workplace doesn’t have to be a major investment. 

‘Tools to enhance the digital experience: DocuSign’

Elaine Pakes, Microsoft and CSP Partner Manager EMEA

DocuSign is a tool you can integrate with Office 365 to collect legally-binding electronic signatures (known as e-signatures) and add them to your documents. You can do this from any integrated device. 

You can check out what documents have been viewed, how many times they’ve been viewed, and what has and hasn’t been signed. You can also add an extra level of authentication to the signing process, such as text message confirmation, voice authentication or single sign-on.

Using e-signatures can lead to:

  • Increased productivity. 86% of documents are returned on the same day, and there’s a 25% faster turnaround on agreements.
  • Reduced operating costs. Getting rid of the printing, inking and packaging processes saves an average of £27 per document.
  • Being Greener. 20 billion pieces of paper have been saved.

‘Tools to enhance the digital experience: Hyperfish’

David Bishop, Senior Consultant

Hyperfish finds missing company directory information and populates it in Office 365. A chat bot communicates with users via email or Skype for Business, asking them for their information. They can share this from a desktop or a mobile device, making the process quick and casual.  

Companies can use this and Office 365’s other applications and tools to their advantage. Other tools include:

  • Skype for Business for having regular meetings with staff who are based in different parts of the country, or other countries, without having to travel. 
  • SharePoint and OneDrive for making sure users have access to only the documents they need at the right times.
  • Yammer for quickly sharing information across a company.
  • Multi-factor authentication for setting up a secure way of using a network from external devices.
  • Digital Forms for digitising the data collection process.
  • Boost Intranet, Cloud Business’ own intranet in a box service, for improving the visuals and navigation of your SharePoint intranet.
  • Delve for finding information relevant to the people you work with and speak to the most.   

Driving a digital workplace

We believe technology should enable talented people to do their best work. Services, applications and support should be easy to access and use on any device. All of the speakers at our Seminar reinforced this point, and the applications they presented can all be used to drive a digital workplace. 

If there’s anything you’d like to know about cloud computing or digital transformation, feel free to get in touch with us.

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