Q&A Series – Collaboration and Culture in the Modern Workplace – Craig Somerville

How do you keep your employees collaborative, productive and content when they’re not in the same place? In this article Craig Somerville, our CEO, discusses the Modern Workplace and how to create a positive culture—no matter where your employees are working from.  

The Modern Workplace at a Glance 

Every Modern Workplace looks different depending on the business. I’ve always been a big fan of flexible work and having the technology in place to make that a seamless experience is what I see as a truly Modern Workplace. It’s where employees can work productively from wherever they want to while being able to securely access the data and applications they need for their job. This helps employees feel more motivated because they can tailor their working day to suit them.  

Pre-pandemic Workplace Culture Trends 

Before the pandemic, there was a skills shortage in tech and a range of other industries, which meant organisations were struggling to hold onto staff. With recruiters and competitors constantly chasing employees, it was critical to maintain satisfaction so that you wouldn’t lose people, particularly around the fringes. And obviously collaboration and culture play a big role in that. 

The trend for more flexibility was also starting to become widespread as a result of the wellness movement. Hot-desking setups in offices were on the rise and people were becoming more and more mobile outside of the office with advancements in technology such as laptops, smartphones, remote accessibility and mobile workstations. 

The Impact of COVID-19 on Culture and Collaboration 

Even though people want to feel more secure and initially, weren’t switching jobs as much, the pandemic has put even more focus on employee satisfaction and wellness. Businesses are now leveraging Modern Workplaces to help improve employee satisfaction and keep their teams connected and motivated. And since flexible working environments are now a big drawcard for employees, it’s critical for businesses to jump on this trend to retain and attract quality talent. 

With teams becoming more dispersed than ever before due to lockdowns and the hybrid work trend, providing an environment where people feel connected is important. Before the pandemic, this would happen more naturally because people could see each other in the office, but now technology is providing this connection. 

The Challenges of Physically Dispersed Workplaces 

Now that workplaces are more dispersed, it’s important to have systems in place that allow employees to collaborate digitally in real time. When people are working from home, it can be easy to fall into the trap of working independently and losing that valuable teamwork element. It also means that the social aspects, such as lunch or knock-off drinks, don’t flow naturally and can be lost. To overcome this challenge, it’s important to use a mix of both technology and actively working to make the environment better for your employees, no matter where they are. This means scheduling the online Friday drinks or arranging team meet ups once lockdown is over. It could be having the team all be in the office on particular days of the week, it’s about finding the mix that works for your organisation and the team.  

With people working from here, there and everywhere, it’s important your employees have access to technology that helps maintain productivity. This could range from high-performance HP laptops powered by Intel®, to accessories such as keyboards, monitors and webcams. Programs such as Microsoft Teams have also become a popular choice for maintaining and encouraging collaboration in hybrid workplaces. This makes it easier for everyone to stay connected and on the same page by providing a range of great tools such as video conferencing, chats, file sharing and calendars. 

As well as having the technology in place to support seamless communication and collaboration, businesses need to proactively manage and check in with their staff to make sure nobody feels isolated. Whether that’s with regular scheduled check-ins, one on one virtual meetings or virtual events—it takes more of an active effort to do this remotely, but it’s important. Keeping the lines of communication open also helps reduce misunderstandings that can happen as a result of secondhand knowledge. 

Dealing with Digital Fatigue 

Not being in contact with people is difficult, so there’s no quick fix for the digital fatigue a lot of people are feeling. However, a significant amount of fatigue comes from frustration, so if you can minimise that frustration with solutions that create a seamless working environment wherever your employees are, that can help a lot. At the end of the day, lockdown situations where people aren’t seeing each other in person are probably still going to cause fatigue, but technology can help soften the effects.  

Collaboration and Culture Predictions for 2022 and Beyond 

When things open back up, businesses will continue to leverage the benefits of hybrid working environments. They may dial the remote aspect back slightly, but it will still be the norm to have a mix of working in the office and working from home. Advancements in technology will continue to make switching between different working environments more seamless for employees and hopefully we’ll see a nice balance with a lot less digital fatigue. 

Our Modern Workplace services help make team collaboration and productivity seamless, wherever your employees are. Get in touch with our team of experts to learn more today. 

 

The Intel logo is a trademark of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries.

What Does the Modern Workplace Mean Today?

While the concept of the Modern Workplace isn’t new, it is transforming. As businesses face major challenges—such as changing work environments, the proliferation of devices and complexity of applications—their technology needs to keep up. In this article we discuss what the Modern Workplace means today with insights from Mark Fenson, HP Business and Mobility Systems Evangelist, and Nathan Kramer, Somerville Modern Workplace Manager. 

Unique to each person 

In recent years, an increasing number of businesses have started paying more attention to their employees’ unique needs and methods of working. In 2021 and beyond, you need to create the right environment for your employees to be productive no matter what their working style is or where they’re located. 

“The Modern Workplace looks different for everyone. For example, I’m here working from home with my son’s home-schooling setup in the same room—this is my Modern Workplace. I’m extremely lucky to have everything I need laid out perfectly to suit the way I work. But my experience of the Modern Workplace is completely different to everyone else,” Mark explains. 

“And it’s no longer only about the device. It’s about making the entire environment around the device effective—from headphones to microphones, cameras, keyboards and screens.” 

Continuous uptime 

Since the Modern Workplace doesn’t have a set location, downtime can become a serious issue. It’s no longer enough to just equip your employees with the right devices. Businesses also need to ensure the right services are in place to minimise outages and make sure any issues are fixed immediately.  

“Today, Modern Workplaces require proactive monitoring to make sure outages don’t occur, as well as a 24/7 help desk for efficient support. With continuous uptime and digital support, you’ll save your business expensive downtime costs as well as improving employee satisfaction and productivity,” says Nathan. 

Sleek and modern 

With hybrid working environments now the norm, it’s important to have work setups at home that don’t encroach on personal space. For example, the latest HP devices powered by Intel®, as well as monitors and accessories reflect this trend with sleek designs that fit in anywhere. Previously, businesses would make sure their staff had some kind of set up that would allow them to do their job, but now they’re seeing the need for better working environments. As well as boosting productivity, this also boosts happiness and helps employees feel more comfortable working from home. 

“People don’t want to feel like work is invading their personal space. They need to have devices and accessories that look nice inside the house. A lot of people don’t have their own study—they might be working in the lounge or dining room. So, as trivial as it might sound, the look and feel of Modern Workplace technology has become more important than ever,” says Mark. 

Comprehensive and responsive security 

Is your Modern Workplace set up for the cyber security threats of today? Cyber attackers are finding new and more sophisticated ways to target businesses, especially with more and more employees working remotely. The Modern Workplace of today needs to be able to adapt and get ahead of increasing cyber threats, to proactively prevent breaches and keep your business protected.  

“Because homes don’t have the same level of cybersecurity that an office would, device security becomes more important than ever. You can choose devices that already have security built in, then you can add services on top that might include machine learning for fast response time. A lot of companies are also looking at Modern Workplace services where a security expert can help them manage their fleet to free up their IT team,” Mark explains. 

A set up that grows with your business 

Agility is one of the most valuable qualities for a business—especially during a time of so much uncertainty. “To make sure it can keep up with the ever-changing digital demands of today and the future, the Modern Workplace needs to be agile,” Nathan says, “That’s where as a service solutions provide a lot of value because they can grow with a business to help meet the increasing number of devices and application complexity.” 

Delivered as a service  

In the last few years, we’ve seen more and more businesses freeing up their internal IT teams by turning to Modern Workplace as a Service (MWaaS). Choosing an agile provider who offers a comprehensive service that ticks off security, setup, monitoring, management and ongoing support is a great way to make sure your Modern Workplace can handle the ever-changing demands of our rapidly evolving digital world. 

“Going down the as a service path means that businesses can pick and choose exactly what solutions they require, as well as falling back on the provider for management and support. This means their IT team have more time to be more proactive inside the business rather than reactive and constantly fixing issues,” says Mark. 

With an agile, reliable and secure Modern Workplace, you can make sure your business can handle the digital challenges of today and the future. Through our Modern Workplace as a Service offering, we’ve seen a range of businesses reap the rewards of a seamless digital experience. If you’d like to know more about modernising your work environment, get in touch with our team or visit our website for more expert insights. 

 

The Intel logo is a trademark of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries.

 

Q&A with Jack Jayilian: 5 Years at Somerville

Jack Jayilian recently celebrated a five-year milestone with us at Somerville. For those who don’t know him, here’s a little Q&A to get you acquainted!

Q: First, tell us a little about your role at Somerville.

I have multiple roles at Somerville; I manage the Notebook Program Technicians (the dream team), look after some aspects of our notebook repairs ticketing system called myFLO, am the technical lead for NBP schools and sales lead for NBP schools with the aim to grow the business. Plus, much more that I don’t want to bore you with.

Q: What’s been a highlight of your time at Somerville so far?

Seeing our notebook program sales grow year by year has been a highlight. But, most satisfying is being seen in the industry as having the best and most professional Notebook Program Team in the industry.

Q: What’s your favorite travel memory?

Would have to be the sports tour I went on with a few mates in 2019. We started in Los Angeles, watched Lakers v Clippers NBA opening night followed by Las Vegas for Ice Hockey and a few drinks. The next leg was San Francisco where we watched the mighty 49ers in the NFL. The highlight of the whole tour was when we topped it all off with 5 nights in Cancun, Mexico, being treated like celebrities in the resort.

Q: What was your earliest favourite song?

Tough one, I remember Rock the house – D.J Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince & Billy Jean – Michael Jackson was both on repeat in the old trusty tape player.

Q: What is your favourite pastime?

3 on 3 basketball with mates.

Q: What was one of your earliest jobs? And the biggest thing you took from it?

Computelec as a 16-year-old work experience kid. The biggest thing I took from that time was to be patient, listen, work hard…and stay away from marketing! I still have nightmares of database clean-up.

Q: What’s a secret skill you have that most people don’t know about?

NBA2K22 PlayStation 5 Skills.

Q: What’s something about your life that most people don’t know?

I’m pretty much an open book, I share most things in my life to all friends and family. Something I don’t talk much about is the year my family lived in Cyprus waiting for our Visa to migrate to Australia, even though I was young and don’t remember much, I know it was hard on my parents.

Q: What’s your favourite family tradition?

Sharing holidays with my brothers and their family. Easter at mine, Christmas at my oldest brother’s and New Year’s Eve at brother number 3’s house.

Q: What’s something you’re most proud of in your life?

The family my wife and I have created. Jessica, James and Jacinta are what I’m most proud of most.

Six key security and optimisation strategies for migrating to the cloud

Modernising your information technology (IT) infrastructure to keep pace with change is no small feat. Like chess, with its many possible moves and strategies, organisations can feel overwhelmed by the many options available.

If you’re betting the business on the cloud, for example, that requires careful planning to secure and optimise your new infrastructure to mitigate risk and maximise performance.

It takes a lot of time and effort just understanding all the options for a cloud migration. Here we save you some of that effort with this snapshot of the latest strategies and emerging trends.

1. Be in no doubt: the cloud really is the future

As we reported in our previous article, “5 Lessons Learned from a Successful Cloud Migration Journey”, Australia has long been an early adopter of new technologies. The cloud is no different, according to Simon Piff, VP of Trust, Security and Blockchain Research at IDC Asia/Pacific.

“The Australian public cloud market … stood at US$4.0 billion in 2019, and is forecast to grow to US$8.1 billion by 2024 – a 15% compound annual growth rate,” he said.

For many organisations, the pandemic has added a sense of urgency to their cloud migration. As Somerville CEO Craig Somerville said: “Organisations have been forced to allow many staff to work from home and have needed to equip them with the resources needed to do so. The cloud can play an important role at this time, and so pressure to increase adoption has never been higher.”

Research firm Gartner adds that hybrid cloud adoption – the mix of on-premise infrastructure, private and public cloud services – is also on the rise. The firm estimates IT spending totalling US$1.3 trillion will soon be affected by the shift to the hybrid cloud.

IT leaders everywhere are on a cloud migration journey to replace legacy systems and modernise IT environments. To help you begin your journey, we asked leading analysts about essential trends to consider.

2. Put security at the heart of software development

Perhaps foremost among digital trends is DevSecOps (short for development, security and operations). It involves automating the integration of security throughout the software development lifecycle from design to integration, testing and deployment.

However, IDC’s Piff questions the DevSecOps hype. “The term itself implies security is added following development,” he observed. “It’s a ‘bolt-on’ approach.”

“If the world had instead adopted a SecDevOps approach (in which security coding comes first), I’d argue that security is considered at the right point in time. But currently (with DevSecOps) it’s not,” Piff cautioned.

Cybersecurity expert Andrew Milroy of Veqtor8 agrees, also calling for a SecDevOps approach where security is “baked into software development upfront” – right in the software code. He calls this “‘shifting left” to address security earlier in the development process.

“Previously, you’d develop a bit of software and, using the simple waterfall method, worry about security later. Using SecDevOps, we’re mindful of security as we’re building the software.”

3. Forget the ‘castle and moat’ approach to network protection

SecDevOps is critical because the traditional approach to cybersecurity is dead.

“Traditionally, we assumed most people work in an office, and so we secured the office network from attack and intrusion,” Milroy explained. “But distributed workplaces, work-from-home and remote work across many devices – such as non-company smartphones and PCs as well as clouds – messes up the “castle and moat” approach. The attack surface has gotten much bigger.” And more porous.

Aaron Bugal, Global Solutions Engineer at UK-based security firm Sophos, agrees. “The shift to remote work brings an erosion of traditional IT configurations,” he explained.

“Changes to facilitate out-of-office work now need refinement to make remote work a permanent system. For example, as users move to the cloud, an identity management system is needed to ensure provisioning of multiple disparate systems and services, such as CRM, ERP and other systems.”

Bugal’s observations support Milroy’s belief that with legacy systems still intact across many organisations even as they migrate more people to the cloud, today’s expanding security perimeter cannot be defended as before. As Milroy puts it, “Many security policies, processes and technologies are no longer fit for purpose.”

4. Go cloud-native sooner rather than later

Like many industry experts, Milroy agrees that moving applications to the cloud without a redesign – also known as the ‘lift and shift’ approach – seriously jeopardises the effectiveness of a migration.

“Many organisations have core activities on-premise and haven’t reconfigured processes to use a cloud service. They’ve just shifted what they already had onto AWS, for example. But this is complex and difficult to manage,” he said.

Going cloud-native, Milroy explains, means having apps specifically designed for the cloud. This can lead to many benefits, such as scalability. “You can increase workloads and decrease them to manage peaks and troughs, and provision services as they’re needed. It provides adaptability and flexibility you won’t get if you’ve just bunged your existing legacy programs and apps into the cloud.”

5. Simplify wide-area networking and security with SASE

Looming larger on the IT horizon is Secure Access Service Edge (SASE). This approach simplifies wide-area networking and security by delivering both as a cloud service directly to the source of connection, rather than to the enterprise data centre.

“This will have an effect as we see more digitisation and more people using a wider range of digital devices from multiple locations. You need policies, processes and technology that allow you to manage that,” Milroy warned.

6. Bake security and optimisation into cloud migrations

Like placing software development ahead of security, Sophos’s Bugal warns that IT managers also often focus on cybersecurity only when a cloud-enablement project has finished.

“Migrating users from on-premise to, say, Azure or Office is great, but that must also include security and optimisation provisions such as MFA (multi-factor authorisation), MDM (mobile device management), and MAM (mobile application management),” Bugal said.

“Security must be a primary consideration at the start – not near or at the end – of cloud projects.”

Somerville agreed, adding: “A cloud migration journey requires a security-first cloud strategy that involves baking security into every aspect of IT, protecting endpoints, access points and networks, and focusing on continuous monitoring and management of cloud security risks and threats. It requires complete visibility across the entire IT environment in order to secure data, users and apps in the cloud.”

As in chess, deciding which pieces to move when modernising security infrastructure isn’t easy. However, those who move decisively, with the right cloud strategies, stand to gain a winning advantage.

Q&A with Elaine Donaldson: 10 years at Somerville

If you’ve worked with Somerville over the past ten years, there’s a good chance you’ve met Elaine Donaldson in our Sales Support team. Always prioritising our customers and providing the highest level of support, she is one of the biggest legends to grace our halls.

Elaine recently celebrated her tenth year with Somerville, so we thought we’d help everyone get to know her a little better, beyond the work emails. Enjoy!  

 

Q: First, tell us a little about your role at Somerville?

I’ve been with Somerville for just over 10 years and currently working in the Sales Support team–we assist Corporate and Education customers with their procurement needs.

 

Q: What’s a secret skill you have that most people don’t know about?

I’ve got an extremely high tolerance for caffeine and have no trouble falling asleep straight after a huge cup of coffee!

 

Q: What’s something about your life that most people don’t know?

I grew up in Hong Kong and all of my immediate family members are still there.

 

Q: What’s one of your earliest jobs, and what was the biggest thing you took from it?

I worked at a lingerie shop when I was at Uni; the biggest thing I took from that was how to make people feel comfortable in conversations and how to build trust with customers.

 

Q: What’s your favourite family tradition?

Listening to our favourite playlist and dancing together. My 3-year-old’s current favourites are: ‘The Gambler’ by Kenny Rogers, ‘Let me in’ by Grouplove and the Tron soundtrack.

 

Q: What’s your favourite travel memory?

My favourite travel memory was driving through different parts of the U.S with my husband to visit relatives. We spent time in a few small towns during our drive from Washington DC to Lake Michigan; it was really lovely except for when a deer ran into our car on the freeway. Let’s just say there wasn’t much left of the deer…

 

Q: What’s been one of the highlights from your time at Somerville?

The Christmas parties over the years. They’re often very relaxed and everyone from different states gets together. It’s always nice to catch up with different people outside of work settings.

 

Q: What was your most beloved song or band from when you were 16?

Hysteria by Muse (I also saw them in person)

 

Q: What’s something you’re most proud of in your life?

Being a Christian.

 

Q: What are your top three favourite foods or comfort foods?

My grandma’s cooking, dumplings and a good bowl of noodles.

 

Q: What’s something on your bucket list that you’re excited to do?

I would love to learn drumming even though I have really bad rhythm.

 

Thanks for giving us the inside scoop, Elaine, and good luck with the drum lessons. After you retire from Somerville (please don’t leave us!) we’ll hire you to play our Christmas parties!

Top 10 Wi-Fi gotchas & how to avoid them

In a hyper-connected world, we need to provide constant connectivity to the users within our network. When you set up a Wi-Fi network correctly, you can drive the productivity, mobility and convenience that every modern organisation needs to be successful. Get it wrong, however, and there is very little the people in your network will be able to achieve in an always-on digital world.

To help you get the most from your Wi-Fi network, here is a list of the biggest gotchas we commonly see, and how best to avoid them.

    1. Over investing in infrastructure – This may not affect your Wi-Fi performance immediately, but it will certainly affect your organisation. Over investing in network infrastructure and hardware through large CAPEX outlays and ongoing licensing fees means you are tied to those investments over the long term, and while they may suit your needs initially, you will lack both the technical and financial agility to scale your network in the future.
    2. Under investing in infrastructure – Wi-Fi has gone from being a novelty to offer your users and users to an expected necessity. By having inadequate infrastructure to deliver appropriate levels of Wi-Fi connectivity, you are devaluing your organisation’s brand and missing a host of opportunities to build relationships, engage with users, and create value.
    3. Lack of stakeholder consultation – Without consulting with stakeholders at every level of your organisation, including users, you can waste countless hours installing and configuring networks that don’t meet your users’ needs. By finding out where, when, and how users prefer to connect to your network, this will allow you to provision the access points, switches and bandwidth required to deliver that connectivity.
    4. Lack of formal design – There is no one-size-fits-all approach to installing a Wi-Fi network. It is not a box that sits in the middle of your building, providing perfect connectivity right to the edge of the network. As well as stakeholder consultation, you need to consider building layouts, peak connectivity demands, and the applications being used, among dozens of other design considerations.
    5. Lack of testing – On paper your Wi-Fi network looks incredible, but the smallest mistake in your configuration could render the entire network useless if users are unable to connect on day one. By conducting phased testing as you bring your network online, you can ensure that each area is delivering the right level of coverage, so that you can have confidence everything will run smoothly during periods of peak demand.
    6. Using default security settings – A considerable amount of work goes into installing a new wireless network, which is why it can be tempting to skip certain components of your security set up. However, the costs and downtime associated with a severe security incident or data breach could cripple your organisation, so it pays to put the extra work into properly configuring every layer of your security settings.
    7. Security killing user experience – While security is important, so is user experience. Expecting each user to login through multiple factor authentication each time they connect to your network is simply not feasible as it drastically hampers overall productivity and the convenience your network is supposed to provide. Dynamic user profiling and monitoring should enable you to control access to your networks, while also getting out of your users’ way.
    8. Not having separate guest access – Having to provision the same level of bandwidth and access is unnecessary for every user connecting to your network. It also leaves you vulnerable to security threats. Guest access is an essential offshoot of your network that offers new users the courtesy of connectivity, while relatively limiting the number of devices they can connect, their uptime speed, and the types of applications and data they can access.
    9. Lack of BYOD support and security – We know that the average person carries multiple devices with them each day, particularly if they are working, studying or travelling. Without the ability to detect and support new devices when they connect to your network, you can severely hamper productivity and user experiences. Conversely, you also need the ability to adjust security policies dynamically to a user’s additional devices.
    10. Lack of visibility – We simply cannot guarantee network performance and SLAs if we cannot see how, where and when users are connecting to our network. We need the ability to understand network access and performance at both a network-wide level, as well as a granular user level. This level of visibility allows us to fine tune configurations and improve network performance over time.

Wireless networks are often costly and time consuming to set-up and manage. When wireless networks are poorly configured, they can also limit accessibility, expose your data to security risks, and severely hinder organisation performance.

Aruba Enterprise Wireless-as-a-service from Somerville frees you from complex wireless network set-up and management, so you can focus on what’s really important to your organisation. Get in touch with our Wireless-as-a-service team today, to find out how you can benefit from a secure and scalable high-performance network, with ongoing management and support from your trusted network partners at Somerville.