Can digital technology enhance our work/life balance?

Striking a good work/life balance and embracing the rapid developments of technology has been a challenge for employees, as well as employers for a number of years now, especially for a business like Amicus ITS where we operate and support clients 24×7.  With the rapid deployment and acceptance in the workplace of mobile devices (BYOD and corporate mobiles + increased procurement of laptops), this has created flexibility options for many workers to answer emails, work on projects or just keep track of workload, out of hours or from offsite.

The question is – does this extra work, or working in a different environment create greater productivity and effectiveness, or is it allowing the individual to be swamped and creating a guilt culture about completing work or a ‘see I’m working now’ badge?

Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote speaking ahead of the ‘Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford 2015’ conference this week, commented:  “The challenge today is that we are a first generation digital society and still figuring out how to make it help us.  We now have mobile devices with email and most people think they should respond to the traffic all the time.  People need to manage their time right and access to work, to be in the right environment to be most productive. The point of the devices is to enable you to choose when you should engage with work. To do this successfully, we need new culture to support this”.

As part of the management team at Amicus ITS and with overall line management responsibility for our HR function, I believe that having the flexibility of a mobile workforce is a valuable tool for business in delivering productivity for the business and flexibility for the workforce.  However, I think we have to acknowledge that there needs to be a mature management culture overseeing this and individual discipline for those involved.  With all the enablement and security activated, it can also ensure that business continuity plans are quicker to exercise.  We have to get smarter about distinguishing work expectations and move away from micro-managing employees to thinking about how we can engage better with staff.  We should provide this balance when staff are out of the office both supporting them to escape and enjoy their downtime, as well as facilitating those who want to utilise some of this time for ‘clearing the decks’ or innovative thinking, by providing them with anywhere access to systems and data.

This is a thought echoed by Head of Envisioning at Microsoft UK, Dave Goplin, whose view is that, “It would be wrong to stifle innovation or good work if it suits the individual”.

The 2009 MacLeod Report for UK Government “Engaging for Success”, showed that disengaged employees cost the UK economy about £60 billion per year.  Technology is moving swiftly, but corporates are still slow to react and missing the boat on engagement.  As Dave Goplin said:  “If we can fix the challenge of engagement and enthuse the workforce by integrating technology with flexibility, employees will increasingly reconsider the importance of their work and the organisation they are working for”. 

At the back of all this, as a Managed Service Provider there is the corporate handle of ‘Shadow IT’.    Full governance, controls and management of what applications are allowed on a device, as well as keeping the data secure at all times has to be in place, before any of this vision can take place.  But it’s a good idea which progressive companies should position themselves to embrace and consider – and could make the difference of being the ‘go-to’ employer of choice in the next decade.

DSC_0015 Alan Meldrum 10@300

The week’s technology news – 13th March 2015

‘Expectations vs Experience in migrating to Cloud Services’

One of the US Labor Department’s top execs,  Dawn Leaf, CIO, United States Department of Labor
was a keynote speaker at CloudExpo2015 this week.   The following is a precis of her key reflections to our UK audience regarding Cloud and the experiences from her part in the US government’s adoption of Cloud:

• AWS turnover at $1.67 Bn.  Now shows as its own revenue stream.
• 92% of UK enterprise expected to extend their data investment. Cloud is a data reality.

US Government move to Cloud
• Started 2011-12.
• Trigger:  DoL IT spend was $82bn p/a, with 80% of that cost on infrastructure and 80% of that spend being on maintenance and ops – had to change.  Galvanised move to consolidate data centres and migrate to Cloud.
• Size of challenge:  DoL alone has 28 agencies and its ‘mission’ affects 25m workers.
• IT services for 19,000 staff moved across 500 locations to Cloud services.
• 9 different infrastructures, none of which were standardised.
• Expectations:  expectations coming out of cloud service were to create on demand self service, broad network access and elasticity.
• Challenges identified by NIST Cloud Computing Technical Roundup.
• Had to review security and compliance in preparation beforehand and review firewalls before any department could connect to Cloud.
• Recommendation that any organisation should include an Operational Readiness Test Phase in their SLAs’ to prove that they could get to cloud, as safeguard.
• Part of prep, DoL had to upgrade bandwidth and assure desktop readiness.  They still had 10,000 people working on Windows XP.
• Dawn created standards and definitions for NIST (used across Gvmt depts).

Roadmap created
• Need clearly defined roles and responsibilities for interoperability.
• If an issue needs resolving, all sides engage, no silo mentality.  Frequently a 3rd party is blamed and hard to move forward in good time.  Gov had issues with Microsoft, but MS put their hand up + issues with Blackberry.
• Had to review cost challenges
• Needed to estimate mailbox cost per individual vs legacy – worked out the same @ $15 p/mailbox pp.
• Had to sell change to workers to avoid unlimited archive space for staff – housekeeping.
• Issue of Sharepoint which needed to be migrated – taken step at a time:  dealt with first legacy of MS Outlook – moving mail only first.
• Systems reviewed illustrated challenges – Sharepoint alone had 100 instances of legacy to map.  New policy drafted around Sharepoint for new form as primary need in new structure.
• Issue of datacentre consolidation would meet two objectives in US:
• DoL managed to reduce number of datacentres by x40 in 2015.  Datacentres now located in outside Washington in DC.
• Cost reductions came by checking that datacentres were ‘ready’ to be migrated.
• Changes created significant energy cost savings
• Consolidation also created significant reduction in operating costs.
• Bottom line:  two security operations in two silos supported by two people were costing $200k p/a.  Savings made by moving to one model.
a) Consolidation and standardisation
b) Migration needed redesigning in line with Government Digital Platform.

• DoL now have 400 x more storage than before.
• Generally lots of legacy and services to migrate – cannot move lock stock.
• Serious challenge as affected lives so had to take it step by step.
• As a Gov organisation they faced legal requirements which were non negotiable.
• Had to adhere to FISA, with additional requirements around security inputs:
o High (sensitive referenced data) – lots of these for Gov – assessed that Cloud not less secure, but the costs jumped so greatly that on cost effective basis, better to have private Cloud or private federated Cloud approach in this band to protect national impacts.
o Medium (PII falls into this category) = there were 200 – all below national levels
• Used federated map risk programme to scrutinise.
• Gov assessed that with Medium risk data – Cloud did not create an increased threat to servicing.
• The main threat to any organisation is from within – its staff.  Cyber espionage whether criminal or run of the mill occurs with 000s of threats/hacks on daily/ weekly basis in US gov departments.
• Recommendation – need sound security practices
• Can take 2 years from selection of cloud partner to implementation.
• Budget and procurement cycles.
• Gov has to have back up plan to keep services going if all falls down
• Gov now has Cloud first policy – strategic decision in outsourcing.
• Closing vision piece – need more science and technology women coming through in sector. Headcount in room 5 out of 100 in theatre.

dawn leaf


Overground underground wandering free?

Travelling to London for this week’s CloudExpo2015 at Excel, it was fascinating to do a quick spot check on the variety of devices used by commuters on the train and then the tube.

Around our section of 8 separate travellers sitting across two tables journeying on South West Trains into London Waterloo, there was a lot of technology on show.  Accompanying our little sample were two Mac iBook Airs, three iPads, one HP laptop, one Lenovo Think Pad, one Windows phone, one person read the paper and one person slept.  One commuter (working for a Financial Conduct Authority according to the asset label on their laptop) juggled three devices during the journey.  And then somewhat alarmingly, the gentleman sitting directly opposite worked away on his laptop oblivious about the fact that laptop monitor showed a post it note confirming his antivirus, VPN setting and login.  Truly further education needed about keeping a device secure, especially if it is not your own.

A short while later on the underground, there was no less by way of volume of devices.  The tube carriage with 14 seats facing each other, had 10 people variously using smartphones and iPhones whilst the size of luggage carried indicated tablets, iPads and laptops were being taken along for the ride. The remaining four read the freebie Metro newspaper.

Clearly society is very comfortable today with technology, certainly more comfortable having it as a barrier to avoid engaging with a neighbour en route.  The difference on show was that everything went decidedly smaller as we went underground to suit the environment and the sense of enclosed space.  This reliance on technology will only increase in future as our desire to have technology whilst on the move and to stay connected ramps up.  In contrast, the technology will get smaller, lighter and faster as devices and technology are completely interwoven into every part of our lives both during and outside work.