New demands emerge as the rise of digitisation continues

  • Diane Giles, Head of Service Delivery at eir evo UK, explores how new tech is assisting businesses to overcome barriers

    Q. How much has demand increased for services and products that are integral to support the digital economy?

    The growth in digitalisation is having a profound impact on the demand for high-capacity connectivity, cloud-based services and security across all organisations, public and private across Northern Ireland. As they strive to maintain high levels of customer service, employee experience and overall operational efficiencies, their digital infrastructure must remain one step ahead.

    Over the 15 years I’ve been with eir evo there has been exponential growth in demand for bandwidth. It wasn’t that long ago we would have client sites with 100 staff requiring 10MB, today these same sites are now requiring a minimum of 1GB with many opting for 10GB. Now that hybrid working has proven to work, people are travelling less to offices and are becoming increasingly reliant on Unified Communications and internet connectivity. Together with an explosion in video calls, which is inherently bandwidth-intensive, this is driving increased demand for bandwidth. In general, organisations need to move data fast ensuring that everything is available across their networks and people have access to the information they need on demand.

    Cloud computing has also had a transformative impact on the business world, offering greater scalability, flexibility and cost savings. It has opened up access to powerful technologies for organisations of all sizes. Cloud adoption is becoming much more widespread and customers are looking to us to help them with their cloud migration and provide them with access to cloud services, including compute, analytics, storage and networking.

    Coupled with the growth in digitalisation, cloud-based applications and access-anywhere, security is obviously a major consideration and keeping data secure is one of the top priorities for our customers. The most notable growth areas are in user identity and access management, along with proactive services for detection and response of security threats and incidents.

    Q. How are organisations keeping up with this demand in terms of the availability of skills?

    The core of our business is delivering managed services, literally taking away the headaches of day-to-day management of networks and IT Services. In the past, you might have had a number of people in a business tasked with keeping networks or IT Services operational. Today with the pressure on resources and costs, we can help streamline these functions with our expertise and the automation of tool sets. 

    The Universities in Northern Ireland have always produced very high calibre ICT graduates, but there is a limited amount of that talent. Companies often rely on trusted technology partners for the additional skills they need, allowing their in-house teams to concentrate on their core business and doing the things they do best. They want a partner with high levels of expertise to give them valuable trusted advice, rather than a technology vendor who just sells them something that they may or may not need. 

    Finding talent in the first place can prove difficult, but there is also the additional challenge of retaining experienced key staff. Like every business, we understand the necessity of getting the right people and building them up to have the knowledge and skill sets for the job. Our policy is to delay filling a role rather than to hire the wrong person. eir evo always looks for somebody who is a good fit for the business and who has the right attitude. Although you can train somebody on how to do a job, you can't train them to have the right attitude. From a customer’s perspective, it’s imperative that they are engaging with somebody who actually cares and genuinely feels a responsibility to do a good job. We have employed people with non-IT backgrounds looking for a career change and keen to do a great job, put them through training on technical skills, and they have turned out to be some of our best engineers. 

    Q. As technology becomes more pervasive how does eir evo innovate to deliver evermore complex solutions for its customers?

    The key thing for us is our partnerships with all the leading vendors. We are Microsoft Partner of the Year, HPE Partner of the year and Cisco Partner of the Year so we have really strong partnership relationships behind us and very strong accreditations. Many companies may not have the scale or ability to have certified experts in their business and it takes a long time and a lot of investment to attain these levels of expertise. We leverage those premium relationships to build our knowledge, share it with our customers and innovate on their behalf.

    Working with our partners means we can deliver the very best in class solutions from a wide portfolio of services to help our customers stay ahead of the curve. Our partners are always investing in the latest emerging technologies - AI, edge-computing, hyper-automation and so on. Working together, we can leverage these technologies to enhance productivity, improve customer experiences and drive innovation for our customers.

    Q. What are the key success factors in delivering these complex solutions?

    Firstly, it's expertise. Knowing what you're talking about is crucial for success. Also, you need to be focused on what the customer needs and what the problem is. Sometimes we can all be guilty of thinking we know what the problem is and what will deliver the customer requirement but actually something slightly or totally different might be a much better fit. Our job is to dig deeper into the actual challenges faced by our customers, to understand what the real problems are, and to provide the best solution at the best price.

    We pride ourselves on our excellence in service delivery so we take it as a challenge to always do things well and we have a record of delivering to very tight timescales over the years. This was evidenced particularly over COVID when it was very difficult to even get into customer sites. For one customer we deployed 90 sites in four months and while it was challenging during a global pandemic to get access to sites, we met all our project milestones and customers can trust us to deliver.

    Communicating with customers is also very important.  Being open and honest is critical to building trust and even if it’s not the news they want to hear, telling them exactly what’s going on is critical. Where problems occur, we explain these in an open and truthful way, along with our plans to rectify them. Also, in our environment things can change quickly so being adaptable to change is essential.  What a customer might have needed six months ago might not be what they need today.

    Being local is a very important aspect for our customers and something I am personally very proud of.  Our strong local team in Northern Ireland are all users or customers of the services that we deliver. Whether it’s schools, councils, hospitals, hotels, food production or the many other sectors we service, the team wants to go the extra mile to make those services the very best they can be. Being local also means that the individuals working on a project from the customer’s business and from our own teams get to know one another and can operate like true partners.

    Q. What role does AI play in the future?

    Obviously, there are a number of areas where AI is starting to make a big impact. For us right now we are looking at software defined network automation, reporting and analytics where AI will be able to do some of the lower level tasks.  But there is still a need for somebody to apply some human thought to things. Being able to configure tasks that are repeatable without mistakes is definitely a place where AI can have a positive role.

    In terms of security, AI will be able to see trends and look for certain things probably much quicker and much easier than a human can. Ultimately application development is a really key one for us and we see AI coming into its own here.  Code generated by a robot will speed things up massively but there will still be a need to apply human thought to ensure the output of AI delivers what is required. 

    Our focus is on having the right team, with the right skills, backed up by the best toolkits to deliver our customer expectations because those are the key components of a high quality service organisation.

    This article appears in the summer edition of Sync NI magazine. To receive a free copy click here.

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