Our industry is more relevant than ever

13 Jan 2015

cybercrime

I, like everyone else I know have been horrified to watch the events of Paris unfold over the past few days.

As a journalist, the freedom of speech is paramount, and for journalists to be targeted specifically is a worrying turn of events.

But as the threat of Islamic State continues, and with the most recent alleged hacking of the US military's Twitter and YouTube accounts by ISIS, more and more attention is drawn to the crucial role IT security plays in everyday life.

Indeed on the news last night, cyber-terrorism was described as the new frontline - several times by journalists. 

Not just by ISIS, but the Sony/North Korea episode was also a sign of things to come. It is everywhere.

Of course, our friends at the nationals tend to exaggerate their reports for dramatic effect and to incite a sense of panic into people tuning into their reports, but they do have a very valid point.

In these times, the network is indeed the first point of defence against those that wish to steal data from companies or inflict some kind of damage on the business. And if that defence is weak or non-existent, then they have already won the battle.

While a dry-cleaning firm in Derby might not hold any national secrets on its database, the data is does hold is still vitally important to the management of that firm, and every md in the land is going to be increasingly aware of the threats to their business if they have an online presence.

I really don't think the 'It won't happen to me' mentality works anymore. Everyone has to assume they are a legitimate target.

Of course, the big retailers, supermarkets and IT firms have all hit the headlines over recent years with various data breaches, but this is serious business, and hackers are getting ever more complex, and most certainly more malicious.

Demand for security experts, indeed any IT experts that provide honest, value-for-money and straightforward advice on how firms of all sizes can protect their valued customer data, is going to go through the roof.

There is never a more important time to be a trusted IT advisor.

 

Happy 2015

06 Jan 2015

2015calendar

First of all a Happy New Year to everyone.

It is going to take me a while to automatically write 2015 rather than 2014, particularly as I have now entered a new decade since I last blogged! Well, they say life begins........

I hope you all had a great festive break and are not too daunted at the prospect of yet another working year kicking off.

This week I am already working on our two main CRN awards events for 2015 and thinking extremely far ahead for the brand, and discussing how we are going to grow our newest brands - Channelnomics.eu and Channelnomics.com - all exciting stuff.

We are hoping that you will continue to keep in touch and keep us informed of industry goings on, and look forward to catching up with everyone at various events, both CRN organised ones, and vendor/industry ones.

However for me personally it hasn't been the greatest start, as I am currently stuck at home, having to keep my left leg elevated after a suspected torn ligament injury over Christmas. I have been forbidden from travelling to London by the doctors, but am hoping I will be able to sneak back sooner rather than later.

So anyone trying to arrange meetings with me at the moment, please do contact me via email as I am working as normal, but just not able to get into London at present!

I hope 2015 brings you all that you desire and more! Here's to a great year in the channel!

City Link collapse will impact channel

29 Dec 2014

City Link delivery van moving along a road

Christmas Day is not exactly the best time to find out that you are likely to lose your job.

But unfortunately, that is exactly what happened to nearly 3,000 City Link staff, when the courier firm's owner Better Capital placed the company into adminstration on Christmas Eve. This comes just over a year after it injected £40m into the company to turn it around.

The news was leaked to the media ahead of a planned announcement after the festive season.

According to a statement given to City AM, talks between adminstrator Ernst & Young, and union officials were held at the weekend, where it said it is likely to make 'substantial redundancies'. However a smattering of employees will be kept on for 'up to three months' it said, adding that it was 'cautious' of finding a buyer for the company.

City Link had warned in its last financial report that it was experiencing a 'continued lack of profitability'.

The firm has suffered setbacks in the past, with severe weather affecting deliveries in 2010 and the increase in online shopping making Christmas a particularly challenging time.

However it is not just Christmas deliveries that will suffer as a result of the firm's collapse.

As CRN discussed in a City Link commissioned Special Report back in May 2011, many IT distribution firms use third party companies to fulfil orders, and at the time, City Link was frantically trying to recruit more channel partners, to ensure he had as many as possible on their books.

In this era of increased competition and the privatisation of the Post Office, along with the meteoric rise of online shopping - the number of delivery firms vying for the same business is growing and other reports suggest a poor IT system played a large part in City Link's failure.

Other reports suggest there are over one million parcels that have been undelivered, and the firm is urging people to track their parcels locally if they can, and collect them, themselves. I hope nothing perishable is in them. The same must also apply to commercial customers, and the implicatios for them if a major order gets 'lost' is extremely serious.

It is not a pleasant situation to be in at this time of year, and the proliferation of courier firms similar to City Link, probably will mean finding a buyer will be difficult. 

So with City Link's demise, it means either there is more room in the marketplace for the existing players, or a space in the market for a new player to come along and clean up.

 

 

Feeling festive? Well, stop it!

10 Dec 2014

Christmas jumper

Just as I was beginning to feel fairly festive I receive my annual missive from the British Dietetic Association warning me not to overindulge this Christmas.

Cheers guys - you know how to bring someone down!

It reminded me that women can have 2,000 calories a day and men 2,500, but on average people consume around 6,000 calories on Christmas Day alone, and on average will pile on five pounds by New Year's Day.

Handy tips in the press release included: don't hover by the buffet table (you fat, greedy git), only have one box of chocolates open at a time and hide unopened boxes away to avoid temptation, don't share festive treats with your workmates (you great big pig), and avoid the January chocolate amnesty.

Instead start a 'fruit club' at work in the New Year, and see how quickly you become the office pariah!

Also when shopping for Christmas, don't give in and treat yourself to anything tasty - stick to your list - or preferably just eat the cardboard packaging.

For the 'big day' itself, don't eat the skin of the turkey (ugh!!), make sure a third of your plate is veggies, and ensure potatoes are 'dry roasted'. Use vegetable water for gravy rather than meat juice. Mmmmmm, tasty!

Also don't forget the calories in alcohol, you might be better off just drinking water all day to be honest. Bang goes the Christmas Baileys then.

And my favourite tip of all - take the lid off a mince pie before scoffing it to save a few calories.

If you listened to all this, you will be guaranteed the most miserable time, and could also succeed in bringing down everybody around you by reminding them of all the things they shouldn't be eating and drinking.

Alternatively you could act like the adult you actually are, and, like most people, if you have over-indulged one day, you won't do the same the next and it will balance itself out.

However if you do overindulge for more than one day and are not arrested by the glutton police on the spot, you could always cut back the day after.

I nearly replied and told them where to stick their advice, but I felt the strange need to go out,  buy a mince pie and stuff it in whole.

 

 

The bitter taste of success

17 Nov 2014

angry-at-email

This morning my inbox was full of people saying how much they had enjoyed the awards, and on the night itself I lost count of the amount of people saying what a great time they had had.

However for me, this is always overshadowed by the negative comments made by a few, quite often by people who have had too much to drink (no surprise there then) and who probably have been beaten to an award by someone else and are looking to lash out.

I am never so arrogant to expect nobody to complain, and there are always things to improve upon, but when the complaints are unfair and with absolutely no basis, I get extremely pissed off and yes, I do take them personally as it is questioning my integrity as an editor and journalist. So to all those that made such comments last week - thanks for that. I hope it makes you feel like big people.

 

Just so you get some idea - the awards for me start in January, when we start looking at categories and planning themes for the event itself.  I start to amass the two, yes, TWO judging panels that help decide the award winners.

To win an award is the result of hours of judging by two independent panels, who painstakingly read through every entry. It doesn't matter who the entry is, each is treated exactly the same as the other.

The judges - who will all back me up on this - are a group of independent experts and representatives from every corner of the industry. They come along with no bias and judge based solely on what they have before them.  Making petulant accusations against the integrity of the awards is also a personal insult to all the judges too. 

The shortlisted companies are the ones that submit an interesting and relevant entry - they have READ the Ts &Cs, and read the criteria.

Perhaps even read one of the many articles that I personally write every single year, urging people to read the criteria and the Top Tips, that are on the dedicated Channel Awards website every year.

Of course from my end there is always room for improvement in the categories and criteria - but these are worked on every year.

The beauty of the channel awards is that anyone can win them, and it is not always the same, well-known names that do win.  Everyone has an equal chance, but it is quality of entry ONLY that will ensure you take home a trophy.

Contrary to the beliefs of some, it is not based on the amount of tables or sponsorship money - the winners are often decided way before table sales get underway and the judges have no idea who the sponsors are anyway - nor do they want to. You might get this at some awards, but this is NOT the case with CRN. Not on my watch.

So to all those claiming this is so - I suggest you do your research properly on the awards before flinging your insults and claims around, speak to any one of the 20+ judges involved in this process - they are happy to back me up. And if you still don't believe - why don't you get in touch with me and come and join the judging panel yourself to see how it all works?

You could even do me the courtesy of listening to my welcome speech, which explains the process pretty clearly as well.

Or alternatively do what most of these 'armchair' complainers do - come along to an evening that is the result of many hours' toil, organisation and stress for a lot of people, including myself, have a lot to drink and start hurling accusations of 'foul play'. I hope it makes you feel better.

But next time you think about saying something to me either on the night or afterwards, don't expect a polite reply. You won't get one.

 

Technology babysitting

30 Oct 2014

Keep kids safe online illustration

At a breakfast meeting this week the conversation turned to the role technology is playing in children's lives.

One of the execs I was meeting had young children, and said what a lifesaver tablets can be when it comes to keeping the children quiet or amused, and also how from the age of 12 months, most children know how to swipe a screen and mess around with a smart device.

However on the other hand, I asked whether this reliance on technology was destroying vital communcation skills that start in childhood, where children learn to interact together, find things to do and generally amuse themselves.

I fear several generations below me are pretty much incapable of amusing themselves without the aid of a touchscreen electronic device. While it is great to keep them occupied and engaging their brains, they also need time away from these devices to develop as human beings and not machines.

How are they going to cope in the workplace if they are not skilled at human interaction, but prefer to stare mindlessly at a screen all day?

On a recent press trip, a fellow journo was saying how he had to limit his child's use of his computer/smart device to an hour a day, which was used to play a Minecraft-style game. If the child didn't get the promised hour - there would be hell to pay.  Almost like an addiction to online gaming.

On the flip side, another member of my breakfast party said how computers and devices were revolutionising schools, and in particular giving boys the confidence to express themselves - and that is definitely a good thing too. It does have its good points.

When I think back to the truly dire IT lessons I had to sit through  - it was enough to make you lose the will to live - I'm glad things have advanced this far to be of actual benefit to young people's confidence.

I just worry that they are going to become ever more over reliant on technology and miss out on the simple things in life that matter so much.

And on my way home I saw this very point in action. There was a group of four children - ranging from about eight down to about three, and the first thing their mothers did was hand out the tablets, earphones and smartphones.

Within minutes, and after a few password related questions, they were all staring at their screens absolutely engrossed, allowing the mothers to engage in pester-free chat.

The girls were obvious One Direction fans (they were dressed in 1D kit) and they were watching self-made videos together and singing along, but the boys were doing very separate things.

But while I found it fascinating to watch them, I thought back to the days when I was a kid travelling anywhere - and we would be looking out the window, talking to each other and asking questions - probably irritating the hell out of fellow passengers - but taking an interest in the here and now.

These kids didn't look out the window once for the hour and 10 minutes that I was on the train.

Am I alone in finding that quite sad?

 

 

 

Customer service sadly lacking

20 Oct 2014

thumbs down

I had just returned from a few days staying with family in Italy and was feeling extremely relaxed indeed.

However I knew when I got back that I would have to waste at least 30 minutes of my life trying to change broadband providers, and I was dreading making that phone call.

Turns out I was right to dread it. It was nearly an hour of my life and I still haven't got the outcome I asked for.

Considering I was after a simple MAC code - you would have thought I was trying to crack the secrets at Bletchley Park during World War 2.

I have been a customer with AOL Broadband for more years than I can remember - I believe they are part of TalkTalk now as well. Name and shame? Absolutely.

After being cut off twice - one guy kindly phoned me back, only to claim that my account didn't actually exist. Amazing then that money has been taken from my account on a monthly basis considering the account didn't exist.

However he finally found me and then I was passed onto another person (after 15 minutes) who would 'definitely have the MAC code I was after'.

This person then tried to bully me into staying with existing provider, and wanted to go through some 'offers' that would tempt me - but I said about 15 times (listen to the recording if you don't believe me) that I didn't want to hear them, I wanted my MAC code, I have been offered a deal I'm happy with from another provider, and basically wanted to get on with my day.

At one point this person said she was 'not going to give me the code until I had listened to the options'.

Excuse me, but when a customer wants something, you damn well give it to them.

For years, and entirely my own fault - I have watched AOL/Talk Talk offer brilliant deals to new customers, but never once have they bothered to contact existing customers and see if they could help them save money.

Only now, when I want to leave does this become an option?  I don't think so.

At the end of that exasperating conversation, she then informs me that it will take up to five working days to issue the MAC code, and that if I dared to cancel my direct debit, steps will be taken to claim what is owing.

Oh really AOL?  What will you do? Come to my house that you didn't believe actually existed?

If this is their idea of customer service, I am very glad to be turning my back on them - it can't come soon enough.

I suggest you sit down with your staff and give them some training on how to handle simple customer requests, and perhaps ask yourself why a customer wants to leave in the first place.

Angry is not the word. But please, next time you send me a press release lauding the brilliance of your products/services  - I'll just refer you to this blog.

Sexism is alive and well in tech apparently

09 Sep 2014

office-workers

Now this is a controversial subject I know.

But apparently, and according to research from online accounting firm Crunch, a total of 71 per cent of female tech workers have labelled sexism as an industry problem.

The firm questioned 500 male and female tech workers (not sure what percentage of that was actually women) and found that 43 per cent of those women questioned have witnessed or experienced sexism in the workplace. This is compared with 29 per cent of the men polled who said they had witnessed or experienced sexism in the workplace.

A combined 51 per cent of female respondents said the sexism problem was 'moderate' or 'extreme', while 32 per cent of men said the issue was widespread.

But despite this, according to the research less than half (45 per cent) would report a sexist act to management.

Now one thing this research failed to do was to actually define what they class as 'sexism' or a 'sexist act'.  Were we talking some smutty comments, or someone actually being taken advantage of blatently and either physically or verbally bullied because of their gender?

According to the dictionary sexism is described as "prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women on the basis of sex".  But it happens against men too, in certain industries, and that shouldn't be forgotten.

On a personal note I have had loads of comments made in the past, mainly alcohol fuelled, at various events, and have just laughed them off - there was no harm meant at all. It was all a bit of fun, and I certainly give as good as I get.

However there was one occasion involving female members of the CRN team where lines were crossed, and those involved were lucky to get away with their actions.

People who know me, are aware of my views on 'Women in IT' - I have written a fair amount about it in the past, but I feel that by highlighting it as an issue, too much is made out of it.

Historically it has been men that went out to work and the women were expected to stay at home and raise the family. This was the mindset well into the 80s, so it is to be expected that many industries have more men than women working in them, particularly in senior positions.

But things are changing and they are changing at the right pace. Women are being promoted on merit and not because they are women.

I still think meddling governments introducing boardroom quotas will set the industry back, not move it forward.

And when talking about sexism, I think we need to be very careful indeed.

Of course when people are being sexist, they should be pulled up on it and dealt with accordingly depending on the severity of the case, but in many instances I truly think people need to develop a slightly thicker skin and more of a sense of humour.

I would welcome any thoughts on this.

 

Views - both channel related and everyday life observations - from CRN Editor Sara Yirrell. If you have any gossip that you would like to share with me please do get in touch and also we would love to see your comments at the end of the blog.

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