07 Oct 2015
The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) World Economic Outlook (WEO) has predicted lower global growth compared to last year and has already caused some national news outlets to start warning of another global recession.
According to the IMF’s latest figures, world economic growth will drop from 3.3 per cent to 3.1 per cent this year.
That is the lowest annual growth rate since 2009 and just a smidge over the three per cent level where economy watchers believe signals a global recession.
The fall was spurred on by weaker growth in emerging economies including China, and the impending rise in interest rates in the US.
Maurice Obstfeld, the IMF economic counsellor and director of the research department, said: “Six years after the world economy emerged from its broadest and deepest post war recession, the holy grail of robust and synchronised global expansion remains elusive.
“Despite considerable differences in country-specific outlooks, the new forecasts mark down expected near-term growth marginally but nearly across the board. Moreover, downside risks to the world economy appear more pronounced than they did just a few months ago,”Obstfeld added.
But is it time to start worrying about another recession?
The last thing we need is for those people controlling the purse strings to start getting all cautious again, especially when it appears budgets are being released for much needed IT investment across the board.
The IMF itself admits growth will go up to 3.6 per cent next year, so that is slightly further away from the dangerzone.
I must admit, the industry people I speak to seem to be pretty positive so far this year, but this could be because I’m a journalist and they don’t want me sniffing around for a story!
Would be keen to hear any thoughts on this and whether anyone is concerned about a looming recession.
21 Sep 2015
Living in landlocked Leicestershire – the chances of me getting out in a boat are pretty slim, so I always jump at the chance to get on the water – bizarrely never suffering from seasickness, and preferring the water as choppy as possible.
On arrival at the Isle of Wight, the EMC branding was very visible on the quayside, and after registering and signing some scary looking waiver forms for my forthcoming boat trip, I was able to watch the various crews board their vessels and sail out to sea to begin their races.
Sponsored by EMC and organised by Britannia Corporate Events, this year’s event saw 20 boats, crewed by people from the IT industry (some never having sailed before), take part in a number of races over two days, with the winners being crowned on day two, after amalgamated scores and handicaps were taken into account.
Companies including EMC, Microsoft, Computacenter, VCE, Fortinet, Exclusive Networks, TM Group, Avnet, Skyscape, Juniper and Commtech all had boats and were determined to lift the trophy. Considering the event has been going for nearly two decades, competition is extremely tough.
Once the teams had all left the marina, I was escorted onto a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) and introduced to my skipper Graham, where we spent nearly four hours racing around between the yachts with the official photographer, catching some great pictures and footage of the action.
It certainly was quite rough and ready, and I got thoroughly soaked, but the weather stayed fine and it was an absolutely amazing experience (even though we did get in trouble with some of the boat crews for causing too many waves by cutting in front of their boats – oops!)
Once the races were over and the various crews had returned and had a chance to shower and change into black tie, it was time for the evening event to raise money for three charities – NSPCC, Dreams Come True and the Jubilee Sailing Trust.
There was a silent auction, and a normal auction, plus a crazy game of Heads and Tails – which I didn’t win, natch.
After one of the most moving speeches I have ever seen, both in this industry and outside of work, from Microsoft director Jay Epton, the money came flooding in, and the CEO of British Home Stores (BHS), Dominic Chappell, made a huge donation of £25,000, with a pledge to donate the same every single year the event runs. Wow!
Races continued the following day, until the event came to a close with an afternoon tea and a prize-giving ceremony before everyone headed back to the mainland for a well-earned rest over the weekend.
So far the event has netted over £70,000 (and still counting) which is a fantastic result – well done all.
The winners of the event were: First place: EMC, second place, Catalyst IT and third place, Net Evidence.
The Microsoft boat, skippered by Shaun Frohlich – one of the founders of the Silicon Cup – came in fourth. Better luck next year Shaun!!
From what everyone was saying to me over the two days, the aching muscles and bruises were worth it, and it was one of the best team-building events they had done.
I thoroughly enjoyed it, and am so glad I finally got to see what it was all about!
17 Aug 2015
As I have been managing our US sister site Channelnomics.com for the past couple of weeks while the site editor is away, I've been sucked into the story that a Colorado-based reseller has been drawn into the continuing Hillary Clinton email saga.
And a juicy one it is too.
The Americans certainly like a scandal involving politicians as much as we do. And I have learned that the American political set up is even more confusing than I found it when I did a module on it at University (many moons ago).
The focus is on the security of Clinton's private emails when she left her post as Secretary of State, and whether or not any sensitive or classified material was sent to/from this address.
Officials on opposing sides are not happy becasue the email was not a government-issue one, but a private one, managed by VAR Platte River Networks.
As far as Platte River Networks was concerned, it was just doing its job. But it has had a visit from the FBI, and Homeland Security is now demanding answers.
As the plot thickens, and it emerges the server was actually wiped clean in December 2014, many officials are asking questions why a reseller was managing and protecting an empty server, and whether it backed up the emails that were sent from the address during the time it was managing and protecting them.
But as concerns grow over the security implications of this story, talk is turning to whether new legislation will arise out of this, meaning the onus may be on the reseller to ensure any classified/sensitive data is properly secure and they will be held accountable if it is not.
In the current situation, Platte River Networks should emerge unscathed, and with far more publicity than it could ever have dreamed of paying for.
And many VARs, already have the top level of protection for their clients' data anyway, so they may not be that concerned.
But take government-level classified information, that threatens the actual security of the country as a whole into account, how confident would they all be then? Particularly if the sender has been careless about what they are sending and to whom from a non-approved email account.
Should the reseller shoulder any of the blame? Surely they cannot be expected to monitor every email sent from their customers' accounts in case they are sending sensitive or classified government data from a private email address?
Anything that happens in the US usually has repercussions for the UK, so I will be continuing to watch this story with interest, particularly the journey of Platte River Networks.
03 Aug 2015
The truth is, I never intended to stay for more than two years. But here I am 15 years later, still at CRN and still amazed at the continuous change in the industry.
I really can say that no year has ever been the same in all that time.
When I first arrived at CRN we broke news in print each week, and if someone remembered, the news was put online once the print issue had gone out. The concept of breaking continuous news online just wasn't on the radar. And I remember when that shift happened and the furore it caused with all the die-hard print journalists!
Also the industry itself was probably about twice the size it is now, and I was there to witness the rapid consolidation that is still happening today - probably more noticeable in the distribution and vendor space.
But in turn, one of the biggest shifts has actually been in the reseller space: when I started on CRN, the majority of firms were proud to be box shifters, as there was massive margin in hardware, and the idea of services was a pipe dream to many or at best some sort of break-fix service bolted on where needed.
Comparing how things are to now, it really is a complete sea-change and it is still happening - I certainly don't think it is over yet. And you have the interesting scenario of distributors becoming more service led, and vendors still battling over that indirect/direct argument.
The positive thing today though is that most of the vendors really do appreciate their channel, and at the very least understand the value that their partners bring to the mix. Of course there are still some exceptions, but I will not name them now. I'm sure you know who they are.
As I started writing this, the news broke that Kelway had been bought in its entirety by CDW - and this is a prime example of how fast the industry is moving. They will now be part of a multi-national giant and a truly global player. I'm sure a few more will go the same way in time.
Anyone remember that old saying - Get big, get niche or get out? It seems like it is still relevant all these years later!
In other news the site we licensed last year from the 2112 Group - Channelnomics.com - is five years old today, so it really is a time of celebration.
I'm looking forward to many more positive things to come. Who knows what will happen in the next 15 years?
21 Jul 2015
I had an email in my junk folder this week inviting me to sign up to a roundtable led by an ‘expert’ on what journalists want from PR people.
Having been a journalist for 18 years, I think I just about know what journalists want from PR people, and I quipped to the sender that perhaps I could tell them a thing or two about how to deal with journalists.
But whatever industry you are in – knowing your audience/customer is absolutely crucial, or you will quickly create bad feeling.
The problem is now that we all have such vast databases that just aren’t nurtured properly – blanket emails are sent out in the hope that they will be seen by the right people, when in fact someone should take the time to sort that database out, ask questions, and only send an email to the relevant people.
It is something we are working very hard at here at Incisive Media.
If the person who sent me the email about PR had done that, I might not have got so irritated last night.
Not that it takes much you understand. However I get that managing a database is a little like trying to hold Mercury in your hand, it cannot be fully controlled, there is always going to be some that slips from your grip – the trick is to try and keep the majority of it intact. Both people and companies come and go, or are acquired, and their requirements and interests change. And this is a two way thing.
If your customers won’t respond to your communications and actually let you know what interests/is relevant to them, things get even more complicated. It is all too easy to feel that you are talking to yourself when you get no response.
It is a fact that customers are more savvy now than ever before, and are not worried about shaming a company on social media or just taking their business elsewhere if they are not happy.
But for those that go that extra mile to really get to know their customers, and find out what they want/need/are interested in, the effort will be fully rewarded.
As long as those customers also appreciate that they have to do their bit too.
06 Jul 2015
It is very easy to get angry when something beyond your control is not going according to plan.
For example I get ridiculously angry over trains being late, as anyone who follows me on Twitter or Facebook will agree.
But losing my rag at the train staff is not going to get me to my destination any quicker, and they will not forget my face in a hurry. For all the wrong reasons.
It doesn't matter how angry I am about the trains, it is not the fault of the train staff that a signal has stopped working, or the train has developed a fault.
Treating people with respect is something my parents drummed into me from an early age, one of their favourite sayings being "be careful who you tread on, on your way up, as it is a long way down".
It doesn't matter if you are speaking to an MD or a cleaner, a multi-millionaire or a pauper - we are all human beings at the end of the day and respect costs nothing.
My first job in local papers involved something hideous called a 'death knock'. Which basically was when someone died, you were sent out by your news editor to speak to the family, get a picture of the deceased, and get a story in the paper.
Some journalists had different approaches - some would be quite aggressive, knocking on doors, ringing phones and not leaving until the family had answered. But my approach was to write a polite note expressing my sympathy and leaving my name and number, giving them the option to call me if they wanted a tribute to their loved one in the paper. Nine times out of ten, it worked.
It was a really difficult job, and earning the respect and trust of the family was not easy. And making them talk about something so raw was very draining for both me and them. It required patience, kindness, understanding, and on occasion also having to deal with a very angry news editor demanding to know why my story was not ready to go for that evening's edition.
Why am I bringing this up? I hear you ask.
Nothing in particular, but I wrote a song earlier this year about looking back over your life and wondering if you had actually achieved anything worthwhile. And I found the lyrics lying around this weekend and had another read through.
It is interesting that so much emphasis is put on material wealth when talking about success, when really it should be more about the type of person you are and how you have treated those around you throughout your life.
Another favourite saying of my family is "you come in this world with nothing and go out with nothing". Very true indeed.
22 Jun 2015
Last week I attended the Synaxon 2015 conference in my old stomping ground of Northamptonshire.
One of the main attractions was Olympic legend Kriss Akabusi, who has carved out a career as a motivational speaker, among other things.
Like most people, I am pretty cynical about these kind of things - yes I know there is no 'I' in team, and some of the 'motivational' sayings I'm seeing all over Facebook at the moment are making me want to tear my hair out!
However from the moment he stepped on stage Akabusi had the audience eating out of his hand.
His joke about being born so ugly that the doctor slapped his mother struck me as ridiculously funny for some reason!
Not only is he big physically - I thought he was really short for some reason - but his stage presence is immense!
I remember that 1991 World Championship 400m relay final in Tokyo, where Akabusi beat a world class US athlete in the final leg of the race - but to see it played out again, with Akabusi commenting on it - really was something else.
Not only did he give a fascinating insight into his life - and he did it all, children's home, achieving 9 'No-levels' at school, the army, athletics brilliance - but he managed to weave in a strong message to the channel about business success and having the right attitude to running a business and keeping staff happy and motivated.
He did it without sounding cheesy, and that is quite an achievement.
Even his motivational sayings had me nodding along: "The past is for reference not residence". Very true indeed. Never forget the past, but don't dwell on it or try to live in it, both on a personal and professional level.
I even found myself with a tear in my eye when he described Derek Redmond (another Northampton boy) tearing his hamstring at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. I just watched the video again actually and it really is emotional and a sign of determination, helped along by a doting father. Amazing.
So I'm going to end with one of his own quotes, and one I think really fits in our industry:
"Similarites make us champions, but our differences make us unique".
08 Jun 2015
Now, very occasionally I will post something that is not related to IT, but life in general.
As you may or may not have noticed, I am doing a charity bike ride in under two weeks, a total of 95 MILES in one day!!! I have been training hard, but am still bricking it!
This is to raise money for vital research into two very underfunded cancer types – liver and pancreatic cancer.
I am trying to smash my target of £1,000 and am well on the way – but still need some help.
I’m hoping that the channel will rise to the challenge and help me! I know loads of you already do great charity work and we cover as many of these events as we can, but it doesn't stop me getting my own begging bowl out every now and again!
The generosity I have seen so far from several industry people has bowled me over – so thank you to all of them. You know who you are – I won’t embarrass you!
The money I’m raising goes directly to the medical team at Leicester General Hospital who carry out this vital research, and they have already done some very pioneering treatments, but unlike the London hospitals, don’t really get a chance to shout about it because they are not followed or reported on by the national press as they should be.
This research goes towards treatment that extends to everyone in the UK, not just Leicestershire. The amount of referrals they get from around the country is high. And not a penny of the money raised goes on admin.
I spent yesterday (Sunday) with some of these amazing surgeons and nurses fundraising in Leicester City centre – they all gave up a precious day off to help raise money and awareness of their own unit, standing for hours with collection tins and talking to the general public.
We raised nearly £600 which was amazing. And all of them are involved in the charity bike ride, either as participants or support crew.
These people are the real heroes, not the countless pointless, often talentless ‘celebrities’ who are mainly concerned with lining their own pockets and scoring a photo opp. (Yes there are a few exceptions).
These doctors and nurses spend many unpaid hours of their free time helping to save lives, working above and beyond the call of duty, and put any of us that moan about our 9-5 jobs to shame. They literally are saving lives and making life-changing decisions on a daily basis. I cannot thank them enough.
The fact they have to fundraise for their own unit because it doesn’t get any grants, is ludicrous enough and I won’t get started on that now, but the things I hear about these people and what they do on top of their actual jobs to help cancer sufferers, really is awe-inspiring. And I’m sure they are not the only NHS team in the UK that do this.
It is a shame that the ‘powers that be’ don’t recognise these stars when it comes to handing out national awards or grants a little more.
So please, if you can spare anything to help me hit my target – check out my fundraising page by clicking here. Thank you!
SPONSORED BY WESTCOAST: At a time when the role of technology in schools is coming under increasing scrutiny, CRN sat down with HP and Westcoast to talk through the findings of the 2015 CRN Education Report
CRN was joined by executives from four leading VARs and Sophos to find out if the shift in industry rhetoric from 'protect' to 'detect and defend' is real, or just hype
CRN content editor Sam Trendall argues that the IT sector needs to recast the role that technology plays in the classroom