What has been your personal highlight of 2020?
Is this a trick question? OK, there have been some highlights. Firstly, with the global pandemic, working remotely and spending circa six hours a day on Teams video calls has allowed me to connect on a much more personal level to customers, partners and our staff since we are all on video and in many cases now know (on some level anyway) their families, which has definitely increased the strength of many of my professional relationships. This has no doubt helped us as a business and we still managed to deliver our best financial year to date!
Which three celebrities would you invite to a Zoom party?
Firstly, it would be over Teams rather than Zoom, but I'd have to say:
Michael J Fox - I've always been a fan of Back to the Future and also admire all the work he's doing around Parkinson's awareness and treatment.
George Lucas - goes without saying - I was born in the 70s so Star Wars has always been part of my life!
The Queen - I have no idea what I'd say to her, but I think it's incredible how the whole world, any age, any profession, any walk of life has embraced video as the real future of work and fun… it would be great thing to have the Queen on a call… I hear she's a Star Wars fan anyway!
What has been your guiltiest lockdown pleasure?
I've been a bit boring to be honest as I've used the lockdown and whatever this "new normal" is to change my diet and be healthier (body and mind) - not that I wasn't before.
I re-started running with a great coach via my Headspace app, and also started the keto diet (basically eat fat and don't eat carbs or sugar) which has been amazing… So as part of that diet, I have rediscovered my love for non-fat-free food, so my pleasures must now be full-fat yoghurt and eating lots of cheese!
Which tech figurehead has inspired you most this year, and why?
So many, but the one person that springs to mind is Satya Nadella. This is slightly biased as I run the Microsoft business within Cisilion, but the transformation of the company under Nadella has been so impressive - from zero to hero in security for one and the extensive development and drive of the PowerPlatform empowering community and professional developers with low-code and pro-code across LOB applications. It has been incredible to see organisations accelerate their digitial transformation using this stuff and it's incredible to be a part of it (even it's just a tiny part).
What piece of technology, or app, have you not been able to do without during the pandemic?
I'm going to say two.
Work life: Microsoft Teams has almost replaced email internally and is the platform I use with my team, customers and almost everyone I work with on a professional basis.
Personal life: My Amazon Prime subscription. While I am a big supporter of the local high street, during lockdown it was the only way we could buy sanitiser and toilet roll!
If you could be anyone else for a week, who would you be and what would you do?
I'd be my son. He's just started Year 1 at school and despite never wanting to go in, he comes home so enthused about what he has done and learned that day. To have that time again, to make new friendships that last a lifetime and to learn very day and love it, would be great for a week.
Do you miss face-to-face events?
I did massively miss in-person meetings at the beginning but now we have these new local and national restrictions imposed upon us it's just normal. You know what - they are face to face - all the time. Within Cisilion video calls is the norm and it is with our customers - yes a few are video shy, but once some people turn on their cameras, the rest generally follow suit.
Events are a different matter. I do miss these. This year I have attended countless online/virtual events but they just aren't the same. There has been Cisco Live, MSFT Ignite, MSFT Build and Inspire - all have been online and OK. But the main value of these events is the networking and while breakout rooms and virtual chat help, its not the same.
The other key thing with virtual events is it's almost impossible to really focus without getting drawn back into the day job so I end up with multiple events/sessions in live stream on pause.
How will COVID leave its mark on the way the channel operates long term?
We've seen it already and I think it's here to stay. We'll go back to something somewhere in between what we had and what we are in, but it won't go back. The channel I think will actually be a lot more personable - while there will be fewer meetings in bars, restaurants and offices, we will have more face time with customers over video and we will collaborate more on achieving the desired outcome, rather than the transitional meet, greet, chat, then send a proposal.
There's lot of uncertainty and therefore opportunity. Will companies need big LAN and wireless refreshes in offices, will they need more, or fewer meeting rooms? Will they refresh meeting rooms with smarter zero-touch/hands-free meetings?
On the flip side, we will see more adoption of cloud, new breeds of home networking (from traditional corporate vendors) and security will move to cloud - to protecting identities and data than protecting networks and LAN ports in offices. The channel will be more relationship focused and distance/travel will remove barriers and open up the channel to more partners so competition will be even greater - leading to the need for partners and customers to form better, longer-term relationships.
I think we will see more partner-to-partner collaboration. As technology and digital transformation evolves and accelerates, many partners will develop niches, and those that don't will build partnerships with those that have to ensure they remain relevant to their customers and the changing world.
Change always has been - but is even more so now - the only constant.