Gina Vaccarella: Hello and welcome everyone to today’s episode of XMA plug-in. I’m very happy to be here today. My name is Gina and I’m going to be your host for today and with me today I have our guest speaker Ian Cunningham, Sales and Marketing Director at XMA, welcome Ian.
Ian Cunningham: Thank you and good morning.
Gina Vaccarella: Good morning. So today we’ll be discussing trends from 2019. So the first question I’m going to ask you Ian is what would you consider to be the biggest IT trends seen across 2019?
Ian Cunningham: Well I think I’ll start with, there’s been quite a lot of trends to be honest and quite a lot of things that have impacted our business, the markets that we work with the technologies that we use, the vendors that we work with and I think one of them has got to be the proliferation of interoperability of devices. So we are well known as the one of the leading suppliers of Apple into the U.K. market, particularly in education. Same with Google and same with Microsoft and particularly with Microsoft Surface, HP, Lenovo etc.. What we’ve seen particularly in 2019 is that with the relaxation of Google and Apple and Microsoft and the ability for them to work with each other. So you now have situations where we’re going in with a university for example. And whereas before we would do an all Apple implementation now we can do an implementation of Apple devices iPads for example with mobile device management which is unique to Apple but also could be done with Google mobile device management or could be done with purely Microsoft mobile device management, because it enabled it’s enabled for all devices on all platforms. So we are going in there and then we’re implementing Office 365 which is sitting on an iPad platform, and if you go back five years ago that would have been possible because there was no version of Office 365. So with the changes and the improvements in Microsoft and their relaxation of their rules around you know what products and software they’re offering and how does it work and with what products you now end up with a situation where we can really be expert at not only the platforms in themselves but also we can mix and match and customers can mix and match. So if they prefer G suite and they want to run G suite on a Microsoft device they can, if they prefer G suite and they want to run it on an iPad they can etc..
Gina Vaccarella: So that’s the flexibility which is something that I think all customers are constantly looking for more flexibility in the solutions being offered.
Ian Cunningham: Absolutely. So that’s not just in education that’s in corporate that’s across the boards even the Cabinet Office where we know we’ve done a lot of work with the Cabinet Office and central government they’re running G suite with Google, but on partly an Apple platform and also partly on a Microsoft platform. Markets and customers are changing so as technology is changing as long as there is a drive toward artificial intelligence. The proliferation of data so data is becoming all important, data is the new oil right. And I think that you know with that you then have a change in the way computing is done so traditionally with data centres on premises with technology for storage in different tiers of storage. All of that is being radically changed because actually with the amount of data that’s being generated with more devices and more and more devices get now they’re in the hands of consumers and people in businesses or schools education whatever then all of that data, and by the way now you’re also then getting into another trend which is the Internet of Things IOT. So that again is about data, because when you put in a sensor or you put in something which is related to the Internet of Things, your phone is being monitored by a sensor or even today. Recently HPE came out with new technology which is designed specifically to monitor automatically a wireless network and tell you what’s the strength of the wireless network, is it working? is it working optimally? Can it change? So we’re moving from predictive analytics from the data to what they call prescriptive analytics and all of that change means that you then have changes in the way you’re doing storage you’re having changes in the way you’re doing networking, software is becoming really prevalent in the way you know software defined networking, hyper converged infrastructure in storage solutions and in the way that the data centres manage. So I think that there are tons of solutions. All of them about improving the ability of various industries and vertical markets to deal with this huge amount of data because whereas before you might have a desktop whether you were a student and you only use it half an hour or one hour a day and you get booked in slot or a university lecturer or whether you’re working in a Footsie 100 company. It doesn’t matter you used to have one device and you will work on it and perhaps you go home and go on your desktop in the house these days you’ve got an iPad you’ve got a notebook you’ve got a phone maybe you got two phones maybe you have other devices for wireless network that you take with you. So there are tons and tons, maybe your fridge is artificially intelligent. Maybe you’ve got other devices and all of that data related to you and related to what’s out there, we saw another trend as well which is security. So that with GDPR, with huge changes in the way people are perceiving their own personal data because now all of you, all of business, all of credit cards we hear about all the time it’s out there and it becomes if not managed correctly it becomes a weapon against you personally or it becomes a weapon against your company, and even in some extreme cases against the whole country potentially so you know we’re moving towards a world where data is all important. How we secure that data is all important, how we manage that data so that we get it expediently and very quickly. All of that’s really becoming evident and actually we’re seeing that as a change in trend in the way customers are. So the way that the customers behave is also evolving and you know it’s not new news that customers in the last few years have become well informed that there is a huge amount of information for them to go out and research. So probably 60 percent of a traditional sale is done by the time that you even speak to that customer so that you know your traditional tele sales your traditional ways. We have to we have to look at those and we have to respond to the customers because the way they want to buy the way that they’re educated is very different. And I heard some people saying oh that’s old dead and you know those relationships customers are educated. That’s not true, because now more than ever and I believe personally that now more than ever customers need people like us who have an opinion and it’s important for us to have an opinion because when you look at hyper converged infrastructure for example, what do you do, do you go with simplicity with HPE do you go with Dell the X rail. Someone needs to be able to guide you as to what are the features advantages and benefits of all of those different ones. What about the core technology, what are your needs. Yeah you might think you know everything about it whatever but you know you don’t. And that’s why we have specialism so that we can guide you toward the right business outcome at the right price at the right time, every time. And that’s what’s really important.
Gina Vaccarella: I think everything you’ve just said actually that really echoes a lot of what we discussed in one of our previous podcasts. Were you mentioned about the importance of data understanding data and how it should be used because so much of it now and it’s such a powerful tool that we need to know how to use it properly and we need to be able to tell our customers how to use it properly. Security, security is a massive topic not just in 2019 but I think it’s going to be for the foreseeable future. And you know I think you touched on that really well there as well. And being able to advise our customers is so so so important on the best ways to tackle that because at the end of the day they look to us as the experts it’s important to have that opinion and that knowledge.
Ian Cunningham: And you know what I think as well, there is another trend and I’ll touch on it quickly and it goes along with the technology it goes along with the use of data etc.. And that’s also I think that there is an ever-increasing amount of empathy within the customers that we deal with whether it’s in education, corporate you know, central government. local government the NHS. And I say empathy advisedly because what I mean by that is they care about women in IT they care about the balanced approach to pay. They care about fairness in the workplace. They care about your supply chain. They care about the environment they care about what do you do with plastic. And that is heightening our empathy and our care because you know we have it, and we’ve had it. But we are having to look and address areas within our own supply chain within our own vendors that we’ve chosen to work with and we have to keep constantly and continuously improving how are we doing things. How are we how are we managing our workforce so if you look back over the last three years at XMA, the changes in the customer base and what they are expecting and what they’re demanding. And with millennials coming through into the workforce and you know that proliferation of the change of the audiences that we deal with is markedly changing how we have to react to that and how we have to be as a business. So I think that we have become and I don’t want to sound twee but we become more caring we’ve become more empathetic. And actually I think that we have a really good corporate and social responsibility story to tell and it’s growing every day. We still have gaps and we have areas but we recognize them we’re taking responsibility for them. We care more about our employees ever than we cared about them before. But we’ve been more we’ve listened more. And I think all of that we have to do to really strike the right chord with our customer base particularly because we are 70 to 75 percent public sector and public sector in particular is really driving that.
Gina Vaccarella: I’m really glad you’ve highlighted that because I think environmental initiatives, corporate social responsibility are massive talking points across the world. If I’m honest I mean there is so much to consider and so many things that we need to be thinking about as an organization and also in terms of talking about these things of our customers as well. And I know you picked up on some of the things that XMA are doing. I mean I know that there’s a corporate social responsibility board sets up now who are going to drive a lot of these initiatives really making some big considerations for the things that we need to be doing to deliver the best possible experience for our customers but that’s ethical that’s environmentally friendly. And I think that’s definitely something really important to highlight this point in time.
Ian Cunningham: 100 percentage and it’s so it’s not only a trend. It’s not only a trend within our customer base but it’s a trend with XMA actually so we are having to look and see well if we are espousing digital transformation if we are seeing hybrid cloud or cloud or we are seeing you know move from one brand or we’ve talking about edge computing and how do you manage the data. We’re doing software defined, we have to look internally at ourselves and we have to think well how are we doing that. How are we implementing those types of technologies how are we transforming so that we can be in a position where we’re drinking our own champagne. Some would say eat our own dog food but we are that we are actually transforming ourselves so that we can be a reflection back to the customer and say you really should talk to us because no no we have implemented Office 365. We use teams we do collaborative technologies in our conference rooms so that we can talk to each other and we can save the environment and improve things across our business. That’s what we’re doing and we’re trying to tick those boxes internally so that we can tick those boxes externally as well.
Gina Vaccarella: So just focusing a little bit more on impact so we’re talking about will these trends that you know existed in 2019 probably going to exist for into 2020. How have these impacted or how are they going to impact customers the industry or others in the organization?
Ian Cunningham: I think in the same way that if you if you go back 10 years and you look at how you would hail a taxicab or how would you order food and a takeaway or how would you get a online movie or a DVD or whatever it was back then, those worlds have changed. And I think that that change will continue and continue and continue. And you see it every day. So you know every time I log into my phone every time I log into my laptop when I use office or I’m in G suite or whatever Apple technology, there are iterative changes happening because of the way the software is now being managed. You don’t have to go out and say I’m going to go buy that because you already got stuff and it’s changing and you’ve already signed up in most cases to iterative change. And so when you log in you’re finding, oh my phone just told me that my parcel is 200 feet away and it’s coming and there’s a whole new technology. So I think that you’ll see it in healthcare you’ll see it. I’m talking about how it will impact people’s personal lives. You’ll see it in your job whether you work on a train whether you work in a train company whether you work in a hospital whether you are a patient whether you are a customer. Life is changing and it’s changing at an exponentially increasing rate. And things like edge computing you know, so what does that mean computing at the edge? There’s so much data that to take all the data from all those points and take it back to a central core or you know data centre and allow computing to happen then and then bring it back with results etc, it’s just not enough anymore. So vendors and developers of these technologies that we work with and that we’re you know we’re selling on through our customer base they are analysing those situations and they’re looking at the future they’re looking 5, 10, 20 years down the road and they’re saying well that’s not gonna be enough so let’s create this this technology and give more compute at the edge of where the actual data is coming from let’s let’s enable there. So you’re going to see changes that speed and you’re going to see changes in in just the way that things are predicted the way the trends are predicted the way things are known about you, your health. I just think it’s it’s there is no limit to the amount of change that you’re going to see and what’s really almost scary but quite exciting at the same time and technology is it will happen and is happening so quickly that for us the difficulty will be how do we keep up.
Gina Vaccarella: I think the word transformation comes to mind. I think it’s quite clear that there has been a significant amount of transformation in technology in the last 20, 10, 5 years. I mean the changes I’ve seen personally I mean are absolutely astronomical. You touched on a few very personal things that I think a lot of people can relate to in terms of the way that you order your takeaway or you know if we look at the devices we’re using now that you know the advancements in those is just absolutely substantial and it’s really interesting to see and I feel like this time next year we could be doing the same podcast. And actually that could be even more significant changes from now until then. So if you could give one piece of advice to our listeners about the changes in technology, the trends that we’ve seen and the trends that we’re going to see what would that be?
Ian Cunningham: So I think. I think that our listeners and our customers in particular are more educated than they have ever been. I think that they are they have more information about technology what does it mean etc. right at their fingertips but they need people like us and they should judge people like us on whether we can bring value to them because the value for us is not simply that we put down 10 different technologies and say well we sell all of these which one would you like, ok that it would be absolutely zero value. The value for us is that when a customer comes along and he says I’m looking for this business outcome I’m looking to transform this or I have this problem or this compelling event that actually we’re able to say well, ok well let me look lets us discuss that with you. Consult with you on it. We’ve got some experts we can look into a bit more detail all the way down to you know really designing a solution and getting recommendations as to what the best technology is. Why is that the best technology so we justify it. Why is it the right price and doing all that in an ethical and moral way that says look, we want to have relationships with our customers where they trust us that we get it right for them and we get it right so that they stay with us and they come back and they keep coming back. So that’s the type of relationship that we want to have that we have with our customers actually and whether it’s even lower than that if it’s just transactional and you are educated you know exactly what you want. What we’re trying to do with that is make that a really great experience for you whether it’s digital or whether it’s with the salesperson. But if you’re used to Amazon and you want an Amazon experience then it’s up to us to provide an Amazon experience so we’re working and investing very heavily into that. So if you just know exactly what laptop you want what accessory you want to buy it, fine. If you want to do something more complex across an entire company or a university or a school or a multi academy trust we can do all of that as well we can do a whole authority we’re doing you know more than 250 schools in Glasgow with the iPad implementation, the largest in EMEA. So whether it’s a huge scale a medium scale or a low scale. We cater to all of those customers and my advice to the customers would be make sure that you’re getting value from whoever you decide to partner with and that value should not just be, oh we sell that but actually you should be able to get an elevation of your knowledge and what you think and some recommendations and not only recommendations but justifications as to why is that the right thing to do. I think that that’s what we offer and that’s what I expect of all the people who work with me, so.
Gina Vaccarella: Interesting actually even which has highlighted another trend within what you’ve just said in terms of the changing buying habits. And the way that you know people are moving more to buying online because that’s just you know the way that the world’s going you know someone doesn’t want to spend 20 minutes on the phone to someone to order a HDMI cable for example. It’s definitely something that I think everyone can relate to personally. I mean I think this time 10 years ago it was probably quite rare for me to buy something online whereas now I think probably 90 percent of what I’m buying is going to be online. And that’s really important for businesses to understand that and transform and adapt to the customer and give them exactly what they want.
Ian Cunningham: Yeah. and again something that we do we cater to. So we you know we’ve designed solutions from that low end to the mid-range and the high end. So it’s important that we maintain that ever evolving solution to what customers need.
Gina Vaccarella: Different experiences for different users and different organizations.
Ian Cunningham: Yeah, and whether someone wants to go with that you know look at the client base for example which is a big part of our business whether it’s Apple with a bit of Google whether it’s Google with a bit of apple whether it’s Microsoft sitting on an iPad or Microsoft sitting on a Mac book. It’s doesn’t matter, it’s you know we are the people and our job is to provide advice to customers who are well-informed already. But we have to elevate that well informed to a new level and give them something which is discernibly valuable and I want I want customers out there and potential customers to listen to the folks at XMA and say wow I’m really glad I talked to you because I didn’t know that or I’m really glad I talked to you because you got me to look at it in a different way. And I’ve decided that I want to do this whereas before I thought this and it’s worked out we’ve executed that solution and it’s the best thing I ever did. That for me is the ideal outcome of what I want our customer base and our sales people to be working on.
Gina Vaccarella: Ok, so it’s been really interesting taking a look back over the year and discussing the trends that we’ve seen this year but if we’re looking forward to 2020, do you have any predictions of perhaps the next big trends?
Ian Cunningham: So I think we’ve covered a lot of them, I think what we’re going to see is edge technology really escalating so in the enterprise part of our business and with Enterprise Solutions infrastructure is going to be changing across customer bases. We’ve already done some huge projects with software defined networking with Cisco for example and it’s cutting edge technology and it’s if you look at HPE and Aruba some of their technology around the edge and around the computing that they offer I think that we ourselves are, are looking to evolve our services offering and our sort of collective capability to be able to manage a lot more of what we provide to customers. But in some cases even on a remote basis, whereas before we’d have to get a man with a van actually today and with the technology that we have we really don’t have to do that in every case and there’s a lot that we can do in a lot of a lot of the change in 2020 will be the evolution and the sort of forward thinking of customers how do we get to the cloud how do we do we go to the cloud do we some keep some of it hybrid that’s already happening but that is just going to exponentially increase. And the way that the way devices interact with each other and the way devices interact with networks and with data centers. That’s going to continue to change and I think that one of the one of the huge trends that we’ll see is around A.I. so artificial intelligence how it’s used. How is it used both in the cloud in a hybrid solution but also artificial intelligence and sort of predictive and prescriptive analytics are getting right down to consumer level they’re getting right down to retail they’re getting right down to the NHS and I think that what we’ve got to do as well is we have to bear in mind that customers need to do more with less. So there’s a huge trend toward. How do we take what we have make it more efficient so for example Neverwhere a bit of software that you can put on an older device and turn it into a Chromebook. So you know there’s trends where people are trying to be more economical but at the same time they’re trying to be forward thinking and think well what’s the what’s the technology that I need to take me through the next five years, ten years and how do I get ready for this changing world. And I think also at the same time security we haven’t heard the end of security. I think the more and more connectivity and data. I think 5G is going to revolutionize, 5G is going to revolutionize networking. It’s going to revolutionize connectivity for devices. And it’s going to really set the bar for the way sensors devices client devices how they get data. So in other words how is it streamed to them. How does it get back to where it’s where the computing is happening or where it’s being stored that that speed and that speed of connectivity and that the speed of the particle interchange between those technologies is going to completely alter our whole world. And we haven’t seen it yet but you know whereas before you know you’re thinking all that’s going to take a while or the way data is going to be instant and you know then do you really need a home telephone? Do you need, is the day of the home what the landline gone do you need broadband in your house do you because you’ve got a phone you’ve got a you’ve got a device that has a built in perhaps and I think that you know all of that and it’s and it will follow you everywhere. So, no matter where you are and with the plans to take that sort of connectivity it’s just going to really offer a tremendous growth in the world of technology so it’s exciting times for us. But I think it’s exciting times for end users out there because they’re looking around and they’re seeing transformation. But you know when I go into my local doctor’s surgery and I have to get a prescription it’s all very manual still. And there are areas like that I’m just giving that as an example that are ripe for change now. The thing is I know it’s ready for change. But even my mother who’s 74 years old she knows it’s ready for change because she can go on to Amazon and she’s faced timing my brother in Washington D.C. and she’s doing this. So even the Luddites out there are realizing that and having the bar is raising in every area of our society whether it’s childcare or NHS, school. You know primary school, entry level, higher education, it doesn’t matter whether you get into the workplace your expectations are changing throughout every single environment in your life. And we as an organization and organizations like ours have to cater for that change and make sure were there and that customers should be expecting it, demanding it and hopefully relishing it as well because it will make their lives better.
Gina Vaccarella: So plenty more transformation to see going into 2020. Weather you’re at work over at home no matter where you are we’re going to see it. I think just to kind of wrap up and reflect on everything we’ve discussed today it’s quite obvious that there’s been quite a lot of trends in 2019 probably more than we can possibly discuss today.
Ian Cunningham: Exactly. We haven’t even touched on print for example.
Gina Vaccarella: Exactly. Exactly. I mean there’s so many I mean just touching the ones that we discussed today we talked about data the importance of data and how that has transformed over time and how people using that in so many different ways. We talked about security and how again that’s changed a lot over recent years and is going to continue to for into 2020 and it’s a really really important consideration for businesses and individuals to think about. So Ian, thank you very much for joining me today, it’s been an absolute pleasure and if any of our listeners would like to discuss their transformation journeys with us then our contact details on our podcast page as always.
It’s been an absolute pleasure; I look forward to seeing you for the next episode of XMA plugin. Merry Christmas.