Explain IT: Season 3, Episode 8 - Ask Us Anything - Part 1

Playing now - Ask Us Anything - Part 1

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In this episode we hand the reins over to our listeners and answer some of the burning questions they have for us. In the first of our two-part ‘Ask Me Anything’ show, host Zac Abbott is joined by some of Softcat’s Chief Technologists, Craig Lodzinski, Adam Harding, Adam Louca and Dean Gardner. Together they look at how cybersecurity threats have changed; cloud strategy and the potential limits of cloud storage; and our new home working arrangements, including the argument over productivity tracking and how our future offices may look.

From L to R: Adam Louca, Dean Gardner, Craig Lodzinski, Adam Harding, Zac Abbott
Host:
Zac Abbott
Zac Abbott Senior Account Manager Softcat
Guests:
Adam Louca
Adam Louca Chief Security Technologist Softcat
Adam Harding
Adam Harding Chief Technologist for End User Computing Softcat
Dean Gardner
Dean Gardner Chief Technologist for Cloud Softcat
Craig Lodzinski
Craig Lodzinski Chief Technologist for Emerging Technologies Softcat
Key takeaways
  • Cybersecurity continues to evolve, with threats such as ‘double extortion’ becoming more mainstream. Threat actors will hold the risk of reputational damage and fines over the targeted organisation, with the threat of leaking the data they have obtained.
  • The way we operate and manage Cloud is changing. Organisations should look not at managing the storage, but focus on how they are managing the data they need to store.
  • Consumption-based services are increasing, and with that comes a regular influx of new updates and features. It is important to have the right tools to provide you with recommendations on which are worth using to add value to your organisation. 
  • The pandemic got us ‘back to basics’. Now is the time to start looking at building on that base level and focusing on user experience for remote workers.
  • Productivity tracking and employee monitoring is a rising trend, and with remote working now a viable alternative, it is important that organisations use them to enhance their culture, rather than place pressure on employees.
  • How will the future office look? Having experienced a need for a fully remote workforce, it’s a proven fact that employees can be productive, wherever they work. Employers should equip a workforce to be ‘remote-ready’, for any eventuality whereby remote working is required.

“When organisations are accommodating of people they can create more inclusive workplaces for parents, people with different schedules, people with disabilities and grow out a really dynamic workforce that works for everyone, rather than applying strict rules of, ‘are you logged in by 9 a.m.?’”

Zac Abbott: Hello and welcome to Explain IT brought to you by Softcat; the show for IT professionals by IT professionals that aims to simplify the complex and often overcomplicated bits of Enterprise IT without compromising on the detail. Welcome back to another episode of Explain IT, I am your host Zac Abbott. Over the next two episodes we’ll be doing something a little bit different and asking our panel of experts the questions that you guys have been submitting to us. Joining me today for this AMA is Craig Lodzinski, Softcat’s chief technologist for data and emerging tech, Adam Harding, Softcat’s chief technologist for end user computing, Adam Louca, Softcat’s chief technologist for cyber security and Dean Gardner, Softcat’s chief technologist for Cloud technology. Welcome back to the show guys, thank you for joining me today to answer the questions that our listeners have submitted. Now before we get into the show, one question from me, what is your perfect Sunday? Lodz?

Craig Lodzinski: So I think my perfect Sunday... I've had some good Sundays recently in terms of it's been lovely weather, spending a bit of time by a lake or in a swimming pool, relaxing soaking up a bit of sun, few beers with my wife and some friends, then get back home, little bit of a nap, some good food, bit of sport on TV, some football, Formula 1, hockey and then just chill out with a bottle of wine and get merry with a few bits of food in front of the TV.

Zac Abbott: Chilled and relaxed, lovely. Dean Gardner.

Dean Gardner: My perfect Sunday would be football in the morning, Sunday lunch and then West Ham beating Chelsea or Tottenham on the TV, and then trip down the pub in the evening and then to bed. Very simple man.

Zac Abbott: Simple, nice. Adam Harding.

Adam Harding: So my perfect Sunday, I think this is one I've done before actually, an early morning blast around the Alps on my motorbike, an afternoon dive bombing off the back of a pedalo into a lake with my mates and my family, and then a couple of beers and a barbecue before settling in an early night.

Zac Abbott: Sounds good to me. Last but not least Adam Louca.

Adam Louca: So my perfect Sunday morning would have to be probably waking up too early, probably 3, 4 o’clock in the morning, taking a large brisket probably faffing about with my smoker for the next hour, trying to get it up to temperature before loading the brisket on and probably spending 14 to 18 hours sitting by the side of the barbecue salivating, slowly drinking through my supply of beers for the day. I can't think of anything better than spending a ridiculous amount of time waiting for something to cook, to then proceed to only eat it in about 4 and a half minutes, probably accompanied by sitting and reading some really trashy sci-fi books. I'm one of those people who likes sci-fi that's genuinely terrible, usually cost about 40 pence off Amazon and is usually related to some sort of aliens taking over the world.

Zac Abbott: Alright so, clear winner, Adam Harding, it’s got to be, hasn’t it? That sounds to me, no offence guys, chilled out Sunday is probably what I would end up with as well, but that one just sounded a lot more exciting. Right, that is quite enough of that, let's get on with the show.

Ok guys let's start with a fairly broad one, how have cybersecurity threats changed over the years? As a user what can I do to protect myself?

Adam Louca: Cybersecurity, as an area continues to evolve and is typically driven by two major things. One is the motivations of the attackers, so what are they trying to achieve, so are they looking to extort money from you? Which became much more popular when ransomware and crypto malware became the major target or major focus of threat actors. Is it I'm looking to take you off line? If we think back to the early 2000s, very much DDOS attacks were one of the most common, or most utilised way that threat actors would attempt to either extort money out of organisations to pay to keep them online or alternatively to flex their skills and demonstrate their credibility with within the hacker community. So as those changes, the types of changes and types of techniques that people use will develop. It's interesting to actually see recently especially that we've an evolution of the extortionware, so ransomware and similar types of technologies and something that they’re now calling double extortion, as if getting extorted once wasn't enough, we've decided that we need to extort people twice, so what happens in this scenario is everyone's quite familiar hopefully with what ransomware is, so where somebody installs malicious software on your device and uses it to encrypt and remove your access to your internal files. What was starting to happen was that people were getting more capable, more able to respond to those typical attacks, so they had good backups, they had good ways of recovering their data and what the threat actors noticed was people were starting to pay less frequently, so all of a sudden their rate of success was dropping off. So what they then realised was, ok well if people are getting better at recovering their data what could we then do to reapply that pressure, really focus the victim’s mind to really give us some money? And that’s where double extortion comes in. So now what they're doing is they're not only encrypting your data but what they're doing is taking copy of it as well and what they’re then saying to you is, they’re coming to you, Zac and saying, “Zac, so, give us £2m to get your data back.” And you can turn around and say, “No, I’m not going to do that because I've got a really good backup strategy,” and they say, “Ok well now give us £2m, otherwise we’ll leak your data”. They’ve realised that as organisations are becoming more confident, more able to protect against those attacks, what they’re now applying the leverage of fines, both reputational damage but also the information commissioner's office and similar organisations, and going back and saying, “Ok yes we don't have your data, but actually we're going to leak it now,” so all of a sudden they’re able to get you back at that negotiating table, they’re able to get you back on that hook and they’re able to more effectively push and apply pressure so that people will pay. Fundamentally as we become more effective at preventing certain technical attacks, this will start to shift to be much closer to just extortion and scams, confidence scams we’ll start to see as really a stripping away of the technology aspects to just being purely human, actually how can I trick you, how can I get you to do whatever malicious thing I'm looking to achieve?

Zac Abbott: Alright so recently lots of businesses will have moved to the Cloud for the first time or they will have adopted some kind of cloud strategy due to the covid-19 pandemic. Storage is often abundant when customers first move, but years down the line do you think there is any concern that businesses will be at the limits of the included cloud storage and how do you think businesses can plan for the future cloud storage management? Sorry bit of a long one there.

Dean Gardner: It is a long question, but there's different types of cloud storage, Adam Harding is on and he's got an opinion on this as well because you've got the unstructured data piece, which, the One Drives of this world and the Dropboxes etc, and actually there's an entry-point that's free within those storage solutions that entice you in and obviously you'll need that as an extension of your unstructured and your file data and we’re encouraging that and that's why there’s companies out there giving that storage away free. Will it get to a point where they’ll start charging over a certain amount? Well they kind of do now, I just think it's becoming so cheap at that sort of unstructured level that they can accommodate that. I think the storage, when it comes to Cloud itself, as in AWS, Azure, Google and others, there’s storage in there that is charged from day dot. So if you’re migrating databases or workloads, as an example, you're paying for that, it’s a pay-as-you-go model, so there are different levels of cloud storage, so it depends on what you're doing, what you looking to consume within cloud and you have to consider all of it because it's all relevant, especially if you've got a cloud strategy. So your end user strategy and how that is accommodated by unstructured, absolutely there's solutions out there that are free up to a point and then naturally if you’re moving workloads from your on-premises environment to a public cloud, that pretty much is going to get charged from day one and there’s going to have to be metering and there’s certain tools that you can now use to manage that and naturally you do not want to have a waste, historically people bought on premises storage and they’d do a cleanse, they kept growing that data footprint, buy more storage arrays, buy more storage arrays. And that's great for an organisation like Softcat, we’re a reseller, if people want more storage on premises, we’re happy to accommodate, but in Cloud, if you're being metered and obviously if you're growing that without it being controlled or looked after in some way, that can get very expensive very quickly so I think the way you operate and manage within cloud, how you take ownership of the data itself that runs on those platforms, that is definitely shifting. As an IT organisation within a business you're going to have much more visibility and understanding of what that storage looks like. So in answer to the direct question, there will be cost implications on running storage in Cloud, it just depends what you're running and where you’re going to be running it and what particular version of that storage you’re using.

Craig Lodzinski: Yeah so I think as well there's certain organisations that have taken a traditional storage for you to storage in the cloud and who previously in the pre SSD days would perhaps have provisioned far more storage than they need, in order to gain the amount of performance and IO and resilience they needed from the storage arrays because they were using SCSI or SAS disks, but data is effectively a gas, it will fill the volume of whatever space you give it and so whether that's on premises and looking at personal drives, looking at storage arrays, but also in Cloud services whether it's the idea of you potentially have an almost unlimited amount of space in Office 365 for your emails in fact, that will continue to grow and having good policies right out of the gate to archive data, to move data to colder storage tiers, so if you’re in AWS, moving things from S3 to glacier, to glacier deep archive and then retiring that data depending on your own policies, your own regulatory environment, is really important to do upfront because it's very hard to claw that back, it’s very arduous to go through and filter everything after the fact.

Adam Harding: I think that realistically there is an enticement to get your data into the cloud. Sooner or later you will inevitably hit the limit, whether that's a year down the line, 10 years down the line, or whatever, but it's not really, and this might sound like a silly statement, it’s not really about managing the storage, so much as managing the data, which is something that's always been the case. It's about looking at what you're actually using, it's about rationalising and deduplicating and archiving that which is of little value to you and you don't need to have immediately accessible and you need to move it just as you always would to the right storage tier and to Lodz’s point, figuring that process out at the offset will save you a lot of pain and a lot of wastage and a lot of expenditure here and now, so yeah I completely agree with the guys. There will be a limit, get your house in order from the off and have a plan.

Adam Louca: So maybe, more of a question probably to Dean and maybe Lodz, is there a way for customers to help manage the uncertainty? Because one of the things, I guess previously, you stumped up your capital investment for your big storage array and you kind of at least knew for the period in which you've made that capital investment, what the cost was per terabyte and as we are shifting to consumption-based services where the contract is, essentially, for that moment that you signed the contract and is variable and subject to change, how do you think organisations can shield themselves from price increases, service degradation or improvement? I guess a lot of the things I hear a lot on my security side of fence is, they’re adding too many features because I have to manage all the new stuff that they're throwing at me so it always sounds good, “Hey, every week you get ten thousand new things added,” but from a usability perspective how do I train my users to know how to use it? From a security perspective how do I secure it? And how do I ensure I understand the cost model of consuming those services that may not be immediately transparent when you turn it on? Just a last thought that maybe an example that we could talk around, Teams - Teams has exploded. When you think about it, if you’ve used Teams, you’re going to start to put data in SharePoint online, you’re going to start to put data in One Drive, and that may come with associated costs that you may not directly connect to the Teams application itself. I guess Dean, probably to yourself for your thoughts maybe.

Dean Gardner: I just think it's a balance between what you're trying to do to improve the way you're driving your business forwards and how you're giving the tools to the users to innovate faster and all these things that you hear in the market that we should be pushing to help businesses move forward and these tools are there essentially to drive that, to drive that efficiency for users and make it better for them but that sometimes will come at a cost and for me and it's how you operate and how you maintain and manage and without fear of repeating, it is about getting the policies and the controls in place and the governance because you're not going to stop users because you're giving them tools to do more, you're not going to then say, “Well we're going to stop you doing something,” but it's how you govern and put the policies around it and how you then can have an element of control. The cost associated with that is, we’re moving into that consumption and subscription world, and it is a meter-based based system, so you need to have the right tools that can ingest and look at that information to provide you some proactive recommendations, so you can then start turning stuff off and actually, in my opinion, you can get more control from some of the tools that are available looking at those cloud platform than you could probably before, of having one big storage array and for me it's the balance, but is it going to be cheaper in the long term? I don't think we know. In 5 years time if everybody has moved the majority of their workloads to clouds in terms of their data is that going to be cheaper than buying one big array that you're sweating down over 3 to 5 years? I don't think anybody knows the answers yet because we don't know what it looks like. 

Adam Harding: Just what I want to add is, I was a data centre guy and I used to spend a lot of time helping people understand their application sets, understand their use cases and the reality of buying on-premise storage was that you arrived at the middle ground, you have some applications that need a ferociously fast IO, you have some applications that needed very little IO but huge storage and we went through the eras of tiered storage within your systems and that type of stuff, but the reality was you essentially went and bought what you thought was the middle ground that would just about satisfy both ends of the spectrum and you now have a choice, in clouds, to Lodz’s point, you can be very specific about the way you provide your storage and data performance based exactly on the applications you've got. It does take a greater focus and a greater understanding of your applications and how they should work but you will get the best of all worlds rather than trying to find a middle ground that kind of gives you just about performance but not as much as you'd like and just about enough capacity but not as much as you like.

Zac Abbott: We’ve talked quite a lot there about cloud strategy, but something I want to circle back to is something that you mentioned, Louca, is Teams, which is, as you say over the past how many months we've been in this situation, we’re in, it's been massive, so I think maybe a good question for you Adam is what technologies have been critical to enable working from home and productivity tracking during lockdown and is there anything new that we should be looking out for in the next 6 to 12 months?

Adam Louca: Realistically the surge in working from home because of the pandemic got us back to basics. It got us back to the fact that everybody needed a laptop, everybody needed a phone and everybody needed a decent internet connection and if you had those three things then the IT teams behind that could connect you to the on-premises services that you required, the SaaS services you required, the virtual desktops that you’re using and the back end applications that you require, so actually it has been very much back to basics. I think now we’re in the position and actually for the last little while we're in a position where it's time for us to start... we had to give ground on user experience to keep the shop open and we had to give ground because we were in a rush, for the most part we were in a rush, on the security posture and now we’re in the phase whereby there is a realisation, whether we go back to the offices full-time, whether you've got certain companies, a small number of companies, that completely want to remain remote forever, both sides of that we need to start finessing that user experience again and setting it and getting it back into a comfortable security posture. So with regards to what was critical? It was the basics - internet connectivity a laptop that's updated and you can see and you can control and you can update, a smartphone because people need to talk to people and that internet connectivity. Now we’re in the position for the next six months whereby finessing that user experience - it’s a full range. Some of it is about the fact that people using RDP to connect users from a remote laptop or remote device directly back to one that’s sat in the office or the production facility, or the design office or whatever it is you're doing, because that was one of the quickest, easiest ways using things like RDP, like TeamViewer like Bomgar, like Splashtop, to just keep the shop open and there are still a lot of organisations that are sat in that position, but there was a lot of people that struggled with things like maxing out their VPN connections because they never expected to have more than 20% of their organisation ever connecting back in any point in time, so there's a lot of that fundamental groundwork that's been done. Looking aside from the basics, the things that we've started to see come in, and I think this is really around trust and I think we've got to be very careful with this, is the introduction of things like employee monitoring tools and there's the Gestapo end of the spectrum whereby you deploy tools to devices that monitor everybody's keystrokes and what websites they’re on and you can measure down to the second how much time they've actually spent doing work for you and then there are things that are a little bit lighter, things like perhaps Toggle, that allows people to check-in and check-out and broadly allow team leaders and line manager to understand how much time you spent on a specific project. So there's the employee monitoring side. I am cautious about that because I think we live in a trust economy now and I think that if you do not show your people that you trust them they will rear up and you will not get the best out of them. Just continuing that thread, there's also been an introduction of, I think it's more... it's different now, because managing a team when you can see them all is very different to managing a team where you can't and that lack of communication, just that interpersonal communication, makes it far more difficult to keep track of things like projects. It's not about micromanagement, it's not about the Big Brother side of things, it's just about organisation, it's just about making sure we avoid duplication and missing and going too far down the wrong rabbit hole because you've not caught up with your team members in a week on a project and you’re off on one. So I think those are the types of tools that I would imagine will start to come in and become more prevalent over next 6 months and actually I think they probably have a place for the longer term. I'm sure we're going to have a question in here somewhere about going back to offices, but broadly speaking you're going to end up with a mix. Your blend might be a little different to what it was before but you're going to end up with people that you can see and are on-premise and that are involved in the more informal communications, the chats that you have because you're sat next to people and going to have those that are in the back of beyond but you need to make everybody feel like you're part of one team, everybody's got to feel like they're pulling in the same direction, everybody’s got to feel like their contribution is as important and their career is as important as the person that you're sitting next to in an office. So I think the collaboration tools and the task management side of it will continue to gain momentum. The employee monitoring will, I just don't like it.

Craig Lodzinzki: I think something that's become fairly clear over the past 5/6 months from March is that something that I think we've known for a while that, particularly because when we talk about working from home, we’re talking effectively about knowledge work, about office based work, we’re not talking about... you can't... farmers mostly do work from home because they live on the farm, but retail work, logistics, key workers carers, that kind of thing, that's not really what we're talking about, working from home. And to my mind, something that we've known for a while but has confirmed is that the way we structure knowledge work, and a lot of these employee monitoring tools are based about attendance, you are there from 9 to 5, you have an 8-hour work day which is designed around factory work, it’s designed around the assembly line and around daylight hours for farming. The knowledge worker that sits in front of a laptop, their day and their tasks are structured in a way that was designed long before a lot of the work that they’re doing, a lot of the things that they’re interacting with in terms of IT, the way we collaborate using Teams or Zoom or Webex, using the different software tools, and I've definitely seen some great remote working insights, products from vendors likes Splunk and Liquidware, but they're more about checking, ok is the network fine, are the devices fine, is the employee able to connect to services, is there acceptable amounts of latency and jitter because home internet connections are different from business internet connections. So that upstream is going to become a lot more noticeable when you’re doing things that video calls and I think that those organisations that are using these employee monitoring tools to monitor attendance, to make sure you're not opening a Chrome browser and using the internet at work but you're sat in front of your application and doing data entry or whatever it is, is pretty draconian and I'm hoping that, as a result of this we can start to make work more flexible, to understand the individual differences between people. I know personally I do most of my best work a little bit later on in the day and through to the evening, I've got family and friends all over the world and working for a solely UK based company, that does make things difficult in terms of my personal life, and for me, a remote role is ideal. For a lot of our sales teams they’re really missing the buzz and struggling with that ability to not be able to just pop their head over the desk and have a conversation with someone, to take the energy from their colleagues and put that into their calls to very quickly get feedback on the interactions that are happening with customers and in any environment, applying software to a perceived problem is usually a sticking plaster and at worst is just a terrible idea that gives you the wrong information. But certainly I'm hoping that whether talking about remote work, we're talking about organisations going back into the office that we actually look at the entire IT environment as an enablement factor to make people more productive, happier and more able to do their best work because I think when organisations are accommodating of people they can create more inclusive workplaces for parents, people with different schedules, people with disabilities, for non typical individuals and grow out a really dynamic workforce that works for everyone rather than applying strict rules of, are you logged in by 9 am? Are you doing 40 keystrokes a minute? Because there's always going to be people that will find a way around those, as well as, is that actually productive? And finding that value chain, that link between what an individual is doing and the company’s top and bottom line is really important.

Adam Harding: You're absolutely right and actually your point on being careful about being draconian, it's one thing to be semi draconian when you are within the confines of an office, I think when you start being draconian when people are in their homes, I think that it just lands badly. And this is really about culture, some people want to protect their culture and some people are going to need to tweak it and adjust it to resonate well and fit in this different world. But yes, and one point I wanted to touch on about technologies that we are seeing and need to become more prevalent over the next not too long, 6-months 12-months type of thing, is a lot of organisations are struggling with a complete lack of visibility of their end-user experience. Their end-user devices, their end-user applications. People can't understand why things work perfectly well from Southampton but do not work well from London and much further afield to be fair, so I think that what I've seen and what I expect to continue to see is a lot of people looking to tools like Eternity, tools like Lakeside, tools like Liquidware Labs to help them get a view and visibility of their actual fleet, the actual device fleet, so that they, from the perspective of the user, which is important, it's got to be from the perspective of the user, they can essentially trace what is happening from that application down through to data and access, down through the device, down through the connectivity back to whichever service, whether it was cloud or on-premises, that you’re getting to, and very quickly do rapid root cause analysis, because it's really about productivity. Yes we want people to be happy and to enjoy their experience and really to make sure that technology isn’t getting in the way of anybody, but to do that things do go wrong. We have far more complex estates now than we did 6 months ago because we've gone from… if you look at Softcat, we’ve gone from having 9 offices to 1500 offices and if you're going to stand a chance of maintaining the experience, which really means making sure technology doesn't get in the way and productivity can improve, which we've seen in lots of organisations actually, which I think surprised a lot of people, then if you can't see it, you cannot measure it. If you cannot measure it, you cannot prove that you've improved it. So I think that piece there will really kick up a gear. The reality is it's about the intent. If you use those tools with the intent to look at which individuals are really flying? Which teams are really standing out amongst the group and you use those to learn, what are they doing differently so that we can ask the other teams and other individuals and apply that learning to them to bring them up as well, I think that is a perfectly reasonable use of those monitoring tools. 

Zac Abbott: A quick follow up to that then, taking everything that we've talked about in regards to that into account, how do you think the future office is going to look, post pandemic? Do you think people are going to move away from your traditional office and start to leverage more meeting room space or if they continue to run offices from a technology perspective, do you envisage any wholesale changes in technologies or innovation?

Craig Lodzinski: So it's going to be very interesting to see which employees do what. Because as we've already discussed, there are issues in terms of how you manage and motivate individuals who are working remotely, who are in the office, who are remote or field based, there are issues in how you manage their technology, there's additional technology requirement, Rob has very kindly provided us with some lovely ASMR grade microphones with which to record this podcast, and that's part of the challenge is we can't get together and record and there are going to be new challenges presented to all sorts of organisations. But at that same time, office buildings are really expensive and you look at some of the big towers we’ve seen in Canary Wharf, some of the spaces in the city of London, and you look at the overall cost of running an office, not only the utilities but everything else - I've had to start paying for my own coffee, I have to... a lot of us have bought new chairs, new desks, new spaces that while Softcat has been helpful and provided some of the end-user equipment for us, for a lot of organisations an employee working from home full-time is an employee they don’t have to pay rent for, an employee they don’t have to buy a desk space for and so there are definite financial incentives to that. As well as if you remove the location aspect, you can attract a wider field of employees. So organisations are going to be looking from a number of different angles. I think it is absolutely beneficial to have a part remote culture. I think very few organisations will go full remote because that is very difficult logistically, time zone, management, that is really hard, particularly those that are more client-facing or formed around more high performing team collaboration. The way we structure work, as now I think we've already established again, in the knowledge workspace, leaving out retail etc, in the knowledge workspace, work is no longer really a place you go to, it's a thing you do and some organisations have you do that from the office, a lot of us now do it from out living rooms or our spare bedrooms. Organisations will be looking really holistically at the entire spectrum of what they’re doing and I think, in a similar way to we’ve seen with technology, that there's a real blend of all in on cloud, all in on premises, and there's this huge switch in the middle, we're going to see organisations that are still fully office based, some that move fully remote and a huge swathe of different organisations and company structures in the middle.

Adam Harding: The use of the office space will be used to protect the culture that you want to protect I look after Digital Workspace at Softcat so I've had a lot of conversations over the last little while about some organisations that are staying exactly as they are, office wise, some organisations that are closing a percentage of those big offices because they think that actually a blend, whether that be 20 30 40% of their workers, will want to work away from the office at least some of the time. And those that there's been very very few, I mean incredibly few, that, their notable by how rare they are really, things like Twitter, where everybody is going to be remote from here on in, very few that are doing fully remote and then actually quite a few that are thinking, “Well I'd rather collapse the five offices I have and instead rent 20 small office spaces that are more meeting room orientated, scattered all over the country or countries that we operate in, so that it's more convenient for our customers and our people to go and meet in person,” so I think there's a blend but I really think it comes back to that, ‘what culture do you want to protect?’. So there will be a spectrum there will be a range of approaches. What I do think is consistent, or what I've seen as very consistent theme throughout all of it, regardless of what you do and your physical office space, is building remote ready workforce and making that part of your strategic principles, that is happening across the board. It's one thing to get caught out by a pandemic now or a flood or a fire or the trains not working or even an office having a power cut or, on an individual level, people having to take their cars to be serviced or their kids to school or whatever, but to be caught out again after we've had this very apparent lesson, people's careers, they're not going to survive it. So I think a remote ready workforce rather than a remote workforce, that is a design principle that is fundamentally baked in now and I think we'll continue to see. With regards to the offices themselves, before the pandemic because, to Lodz’s point, actually, because of the cost of office space, specifically in the big cities, London, New York, Paris, wherever it might be, people were already starting to really look into the use of smart office technology to help change their desk environment to more of a hot desk kind of setup, and realistically so they could have fewer of those, have more meeting spaces, make it a richer experience for customers and for your internal employees and using IoT and using Bluetooth sensors and using room sensors and using all types of technology to make sure that you make the best use of the space you've got. I think there's, the other thing that we will see, is there is an increasing pressure to give people the power of 10 so that we can achieve more stuff with fewer people. It's a dark subject, but people are going to lose their jobs unfortunately. There is a reality that the cost base for most organisations is going to have to stay static, if not come down, but they're equally at the very same time going to need to be more productive, going to need to be more competitive, so I think there's plenty of pressure on IT teams and actually at a leadership level, to digitise any of the remaining manual processes that were tied to you having to be in a location at a specific point in time to move a purchase on. I think there's also going to be a pressure to pull together any existing digitised processes into more orchestrated and automated streams that just require as little manual interaction as possible. So whether that is checking people into a meeting room using IoT sensors and smart technology or looking at your processes and creating applications so that you can digitise them and free them from being locked to a location, that type of thing is going to be really important. But when it comes to the offices, just to round it up, most of the people I'm talking to, from a cultural perspective, are very worried about not having their people pitching in together and learning from each other and then new people evolving as fast as they can by learning from their peers, so it's predominantly a remote ready workforce and the office spaces are becoming more dynamic because we expect people to... it's going to be ok to take a day a week from home because you've proved it.

Zac Abbott: Well that is it for this episode of Explain IT. Craig, Adam, Adam and Dean it's been great going through these questions with you today, thank you very much for your time. And thank you to everyone who submitted your questions and for getting involved with the show. If anything in this show or previous shows has piqued your interest, do you get in contact with us - [email protected] Don't forget to click subscribe so that you can stay up to date with future episodes and seasons. Thank you very much for listening to Explain IT from Softcat.