Page 1

Issue 3

Embracing and


digital transformation Mark Samuels talks to CIOs addressing leadership challenges and discovering new opportunities

Page 17






YOUR TECHNOLOGY PARTNER Probrand Group consists of three award-winning businesses specialising in IT Products, IT Services and Software. Whether you’re looking to save time and money buying IT products, get more from your IT with services or transform the way you work with innovative applications, we have a specialist dedicated to meeting your needs. Let us help you thrive with relevant technology.


0121 605 1000 | |

@Probrand Outstanding Integrator of the Year

Reg No. 16


Peter Robbins Managing Director, Probrand Group


urther to lots of very positive feedback and engagement from our partners, customers and broader readership, I am delighted to welcome you to Issue 3, one year on from the launch of our first edition. The last twelve months have seen significant developments in business, the IT market, technology and Government – all of which are transforming the way we live, work and interact with each other. Throughout this edition we review new technologies which are helping organisations to manage change in a positive way. Our Product section (p6-15) takes a look at several devices, such as desktops and printers, which have adapted to accommodate these new ways of working. In line with the consumerisation of IT, we have also seen the employee’s contribution to the IT estate extend beyond BYOD in the last year – with the age of user generated apps in business kicking in. Quocirca’s Rob Bamforth elaborates on this ‘mass participation’ and crowd-sourced technology on page 20. For businesses, this trend has meant bespoke apps are now more accessible than ever before and our cover article (p17) looks at how disruptive innovation like this is being seized upon by businesses and IT leaders alike. We also examine how these developments are helping to drive the growth of smart cities (p30) and changing attitudes towards digital transformation in the public sector (p34). Many of these innovations have been fuelled by the continued growth of ‘third platform’ technologies – cloud, mobile, big data and social media. These technology mega trends have become a concurrent layer influencing all businesses.

This development is still being met with trepidation by some, however, with many wondering if cloud solutions are a threat to internal jobs. This is certainly not the case. There will always be a case for a degree of on-premise infrastructure but we need to consider all those services that businesses have dreamed about implementing, yet couldn’t due to budget constraints. Well, with cloud, the deployment is now done for you and the costs are spread. Moreover, businesses can get productivity software on-tap, while IT’s job has been elevated to that of a consultant or project manager delivering huge business impact and the plaudits that come with that. Our Infrastructure section (p42-46) explores several current trends and how organisations are facilitating these solutions. With the rising dollar rate impacting on our ability to buy IT products in recent months, it’s essential that procurement professionals make budgets go further this year. In this edition, Gary Price offers advice on the best ways to absorb the impact of fluctuating currency (p22). We also reveal surprising research that shows some buyers are paying up to 920% mark-up on IT (p24) and Spend Matters’ Editor, Peter Smith talks innovation in procurement (p29). On that point, our innovative IT Index marketplace is now live and delivering personalised catalogues and pricing to IT buyers by sector. We’ve also rolled out our award-winning KnowledgeKube aPaaS, using Microsoft Azure to deploy to a global customer base. Now is a great time to be passionate about technology! I hope you find that this edition shares that passion.

Peter Robbins Managing Director, Probrand Group

Contents News 05

Technology research in brief

Driving Innovation




Tracking the IT product market


What’s on the CIO’s agenda?


Should analyst predictions affect


Changing attitudes to digital

Realising the potential of smart cities and urban communities

buyer behaviour?

innovation in the public sector


Mobile computing devices


The future of office printing



Don’t get swept along by hype



Windows 10


A desktop for modern times

Business Transformation 17

The era of disruptive innovation



Supply Chain 22

The savvy buyer


Know your margins


Benchmarking helps South Staffordshire College

Never be too paranoid with network security


How to train employees in cyber security


Security reviewed in numbers and words

Infrastructure 42

Is it time to rethink your tape backup strategy?


Mitigating risk when migrating to the cloud


Infrastructure reviewed in numbers and words




Probrand Group

What next for public sector ICT after the General Election?


Innovation in Procurement

Cutting the cord

48 What we offer

Contact us: 0121 605 1000 Probrand Group Magazine provides news, views, analysis and information on pivotal subjects relevant to IT, procurement and business leaders looking to thrive with technology. Please get in touch and share your views on any of the subjects tackled or any you would like to read about.


Technology research in brief Third of small businesses believe BYOD poses no risk

Four fifths of businesses see healthy ROI from IoT

Research by Kaspersky Lab has found that a third of small business owners believe bring your own device (BYOD) poses no risk to their company.

More than 80% of companies have boosted revenues as a result of investments in the Internet of Things (IoT), a survey from Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has revealed.

The report said that, although BYOD is now a widelyaccepted business practice, more than four fifths of SMEs have no interest in managing information security on mobile devices.

The study, which surveyed 795 executives from large multinationals, found that those who have invested in IoT have seen an average revenue increase of 15.6%. Natarajan Chandrasekaran, CEO and MD of TCS, said: “The age of IoT is well underway. The question is, whether businesses are ready to realise the full potential of this technology.”

Konstantin Voronkov, Kaspersky Lab’s head of endpoint product management, said: “The loss of important corporate data via personal devices is a common occurrence, and a negligent attitude towards the security of mobile devices could pose a serious risk to a company’s business.”

UK cloud adoption rate reaches 84% Well over four fifths of UK businesses have now adopted some form of cloud service, according to the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF). The industry body’s survey of senior IT and business decision makers in both the public and private sector found there had been an 8% increase in cloud adoption since last June. Alex Hilton, CEO of CIF, said: “Cloud computing has come a long way in just a few short years. Cloud has moved from the edge of the IT estate to its centre, and it is now largely regarded as just another way that we do IT.”

Wearables move from consumer niche to enterprise tool Smart watches and other wearable devices could soon find a welcome home in enterprise, according to 451 Research. The analyst said the release of the Apple Watch had ‘opened the flood gates’ in regards to wearable adoption. “Now that the river is running, it’s less about where it will end and more about where - and when - to start. We expect wearable technology to deliver a key interface and input into the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT),” said Ryan Martin, IoT and wearable technologies analyst at 451.

IT spending on the up as leaders look to boost revenues The number of IT leaders planning to increase spending has risen sharply this year, according to new research from tech publication CIO. The poll of top IT executives found that more than three fifths (61%) plan to boost new or discretionary spending - up from just under half (47%) last year. Adam Dennison, senior VP at CIO, said: “Emerging technologies are the key to enterprise innovation. Emerging tech vendors should take this cue to showcase how their agile and innovative technology solutions can help businesses succeed.”

Probrand Group Magazine



Tracking the

IT product market

Dominic Ashford, of leading market research company GfK, takes a look at the IT product market to review the latest trends and forecast the future of product buying.

by Dominic Ashford


he latest market figures show that businesses are continuing to invest in areas that facilitate the storage, transmission and manipulation of data. Investments in several key product areas, such as software, networking and storage, resulted in a healthy business-to-business market in the third quarter of 2015. As a result, the value of sales increased by 20% compared to the same quarter of last year. In this buoyant market, vendors have also been able to re-engage with the market in areas previously seen as challenging.

Storage Being able to access data rapidly and securely is absolutely key in the modern age as organisations look to facilitate increased remote working and bring-your-own-device policies. This has led to high growth in two of the key areas within the storage segment, namely Solid State Drives (SSD) and Network-Attached Storage (NAS). The importance of businesses having rapid access to data was demonstrated during the third quarter by significant growth in the value of the B2B SSD market – which increased 35% between Q3 2014 and Q3 2015. Similarly, the value of NAS in Q3 2015 was 7% higher than in the third quarter of 2014. The average price of NAS devices sold in the B2B channel also increased by 35% year-on-year which shows that companies are investing in more high-end solutions. Manufacturers, distributors and resellers will be looking to push this product area as it represents an opportunity for growth. Conversely, the price of SSD is declining, with a fall of -8% Q3 to Q3. With higher capacities now more established for this market, pricing will be key for this storage segment as the market matures.


Probrand Group Magazine

Demand for all-in-one desktops grew by


Computing and Printing Mobile computing (such as laptops) has grown 24% year-on-year, driven by the preloading of Windows 10 on devices. Although there have been some areas of decline in the overall computing channel with desktop computing and tablets continuing to decline in value in 2015. Similarly, the sales value of print hardware declined by 10% over the same time. This suggests that these markets are being impacted by lengthening replacement cycles, as well as the growth of managed services and the cloud.

Overall decline in desktop computing, mobile computing, laptops and tablets

However, vendors are rising to the challenges they face in this market and developing new product areas which are seeing growth. For example, sales of All-In-One desktops (where the chassis and the monitor are one unit) grew in value by 25% yearon-year. The growth of this form factor is likely driven by aesthetic or space considerations from businesses and shows there is still an appetite in the market for the right products. Furthermore, in recent months traditional computing has returned to growth in retail channels suggesting that hardware may also follow suit for B2B overall.

Networking The growth for networking reflects the ongoing need businesses have to process significant amounts of data. This can be seen from the fact that in Q3 2014, large enterprise switches (above eight ports) accounted for 44% of the value of B2B networking and by Q3 2015 this had grown to 28%. The average price that these switches were sold at increased by 47% over the same time period, demonstrating that businesses are investing in more comprehensive networking solutions and are prepared to pay a premium for them.

Price that switches were sold at increased by

47% Probrand Group Magazine



by Gary Price, Probrand product and category manager


n the first ever edition of the Probrand Magazine, published a year ago, analysts Gfk forecast that tablet computers sales would stop growing and remain static over the next 12 months. Until that point we had witnessed an unfaltering rapid increase in this device market since the iPad hit the shelves in 2010.

The test of time proved Gfk partially right - sales did stop growing, but where they got it wrong was that sales actually fell into decline. Nonetheless, the analyst was right to cast the spotlight on this market and identify the problems it was facing. It said that ‘productivity’ and the fact that working on tablets is a ‘large step change’ would put the brakes on sales. In truth the tablet market has become saturated. Most people who want a tablet now have one, and with the products lasting longer than was previously predicted, fewer than expected tablets are being replaced. But the productivity problem was a factor. The increased popularity of convertible devices, such as the Lenovo Yoga and HP’s Revolve, which can flip between being a notepad and a tablet has also emphasised this issue. On the whole, analysts do a good job in highlighting these types of issues and identifying trends in the IT market. For any IT buyer, it is well worth listening to what they have to say. Although what they say should form part of a larger conversation. Buyers also need to talk and listen to the vendors and understand how product specifications are changing to better meet the needs of individuals within an organisation. When Lenovo first brought out the Yoga, the product was hampered by its weight - the glass screen was just too heavy. This may seem a small thing but the consequence was that it made the device awkward to handle in tablet mode. Tablets still held the advantage as the ultimate portable computing device. The next generation Yoga, however, was much lighter and more appropriate for mobile workers. This resulted in a sharp increase in popularity and in other manufacturers following suit to create lighter products. It is only by reviewing the specifications and by talking to vendors and their channel partners that we begin to understand how the features of a device will be practically applied when in business use. The analysts will cast the spotlight but it is up to the IT buyer to examine the details. And ask the question, is it really better to stick with what we currently deploy or would we be better served by new designs and the latest technological advances?


Probrand Group Magazine

Should analyst predictions affect buyer behaviour? Gary Price discusses the value of predictions in the buying process.

Let’s face it… We’ve all got better things to do. How about saving time and money buying IT? Introducing... Europe’s largest IT marketplace for business Catalogues and pricing personalised to you. Multiple suppliers Frameworks Exclusive promotions Self-service advisors Accredited by Finance




Last update: Just now

updates in the last hour

total items

items updated today

EXPLORE over 150,000 products and services from 2,500 brands BUY from ‘live’ catalogues ranking best price with stock SAVE a day a week in time and 10% on ICT budgets


Accredited by Procurement


Choosing the right

mobile computing device


ith an ever-expanding range of mobile computing products, choosing the right device in an evolving market can be a real challenge.

All these products offer exciting new features which sound compelling but, instead of becoming too focused on the latest innovations, IT buyers should be concentrating on the end user. What are their urgent requirements - portability, connectivity, raw computing power? When using their device, how much will they really need to move around? Do they need to hook up devices, such as projectors and monitors? Is there a need for lots of storage or just access to cloud services? To help IT buyers make purchasing decisions, we’ve taken a look at four of the main mobile computing categories and assessed their pros and cons.

BUSINESS NOTEBOOK Packed with power and performance this computing device could be viewed as the ideal desktop replacement. They are suitable for the occasional mobile user who may take their laptop to a meeting room or occasionally visit a customer off-site. Specifically designed to be a great all-rounder, they should be able to cope with whatever the user throws at it. It should take connectivity issues in its stride and accommodate projectors, printers and other peripherals.

Top five tips

Make sure there are enough USB ports and appropriate connection cables for peripheral devices.

Optical drives are increasingly being removed from these devices, so if burning or reading files on disc is necessary, make sure the notebook has this capability.

Cutting down on size may compromise keyboard ergonomics it’s best to test typing before buying.

If the end user is always on the move you’ll need to ensure suitable Wi-Fi connectivity.

• Make certain the notebook can easily connect to other devices.

While Intel has a set limit for thickness, weight isn’t regulated. Make sure the ultrabook is as light as possible.

How much moving around is needed? If this is more than occasional it might be worth looking at a lightweight alternative.

Don’t overestimate how much storage is needed, especially if your company uses cloud storage services.

Probrand Group Magazine

Top five tips If the end user is not going to be on the move that much a standard business notebook could provide the same functionality for less.

• Don’t underestimate computing power requirements. Upgrading later may be costly or even impossible.


Coined by Intel in 2011, the term ‘ultrabook’ describes high-end notebooks that have removed bulk without compromising battery life. Using low-power Intel Core processors, these devices have axed optical drives and utilised solid-state drives within a unibody chassis to reduce size. The laptop of choice for those who want power and portability, they are best suited to the worker who spends most of their time on the move. An expensive option, they often use premium materials to create a sleek design suited to those who value style in their tech.


CONVERTIBLE ULTRABOOK Offering the best of both worlds, the convertible allows users to change their notebook into a tablet and adapt to working needs. Benefitting from the weight savings and increased battery life of the ultrabook, this ‘2-in-1’ has added versatility. It is ideal for anyone who wants to sit and work but also needs to stand up and deliver presentations.

Top five tips •

Depending on price, users could find compromises are made, often in regards to the ability to fully twist and rotate the screen, hide or protect the keyboard and with the weight.

Make sure the power and storage requirements are enough - it can be difficult or impossible to upgrade after purchase.

Is the OS tailored for tablet or notebook mode? This has previously impacted usability when switching although the release of Windows 10 should provide greater comfort in both forms.

If typing is a priority, make sure the keyboard ergonomics have not been compromised.

If the primary use will be in tablet mode, the extra weight of the keyboard could prove an inconvenience. Would a tablet be better?

TABLET This highly portable device takes its inspiration from the smartphone market by utilising touchscreens. Originally designed for the consumer market, the lack of a physical keyboard may well compromise productivity but manufacturers have bolstered security and the ability to pair with peripheral devices to add more business functionality.

Top five tips •

Decide on whether you need 4G connectivity (and research price plans) before the purchase, as this won’t be an add-on option later.

Consider storage carefully. Cloud services are an option but, in the event of connectivity issues, how much storage is required?

Although Bluetooth keyboards can be purchased separately, if there is a lot of typing to be done would a convertible ultrabook be better?

File management, access to VPNs and critical business applications are often limited - consider whether these will be required regularly.

Unlike the notebook equivalents, the screen will always be exposed. Buying a case is an option as are other peripheral accessories, but they come at additional cost.

Daniel Barham, HP mobility business development manager “Mobile technology is transforming the world around us. It is transforming not only our personal, but also professional lives. One third of the world’s working population is mobile today. Mobility is as transformative for businesses as the internet was in the 90’s. At HP, we see this as an evolution that will forever alter the way we operate, the way we do business and even the way we interact as a society. Mobility is a “New Style of IT” that is changing the world we live in and moulding the future. “Mobility should be a tool for your organisation, not a BYOD nuisance. With true business mobility, retailers can enhance their customers’ experience and close sales. Healthcare providers can give patients higher-quality care without constraints and manufacturing organisations can empower their employees with rugged water, dust and drop-resistant devices. HP is enabling high-performance, businessgrade mobile computing that is secure and manageable across Windows or Android environments. Supported by a full complement of accessories and services these devices are allowing business to untether workflows, get work done anywhere and interact with customers in a whole new way.”

Probrand Group Magazine



The future of office printing

by Sandra Vogel, freelance technology journalist

Sandra Vogel takes a look at the evolution of printers into multifunction devices


he paperless office that’s been ‘just around the corner’ since computers arrived on our desks in the 1980s has long been talked about but has never fully materialised. Instead, as our working habits have evolved, printers have kept pace, and they are now providing increasingly sophisticated and integrated services. The growing popularity of mobile working, combined with the increasing ease of working on screen rather than paper, has meant more and more information is digitised. Andy Johnson, product and solutions manager at Brother UK, says digital natives are actually using around 50% less paper than the generation before them. As working from tablets, laptops and even handsets increases, Steve Mitchell, group product marketing manager at Kyocera, says what is now required is, “the increased use of safe and secure storage and retrieval systems, including the use of cloud.”


Connected Devices

Driving business growth

As a consequence printers have evolved into Multifunction Devices (MFDs) which both scan, print and connect to services like Dropbox, Google Drive and the corporate cloud. Kyocera’s Cloud Connect, for example, built around the company’s HyPAS (Hybrid Platform for Advanced Solutions) platform, enables corporate wide, geographically agnostic access to information direct from the printer.

All this evolution puts modern MFDs at the heart of the business. Indeed some see their future as a driver for business growth.

Wireless access to MFDs, already common, are destined to become even more widespread and varied as NFC, Wi-Fi Direct, Apple’s AirPrint and Google Cloud Print sit well with the growing preference for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies in many organisations.

He gives some examples: “Customer on-boarding and enrolment processes will be more streamlined, with MFDs automatically verifying the data and extracting the relevant information and feeding it into different business channels for further processing.”

Web connected printers are also a natural fit. Brother’s Andy Johnson notes that “Printers that offer web connect features are time efficient, allowing users to print directly from cloud-based services such as Google and removing the need to log onto a desktop device.”

Thornhill adds that MFDs are now helping to speed up workflow within organisations and are allowing employees to spend more time focusing on their core responsibilities.

Probrand Group Magazine

Francis Thornhill, product marketing manager at Canon, believes that during the next two or three years we will see, “the development of automated processes and workflows that put the combination of device and software at the heart of an organisation’s connected system.”

Don’t get swept along by the hype

Nicolò Lettieri, Linx product manager, explains what’s really important when buying tablets for education


ablet computers are increasingly becoming standard equipment within the classroom. Research by the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) has revealed three quarters of secondary schools are now providing pupils with access to these devices.

People are, however, starting to realise that they can get the same for less, and as they share their reviews on sites likes Amazon, attitudes are changing. This has to be a key consideration, as schools can now buy three of these lower priced tablets for the price of one premium product – without sacrificing any features.

The same report claimed, however, that many schools have faced issues integrating tablets fully – with connectivity seen as a key issue.

3. Connectivity

There are of course huge advantages to deploying tablets – price, portability and ease of use being just a few. But when schools and colleges buy in bulk they need to ensure their tablet of choice fits easily with their current infrastructure. To ensure tablets are used to their full potential there are a few important practical considerations:

1. The operating system This is not always the first consideration. After all, the operating systems used by premium priced tablets have never conformed to the standard Windows environment, common across educational institutions and the world of business in general. Yet the emergence of Windows tablets has changed this and removed a crucial stumbling block to tablet use. Windows 10 allows seamless movement and a familiarity between all forms of computing – smartphone, tablet and PC. With a device like the Linx 10, for example, you also get a full OS – not a mobile version. This means users can download any software they like and they don’t have to wait until ‘there’s an app for that’.

When using a tablet in an educational setting, there is a huge advantage if the device can easily connect to a projector or a larger screen. If students want to give a presentation or collaborate in numbers, connection has to be quick and easy. For this, the device needs sufficient USB and HDMI ports, which is often not the case. When buying a tablet you’ll also want to check that any accessories such as keyboards and cases are reasonably priced and don’t end up chewing a hole in the IT budget.

4. Infrastructure It is important when deploying any device that it fits within your existing infrastructure. If you are storing data with a cloud service, is it straightforward to do this with the new device? Can the device connect to shared facilities, such as the print service, and join a domain without complications? These are all major considerations that should not be neglected as they can make a huge difference to functionality and the ability to get the most out of a tablet computer.

2. Price Most people are aware of the premium tablet brands due to the huge amounts they invest in marketing. These products are often deliberately over-priced to create a sense of exclusivity. For schools and colleges, working within a budget, they cannot afford to be swept along with the hype – especially when the only difference to a lower priced brand may be the resolution of the camera.

Probrand Group Magazine



Windows 10 Good news for business users


ou don’t need to be eagle eyed to spot an

irrelevant to users who wanted to work from the

unusual step change in the naming of Windows’

desktop. Well users will now be able to run their

latest operating system (OS). What has happened

Windows store apps in both modes.

to Windows 9?

“This should make those apps a lot more relevant to

It has been suggested the skip straight from Windows 8 to

desktop users,” said Mark. “We’ll also see Microsoft

Windows 10 is all down to a little-known piece of code in

introduce a new virtual desktop feature which will

legacy applications used to detect whether the computer

allow you to have multiple desktops run on one

is on Windows 95 or Windows 98, which could create

screen that you can switch between as easily as

compatibility issues. Others speculate it could have been

you’d switch between different applications.”

Microsoft’s significant presence in Japan that put them off using the number nine - a figure widely regarded to be unlucky in Japanese culture. Whatever the reason, Windows’ new OS has made a serious jump not just in the number but in re-engaging with business customers - following criticism its predecessor was too consumer focused. “Microsoft is taking a dramatically different tack here and very much wanting to re-engage with those business customers, listening to customer feedback far more than they were doing with Windows 8,” said Mark Lomas, Icomm IT consultant. One of the biggest headlines which followed the launch has been Microsoft’s decision to bring back the muchloved Start menu, with its familiar and popular programs list and shortcuts to the most recent applications. Another major development is Microsoft’s focus on creating a more responsive OS that adapts to different devices. Hybrid computer users, for example, will notice the system switch more fluidly between a full screen tablet UI and the desktop with the Start menu. “It’s certainly a big step forwards for users who have a hybrid laptop where you can flip, re-attach or detach a keyboard. It will allow them to flip between these two modes of tablet and desktop much more easily than in Windows 8,” Mark said. Microsoft has also tackled criticism that ‘store apps’ in Windows 8 were largely

14 Probrand ProbrandGroup GroupMagazine Magazine

So with all these improvements in place, should businesses be looking to upgrade to Windows 10 immediately? Mark says: “We never advise anybody to upgrade straight away. Certainly in our experience it’s always better to let other people take a look at the bugs first. “There is a difference with Windows 8 though, where there was a lot of fear and a lot of unpredictability around the OS. There is significantly less of that wall to get over when you’re moving to Windows 10. “It’s going to have the Start menu, it’s going to have the desktop, it’s going to work exactly the way businesses need it to work without that learning curve that would be a barrier to adoption for staff and users within a business.”

A desktop for by Sandra Vogel,

modern times

freelance technology journalist

As computing devices become increasingly tailored to different ways of working, Sandra Vogel investigates how this is impacting on traditional desktop computing.


nalysts agree that sales of traditional desktop computers are in decline. GfK identified a 9.2% fall in the value of the market during 2014, and it expects this decline to continue as ‘the demand for mobile computing continues’. Despite a fall from grace for these formerly ubiquitous machines, it seems manufacturers are not planning on giving up on the desktop anytime soon - nor do they intend to leave all innovation to the mobile market.

A complex computing landscape Computer makers are aware of the complexity of the modern business computing landscape, and their own financial imperative is pushing them to produce products that are closer suited to market requirements. In order to give business what it wants, product developers are focusing on making their machines more niche. For example, Graham Thomas, lead technologist at Lenovo UK & Ireland says, “Lenovo is making desktops smaller and smaller. They can be used to drive pit walls in Formula 1 and be fitted into the boot of a police car.” At the other end of the scale, HP’s unusually named creation, Sprout, has incorporated 3D scanning and a second interactive display where the keyboard normally sits. The advertising blurb says Sprout is “a revolutionary all-in-one computer and 3D scanner that makes it easy to go from thought to expression in an instant.”

Covering the basics For all the excitement of products like Sprout, most office-based workers have relatively basic computing needs built around writing documents, accessing spreadsheets and using the web. And with the proliferation of private and public cloud solutions, desktop computers are perhaps more powerful than necessary for everyday tasks. Mini PCs have become an option for those seeking a traditional desktop PC type arrangement. Mini PCs come in tiny cases but have SSD storage or hard drives, good internal specifications, wireless connectivity and plenty of ports for wired connections. They’re very portable, so personal storage can also be moved from desk to desk with ease. However, these mini PCs can be relatively expensive and may still offer more power than many of us need.

Stick computing As an alternative, Lenovo recently unveiled ideacentre Stick 300, to be priced at $129 at its US launch later this year. With security features and the ability to convert any display into a PC, Lenovo’s Gareth Thomas feels the Stick is particularly suited to campus style environments. “Many users only need to work at their destination and don’t need a mobile device that allows them to work on the move,” he says. Lenovo is not alone in the stick approach. Dell’s director of client solutions Jamil Nathoo says, “We have seen high interest in our computer on a stick offering, because it delivers extreme mobility with enterprise-level security, manageability and reliability all at a low cost.” As such, the ideal office environment of the future could be one leverages the cloud and allows all workers to move around work spaces with their computer on a keyring.

Probrand Group Magazine


Sick and tired of IT problems? Let someone else take the strain. Get proactive IT support from award-winning experts • • • •

Less hassle More productivity Simple monthly payment See page 63 for details

Get started FREE IT consultancy*

Claim now * Terms and conditions apply

0121 248 7931


Business Transformation

living in an era of de-risking digital transformation

by Mark Samuels, freelance technology journalist

With digital continuing to shake up traditional industries, Mark Samuels talks to the CIOs who are addressing leadership challenges and discovering new opportunities with disruptive innovation.


isruptive is the latest buzz phrase to take the IT industry by storm. The theory suggests that a confluence of factors - including rapid economic change and the rise of digital technology - has created the perfect storm for new market entrants and new markets to develop. But embracing and de-risking this transformation are key. Entrepreneurial individuals and businesses can now use a mixture of cloud, mobile, big data and social technology to challenge long-established firms, sectors and ways of working. Such is the scale of change that 2015 could potentially be seen as the year of disruptive innovation. IDC suggests Europe is at a tipping point in terms of digital transformation. The researcher says markets in all sectors are being disrupted by digital technology and a range of innovative accelerators, such as the Internet of Things, advanced robotics and wearable computing. Global trend lab VINT also says 2015 is the year of disruption, suggesting customer behaviours are changing and that companies must transform their approach in order to survive. IT leaders, as the executives responsible for technology implementation, must take note and respond accordingly.

How is disruptive innovation impacting on organisations and CIOs? Former CIO turned digital advisor Ian Cox is an expert on disruptive innovation. Working as a consultant for Axin, he helps executives at some of Europe’s largest private and public sector organisations to cope with change. Cox, who has collated some of his best practice experiences in the book Disrupt IT, says disruption usually happens in industries that have not seen any major change in business models, products and services for prolonged periods.

“The incumbents have probably enjoyed many years of strong revenues and profits, with little or no incentive to innovate beyond incremental improvements in their offerings,” he says. “Their main focus is on growing their business by selling more of what they already do and, as a result, they are unlikely to think about doing things differently, or doing different things. They have become comfortable and are reluctant to do anything that threatens their current revenue streams.” But then a company - often a new entrant to the market - takes a different perspective and uses this alternative approach to create a new offering. “This could be by finding new ways to meet existing customer needs or identifying additional needs that are not currently being met,” says Cox. “And usually these new entrants use technology to enable their business models.” As research from the BCS - the Chartered Institute for IT - suggests, the businesses that have responded best to disruptive innovation are those that have embraced digital technologies to offer new services and products to their customers. Online letting specialist Airbnb, for example, has redefined the accommodation rental sector. Uber has created similar levels of disruption in the transportation sector, creating a technology giant that has been valued as much as $50bn. “If customers prefer this new way of meeting their needs, and start to switch their business in significant volumes, then the market is being disrupted by new innovation,” says Cox, referring to the rise of new models. “At this point, the existing players that are willing to make major changes are likely to survive. Those that are unwilling to make the necessary changes, or who cannot react quickly enough, face an uncertain future.”


Probrand Group Magazine


Business Transformation


Cox says the application and impact of digital will vary across industries and organisations, but one thing is certain: technology will be key. Without technology there can be no digital business models, products or services. CIOs should, therefore, play a leading role in every business.

Disruptive innovation is seen with both fear and excitement from established and new entrants respectively

“The CIO is the obvious choice to lead digital initiatives,” says Cox. “The CIO and the IT function occupy a unique position within the organisation; no other role or function has the same end-to-end view of the business, allowing them to gain an unparalleled understanding of people, processes and technology issues.”

How is disruptive innovation affecting the role of the IT leader? There is, however, a problem. While CIOs should be playing a key role in digital initiatives, organisations are sometimes turning to other c-suite chiefs for leadership. Disruptive innovation has been such a game-changing phenomenon that many firms have chosen to appoint a new executive to deal with the trials and tribulations of transformation. The role of chief digital officer (CDO) started being hyped three or four years ago. Gartner suggested the CDO “would prove to be the most exciting strategic role in the decade ahead”, predicting 25% of organisations would have a CDO by 2015. The rise of the CDO is a direct threat to the role of the traditional IT leader. CIOs, as the guardians of information within the business, should be leading digital transformation. Yet many IT leaders still struggle to dedicate enough resources to creative solutions to business challenges and, instead, spend too much time on day-to-day operational concerns. Research from IT leadership network CIO Connect suggests two thirds of c-suite executives believe CIOs lack the right attitude to innovation and tend to stay in their comfort zone. IT leaders must move from the data centre to the front end, finding ways to engage with executive peers and to use digital technology to meet fast-evolving customer requirements. CIOs who fail to rise to the challenge of disruptive innovation will find themselves side-lined by other c-suite specialists, such as the head of marketing or the chief digital officer. Former Tullow Oil CIO Andrew Marks says disruptive innovation is seen with both fear and excitement from established and new entrants respectively. He says that


Probrand Group Magazine

while new players have always sought to take market share from established businesses, the speed and relatively low cost of entry today is what has changed the landscape. For CIOs, the change is unsettling. “Not long ago, the capital cost of setting up a business of any size with an associated supply chain, manufacturing capability and marketing team was something that prevented many firms from starting,” he says. “Now, all services can be purchased on an as-needs basis and low production costs from a highly competitive central European and Far East supplier base enables reduced risk.” Marks says digitally enabled firms optimise their use of services and draw on limited in-house staff, whether IT, front office or back office. Rather than relying on legacy investments in technology, fleet-of-foot digital businesses are able to start afresh, work on-demand and avoid the creation of an IT cost base. For CIOs who are used to managing the traditional technology team, digital disruption requires a considerable adjustment. “A fresh mind-set - truly combining readily available tools, rather than the need to build one’s own or to install a major tool-kit - has created the disruptive force and opportunity not previously seen,” says Marks.

How can CIOs meet the challenge of digital transformation with confidence? Richard Norris, head of IT and business change at Reliance Mutual Insurance Society Limited , is one CIO who is meeting the challenge of digital transformation head on. He implemented a digital innovation group about three months ago. Drawing people from across the business, the learning group of six experts has been given a remit to go out and analyse all-things-digital that are disrupting and transforming the sector. So far, the group has reported back on key technologies, such as wearables and digital marketing. Their objective is to analyse how disruptive innovations can be used to transform the way Reliance takes products and services to market. Norris believes three main types of disruptive innovation that are affecting the business: hardware, which will continue to evolve as people plug more things into the internet; distribution, in terms of selling products and services in a novel way; and data, where firms analyse information and change customer service. “The challenge for CIOs now is to find those opportunities and to make the most of them,” he says. “The problem is taking that innovative idea and forming it into something concrete, especially in the insurance sector, which tends to be a slow-moving super tanker.”

He says examples of disruptive innovation are clearer when it comes to distribution. Finance firms, says Norris, have an opportunity to sell insurance downstream of another purchase. One example includes the opportunity to add insurance as a secondary add-on item after the acquisitions of a high-end fire or burglar alarm. “Insurance isn’t an exciting purchase,” says Norris. “But you might want to buy an alarm system for your home and, if that’s monitored properly and you get insurance thrown in at the same time, then that purchase starts to become quite an interesting offering. That’s where the biggest disruption, and therefore transformation, will come from in the marketplace.” He expects similar developments in other areas of finance. Motor insurance, for example, will be affected by developments in telematics and the ability of companies to collect data, analyse information and produce tailored products. For CIOs, the message is clear - disruptive technologies will affect every business. Even if your sector or organisation has yet to be touched by digital transformation, it soon will be. IT leaders need to help their organisations survive and then thrive. “Everybody in the marketplace must think about digital developments and how to start creating new products,” says Norris.

The challenge for CIOs now is to find those opportunities and to make the most of them Probrand Group Magazine


Business Transformation


- mass participation not thought-less leadership

From BYOD to the citizen developer, Rob Bamforth, principal analyst at Quocirca, looks at how organisations are taking an increasingly collaborative approach to business technology.

by Rob Bamforth

Get involved” might be one of the most popular taglines for charities and voluntary organisations, but it also sums up many things that are happening in many aspects of daily work life. As citizen journalists are encouraged to contribute usergenerated content, employees are increasingly being permitted to contribute technology choices within their organisation - look at bring your own device (BYOD), for example. Technology innovation has driven this, with smart portable devices and universally accessible and affordable data networks - fixed and mobile internet. For a younger generation brought up in this hyperconnected reality, this is also leading to changing attitudes in the workplace as well as at home; ease of content creation, free sharing and a more collaborative approach is being stimulated. Much of this new openness is highlighted in Charles Leadbeater’s seminal summary of an evolving collaborative culture in his book, “We think”. For organisations and businesses looking to disruptive technologies

that offer radical transformation and a step change in cost savings or business growth, the trend is also welcome. But there are fears too, from increased risks, security issues and a loss of control. These are well founded, but should not present insurmountable obstacles as long as organisations take a positive view of change and build on the concepts of “We think” and convert it into, “We do”.

People and place The first thing to consider is people and how fluid their interaction with technology has become. For many individuals, technology has blurred the distinction between personal and work activities. While this adds some challenges in maintaining balance, the increase in personal control and choice is significant. Individuals have bought into using innovative and often mobile technologies that not only entertain and inform them, but are also the tools they now expect for work. Far more ‘personal’ than the ‘personal computer’ ever was, and with so many opportunities for social interaction and sharing, creating new services and content is no longer the preserve of a precious and precocious few, but is available to anyone, anywhere. Work activities increasingly need to spread across multiple different technologies. Individuals as consumers have become comfortable and adept at using and blending many different channels of communication; many virtual which require the workplace to offer a more innovative and unified blend of voice, video, text and images; but some still physical as people seamlessly switch their attention between broadcast, interactive online, mobile device and the physical world.


Probrand Group Magazine

For some, these capabilities will be supplied by the organisation on standard build systems, but for many others, personal choice, BYOD and the use of a blend of owned and provided equipment, applications and services will be the norm. While this may initially require more effort to establish, individuals are comfortable with the concept of self-service and even increasingly self-support for all the technology tools at their disposal.

Process and Participation In many organisations, work is performed by a network of participants in virtual teams formed by employees, contractors, and ever closer sharing of IT resources and services with third party partners and even customers. While initially presenting a security challenge, this model of working is becoming more straightforward and secure, using a wide variety of mechanisms, including in some cases social media, to establish and authenticate identities. Individuals can often self-enrol, and based on their credentials be permitted appropriate levels of access. There is also an opportunity to radically reshape the way in which these people can then interact to the benefit of the organisation. Processes that were once inefficient and cumbersome can be transformed into more streamlined approach. This is not simply delivered by introducing new systems or by a wholesale re-engineering of business processes, but by nurturing the social, consumer and mobile behaviours that individuals have adopted outside of the working environment, and encouraging them to align with the needs of the workplace. This may require some adjustment and streamlining of processes, but instead of outsourcing the work, better results will often be achieved by engaging with those individuals directly affected in the line of

business or virtual team. This takes participation to the next level; not only self-choosing and buying devices, but now the individual can be at the core of developing new processes, systems and applications to help them accomplish their tasks effectively and efficiently - the ‘citizen developer’. To take advantage of this mass involvement to build a more collaborative culture with innovative and ultimately effective processes, organisations need to put certain measures in place: •

Flatten hierarchies and break down organisational silos. Reduce the barriers to participation and encourage cross-fertilisation of ideas and development based on smaller, interconnected intra-organisational teams.

Remove complexity. Use tools that provide an excellent user experience and that allow all to contribute, not just technical specialists. All too often those most closely involved with a business process are the least involved in building or choosing tools to make it more efficient - this is a mistake.

Share the effort and the rewards. Collaboration is not something that can be forced, it needs the right seeds sown to attract and guide, not compel.

Clearly there is a need for some control. Key data needs to be protected and safeguarded, but stringent methods are not required everywhere and the approach needs to be proportionate to risk and consequence.

Self-determination in this context is not about the individual standing apart from others, but freed from organisational constraints that limited their ability to perform and excel. Many tools in the workplace have been adopted to create uniformity, but all too often that reduces the results to a lower common denominator. Creating an environment rich in personally selected tools that foster communication, participation, sharing and collaboration is more likely to generate innovation and the disruptive advances that organisations are now chasing; not for a 10% improvement, but for 10x. Probrand Group Magazine


Supply Chain by Gary Price, Probrand product and category manager

the savvy buyer Absorbing the impact of the rising dollar

This is not a market crash,” Gartner’s John-David Lovelock reassured the IT industry in June.

His comments came as the analyst predicted a 5.5% decline in IT spending globally during 2015. Lovelock explained that this decline was the result of the rising strength of the US dollar which had dramatically affected international market prices, impacting buyers in the UK. At the end of June last year, £1 was worth $1.71. Just one year later and its value had fallen by almost 10% to $1.57. This increase in the dollar exchange rate has had a significant impact on companies like IBM, which sees revenues come largely from international markets. IBM’s £3.9bn revenues from the EMEA market were down by a fifth as a result - but just 2% when adjusted for exchange rates and divestiture. It’s the same story for Oracle, whose predicted growth of 6% in total revenue fell flat. But, as their CEO, Safra Katz added, “Once you normalise for exchange rates, it was a very strong growth quarter.” As a result vendors gave early warnings back in January that prices were tipped to increase, with HP quick to hit UK resellers with a 6.5% hike and Dell and Lenovo following suit with 5-10% rises to mitigate damage to their margins. Although this is bad news for European buyers, it’s important to remember that these fluctuations are an everyday factor within the IT supply chain. It would be easy for an IT buyer to look at a 10% price rise and think, ‘six months ago we could have purchased 10 items but we can now only afford 9 for the same price’. This may prompt them to consider cutting back on spending and question whether they should follow through on a deployment project? It is essential for buyers to understand, however, that several factors can impact on the trade price, the exchange rate being just one. An increase in price can also often be offset by other variants which affect costs. For instance, a savvy buyer should consider a product’s life cycle. Vendors know that when a new product is launched customers will be willing to pay a premium for the latest and greatest. But as the product moves into its transactional cycle the price will adapt to market and channel demands.


Probrand Group Magazine

In time it will be discounted to sell off before a replacement model is released by the vendor. Buying later in the cycle will clearly bring savings. There are a multitude of factors that can also lower the trade price, such as the discovery of new mineral deposits which can lower raw material costs or heavy competition in the market from rival products. Buyers will undoubtedly get less return on investment if the exchange rate drops, but this is where the importance of wise procurement decisions comes in. It is important for IT buyers to monitor the market, talk to vendors and channel partners and understand the best time to buy. Knowledge of all the factors impacting on price will then help procurers negotiate better deals and absorb the shock of a dollar rate rise.

Want apps quicker and cheaper?


The app platform for all users. Create your own enterprise web and mobile apps without having to write code.

The Business Perspective “It couldn’t be simpler, unprecedented ROI, low TCO and results in days. without writing code, we created line of business applications that automated processes quicker and at less cost. We’ve connected and extended existing systems and data too.” The IT Perspective “Our resources are scarce. We’ve been able to let the business innovate and deliver whilst retaining control and governance. It’s relieved the pressure on our development teams and when needed, we simply design, build and deploy apps rapidly, freeing time to focus on priorities.”

Register for demo

0121 605 2050

KnowledgeKube is a product of Mercato Solutions Limited. 4572/20082015/JG

Supply Chain

Know your margins The KnowledgeBus IT margins benchmarking 2015 study has shown organisations are still paying almost seven times the recommended mark-up on product purchases.


ith the trade price for up to a fifth of all IT products changing on a daily basis in the UK, staying on top of the margins that suppliers are charging is a challenge. Failure to do so, however, could deplete your IT budget unnecessarily and divert funds away from key projects. The latest IT margins survey has revealed that the mark-up charged can also, at times, be close to ten times the trade price - indeed one organisation in the NHS was found to have paid a 920% margin. The study, which looked at IT spending across 20 sectors including banking, retail and manufacturing, showed that our public health provider was not the only organisation to pay prices on IT products which were several times the trade price listing. One charity was found to have paid 850%, while a housing association forked out 711% and one company in the FMCG sector purchased a product with a 506% mark-up. When you consider that industry body Society of IT Managers (SOCITM) recommendations that margins should never exceed 3% of the trade price this may seem shocking. Procurement professionals may even ask the question, how could this happen? The answer is that on many occasions these margins are attached to low profile purchases or peripheral products. For procurement professionals concerned with higher value and higher quantity orders, these can often go unnoticed but the costs add up.


Probrand Group Magazine

Al Nagar, head of benchmarking at KnowledgeBus, said: “The size of some of the margins is the concern. In all likelihood these will be products that fall below the scrutiny radar - the one-off or low volume purchases, which may be a distress item or spontaneous buy. “Scrutiny of spending on these items cannot be neglected, however, as they often make up a larger than expected percentage of the budget - in some cases as high as 25%.” The research showed, however, that organisations are largely getting better at driving suppliers’ prices down. For example, despite paying one of the largest mark-ups on a single IT purchase, the housing association sector has seen the average margins paid for products fall from 36% in 2012, and 24% in 2013, to 20% last year. The average across all industries has also fallen from 24.8% in 2012, and 21.1% in 2013, to 19.6% in 2014. This is still almost seven times the rate recommended by SOCITM, but with as many as 1,946 products changing price every single day in the UK, procurement professionals do face a battle to police supplier margins. “Achieving the best price on IT products can be difficult, with trade prices in a constant state of flux, but it’s important to know that due to product lifecycles prices do go down over time. Securing the optimum price requires careful monitoring of the market situation and data analysis,” said Nagar. “On the whole, IT managers and procurement teams are becoming more vigilant but the research shows better value and savings could be achieved.” Although IT buyers often struggle with the complexities and volatility of the supply chain, organisations can address these issues by deploying benchmarking technology to monitor cost price and the margin. Such tools enable organisations to adopt a ‘cost plus’ approach, which ties suppliers to an agreed price above the trade price. Benchmarking technology not only allows procurement teams to police their suppliers, they also help identify the best time to buy through the analysis of historic and seasonal trends.

Probrand Group Magazine


Supply Chain

Benchmarking helps South Staffordshire College achieve more with less Case study


eing progressive when your budgets are being cut is clearly a challenge. This was the situation South Staffordshire College found itself, however, when it was developing a new ‘digital by default’ campus last year.

The further education institution, which supports more than 20,000 students, wanted to equip its state of the art learning environment, which features a 4D immersive laboratory, with the latest high tech capabilities. “South Staffordshire is a pioneering college and the pace of change is formidable. The Chief Executive wants us to be in the vanguard of development across all areas - the learner experience, the campus buildings,” said Jamie Smith, director for strategy and infrastructure. Unlike universities, which have been able to address funding issues by increasing tuition fees, the college did not have this option. “If you want to be this progressive when budgets are contracting you need to be innovative as there is pressure to deliver the best possible return on every pound,” said Smith. To address this challenge, South Staffordshire College deployed benchmarking tool KnowledgeBus to evaluate every deal with suppliers. An online tool that automatically benchmarks purchases against daily trade guide price and stock levels on over 150,000 ‘live’ products from more than 2,500 manufacturers, it helped the college to monitor spending and negotiate better deals for IT equipment. Smith admits that he was initially cynical about the difference a benchmarking tool could make but he claims the technology has transformed the procurement process.


Probrand Group Magazine

He said: “When we ran our historical data through this application we found we had been paying average margins of 30.9% - we now pay less than 3% and in some cases, closer to cost plus 1.5%. It has been a no brainer. KnowledgeBus paid for itself with the month.” Smith explained: “We recently required seven laptops, which would cost about £900 each from major suppliers. We bought them for £420 each and made a saving of almost £2,000 on that single purchase alone.” The campus, which opened last year, now allows students to use their own laptops, tablets and smartphones to work in collaborative spaces. Learning spaces have also been created which enable mobiles to connect with projectors wirelessly, to enable content to be uploaded in seconds. Smith claims the benchmarking tool’s ability to forecast seasonal price trends and variations has also had a dramatic impact on how the college now makes ongoing purchasing decisions. “We have fundamentally become more strategic,” he said. “Powerful big data functionality allows us to view historical stock and pricing levels to spot and analyse trends. We have set alerts to provide early warnings on any fluctuations, which can be dramatic. These insights have led us to both delay and bring forward purchases.”

81% of organisations pay up to 920% margin on IT* [4579/KBIT]

Compare. Negotiate. Save.

We managed to reduce our IT spend by approximately 10%.

KnowledgeBus enables IT buyers to quickly benchmark purchases against daily trade guide price and stock levels on over 150,000 products from more than 2,500 manufacturers.

Sage UK Dave Banks, Senior IT Procurement Coordinator

Measurable benefits from day one: Save up to 24% on ICT budgets and an hour per order Identify fair price and spot overcharging Plot key market trends for more strategic procurement

* Download IT Margins report

0121 605 2050

KnowledgeBus is a product of Mercato Solutions Limited. 45-55 Camden Street, Birmingham, B1 3BP


What next for public sector ICT after the General Election?


any feel a creeping paralysis in central government on ICT since the May results. What a difference a Maude makes, it seems.

In May 2010, when the last government came to power, no time at all was wasted in direction setting. Francis Maude’s ‘moratorium’ on all government ICT spending over £100m made it clear that huge expensive outsourcing agreements were a thing of the past. All the talk was about breaking up that ‘oligopoly’ of big suppliers with new, nimble SME suppliers. Five years on, the process hasn’t repeated itself. Maude’s replacement at the Cabinet Office, the former Energy Minister, Matt Hancock, has not exactly been as active on this front. Apart from a speech at a major digital conference in late June, we’ve barely heard a dickie bird from him. But many observers are convinced this is just the quiet before the storm - and a lot of chickens will soon be coming home to roost. Biggest of all those chickens is the same set of massive outsourcing projects Maude, and many others, worried about, such as HMRC’s Aspire deal which is now ten years old and worth £11bn. Like many similar deals, on paper this is set to wind down within two years. The question is what will succeed it?

by Gary Flood, freelance technology journalist

UK government ICT: at a ‘crossroads’ Most commentators are predicting a last-minute contract extension for Aspire, simply due the potential cost of transition. That’s not to say the market wants this to happen - as Stuart Lauchlan, chair of the Think Cloud For Government and co-founder of online publication Diginomica, puts it: “Ministers must hold their nerve as these big, bad outsourcing deals wind down. None of us expect the ‘oligopoly’ to go quietly into the night.” Deals like Aspire aren’t the only issue waiting for Hancock to look at post summer break. Many in the market are puzzled over exactly what the plan is for what we all still call G-Cloud, though the official term is now The Digital Marketplace. Even though this approach is admired in countries like Canada and India, which like the idea of a commodity-type online store for the public sector, it still hasn’t really taken off. The suggestion is that comfort with big outsourcing deals in the higher levels of the civil service is the main blockage. Concerns are now arising that the departure of Maude has also led to a worrying slow down at the top. As eyes get taken off balls, will the reform agenda wither and die? Lauchlan is definitely worried it might. “UK government ICT stands at a crossroads,” he told Probrand Magazine. “Smaller cloud services deals are the future, but our whole G-cloud programme needs fresh love poured into it; as other nations emulate the UK model, we seem bizarrely to be losing interest in it. We must get back on track. “I’d like a public endorsement from Hancock emphasising its importance. I fear I may be left waiting.”


Probrand Group Magazine

Innovation in Procurement Much Discussed, Rarely Observed!

by Peter Smith, Lead editor of Spend Matters UK/ Europe


f you read procurement surveys, you will have noticed one common factor in the last year or two. “Procurement innovation” has risen up the priority list consistently, according to the practitioners surveyed. Now the first problem comes with the definition. We are not talking about doing procurement in an innovative manner, important though that is. Rather, the innovation referred to is that provided by suppliers to help the buying organisation achieve its objectives more successfully. Our definition of “procurement innovation” is therefore executing the procurement process in a manner that leads to innovative ideas, solutions and proposals from suppliers and potential suppliers. Capturing innovation from the market is important whatever is being bought, but innovation in the IT sector can be transformational and provide serious competitive advantages to the buyer of products or services. Unfortunately, procurement innovation is more often discussed than genuinely observed. Of course, firms do constantly innovate, and transfer that to their customers - that is just the nature of business, progress and life. But often that seems to happen despite procurement processes, rather than because of them! That is because traditional procurement processes often stifle or discourage innovation - whether that’s through tight specifications; an over-riding cost reduction objective; detailed contracts focused on precise deliverables; poor or non-existent change or contract and supplier management processes. These can unfortunately contribute to an environment where suppliers see little benefit in developing or offering innovation to many buyers. Innovation can come from both existing suppliers and from organisations that may not even be on the buyer’s radar. But let’s focus here on encouraging and capturing innovation from current suppliers, and look at four key success factors for achieving that.

1. A mechanism for the supplier to offer innovation. What would your supplier do if they had an innovative idea? To whom would they communicate it? If their only regular contact is a day-to-day contract manager, to whom would they bring the idea to get an appropriate discussion? 2. Mutual benefit from the innovation. Would the supplier feel confident that they would benefit from the innovation as well as the buyer? Is there a level of trust? Often the innovator has choice as to which customers they offer the innovation; why should it be you? 3. Responsiveness and action. One of the biggest turn-offs for suppliers is finding that nothing happens when they do suggest ideas. A supplier innovation programme is launched, then the buyer does nothing with the dozens or hundreds of ideas received. That guarantees that nothing happens in the short term, and more worryingly, suppliers will put that buyer bottom of the list for future bright ideas. 4. Show commitment. Show suppliers you are serious about innovation. Putting energy into the process for capturing innovation is key. That means senior support, a visible interest, and real resource and effort. Technology is making many historical procurement processes more standardised and automated. Capturing innovation from the supply market will increasingly be a key differentiator for excellent procurement organisations. So think about that now, if you haven’t already.

Probrand Group Magazine


Driving Innovation

Realising the potential of Smart Cities and Urban Communities

by Roger Burke-Hamilton, CS Transform


s consumers, we’ve been empowered by the arrival of the internet and digital technology. We’ve witnessed firsthand how technology has revolutionised our daily lives. For instance, we can now navigate ourselves around cities using the phone kept in our pocket and use the same mobile technology to pay for a chocolate bar.

Turning potential into progress

Life changing innovations such as these have become the norm and as citizens we now expect the same level of forward thinking from city infrastructure and our interactions with public authorities and services.

Getting these projects off the ground is the important first step. The hype surrounding smart cities may be focused on the Internet of Things (IoT) and the sensors which can supply endless streams of data, but the major stumbling block will be how we process this information and generate actionable insight.

Street lamps that are able to power electric cars may seem like a far-fetched fantasy but the technology has already been developed. We are already seeing the deployment of recycling bins which can tell councils when they are full and ready for collection. Powered by the Internet of Things (IoT), the emergence of ‘Smart Cities’ is promising to redefine how public services are implemented and managed throughout the UK. Not only could these new and exciting initiatives help local authorities save money, but they could improve the quality of life for millions and make our urban areas more sustainable. A recent UK government study has estimated that the commercial value of smart city solutions and services could top $408bn (£261bn) per year by the end of the decade, so there’s a clear commercial imperative to move the smart city movement forward. But how will this happen? Who will take the lead role in enabling smart cities - if anyone at all? With public sector budgets being slashed, it is unlikely that local authorities will have the confidence to push this agenda through as a major digital initiative - at least not at the speed that the public wants to see progress.


Probrand Group Magazine

What is more likely is that initiatives will happen on a case by case basis. As opportunities are identified and success stories present themselves, confidence will grow and further projects will emerge.

To make projects viable, public and private organisations will need the ability to manage information by creating tailored applications quickly and cost effectively. The emergence of no-code, and low-code, application platforms has made this possible. These self-service rapid application development platforms are allowing public and private bodies to test ideas and rapidly produce prototypes. A movement towards an open data culture is another important step. The ability to access, protect, use and share a huge variety of continuously growing and publicly available data, which might relate to local housing, train times or public events for example, will open up the possibility of people and organisations using that information in new ways. This could very well deliver smart city solutions which have not previously been conceived. This confluence of IoT technology, rapid application development platforms and the ready availability of data is providing all the necessary ingredients to allow us to realise the potential of smart cities sooner rather than later.

Innovative software platforms and applications that help you work smarter...

Transformation Redefined

Innovate in your environment

0121 605 2050


Driving Innovation












32 Probrand ProbrandGroup GroupMagazine Magazine

1011111011110 1110100111100101010001010 10010100001000011

What’s on the CIO’s agenda?

by Danny Bradbury, freelance technology journalist

Danny Bradbury asked IT leaders to map their priorities for 2015-2016


IOs are constantly asked to do more with less. IT systems become more complex, security risks multiply, and enabling technologies evolve and diversify. How do they prioritise what’s important to them, and what’s at the top of their agenda this year? Probrand Magazine spoke to several CIOs to get their views. Typically, cost saving, compliance, automation simplicity and driving competitive advantage have featured highly as CIO priorities. These hardy perennials show no signs of changing, said Paul Leonard, head of IT and business change at UK recycling and resource management company William Tracey Group. “These priorities are still high on the list of the CIO, together with consolidation and business partnering,” he said. Although some staple CIO priorities won’t change, others are affected by internal and external parameters, warns Carolyn Brown, chief information officer in computing and information services at Durham University. “Agility is key - priorities and measures will change, and IT often has to change or fail,” she said.

Internal and external factors Brown highlights internal factors including a change in leadership priorities, emerging risks and board politics as potential drivers of change. There are also various external drivers that can alter IT priorities, she said. The level of digital awareness among customers can change what CIOs look at, as can the evolution of new service delivery methods. New competition can also shift things around on the CIO’s radar. Rorie Devine warns that economic conditions also factor into these priorities. Devine was an interim CTO at Hailo, a smartphone app for taxicab hailing, in 2014, and has also held led IT at gambling exchange Betfair and online directory firm Yell. “My experience is that we’re in an effectiveness rather than efficiency part of the economic cycle currently, so growth and change is a higher relative priority than the bottom line,” he said.

1011111011110 11101001111001010 10010100001000011 10

From operations to strategy

At a more strategic level, it’s about reforming relationships with the board, he said. CIOs must get a mandate from the board to be more innovationfocused. This in turn requires them to win a seat in the boardroom, and they can only do that by thinking commercially, and delivering meaningful things to the business. That bridge building is one of the things on the agendas of several CIOs that Probrand Magazine spoke to. What does it look like in practice? One way of building those links is to use IT staff, said William Tracey’s Leonard. In 2015-16, CIOs should enhance their IT team’s skills, pushing them into the business so they can partner with line of business managers, and find ways to use smart technologies to effect useful outcomes, he said.

Measure it to manage it These bridge-building outcomes have to produce measurable successes, which means that CIOs have to keep an eye on business metrics at all times. This is something that CIOs need to work on this year, according to Mumby. “They don’t link their IT outcomes to business outcomes, and they should,” he said. One of the best CIOs he ever met ran a team of 250 IT employees using around 200 key performance indicators, but these KPIs were all condensed down into a single number that made business sense: cost of IT per box shipped.

Mumby wasn’t the only CIO to mention cloud computing. It is a priority for many CIOs in 2015, explained Joanna Poplawska. She is executive director of the Corporate IT Forum, a community of IT executives that share real-life experiences to help improve performance. “As both IaaS and SaaS solutions are maturing, many CIOs are evaluating how they can deploy cloud solutions in order to accelerate business capabilities,” said Poplawska. Cloud is an enabling tool for change, along with mobile and social technologies, said Devine. “I’m working across a number of companies and I would say the highest priority at the moment seems to be achieving or maintaining a competitive position,” he said. There is a lot of focus on leveraging these platforms more effectively than the competition.” Another priority for the CIOs that Poplowska speaks to is business intelligence. BI is a well-established corporate IT tool, but the rise of big data and specialised analytics workflows is shining a light on it once again, especially given IT’s need to find added value for the business. “With ever increasing big data availability, CIOs are looking at how this can be best harnessed within their organisations to step-change analytic capabilities and drive competitive advantage,” she said. Ultimately, all of these tools have to satisfy business needs. Several CIOs underpinned this point, arguing that the CIO’s agenda was the business agenda. 15 years ago, when technology was less accessible than it is now, the IT department could enjoy the luxury of separation. Today, post-dot com bust and financial crash, it has to pull its weight just as hard as every other department in the business. That means that while the CIO can focus on specific technologies, their priorities should feed into the CEO’s.

0001010010100001000011101111101111011 1001000010000111011111011101011101001111001010100010100101000010000111

“It’s about being able to escape the tactical issues of ‘my PC doesn’t work’ (even if it is the CEO’s), by building superb support structures which are efficient and customer centric as opposed to cheap and focused on ticket-filling,” he said.

Technology tools


Woe betide the CIO who is stuck in first gear then, trapped in a fire-fighting role as they battle with operational challenges. If they’re going to be more change-driven, as Devine suggests, then it’s time to escape those constraints. It is important for CIOs to streamline their operations in 2015, said Alan Mumby, head of the CIO group at executive search firm Odgers Berndtson.

“That’s a very clever measure as they were targeted with achieving a declining percentage, which meant they had to save when volumes rise and when volumes fall,” said Mumby. “That is much harder, and introduces topics such as charging by transaction across software and hardware. It’s very contemporary now with pay-as-you go cloud-based solutions.”

Probrand Group Magazine 33

Driving Innovation

Changing attitudes to

digital innovation in the public sector

by Steve Vallis, business systems consultant, Mercato Solutions


ublic sector organisations have found themselves in an unenviable position in recent years. They have been asked to improve the offering provided to the general public, while coping with a diminishing set of resources. With budgets being cut, digital technology has emerged as the most likely instrument to improve service provision and meet fiscal responsibilities. And although steps have been taken to innovate in this area, progress has not come as quickly as some would like. Service users, employees and partners all now expect the digital interactions that can make their lives easier, and are commonly experienced in the private sector. In July this year, however, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy’s (CIPFA) president John Matheson warned that serious change was needed to prevent the public sector from becoming a digital laggard. He stressed that particular attention needed to be paid to the diminishing levels of public trust in government institutions. He said: “As public servants we must focus on developing new ideas and innovative responses to meet these challenges and mitigate risk … Not at some point in the future, but now.” There have been instances of public sector organisations taking the leap in recent years, and embracing digital innovation to improve user satisfaction and slash costs. GOV.UK is a prime example. Launched in 2012, this central government project, designed to unify services, has largely been hailed as a success in its aim to consolidate hundreds of individual government websites.


Probrand Group Magazine

From registering births, to paying car tax to applying for student finance, this initiative has transformed many outdated legacy processes. But despite its successes, there simply haven’t been enough examples. Recent research by application platform KnowledgeKube revealed, however, that the willingness to deliver change is there. In a survey among local and government IT executives, almost three fifths recognised that there is a need to ‘update existing legacy processes’. Despite this desire to innovate, the research found that government executives face a series of barriers when attempting to drive through digital change within their organisation, with half of the respondents citing ‘red-tape culture’ and ‘old style leadership’ as key challenges. Two fifths (42%) found ‘the scale of the challenge’ to be too daunting, while just over a quarter (26%) said the ‘perceived risk’ put them off. These views may reflect the outcome of major public sector digital projects which have come under scrutiny in recent years. An example of this lies in the ambitious project which has seen the NHS attempt to bring together all patient medical records in the UK, with the aim of aiding research and performance monitoring. In theory, will help prevent the spread of disease, streamline processes and find more effective ways to manage illness.

This is making digital transformation more accessible and allowing organisations to quickly create solutions that automate time-consuming tasks and replace outdated paper-based systems, for things like expenses, overtime, absences, and much more. Big progress is actually being made in the public sector in regards to looking into digital innovations - particularly where everyday operations are involved.

In reality, concerns over privacy of patient data has created a host of negative headlines, dampened enthusiasm and damaged perception of the project in the eyes of the public. Although the NHS claims the venture is far from dead, the UK’s Major Projects Authority -responsible for overseeing all of the government’s big programmes - has given a red rating, meaning successful delivery is likely to be ‘unachievable’.

There are barriers slowing down transformation and holding the public sector back, but the technology is now there to create the applications needed to speed up processes and increase efficiency.

While these failings are a legitimate blow to the reputation of digital innovation in the UK public sector, they shouldn’t be a reason not to innovate.

The emergence of no code, and low code, application platforms are not only helping the public sector overcome perceived risk issues they are also bridging an IT skills gap.

In reality, creating applications that can improve the public sector’s daily operations and processes is now highly achievable. This is especially true since the emergence of no-code application platforms, like KnowledgeKube, which have reduced the time, expense and risks involved. By utilising these Rapid Application Development (RAD) platforms, public sector bodies can now build applications an estimated 70% quicker and 80% cheaper than traditional bespoke software development approaches.

As these self-service platforms do all the heavy coding work in the background, public sector organisations and leaders do not need to focus on the technical aspects, they can instead concentrate on identifying where there is a need and then meet it.

As leaders in the public sector become increasingly aware that the future lies in these emerging platform-based technologies, they will become empowered to solve problems and develop the applications necessary to improve services.

Public organisations now have the opportunity to embrace digital transformation and avoid becoming the laggards feared by John Matheson.

Probrand Group Magazine


Security by Mark Lomas,

You can never be too paranoid when it comes to

Icomm IT consultant

NETWORK SECURITY Mark Lomas explores the concept of deperimeterisation, and the assumption that we have already been hacked


t’s almost five years ago since Deborah Plunkett, head of the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) boldly claimed ‘there’s no such thing as secure any more’.

She made this statement to explain why her organisation’s work under the assumption that various parts of its systems have already been compromised. Fast forward to the present and we find that this operational stand point is now common across the security professionals. With the rise in bring your own device (BYOD) and the ubiquity of mobile devices, the opportunities for potential attacks by cybercriminals has grown dramatically. Relying on the protection of the firewall to defend against these external threats is simply not enough anymore. This has led to an increase in ‘deperimeterisation’ - this theory implies that organisations need to look inside their fortified boundary or ‘perimeter’ which encompasses firewalls, VPNs and intrusion detection systems. Every device is now viewed as a potential threat that could allow malware to slip past the firewall and into the network, and cause significant damage to a company’s infrastructure.

Every device is now viewed as a potential threat that could allow malware to slip past the firewall and into the network

36 Probrand ProbrandGroup GroupMagazine Magazine

Organisations can’t just assume that laptops provided for employees are safe because they’re joined to the company domain and running certain security policies. Network access control often isn’t set up to apply to those internal devices, but just because the employer has provided the device it doesn’t mean that the employee might not have picked something up while outside the company network. They’ve got to check for this possibility, and having procedures in place to make sure that these devices pass tests before being permitted back onto their network again is a beneficial tactic. It’s still vital to have that perimeter in place to guard against inbound threats. Organisations, however, need to check the firewalls are also scanning outward traffic, content filtering the activity of their own PCs and devices to see if they have been already compromised and are being used to spread malware on the internet. A healthy dose of paranoia and an assumption that the battle has already been lost isn’t a bad approach to take. A good strategy is to put in place regular scans and reviews of the IT environment, breaking it down into component parts, firewall, PC, patching and anti-virus software to see how they are working as individual entities. Too often we focus just on mitigating the external threats, but when we look at the common sense practices that can be employed from within the network, setting up internal boundaries and limiting access to an as-needed basis is also advisable. If organisations can segment workers into distinct groups or departments, then they can start to limit access of certain resources to specific users. This ensures that if there is any kind of breach the chances of this spreading to other areas of the network is limited. If organisations embrace all these tactics, they still won’t be doing enough to completely guarantee total protection - but they never will. The only approach is to take every opportunity to review and evaluate existing security practices and look inside the perimeter for ways that systems can be improved. You can never be too paranoid.

Looking to get more from your IT? Then Icomm Technologies specialises in YOU. Cutting edge cloud and managed IT services. Fully managed and proactive IT support. World-class enterprise IT solutions.

A best-of-breed mind set and decades of award-winning technical expertise have helped Icomm become a leader, carving out a track record for helping large enterprises and SMEs alike get more from their IT to unlock business.

0121 248 7931 @icommtechno



Why Won’t They Listen?

Training employees in cyber security needn’t be a Sisyphean task, says Danny Bradbury


f you’re tired of telling your employees to change their passwords, remember poor Sisyphus. This figure of Greek mythology offended the Gods, and was condemned to forever repeat the same task: pushing a rock uphill, only to watch it roll down again, before starting from the beginning.

as you might, you just can’t get them to do what they should. What’s going on?

Cyber security training can be a bit like that. Yes, some employees are diligent, regularly changing passwords and following security policies to the letter.

Over one in five of them didn’t have passwords or PINs on all of their devices. Of those that did, 21% wrote them down somewhere so that they wouldn’t forget them. And almost a quarter of all respondents shared passwords with friends, family, or fellow workers. While 35% of employees used their personal devices to access company files, half of those had viruses.

And then there’s the guy that just faxes sensitive medical records to some other random guy. In Canada, British Columbia’s privacy commissioner is investigating a case where personal health records were sent to incorrect fax numbers. Or the guy who decides to appropriately access his colleagues’ medical records, as allegedly happened at Salford Royal Hospital. Just as with people who smoke, or eat too much fatty food, some employees know what they should be doing to protect their companies against security threats, but they don’t do it. These are your Sisyphean rocks. They make the same mistakes, repeatedly, even after being told not to. Try 38

Probrand Group Magazine

Take solace. You’re not alone. A survey of 1,200 UK workers run by YouGov found a stark disregard for basic security practices, even though most (65%) said that their employer had a cyber security policy in place.

Less finger wagging, more dialogue One of the problems may be how we’re approaching training. We often wag our fingers at employees but it isn’t working. “I continue to despair over some of the online training packages that are given to people,” said John Lyons, chief executive of the International Cyber Security

by Danny Bradbury, freelance technology journalist

Protection Alliance. “They sit through hours of this stuff. It’s bought off the shelf, and it’s got very little to do with the business they’re operating in.” This can be compounded by the trade-off between security and inconvenience. When implemented blindly by managers who don’t understand the working environment, security policies can be too difficult to follow for staff who just want to get the job done. Consequently, simply dictating policies to employees and threatening discipline for transgressions can often simply drive such activities underground. Tim Holman, director of the international board for the Information Systems Security Association, recalls a security problem where his wife - a nurse - was supposed to log in to a healthcare system using her own account. That’s fine in practice, he said, but healthcare environments are often frantic and stressful. Staff will have a low tolerance for any policy that gets in their way. “They would share someone’s logon and leave it logged on for the whole day,” he recalls. “They realised that people just carried on doing it, and they had to take the problem out of the users’ hands because it was a big risk.” To solve the problem, managers had to combine process and technology together, giving the staff smartcards for faster two-factor authentication.

Your staff are selfish, and that’s ok Instead of bullying them, we should be appealing to their selfish side, said Wendy Goucher. Goucher runs her own information security firm, Goucher Consulting, where she works with clients to help them get the message across about security awareness. “I encourage businesses to use an approach I have developed that I call ‘Selfish Security’,” she said. “This means that we try and make security messages relevant to the individuals themselves, not just to their role.” What does that look like? Start by understanding what’s important to them. For most people, that’s pretty simple: friends, family, money. “People will always protect themselves, their precious information and their family before they protect the business that pays them, especially if it is a big, faceless organisation,” Goucher said. Explaining to someone how to protect their online banking information so that they don’t get hacked will get their interest. Giving them the lowdown on how to protect their children from online stalkers is a better way to promote online privacy than any finger-wagging lecture.

Goucher has seen first-hand examples of this. In one company she worked with, staff kept throwing sensitive documents in the bin rather than shredding them. Instead of circulating scary memos, managers got smart: they had a ‘shred it’ day, offering employees the chance to bring in all their sensitive garbage from home, so that they could dispose of it safely. Two weeks later, managers checked the garbage bins. The amount of sensitive material in it had plummeted. Employees saw some personal benefit in the practice, so it became part of their routine at work. “It’s all about habit,” said Goucher. “If you can get things so people are doing the right thing by habit then they are much more likely to do it.”

If the carrot doesn’t work… There’s a final, crucial component to any security awareness and training initiative: follow-through. Regularly testing employees to measure their diligence will constantly remind them of their responsibilities. Building this in to performance reviews can’t hurt either. There are testing services designed for this purpose, including companies that will send fake phishing emails to all employees, and monitor who opens them. There isn’t a silver bullet for this stuff. Experience has shown us repeatedly that there will always be a strata of users who simply don’t get it. But at least by training properly and meeting employees halfway, companies can minimise the bad behaviour. Then, the regular testing will help to mop up the bad apples for disciplinary action. After all, the carrot is a good tool to have in your arsenal, but it will never entirely replace the stick. Probrand Group Magazine



Security reviewed in numbers and words: “Businesses today face an everevolving threat landscape and cybercriminals are increasingly looking at virtual environments as the next frontier of sophisticated attacks.” -Mark Bermingham, virtualisation analyst at Kaspersky

“We live in an interconnected world that we could not have imagined even two decades ago. While it brings almost limitless opportunities, there are also threats. It is absolutely vital that the applications and connections we use are as secure as possible.”


of IT security experts have little to no understanding of virtualisation security options - Kaspersky Lab


of UK businesses took more than two weeks to realise they had been the target of an advanced cyber-attack last year - Intel

- Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy



of discussions taking place in board meetings are about cyber security

of people are interested in exploring alternative security techniques for their online accounts

- Veracode

- Accenture

The majority of UK businesses experiencing security breaches in 2014 did not report them to anyone

“Consumers are increasingly frustrated with these traditional (security) methods because they are becoming less reliable for protecting their personal data such as email addresses, mobile phone numbers and purchasing history.” - Robin Murdoch, MD of Accenture’s internet and social business

- PwC

“While consumer-focused IoT devices present minimal direct risk to the enterprise, many of them connect back to a vendor’s infrastructure via the internet to store user data. In general, people seriously underestimate how easily attackers can move around inside networks once they gain access.” - Craig Young, security researcher for Tripwire


Probrand Group Magazine

£1.7 trillion

The annual global cost of enterprise downtime and data loss incidents - Vanson Bourne

$2.1 trillion

The cost that data breaches will increase to globally by 2019 - Juniper Research

Tape vs Cloud

Your guide to data backup

Download now [4579/TAPEVSCLOUD]

0121 248 7931 @icommtechno


Is it time to rethink your tape backup strategy?


or businesses wishing to safeguard their important data, choosing the right backup option is a critical decision.

Organisations weighing up these data storage options will usually consider two main factors - cost and security. When it comes to choosing between tape and cloud backup options it is often a case of choosing one over the other. Tape is cheap and, with an estimated 50% of UK businesses continuing to use this approach, it is clear many organisations still prefer this option.

Cloud services do offer more security, however, and it is also worth noting that good cloud management tools can help organisations manage costs more efficiently. This has to be set against the common problems experienced with the tape approach. These include:

Reliability Magnetic media is extremely susceptible to corruption. The data is usually saved to the magnetic media and accidents can happen - exposure, a fingerprint, getting too close to a magnetised area -and the data on the tape becomes unusable. It is also unlikely you would realise there was a problem until you try to restore and find your data isn’t there.

Lengthy restore time Some data backup systems slow down this process because there is a need to re-catalogue data sets and determine the correct tape where the data lies.

Capacity planning Most organisations do not properly size the data backup system when it is initially purchased. They don’t anticipate the growth in the amount of data that will be required to backup. This results in an initial capital expenditure that becomes quickly outdated and new investment is required.

Management Keeping track of backups can be time consuming (therefore costly) and prone to human error. A member of staff, often without the correct training can be responsible for changing, transporting offsite and storing critical backups.

Security Tapes can easily be lost or stolen with unencrypted data presenting a further risk to the business.

Backup window With the ever increasing size of data sets, IT managers are faced with decreasing backup windows in which to protect critical data.


Probrand Group Magazine

With many organisations having to confront the challenge of rapid data growth, choosing the right backup option can be crucial when protecting critical data. Rather than stick with what has gone before it is worth considering whether tape is really the best option.

Mitigating risk when migrating to the cloud


loud services have great potential to enhance corporate IT capabilities and infrastructure. Organisations can deploy new technologies quickly and expand, or contract, usage without major capital expense. Standing in the way of adoption, however, are ongoing concerns over privacy and security of data. The high profile hacking of numerous celebrity iCloud accounts last year has only added to the suspicions that storing sensitive information with a third party creates vulnerabilities. But are these concerns justified when we are talking about enterprise level services? We asked Mark Lomas, IT consultant at Icomm Technologies, to address some of these concerns surrounding cloud deployments for businesses.

What are the reasons why businesses worry about cloud adoption, and are these valid?

What tips can you give businesses looking to mitigate risk when migrating to the cloud?

Many will be concerned about the loss of control of their data, along with worries about geographical location. Some of these concerns may be entirely valid when specific compliancy requirements must be met. For example, there could be concerns about financial data being stored outside of the UK. If data is stored outside of the UK then it exposes companies to overseas data laws while they are still governed by EU standards.

Evaluate data - what is actually being transferred to the cloud? Having a full audit of that data will help when making ongoing decisions about where data should live.

Do these concerns vary from sector to sector? These worries are the same for organisations across all industries. That said, those that deal with data relating to individuals - such as healthcare records, personal details, or direct user data like payment card information - will certainly have more considerations to bear in mind. Taking that last point as an example, the payments industry enforces strict compliancy requirements on any business handling or storing payment card information, which certainly has the ability to restrict what type of cloud services would be an option for a business.

Assess the cloud provider - ensuring that security standards are being met and, if possible, ensure there is the right of audit. Ensure a strong IT policy is in place - no amount of hard work will help if employees don’t also use IT appropriately. It’s an old point but always ensure users are trained and stick to the policy.

Are there alternatives to the cloud that can offer more security and compete on cost? Some businesses will actually choose to use the cloud because they have compliancy requirements to meet, but they may choose a private cloud solution. In these situations, their own equipment can be managed and hosted by a cloud provider, allowing their compliancy needs to be handled by an organisation experienced in this. This is essentially very similar to continuing with an on-premise arrangement, but with the added benefit that the business can be targeted about exactly which specific areas are outsourced. Probrand Group Magazine



Infrastructure reviewed in numbers and words:

24% 56% 79% 92%

“With the increasing adoption of virtualised computing infrastructure, enterprises are finding it easier to manage their work. They are able to run multiple servers on the same equipment, which reduces the demand for additional servers.”

have already connected an Internet of Things device to their networks - Tripwire of IT professionals believe storage will be the main driver behind data centre expansions - Forrester

of European organisations have deployed a virtualisation solution - Spiceworks

- Faisal Ghaus, vice president of analyst Technavio

of organisations are planning data centre expansion over the next four years - Forrester

“Cloud-based storage has been a catalyst for major change in the backup and recovery arena. It provides several benefits including scalability, flexibility, accessibility, monitoring ease, and affordable pricing.” - Amrita Choudhury, Ovum’s analyst for infrastructure solutions


of Western European SMBs are using cloud storage for disaster recovery - IDC

“An important part of this evolution is the relatively recent emergence of hyperconverged systems. These systems are helping to deliver many of the proven benefits of integrated systems, including reduced complexity, risk, and inefficiencies into new environments with targeted infrastructure needs or smaller budgets.” - Eric Sheppard, research director for storage systems at IDC


Probrand Group Magazine

2 /3

of data centre computing will be carried out in the cloud by 2025 - Emerson

IDC says... - “Data centre capacity consumed by IoT workloads will increase by nearly 750% between 2014 and 2019” - “The hyperconverged infrastructure market will grow by 116.2% in 2015” - “The equipment market for the 802.11ac standard Wi-Fi grew 479.2% in the EMEA region in 2014”

How good is your wireless? The ultimate guide to


Getting it right!


Wireless top tips from experts.

Download today Receive FREE wireless site survey* * Terms and conditions apply

0121 248 7931 @icommtechno


Cutting the cord Now that 802.11ac is speeding up wireless networking, do we still need Ethernet? Danny Bradbury finds out. by Danny Bradbury, freelance technology journalist


e’ve come a long way since we first cut the cord. The first commercially useful Wi-Fi standards were ratified in 1999, and enabled a generation of users to roam around the office - but few of them did it all the time. Often, people working in businesses still clung to wired Ethernet as a way to connect devices that needed reliable, fast network traffic. Now, with a new generation of Wi-Fi standard in play, that may be changing. Wi-Fi communication speeds were still slow at the beginning, with 11Mbits/sec the norm. Speeds increased, but so did the bandwidth requirements in the average office, as IP telephony and video applications flourished. Wi-Fi worked, mostly, for watching YouTube videos at lunch, but if you really wanted to be sure that your VOIP call went through, wired Ethernet was the way to go. In late 2013, 802.11ac revolutionised the Wi-Fi space. It operates on the 5GHz band, rather than on the 2.4GHz spectrum that has been so heavily used by prior Wi-Fi standards like 802.11a, and its high-speed predecessor 802.11n (which could operate on both).

The other benefit of 802.11ac is that it uses wider ‘channels’ (windows of radio spectrum that access points and clients can connect through). It uses 80MHz compared to 802.11n’s 40MHz, effectively doubling the amount of data that can be pushed through a single channel. These enhancements are complemented by better compression, and technology to prioritise traffic, which will please users of low-latency applications such as IP telephony. They push the theoretical limit of 802.11ac to multiple Gigabits per second, but in practice, as with all theoretical estimates targeting perfect physical environments, the reality is far slower - around 400800Mbit/sec, say. Still, this development has led Gartner to predict that by 2018, 40% of enterprises will specify Wi-Fi as the default connection for non-mobile devices. That’s possible, as long as you’re happy with speeds like that to do the desktop, but it will require some forethought and work. Distance from the router is one consideration, said Dr. Kevin Curran, senior member of the IEEE, which defines these wireless standards. Higher-frequency communications systems like 802.11ac have a shorter reach, meaning that if a client device is too far from a wireless ac router, it will fall back to 802.11n, removing much of that benefit. “If you’re right beside your router in the same room or near, then I’d recommend AC because it’ll be faster,” he said. “But if you’re on the edge of a large building then you’re unlikely to get the connection with 8022.11ac. It’s a distance thing, really. It depends how far away you are.” In that sense, you can’t just rip and replace wired with wireless - you may have to redesign the LAN to accommodate the various nooks and crannies of the office. The other issue is the uplink. Wi-Fi access points still have to connect to the corporate network via an Ethernet uplink. Using a wireless access point serving 802.11ac devices as the sole connectivity hub will burden its uplink with more bandwidth. That will require some rethinking of the back-end network architecture, and potentially some expensive upgrades, as Irwin Lazar, vice president at analyst firm Nemertes Research, points out. And if you’re currently using deskphones powered via Ethernet, removing that link will present some redesign issues. By all means experiment with moving completely to wireless operations, but be prepared for the hidden complexities. It won’t be an easy ride.

46 Probrand ProbrandGroup GroupMagazine Magazine

What should you look for in a wireless network?


odern businesses have become reliant on wireless internet connections for everyday tasks. Whether staff are carrying out a virtual meeting, remote working or using a BYOD device, there is a growing requirement for Wi-Fi in business. Accommodating all internet-connected devices on the corporate wireless network is requiring organisations to think differently. An intelligent enterprise grade managed wireless solution, with all the latest enhancements, is now a must for any organisation upgrading their existing solution. Modern demands require wireless solutions that can overcome challenges like interference and high density working areas. The latest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ac, has been designed to address a lot of these issues and improve data capacity and connectivity speeds. But while the latest mobile devices from the likes of Apple and Microsoft are compatible, if the network is on an older standard users will not appreciate the benefits. Board members may well have splashed out on the latest tablet but they will not feel the benefits if the infrastructure is behind the curve. To avoid the wrath of an army of staff complaining about connectivity issues and directors questioning their investment in the latest device, IT teams will need to get the wireless network up to date.

Here are three key things to consider when improving wireless performance:

Think infrastructure You don’t build a house without any foundations, and improving wireless connectivity requires the same thinking. The first step needs to be an investment in the infrastructure that will support the future estate of wireless devices. Before doing this, it is advisable to conduct an onsite wireless survey to determine any likely environmental interference, identify the best location for access points and what the most suitable equipment will be.

Count on growth Technology is moving so fast and users are increasingly connecting with more than one device at any one time. Businesses regardless of their size need to buy for tomorrow - not just today. Look for a wireless system that offers the ability to scale up the number of users and devices easily without having to replace the system altogether.

Remember ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ Cheapest isn’t always best! We’re all aware of the old saying ‘you get what you pay for’ - well, that certainly applies to wireless networks. Many wireless solutions that appear cheap provide limited performance and scalability issues. For an informed decision, consider what the true total cost of ownership and return on investment will be over a period of five years.

Probrand ProbrandGroup GroupMagazine Magazine 47

Probrand Group

What we offer The IT Index 50

Online marketplace for business

Managed Procurement Services 52

Strategic procurement


Benchmarking and procurement hub


Catalogue management

Icomm Technologies Managed IT Services 58

Cloud backup


Cloud disaster recovery


Cloud anti-virus


Managed firewall


Managed remote access

Proactive IT Support 63

Software and hardware support


Fully managed support

IT Solutions 64

Server and desktop virtualisation


Storage area networks


Network infrastructure and wireless




Remote access and security

Mercato Solutions 69

Private Marketplaces - Global marketplace processes made easy


KnowledgeKube - Platform for creating apps quicker and cheaper


KnowledgeKube presales processes


KnowledgeKube trading portals


KnowledgeKube common processes


KnowledgeKube specialist processes

Contact us:


KnowledgeBus - Automated IT price and stock benchmarking

0121 605 1000 Over the next few pages Probrand Group showcases the depth and breadth of products and services it offers. If you would like to explore anything further, please get in touch.


Probrand Group Magazine

Company Overviews Probrand Group - Your technology partner. Probrand Group is a leading end-to-end provider of technology through three multi-award winning businesses specialising in IT products, IT services and software. Established professional brands dedicated to helping customers thrive with relevant and innovative technology. With over 20 years of heritage, Probrand Group has a global outlook and now serves an extensive customer base of over 3,500 private and public sector organisations as a Crown Commercial Service framework supplier. The business prides itself on investing in great people, putting value into relationships with its own innovation, commitment and integrity. Since 1992, Probrand has grown from a small Value Added Reseller to a multi-award winning group. Three years of growth spawned specialist IT services business, Icomm Technologies, in 2000, the launch of online marketplace The IT Index in 2002 and innovative software business, Mercato Solutions in 2005. All three have sustained growth and been acknowledged with numerous awards and listings. The pinnacle of which includes a Queen’s Award for Enterprise Innovation.

The IT Index - IT Products. Save time and money buying IT. The IT Index is Europe’s largest IT marketplace for business. It offers an award-winning personalised online experience and a best practice approach that quickly gets IT buyers to the best priced top branded products from almost every category. It helps buyers save time and money through CIPS accredited procurement excellence. The IT Index also offers managed procurement services to support customer aspirations for more strategic procurement, including advice on large scale solutions and tech refresh projects, benchmarking and catalogue management.

Icomm Technologies - IT Services. Get more from your IT. Icomm Technologies provides managed IT services, pro-active IT support and IT solutions, offering decades of award-winning technical service excellence to large organisations and SMEs alike. The business retains a technical edge and is proud to employ a workforce of over 60% technical professionals, operating out of Birmingham and Manchester. A ‘best-of-breed’ mindset helps customers get more from their IT.

Mercato Solutions - Software. Transform the way you work. Mercato Solutions is one of EMEAs fastest growing and most innovative enterprise application providers. The business helps a global client base transform business processes with bespoke and branded software platforms and applications that drive smarter working. An award-winning portfolio consists of delivering Private Marketplaces world-wide, KnowledgeKube for all users to create apps quicker and cheaper, and KnowledgeBus for automated IT benchmarking. Probrand Group Magazine


Online Marketplace Managed procurement services

Europe’s largest IT marketplace for business EXPLORE over 150,000 products and services from 2,500 brands BUY from ‘live’ catalogues comparing and ranking best price with stock SAVE time and money buying IT

A personalised buying experience Easy and accurate purchasing. „ Free login for personalised catalogues, preferential pricing, frameworks and exclusive promotions from multiple suppliers „ Unique self-service advisors support purchasing decisions by quickly matching complex needs to relevant choices „ Direct purchasing. No re-direct to 3rd party websites „ Greater management control and visibility to help stamp out off-policy rogue purchasing

Best practice procurement. Better Value.

“It has saved over 15% of our consumables budget, enabling the organisation to stretch its IT budget. Savings made on individual products range from 3 – 6% and as an example we reduced our £120,000 bill for inkjet, toner and fax cartridges by 20%.” Cheltenham Borough Council. “We are now saving 5 days a month which we used to spend managing procurement admin” Coffee Republic. “The IT Index has saved us in the region of 30% on our IT budget. We can now get more from our budget.” Bradford Grammar School.

„ Save up to a day a week previously spent manually managing purchase information „ Proven on average to save 10% on ICT budgets „ Drive value in and cost out of your procurement processes „ Accredited by finance, procurement and a Queen’s Award


“Efficient ‘one-stop-shop’ procurement process coupled with customer service excellence, both cashable and noncashable savings have been yielded.” Ashfield District Council.

Online Marketplace Managed procurement services

Best priced products. Shortest possible time. Powerful product advisors Intelligent digital tools add value by sign-posting and guiding users to relevant products and services. Get what you want faster.

Personal order pad

Managed procurement services To compliment the marketplace, a growing portfolio of managed services help customers buy with confidence.

Strategic procurement

Save time by maintaining a list of regular purchase items updated in real time with price and stock.

Dynamic personalised cataloguing Gets you closer to suppliers who communicate only relevant and preferential pricing direct to you. Get the best deals most relevant to your sector and segment.

Rapid advanced search

An account managed service providing the advice and guidance you need to buy the right ICT at the right price. „ Dedicated account management with back office support from product and category specialists „ Direct introduction to leading manufacturer partnerships for large projects and maximum value

Quick predictive search by product parameters; brand, category, type, code, specification.

Automated comparison Innovative marketplace technology compares prices every time they change. Products ranked by best price with stock. Eliminates time consuming ring rounds and manual comparison. Drives mini-competition.

Single procurement dashboard Purchasing done direct. View, manage, investigate and plan with tailored information.

Framework approved Automatically see preferential pricing. Order online at preagreed discounts. Get the best deals most relevant to your segment. Digital by default.

Management tools Control a role-driven environment offering ethical purchasing of products at validated best value. Configure and display only approved product catalogues for specific teams, departments, sites or roles. Track, analyse, plan & forecast budgets. Improve spend visibility and reduce rogue purchasing.

„ Field team and end user engagement for large and complex projects

Benchmarking and Procurement Hub Want to understand the margins of all your suppliers and secure long term best value? Talk to us about a full in-depth benchmarking and spend analysis service to validate the margins you pay for ICT. Then, buy via our Procurement Hub that delivers a transparent cost plus agreement.

Catalogue management and integration Service to manage and integrate your personalised IT catalogue into your ERP. Streamline your procurement workflow by selecting and buying products within your ERP, using daily updated price and stock data.

Talk to us 0800 26 26 29

Drive collaboration

Free login Register today

0800 26 26 29 45-55 Camden Street, Birmingham, B1 3BP.


Multiple logins per account. Share product catalogues across organisations. Reduce duplication of effort.


Managed procurement service

Strategic Procurement Get the support you need to buy the right IT at the right price Save time and money with dedicated account management backed by best practice eprocurement technology and installation services

IT buying made easier Specifying the right technology for the job can be a challenge with so many options and brands. So can navigating a highly volatile three-tiered market where regular technology trends, price and stock changes impact whether you achieve sustained value. Perhaps you operate in the public sector and struggle to see preferential pricing. Maybe you’re looking for long term value from future proofed technology that delivers low Total Cost of Ownership? Or you’re being hounded by aggressive suppliers touting one-off, old or irrelevant warehouse stock? A professional account manager provides a strategic approach to more timely procurement. Access deep product guidance and enormous buying power to consistently save you time and money buying relevant IT.

Be more strategic and save Accredited Best Practice, Best Value „ Market leading product portfolio. Impartial advice on over 150,000+ products from 2,500+ brands. „ Save time. A simple and seamless experience from product advice to delivery. „ Save money. Longer term strategic partnership delivers sustained value. „ Best practice. CIPS accredited procurement excellence fights for the best deals for you. „ Best value. Queen’s Award winning software shortcuts and validates price and stock within the supply chain.


Managed procurement service

More than just price. Genuinely adding value.

Understanding your business for more strategic long term savings

A dedicated resource

Ve n d o r a g n o s t i c , impartial support and guidance

Access vendor and pre-sales support on projects, tech refresh and solutions

Understanding and advice on specific ICT needs and future plans

Strategic IT procurement advice

Key to successful IT deployment Budget and management reporting

Market insight Preferential pricing and support

Warranty and asset management

Stock holding for your business critical IT kit To t a l v i s i b i l i t y o f t h e IT supply chain

Bespoke catalogue set-up and maintenance

Visibility of preferential pricing and strategic discounts from vendors

Queen’s Award winning e-procurement software

Over 750,000 product lines daily compared

Hourly updates on over 150,000 ‘live’ products from 2,500 brands

Let us manage and deliver your IT

Contract management

Hardware, services, support and solutions

Product knowledge

Yo u r t r u s t e d a d v i s o r on the best brands in the business

Tr a i n e d b y v e n d o r product specialists

Product roadmaps and New Product Developments

Understanding of the latest technologies, features and benefits

0800 26 26 29 45-55 Camden Street, Birmingham, B1 3BP.


Deep understanding of the modern IT estate


Managed procurement service

Benchmarking & Procurement Hub Validate the margins you pay on IT Buy via a transparent cost plus agreement

Getting the deals you think you are? In the highly volatile IT market where price and stock fluctuate daily, time pressured IT buyers struggle to benchmark, validate and police what actually represents best value. When you think you have a trade price to benchmark against chances are it is already out of date. Equally, you don’t have time to police all IT supplier relationships and the varying margins they charge across product portfolios, you just want to maximise budgets on all IT purchases without the hassle of trying to benchmark. This managed service benchmarks IT purchases using CIPS accredited technology and IT supply chain data. It validates the margins you are paying for IT. Then, use the fully auditable Procurement Hub to buy at a guaranteed fixed and open margin. Dedicated account management ensures you are buying the right product for the job.

save time save money Lock-in open and transparent IT procurement for sustained value „ More informed purchasing decisions. IT margins validated against trade guide price. Police all IT suppliers with a simple spend analysis. „ Long term savings. Eradicate daily need for manual comparison and negotiation. Get the deals you expect, every time. „ Save money with open book pricing. Negotiate a guaranteed margin for all purchases up front. „ Be more strategic. Leverage market insight, buy the right product at the right time.


Managed procurement service

More informed purchasing Stock holding for your business critical IT kit

Leverage market insight

Emerging technology advice

Account Management


Managed by you or a dedicated team

Budget and management reporting

Use established Mercato Solutions software

Warranty and asset management

Va l i d a t e o n e - o f f c h e c k s o r entire catalogues

Compare against 150,000 ‘live’ products from 2,500 brands



Access over a terabyte of historical ICT data

Conduct in-depth spend analysis on historical purchases Plot buying trends and market movements

Agree open and fixed margin on all ICT

Procurement Hub


Flexible contract terms

Option to integrate into your ERP system

Automated RFQs shorten buying cycle

0800 26 26 29 45-55 Camden Street, Birmingham, B1 3BP.

Proven to save significant time and money amongst private and public sector organisations with an annual IT budget over £100,000. Also good for related organisations looking to form buying groups to maximise the purchasing power of collaborative procurement.


Who will this suit? Fully auditable


Managed procurement service

Catalogue management & integration Drive efficiency into the procurement process Unlock true ERP value with daily updated IT price and stock data

Unlock transactional value from static internal systems Buying IT demands current stock and pricing data, yet ERP systems rarely deliver such information, so how can buyers achieve best value consistently? Equally, time strapped IT buyers are challenged with procurement administration. Unconnected line-of-business software packages and processes are used to fulfil the end-to-end procurement workflow across multiple suppliers. This equals duplication of effort, manual comparison, double keying and frustrating inefficiency for the busy procurer. Put simply, admin time that could be better spent elsewhere. Introducing a value added managed service that defines, integrates and publishes your personalised IT Index catalogue directly into your ERP system. Get daily compared IT data that delivers best price and current stock levels. Then select and purchase using your internal processes.


integrate &


Streamline procurement Increase productivity „ Save time and money. Reduce procurement admin and buy using current price and stock data. „ Be more agile. Quicken end-to-end transactional workflow. Respond to IT price and stock movements fast. „ Best practice. Queen’s Award winning software automates price comparison and stock availability. „ Maximise budgets. Get daily updated pricing exclusive to you.

Managed procurement service

Integrating best price and stock into your ERP. IT supply chain data feeds

Daily price & stock updates

+750 750,000 product lines

Integrate your additional supplier feeds

X250 daily price & stock compared 150,000+ ‘live’ products updated

2,500+ brands

Catalogue management


price & stock

Multiple data lines Multiple catalogues Product info & pricing Current stock Exclusive discounts Schedule data updates Choose file format for publishing

Fully configured for you

Published via Web service

Why not publish catalogues from other categories and suppliers back into your IT index profile? Use our award winning comparison and eprocurement technology to deliver value into your broader purchasing portfolio. Talk to us




Any Format

E R P, w e b s i t e s , i n t r a n e t , f i n a n c e s y s t e m s

0800 26 26 29 45-55 Camden Street, Birmingham, B1 3BP.


Other categories?


Cloud Backup

Managed IT services

Protect your organisation for less with fully automated data backups. Scaleable and fit for your needs

Cloud based managed service • • • •

Fully automated protection for your business from 35p per GB Consultancy, backup and restore support included 24x7 access to your data Unlimited and scalable data storage facility

Strong data security measures • • • • • • •

Highest level of information governance ISO:27001 Strong authentication at every log-in point All files 256-bit encrypted from source. Customer defined encryption key. All data transmitted via 256-bit AES encryption Storage in our own secure hosting facilities on high end dedicated servers Data integrity maintained via autonomic healing and validation Email reports sent to verify every backup

• •

State-of-the-art enterprise level software from Asigra Monthly payment terms

Single users to multiple sites and remote locations Store data, operating systems, exchange databases, mailboxes, SQL data, applications Local, national or international data access from one simple internet interface Flexible scheduling to match your organisation

Quick and easy recovery • •

Simply retrieve last data snap-shot via secure internet connection Data recovery in the same format as you stored it

Total compliance and assurance • •

Data stored in two data centres on UK soil and jurisdiction As used by global organisations

Compressed data. Compressed Cost. 35p per GB •

Enterprise level quality without the cost •

• •

• •

Data encrypted and compressed to reduce actual storage space used Cost saving passed on to the customer Only pay for the exact storage you need, not an empty vault

Tape/Disk Backup

Icomm Cloud Backup

Costly to install & maintain

Easy to install, fully automated

Complicated to operate

Intuitive, easy to use interface

Vulnerable & unsecure

Data stored off site, replicated & encrypted

Error prone & unreliable (Gartner estimates 15% fail)

100% reliable automated process. Errors flagged and resolved.

All data, every day

Backup only new or changed data

Difficult and time consuming to restore

Data instantly available via web client

Expensive limited capacity tapes

Totally scalable. Only pay for the storage you need

Cloud based backup and recovery from 35p per GB. Talk to us about protecting your server structure as well.

0121 248 7931

Icomm Technologies Limited, 45-55 Camden Street, Birmingham, B1 3BP.



Tape/Disk Backup vs Cloud Backup

Cloud Disaster Recovery Too many businesses are not prepared to deal with disasters • • • •

8 out of 10 have no disaster recovery plan 1 in 5 businesses suffer disruption each year Most suffer the consequence 93% go bankrupt within a year of disaster

The quicker you are back to business, the greater the chances of survival. Get proactive with a cloud based Icomm managed service • • • •

Snapshot of your server structure and operating systems taken Files stored in the cloud Cost-effective and quick-to-deploy In the event of disaster, business continuesto have access to its core systems as employee’s remote access into your replica server environment in the cloud

Managed IT services

One cost effective solution • • • •

High end DR solution without the high end cost A managed Icomm service for peace of mind Cloud flexibility offers scalable service and monthly cost Annual DR Recovery test procedure, demonstrating to you it works

Protecting your server structure • • • • • •

Complete ‘imaging’ allows for rapid recovery An environment to recover to – giving you virtual ‘spare’ hardware Remote access to enable users to work from home, office or any internet enabled device Back to business in hours not weeks (24x7 for additional cost) A “Lite” version offers minimum protection at lower cost Full cloud provision offers total protection

Full service

Be safe and secure in the cloud • •

Lite service

Backup to storage vault in Birmingham ISO 27001 information governance excellence to protect your data

New Infrastructure

snapshot taken

hosted on VM platform


How it works Included in Lite service 1. 2.

Snapshot of live server structure and OS taken Image stored on NAS box on-premise for Business Continuity in the event of hardware failure

3. 4. 5. 6.

Image stored on Icomm’s virtual servers Disaster occurs Latest image restored to secure cloud based private environment Customer provides latest data backup to Icomm which is then loaded onto Icomm servers Business users access systems via remote internet access to Icomm for duration of disaster Icomm provides data backup from live system to customer to enable system to revert back to local live operation

7. 8.

User at home

Disaster Recovery should not be an option, it should be a necessity!

... from only £99 per month – cost can no longer be an excuse.


Ask us about Cloud Backup to protect your data as well.

0121 248 7931

Icomm Technologies Limited, 45-55 Camden Street, Birmingham, B1 3BP.


Cloud Antivirus

Managed IT services

Eradicate security threats automatically Cloud based managed service • • •

24/7 remote monitoring to ensure security risks and threats are quickly eradicated Automatic alerting and job booking means engineers fix issues rapidly Security and patch reports emailed to you weekly

Installation Included

Full Support Included


Product Upgrades Included

Increase Return On Investment • • • • •

Be up to date and stay ahead of threats Better manage and monitor remote user antivirus Gain automated protection from viruses, trojans and spyware with sophisticated scan engine Central management system delivers best practice implementation Enjoy full reporting of risks and threats resolved

Quicken computer processes • • • • •

Lightweight scanning engine optimises computer speed Daily out-of-hours virus scans remove traditional slow down, improving user productivity Free up to 21% of server resource by removing antivirus management burden Drive automatic computer shutdowns after scans Unlock employee productivity with greater machine and server availability


Up to Date

Remote Users



Saves time and money • • •

Fixed predictable cost so no more financial surprises Flexible payment terms enable switch to manageable operational expenditure Reduce management costs

All Inclusive Pricing

Machines Covered

Price per Machine p.a.



10 - 19


20 - 29


30 - 39


40 - 49


50 - 100




Automated Antivirus protection from £35.99 per year.

0121 248 7931

Icomm Technologies Limited, 45-55 Camden Street, Birmingham, B1 3BP.



Includes installation, support and upgrade costs.

Managed Firewall

Managed IT services

A market leading way of securing your network. Govern web traffic and application usage.

• • • •

Gateway Security

Fully managed approach Standard solution installed by Icomm and tailored to your needs Centralised, secure environment for end users to focus on business Protection at the perimeter of your infrastructure

Let Icomm improve web service delivery • • • •

Manage internal abuse of internet access Protect against security threats Prevent employees accessing inappropriate sites and social networks Improve service to users with a market leading solution

Drive out cost • • •

Drive down capex and manage operational costs Release time for your IT staff to focus on bigger issues Reduce down time associated with viruses, spam and malware

Managed Firewall at a glance A solution that gives application visibility and control; bandwidth management; and the highest throughput of any firewall with all services enabled. An approach that makes sense on the bottom line: •

Application control and visibility – Identify the applications that are utilising your bandwidth: Skype, Facebook and BitTorrent for example – see what was previously secret Web filtering – Log and control unwanted applications and setup filtering policies against specific user profiles. Prioritise role-based access to systems or environments Wireless access management – Control, maintain and optimise wireless access in your environment. Automatically manage share of bandwidth fairly amongst users and improve user WiFi experience SSL VPN and remote access (optional) – improve security with two stage ‘tokenless’ authentication and a secure tunnel for remote access if you require it

Ask us about Wireless LANs and remote access to unlock more connected business.

256bit SSL

Gateway Anti-Virus, Anti-Spyware, Intrusion Prevention, and Application Intelligence and Control Service delivers intelligent, realtime network security protection against sophisticated application layer and contentbased attacks, including viruses, spyware, worms, and more. Configurable tools prevent data leakage and enable visualisation of network traffic. Bandwidth management and control Bandwidth resources prioritised to critical inbound and outbound network traffic and application usage to improve network performance. Guaranteed minimum bandwidth for priority traffic based on access rules created in the Firewall. Granular Control Application Intelligence and Control provides granular control and real-time visualisation of applications to guarantee bandwidth prioritisation, prevent data leakage, and deliver more precise control over network traffic. Optional 24/7 support Onsite hardware repair and replacement and 8+5 support included Minor change requests taking less than one hour included Optional 247 service or round-the-clock telephone and web based support Content Filtering Content Filtering Service blocks multiple categories of objectionable Web content and provides the ideal combination of control and flexibility to ensure the highest levels of productivity and protection. Reporting Access highly customisable, easy-to-read reports. Graphical illustration of network activity like bandwidth utilisation and observed threats. Automatic configuration backups Configuration updates and backup managed Icomm automatically


Protect your business without thinking about it!

0121 248 7931

Icomm Technologies Limited, 45-55 Camden Street, Birmingham, B1 3BP.


Managed Remote Access

Managed IT services

Unlock remote working without the capital expenditure. A managed service with monthly payments One centrally-managed client site installed gateway that controls remote network access • •

Improve productivity for a low monthly cost • •

Best of breed remote access technology SSL VPN delivers user-friendly, secure remote access tunnel Service includes install, support, monitoring and reporting portal access All for a monthly fee with no capital expenditure

• •

• •

Fast ROI by increasing user productivity Sustainable long term budget savings from remote access reduced cost of ownership Validation of users with increased security Improve business continuity options by enabling remote working

Users gain remote access quickly and securely Enable your business with minimal effort and cost!


Standard solution tailored to your individual needs Centralised, secure environment to help end users focus on business Stop hackers and secure your data High availability and easy-to-use

• • •

2. 3.

Simply click an ‘Aventail’ icon and log-in to your SSL VPN web page. Users input everyday network password and log-in details for remote access. (Optional) Secure token based authentication to enhance security.


1. Login



Your everyday login details Your PC


Fully Managed SSL VPN – your secure tunnel


Dell SonicWall Aventail SSL VPN. A dedicated and hardened security appliance that supports access from most end point devices, including PCs, windows devices and smart phones. A simple, cost effective way to give mobile workers a complete ‘in-office’ desktop experience. • •

Future proof – The most future-proofed remote access controller on the market Secure – ‘Traffic’ fully encrypted between end user’s web browser and the SSL VPN appliance

Ongoing assessment of performance Includes backup of configuration Support Ongoing telephone and web based support, during office hours Option to extend to 24x7 Automatic upgrades to firmware when needed as new threats arise Reporting portal

Managed deployment

Enables customers to view staff usage and traffic

Hardware quickly installed amongst your existing network infrastructure Timed for least business disruption

Switch capex to opex No capital costs, only monthly opex costs, with minimum 36 month commitment

Ask us about improving your wireless network and next generation firewalls to protect you and your bandwidth?

0121 248 7931

Icomm Technologies Limited, 45-55 Camden Street, Birmingham, B1 3BP.


Linked Resources


The right proactive IT support for you

Proactive IT support

Get expert help from Icomm to support your IT estate. Choose the right service for you. Software and Hardware support

Comparison Matrix

You have a list of IT equipment you want supported Annual or monthly payment

Each approach provides varying levels of proactive support price matched to your needs based on Service Level Agreements and objectives.


Software and Hardware Support

Fixed overhead for the year If you have an issue just book a call Make as many calls as you want Multiple service level agreements to fit different budgets Annual or monthly payment plans

Features • • • • • •

Cost covers support for all software and hardware Also known as a break-fix contract Can include parts and labour for repair under agreement Can cover peripheral hardware i.e. switches, firewalls etc. Has SLAs – 2, 4, 8 hour next day and 24 hour Upgradeable to Managed Service at any time

Fully managed support Outsource your IT support or go a step further and outsource all IT management to Icomm. Benefits • • • • • • • • • •

Total proactivity; spots and fixes issues without you even noticing Less Hassle Less Downtime Increased Staff Productivity Fixes, cuts and controls costs Automates security and compliance Reduces Total Cost of Ownership Extends IT lifecycle by up to 50% Transparency and flexibility of contract On going contract review to match support to your changing business needs

Features • • • • • • •

Goes way beyond Hardware and Software support. Proprietary Software installed for 24/7 365 monitoring. Enables prediction and fix before fail Backup monitoring Power, patch, asset management AntiVirus checks Seamless Remote Management Management reports

Fully Managed Support

Low initial cost Fixed & Predictable Cost Guaranteed Response 8 hour Guaranteed Response 4 hour Guaranteed Response 2 hour Flexible On & Off-Site Support Technical Advisory Service Dedicated Account Management Value for Money Unlimited Support Optional 24/7 Cover Loan Equipment Favourable Payment Terms Asset Tagging & Management 24/7 365 Monitoring Back-up Monitoring Preventive Maintenance 6 Weekly Optimisation SMART Defrag Automated Patch Management Reduced Total Cost of Ownership Improved Return on Investment Exchange Monitoring Monthly Management Reports Bandwidth Usage Tracking Licence Compliance Tracking System Audits Seamless Remote Management Audited Remote Control Power Management Optimisation Application Deployment Back-up & Disaster Recovery Upgrade for Life Membership Program Over 100 Years best Practices Experience User Screen Monitoring

What People Say About Icomm “The fully managed support service has paid for itself many times over.” Andrew Jones, S Jones Containers

“We decide how and where our money is spent and have seen real savings already on previous contracts.” Paul Pearce, Sea Products International Ltd

Talk to us about a range of IT services, including Cloud backup, network and wireless LAN services.


• • • •

0121 248 7931

Icomm Technologies Limited, 45-55 Camden Street, Birmingham, B1 3BP.


Virtualisation – servers and desktops

IT solutions

Do more with less. Save time and money with a more agile IT infrastructure. Optimise and future proof IT infrastructure • • • •

Turn one physical machine into many virtual machines Host multiple Operating Systems and applications on one machine Develop and test systems and applications without impacting production environment Flexible and scaleable to your needs

Reduce operational and capital expenditure • • • • •

Consolidate physical server, storage or desktop estate Eliminate need to purchase more physical machines in future Better utilise existing computer resources Cut demands on power, cooling and space Release management time to focus on key tasks

Unlock improvements to back-up and Disaster Recovery • • •

Dynamically distribute work load across several virtual servers to improve performance Multiple virtual machines equal high redundancy and multiple fail-over points Virtualisation of servers is ideally supported by a centralised Storage Area Network to further improve resilience whilst reducing ongoing costs and administration

Improve experience and delivery of end user services • • •

Better utilise resources to be more robust and deliver applications and files faster Maximise throughput, quicken response times More efficient provision of services, more efficient work force

Get expert help from Icomm to virtualise your server and desktop estate Server virtualisation – turn one into many

End-to-end projects tailored to your needs • • • • • • •

Consultancy Detailed capacity and performance review to assess where improvements can be made to your technology estate Procurement Installation Migration of data and applications Training and hand-over of management to in-house teams Fully pro-active support to ensure smooth operation ongoing

Desktop virtualisation Empower your staff through desktop virtualisation. Run multiple desktop operating systems on a single server and improve operational efficiency of flexible computing resources, manpower and capabilities.

Talk to us about improving your storage as well. We also offer a fully managed IT support service.

0121 248 7931

Icomm Technologies Limited, 45-55 Camden Street, Birmingham, B1 3BP.



Save money and space by investing in one server that replicates multiple platforms. Today’s computing environments are becoming increasingly complex, demanding greater resources to operate and maintain. Moving resources to virtual platforms allows IT departments to consolidate and better utilise existing flexible computer resources and delivery better end user services whilst optimising staff time.

Storage Area Networks

IT solutions

Centralise storage for quick pay back and long term savings Let Icomm implement a NetApp SAN to enhance your enterprise storage. Your growing pains • • • • • • • • • •

Spiralling operational overheads Lack of resource to manage IT estate and data growth Increased demand on limited data centre space Organisational risk due to poor fail-over or backup processes Little available time to keep up with technology change Limits on data accessibility Protect capacity and investment with efficiency tools Reduce size of all types of data; primary, secondary, file and block Maximise storage capacity with unified tools; I/O caching, volume cloning, deduplication, compression etc Protected capacity equals better performance and protected investment

Quick and smart backup

• •

Take high-speed, low impact snapshot images of your data Effortlessly manage frequent snapshots, replication policies and movement to tape in one console Reduce backups by up to 98%

Implement a more efficient solution From a traditional approach DAS/NAS/SAN Silos Servers

Protect business with improved recovery and continuity • • • •



To a best practice virtualised approach

End-to-end projects tailored to your needs • • • • •


Easily configure multi site-to-site data replication for added fail-over Boot virtual machines from the SAN for quick and easy replacement of faulty host servers Facilitate quicker recovery time objectives and improved business continuity Reduce down-time by up to 50%

Consultancy Procurement Installation Migration of data and applications Training and hand-over of management to in-house teams Pro-active support for smooth operation ongoing

Virtualisation Servers Apps Network Storage

Talk to us for guidance on and delivery of an integrated virtualised server and storage environment.


0121 248 7931

Icomm Technologies Limited, 45-55 Camden Street, Birmingham, B1 3BP.


Network infrastructure and Wireless LAN

IT solutions

Wireless that works! Unlock business agility, reduce cost and complexity Market leading technology. More reliable and better coverage.

Get rid of standard WLAN issues Unstable connections Dropped packets Pixelated video Choppy voice Poor coverage and capacity Erratic performance

Dynamic Beamforming Adapts Access Point signal steering for the most reliable Wi-Fi.

More reliable and connected business • • • • •

Smart Mesh networking

A high-end solution without the cost and complexity Release management to focus on more value add activities Robust, secure, scalable Fits within any existing network architecture Quick to deploy

Smarter wireless Site survey, installation and configuration by Icomm of a Ruckus WLAN provides a smarter solution with better range and reliability. Wide coverage Enable 400+ clients per Access Points, so fewer Access Points cover a wider area, reducing capital and operational costs. Cost effective Robust wireless LAN at a fraction of the cost of conventional alternatives. All the functionality of a highend system with fewer access points for lower CAPEX and easier management for lower OPEX. Fast install Configuration and deployment in half the time of conventional solutions. Easy to install, configure and expand. Automatic client-side administration and advanced security. Secure, scalable, and simple-to-use platform A smarter wireless LAN that self-optimises and is super simple to manage. Provision guests in a snap, deliver up to four times coverage and throughput. Dual band functionality enables multiple device types. No costly cabling Simply plug access points into a power source and connect without any requirement for Ethernet cabling.

Eliminate costly task of pulling Ethernet cable wherever you want access points.

Dynamic user security The latest link layer encryption and authentication mechanisms but delivered simply. From 802.1x support to Dynamic Pre-Shared Keys.

Adaptive RF signal routing and interference avoidance WLAN-wide optimum signal path selection and automatic interference avoidance. Automatic Radio Frequency coordination adapts to the constantlychanging Wi-Fi environment.

Cutting Edge Access Points High-performance dual-band (meshed or wired) that deliver high-performance at range to new 802.11n and legacy 802.11a/b/g clients.

Network infrastructure high performance and resilient Icomm has decades of expertise in planning, building and upgrading every aspect of wired and wireless network infrastructure from industry standard cabling – the backbone of your connectivity, to configuration of network hardware & software and high availability switching that delivers services to end users. Enterprise level partnerships with high performance providers ensures the very best advice and solutions.

Ask us about remote access and firewalls to leverage and protect your wireless network.

0121 248 7931

Icomm Technologies Limited, 45-55 Camden Street, Birmingham, B1 3BP.



• • • • • •


IT solutions

Protect against the most sophisticated web threats Adopt a next generation Firewall • • • •

Cybercriminals are using the web to access corporate networks Sophos has identified that 85% of malware comes from the web Over 30,000 websites are infected every single day Cybercriminals leverage soft security targets; social networks, smartphones, tablets and BYOD environments

A firewall older than two years offers limited protection • •

Lacks interrogation of application usage and traffic payload Cannot identify and manage good traffic from bad

Reduce costs and risk of down time from security threats • • • •

Protect at the perimeter, not within your infrastructure Manage internal abuse of internet access Prevent employees accessing inappropriate sites and social networks Improve web service delivery and user productivity

Welcome to next generation firewalls A solution that gives application visibility and control; bandwidth management; and the highest throughput of any firewall with all services enabled. •

Advanced threat protection – Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) of the entire packet payload for intrusion prevention, malware detection, gateway antivirus, traffic analytics, application control and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) decryption. Deliver granular traffic inspection to allow intelligent enforcement of security policies.

Performance without sacrifice – Network traffic inspected with little impact on throughput and application performance. Enable DPI without buffering or packet reassembly.

Productivity through application visibility and web filtering – Analyse, control and prioritise real-time bandwidth and application usage. Identify applications consuming bandwidth: Skype, Facebook and BitTorrent for example. Log and control unwanted applications. Setup filtering policies against specific user profiles. Prioritise role-based access to systems or environments.

Features Gateway Security 256bit SSL

Gateway Anti-Virus, Anti-Spyware, Intrusion Prevention, and Application Intelligence and Control Service delivers intelligent, realtime network security protection against sophisticated application layer and contentbased attacks, including viruses, spyware, worms, and more. Configurable tools prevent data leakage and enable visualisation of network traffic. Comprehensive Anti-Spam Comprehensive Anti-Spam Service blocks spam phishing and virus-laden emails at the gateway. With one click, the service immediately starts blocking junk email and saving valuable network bandwidth. Granular Control Application Intelligence provides granular control and real-time visualisation of applications to guarantee bandwidth prioritisation, prevent data leakage, and deliver more precise control over network traffic. Content Filtering Content Filtering Service blocks multiple categories of objectionable Web content and provides the ideal combination of control and flexibility to ensure the highest levels of productivity and protection. Reporting Access highly customisable, easy-to-read reports. Graphical illustration of network activity like bandwidth utilisation and observed threats.

Looking for a managed firewall approach instead? Talk to us.


Web services expose businesses to greater attack

0121 248 7931

Icomm Technologies Limited, 45-55 Camden Street, Birmingham, B1 3BP.


Remote Access and Security

IT solutions

Work anywhere, anytime, efficiently and securely.

• • • •

Combining best of breed remote access and a choice of authentication technology SSL VPN delivers user-friendly secure remote access tunnel Physical token and web-based two factor authentication for everyone Tokenless two factor authentication for larger organisations

• • • •

Fast ROI by unlocking and increasing remote access productivity Sustainable long term budget savings from reduced cost of ownership High availability and easy-to-use Total validation of users with increased security Improved business continuity by enabling workforce to operate remotely

Users gain remote access quickly and securely 1. 2.

Dell SonicWall Aventail SSL VPN. A dedicated and hardened security appliance that covers the most end point devices, including windows and smart phones. A simple, cost effective way to give mobile workers a complete ‘in-office’ experience. • • •

Improve productivity and reduce overheads •

SSL VPN – your secure tunnel

Simply click a remote access icon and log-in to the SSL VPN web page, supplying everyday standard network log-in details. Users then input their authenticated user code generated through two different channels for truly strong authentication and security.

User authentication tailored to you – two options 1. Token-less authentication for larger organisations Swivel Secure token-less multi-factor authentication offers the reassurance of strong security without the cost and management of physical tokens. As approved by UK Government’s national technical authority for Information Assurance, CESG. • • •

Why not ask us about wireless networking and next generation firewalls to protect you and your bandwidth?

Future proof – The most future-proofed remote access controller on the market Easy deployment – No need for pre-installation of specialist client side software Secure – ‘Traffic’ fully encrypted between end user’s web browser and the SSL VPN appliance

Less cost – On average 73% cheaper than the cost of buying, implementing, managing and maintaining a token based system Easy management – save time with instant add and remove of end users across any web enabled devices Scalability – Single Swivel server can provide authentication for all remote services, VPNs, Websites, cloud and web applications

2. Tokens and web based authentication for every organisation Cost effective, flexible and scaleable hardware tokens and web-based two factor authentication from the world’s biggest provider, Vasco. As used to meet tight tolerances of financial institutions and online banking. • • •

Scalability – Physical tokens to fit all shapes, sizes, environments and budgets One Time Passwords – generated at, not before, point of user request for absolute security Flexibility – Option of cloud-based managed service for single sign-in to multiple web-based applications using dynamic passwords – webmail, salesforce, Office 365, Google Apps

0121 248 7931

Icomm Technologies Limited, 45-55 Camden Street, Birmingham, B1 3BP.



One centrally-managed gateway to control remote access to network resources


Global marketplace processes made easy for manufacturers and distributors Implement compelling experiences via an online private marketplace Combine the award-winning and innovative bespoke technical skills of Mercato Solutions with its ground-breaking development platform, KnowledgeKube. Automate complex supply chain and pre-sales processes and make them available on the internet to your customers, internally and to your suppliers. Transformation through agile development Mercato Solutions specialises in data management, Business Intelligence and the development of high performance productivity, line-ofbusiness and collaborative applications. A winning approach that helps organisations work smarter. Capture – automate – transform online IT development capability and understanding of large-scale supply chain challenges, create game-changing private market place solutions. Use our digital platform, KnowledgeKube, to form part of your private market place solution. It enables rapid creation of business applications through its streamlined modular system. Bring system development closer to, and more under the control of, the business. Leverage our specialist knowledge of the rapidly changing IT supply chain from manufacturers, vendors and resellers to after sales service. Transferrable knowledge, proven to solve customer trading challenges.

The business case Achieve cost savings greater than implementation costs comfortably within the first year by reducing headcount in customer facing roles and enabling staff to be moved into more value adding customer activities. •

Shorten and strengthen supply chain interaction and communication to capture and drive emerging markets and expand growth capabilities for up-selling into local markets

Unlock deep Business Intelligence with a 360 degree view of business inside and outside of the supply chain

Strengthen brand experience across your supply chain

Reduce operational costs and generate valuable business data that can be distributed back into your eco-system

Radically shorten sales cycles and enable users throughout the supply chain to work smarter and with higher satisfaction

0121 605 2050

Mercato Solutions Limited. 45-55 Camden Street, Birmingham, B1 3BP



Deep experience of the challenges you face International solutions - Enabling a standard solution that can be localised by customers to meet specific language, country and/or regional requirements. Global roll-outs - Managing and on-boarding customers, making solutions attractive to continuously drive usage, eclipsing manual support services previously provided to customers.

Dynamic web content - Presenting user, customer, role and context specific web content for products, pricing and promotions. Advanced search - Built to facilitate smart searching across multiple data sources. Productivity solutions - Configuring and delivering dynamic smart questionnaires, complex rule-based configurators and guided experiences that only offer selections that are compatible, will work well together and, if appropriate, are available. System integration - Real-time connection with ERP and CRM systems, by enabling dynamic updating with your Oracle and SAP product catalogues. Deal registration and pricing solutions - Encompassing automation of highly complex business and rule-driven authorisation processes. Total flexibility - Open and alive to change, often with no IT interventions.

A Mercato solution provides more functionality, less risk, time savings of 80% and cost reductions of 75% over traditional methods.

Deployment and support options •

Customer hosted, outsourced provider hosted, Mercato hosted solutions

Customer or Mercato maintained and supported

Highly experienced catalogue management capability, providing round-the-clock services and lower cost options for more manual tasks

Why Mercato? World-wide credentials. •

Implemented global solutions for some of the world’s largest vendors

One of EMEA’s fastest growing and award-winning software businesses

UK Government nominated ‘Made By Britain’ World-beating manufacturer

Technology accreditations; The Institute of Chartered Accountants, CIPS

ISO 27001 Information Governance

20 years of IT supply chain domain experience on hand as a Probrand Group Company

Best-in-class competencies in; agile development of high performance software applications; large scale data management across a spectrum of differing formats, quality and sources; supply chain knowledge and process skills to boost real-life end user productivity

0121 605 2050


Mercato Solutions Limited. 45-55 Camden Street, Birmingham, B1 3BP


Seamless integration - Multiple data feeds, from multiple sources, in multiple formats with a variety of update frequencies. We manage over 50 concurrent data feeds for customers. Helping everyone work from more accurate and reliable data, directly delivering faster, more accurate, higher net margin sales. Connecting many touch points of your indirect worldwide supply chain.

Enterprise apps for less. By you, or for you.

Create enterprise apps quicker and cheaper. KnowledgeKube is the award-winning app platform for all users. Without having to write code, create enterprise web and mobile apps quicker and cheaper than traditional development. Either you create via a platform licence or we create your Cloud apps with our dedicated implementation team. Beat the IT skills shortage and enable all users to meet demand for globalised apps head-on. Automate, innovate and transform with feature-rich apps that improve efficiency and productivity at scale.


Deliver on your transformation priorities faster. The simplicity of KnowledgeKube empowers all users, with or without an IT background, to quickly create apps for any sector, role or process that tackle organisational pains and opportunities.

Competitive advantage

Cost reduction

Happy customers

Inspiring employees

Maximising data

Legacy modernisation

Unprecedented ROI. Low TCO. Results in days. • Create enterprise-grade applications quicker and cheaper • Enable all users to deliver apps in days or weeks rather than months • Quickly implement wide-spread solutions that deliver on the bottom line • Maximise systems, services and databases via true interoperability without writing code • Design once, instantly run and reuse apps across web and mobile • Unlock global scale with an elastic Cloud-based approach

Go create. Have it your way! A solution that supports business and IT teams.

You Create

Access the enterprise platform as an aPaaS solution coupled with training and support. Empower all types of user to unlock and scale your in-house digital capability. Without writing code, enable internal resources to quickly create, manage, deploy and distribute unlimited business process apps.


We create and deploy your enterprise applications


Ready to deploy apps




You create and build your internal digital capability

Private Cloud apps are created using our dedicated implementation team. Actively participate in rapid application development and get business process apps quicker and at less cost. Automate new and re-engineer existing processes one app at a time.

Buy from a library of ready-to-use business process apps proven to innovate specific sector and role based processes. With minimal configuration, customise to your business outcomes.

Flexible. Scalable. User-friendly. A flexible Cloud-based platform environment and user-friendly tools enable extensive configuration of data, forms, expressions, workflow and documents. Create apps by configuring models not writing code.

Data Extract value and join the intelligent economy Collate, rationalise, add and extract value from your existing data repositories. Easily connect, extend and add value to existing systems and data sources. Integrate data in and out, to and from anywhere via an intuitive user interface. Forms Simple. Flexible. Controlled Where life begins. A sophisticated and flexible builder enables advanced forms to be created and continuously improved. Introduce data capture fields for free text, drop downs, multiple selections and even machine learning. Easily introduce mandatory and optional decision making, field validation, look up lists and help text narrative. Globalisation Deliver outside home markets Support multiple cultures and markets in different languages. Models, expressions and document generation come fully globalised with built in localisation tools.

Global scale and results.

Expressions Accurate decisions, faster. Automate behaviour Build and add advanced mathematical rules that automate decision making and intelligence directly into your applications. Deliver personalisation, accuracy and consistency into business processes for better business outcomes. Workflow Agile for faster outcomes Make relevant things happen faster. Configure multi-channel outputs with absolute flexibility - emails, calendar updates, data processing and more. Design first class workflows to collaborate and manage complex enterprise interactions. Reports and Business Intelligence Actionable insight delivered fast Drive real-time reporting on your process performance and status. Customise a drag and drop dashboard out-of-the-box for BI reporting on any element of your process and outcomes. Continuously improve processes and applications based on insights you glean.

“KnowledgeKube allowed us to produce a proof of concept at a significantly lower cost, 90% quicker and importantly, with deeper functionality than we imagined. It really has been rapid app development.”

“Very quickly we automated a custom learning experience and Skills Award Scheme. We have 80% more students now doing the skills award as a direct result.”

Chet Gladkowski, GAPro Systems.

Documentation Raise expectations Branded and personalised role driven documents rendered in multiple formats, a given. Whatever the requirements, generate high quality documents that support entire data gathering and output needs, however complex. Incorporate form and expression data plus external information. Render out through standard office applications. Distribute anywhere. Extensibility The freedom to innovate further Maximise existing investment in systems, libraries and custom code vital to on-going operations. Create question plugins, expression functions and custom workflow actions using Microsoft C#, VB.NET or even managed C++ with a high performance extensibility model.

“With KnowledgeKube, the business created a Proof of Concept 80% faster than conventional development and programming tools, importantly, it also cost 60% less.”

Andrew Krauze, Chairman of CCL Solutions Group. “In less than a week we had built an application and secured £90,000 of cloud services quotes in minutes not hours of manual technical pre-sales effort.”

“Remarkable. A KnowledgeKube team of two built a working pre-sales portal from scratch within 2 working days. Bespoke development would have taken months.”

“We have released thousands of sales man hours globally with KnowledgeKube pre-sales applications. These are more feature rich and were created 77% quicker and 87% cheaper than the alternative development resource. More consistent outputs and better processes have transformed customer experience.” Blue chip tech giant

John Holm. Capita

“We are able to market, manage and offer well-articulated insurance cover quicker, more accurately and with minimal cost.”

“KnowledgeKube has delivered a veterinary trading portal targeting 6,000 vets, faster and cheaper than bespoke development.”

“KnowledgeKube enabled us to deliver guided pre-sales experiences to over 150 countries in 27 languages to a user base of over 25,000 companies.”

Richard Riley. Small Heath School

Global Insurer

Trevor Roberts. Godiva

KnowledgeKube is a product of Mercato Solutions Limited. 45-55 Camden Street, Birmingham, B1 3BP

Global Pharma Corp


Gareth Carr. Icomm Technologies

“KnowledgeKube is set to help Capita Insurance services and Cobalt become a market-changer by driving risk out of workflow processes around complex products.”

Global hardware vendor

0121 605 2050




Get closer to customers. Qualify and respond to needs better.


From simple surveys and configurators to fully guided interactive buying experiences.

KnowledgeKube. Enterprise apps for less. By you, or for you.

Apps to transform pre-sales and advisory services. Pre-sales and qualification of needs are difficult, expensive and often manual processes, particularly where detailed sales or product knowledge are required or highly configurable products and services are being offered. Transform your manual processes into interactive digital applications that enhance customer experience and reduce reliance on specialist sales expertise.


Unprecedented ROI. Low TCO. Instant results. • Deliver control, accuracy and efficiency into pre-sales estimates and processes, improving sales conversions with more consistent customer centric approaches • Remove manual intervention and lower the cost of winning new business. Improve net profitability by infusing efficiency into your processes • Maximise sales and marketing ROI by improving long and complex sales processes. Better qualify leads and increase conversions • Respond to market needs quickly to gain competitive advantage • Unlock your business’ potential by sharing pre-sales knowledge through on-line experiences and generate more revenue at lower cost

KnowledgeKube is the app platform for all users. Create enterprise web and mobile apps quicker and cheaper, without having to write code.

“KnowledgeKube enabled us to deliver guided presales experiences to over 150 countries in 27 languages to a user base of over 25,000 companies.”

It has been deployed by many leading businesses to deliver an unmatched presales solution. Product and service configurators Implement simple to use configurators for ‘off the shelf’ products, or more complex ‘configure to order’ products and services, such as build, order and manufacture of custom HGV’s or bespoke IT hardware systems.

Global Hardware Vendor

“We have built an on-line IT support contract configurator to enable inexperienced sales resources to deliver highly complex quotes more quickly, and sometimes more accurately, than experienced sales people. We’ve increased new business and reduced cost of sale dramatically.”

Administer complex rules-based guided experiences, offering only customer relevant selections, compatibility and stock availability. Calculators ROI and TCO calculations in customer proposals are a powerful sales tool, but they are often difficult and time consuming to deliver. Create simple to highly complex calculators. Provide customers with value added information. Trigger workflow to automatically generate custom outputs along with fully personalised and branded documentation.

Ian Callens. Icomm

Telemarketing and sales decision support Script a sales team to cross-sell a relevant service or product with conviction. Empower them with deep levels of knowledge. More accurately qualify and match stakeholder needs and configure workflow to automatically generate outputs to nurture ongoing contact. Capture opportunities and better qualify leads. Adjust ‘live’ questions and configure intuitive guidance to sharpen yield.

“We have released thousands of sales man hours globally with KnowledgeKube presales applications. These are more feature rich and were created 77% quicker and 87% cheaper than the alternative development resource. More consistent outputs and better processes have transformed customer experience.”

Customer service Better manage and accurately script contact centre advice provision with powerful and intelligent decision support tools. Prompt users to capture information quickly and respond appropriately. Unlock efficiency and scale. Empower consistent diagnosis, troubleshooting and resolution such as clinical decision support or new starter training.

Blue chip tech giant

“We’re able to respond rapidly to keep premiums attractive, driving automatic renewals. “

Surveys and market research Whether fact finding globally, profiling contacts locally or conducting needs analysis, improve contact engagement quality. Auto-collate responses, process and publish research quicker. Reduce survey build, publish and distribution times. Create powerful smart questionnaires that provide instant feedback to users and deliver rich outputs – PDFs, standard Microsoft Office or SharePoint formats.

KnowledgeKube is a product of Mercato Solutions Limited. 45-55 Camden Street, Birmingham, B1 3BP


0121 605 2050


Barrie Roberts. Godiva Insurance



Trade more profitably with stakeholders. Sell more, faster. Transactional vertical market portals that unlock growth.

KnowledgeKube. Enterprise apps for less. By you, or for you.

Apps that transform the way you trade

Unlock profits with web and mobile apps

Many businesses share the modern day problem of scaling marketing and business development without having huge investment budgets, a large salesforce or with the capability to train and up-skill staff.

• Rapid ROI. Reduce time and cost of taking products and services to market. Shorten the sales cycle. Sell more, faster and without the costs of scale.

Whether you operate in a large scale, frequently changing market like IT or insurance, or are looking to unlock new sales fast in niche verticals like dentistry or veterinary practice, quickly build apps that make up a bespoke trading portal. Self-manage ongoing changes and configuration, unlock new sales, maximise business flexibility and increase your profit margins.

• Gain competitive advantage. Quickly test new products and adjust attributes ‘live’. From insurance ratings to broker, intermediary and / or customer discounts. Accurately meet customer needs and beat the competition by responding to market dynamics fast. • Improve customer experience and loyalty. Needs more accurately met through a highly efficient own-branded experience from portal to personalised documentation. A superior end user and customer journey. • Broaden sales reach and grow revenues. Empower non-technical employees to up-sell complex products and services. Enable a receptionist to quickly build and transact an accurate customer dental plan or enable a vet to configure a complex well-being pet plan and amend an exclusive discount in a ‘live’ face to face consultation. • Sales with scale. Internet based portals enable access for multiple internal or external users across sales and franchise networks or direct to customers. Elastic cloud deployment instantly scales to meet demand globally if needed.


“KnowledgeKube is set to help Capita Insurance Services and Cobalt become a marketchanger by driving risk out of workflow processes of complex products.” John Holm. Capita

“Finally, vets are able to build their own plans and pricing structures ‘live’ to be more competitive and efficient in meeting complex customer needs, so increasing direct debit recurring business. Added value for veterinary practices and added value for us.” US pet well-being plan provider

“Patients have different care needs and allowances to cater for variable price services. Users now select the social care they need within their prescribed per head budget. We’ve connected multiple providers to multiple buyers based on budget authorisation. It is delivering a better service and saving money.” Social Care provider

KnowledgeKube is the app platform for all users. Create enterprise web and mobile apps quicker and cheaper, without having to write code. Either you create or we create your trading portals, all supported by a rich set of back office features that enable business users to modify, test and implement key trading processes online. Real-time product and service configuration by the business Effortlessly build and manage a catalogue of offers. Introduce keywords, expression results, rich text and images, hide and show single questions or question groups. Add validation, look-ups, help text and endorsements or dynamically calculate discounts, commissions, renewals and more. Powerful question and rating engine Questions refine customer needs, calculations and analytics validate and streamline the process and journey. Only offer what is relevant to the user or customer. Give your users options Give users and customers multiple, side-by-side product or service options such as comparative insurance quotes or highlight gold, silver and bronze alternatives based on a service plan. Branded experience Advanced content management tools enable full customisation of all branding, look and feel. Personalised documentation and communications Automate branded and personalised outputs for emails and documents. Author and render certificates, contracts, reports and more into multiple formats including PDF and Word for distribution, print and download. Role based access and functionality Control user access to relevant actions and content from admin to sales, to enable items such as differential pricing calculated by role. Preview everything Easily test and pilot fully featured user and customer experiences prior to promoting into live environments.

KnowledgeKube is a product of Mercato Solutions Limited. 45-55 Camden Street, Birmingham, B1 3BP


0121 605 2050


Seamless integration Connect, extend and write back to data sources, services and systems. Close the sales loop, connect with CRM, finance and payment systems.


Unlock daily productivity and efficiency gains. From expenses claims to holiday requests to more complex processes.

Common Processes

KnowledgeKube. Enterprise apps for less. By you, or for you.

Apps to streamline your common business processes Common or everyday business processes are often the least efficient element of any working day. These are often repetitive manual processes or disjointed legacy applications. Automating and improving them unlocks time and cost savings, allowing businesses to focus resource elsewhere. However, prototyping and delivering solutions to these problems has traditionally cost more than continuing to complete the process manually, until now… KnowledgeKube has broken the mould as a platform that enables all users to develop their own business applications that simplify common tasks at radically reduced cost. Simple, flexible, efficient.


Web and mobile apps that transform daily operations • Ever increasing ROI. The more you automate and improve, the greater the ROI. • Tailored to you. Automate processes how you work. KnowledgeKube is flexible, so applications can be tailored by you, by your own people or by our implementation team. • Quick delivery quick ROI. Deployed from the cloud for instant use. Streamlined configuration, changes made easily and in a controlled environment, so timeline and costs are compressed. • Absolute scalability. KnowledgeKube has already proven its scalability with applications that are in use world-wide in over 150 countries in 27 languages handling over $1bn of transactions per month. • Rapid and simple integration. Easily integrate with your existing data, services and systems to leverage your investments.

KnowledgeKube is the app platform for all users. Create enterprise web and mobile apps quicker and cheaper, without having to write code.

“By automating some of our common manual business processes we delivered considerable time savings for our advisors within a short development time frame and within days of implementation.”

The KnowledgeKube application portfolio is growing daily as more business uses are identified and more business applications are created. Every business area can benefit from automation of common and daily business processes, including Management, Health & Safety, IT, HR, Finance, Compliance and Sales & Marketing.

Central Government service provider

Example common areas that can be transformed with KnowledgeKube

“We developed a working prototype with two Implementation consultants on site for two days, with no other work involved – a process that would previously have taken months. Remarkable. IT Director Global Insurer

Management processes

Flexible work tracking

Employee induction

Document management

Absence monitoring

Expense tracking

Performance management

Health & Safety management

Probationary reviews

Compliance procedures

Overtime reporting

Recruitment process management

Awards schemes and training programmes

Fraud detection

KnowledgeKube is a product of Mercato Solutions Limited. 45-55 Camden Street, Birmingham, B1 3BP


0121 605 2050


Need more? Develop your own business applications with the KnowledgeKube platform or get our implementation team to modify existing or create new applications for you.


Specialist Processes

Specialist tasks made simple. Organisation or role specific processes transformed.

KnowledgeKube. Enterprise apps for less. By you, or for you.

Transform and differentiate with apps for new ways of working Business leaders often look to do things differently from their peers; identifying weakness in processes and implementing new ways of working whilst continuously improving and refining. Are you looking to differentiate your organisation or perhaps innovate processes specific to you, your sector or role? KnowledgeKube’s flexibility enables rapid configuration of customised line-ofbusiness applications to your exacting needs, digitising manual yet specialised processes. Connect and extend existing systems, services and data sources too.

Streamline your business processes and increase productivity. • Unprecedented ROI. Low TCO. Instant results • Streamline and improve processes for better business outcomes, save time, save money • Be more productive and release time to focus on more strategic tasks • Maximise existing systems, services and data. Connect and extend with minimum risk and expense • Let the business innovate and deliver. Empower your IT department with a streamlined development platform; enable control and governance to be retained whilst relieving everyday development pressures.


If you are looking to automate and better control your procurement process, implement a high performance in-store advisory service, or improve a variety of other specialist processes, KnowledgeKube enterprise web and mobile apps can change your game.


KnowledgeKube is the app platform for all users. Create enterprise web and mobile apps quicker and cheaper, without having to write code. It enables even the most complex and specialised processes to be automated and extended. Empower users - Quickly and consistently deliver an interactive process that equips and guides users based on their role in the enterprise and the information they provide. Automate intelligence and decision making - Be more process focussed. Remove manual intervention by adding logic to your end user journeys. Progressively present only those elements that are relevant to the role or task at hand. Any business or role can feel the benefit - From niche single role-based processes through to the most complex global organisations, understanding and intelligence can be delivered faster and with better quality assurance. Integrate everywhere - Connect, extend or supplement enterprise level ERP and CRM systems such as SAP, Oracle and Salesforce. Integrate with systems and infrastructure provisioned in the cloud including BizTalk Services or custom applications within Microsoft Azure data centres.

KnowledgeKube is a product of Mercato Solutions Limited. 45-55 Camden Street, Birmingham, B1 3BP


0121 605 2050


Enterprise procurement requisitioning and auction application. Single system joining disparate data, locations, processes, suppliers, customers and approvers. Product catalogue updated daily to enable online ordering from only approved supplier base. Integration with customers Active Directory and ERP systems. Purchasing and IT improved internal SLA’s by 20% and reduced admin costs of purchase orders by 70%.



0121 605 2050

81% of organisations pay up to 920% margin on IT*

Compare. Negotiate. Save. KnowledgeBus enables IT buyers to quickly benchmark purchases against daily trade guide price and stock levels on over 150,000 products from more than 2,500 manufacturers. Access market knowledge to negotiate better deals and get more from your IT procurement.

Save up to 24% on ICT budgets and an hour per order Identify fair price and spot overcharging Plot key market trends for more strategic procurement

We managed to reduce our IT spend by approximately 10%. Sage UK Dave Banks, Senior IT Procurement Coordinator

*Download full report at:

*KnowledgeBus IT Edition survey evaluated over 1,000 organisations with perceived supplier relationships of between cost +3-5%. 82


Measurable benefits from day one:

KnowledgeBus IT Edition is a product of Mercato Solutions. Š Copyright Mercato Solutions Limited, All Rights Reserved.

Rapid Benchmarking KnowledgeBus IT Edition facilitates rapid benchmarking activity so you can negotiate and validate better deals with suppliers fast. It advises you of daily updated specification, trade guide price and stock levels on products held within the UK IT supply chain. It will help you save time and money.

Import lists Upload one-off checks or catalogues for automated population with buy-price, margin and stock.

Framework pricing Cross check buy-prices with your subscribed frameworks and channel pricing to validate point of best value. Auto alerts Set automatic notification of price/stock/End Of Line movements for your products to stay ahead of suppliers.

Spend Analysis Set periodic automated spend analyses on existing lists or interrogate new lists to police overcharging.

Request For Quotations Automated RFQs to shorten the purchase process.

Exchange rates & raw materials Access and chart stats to assess market patterns for more strategic purchasing.

Management single view Quickly unlock more from your budget with an intuitive tile based dashboard that delivers deep levels of information in a ‘single view’.

Total Integration Join-up your benchmarking workflow with third party solutions from ERP to cloud apps and Microsoft Office.

Procurement Hub Optional facility. Add a buy button. Validate prices then purchase at guaranteed fixed margins.

Big Data Drive informed procurement decisions with access to a terabyte of daily updated ICT market Business Intelligence, covering 150,000+ ‘live’ products from 2,500+ manufacturers across every category. Analyse an archive of data on over 600,000 products.

Collaboration Reduce duplication of effort by sharing outputs, alerts, product lists and related benchmark information across departments or a network of offices.

Benchmark on the go Conduct mobile procurement activity on tablets, iPads and smartphones.

Benchmarking Services Optional service. Let us deliver your spend analysis. Then use our deep IT supply chain insight to coach purchasers on best practice and how to achieve best value.

*KnowledgeBus IT Edition survey evaluated over 1,000 organisations with perceived supplier relationships of between cost +3-5%.

0121 605 2050 [4579/KNOWLEDGEBUS/20150821]


Your technology partner 0121 605 1000

Save time and money buying IT

Get more from your IT

Transform the way you work

IT Products 0800 26 26 29

IT Services 0121 248 7931

Software 0121 605 2050

Outstanding Integrator of the Year 2010

Embracing and de-risking digital transformation  

Throughout this edition we review new technologies which are helping organisations to manage change in a positive way.

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you