Category Archives: Microsoft

Gardner Systems – Data Governance Challenge

Effective data governance is always challenging for any organisation. From people, processes and technology, these are some of the key building blocks, to ensure compliance with managing data. However data governance, also brings several challenges, which I discovered at last month’s event organised by Gardner Systems.

Held at the headquarters of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA) at Mann Island, this event featured two speakers in Stefanie Jacobs from Microsoft and Jennifer Platts from St Helens Council. Both gave a useful angle on data governance and of its importance in IT management policy, which is very relevant to complying with GDPR legislation, as this legally affects how businesses can store, use and manage data.

Both speakers explained how technology is a facilitator for data governance. With companies moving to cloud-based services, combined with the increasing growth and popularity of agile working, it is crucial to have the right infrastructure platform and governance processes in place. This is so people only have access to what they need, and to reduce the risk of sensitive data leakages, meaning that data governance is more important than ever.

So how can we meet the challenges posed by data governance? Like everything with implementing business changes there is no silver bullet, as technology itself will not solely make organisations compliant. Successful data governance requires careful planning and consideration of business culture, environment, processes, technologies, people and related legislation involved. In simple terms, meeting the challenges posed by data governance requires complex solutions derived from all the above, that are detailed and meticulously specified to meet individual needs of businesses.

There was plenty that I learned about meeting these challenges posed by data governance, which are distilled in the points below.

  1. Trust needs to be earned.
  2. It is challenging to manage data.
  3. Everybody has a different interpretation on data governance.
  4. Data must always be treated with respect.
  5. You need to have the leadership, buy-in support, skills and experience.
  6. Make it as simple and seamless as possible.
  7. You need to know, protect and govern your data.
  8. Remember to educate and train your users.

In summary, I have gained a clearer understanding about what stops people from successfully governing data. This includes understanding governance and importance of data, along with identifying if the required skills and experience are available to deliver governance. To overcome these challenges, a structured approach is needed to understand where the business is, where the data is, what is the classification, who owns it, what is the fix, and how it needs to be governed.

To conclude, I would like to thank Stefanie and Jennifer. My thanks also go to Frank Coward, Paul Stringfellow, Jason Fitzgerald and Jane Hanna from Gardner Systems, along with Ian Hawkins from the LCRCA for all coming together to organise the event. It certainly was useful and educational for me to learn and appreciate the importance of effective data governance.

Gardner Systems – Getting Your Cloud Migration Right

What is the cloud?

The cloud is a metaphor used to describe IT services (e.g. software, applications, networks, e-mail, and data storage) that are provided to businesses and organisations through the Internet. Cloud technology is an alternative to traditional hosting of on-site managed IT infrastructures i.e. data centres.  

With cloud technology such as Microsoft Office 365, Dropbox and Amazon Web Services, many businesses and public-sector organisations are moving increasingly away from managing their own in-house data centres, to migrating their data and services to the cloud. This is because the cloud is more cost-effective and scalable, however it is very important to get the cloud migration right!

Last month, I attended an event organised by Gardner Systems, which looked at cloud migration. Held in partnership with the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA) at Mann Island, this included several speakers who talked about the advantages and challenges involved with cloud migration. These speakers included Ian Hawkins and Rachel Hellier from the LCRCA, Vincent Sparks from Stobart Group, and Jason Fitzgerald and Paul Stringfellow from Gardner Systems.

Working in the IT industry myself, I was very keen to learn more about cloud migration, what it brings, and what needs to be considered. From all the speakers, I learned plenty about both sides of cloud migration, making this an extremely beneficial experience.

Migrating to the cloud brings considerable opportunities for businesses and other organisations. These include lower maintenance costs, flexibility and the ability to adapt and provide on-demand services, which are more scalable, and helps to create new relationships and ways of working (e.g. the ability to work agile from corporate devices anywhere). This reduces the reliance on managing in-house data centres, as important services such as e-mail and file storage are hosted in the cloud.

In addition to the benefits, I also developed a good understanding of the challenges involved with cloud migration. These include the following, which I have listed below.

  1. Security is important, as the responsibility for protecting data stored in the cloud is with the client, and not the provider.
  2. There will be resistance to both change and adapting to it.
  3. Cloud migration requires a plan, vision and commitment from everyone involved.
  4. Communication, collaboration and engagement is required from all parties.
  5. Not everything can be migrated to the cloud, e.g. legacy applications, databases and infrastructure.
  6. Users need to be continually educated, so training must be mandatory.
  7. To support cloud migration, you need to have the right on-site networking and hardware infrastructure in place to support the cloud.
  8. In addition to the above, you must have a fast Internet connection to access cloud resources efficiently.
  9. Whilst it is important to reduce risks with cloud migration, you still need to make it usable.
  10. To protect data and resources in the cloud, multi-factor authentication needs to be enabled.

Overall there was plenty that I learned from this event, which has enhanced my knowledge of cloud computing. From having a tailored approach to meet business requirements, ensuring effective security measures are incorporated, and having the right infrastructure in place, cloud migration is a very complex process, that requires detailed work, planning and implementation.

I have also learned that successful cloud migration is not just about meeting the business needs. This is because it also requires the input and support of all affected parties from directors, managers and staff at all levels, who will be using the cloud. Securing data and resources must also be taken seriously, as although cloud providers are responsible for providing services and hosting, businesses are still responsible for adhering to various legislation e.g. GDPR. This explains why some on-site-resources such as legacy databases containing confidential or sensitive information, may not be suitable for cloud migration. Finally, I have also learned that businesses need to have the physical infrastructure and suitable Internet connectivity in place, to support the migration and access to cloud services.

Overall, I enjoyed the event and found it educational. My thanks go to Ian, Rachel, Vincent, Jason and Paul for sharing their knowledge, experience and expertise, as I came away enlightened and more informed about the possibilities, that cloud migration provides.

I enjoy attending these tech events, to not only meet and learn from fellow professionals in the IT industry, but they also remind me to use technical, communication and practical skills to empower others.

Thanks for reading!

BIMA & Microsoft Roadshow Liverpool – Wednesday 2nd May 2018

Working in the IT industry, it is important to keep abreast of the latest developments. For me personally, I like to take an interest in how the changing technology landscape, affects both the economic and social society we live in.

Earlier this month BIMA North West in partnership with Microsoft held an event at Avenue HQ, which looked at the above. I was looking forward to learning more about how Microsoft is developing technological solutions, which will shape the future for businesses and agencies. In addition, I also relished the opportunity to network with other technical professionals and creative minds.bima_microsoft1

The event began with an introduction from Andy Kent of Angel Solutions and Ian Finch of Mando. Both set the tone, by talking about the innovative work of their agencies, and how emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and cloud computing are changing how businesses operate.

Andy and Ian were then followed by James Akrigg of Microsoft, who delivered an informative presentation. This looked at using AI to understand and translate languages, as well as Microsoft’s ongoing research to improve its capabilities, including image recognition and cognitive services (vision, language, speech, emotion and audio). All of this sounds like science fiction, but they are becoming more entrenched in reality.

Following this, the event split into separate workshops that were delivered by Microsoft technologists, Philip Harvey and Jodie Rodgers. Each presented various aspects of how technology and data can be used intelligently by businesses. This included looking at good practices of intelligent handling, storing, processing, and cleansing of cloud-based data from its rawest form, to accurately visualise and present it. By using these innovations, this provides businesses with the opportunity to identify areas of improvement, and create further value.

What impressed me about James, Philip and Jodie, is they were knowledgeable, friendly, and able to explain technical content in a simple and understanding tone. Coming from a technical background, I was able to understand the terminology, and it was wonderful to sit and listen to them talk about such exciting technological innovations. Quite simply I shall say, the possibilities to enrich and benefit businesses and society, are endless!

So what did I learn from the event? The answer is that I picked up so much in great detail about Microsoft’s Azure cloud solution and Power BI data analytics tools. There were also reoccurring themes from the event related to data and technology, which I have learned and included below:

  1. Data is the new oil!
  2. It is important to amplify human ingenuity with intelligent technology.
  3. Technologies have to be the right fit for a business.
  4. Ability to process data is a vital skill in the marketplace.
  5. Today’s software is becoming smarter.
  6. Before using data, it is important to sort, cleanse, organise and secure it.
  7. If harnessed intelligently, data can bring value to any business.
  8. Quality of data is important, and security is everyone’s responsibility.
  9. Humans prefer data presented visually.
  10. Data needs to be accurate, cleansed, simplified and presented in real-time.

Following lunch, there was an opportunity to take part in a boot camp. This involved taking a fictional case study and applying the knowledge learned from the workshops to devise a solution. Working as part of a team, I was able to contribute ideas, but also to listen and take in suggestions of fellow team members, before helping to present a solution to other attendees.bima_microsoft3

To conclude, I loved every moment of this event. From the speakers, networking and those incredible Microsoft tools, this has given me an insight into the future. It has also given me fresh impetus to learn and write more about AI, ML and cloud computing, especially Microsoft Azure, which I am looking forward to sharing in the future.

I would like to thank everyone involved with organising a terrific day. This includes Andy, Ian, everyone at BIMA, Angel Solutions, Mando and also to Avenue HQ for their hospitality. My thanks also go to James, Philip, Jodie and everyone at Microsoft for sharing their knowledge, technical expertise, visionary thoughts, and their smiles and humour.

If you would like to find out more, why not click on the link below:

Thank you for reading!

Windows 10 – What Do Businesses Need to Consider?

Recently the IT industry has seen the release of Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system (OS). Therefore businesses and organisations will eventually need to move their PC operations from Windows 7 or 8.1, to Windows 10. As with each new Windows release, this means either deciding to upgrade or purchase new PCs, to facilitate Windows 10. The process of either upgrading or purchasing PCs, asks several questions that need to consider seriously.

Examples of questions related to Windows 10 adoption include:

  1. Will third party application software and legacy hardware (e.g. printers) be compatible with Windows 10? An interesting article on Windows 10 compatibility can be found here.
  2. Does an organisation’s PC estate meet the specified Windows 10 system requirements, or will new ones need to be purchased? The system requirements can be found on Microsoft’s web site here.
  3. What training will IT staff and users need?
  4. What budget and resources are required, to support the introduction and support of Windows 10?
  5. How will Windows 10 be tested in the organisation to ensure it meets the all required needs?
  6. What methods will be used to roll out Windows 10 once tested?

All of the above is only a small part of the issues of adopting Windows 10. Further information can be found here.

Third party applications provide the functionality for business staff to provide service to customers and clients. Therefore all software manufacturers including Apple, Adobe and Oracle, will need to test and ensure their products are compatible with Windows 10. This principle also applies to hardware, as organisations use legacy devices (e.g. printers), which use existing drivers that are unlikely to be compatible.

An added complication is that Windows 7 extended support for critical software updates finishes on January 14, 2020, and on January 10, 2023 for Windows 8.1. Therefore, businesses and organisations will need to consider how Windows 10 will be introduced into their operations. This will require detailed and tailored long-term planning, which will only be achieved by devising a suitable and measurable strategy, and then by working together with all business areas, IT service providers and other external parties.

To conclude, the Windows 10 clock is ticking and is ticking fast!