To succeed in 2021, we must look beyond 2020 (part two)

A top-down view of people with lines to represent connectivity

・ This blog is the second in a two-part article by Ian Fishwick. You can read last week’s instalment here.

With greater connectivity must come a greater focus on security

In my previous blog, I wrote about the importance of greater connectivity and the picture ahead for such technology in the UK, giving examples of its critical role in the public sector.

Since it’s so important to all of us – and our work at AdEPT – let’s spend a few more moments thinking about this sector.

Given that the NHS, healthcare organisations, central and local government hold the reins on our most personal data, it’s always been a top priority for this sector to have impenetrable security. Such organisations must be the Fort Knox of public data.

But even so, they can still succumb to cybercriminals. Take, for example, the WannaCry ransomware attack of 2017, which cost our NHS £92m – and ultimately, our own pockets, as taxpayers.

Now, with the changes that 2020 has brought about, the risks of remote working have suddenly become all the more pressing.

To illustrate this, consider a community nurse. A few years ago, he or she may have needed to return to the workplace to type up patient notes. More recently, with mobile data services, it wouldn’t be unusual for our nurse, sitting in a pool car, to enter notes on a handheld device. And now, thanks to 2020, that scenario is repeated in home offices, and on a grand scale.

For the NHS and the technology it uses, end-to-end app encryption is helping (though it does have some drawbacks). Likewise, ensuring staff use only NHS-owned and vetted devices offers some protection.

But for the private sector – and due to 2020 – controls aren’t necessarily as tight as those in the NHS.

And it’s for this reason that I imagine that businesses will again turn their attention to the issues posed by bring-your-own-device (BYOD). This term appears to have emerged in 2009, but perhaps it needs an update for 2020: use-your-own-device-at-home, or UYODAH.

(Actually, we don’t need any more acronyms in the technology world.)

At AdEPT, we saw many businesses take an all-hands-to-the-pump approach when lockdown first hit with the overnight switch to home working. And consequently, there were some compromises to IT systems. Now, IT is regrouping and ensuring that the security of our systems is fit for our reshaped future.

It is, of course, no small undertaking. But there are a huge number of ways to respond successfully. For example, we helped Age UK set up remote desktops so staff could use care management software from their homes. And we added two-factor authentication (2FA) for greater login security.

And such security measures can go beyond 2FA. My colleague, Andy Boylan, touches on these issues in a blog about Microsoft. The link to his piece is below.

It’s not the time for technology hype – and it never should be

This blog started as my non-predictions take on predictions. So, with that in mind, let’s consider the many articles you’ll encounter at this time.

Among them, you’ll see headlines like ‘This technology is a gamechanger for 2021’, or ‘This company will disrupt the whole industry’. When you do, I encourage you to take these pieces with a big pinch of salt.

That’s not to be cynical. That is instead to remind you that as someone who founded a business in a spare bedroom – and has been at the helm of 29 consecutive years of rising profitability (EBITDA) – I have seen technology trends come and go.

In that time, I have seen businesses concentrate only on ‘sexy’ technology, rather than the things that truly matter in our working and personal lives. I have seen the rise of the so-called ‘unicorn’ companies that promise to change human behaviour radically – but in reality, all they do is digitise human behaviour.

So at AdEPT, we keep ‘unsexy’ work close to our heart. Namely, we help businesses stay connected – and help make sure IT serves their organisations, not the other way round.

And to do this, we have a guiding principle: we look for people who can admit what they don’t know – and resist offering solutions until they’ve asked all the right questions. 

We’re not wide boys and never will be. Cheap talk is precisely that – it has no value. It’s no accident that about three-quarters of AdEPT’s work is recurring. And that certainly does not come about by forcing quick fixes on our customers to suit our sales agenda.

Our view – and one held dearly by our CEO, Phil Race – is that most people want to deal with people they trust. The fundamental question customers ask when deciding on a supplier is ‘Who do I believe?’.

It’s for this reason that when we describe ourselves as ‘trusted advisors’, we do so sincerely. To build the best IT and telecoms solutions, we must first and foremost build trust.

A final story

Many years ago, on our first website, I wrote:

“Please forgive me, but I am very old fashioned. If I shake your hand, I expect you to honour the deal. Modern business demands that we write it down, but it is not the point.”
 
For over a decade when new people met me, they quoted that back at me. For many, it was one of the key reasons they wanted to work with us.
 
One highlight for me in 2020 was writing and publishing my first book, The Street-Smart MBA: Mastering Business Acumen Without Going To School. 

It was a cathartic experience – and through it, I recorded the many lessons that have helped me over the years. A lot of them are stories – because that is, after all, how we learn and how we build relationships, and trust, with others.

Some people have asked me if I’ll write another book. As I am now partly retired, I may pause on the book writing – though, having always told stories to my children, it might be a children’s book.

But let’s be clear: that’s not a 2021 prediction.

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For your further consideration:

This blog is the second in a two-part article by Ian Fishwick. You can read the first part here.

Ian’s book, The Street-Smart MBA: Mastering Business Acumen Without Going To School, is available here on Amazon.

In another AdEPT blog, Solutions Consultant Andy Boylan discusses ways you can make your Microsoft products more secure for home and remote working.

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Ian is the founder and chairman of AdEPT Technology Group, as well as the commercial director of Innopsis – the trade association for suppliers of digital infrastructure and services to the UK public sector. At Innopsis, he is responsible for championing SMEs and the association’s work with the Cabinet Office. You can find out more about Ian here, or connect with him on LinkedIn here.

Ian Fishwick

Written by Ian Fishwick

Founder & Chairman, AdEPT