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Companies are not digitising enough

Date of issue

24. 11. 2021

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Companies are not digitising enough

Customers from Western Europe are better at using technology for their everyday work, we are very conservative when it comes to digitalisation. And Europe is running away from us, says Martin Koláček, co-owner of System4U.

Unfortunately, we can’t start with anything other than covid. What are you seeing in terms of the impact of the pandemic on your digital business.

Is it a better business for you than it used to be?

We are feeling a downturn in business, but our business is a bit specific. In our Enterprise Mobility Management(EMM) business, the entire ecosystem has changed and we need to adapt to it.

What’s changed? Surprised by companies’ interest in remote communication and working from home?

I thought that was your main business. It is, but with covid came the unexpected global emergence of Microsoft tools, and Microsoft isn’t exactly a technology we’ve specialized in in the past. So we had to penetrate into the secrets of Microsoft and react to market changes in order not to lose the position we had gained.

So did you have to switch to Microsoft, or how should I understand it?

It’s more like adapting and deploying to a new environment. The key point is that Microsoft’s technologies are low-margin, unlike the traditional technologies we have worked with. Moreover, thanks to our traditional cooperation, we had good relationships with these vendors. At Microsoft, we are one of thousands of other partners and we have yet to build our strong position here. On top of that, of course, our current and potential customers usually already have their Microsoft partners, so it’s hard to push our competencies everywhere in a busy market.

How did it happen that Microsoft made its way into this field almost out of nowhere, when we all probably still remember its attempts to succeed in the smartphone world?

Probably because the whole ecosystem around Microsoft 365 is brilliantly conceived. I like to say it’s a bit like IT without the IT people. If you want to create a website in Teams, you will create it before I snap my fingers. Before, you had to run it through the IT department, there were approvals, checks, budget debates… It’s just functional and simple.

What impact does this rise of Microsoft have on the customers in your portfolio?

At this point, enterprise mobility technologies are a bit of a compromise. Microsoft is now bundling Intune technology into Microsoft Endpoint Manager, which used to be used to manage desktops. It is a technologically sound solution that is not as specialized as traditional enterprise mobility management , such as VMware or Ivanti MobileIron. But on the other hand, they are sufficient for ordinary customers. But they add another functionality to that, which is security in the cloud, which is really high in the higher M365 tariffs. So technologically it’s a slightly inferior solution to the traditional ones, on the other hand they add additional functionality that is in demand.

So do you see more interest from companies in these solutions?

Yes, without a doubt.

Do M365 services offer sufficient tools for all companies?

Not at all. We need to realise that employees are not just people behind a computer. For example, couriers need completely different tools than an accountant, developer or tractor driver. A company always has to find out what each employee needs and meet their needs.

Are you seeing changes in attitudes towards hybrid working? Have your customers finally come to terms mentally with the fact that the new normal will no longer be working from the office five days a week, but a combination of working from the office and in remote access?

In any case, the changes are permanent; remote working technologies and digital environments will remain in companies permanently. Compared to our customers in Western Europe, we are falling behind and they are running away from us. They make better use of technology for everyday work, a typical example being healthcare. There they have all the nurses tablets, which makes them significantly more effective. You probably know how the nurses are equipped in our country.

What’s that for?

I think we’re very conservative. It probably can’t be because of the lack of money in the health sector, because they invest a lot, but inefficiently. For example, IT in particular is leaky enough, as we know from recent stories. But it’s not just healthcare, in most of the sectors we’re in, people make little use of technology for work.

What are the biggest challenges your customers face when they want to offer employees hybrid working conditions?

These are just very trivial. It’s all about making it easy and convenient for employees. Our customers who took the plunge started by, for example, sending a courier to the employee’s home with the entire set of technology they needed – computer, monitor, keyboard, printer, desk, chair, headphones. Such an office as a service to be able to work at home to the fullest. As a second thing, they have solved a simple identification within the corporate network when accessing remotely, to make it as comfortable as in the office, but at the same time secure. With today’s hybrid tools, you won’t know if you’re sitting at work or in a café, on the beach or on a train. You don’t have to set anything up, yet you work safely at all times.

What problems do companies encounter when going digital?

At the management level of organizations, they don’t see the benefits that this will bring, so no one is effectively pushing for deployment in the company. Yet the arguments for digitalisation are clear – greater efficiency and happier employees.

Is the pandemic putting enough pressure on organisations to digitise?

Yes, but unfortunately it is facing a crisis. Budgets in companies are not very available. Started projects have been completed, but new ones are not starting. In the start-ups, the fintech sector is still going strong, but the traditional companies of the economy are standing still. Typically, for example, assembly plants have not moved anywhere, the automotive industry is standing still. I definitely see a future in a total transformation of the economy, the automotive industry doesn’t have much of a future seeing as they aren’t even able to buy the chips they need and production is costing money. Yet there are tens of thousands of employees sitting at home who could be working elsewhere in companies that produce something.

Is it a problem for companies to completely manage all the office solutions they need today? Whether for white collar workers or field workers?

It is not easy to manage it well. Often the user is lost as a customer of the IT department, when he should be in the position that everything is done for his convenience and better performance. There is also a lack of thinking about what data that person needs on what device and in what location. If you don’t forget these two things, it will work well for you.

Can we say that the cloud is a universal solution or the answer to digitalisation or remote working?

I probably wouldn’t use the phrase universal solution, that’s too broad a term. But they make solving these problems very simple and pleasant. Today, you can simulate working in a full office set-up if necessary, even with just a smartphone, keyboard, monitor and the internet. It’s not a permanent solution, of course, but it’s functional enough if necessary.

What role does identity management management play in corporate IT governance today?

It is a topic that is beginning to open up and it will be one of the main, if not the main, topic in the coming months. After all, it is the basis for digitizing the company and enabling work from anywhere. Every employee must be able to easily authenticate themselves in company systems, but at the same time, company IT must provide sufficient security. Unifying user identity across all devices and environments will therefore be key. Unfortunately, companies don’t address security enough, they usually only start when they have a problem.

Security is a bit of a hidden issue, isn’t it?

Yes, but very essential and underestimated at the same time. It is necessary to have security for the peace of mind of the company management. Plus, the technologies bring convenience to users. So it’s a double victory. A name and password is no longer a sufficient tool; today’s standard should be authentication of the device itself and two-factor authentication of the user, perhaps through an app on a secure device.

Is Android already a secure device for you?

Sure, there are already phone models that Google authorizes for Android Enterprise, and there’s absolutely no problem with them. From my perspective, the iOS and Android worlds are different, especially in terms of system diversity, but Google has been working hard on security lately, and the security of certified devices is already sufficient. We don’t care what system we work with, Apple is starting to expand a lot in the Czech Republic, but Android is still dominant in local companies, while Apple leads in multinationals.

How prepared are Czech companies for identity management and what tools do you think they should use?

They’re thinking about it, they’re starting to figure it out. No dramatic preparation is needed, just determination. For me, I would recommend starting with Microsoft 365 technologies, this is especially useful for companies that have a Microsoft history and perhaps have used Active Directory traditionally. There are a lot of different plans and tools out there, but we can help you quickly. For non-Microsoft companies, I would recommend Okta technology, which is very capable of publishing different user identities across a heterogeneous cloud environment.

Are you increasingly encountering Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) technologies in the Czech Republic, or is Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) still predominant?

It’s slow, companies are just starting to talk to us about it and prepare projects for it. A major advantage of switching to UEM is the unified environment for users across all devices and also for the IT department, which then has a simpler management of all devices. In some ways, mobile solutions can be much more secure than laptops. For example, you can easily download the company database to USB from a laptop and steal it, something like this is technically impossible from a mobile phone. Mobile is very good at separating the work and private parts and doesn’t let you pass on your work data. Data in the cloud is clearly far more secure than on local storage on a laptop.

Interview for CIO Business World.

Author RADAN DOLEJŠ, Editor-in-Chief, CIO BW

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