Overcoming obstacles to master hybrid work

15 December 2021

At the start of this month, we hosted our CSS2021 Digital event. We had 22 industry speakers taking part from Google, CeX, The Bannatyne Group, Ocado, Simply Business, Pressure Technologies (to name a few!), with over 110 attendees representing 296,332 end users. We brought together like-minded people from some of the top businesses in the UK to share ideas, trending topics from Google, and relevant technology themes in the world right now. The topic that came up, again and again, had to be ‘how do we master hybrid work?’.

This three-day event, exclusively for our CSS community, proved to be a fantastic platform for sharing ideas, solving problems and opening up several discussions. As much as a community event as a company one, attendees get the chance to discover how they can get more from their Google technology as well as the chance to speak with their peers and other members of the CSS community. Here are the biggest takeaways from the event:

CSS2021 Customer quote

Create hybrid working success

Employee expectation of hybrid work is evolving. We must learn how to embrace this opportunity to create hybrid working success. In a 2020 survey, 93% of C-Suite Executives said they saw an increase in remote working and collaboration, with over half believing the changes will stick beyond the pandemic. At the event, we uncovered that there are still ways we can improve to build on this digital-first culture. Several topics came up, including the importance of change management, security, and digital leadership. These are the core elements to enable us to thrive in the future. 

Build an inclusive culture with technology.

Almost every organisation that introduced remote working over the last 20 months has probably upgraded their tech stack to continue working. Sure, we all know how to make a video call, but how do we use this technology to grow and foster a culture to get remote workforces happy and engaged? How do we maintain impact, connection and well-being? The answer does not solely lie with technology. It is about the people, and we must ensure that we do not leave anyone behind. 

“Google’s mission is to help organisations transform how work happens with a people-first approach. The workspace is no longer in the office – it is wherever you are! Whether you are returning to the office, working from home, or a mix of both, they have the products and features you need to connect, share ideas and get more done together, no matter the location.” – Google Cloud Representative

Google technology has a big part to play in being able to master hybrid working. It allows teams to connect, create and collaborate from anywhere. To make hybrid work successful, you must keep people productive and engaged and make the hybrid experience accessible for all. 

Tips to make an impact on your organisation:

  • Design meetings that remote workers and office workers can both participate in. 
  • Create an environment where every team member feels comfortable to share their ideas. 
  • Give your workforce a sense of purpose and explain how they contribute to the company’s success. 
  • Ensure that the in-office experience promotes collaboration – use this time for team building activities, workshops and brainstorming sessions.

Add extra security for your hybrid environment.

A remote workforce means businesses may have to adjust their security strategy to be more robust. One of the hot topics to come out of the event is implementing App Access Control. This is a great way to put processes in place to reduce the risk of data breaches through APIs, as admins can prevent users from installing dangerous 3rd party software. You can restrict access to services like Gmail, drive and contacts, and it allows you to trust specific apps that have a business use or are deemed safe. This is especially useful if you have a big organisation with lots of users, or domain merges mean you might inherit different conflicts from different companies, so accounts can become messy and hard to manage.

To implement this technology, you need to identify the apps you want to control. Then you can assess them to ensure they are in line with your compliance policies, and you can check if due diligence has been done on the app to ensure it is safe for your organisation. 

Tips to get started:

  • Communicate to the rest of the business that you will be auditing all the APIs.
  • Create an error message for users detailing the new process for approval of installing APIs. 
  • Get a list of every single app you need to review.
  • Use tools like Token Report to help determine which apps are critical to the business, based on how many users use them. 

 

Once you have a documented app approval process, you will end up with a defined catalogue of approved business apps to help your workforce stay productive without compromising security. 

Achieve your business goals with digital leadership.

Ultimately, the most effective way your business can draw success from hybrid work is by having a digital-first leadership team. You could have all the technology at your fingertips, but without buy-in from the decision-makers processes, strategies, and new technology will be hard to put in place. 

“We are now in a world that understands it is not the place of work that is special or important. It is our people. With the right tools and attitude, businesses can thrive even when fully remote. Of course, hybrid/remote working is not without challenges, but this is an opportunity to become a more visible, more valuable IT team.” – Martin Russell, Director of CSS, Netpremacy 

For more ideas on how to boost tech team culture and visibility in the hybrid workplace, read Martin’s article here

Our CSS programme provides you with a first-class engagement partner who will be there every step of the way in your cloud journey. Our Customer Success Managers act as an extension to your IT team and are the link to solving problems. Whether we go directly to Google or host networking opportunities, like CSS2021 Digital, so peers in the community can help too. These exclusive events have been for our CSS community to show how their businesses can continuously improve, stay updated on emerging technology, the latest trends, and how to use them to continue to thrive.

Want to be part of this exclusive community? Get in touch to learn more info@netpremacy.com.

11 December 2020

What a week!

What a successful, Jam-packed week we have seen at CSS2020 Digital! Our week-long event proved to be a fantastic platform for our CSS community, and opened up a number of discussions. The week long event was designed to get to know our community, share knowledge and reflect upon 2020 as a whole. You can read more on previous sessions from the first half of the week here. But we aren’t done yet! The second half of the week saw many more sessions available to our customer base, covering topics of all kinds. 

All things data 
Speaker – Nadeem Sharieff – Netpremacy

Day 3 of our CSS2020 online event saw 4 sessions in total. The afternoon sessions focused on Big Data and Machine Learning, as well as Change Management and Google Champions. 

To kick things off, Nadeem Sharieff, one of Netpremacy’s Data Engineers, dove straight in and gave an overview of what Big Data is, as well as looking at the key GCP Big Data products. 

Firstly, it was important to highlight that many people see “data as the new oil”, as it can be the most valuable asset a company can have. There are massive amounts of data that are being generated at any given time for many companies across the globe. Google Cloud has built specific solutions so businesses can optimise and use their data to make the right decisions, evolve, and grow. But what actually is Big Data? This refers to data that is too complex and too expensive to store, manage and analyse using a traditional computing approach.

Big Data is categorised by the 5 V’s:

  • Volume: the size of data being generated across the globe
  • Variety: the different types of data; structured, semi-structured, unstructured
  • Velocity: the speed at which the data is being generated
  • Veracity: is it trustworthy or are there inconsistencies in the data?
  • Value: arguably the most important, but is the data beneficial? Can you extract value from it? 

 

Next, Nadeem discussed the data lifecycle steps, and how GCP products fit into this. 

Ingest: The first stage is to pull in the raw data, such as streaming data from devices, on-premises batch data, application logs, or mobile-app user events and analytics. Cloud Pub/Sub, Stackdriver and Cloud Transfer Service are the recommended tools.

data lifestyle products

Store: Once data’s been retrieved, it’s time to store it in a format that is durable and can be easily accessed. Google Cloud Storage is the preferred tool if you are using a data lake. This can include structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data, which is quite difficult to do data discovery.

Process and analyse: Here you process your data and bring it into a state where you can analyse and understand different trends. Dataproc and Dataflow are the main tools here. Dataproc is a fully managed hadoop service, which is scalable, fast, a fully managed service, and based on open-sourced software. Dataflow is also a fully managed service, so no provisioning required, and scales automatically based on your workload.

Explore and visualise: The final stage is to convert the results of the analysis into a format that is easy to draw insights. You can do this using Google tools such as; Cloud Console, Data Studio, Sheets Datalab, and extract, or leverage that data to build the foundation of Machine Learning or Artificial Intelligence in GCP.

Now that the lifecycle of data and the tools needed have been established. The next step is to use a system for reporting or data analysis. A Data Warehouse is mainly a centre storage depository for data sources, and a place for storing current and historical data. In a structured format, you can perform data analytics and report based on that data. BigQuery is the preferred tool, which is a fully managed service, based in the cloud. The benefits of BigQuery are; it’s serverless, and you can also build Machine Learning models using SQL.

This brings us nicely on to the last part of the session: Machine Learning. This is a branch of Artificial Intelligence, a discipline that is focused on science and engineering applications that learn from your data and improve over time. These models can understand different trends. The more data that is fed into the system, the more it learns and improves accuracy and predictions.

The key to success when using  Machine Learning is, to begin with, a large dataset (and store it properly). Nadeem showed us a wide range of ML and AI products in the GCP portfolio, with tools to suit the different needs of businesses, based on ease of implementation, pre-trained models, and custom models. 

Ai expertise

Champion dojo

Our fourth and final session on the 9/12 was hosted by Fraja Hodges, Christos Amyrotos, and Jac Camus, Google. 

This session focused heavily on Google Champions, what they are, and why they are important. There was an introduction to Google Champion networks, and how they can be vital to boosting adoption during projects and maintaining it through constant change. 

Google Champions, for those who don’t know, are appointed individuals in a company that takes on the role of providing tips, advice, and guidance to the workforce. These are usually front line people in the business who can be on the ground helping anyone who has questions on using Google Workspace. It’s worth noting that Google Champions do not need to be members of the IT team, anyone with enthusiasm for Google and looking to help out their fellow colleagues can take on the responsibility! 

Champions are typically skilled up with advanced knowledge of Google Workspace so that they can be the helping hands on the ground and are accessible at all times in the business. They are also the people who champion the Google product internally to create and maintain a buzz for the technology. 

We also heard from Fraja on the Champion network structure, how it works, and why it is important. Fraja covered different ways in which companies can manage a champion network, how to recruit for volunteers, and how often this should be reviewed. 

We then heard from Jac on the different faces of change. People react differently to change and this section covered the different characters we may encounter when going through change. Jac enlightened us on how to understand how different people react to a technology change with emotion, and how each type can be a valuable asset to the company and even a champion network.

To conclude the session we then spoke with our customers on what issues or blockers they face when implementing Google Champions in the workplace, to better understand how we can constantly be improving and updating our programs. 

Open forum – CSS2021 

Speakers – Fraja Hodges, Guy Ellis, Netpremacy

Our first session on the penultimate day was led by Fraja Hodges, who took us through the new, exclusive feature releases and campaigns coming to the CSS program in 2021 to improve collaboration and productivity in the workplace. She also covered the importance of making this content accessible to all users, especially since many companies will be working from home for the foreseeable future. 

We also got a sneak peek of the Netpremacy CSS Hub, launching in 2021, which will be exclusively available to our CSS community. This will be a central area for all materials and assets produced by CSS – a place to self serve with anything you need! 

Feedback Forum 

We gave our CSS community a voice and wanted to hear from them on what they think we can do better or improve on in 2021. It’s vital to us that we have that open forum with our community so we can ensure that everyone’s needs are being met and that we are always improving, whether that be engagement, events or products.

The session ended with honest feedback and a discussion about the new ideas we have going into 2021. As a result, the topics covered were confidential and personal to each company. 

Security workshop landscape 

Speakers – Nick Harrison, Netpremacy, Dominic Parkes, Google

The working environment has changed drastically in 2020, and as a result, so have business security requirements. We held an open forum to discuss the challenges and opportunities businesses have experienced. We also discussed what lessons we have learned over the past year, and what lessons we plan on taking with us into 2021.

Nick kicked off the session by explaining how Cyber security professionals’ roles and responsibilities have changed over the past year, due to many workforces having to work remotely now. Businesses have had to drastically change the way that new users are being enrolled, and also have to make sure that they are working from somewhere secure. Nick touched on some simple security precautions that people should take. Even if they seem small. Shoulder surfing is a real thing and a security measure that should be taken seriously when working out in public. This is something that is now on many businesses’ radars since their workforce is now also working out and about in public. 

We also asked questions such as has remote working changed our culture, and the way we work? Have we got laxer with our behaviours?

Some interesting points to consider. In addition to this, we also touched on how users reacted to this new way of working, now they are not secure in the office. Many people may not take this into consideration, but since work has been taken home, your teams may find that the security workforce has been stretched as now they have to think about security from a remote setting.

Some other important security measures that were highlighted in the session were;

2SV – 2 step verification, and how this can help keep employees data safe. 

Strong passwords – these are so important and something that should not be overlooked. Having the same password for everything is not secure. Vary your passwords and do not include personal information such as names or memorable dates. 

Security keys – we discussed who used these, and what benefits they have to adding the extra layer of security for your business. 

Building a secure culture-making people aware of cybersecurity, its importance, and small steps to take to keep your company data secure. 

What can admins do to keep the company secure? – there are steps admins can take to prevent employees from downloading certain apps, and accessing certain information based on the location they are in. 

DLP – implement multi-layered defenses with DLP rules. Protect and classify data, warn users about rule violations, and educate users on the importance of data security.

Email security – the below diagram is the timeline of an email entering your inbox. The ticks are the protections Google offers to keep employees safe. The level Google goes to to protect 

Google has multiple solutions over different apps, to make sure protection covers all areas. They interlock and work alongside each other.

Digital Hackathon 

Speaker – Kevin Jordan, Netpremacy

netpremacy digital hackathon

Our final full session of the day was on hackathons run by Kevin Jordan, Head of Technical Operations at Netpremacy. Kevin is responsible for how Netpremacy ensures we are performing as efficiently as possible internally, and has since brought in a number of solutions to improve the way we and our customers work using the Google Workspace stack. Kevin began the session by touching on what we mean by “Hackathon”, how it’s run, and how they can benefit the way businesses work internally. 

What is a hackathon?

A hackathon is an internal event where the business gathers to discuss any challenges or blockers employees may be facing when completing day to day work activities, and working on innovative ways to improve these. Kevin ran through the 3 key elements you should consider when organising a hackathon. 

The Challenge – This is about finding out what challenges everyone has in the business. Not everyone has an outlet for voicing the issues they experience And a hackathon can help unearth these day-to-day challenges. It’s good to get other’s perspectives and ideas on how to improve processes. 

Idea – This is what the Hackathon is all about, a session to collaborate on ideas to resolve those issues, big or small. This will help identify an approach for how to bring in new processes and solutions to improve the way you work. 

Solution – Is all about building out those ideas from the sessions. This helps companies to innovate using technology, to build creative solutions, and to create projects with beneficial business outcomes. 

An example of this could be transitioning from a manual training booking process that has limited spots, to a self-serve system. Or, it could even just be an idea like showing staff appreciation by automating a work anniversary communications to celebrate each person in the business. Netpremacy themselves have run these internally, where solutions like the Office Booking tool were thought up.

Why run a hackathon?

Many people may immediately come back with the question of: What positive impact is this going to have on the business?

There are many benefits of running a hackathon for both the business and its employees. Hosting a hackathon allows you to improve efficiency by refining new workflows and taking away mundane tasks. No one person comes up with all the ideas, so opening your floor to all employees will help the business to understand what day to day processes do and don’t work. Your employees will feel more valued if they can voice their opinions on processes. 

It’s easy to stick to old processes because “That’s the way it’s always been done” but challenging your business and its processes is a way of evolving.  

Who can get involved?

It’s easy to think that a hackathon should only be open to the more technically minded. When in fact it is the opposite. A hackathon should be open to everyone. That way you are gathering information from the company as a whole and how it works across different departments. 

What tools to use for a Hackathon

Kevin touched on a number of tools that are available in the Google Cloud stack that can be used to build solutions for your business. The tools that can be used are listed below. 

Just using the Workspace tools could be enough for some scenarios especially for getting started.

Apps Script

• Javascript

• Automation

• Native Workspace integration

• Brand new IDE 

AppSheet

• Fairly new, but a lot of buzz from Google

• No-code (but has in-built logic builder)

• Quick to pick up (connect a sheet)

API’s

• Extensive Documentation

• Integrate into Workspace

• Api Explorer / “try it now” feature (learn: required parameters & expected responses)

GCP

  • The world’s your oyster, with some cost
  • Powerful platform to host your more complex applications
  • even at the scale Google products you use day to day (i.e. Gmail)

Overall, a very informative session from Kevin. We taught our attendees how looking at business processes as a whole business rather than a select few employees can have a massive impact on the productivity and collaboration of your teams. 

Closing event

The week was brought to an end with our closing event, this was an opportunity to reflect on the content we had delivered, and to reconnect with everyone to check in on how it had been received. The session began looking at 2020 as a whole, and by watching Google’s latest roundup video of 2020. 

We then heard from Martin and his thoughts for the duration of 2020. 

“What a year, January seems quite far away now and no one could have known or foreseen how it was going to play out. Whilst I will save my thoughts on the tragic nature of a lot of it I will say what an opportunity it has been for us all to think differently about our own working lives and that of our teams and Businesses.

Technology has once again been an enabler to keep in contact, working, and collaborating together without thought of how or will it meet the need, it once again just works.

The future looks bright and next year I know will be interesting and challenging but I believe that is why we choose to work in technology, I hope we can continue to keep rallying around each other and through this CSS community we have built and solved those challenges together.” 

Martin Russell Customer Success Director. 

Again, we want to thank every single person that made our CSS2020 event successful. These events, may they be physical, or virtual are what make Netpremacy who we are. Over the course of the week, we have pulled some interesting stats for how the week played out.

If you are seriously considering joining our CSS community, please feel free to reach out and our teams will be happy to discuss what is included, and how you can get involved.