Solving organisational challenges in partnership

On Monday 14 January, I and seven colleagues spanning all areas of our delivery – from the training room to the web team and the data team – attended a Tech for Good Hackathon with some fifty Sopra Steria graduates and mentors.

We know that if our charity is to continue to grow both in its impact and its reach we need more effective and efficient systems, and to achieve this will require a greater focus both on problem-solving within our current workflow as well as implementation of new digital solutions.

hackathon monatge

Focussing on the student journey, from enrolment, on-course support to completion, we were hugely impressed by the enthusiasm, professionalism and team-work that the Sopra Steria graduates showed, tackling what often appear to us as quite intractable operational challenges.

The opportunity for me and my colleagues to simply take a day out to reflect on current practice was in itself hugely helpful, and one that we don’t otherwise find the space for: but to marry that opportunity with the creative ideas and plans put forward by the Sopra Steria graduates really made it a worthwhile day, giving us the clarity and focus this piece of work deserves.

Over the next few weeks and months we’ll begin implementing some of the ideas from the Hackathon, and can’t wait to see how those ideas develop.


Anthony Harmer – CEO, ELATT

Sopra Steria Welcomes ELATT

On Monday 14 January Sopra Steria Graduates will take part in a Tech for Good hackathon for our London charity partner, ELATT. In a day-long hackathon event, our grads will work in teams with Sopra Steria coaches to create solutions to one of ELATT’s critical business challenges. At the end of the day, the best ideas will be selected by the senior team from ELATT, and the charity plans to implement the solution or solutions that best meet their needs.

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This event is co-sponsored by the Early Careers, Community, and Digital Innovation teams, and is part of our Tech for Good Programme, which is focused on using our digital, technology and business expertise to create positive impacts in the world.  It is also an important part of our hands-on, impact-focused approach to learning and development in our Graduate Programme.

ELATT is an award-winning digital skills training college offering opportunities for learning and qualifications to under-served people, helping them get the skills they need to succeed in the workplace.

Anthony Harmer, CEO of ELATT, said,

‘As an education charity with big ideas but limited resources, this Hackathon provides us with an invaluable opportunity to draw on the insight and expertise in the Sopra Steria team to help us improve our services for our students and turn our ambitions into reality.’

Kaila Yates, Sopra Steria Chief Marketing Officer and board sponsor of our Community Programme said,

‘We know that digital technologies are transforming organisations every day.  We believe that our charitable partners like ELATT will be able to do more with digital, and helping them make a difference for their students and the London communities they serve is an exciting opportunity for us and a great example of our Tech for Good programme.’

For more information please contact Laura Lucas (Early Careers), Jen Rodvold (Community & Tech for Good), or Morgan Korchia (Digital Innovation).

A more caring conference: ITSMF 2018

The key themes at this year’s ITSMF conference were about ensuring the ongoing relevance of IT Service Management (ITSM) and the importance of the people that work in the profession  These themes were constant throughout the various sessions be they digital transformation of the year or the debate on the future ethics of AI.

The keynote opening speech was delivered by the Mental Health charity “Sane”, which was received like no other I have witnessed before at an ITSMF conference.   It really is OK to talk about mental health and loudly applaud a speaker who opens up on issues which some may see as a taboo.

Of the 46 sessions that ran this year, 29 of the sessions were people focussed.  Personal journeys, the support and benefits of being in the profession.  It really was People first at ITSMF 2018 and not the usual People, Process and Technology Mantra.  Whether it was process automation or chatbots, the focus was on the people using these technologies or enabling them.  Some of my personal highlights from the conference are below:-

The Great Relevance Debate

This was the headline panel session with industry experts including our very own Dave Green.  The debate centred on the relevance of ITSM in the digital age.  The conclusion was that there would always need to be an approach for managing IT Services.  The principles of ITIL, COBIT, Lean, IT4IT etc. will therefore remain relevant.  VeriSM, (a service management approach for the digital age) and the forthcoming ITIL4 demonstrate the evolution of best ITSM practice thinking and alignment to the digital age.  In the future, key ITSM activities will be automated, accountability will be pushed to the coalface and metrics will be based on the customer experience.  There will though still be a need for operational frameworks and ITSM professionals measuring and improving service.   It was also noted by the panel many organisations are tied long term to Bi-Modal operations.   Legacy systems may best be managed with the disciplines of what we can call legacy ITSM.  In short, ITSM is still relevant but not in the same way as it was 10 years ago.

Experience Level Agreements (XLA) – Kicking the KPI habit

This session was all about creating measures of IT performance that are relevant to the End User of the Services.  The customer experience will become the critical success factor in the truly digital world.  It is driving a power-shift from the business to the customer, so to drive higher user demand businesses need to understand customers and their expectations. It’s important, therefore a means of effectively measuring the customer experience needs to be in place. If XLAs are not in place, customers may go elsewhere even with all the IT Metrics green. IT Metrics should be kept for IT and relevant XLA metrics developed for the end customer.  An XLA is created through starting with a targeted end result and re-engineering backwards.  A key principle was that IT shouldn’t just be looking to align to business, it should be aiming to ENABLE business. More information can be found here https://xla.rocks/

The New Management of Service – Joining up the Enterprise

This session talked of the New Management of Service, joining up the Enterprise and the concept of Enterprise Service Management rather than just the ITSM in isolation.  The speaker talked of 2 key concepts.  The first being the benefits of applying best practice ITSM techniques to the wider enterprise.  The HR department could use the technologies and processes of the IT Request Management was an example cited. The second concept was of everything as a Service and the mapping of customer journeys end to end across all organisational pillars; IT, finance, sales, marketing, procurement, customer support, facilities management, HR.  Break down the silos and manage enterprise services end to end from the customer’s perspective to reduce costs, eliminate waste and increase organisational efficiency. Other speakers at the conference championed the concept of Enterprise Service Management.

Going digital isn’t Transformation, its evolution

The speaker stated that 22% of companies think they completed their digital transformation, which indicates they do not understand the nature of being a digital business.  There were several sessions on digital transformation at the conference but this session had some good pragmatic content.  The speaker stated that business users often have better IT at home than at work as home IT doesn’t get business priority.  Going digital by just changing the front-end is not transformation, it’s like a new coat of paint on a building, only the 1st step in refurbishment that needs to move on to other areas like flooring, wiring etc.  I especially like the term GADU to describe the expectations of the digital consumer.  It must search like Google, order like Amazon, be packaged/bundled like Dell and track like UPS for each step of the activity (GADU).  Anything less than GADU capability is viewed less favourably by the customer.  I also liked the speakers view that there is no such thing as the cloud just someone else’s computer J.  The speaker also talked of the importance of properly marketing digital transformations in the same way an organisation would market a new product.  This applies to both internal and external digital transformations.

The Ethics of AI

There has been a lot of talk about AI and the ethics around it as we approach “the 4th industrial revolution”. The speaker had some interesting ideas on empathy engines that could take Siri and Alexa to the next levels.  The speaker talked of the emergence of “Robophyschologists” as persons that would bridge the gap between human and machine learning and interaction.  They would create algorithms that would enable machines to learn in the same way a human babies do.  This all felt a little far off for me but the speaker cited things that are happening now around the ethics of AI.  Laws already enshrined in Germany ensure AI favours human life over anything when making emergency decisions for example.  A very thought provoking session.

Overall I felt the ITSMF 2018 conference to be forward looking and compassionate but still with a nod to the past.  I met the man who first coined the terminology “Incident” and “Problem” whose lanyard displayed the words Malcolm Fry “ITSM Legend”.

Work Experience – Why Sopra Steria?

Sopra Steria recently provided a work experience placement to James Hogg, who visited our Edinburgh office earlier this month. James was based with me in the Government Sales Support Team for most of the week working on a variety of tasks (we kept him busy!), as well as spending time in our Digilab and meeting colleagues from other areas of the business. Read on to hear in his own words how James found the experience.


Introduction

I’m James, I’m 15 years old and have done a week of work experience at Sopra Steria’s Edinburgh office. Having little clue what I wanted to do when I grow up, choosing Sopra Steria for my work experience turned out to be the perfect choice. From my work experience I wanted a rough idea of what the World of Work was like, what it involved and how it worked/functioned. After an enjoyable week of working alongside the Government Sales Support team, Recruitment and in the Digilab, I learnt what I wanted to from work experience, with lots more on top of that.

What I learnt during my work experience at Sopra Steria

On my work experience I learnt loads!

I learnt bits about how an office functions and the dynamics of an office, who does what and why they do it. With Sales Support I learnt all the ins and outs of what they do on a day to day basis, including learning all about contract opportunities and how they go about finding relevant ones for the company, sending them on to people who will either take up the opportunity further or decline it.

With the Recruitment team of Sopra Steria I learnt the basics of what their role in the company is and what they do on a day to day basis, I found this interesting not only because their role in the company is pivotal but because it’s good insight for my CV writing future to know what exactly employment teams look for.

In the Digilab I was in the most futuristic section of Sopra Steria, being given the opportunity to work in the Digilab was extremely interesting. I was challenged with a multitude of new tasks which for the most part I didn’t know were a thing: tasked with taking a computer out a wall, stripping it down to the bare minimum, burning a software onto a disk and using the same disk to download the software onto the computer. After doing all of this I had to download a service which allows you to operate devices in a room from your computer (e.g. Lights, TVs volume, music, Alexas). This was definitely not anything I had done before, I found it challenging but that made completing it that more rewarding.

Also, throughout my week I learnt lots about coding. I found this challenging, yet interesting. Through the Codecademy website I completed tutorials – I went from changing the colour of my name with basic code to designing a website all within a week.

Along with all these great skills and things I learnt about Sopra Steria, I also learnt lots of transferable skills that I can further develop and use in the future.

Greatest achievement in my week of work experience

I would say one of my greatest achievements in my week of work experience would be creating a website. What makes this my greatest achievement, in a week full of achievements and new situations to try and prevail in, was the fact that I had never coded before. Before my week with Sopra Steria I had maybe done one course early on in high school which consisted of not much coding. However, after my week I had learnt a lot of different types of coding (website design, HTML, CSS and other basic code) and had designed multiple webpages with my new found skills.

Another one of my achievements from my week of work experience would be my time in the Digilab and what I achieved within my time here, doing all sorts with computers, stuff that I didn’t even know was a thing. Once again, from previously little to no knowledge of what I was doing to completing tasks is the reason why this is one of my achievements in a full on week.

Would I recommend work experience at Sopra Steria

Yes, I would absolutely recommend someone choose to do their work experience at Sopra Steria. I would recommend it for many reasons, but primarily because you meet lots of friendly, interesting and welcoming people who will help you learn and make your week worthwhile, also learning lots of transferable skills in the process making it extremely worth it for someone to do their work experience at Sopra Steria.


At Sopra Steria we are committed to Work Experience, Internships and Student Placements – allowing students to gain experience, get a feel for working life and potentially help shape and inform their future career choice.

Our sustainability programme encourages students to build skills and careers in IT, and we offer great training, development and career progression prospects – find out more about our Early Careers opportunities.

Sopra Steria collaborates with The Scottish Government for a DevOps Hackathon

Today we are welcoming The Scottish Government Department of Agriculture and the Rural Economy (ARE) to our Edinburgh DigiLab for a DevOps Hackathon.

We are hosting this event in a similar manner to the internal hackathons we did a couple of months ago and we are very excited to have ARE on board to take them on this journey with us, using DevOps technologies including Red Hat OpenShift.

Today we will be providing a developer’s perspective, getting our hands dirty with the basics of DevOps using OpenShift and walking the attendees through a variety of tasks from the creation of projects and build of applications through to the use of pipelines for application deployment as well as processes to assist with application/environmental maintenance.

The attendees in our office today range from infrastructure analysts to technical management and developers – an open invite was distributed throughout ARE and we are very pleased to have a variety of skills on-board.

We are looking forward to sharing our knowledge of the platform with ARE and we hope to run a series of these hackathons, so watch this space!


Shehzad Nagi, Senior Technical Architect
Caitlin Toner, Architect

Sopra Steria gets involved in National Get Online Week

Sopra Steria employee volunteers have been at libraries in the London Borough of Harrow this week to help library users learn how to use the internet and technology in their everyday lives, all in support of National Get Online Week, a UK-wide campaign to raise awareness of and take practical action on digital exclusion.

These gadget surgeries run by Sopra Steria volunteers will help users learn new tricks and get the most from their laptops, mobiles phones or tablets. Get help with internet searches, social media, apps, email, organising photos, online shopping, video calling, booking GP appointments and applying for jobs.

Today 4.3 million Britons still do not have basic digital skills, and 11.3 million only have basic abilities, according to the Good Things Foundation, the organisation behind Get Online Week.

Sopra Steria is committed to digital inclusion so that people of all backgrounds, no matter where they are in the UK, regardless of socio-economic status or age, have the skills, confidence and access to technology they need to make the most of all the digital world has to offer.

Scotsoft 2018. Smart people, community and trees

Last week I was proud to continue the tradition of Sopra Steria’s support of the Young Software Engineer of the year award, since its inception 20 years ago.  Once again the entrants were outstanding (though I confess the technicalities of some project went right over my head!).   Can Gafuroglu’s winning  project was entitled  ‘Joint prediction and Classification of Brain Image Evolution Trajectories from Baseline with Application to Early Dementia Diagnosis’.  Our industry is about solving problems and this project underlines the significance of what can be achieved by the smart use of technology by #smartpeople.

 

The buzz at the dinner was incredible and underlined the spirit of ScotlandIS – that of #community.   Our Sopra Steria table was no exception, with a mix of SMEs, customers and advisors. Plus Alison McLaughlin – now on secondment to Scottish Government Digital as part of the Digital Fellowship Programme.

And, #trees.  Lizzy Yarnold was an inspirational speaker on the evening and reminded us all of the importance of belief, ambition and team work.  She spoke about a book “The Inner Life of Trees”: What they feel, how they communicate.  A brilliant parallel to business life – the need for constant communication, mutual support and networking.

Well done to ScotlandIS.  The Scotsoft conference has once again reinforced our Smart Young People, Our Community and that we are a well-connected forest.


by Mags Moore, Head of Government for Scotland and Northern Ireland.