If you were to consider what’s been happening in the UK IT industry since the Covid pandemic took hold in meteorological terms, you’d be describing what is known as a Perfect Storm.
A perfect storm combines three phenomena happening altogether and combining to cause unprecedented force, danger, and impact.
And so, the perfect storm in IT project delivery that I’m observing is having an impact on the ability of IT teams to successfully plan for and implement major IT projects and transformations.
In this blog, I‘ll talk about each of the three major factors contributing to that storm and how we at HighPoint are handling them to ensure our clients’ projects proceed on schedule without a hitch.
Central to this is holding close to a core set of organizational values and principles – that we refer to as The HighPoint Way – which contribute to delivering ‘legendary service’ to our customers in good times and in more difficult times like the ones we’re experiencing now.
The Global Shortage of Silicon
Silicon is in hot demand the world over. This is nothing new – the ubiquity of semiconductors in PCs, TVs, mobile phones, gaming devices, and for use in smart-enabling every electronic device from cars to fridges and vacuum cleaners means that the world needs more and more silicon each year.
Two things happened because of the pandemic that threatened the production of semiconductors. First, lockdown caused factories producing chips to shut down. Limited production led to an immediate shortage in supply. Those factories are only now getting back up to total output in some countries – circa 14 months later. Second, lockdown created an increasing demand for smart-enabled devices. It accelerated consumer expectations and the need for a whole range of new devices. With people spending more time at home, the desire for the latest gaming, entertainment, and media devices sky-rocketed.
This has had an unprecedented impact on delivery cycles. It’s not for nothing that Apple was forced to delay the iPhone 12 launch by two months, and many brands experienced similar launch and production delays due to a shortage of chips – including Samsung, Ford, Sony, Honda, and General Motors.
Looking at this through the lens of enterprise hardware for a second, we see a real shortage in devices with CPUs. Manufacturing lead times that used to be ‘just in time’ are now stretching from a standard 30 days to an average of 120 days. Put, this means that when we’re planning for an IT implementation, we need to order hardware a lot earlier to make sure we get it in time – or else it might threaten the timescales baked into a plan. This is manageable – but only as long as you can plan and order much further in advance than standard practice would have required. We at HighPoint are factoring in as standard into our project plans and making use of our capability to securely store equipment before implementation begins, ensuring we have equipment readily available.
This is an excellent example of ‘working smarter’ and ‘finding a way’ to honor our customer commitments, showing our HighPoint Way values in action.
Those values also center around effective collaboration and ‘investing in solid relationships’.
We’ve certainly benefited from those with distributors, device manufacturers and other providers in the supply chain to make sure we can track down devices and guarantee availability for our customers. Our strong partnerships ensure that we repeatedly ‘go the extra mile’ delivering assured lead times as much as 50 days faster than the industry average.
The Practical Realities of Brexit
The impact of Brexit on multi-country implementations for multi-national clients is indisputable. While once goods and people could flow freely between the UK and EU countries, now we have new hurdles to clear in the form of import processes and taxes, potentially adding to costs and timelines to get goods from A to B. There’s a particularly pressing need to ensure tax elements are considered for goods leaving the UK for the EU or those arriving in the UK from the EU where VAT is now applicable.
Operating without premises, facilities, a legal entity, or partnerships in the EU, slows down the progress of UK companies seeking to serve customers on sites in the EU, and we are seeing many companies looking to incorporate in mainland Europe or seeking solid partnerships to help them help with scale or implementations outside of the UK.
The final Brexit challenge to consider relates to the geographical storage of data, necessitating the careful sectioning and storage of the UK versus EU-originated data and creating new data center environments to reflect the change. While most customers have planned for this well in advance, it’s a new reality to support and manage over time.
Like most companies operating across borders, these are fresh challenges for us and our customers that cannot be ignored. At HighPoint, we’re ‘embracing these changes’ by flexing our partnerships and employing careful planning to ensure that projects can proceed without delays.
Installs Delayed by Covid
With lockdowns happening throughout 2020 and continuing in 2021, there have been many cases in planned installations that have seen delays because of the difficulty in getting engineers to the right place at the right time and to have them work in a Covid-safe environment.
As local country lockdowns have eased, this has become a bit less of a problem. Still, international travel restrictions and quarantines have meant that we cannot send engineers to deliver installs into mainland Europe, as we might have done previously.
It is not practical, humane, or economically viable for an engineer to quarantine for two weeks before and after a one-day job to enter a red list country, so we are increasingly making use of Smart Hands based within different countries our customers operate in to carry out basic installs and short engagements, supported by thorough Run Books to make sure they deliver to the standard HighPoint customers would expect. To provide this, we have developed a strong partnership network offering engineers we can trust to assist on critical and time-sensitive projects as a valid extension to the team. In some cases, this means we have pulled back on Smart Installs in favor of Rack and Stack and Testing only to de-risk projects.
As new Covid strains and an ever-changing landscape continue to challenge our medium to longer-term planning ability, we need to remain flexible and agile to ensure we can deliver for our customers. Whatever happens next, what is certain is that we’ll always ‘find a way’ to return against and exceed our customers’ expectations.
The Storm Continues
All three of the challenges I have described are macro – they impact everyone, not just HighPoint and our customers. Still, while I feel we can mitigate the Silicon and Brexit challenges with careful planning, strong partnerships, and close attention to detail, it’s the ever-evolving pandemic that is much harder to anticipate or control.
I am very proud of the ability of the HighPoint UK team to respond to each of these challenges and help our customers to navigate them effectively, avoiding significant impacts on their critical projects and delivering high levels of service. And while none of these issues are going away any time soon, it’s clear that we’re ready to face the next normal with our customers – together.
If you’d like to discuss any of the issues I have discussed in this blog, please email me at email@example.com.