FLUENT: Perspectives from Softcat

THE RECIPE FOR CLOUD SUCCESS?

SUSTAINABILITY AND TALENT

Matt Larder, head of cloud, explains the philosophy behind the growth of Softcat, a challenger in cloud transformation.

Cloud skills are in short supply. Three-quarters of organisations cite a lack of skills as a challenge on their journeys. Other barriers include the IT delivery gap, a taxing landscape of cloud partners and a growing imperative that investments align to a sustainable future. Given these pressures, why is Softcat quietly confident for the future? It's because the company’s ethos and vision for cloud are firmly grounded in it's culture and the way it works.

PEOPLE FIRST

Cloud journeys depend on people; those with a passion for outcomes built on rapidly evolving technology. Yet as cloud technology has rapidly grown, so have the gaps in talent and recruitment. As of early 2022, Softcat employs 1,700 people across nine locations to serve its customers with their digital workspace, cyber security and hybrid cloud needs in the UK and Ireland. The company’s growth is attributed to our culture, which started 29 years ago and is built on our ethos that people come first. This powers our focus to annually bring through the next generation of talent and ensure that irrespective of age, gender, or experience, we provide equal opportunity for development. We work with schools and universities to raise awareness of what the technology industry has to offer. As a result, we are seeing many more young people drawn to the industry. Daisy Mossop, GTM (go to market) manager at Softcat (pictured) is a product of Softcat’s commitment to young talent. A graduate of the company’s award-winning apprenticeship scheme, Mossop is also just one example of Softcat’s commitment to diversity in the tech sector.

Incidentally, the company’s emphasis on sustainability was an important factor for Mossop in choosing to work at Softcat. Indeed, we have observed that young people want their employer to provide an environment that not only educates and nurtures, but also demonstrates values they can relate to; values such as community, social responsibility and sustainability. Thanks to the rise of digital channels and 24 months of lockdowns, many younger employees are self taught, having learned a variety of new skills from their sofa. It’s here our approach bears fruit: Softcat achieved fifth position in the 2021 Super-Large Category of the UK’s Best Workplaces Awards; won the top apprenticeship employer in the UK award in 2021 and 2022 by RateMyApprenticeship; and has also grown its tech starter programme, which continues to promote women in technology.

"Young people want their employer to provide an environment that not only educates and nurtures, but also demonstrates values they can relate to"

EVOLVING CAREER MOTIVATIONS

Engaging young talent isn’t enough when they face significant hurdles starting their careers. The cost of living is rapidly increasing, and experience is still a primary factor for many recruiters. So, providing opportunities to mitigate these pressures is important, as is understanding and making a progressive effort to address the evolving expectations of not just younger members of our team, but also our customers and the wider society. It’s here that the sustainability imperative is impossible to ignore. Global e-waste is growing at a staggering rate. UN research found that the world discarded a record 53.6 million tons of e-waste in 2019, of which only 17% was recycled. By 2030, it’s predicted this will increase to more than 74 million tons a year. So what is the link between finding new talent and sustainability? In recent surveys by Global Tolerance, 42% of employees want to work for an organisation that has a positive impact on the world. Research from fast company. com highlights that nearly 70% said that if a company had a strong sustainability plan it would affect their decision to stay long term. It’s this context that underpins Softcat’s commitment to be a responsible employer and business partner. As our CFO, Graham Charlton, recently commented: “The IT industry needs to lead the way toward a net-zero future. As technology and its place in society proliferates, the requirement for it to be sustainable becomes paramount. ” This is why, through a range of initiatives that have gained total employee buy-in, Softcat has reduced its emissions by 37% over the past five years, while growing revenue and expanding our workforce.

CLOUD: A DIFFERENT APPROACH

While the new breed of ‘born in the cloud’ partners have attracted the industry’s top talent and accomplished well-publicised transformations, this has left an undesirable legacy: a skills bubble slowing the growth for the whole market and an oversight in the components of cloud adoption that are considered less exciting, regardless of their importance. Flexera research highlights that 55% of organisations are having challenges with cloud software licensing and 59% of organisations are still to focus on cloud migration. This creates divisive views that cloud can positively or negatively impact sustainability. A cloud journey can reduce IT infrastructure, cutting energy output and lowering emissions. But conversely, 30% of cloud spend is wasted according to Flexera research. This ultimately means someone else’s equipment contributing to your Scope 3 emissions - perhaps less than it originally was, but not as low as it could be.

Softcat has taken a different approach. Armed with an appreciation of sustainability, both climate and commercial, we help customers get maximum results by emphasising the importance of managing commercial relationships and providing intelligence regarding cloud usage to avoid waste and sprawl, which supports sustainable change. We do this with small and mid-sized businesses as well as enterprises, across private and public sectors. This gives us a breadth of experience that provides a platform to support digital transformation. A recent example is Softcat’s partnership with a leading public cloud provider to support UK Police as part of the One Government Cloud Strategy to transform legacy IT. Digital forensic units are experiencing an exponential increase in demand for data processing on live and archive storage. Our partnership has demonstrated an 80% reduction in analysis time for a single mobile phone image and a 90% reduction in storage costs versus on-premises. This increases department efficiency and reduces carbon footprint using modern cloud technology in place of ageing on-premises equipment.

THE FUTURE: NO DREAMWORK

The cloud scene is teeming with providers. Much rarer are partners prepared to build and invest in a lasting community that embraces young talent and reflects the values of its people and customers. In the long-run, it’s a people-first ethos, with a sustainable attitude that delivers cloud outcomes that support lasting growth. It’s here we measure our success. We have maintained annual customer satisfaction results at 95%, and despite the challenges of a global pandemic, we hold a Net Promoter Score of 59 - a great position in the technology industry.

This article first appeared in Raconteur, a supplement of the Sunday Times on 13th March 2022.

A U T H O R

Matt Larder Head of Cloud, Softcat

Matt is responsible for leveraging the power of cloud on a strategical level to drive real change – and get things done. Matt has a wealth of experience working in architecture, sales and consulting across global outsourcing and pure-play public cloud-native organisations.


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