Congratulations to Papplewick school Ascot who won the coveted Tatler Prep School of the year 2018 this week.
As both a governor, an old boy and a parent it makes me incredibly proud to be part of the Papplewick community.
Congratulations to Papplewick school Ascot who won the coveted Tatler Prep School of the year 2018 this week.
As both a governor, an old boy and a parent it makes me incredibly proud to be part of the Papplewick community.
I never liked learning drab old Shakespeare at school. Trying to understand metaphor, iambic pentameter and learning quotes by heart to regurgitate on to exam papers was all rather dull.
So imagine my surprise when I finally saw Henry V, played out on a country house lawn on a summers evening. With a glass of fizz in hand I was transported back 500 years to the field of Agincourt and as the sun went down, so I walked with ‘the young and war like Harry’ amongst the campfires before the great battle and as he watched his men asleep before the dawn and certain death …understood that ‘but for ceremony, such a wretch, Winding up days with toil and nights with sleep, Had the forehand and vantage of a king.”
I was converted! So for the past 10 years ComXo have sponsored a mini Shakespeare Festival at a wonderful location at the Old Ruins, St Leonards Hill, Windsor. We have frolicked in the forest with The Merry Wives of Windsor, ridden with the King at Agincourt, watched as murderous Macbeth makes his fiendish pact, sparred with wit with As You Like it, cried with grief as Romeo and Juliet , the ‘star crossed lovers take their life’, and of course entered the magical world of A Midsummer Night Dream.
This year we have taken the festival in a new direction by sponsoring Young Actors of Windsor (YAOW) to once again stage this wonderfully evocative play.
The hill is the perfect setting for the play as we will move from in front of the old ruins (Athens ) to the fairy magical kingdom beneath our very own 1000 year old oak tree. YAOW have gone all out on this production hiring in an experienced and well versed cast to portray the play in full Shakespearean costumes.
For the first time this year the event is open to the public and will run for 3 evening performances on the 5th 6th and 7th of July at 19.00 and one matinee on the 7th at 14.00. People are encouraged to bring a picnic to enjoy in the beautiful private gardens from 5pm.
To get an idea of what it is like press the link below
Details of the event and tickets can be found at www.yaowtheatre.com.
What I hear you say…another bland excuse for a PR company to create a story…well no actually. At ComXo we provide some of the largest companies on the planet with Virtual Personable Assistants (VPA), available 24 hours a day and able to support, enable and facilitate our clients workforce’s.
Dealing with globe trotting executives requests and requirements around the clock requires a very special type of person. A ComXo VPA has access to a company’s full suite of business services, FAQ’s and help desk capability. They are quite literally plugged into the global capability of an organisation. That means that a telephone call could be anything from the CEO needing support to book an executive car to a corporate customer wanting to do business.
The next call could be a clients most important call all year, the difference between winning an account or loosing it. Every call could be a million pound call so being alert, engaged and capable is essential.
At ComXo this is driven by the combination of exceptional people, brilliant home grown technology and culture. Culture is what National Telephonist Day is all about. The opportunity to spoil our VPA’s, to serve them as they serve their customers to let them know how important each one is as they deliver their exceptional service call after call.
So what do we do…dress up of course!
As I embark on the first week of the new year I am, like everyone, filled with the good intentions of resolutions. I am minded however of how many of last years good intentions were so woefully kept including doing a regular blog post…the last one I contributed in May!
So here we are again. There are however some things in my life that I do mange to do every day that have quite literally transformed my life. The power of routine is immensely powerful and simple to achieve if you can schedule it to occur during parts of the day you have control over…for me this is first thing in the morning and last thing at night….before and after the one other activity which I always observe…sleep.
Over the past 12 years I have changed my habits and enriched my life by simply creating an hour and a half in the morning (by getting up earlier) and just recently capturing 30 mins before I go to bed (by watching less TV).
It began by me taking my then dog Bear for a 40 minute walk rather than a 10 minute walk. I live near a park and the walk is beautiful anyway.
But the real benefit of this has just been made clear to me as my beloved other half, Vicky got me a fit bit for Christmas…a fit bit for her fat bit…or that is how it felt on Christmas morning after a month of business and social revelry.
But to my surprise, though I was at least a stone over my normal weight, my general heart health showed as excellent with a resting beat of 59 (excellent for a man of my age according to the Fitbit app).
But here is the point, 7 years ago Vicky and I started a family and I haven’t done any aerobic exercise since then. So my relatively good state of health is put down to…simply going for a 40 min walk every day before the rest of the house is awake….simples!
But over the years I have squeezed other routines into my morning quiet time which I observe every week day come what may (I over indulge and sleep in at the weekend like everyone).
In 2012 I started to do the plank for 2 minutes before my shower, in 2013 I started doing 10 minutes of sun salutations everyday so I would remain nimble for the skiing I love so much, in 2014 I started listening to audio books on my walk , in 2015 I bought a small electronic upright piano and began doing 20 minutes of piano each day and in 2017 I bought a skipping rope and now do 100 skips.
None of these little pockets of time make me break even the slightest of sweats but I feel on top of my health and feel each day I improve just a little.
So what will I add to my routine this year…. write a blog post at least once a month…. lets see!
My company ComXo is at the forefront of helping companies create the workplace of the future . We do this by centralising and consolidating 3 key functions of business support services (navigating the organisation, reserving services, escalating help requests) and creating clever channels to access them.
AI is real and it will change your life from here on in. Whilst our grandfathers might remember the first commercial plane flight and our fathers the first personal computer we will bore our kids about the first time we experienced AI.
AI is a learning algorithm that gets incrementally better at a task the more feedback it has regarding the outcome’s proximity to perfection. This can be brilliantly demonstrated on a repetitive task where a large amount of data needs to be mined and analysed.
In the past this sort of work was the preserve of an articled clerk or more recently an off-shore service centre and in truth these jobs will be replaced as sure as the scribe was replaced by the printing press and the printing press replaced by the laser printer.
But I marvel at the furore being whipped up by an imaginative press about the breath of jobs that will disappear. Perhaps formula based jobs such as actuaries or insurance risk managers will feel the heat but anything that requires judgement, interpretation or the slightest understanding of a human is for now beyond the horizon.
ComXo is busy experimenting and integrating AI in as many areas we can apply it to and the experience is interesting, frustrating and funny.
Our most recent experiment involves an app our R&D team created to allow me to create a to-do list every morning whilst walking the dog on the beautiful Long Walk in Windsor.
I requested the app be voice activated, record my voice, transcribe my memo to text and email me the text and the voice file to my desktop such that when i get into the office my list for day lies before me….simples!
Here are a couple of choice transcriptions using the most well known voice to text AI engines available.
“get hold of Mark Fitch and chase up the customs and excise” came through as
“I’ll get back in touch with fish on a substance in Texas”
“print out the Guardian top 300 list and get in touch with facilities managers” came through as
“I print out the Guardians 360 getting in touch with a Dirty Sanchez.” .
Who says the robots have no sense of humour!
The reality is that when the app is used in the quiet controlled confines of the office it works pretty well but when it has to manage any other environment it gets it wrong 95% of the time.
This is the most basic of AI interface needing no appreciation of nuance, context, humour, irony, sarcasm or ire. Emotion is uniquely human and it powers core behaviour way before logic gets a look in. As happened with automated voice response menus in the 90’s and outsourced Indian call centres of the last 10 years customers get very funny when being interacted with by someone or something they cannot develop rapport with.
Business Process Outsourcing has been the watchword for headcount and overhead cost cutting for a decade. But times are changing quickly and old school thinking at certain outsource companies mean a miss match with the expectations of the more forward thinking corporate boards.
Six key fundamental influences are creating a landscape that will change the way business is conducted and the traditional working practices we have taken for granted for the last 30 years.
Over the past 20 years many of these drivers have been independently addressed with solutions that tackled them as a particular problem. However this has left many business processes as a hodge podge of partially adopted systems and technologies, siloed information, inconsistent working practices, work arounds, single points of failure and bottle necks.
This creates friction in processes that cause inefficiencies. The old style of outsourcing took a process as it stood and transferred the same number of FTE (full time equivalent) to a cheaper labour location and thereby cut costs. What has often failed to evolve is the process its self since the outsourcer is rewarded on FTE’s. Anything that cuts head count is not in its interest and such a commercial model is typically devoid of innovation and service agility.
Business Process Transformation looks holistically at the process outcomes that need to be achieved rather than the current process. With an understanding of new capabilities both in technology and working practice, services can be consolidated and centralised and provided as a composite self serve and/or managed service.
The cost benefits are considerable even when re-shoring services to increase the customer experience and savings of 30 % + are not unusual with payback timescales of under a year.
“I am presenting a series of breakfast briefings in the City of London over the next 12 months. If you are interested in topics such as Outsourcing, Artificial Intelligence, Business Continuity Planning and more email the ComXo team at firstname.lastname@example.org
ComXo provide outsourced managed business services to almost half of the UK’s top 100 law firms. Because of this I spend much of my time speaking and presenting to managing partners of legal and other global professional service firms. As an outsource service provider I am obsessed by what makes for a successful partnership and what drives real value.
Over the last year some key themes have come up time and again and seem to define the near future of outsourcing. These key words include: Collaboration, innovation, globalisation, new ways of working and specialist insight.
Traditionally outsource contracts involved procurement taking an internally provided service and have it delivered by 3rd party contractor. The value add being cost efficiencies and service improvements inherent in a specialist provider.
I think this dynamic is changing. The future of the legal sector is becoming much more difficult to predict. Technology and its possible impact to disrupt at a profound level is creating a sense of anxiety at a strategic level.
ComXo recently sponsored The Lawyers Business Leadership Summit and I spoke to 14 C suite leaders of separate major law firms. Each one wanted to know what clarity and insight I could give them into how my services would evolve. How new technologies and new working practices would enable a diverse generational workforce be productive in an increasingly changing workplace.
At ComXo account management is a key deliverable of our service. Many of our customers use us as a collaborative managed service technology partner to deliver new solutions. So after the summit I pulled together a team to creatively come up with a new ‘account management programme’ for our customers that would drive insight and service evolution as a key deliverable of our contracts.
Here is a share of our process
The idea is to deliver a joined up approach of collecting market intelligence, driving discussion around hot issues, creating white papers and thought leadership, delivering content back to customers, engaging key stake holders with insight at breakfast briefings and driving their agenda around the services we provide with a road-map based approach.
The process driven by the account manager is set around a key client execution road map that defines key strategic needs annually and then drives the agenda around the service innovation across the year. In practice this might deliver a single key innovation every year but one tied into the strategic deliverable set by the company. The idea is that this process inherently delivers customers opportunities to Collaborate, innovate and evolve around a key outsource service.
Here is a view of the front side of our programme.
Back of our process sheet
3 years ago our SWOT questionnaire identified security and online fraud as a hot topic. Research was done around security on voice conferences, VoIP and hacking into private conversations (see report 2013). This was then shared in round tables and fed into the development road-map for Multivoice our professional services specific conference solution. Delivering a key innovation roll out for later that year.
I spoke at length to Managing Partners, COO’s, CTO’s Directors of Strategy and Innovation from some of the largest Law Firms in the world. What I came away with is further evidence to my previous blogs that the sector is in rapid flux. What is more fascinating is the amount of factors a managing partner has to grasp to create a meaningful medium term strategy for their firm.
Here is an insight into one facet the sector is grappling with.
Office Space…Open Plan, cubicle, coffee lounge or home office?
So Google has a slide in its head quarters…is that relevant to lawyers? How many more times will I have to listen to West Coast US tech firms extolling the virtues of funky playpens because Generation Z are now joining the workforce.
Tech firms are left brain places full of techies writing software. Tech firms build their businesses on clients trusting code and logic to process tasks. They are all about replicating human functionality without the need to deal with human emotion….robots nor techies for that matter are well known for their empathy and communication skills.
Law Firms on the other hand are right brain places. They build their businesses on the clients trusting in them to sort out complex emotional problems. They are all about human emotion, relationships, integrity. Insight rather than information.
If one is right brain and the other left brain should their workplaces have anything in common at all?
If I came away with anything from the conversations I had with more than 10 managing partners of top 50 firms is that human relationships remain the foundation of the client firm dynamic. This is no better demonstrated by the fact that business follows lateral team hires.
A firms work space needs to be one that creates an environment that forges, nurtures and develops relationships. I think the future work space will move towards a campus based approach mimicking that of a university with different zones being used dependent on the function being performed.
So a lawyer might drop into the canteen coffee zone for a breakfast project team huddle, moving on to a meeting room suite for client presentation or video conference, following that an auditorium briefing on a new development in legislation or a talk from an industry expert, then a drop in to the library to get some thinking and stand alone emails done and following that a project group meeting in a collaborative or creative zone and finally a client dinner in an entertainment zone.
At any point the lawyer would be supported by a range of self service or human support services giving instant access to video and voice conference calls, meeting room booking, ground and travel management, IT or Facilities help desk or business concierge. All services accessible seamlessly by phone, instant message, kiosk or app.
This campus facility might also be available to customers to educate or work on collaborative projects.
This approach would un-tether the fee earner from the desk top and deliver a true agile work space based on functions important to customer engagement rather than one designed around onsite business functions which would happen in regional, near shore or even giga economy centres.
I think the successful firm of the future will be defined by its brand not its lawyers. It will be a firm that provides an unrivalled environment for creative, collaborative problem solving not just a desk for a fee earners.
Next month on the 16th of June I will be chairing a panel discussion at Legal Support Network’s conference on Transformation in the Legal Sector. One of the topics I will be challenging my panel of industry experts on is the topic of ‘Agile’ working. This is a particularly popular word in the legal world and the reasons for adopting it seem to differ depending on the angle you view it from. So from my research so far here and with a bit of tongue in cheek is how different people in a law firm perceive it:
The HR director
For the HR director Agile working is about attracting generation y and millennials to their firm. It is all about work life balance and ‘work when you want to’ culture. The agile worker dips into his work when he wants and (can you see the image…) probably is multi tasking at the same time, he/she is a legal entrepreneur unconstrained by the confines of corporate concrete they are ipaded up, tweets as he goes and eats sushi for lunch.
The Facilities Director
For the Facilities director agile working is about saving serious money. If we only provide 80% of the work stations we need and everybody is forced hot desk we save 20% of the floor space and this goes straight to the bottom line. Agile working is about leveraging the mobile revolution which means you can work from anywhere and keep billing long after the lights of the office are off.
The IT Director
For the IT director agile working is about rolling out loads of new toys to the business. New communication systems, Bring Your Own Device policies, cloud services and plenty of apps. Everybody in the business knows none of these will be adopted especially by the senior cohort but spending vast amounts on capital IT investment is what everybody else is doing so it must be right and after all its great fun.
The Opps director is desperate for agile working to work, he’s outsourced business services to the Philippines, outsourced due diligence to India, outsourced IT to Poland and now would like to outsource lawyering too…apparently robots can do much of the work now so who needs humans?
In short agile working means different things to different people in the business, but it is all about capitalising on efficiencies that are now available due to technological change. The ability to work securely from a remote location with tip of your fingers 24/7 access to the full suite of business services you may require increases a firms ability to serve a customer quickly and that drives business!
My business ComXo facilitates the adoption of these new working practices and the technologies that underpin them. Our 2 key capabilities are :
Agile working takes on many guises and has been around longer than you might imagine. As with anything the business that are adopting all types of ‘agile’ practices steadily as part of an evolution into the future are seeing more benefit than those who think an ‘agile’ revolution will be the answer to all their woes.
My company ComXo provides outsourced business services to top firms in the legal sector. Almost 50%of the top 100 UK firms trust us with some part of their operation. Data and communication security therefore is something we think a lot about. Recently our company went through the process of attaining Cyber Security Plus accreditation and whilst we were with the consultants we asked them what the most dangerous scams currently out there are.
I thought I would share one of them with you and tell you what can be done about it.
The scam targets both law firms and house buyers/sellers. By intercepting email correspondence or more lately by spoofing telephone number caller identities, bogus instruction are given to either the law firm or the house seller to transfer funds into a fraudulent account.
This is an article about the scam I found on line (Fraud story).
This scam can literally destroy a family’s entire wealth and prospects in a single transaction. It is so devastating because it is hard to say where the fault lies. Each party was prudent and followed what they thought were legitimate instructions.
It is not without question that this sort of fraud could be a risk in the business world where transaction amounts could be significantly higher. What is clear is that both cyber security and communication security is essential. The question must be asked…is who you think you are talking to actually who you are talking to?
As technology has become smarter so have criminals found ways to outsmart us by using it. The huge sums that can be had in a single transaction mean that serious and well resourced organised crime syndicates are involved. We all know about the spam emails that purport to be from ourselves, a few years ago I discovered that apparently according to everyone in my contacts list I was a major distributor of cheap Viagra. My account had been hacked.
But did you know that it is relatively simple to spoof an originating telephone number? This would mean that a lawyer could mistakenly think they were talking to their client who’s number was in their mobile or outlook address book when in fact they were talking to a fraudster.
Did you also know that gaining access to a conference call is also pretty simple and our research suggests that security breaches are a common occurrence.
This might mean a complete compromise of client confidentiality with far reaching consequences for both client and advisor.
ComXo work closely with our customers to identify and overcome such security risks. Our super secure conferencing service and real-time number validation capability are powerful weapons in the arsenal of cyber defence. Our customers rely on us to advise them where the risks are in their communications pathways and build services to minimise them.
A typical piece of research was our “Who is on the line” white paper in which we uncovered some horrendous security breaches in major firms. This research paved the way for our super secure conferencing service which now is the backbone of many of our clients requirements. Down load here… Who’s on the line.
What Cyber Security Plus has taught us is that no amount of security will make you impervious to 21st century fraud. However there are services and tools you can use to make you less of a target. The lesson learnt by those who have been caught is wait for them to walk through the front door…lock it and alarm it!