The Cost of the Skills Gap – and How You Can Solve It

There is a skills gap in the UK economy that costs companies over £2 billion a year.

The Open University study highlighted that, due to this, employers plan to change the training they offer.

Most significantly with more apprenticeships.

Yet, in the first quarter of 2018, growth in the British economy slowed to just 0.1 percent – and employers are being warned that the skills gap may be to blame

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The Cost of the Skills Gap – and How You Can Solve It

Simon Wood

By Simon Wood

There is a skills gap in the UK economy that costs companies over £2 billion a year.

The Open University study highlighted that, due to this, employers plan to change the training they offer.

Most significantly with more apprenticeships.

Yet, in the first quarter of 2018, growth in the British economy slowed to just 0.1 percent – and employers are being warned that the skills gap may be to blame

It is Far Harder to Find the Right Candidate Now

The skills gap is the gap between the roles and skills that employers are looking to hire, and the skills of people looking for jobs.

There are several factors that contribute to the misalignment of open positions with available, skilled workers.

The first is that the UK currently has its lowest unemployment rates in over ten years – so, there are less people out of work.

Secondly, those in your employment may be reluctant to leave: Due to uncertainty from Brexit – also a deterrent for EU nationals – who may have looked to work in the UK.

It Takes Longer to Fill Job Roles

75% of employers say that filling job roles has become a problem for them.

Companies are losing money through recruiting fees and the cost of temporary staff.

In addition, some skills are in more demand now then they were; particularly in highly specialised areas; such as technology and software development.

Of course, candidates with these skills are in high demand – and command a higher salary.

For both your businesses and the economy, the skills gap could lead to a lack of productivity, innovation and growth – as more jobs and industries become heavily dependant on digital skills that are in low supply.

“In order to navigate this changing landscape, you will need people who possess the right skills to maximise on digital resources. Unfortunately these individuals are paradoxically both in short supply and in incredibly high demand, creating an expensive and difficult dilemma for employers.”  

Onrec: 2018

The Steps Needed to Help Your Business

It may seem as though the skills gap is a problem to tackle.

Your business will be the first to feel the effects – so you should be proactive in becoming part of the solution.

Government must lead the way on this, but it will be up to both the businesses and the academic institutions across all levels to show commitment and support for government efforts to narrow the skills gap.”

 Uktech: 2018

An important step you should be taking is to assess the skills in your teams – to identify any gaps early. Once you have, you’ll know what to start focusing on.

Need any help identifying your skills gaps? Check out our free, quick and easy 5-step checklist to help you do just that!

Many businesses are already taking steps to building the skills they need for the future. With apprenticeships and internal training to help fill the gaps.

Admittedly, these provide a slightly more long term solution.

What should you do if you’re already feeling the effects of the skills gap in your business?

More People than Ever are Freelancing

Due to the growing ‘Gig Economy’, more and more highly skilled professionals are turning to freelance work.

“The new modern way of working for British industry is the answer to this problem. Employers are increasingly turning to contractors and freelancers to deliver the skills they need and that means there are a wealth of opportunities for self-employed people.”

DANBRO: 2018

Evidence shows that you’ll have a better chance increasing the speed of production by finding a contractor who fits your organisation than you will by up-skilling a full time employee. Here’s why:

  • Contract length – you set the contract to fit you and your projects.
  • High motivation – as their next job will depend on good reviews, contractors are often highly motivated.
  • Fast onboarding – contractors are used to coming into new organisations.
  • Reskilling – they’ll be self-driven to learn and sharpen their skills
  • In-house expert – working with together, contractors can help advance the skills of your existing teams.
  • Cost effective – the perceived cost risk of hiring contractors over permanent staff is slim (once you factor in benefits, pension schemes, holidays and so on).

By using contractors you are also giving these professionals the chance to build experience in their skills, and so encouraging them to grow and develop skills that are high in demand.

“Most high-demand careers need only minimal formal schooling to begin entry-level freelancing, and the portfolio of work and recommendations gained from working in the gig economy are at least as valuable as a degree or job training program.”

Quartz at Work: 2018

Match Your Team and Your Culture

At ClearHub, we have a global network of technical contractors.

When we match you, we look at the skills you need, and then use Smart Profiling to make sure they’re a powerful cultural fit for your team too.

Get Ahead of Your Competitors

Being aware of the skills gap, and being proactive about it early, gets you ahead of your competitors – by getting your products to market – fast!

But, it can also help to future-proof the growth of the economy.

With World Youth Skills Day coming up (July 15), this topic is more relevant than ever.

It is up to us as employers to help encourage young professionals to follow the career paths that will help our economy to grow.

And, by offering them the opportunities to learn – through work experience, apprenticeships, and freelance work – you can guarantee your company’s future alongside theirs.

Do you currently use technical contractors to fill your skills gaps? Leave a comment below –  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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What Everybody Ought to Know About The Real Cost of Employment [Infographic]

The-Hidden-Cost-of-Employment-Infographic-ClearHub

Many modern businesses underestimate the true cost of their workforce. And, I’m not just talking about the direct cost of staff employment. It includes wages, training, tax and benefits.

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What Everybody Ought to Know About The Real Cost of Employment

Don't miss your FREE Infographic!

Simon Wood

By Simon Wood

Many modern businesses underestimate the true cost of their workforce.

And, I’m not just talking about the direct cost of staff employment. It includes wages, training, tax and benefits.

But – are you overlooking the indirect costs?

The financial burden, the impact of bad hires, poor leadership, reduced productivity cycles and lost management time could open a door to employment alternatives you may previously have thought expensive.

After all, the rise of the global workforce, virtual assistants, artificial intelligence, collaboration tools, agency contractors and freelance workers mean that hiring managers have never before had so many alternatives available to them.

The Future of Work Belongs to the Freelancer

Do you assume that contractors are highly-skilled specialists, used for short-term bursts of focused work – whereas employees are loyal, tend to have more transferable skills and are less expensive?

So did I.

I realised that as the contractor market continues to grow, and entire sectors are disrupted by gig economy workers, the lines between employment and contracting are harder to see.

The arguments between choosing one over another were not as simple as I first thought!

First, I addressed the issue of ‘up-front’ cost:

The average cost of a software developer with ten years experience in the UK is £42,000 a year.

The average cost of a software developer contractor in the UK (excluding London) is £385 a day.

Average UK employees work 229 days a year.

So – if we take the contractor day rate of £385 and times it by 229 days – we create our opening position:

Simple Price Comparison for a Software Developer 

  • Employee (annual salary) = £42,000
  • Contractor (for a year) = £88,165  

On first inspection, the maths shows a stark difference: Contractors are more than twice as expensive as permanent staff.

However this crude comparison does not even start to tell the whole story.

The Hidden Costs of Employment

You must consider the full cost of employing staff versus the real cost of contracting.

Let’s group everything included in the cost of employment – and compare that to everything included in the cost of contracting.

Additional costs typically include bonus payments, employee benefit packages, tax contributions and admin support.

Average Employee Costs UK

Total Cost£25,000
Recruitment Costs (employee premium)£3,000
Bonus and KPI (contractors N/A)£2,000
NI Contributions (contractors N/A)£5,000
Pension (contractors N/A)£1,000
Training (employee premium)£1,000
Overhead Costs£5,000
Absence/Sickness/Holidays (Employee only)£4,000
HR/Benefits and Other (Employee only)£4,000

You can see that by adding the associated additional costs of employment, the gap between the two is hugely narrowed:

  • Employee (salary plus costs) = £67,000
  • Contractor (for a year) = £88,165   

Research shows the calculations do not stop there…

The average time to recruit in-house or through an agency for a full-time person is 11 weeks, according to QUARSH.

If you use a contractor matching service, such as ClearHub, this can be as low as two to three weeks…

…and you musn’t forget another massive hidden cost.

Business Impact Cost

Quarsh estimates that the cost of lost productivity is £7,800 on average, across all industries.

As software developers are paid almost twice the average national wage, it is fair for us to assume this cost is also higher. 

Cost of New hire (impact on business)

Total cost of new software developer hire£19,220
Average Interview Cost£1,000
Average Onboarding Cost (not inc training)£1,000
Management Time£2,600
Productivity Lost (speed Vs Contracting)£7,800
Sub Total£12,400
Adjustment vs Average (55%)£6,820
  • Employee (salary plus costs, plus new hire costs) = £86,220
  • Contractor (for a year) = £88,165   

Now we have reached a true price balance.

Once you add all the costs of employment AND take into consideration the impact of hiring on the business, the cost savings do not exist.  

But – this is based on both the contractor and the employee being hired successfully.

That’s quite an assumption!

The Cost of Unsuccessful Recruitment

As many as two in five new recruits are later deemed not right for the role, according to Collingwood.

Most good technical contractor providers (such as ClearHub), offer a free ‘switch out’ service if your contractor fails to fit your need.

The same can not be said for your employed staff.   

The figures for the UK are pretty alarming:

  • 62% of employers reported a bad hire [within the last 12 months]
  • 27% of companies say a bad hiring decision cost them over £50,000
  • 23% of employers reported a loss of productivity
  • 22% negative effect on morale
  • 16% negative effect on customer relations
  • 12% reported fewer sales

You can see how extremely difficult it is to estimate the costs of bad hires.

UK businesses are failing to hire the right person for two out of five roles – and that’s despite the significant financial costs of making mistakes.

And the negative impact of ‘bad hires’ affects employee morale, client relationships, sales, IT and productivity.

So, how do you factor the cost of this?

One fifth of all employees fail to pass their probation periods according to The Telegraph.

If we add the average cost of recruitment to the impact of new hires on business we end up with a total of £22,220 – one fifth of this is £4,444.

  • Employee (plus costs, plus new hire cost, plus re-hire costs) = £90,664
  • Contractor (for a year) = £88,165

(At this point, I feel that it’s important to say that this is not just a UK trend. Here’s a similar comparison for the US market.)

What do these costs mean for your business?

Of course, this doesn’t mean your traditional employees are the wrong choice for your business. You must still consider your individual circumstance.

But – once you understand price balance – you can consider the full benefits of both contracting and employment to your company. And make the best decision.

Full comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of recruitment versus consultancy

Whilst I know that plenty of assumptions in this article can be challenged, the overriding theme is conclusive:

Most business drastically underestimate the cost of recruitment and significantly overstate the cost of consultancy.

This is a BIG mistake as it forces poor management choices based on flawed budgets.

In reality, vetted and qualified contractors can provide your team with a major knowledge and skills lift.


 

If you currently work in an office then up until now you may have been fairly insulated from the disruptive forces of the gig economy.

But, disruption in your industry is coming.

And it will be sooner and have a deeper impact than you probably imagine.

Discover more about how digital disruption is fueling the rising gig economy, or Click the image below to download the full “Hidden Costs of Employment” infographic.


 

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Gig Economy: The End of Traditional Employment?

GIG-ECONOMY-THE-END-OF-TRADITIONAL-EMPLOYMENT

We live in an age of transformation never seen in the history of mankind.12,000 years ago the Neolithic revolution transformed human societies from hunter gatherer tribes to more static farming based communities. In the Eighteenth Century the Agricultural Revolution ended the reliance of people on the land. The Industrial Revolution then introduced power-driven machinery and factory production.

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Gig Economy: The End of Traditional Employment?

Simon Wood

By Simon Wood

We live in an age of transformation never seen in the history of mankind.

12,000 years ago the Neolithic revolution transformed human societies from hunter gatherer tribes to more static farming based communities.

In the Eighteenth Century the Agricultural Revolution ended the reliance of people on the land.

The Industrial Revolution then introduced power-driven machinery and factory production.

But, the size, speed and global nature of the current Information and Technology Age   make all the previous revolutions seem like mere warning tremors before the big earthquake.

And that earthquake is happening right now.

It is triggering tidal waves of disruption to crash over the world of work like never before.

“The size, speed and global nature of the current Information and Technology Age make all the previous revolutions seem like mere warning tremors.”

The information and Technology revolution, like it’s slower, more localised predecessors, is fundamentally changing the nature of work, the structure or labour and the attitudes of employers and employees, both at home and at work.

We Live in An Age of Change

The full implications are difficult to define, but several patterns can now be mapped with a degree of certainty.

These include the rise of:

  • Artificial intelligence, with software robots replacing people in many jobs;
  • virtual and augmented reality – literally changing the way we see and interact – with the world;
  • the mass production of driver-less vehicles – disrupting how we travel; and
  • (perhaps most important of all), the gig economy.

It is these areas – and the way that technology helps us to collaborate – that will challenge the very nature of work itself.

Digital Disruption Has Transformed Your Life

The world of work has changed dramatically – even in the last ten years – but you’ve probably been largely insulated from these effects.

What’s been happening is the blurring of boundaries between:

  • Employment;
  • contracting (freelance);
  • remote; and
  • digital staff.

You only have to consider:

  • Uber’s influence within the Taxi industry;
  • AirBnB’s disruption of hotels;
  • Amazon’s influence on traditional book stores; and
  • traditional television distributions.being upended by digital streaming outlets such as Netflix.

But – It’s nothing new!

The term ‘Creative Destruction’ was first coined by Joseph Schumpter way back in 1940 to describe the way technological progress improves the lives of many, at the cost to a few.

What is ‘Digital Disruption’?

The change when new digital technologies and business models affect the value proposition of existing goods and services, according to Techtarget.

These disruptive technologies, particularly regarding:

  • Artificial intelligence (AI);
  • Robotics; and
  • Automation

are shaping the future of the global workforce. Especially in relation to the gig economy.

A ‘gig economy’ is when companies use freelance talent on more frequent, short-term contracts.

7.6 million Americans will be regularly working in the gig economy by 2020 (intuit.me/2BBuFzq)

It’s not restricted to developed economies:

By 2030, between 75 million and 375 million workers (3 –14% of the global workforce), will need to switch occupational categories because of automation technologies that include AI and robotics. – McKinsey Global Institute.

The Rise of the Gig Economy

The lines between traditional work and contracting are blurring daily.

You may Intuitively think you understand the differences between permanent and contact staff. But, on inspection, ask yourself: How many of these assumptions hold weight?

Do you assume that contractors are highly skilled specialists? Used for short-term bursts of extremely focused work whereas your full time employees in it for the long haul?

I did too.

As the contractor market continues to grow, and entire sectors become disrupted by gig economy workers, these arguments do not withstand scrutiny.

The conclusions are fairly stark.

Employment Vs Full Time = £0

Once you add the costs of a person’s employment AND take into account the impact of hiring on the business…

… the cost savings versus contractors simply no-longer exist.

Basically, this changes the very nature of a full-time workforce:

Imagine for a moment that your entire marketing team is made of contractors – used as and when you need them to match their skills and your need. – Even if you use the same contractors all the time, they’ll be no more expensive to the business than employing directly.

Over the next three years, the average casual workforce will grow by 30% – Beeline

One in five workers in the US are currently contractors – globally this could be up to 45%. And 70% of organisations are looking to expand their external workforce. So, if you’ve not yet been disrupted by contractors in your organisation the current trend suggests it is just a matter of time.

The Impact of The Gig Economy Now

It is in IT and software development that the effects are being felt right now.

And this has triggered fresh innovation:

You can get the most from contract workers by making sure that your existing team and freelance talent work together fast.

This was the realisation that led me to start ClearHub three years ago. I could see that managing directors needed:

  • A fast, safe solution.
  • Guaranteed technical skills for quality work.
  • Someone who would drop into their existing team without disrupting productivity.

I already had access to the Platinum-standard expertise through my company and personal knowledge of building high-performing agile teams.

So, it was a logical step that we could use this combination to help other companies realise the benefits of the gig economy with our expert guidance and support.

Welcome to the Future of Work

As non-traditional forms of talent continue to grow in importance, your organisation will need new strategies to attract and manage contractors and freelancers.

That will mean implementing an entirely new approach for overseeing how contractors and core employed staff work in harmony.

While you may already have some process in place to help with this, the majority of companies will have a fair amount of work to do to fully embrace the gig economy.

Interested in getting ahead of the competition? I’d love to hear from you and discuss some of your ideas – and possibly share some of the insights I gained from my work with contractors!


What do you think? Do you already use contractors in your company? – Or would you consider it in the future? Let me know in the comments below!

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The Future of Work: Reskill to Survive

The-Future-of-Work-What-is-the-future

A job used to be for life: 30 years or more of dedicated service, in the same career, doing the same thing – day in, day out. And that’s what we wanted: Salary enough to support a family, and savings for retirement – somehow beginning our lives at the end. But today there is inflexibility in this method. In the modern workplace, no one skill is enough to keep you relevant (and in demand) forever.

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The Future of Work Now: Generation Y

What is the Future of Work?

Simon Wood

By Simon Wood

A job used to be for life: 30 years or more of dedicated service, in the same career, doing the same thing – day in, day out.

And that’s what we wanted: Salary enough to support a family, and savings for retirement – somehow beginning our lives at the end.

But today there is inflexibility in this method.

In the modern workplace, no one skill is enough to keep you relevant (and in demand) forever.

Employer’s Skills Needs Have Changed

Last weekend I met up with a friend, who runs a small department in a well-known national charity. We often talk together about the challenges of modern management, running efficient teams and people-based challenges.

We chat over coffee about all aspects of team management and leadership: Recruitment techniques, training and motivating staff, as well as dealing with difficult employees.

He asked me a seemingly simple question:

“What’s the one key thing you look for when hiring new employees?”

I was blindsided. It’s amazing how sometimes the most simple questions can be the hardest to answer.

I heard myself give vague, waffley, nonsensical answers about the ‘multitude of skills needed in the modern workforce’, the ‘importance of being flexible’ and how ‘cognitive diversity is a driving factor’.

Feeling my answers (and confidence!) slip away, I grasped at how ‘motivation and enthusiasm’  were the key factors I’d look for in complementing my team.

My friend tried to hide his smile. To be fair, if someone had given me an answer as bad as that in a job interview I wouldn’t have invited them back.

In the past week, the question evolved in my head:

“What’s the top skill someone would need to stay employable in the future?”

 

Many Skills Are Better Than One

As manager of the Innovation team at a rapidly growing tech company, the future of work is a topic I’m very familiar with. By changing the nature of the original question, I realised this was something I knew the answer to.

All of the things I had mentioned to my friend were undeniably important, but I knew there was a piece of the jigsaw missing.

An article on Keeping Up with the Future of Work by Stephane Kasriel (CEO of Upwork) confirmed my thoughts.

In it, he discusses the Importance of of reskilling.

This was the missing piece, the one thing that connected all the factors I deemed important in my initial answer.

Put simply, reskilling is the ongoing process of developing your own skills. And that is when the answer to my friend’s original question hit me.

For me, the key thing I look for in a new employee is their attitude.

Attitude is Everything

I could argue that everyone who is working will be constantly improving their skills. But, in order to be skilled at reskilling, a person must be able to recognise their own shortcomings, knowledge gaps and preferential working styles.

You must have the right attitude to allow reskilling to work.

“In order to be skilled at reskilling, a person must be able to recognise their own shortcomings, knowledge gaps and preferential working styles”

Having the right attitude and your approach to reskilling are potentially the largest factors to determine your success.

We all need to be able to ask difficult questions about our skills, such as “Are they still in demand?”, “Will they be in demand in 5,10,20 years time?” and “What other skills should I be looking at to increase my value?”.

Attitude covers many things. I’d take a less-skilled, inexperienced individual with the right attitude over a more experienced counterpart anyday:

“Having the right attitude and your approach to reskilling are potentially the largest factors to determine your success”

Being driven and proactive enough to take responsibility for your own learning – and flexible enough to make a changes where necessary is critical in life.

It’s no good waiting for disruption to catch up with you before you realise you need to evolve.

No matter if you’re talking about contractors, full time employees, interns or CEOs, I would argue that knowing how to reskill and upskill yourself and working to make sure you have the right attitude is going to become the most powerful combination you can possess for surviving in the future. It also guarantees you as a future investment.

And so in answer to my friend…

The top thing needed to succeed in the future is the skill of reskilling – with the right attitude.

After all, an employee who is willing to invest time and training into themselves will continue to be a credit to their employer: Now and in the future.

What is the one thing that you look for when hiring a new employee?

 

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The Future of Work Now: Generation Y

The-Future-of-Work-Generation-Y

The future of work depends upon embracing and attracting the younger generation into your business: Generation Y. If you are not proactively bringing this technically-savvy generation into your workplace, then you are not moving forward.

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The Future of Work Now: Generation Y

What is the Future of Work?

By Gerald Tombs

The future of work depends upon embracing and attracting the younger generation into your business: Generation Y. If you are not proactively bringing this technically-savvy generation into your workplace, then you are not moving forward.

And we all know what happens when you don’t keep up!

Why Generation Y?

Embracing Generation Y, rather than resisting them, will yield a number embryonic positive culture changes.

Not only will the average age of your company come down, but you will notice a certain vibrancy in the office – where older workers will likely become rejuvenated and reinvigorated. Mixing young energy with mature experience, if managed correctly, becomes a very powerful drug.

Having the right balance of maturity and vibrant energy not only helps the business flourish but also provides an unexpected boost when it comes to selling or having a company valued.

It is important to match your companies average age with the sector you sell into, this is especially true for the technology sector. You might have the most amazing product in the tech market but if you have an ageing workforce, you are seen as a higher risk and thus less valuable.

Great Expectations

For the future of work, The Generation Y have very different expectations to the Generation X (X = the oldies amongst us; typically born in the 1960s and 70s, I include myself in the bracket – age 52). As Douglas Coupland, author of Generation X, JPod & Microserfs explains:

 

The nine-to-five is barbaric. I really believe that. I think one day we’ll look back at the nine-to-five employment in a similar way to how we see child labour in the 19th century.

The concept of rigid 9 – 5 will become old fashioned and irrelevant, especially when the “job for life” is no longer something people crave. One thing is for certain with Generation Y, you have to work very hard to retain them for more than a couple of years before their thirst for change moves them on. We have found that the best route for both parties is to enter into a two year ‘Tour of Duty’, see the Aliance book from Reid Hoffman.

What’s the Gig?

Research shows that Millennial’s now have less access to their own transport (only 35 % of under 20’s have a car compared to 43 % 20 years ago). So office location and its accessibility to public transport becomes an important factor. This is where Agile work environments become relevant. Enthusiasts of the Agile way believe you can work anywhere with the right collaborative technology and the right ‘open & trusted’ relationship between employer and employee. Creating a flexible working approach has proven beneficial to all. Research has also shown that two-thirds of employees would rather take another job to ease the commute or have flexible working. Furthermore, business find a decrease in unscheduled absences, resulting in increased productivity.

 

Two-thirds of employees would rather take another job to ease the commute or have flexible working.

Research confirms that 36% of people would choose working from home over a pay rise. A recent poll of technology professionals revealed that 37 % would take a pay cut of 10 % if they could work from home. The internet is shrinking the world and as a result, businesses now have access to a large pool of remote overseas workers. In the technical support industry it is no longer important for staff to be office based. This opens up many opportunities.

The Benefits of Hiring a Contractor

Whilst all these look like benefits to the contractor, there are actually very tangible benefits to the hiring company. A happy and fulfilled contractor is more productive, reliable and dependable. Then there is the price advantage of a remote contractor over a local employee. Even if the contractor is local, there are many commercial advantages over employed positions.

 

A happy and fulfilled contractor is more productive, reliable and dependable.

The Impact of Global Economic Change

Companies in the UK and USA (H-1B Visa) are in the throws of experience workforce challenges. Brexit is likely to see new barriers arrive which make it harder to recruit a foreign worker. The USA government is also actively reducing the number of foreign workers permitted into the country. There are two likely outcomes, staff costs will increase as we all shop in the same pond of limited resources or we move certain positions to outside of the country (use contractors).

 

Remote Working and Productivity

Such drivers added to the increasing cost of office space is pushing many companies to seriously rethink office expansion plans which allow remote workers to remain in touch with all aspects of the business whilst ensuring staff can remain productive. What is strange is the companies who faced the ‘remote’ workers challenge several years ago have seen productivity increases across the business, and not just remote workers.

 

If you are more than eight meters from a colleague, you are more likely to email them than walk to their desk

Digital Workplaces and the Future of Work

Research (http://danielcoyle.com/) shows that if you are more than eight meters from a colleague, you are more likely to email them than walk to their desk. So eight meters – or 800 miles – what is the difference! With so many organisations shifting to digital workplaces, it’s essential that we continue to understand ways that people can connect and seamlessly exchange information.

 

Digital workplaces allow people to communicate and collaborate beyond their physical locations. The technology that supports these virtual work environments can be anything from email, to instant messaging, document management software and social intranets.

 

Conclusion

Disruption is everywhere. Whether that be the way you order your taxi, how drones deliver your online order or how you travel to work (hint – driver-less vehicles). We are in a rapidly changing world and many believe we are on the cusp of the biggest disruption of all, the very nature of work itself. Staff, who make up the DNA of your company, are changing their expectations and requirements. Are you ready for your next recruit to be remotely located, short term contracted or even not employed at all? It’s time to buckle your seat belt, because you’re already there…

 

So what’s the future of work in your business? Do you use remote contract workers – and, would you consider it if you don’t?

 

6 Compelling reasons to hire an IT Contractor Over a Full-Time Employee

6-Reasons-to-hire-an-it-contractor-ch-ClearHub

Whether you are watching TV or scrolling through your social media feed, you can’t hide from the fact that everyone is talking about the Gig economy. As a nation it would seem as though we can’t get enough when it comes to talking about work! And one topic which is coming ever more popular is whether or not to hire an IT contractor over an employee.

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6 Compelling Reasons to Hire an IT Contractor Over a Full-Time Employee

By Aaron Rowsell

Whether you are watching TV or scrolling through your social media feed, you can’t hide from the fact that everyone is talking about the Gig economy.

As a nation it would seem as though we can’t get enough when it comes to talking about work! And one topic which is coming ever more popular is whether or not to hire an IT contractor over an employee.

In this article I discuss what hiring a contractor could do for your business to help it grow and succeed.

6 Compelling reasons to hire an IT Contractor Over a Full-Time Employee

1. Open up your business’ flexibility

With today’s ever-changing economy and marketplace, hiring an IT contractor over a full-time employee can serve multiple benefits.

Contractors help to create flexibility within your business, whether they’re there to serve a specific purpose short-term or for a long-term project.

When employing a contractor, you have no obligations to carry the person on longer than you need them, compared to a full time employee.

A full time employee may have to change their role over time depending upon the journey of your business, and may end up in a position they’re not the best fit for.

2. Watch what you spend

Contrary to popular belief, hiring an IT contractor may not cost your business a considerable amount more money.

It’s no rumour that contractors can earn more than a salary employee, however when budgeting for a full-time employee you need to take into consideration more than just the annual salary.

A full-time employee may require training courses compared to a specialised contractor. Additionally full-time employment also require sick and holiday pay.

Once you total these costs compared to hiring an IT contractor, you can see the significant difference.

3. Productivity starts immediately

The 2016 Workforce Productivity Report, released by World Market and KRC Research, reveals nearly half of all business leaders believe that contract workers are more productive than full-time employee.

This is because a specialised contractor doesn’t require any training and is able to hit the ground running from the beginning.

A full time employee, on the other hand, will require an induction period, including training.

Comparing the level of high standard work may compare however on a timescale, the contractor will produce the work in a shorter time frame.

4. Cut your recruitment time

Hiring a full time employee can be a lengthy process.

Whether it’s a small business with higher management searching for them or there is a number of trained staff dedicated to recruiting new staff, a lot of time needs to be set aside for this.

Between writing and posting job adverts, reading tonnes of resumes to getting through the interview stages, you can lose hours of time that could have been spent on more productive tasks.

Often when hiring a contractor, you can go through agencies who have a rich pool of specialised contractors who have already been checked thoroughly and are waiting to be matched to you.

5. Reduce your commitment

When you hire an IT contractor, it can also be a good way to give a potential employee a “test run” without any of the commitment.

If you have been involved in hiring or working within a team we have all come across people who despite give off an amazing first impression falls short of expectations once they’ve been hired.

With contractors, there is no reason why you aren’t able to keep them on full-time or extend their contract if they show tremendous value added to your business.

6. Providing extra value

As stated, when you’re hiring a contractor, you’re hiring a specialised skill set and this could serve great purpose to your company.

A contractor can be beneficial to the existing staff of a business as the contractor can help train the existing workers in their specialised field.

Additionally,  showing them new methods of working which continues to encourage your business’ flexibility.

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5 Predictions For the Future of Agile and Teams

As a consultant, I get the privilege of working with a large number of organizations. Some organizations are world-class software development powerhouses and others are just getting their feet wet. No matter their size, their technology, or their market, they all have at least one common interest: to gain a competitive advantage.

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5 Predictions For the Future of
Agile and Teams

By James Hoskins

As a consultant, I get the privilege of working with a large number of organizations. Some organizations are world-class software development powerhouses and others are just getting their feet wet. No matter their size, their technology, or their market, they all have at least one common interest: to gain a competitive advantage.

They might not always word it the same way from company to company, but it’s what they want. They want to build a better product than their competitor or they want to improve the efficiency of their own operations and they’re demanding quality, consistent product from their development teams.

The best development teams out there are cultivating a work environment based on the principles of leadership, teamwork, and trust. They’re capable of shipping high-quality software on a consistent, reliable basis for an extended period of time with maximum flexibility. This is great because the organization can have more trust in their planning activities. The team is keeping the cost of maintenance low because they’re managing quality and enforcing good standards. It always focuses on self-improvement in the name of efficiency or sanity.

Using some of the best agile teams in the business as a measuring tape, I’d like to offer five predictions I have for the future of agile and teams:

1. Agile pods will prevail

The best teams are cross-functional and autonomous. We will soon see the majority of agile teams working in “pod” structures—self-organizing, autonomous teams who are equipped with all of the talent and skills required to deliver a product. This works because multiple competing perspectives tend to push the team in the best overall direction.

Think: “Entrepreneurial in spirit. Professional in attitude.”

Agile Connection has a good summary of agile pods:

Agile pods are small custom agile teams, ranging from four to eight members, responsible for a single task, requirement, or part of the backlog. This organizational system is a step toward realizing the maximum potential of agile teams by involving members of different expertise and specialization, giving complete ownership and freedom, and expecting the best quality output.

These teams help their organization by producing a product for less cost over the long term.

2. Team maturity will grow

Team member consistency will allow teams to mature their processes over time, leading to less waste and more business value.

We will also see more of the elite software development folks move into agency work. Agencies will be able to sell their clients a “solution team” that’s established and capable of delivering a high-quality product for a lower price than what you can build in-house.

Mature teams grow into productive and predictable mini-companies with strong personalities given the right blend of leadership, skill, autonomy, and drive.

3. Integrated toolsets — requirements to release

Integrated tools will offer teams unprecedented visibility into their work and their products. Productive teams leverage the integrations between products and use them to drive process improvement and evolution.

The quality of a team’s—and an individual’s—process correlates with product quality.

4. Expansion of agile beyond engineering

It’s hard to be an agile team inside of an organization that’s not agile at all.

Agile has already begun to spread to marketing teams – the Clearvision marketing team, for example, takes advantage of agile marketing – and this way of thinking will eventually transcend other areas of the business. Agile product management is another emerging hotspot for agile principles. It’s more agile to develop a product using the Lean Startup methodology, which is inherently agile, and so we can see how other areas of the business will begin to think in agile ways.

This will be a great thing for the development teams of the world because it’ll cut down on all of the projects that should have been cancelled before they even started.

5. Data-driven agile

Integrated tools and mature processes will eventually collide with the age of big data. Now-niche methodologies like Team Software Process (TSP) and Personal Software Process (PSP) will get a second wind as they offer us a promise for insight into our work. Nobody likes the fact that agile comes with little objective evidence, but we’re willing to trade that for increased flexibility and throughput.

I believe that there is much to be gained in closing the gap left by this trade-off. We can have our data along with our flexible way of working that ties us to agile. Integrated toolsets, mature teams, and a desire to improve will push teams toward analytics — or advanced stats, if you will.

Conclusions

When somebody figures out how to marry big data analytics with the notoriously-difficult-to-measure agile methods, AI and data will become a core part of our decision making.

Companies who foster these kinds of teams will gain a competitive advantage.

Having worked with organizations across the globe, Clearvision’s expert consultants have helped countless businesses align their teams and tools with agile methodologies. From general advice around adopting a culture of best practice to complex configurations to ensure your tools meet your precise business requirements, our team can help. Simply get in touch today.

Tech and Teamwork in Government ICT: How the Criminal Justice System Uses Jira & Confluence

Government-ICT-USE-JIRA-Confliuence

ClearHub attended the recent Government ICT 2.0 event in London alongside Atlassian, where openness and teamwork were key themes of the day. This post takes a look at how the public sector uses technology to empower teams, and how the Criminal Justice System in particular is benefiting from Atlassian Jira and Confluence Data Center.

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Tech and Teamwork in Government ICT: How the Criminal Justice System Uses Jira & Confluence

By James Hoskins

ClearHub attended the recent Government ICT 2.0 event in London alongside Atlassian, where openness and teamwork were key themes of the day. This post takes a look at how the public sector uses technology to empower teams, and how the Criminal Justice System in particular is benefiting from Atlassian Jira and Confluence Data Center.

Many of the challenges faced by government and public sector organisations are unique. These organisations deal with highly sensitive information at a scale far beyond the majority of private businesses; this alone brings a series of challenges around security and data protection.

Like any organisation, though, government bodies are made up of teams of people. It’s not only important that the technology and tools being used are secure – they also need to empower those teams to work together, as in any business.

The value of people – both internal teams and external users – was apparent throughout the talks at Government ICT 2.0. Paul Brewer, Director for Digital & Resources at Adur & Worthing Councils, stressed this in his talk on digital transformation in local governments, where he identified design, people and technology as the three main pillars of digital transformation.

“Flexible technology and common capabilities are necessary to build end to end digital solutions. Team capabilities and human-centred design are key to a successful digital transformation, and new technology forms the foundation.”

– Paul Brewer, Director for Digital & Resources at Adur & Worthing Councils

Technology for teams

Your choice of IT is what facilitates digital delivery.

This was Paul Brewer’s message throughout his talk, and nowhere was this more clearly demonstrated than by the work of the Criminal Justice System. Mark Giles, Digital Operations Manager, and Carl Storey, PMO Planner, gave a presentation at Government ICT 2.0 on how HM Courts & Tribunals Service and Crown Prosecution Service are working together to establish the Criminal Justice System Common Platform:

To create a single (“common”) digital platform across the Criminal Justice System (CJS) based on user needs, unifying and transforming the criminal process.

Criminal Justice System Common Platform: The challenges

The planning and management of the development and delivery of a solution like this is not without challenges. These challenges broadly fit into those three pillars as outlined earlier by Paul Brewer.

People

The Common Platform is being built for a wide range of users, including those within government and the civil service, legal professionals, and members of the public.

This is why creating a “common” platform, whilst a challenge, was so important, to bring all these different areas together.

As Mark Giles said in his talk, “Tools are only productive if the policies, processes and people using them are effective as well.”

Tech and design

The challenge for the Criminal Justice System wasn’t just around choosing the right software for the planning and development of this platform. This was, of course, an important starting point – the legacy tools they had been using weren’t collaborative or flexible enough to meet the new requirements.

The other challenge was around the correct configuration and deployment of software. Not only did they need to guarantee high availability, but they needed to be able to guarantee the security of data and be able to meet regulatory requirements, and it needed to be designed with users first

The case for digital business change
At the beginning of this joint venture, HMCTS and CPS were using tools like Word, Excel, email, and shared drives. This would often mean it was difficult to achieve a good level of visibility over work, particularly with two departments now working together. These tools were often high maintenance, difficult to access, and information often ended up out of date. It meant that to create the reports that senior management required, it was a time consuming and very manual process.

It was time for a newer, more agile solution – one that would empower change across business teams, not just in IT.

Atlassian Jira and Confluence: A single source of truth

In adopting Atlassian Jira Software and Confluence to manage the development of the Common Platform, the Criminal Justice System was able to provide one single source of truth thanks to the close integrations between the two.

Confluence, for example, aids daily phone calls between teams, acting as a hub for relevant information. Participants in disparate teams can access this page, and it brings together links, discussion points, related Jira tickets.

Jira tickets, meanwhile, act as a way of tracking not just tasks, but assets, risks, actions, dependencies, and even the people on different programs.

By moving work to Jira and Confluence and taking advantage of the close integration between the two tools, the Criminal Justice System was able to achieve a much higher level of visibility. This, combined with the flexibility of these tools, helped considerably in efforts to break down the silos between teams and aid collaboration.

 


Migrating from Atlassian Cloud to Atlassian Data Center

Atlassian Data Center

The Criminal Justice System knew from this first stage of the project that Jira and Confluence were the right tools – but what about the setup?

 

When considering this, the Criminal Justice System elected to migrate from Atlassian Cloud to an Atlassian Data Center deployment for a number of reasons.

 

Data storage and privacy – government directive to host data within the EU

Increased functionality – Atlassian Data Center offers more functionality than Cloud software

Resilience – Atlassian Data Center offers high availability and zero downtime upgrades

The migration from Atlassian Cloud to Data Center was a large scale project for the Criminal Justice System, so they worked with Clearvision to design and implement the project as smoothly as possible.

 

As an Atlassian Platinum Solution Partner, Clearvision’s consultants are experts in digital migration. Our teams are more than familiar with the requirements and regulations of government IT, as one of the first Atlassian Partners to be listed on the G-Cloud digital marketplace. We were able to work closely with the Criminal Justice System to understand not only how they currently use Jira and Confluence, but how they need the software to perform moving forward.

 

“Clearvision’s onsite presence, technical skills and calmness proved invaluable for a quick migration with minimal disruption.”

 

– Mark Giles, Digital Operations Manager, HMCTS

 

The migration was a success:

 

Users logged off at 4pm on Friday and back on at 8am on Monday

Opportunity to move to Azure hosting and review Atlassian apps with Clearvision

Confirmation testing took place on the Sunday evening, leading the most issues being resolved

Delivery continued with many users unaware any maintenance had taken place!

Post-migration timeline

 

Six problems by 15th June (largely due to firewall settings)

Just two problems by 30th June

0 problems at the end of July

The results

Thanks to having the right tools, policies, processes and people in place, the Criminal Justice System has seen a number of tangible benefits.

Single source of truth

Easy to configure, change and improve

User friendly

Identifies bottlenecks

Encourages collaboration

Drives quality

 

That combination of the right people, processes and tools was invaluable.


We know that the management, development and delivery of any digital solution is complex. When it comes to government ICT, this is more true than ever.

The Criminal Justice System was able to achieve the above results by leveraging the help of Clearvision’s consultants. As the longest-accredited Atlassian Solution Partner on G-Cloud, Clearvision has been delivering specialist services to the public sector through the G-Cloud framework since 2013.

Browse our offerings on G-Cloud or get in touch to discuss how we can help your teams with a successful digital transformation.

How to Reorg Your Testing Team Through an Agile Transformation

How-To-Reorg-Your-Testing-Team

The pace of business is moving faster than ever and in order to keep up with the speed, software developers have been forced to shift their methodology. The traditional “waterfall” method is being displaced by “agile.” According to VersionOne’s State of Agile survey, 95% of companies reported that their organizations practice some form of agile. Which means they’re working and releasing software at a faster pace than ever before.

This move to agile has created some significant challenges for software testers who need to balance speed with quality. How can we deliver software faster than ever, without risking releasing code with poor quality?

The agile approach has led to big changes in the people, processes and tools that organizations use to both develop and test software. High growth companies like Atlassian are able to make software that has changed the landscape of software development in a seemingly impossible time frame. Founded by a couple of twenty year-olds in 2002, today they have over 40,000 customers and recently went public with a $6 billion valuation.

While most organizations have now adopted agile, they have focused solely on development and failed to look at their testing team. Are they agile? If your answer is no, then you are not fully embracing agile, and you’re likely to experience some pains from the broken framework.

If you are looking to learn more about the people, process and tools to make your transformation successful, I encourage you to check out our recent webinar with Clearvision – Agile Transformation: People, Process and Tools to Make Your Transformation Successful.

“But my testing team can’t go agile.”

Ideally everyone wants to be fully agile, but a lot of companies say they can’t because they don’t have the right people in place or their testers can’t get involved in the development process.  Innovative companies are shifting their architecture to independent microservices written using more accessible languages like Ruby and Python.

In doing so, teams can make changes independent of other parts of the  product, and non technical employees can understand more of what is going on in the product.  This shift will allow teams to work independently and collaborate closely as a unit, but it will not happen overnight. I recommend starting with one project and slowly evolving.

Below are some tips to help prepare your testing team to go agile.

1) Shift to Embedded Testers

Getting quality integrated into product teams is an essential part of agile success, especially in scrum.  Including an embedded tester(s) on your agile teams is one of the easiest ways to make sure testing gets the focus it deserves.

Agile needs to happen quickly, which means you need to have teams that can work fast by being able to quickly pivot and reprioritize projects.  When I say “Embedded Tester” I am implying that you take a member of a large Quality Assurance team and place them into a team of programmers, much like dropping a reporter into a military unit.

In waterfall, you typically have a large team of testers that work across all the products, and the prioritization queue is large. It can provide a roadblock to coded features ready to be tested and released. When you have embedded testers, each tester works with a group of programmers on separate initiatives, making prioritization up to that small team, and fast.

Here is an example: you implement qTest. 50 testers focus on manual, 50 testers on automation. When you shift towards agile, it is common to shift towards scrum teams, made up of a scrum master (product owner), 3 developers, a business analyst, DevOps, and one or two testers (potentially a mix of automated and manual).  However, instead of leveraging a tester in a huge group of testers, your tester is already in your team.

Your tester will therefore be more knowledgeable about your product, and instead of being good at one facet of testing, they have a broader testing skill set.  This embedded tester focuses on one product, module or functionality within a broader skill set. See the image below for a rough sketch.

2) Embrace Different Types of Testing

On the manual side

The traditional way to do manual testing includes creating test plans for weeks or even months, then creating test cases for several more weeks.  After the software is developed, but before it is deployed, test validation happens – this often causes a bottleneck in the process.

If you are developing small sets of features rapidly, you want to quickly deploy to get the software into your customers hands as fast as possible.  By embracing exploratory testing, you will be aligning manual testing to be as agile as possible and making the most of the manual testing resources you already have.

On the automation side

There is a need is to be more collaborative so more developers and testers can contribute to the automated test coverage.  Agile needs collaboration to be successful.

So we need to break down these walls – developers are the most able to impact the quality of the code, and so it doesn’t make sense to remove developers from testing. It’s akin to a chef that never tastes their own food! Additionally,  developers will then believe in the validity of these tests, and this insight will help them to build for testers in the future.

3) Culture

Testers are often heads down. They want their list of test cases so they can run and report back on the results; they like finding problems, but are not necessarily interested in solving them.

Agile success depends on a culture where there is a shift in power, so testers are seen as change agents rather than rather than as whistle blowers.

They need to take initiative. It’s time to start saying, “Here is the problem.  I think this is why, and I would propose we fix it like this,” rather than, “Here’s the problem. Go fix it.”  Testers need to grow closer to customers, understanding their needs, and closer to developers as well, to learn why they did certain things in their code.

I think this is why we see more testing moving back onshore. It’s hard to find savvy testers that can collaborate well if they are not in the same location.

A shift needs to happen in testing:

  • From pure test authors or executors to more holistic test leads
  • From large test silos to embedded testers in product teams
  • From a culture of one team (testing) owning quality to a more cross functional view of quality

It’s time to ditch Quality Center ALM. Download the “No More Excuses” free guide to find out what you’re missing and why you should consider qTest.

 

 

Shaping IT Support with ITSM and JIRA Service Desk

Shaping-IT-Support-With-ITSM-JIRA-Service-Desk-ClearHub

As an Atlassian Platinum Solution Partner, we at Clearvision and ClearHub practice what we preach. Which is why we implemented JIRA Service Desk best practices with the use of ITIL framework for IT Service Management.

Throughout my years of providing IT support in small to enterprise environments, the entirety of incoming activities were managed, organized and structured by ITIL methodologies under ITSM. When companies adopt these practices, they give support engineers and analysts a detailed understanding on how the ITSM structure works making service delivery efficient, rather than leaving them wondering: “What is the difference between an incident and a request?”

Once a basic understanding of ITIL for ITSM has been grasped, any service desk or IT manager with application administration skills can implement this framework to their help desk solution. This is where JIRA Service Desk comes in, to champion those ITIL requirements the business has.

I rolled this out internally at Clearvision. Read on to see how I achieved it…

JIRA was already an established application across multiple teams here at Clearvision, which is often the case in many companies that have the demand for JIRA Software as a development tool. IT support issues were logged, tracked and recorded via a JIRA project.

This, understandably, had its limitations, which is why we made the collaborative decision to add and configure JIRA Service Desk for our IT team.

How we introduced ITIL framework

One of the most commonly adopted best practice frameworks for ITSM is ITIL, which is why Atlassian has ensured that JIRA Service Desk is ITIL certified in the four core processes from PinkVerify™ and Axelos™.

  • Service requests
  • Incident management
  • Problem management
  • Change management

We made use of Atlassian’s ‘Best practices for IT teams using JIRA Service Desk‘ knowledge base as a guide to get us started with ITIL processes, and used our own experience to mature our Service Desk.

Any business, small or large will experience:

  • Unplanned maintenance,
  • Outages
  • Problems
  • Requests for changes

These all require an incident/request/change/problem to be logged and managed by a member of the IT team. We implemented the best practices outlined below to help us on our way to create a Service Desk fit for our organisation.

JIRA Service Desk Best Practice

Change Management

Those of you familiar with change management processes know that it involves planning, control and business impact research. This can all be integrated in your JIRA Service Desk with the following guidelines:

  • Have a separate “change” issue type
  • Create and configure a workflow that meets requirements for reviewing, planning, approval and implementation. See below:
  • The workflow can then be amended to include additional requirements your business has
  • Enforce an approval step for change reviews – many enterprise businesses have a dedicated Change Advisory Board for this purpose (CAB)
  • Coordinate changes with a calendar – we recommend Confluence Team Calendars, as it can be used to ensure this is a fluid process
  • Default form fields for change requests – create issue type fields and screens for your change requests, which can include change type, change risk, change dates, impact, urgency, etc.

Incident Management

Start with the best practice guidelines below to optimize your incident management with JIRA Service Desk.

  • Start with a “incident” issue type in your Service Desk Project
  • Create and configure a workflow – see the example below:
  • The workflow can then be amended to include additional requirements your business has
  • Auto-close incidents after resolving them
  • Link incident records to other issues
  • Default form fields for incident reports

Request Fulfillment

Likewise, JIRA Service Desk also allows you to optimize your service request fulfillment in the following ways:

  • Create a separate “request” issue type
  • Create and configure a workflow that meets business requirements – for example:
  • Incorporate your approval process into the workflow
  • Auto-close service requests after resolving them
  • Default form fields for service requests

Problem Management

When your users run into a problem, JIRA Service Desk’s integration with Confluence is a good way to allow them to search your knowledge base for answers. It allows for quick, simple problem management:

  • Create a “problem” issue type
  • Create and configure a workflow that meets business requirements – for example:
  • Document known errors in your linked Confluence knowledge base on an ongoing basis
  • Default form fields for problem reports

More JIRA Service Desk Tips

In addition to the guidance on the above four processes, there’s plenty more JIRA Service Desk offers that helps both agents and customers. Here are some more great JIRA Service Desk tips to finish up with!

Keep your agent queues organized

Ensuring your queues are organised for your team creates a more efficient and user friendly experience. For example, you can create a triage for new issues, separate incidents, problems, requests and changes, and add a queue for SLA’s that are approaching.

Don’t over-complicate your portal

Keep your request types to a minimum. You don’t want users to be baffled by too many choices. You should always ensure the most common request types are covered, but keep it as simple as possible.

Use canned response templates

Who would want to type the same comment over and over? With canned responses for JIRA, you can create templates to send responses to your customers.

Create automation rules

Automation rules in a Service Desk can be a god send. Here are the automations we use here at Clearvision on a daily basis:

  • Automatically transition an issue based on comment type
  • Re-open issues on customer comment
  • Provide an auto-response acknowledgement
  • SLA alerts
  • Urgency/impact matrix custom rule for automating priority

For me and my team, JIRA Service Desk has had a hugely positive impact on how we deal with IT issues. Implementing and using JIRA Service Desk has been a beneficial experience which keeps growing every day, as we continue to improve and adapt to our business’ and user’s IT requirements. I hope you’ve also gained some tips on how to improve and adapt your own Service Desk environment from this blog post!

For information on ITSM and JIRA Service Desk, and how to get the most out of your help desk environment, contact Clearvision about our ITSM solutions today.