Ringside: Insider Interview with Mike Swain

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Welcome back to Ringside. This is where we talk leadership, technology and communication with the people who are shaping the future of work. Today, we caught up with Mike Swain, UK CEO at SCC.

Can you describe SCC and your role within the business?

We are Europe’s biggest privately-owned IT solutions business and the technology division of Rigby Group plc. I have been a part of SCC for more than 34 years, leading its services division to consistent year-on-year double-digit growth and driving SCC’s transformation from an IT reseller to one of Europe’s principal technology solutions businesses.

In July 1987 I joined SCC as a software support executive and within ten years became one of its youngest directors, heading up the professional services business. I was appointed to SCC’s executive board in 2002 and led the growth of our UK Services business, alongside deploying global support centres across Romania and Vietnam.

During my role as managing director of services, I oversaw continual growth and successive record financial results. I became UK CEO in 2020.

How is technology driving COVID-19 recovery in the UK?

When the pandemic took hold last March, businesses were forced to enable immediate and widespread homeworking. On the face of it, this meant a requirement for more laptops and mobile devices, peripherals and other hardware. It also meant more collaboration solutions for video conferencing and secure remote access. However, people didn’t see straight away the additional bandwidth and hosting requirements, security implications, corporate IT policies, the shift in IT budget, and prioritisation. All of these things became a major challenge for every IT leader almost overnight.

Technology made all this possible. But, as the pandemic went on, organisations changed from reactive to proactive. They were almost working backwards to create new digital strategies based on the new normal that lockdowns and home working had called for.

One of the positives we can take from the pandemic is the global acceleration of digital transformation. Technology is critical to this. It will help deliver an economic bounce back and ensure businesses are more resilient to similar challenges in the future.

As important as technology is, people's motivation to come together at a time of crisis is astonishing. Click To Tweet

What have you found most challenging and what lessons have you learned supporting a remote workforce?

We all shifted to remote working to protect the health and well-being of our people, partners and customers. At SCC, we made this move several weeks ahead of the first national lockdown. As a provider of critical IT services, SCC plays a key role in supporting some of the UK’s most important organisations – notably our customers right across the NHS and blue light services. The biggest challenge we faced was keeping our people safe whilst keeping our customers fully operational. I’m pleased to say our team reacted with enormous enthusiasm to all that was thrust upon them. Everyone delivered a superb level of consistent, high-quality service to our customers throughout.

We learned that, as important as technology is, people’s motivation to come together and go the extra mile at a time of crisis is astonishing. I am so proud to lead this business with all it has achieved over the past 16 months. From setting up a website providing guidance to the NHS on PPE within 48 hours to supporting the delivery of Nightingale Hospitals, and innovating with the first installation of thermal imaging technology.

The challenge will be helping organisations navigate the new normal. Another will be taking advantage of digital transformation and hybrid working.

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Could you tell us about the causes SCC supports to aid those affected most by the pandemic?

In the IT sector, we have been in a more fortunate position.  But sadly, the same cannot be said for everyone. The youth demographic has been severely hit, and those already disadvantaged now face even bigger obstacles.

We recently renewed our partnership as a Patron of The Prince’s Trust for the next three years. As a patron for the past seven years, SCC has supported several of the Trust’s regional and national schemes and campaigns, most notably a significant investment in 2018 to help create a brand-new hub in Birmingham City Centre that will help thousands of young people.

The work that The Prince’s Trust does with young people is outstanding, and they’re making a real difference in many lives. We look forward to seeing how we can continue to support them.

Earlier in the pandemic, we also supported 250 young people by donating laptops and data to support their learning at home through an initiative with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). The young people from 12 RSC Associate Schools in Birmingham and Warwickshire received individual laptops and 12 months of free data per user to support their resilience through the challenges of the current academic year. The equipment will ensure that students can access high-quality learning and arts opportunities at home and school. We’ve also partnered with several SCC customers who have donated surplus laptop equipment, which SCC refurbishes and securely reimages, before contributing to local schools to help children who have been impacted by the loss of face-to-face education over the last year.

Each environment has its challenges to staying productive, so tailored solutions are key to business continuity in the hybrid working era. Click To Tweet

As social restrictions ease, businesses are focusing on how to safely return to the office at some point in the future. The approach most companies seem to be adopting (or at least talking about) is hybrid working.

With this in mind, what do you think the future of work will look like, and how can IT leaders prepare for it?

Remote working is creating entire new organisational structures and reshaping business models. As a result, leaders are rethinking ways to generate sales and deliver services using remote working practices and looking to the long-term when welcoming employees back to a new, hybrid workplace. But hybrid workplaces bring about both challenges and opportunities.

Each worker and workspace are different. Some prefer to work at home, others on the go and some at their desk in the office. Each environment has its challenges to staying productive, so tailored solutions are key to business continuity in the hybrid working era.

As a starting point, businesses need to understand their users and requirements. But there is an urgency that didn’t exist before. So while leaders can accelerate plans, it’s important not to waste the opportunity presented by not carefully considering diverse working styles and the right solution for your business – which might be vastly different from another, even in the same industry.

I would recommend engaging with IT partners to help assess the current state and future objectives and design a roadmap that offers resilience, security and scalability to meet the demands of hybrid working now and in the future.

Find out more about Mike and SCC on LinkedIn.

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Samantha Clayton

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Samantha is RingCentral’s Content Specialist for EMEA Marketing. Before joining the business, she held various roles in content, public relations and communications. She has worked with companies across industries including education technology, marketing and advertising, connected home, telecoms and publishing.

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