COVID-19 and Collaboration
A key 2020 to 2021 focus was the delivery of a new collaborative digital workspace for Somerset House. My solution was designed to leverage the Microsoft 365 stack, in which Somerset House already had partial investment, and the anticipated launch was in July 2020. However, due to COVID-19, this timeline had to be greatly accelerated and was successfully delivered four months early, enabling the entire organisation to shift to a remote working model, while still being able to engage and collaborate with colleagues and peers. I discussed some of the details of this project in an interview I did with CIO magazine and spoke on topic at the IDG 2020 CIO Summit.
Somerset House needed a better way to manage the connectivity for the 7000 client devices that connect to our network every day. Additionally we wanted better visibility and control across the entire wired and wireless infrastructure. The solution I selected was Cisco Meraki, leveraging the power of their cloud controller platform alongside their high performance hardware. The solution was comprised of switching for some 6500 data points via Meraki MS appliances, site wide wireless connectivity via 350 Meraki APs, with multiple MX firewalls. The result is a seamless full stack solution that gives us powerful management capabilities and visibility across the network.
I wanted to overhaul our telephony offering to our 2600 residents, moving from an archaic voice and physical handset model to a modern unified communications solution. Employing the latest Avaya IX technology, we transitioned to a point where we can offer device agnostic communications capabilities covering voice, video, instant messenger and more, from anywhere in the world, including free internet calling. I also included a full migration to SIP trunks as part of the project scope, phasing out our costly ISDN links.
The world is changing and fewer people are carrying cash. Visitors to venues and charitable activities want to be able to donate with cards, smart phones, smart watches and other contactless devices. Recognising the need to update our fundraising approach, I partnered with GoodBox to build out a digital solution, backed by a cloud based data dashboard, to allow us to significantly increase our donation takings. I was asked to speak about the process at the 2019 TEC conference in Birmingham and I went on to advise several other cultural organisations on their digital and contactless strategies.
Initial penetration testing, phishing testing and vulnerability scanning revealed that a complete overhaul of the organisational approach to cyber security was required. Collaborating with a range of partners, including the Metropolitan Police Cyber Crime division, and GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre, I developed a project programme to cover key areas of cyber security. These included training, continual phishing testing, vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, multi-factor authentication, revised password policies and more. We were independently accredited with the UK government’s Cyber Essentials Plus certification as part of the process and now have a much improved security posture.
I have now built out internal IT functions at three organisations over my career. Each case presented unique process, staffing and budgetary challenges. These required recruiting, developing and retaining staff. I’ve implemented a number of varying service desk processes and systems, from open source solutions through to established players such as Atlassian’s Jira.
Throughout 2019 I managed the design and delivery of all the IT aspects for our brand new 200 seat cowork space. This included the wired and wireless connectivity, CRM, support processes, access control, telephony, mobile signal boosting, EPOS systems, and more. This was a fantastic project to work on, as it’s not often you get to see everything come together into a physical product launch. You also don’t usually have the chance to build out physical infrastructure from scratch in a space that is being entirely renovated.