As the UK begins to hope for brighter times, it’s perhaps no surprise that our CEO Tim Mercer thinks there’s a lot to be positive about, as we close the door on a successful Q1. Here, he talks everything from growing IT budgets, to the growing pains of teams still separated due to social distancing rules…

As Covid-19 restrictions continue to ease, everyone is now looking forward – particularly our customers and friends who have been able to re-open their businesses for the first time in months.  To these guys, you made it, and we’re rooting for you!

They’ll no doubt be happy to put Q1 behind them, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some important points to be taken from January-March.

Organisations have once again demonstrated incredible resilience in the face of more lockdowns, trading restrictions, lost custom, disparate teams, and home schooling. And as is often the case during a crisis, there have been some incredible examples of ongoing innovation and camaraderie in the space, as a result. We’ve seen news of impressive mergers and acquisitions too, which shows just how important the world of tech is right now – particularly in AI, automation and cyber security.

At Vapour HQ, we’ve had the busiest four weeks of the last 12 months in terms of new enquiries. A recent report by Gartner – which states that IT leaders have had the green light to spend on digitisation – perhaps explains this spike. In fact, an article in Computer Weekly quotes research vice-president John-David Lovelock, who said that: “Last year, IT spending took the form of a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to enable a remote workforce in a matter of weeks. As hybrid work takes hold, CIOs will focus on spending that enables innovation, not just task completion.”

This certainly correlates with the type of projects we’re being asked to support on. Last year, many organisations made a mass switch to Microsoft Teams, for example. Now they’re talking to us about things like Teamslink – a cloud hosted phone system built into Microsoft’s environment, and business intelligence across their Microsoft stack.

Elsewhere, some CIOs realised that their disaster recovery strategies simply weren’t robust enough, so business continuity is now a priority. Other tech leaders are concentrating on innovations such as robotic process automation to take their customer experience standards to the next level.

The enquiries are as varied as they are numerous, but one thing’s for sure – the days of Vapour being known merely for voice, networks and storage, are long gone. Even our rebrand back in January, feels like a lifetime ago.

With our evolution, has come growth in the team, with five new starters joining us in Q1 alone. Onboarding fresh colleagues hasn’t been without its challenges, particularly as a business known for our culture, but it has made us even sharper as a management team. New employees’ time needs to be pre-booked, for example, so they have the same opportunities to talk to, observe and learn from their co-workers – just as they would if they were in the office together. Laser focused organisational skills are certainly essential!

Staying with our people, we’ve re-run our staff wellness survey with Champion Health, following our pledge in 2020 to better protect colleagues’ mental health. Six months on, the findings have revealed a different ‘temperature’, with less stress a common denominator among most. Many have, however, missed meaningful interactions with colleagues – let’s face it, we’re all a little tired of virtual social get-togethers.

We’re therefore looking forward to organising a celebration for staff as summer approaches – not least because we’ve got another big announcement coming. Our Instagram followers may have a sneaky suspicion as to what I’m talking about, so if you haven’t seen the photos, head over to our profile and take a look!

We know we won’t see a mass return to the office though – certainly not for everyone, every day. From a tech point of view, I’m naturally not worried, especially when I compare my thought patterns to fellow business leaders grappling with fears about secure hybrid working.

But maintaining the dynamic and personality of the team is a little trickier with people striving for different working patterns and much shorter hours spent at HQ. Tricky, but not impossible, and I’m enjoying spending time thinking about how we commit to and live by the values we reshaped as a team last year, in readiness for our January relaunch.

I could go on, but there’s work to do. All in all, we’ve had a good quarter, and our friends in the wider tech space are gearing up for a quietly confident 2021, too. After a volatile year, I’m pleased to hear stories of positivity and growth among our peers.

As the next three months unfold I think we’ll be talking lots more about endpoint security, challenging the status quo, and I’ve got a few potentially controversial things to say about voice! Watch this space…

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