As part of London's Social Media Week we put on an event called Social Business – The Patchwork Elephant Revisited asking "What next for Social Business?". We were kindly sponsored by our friends here at CompareTheCloud.net and we introduced the event and the speakers in an earlier post. The idea was to get 8 different perspectives on where we are at, and where we go next, with using social and collaboration tools "inside" the business to add value and work more effectively. Why is the "Social" word seen with such suspicion by some executives in the C-suite? With the explosion of social media use in marketing or customer support reaching out of the organisation, why aren't more companies using it all over their organisations? We believe change is happening, but why aren't we further forward with "Social Business"?
A few weeks after our event, Chris Heuer did a guest post on Brian Solis' blog that moved in to the same territory we covered asking Social Business is Dead! Long Live What’s Next! and highlighted the problem with:
"While the ideas behind the moniker are invaluable in defining the future of work, most large companies simply aren’t buying into or investing in Social Business transformation efforts in more than a piecemeal sort of way"
Why is that? Here are the 8 perspectives and presentations from the 27th November 2013:
ALAN PATRICK - Broadsight & The Patchwork Elephant
Alan set the scene for us by revisiting our event from 3 years ago, highlighting that demand generation was the quick win and that social media structures are orthogonal to the normal hierarchy of command and control and so:
"resistance may be futile, but strong!"
He talked about social business being systematic, connecting the front end to the back end, looking to add value, and that culture follows commerce. He highlighted how value will be created, and referenced a McKinsey study on where the potential productivity improvement might be over the next 10-20 years by industry sector. He talked Ronald Coase's theory of the firm
and how they exist to reduce transaction costs, and highlighted that social technologies can directly help with that.
JANET PARKINSON - Technotropplis & The Patchwork Elephant
Janet talked about the unthinkable idea, and asked if business could become nothing more than a social object, with individuals collaborating via social networks, doing things businesses used to do. She quoted James Burke
who suggested earlier this year that:
"Nanotechnology will destroy the present social and economic system - because it will become pointless"
and then revisited Burke's 1973 predictions
of what 1993 technology might be like. He had some things wrong, but a lot right, foreseeing the proliferation of the computer in offices, schools and homes, and the creation of metadata banks of personal information. She highlighted how difficult prediction is, but then talked about a future of radical abundance where technologies, like the early 3D printing we see now, will mean people can produce their own goods from virtually nothing for virtually nothing, and how that will have a knock on effect changing the business world dramatically - it will affect production, transport, consumer facing businesses selling goods, sales and marketing, business support services and finance. It could change the nature and need for cities, and even governments. Does business become a social object?
WILL MCINNES - NixonMcInnes (just moved to Brandwatch)
Will wanted to provide glimmers of hope. He talked about the Culture Shock
(his book) of how networked our World has become. How society has moved from ancient times when we gathered at the the stone circle for social interaction, to everyone being connected with smart phones and tablets, even wearing technology, and he referenced that YouTube video of a small child expecting a Magazine to work by touch
like an iPad. He talked about the data we collect today just as a byproduct of the technology we use. He talked about preconceptions and misconceptions - the jazz segment of the music industry is $100m a year, but Grand Theft Auto's latest game version sold $800m in the first day! We don't have colonies on Mars, we have Facebook instead! He talked about decentralised, bottom-up innovation. He talked about the purpose of an organisation and quoted Umair Haque
(who spoke at our 2010 version of this event) tweeting:
"Making shareholder enrichment the basis of an economy is probably an idea that belongs up there with Cheez Whiz and Donald Trump's hair."
He also quoted Simon Kuznets
, the inventor of the term GDP saying in 1934:
"The welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measure of national income"
He talked of crowdsourcing, from Wikipedia to Giff Gaff, and of organisations without bosses or hierarchy like Valve Corporation
. He talked ratings and reviews and the effects of that big shift on the high street. He talked about the immediacy of citizen reporting, and the implications of humans being networked. He talked OODA loops
as a necessary approach to all of this, and mentioned his Meaning conference
which will endeavour to connect and inspire the people who believe in better business, and want to be part of the change.
MAT MORRISON - Starcom Mediavest Group
Mat talked about his @mediacsar
presence on Twitter, along with his @evilczar
alter ego as an example of how you can be different personae on the Internet. He talked of Lego, of information overload, the power of on-line comments, how naive some marketers are around this topic, and how brands now have to act on Twitter. He highlighted that although there might be 80m (or 200m or... ?) active users of Twitter, the median number of followers is actually 30 and so this lens is distorted. He talked about the power of some well known Twitter complaints, and how you might get better service from some companies, such as BT, by complaining on Twitter rather than phoning their help line.
LUIS SAUREZ - IBM
Luis's premise is that a social business is (or should be) an open business. He talked about the culture change required to move from the old way of doing things to this new way of collaboration and sharing using social tools. He talked in terms of a 30 year time frame - and he's right, this is a major change that will happen slowly, but it's happening. He used his own company, IBM, as an example - they've been doing social business internally well before the existence of Facebook. He talked Open Business
and mentioned @davidcushman
. He explained an Open Business uses its resources to discover people who share its purpose, and then bring them together to realise that purpose. He talked about the hierarchy and the wirearchy
coexisting in a networked company. He talked about accountability, and getting rid of layers, and providing incentives for employees to share. He explained how managers need to transform in to leaders, and talked about the need for transparency. His conclusion, with a touch of Mafia style - Open Business is "Just" Business, it's the only way to go.
NEIL USHER - Sky
Neil didn't use any slides. He talked about being a corporate employee but trying to think about things holistically. Neil talked about what it was really like for employees working for corporates and 'using' internal social technologies. One of the reasons he didn't use slides was because he wanted to feel the vulnerability which many feel when starting to use networks for the first time. He talked about the workessence blog
he has been writing for the past 2 years. He told us a little about creating a Yammer network in one company and then using Salesforce Chatter in the next to create internal social networks within the organisations he's worked for. When he made that switch between companies, he discovered that people at his old company said they'd miss his input on the internal network. He talked about LinkedIn and jokingly wondered what Google+ was for! He talked of the value of asking questions of Twitter to crowd-source expertise and the fact that complete strangers will respond with the answers. He was firm on the fact that these on-line social interactions amplify the subsequent face to face interactions, and vice versa too. And he also managed the compulsory reference to Euan Semple
(who, by the way, was one of the speakers back at our 2010 version of this event).
ANNE-MARIE MCEWAN - The Smart Work Company
Anne-Marie described herself as a recovering academic, and said she would be talking about pushing Big Boulders Uphill! She was explaining her experiences writing a book, putting together a post graduate course and developing The Smart Work Company, which pulls together social business, the changing world of work and the way the physical workplace is changing too. She described education as liberating, and democratising and how she wants to make a business school education available to anyone who wants it. She talked of things experiential and social. She described the social psychology of organising, of interlinked groups and their relationships. She wondered why we had lost so much openness and gave that as one of the triggers for writing her book, because it means so much to her. She talked of her work based masters course she taught at Kingston University and about getting people to think strategically. She quoted Orlov the Meerkat
"What could possibles go wrong?
She's currently putting together a PGC for Chester University. She admitted it's been a hard sell to date. When people think of a Post Graduate course they think in terms of a curriculum on "paper", when actually she wants them to think in terms of what you actually do at work and doing it better. She talked about applying social technologies, about the what and the how, but also the where. She talked about a massive appetite for on-line learning, worried that current MOOCs
have not helped as much as they should. She contrasted just putting the old curriculum on video to an approach of connecting to others outside your organisation doing the same thing, to scope a project plan, learn together through discovering good practice and principles, critique and amend to suit your own circumstances. She believes the doers are the experts, but we are the facilitators and feels she's been given a second chance.
DAVID TERRAR - D2C & The Patchwork Elephant
My job was to summarise the sessions, but add some thoughts of my own, so I quoted Dirk Gently as I also believe in:
"the fundamental interconnectedness of all things"
It's important to realise that, in the last 40 years of regular technology disruptions every 5 to 10 years, we've never had 3 of them happening simultaneously before. We have the shift to Cloud and web based apps happening at the same time as the explosion in social technologies happening at the same time that we are all walking round with mobile phones and tablets, so that we have the Internet in our hands, any-time anywhere. That's changing everything. No matter what you do, your business model needs to change. Back in 2011 Salesforce, who have one of the most complete business to social collaboration to social media monitoring offerings available, was promoting the Social Enterprise (when the term was already in use to mean something else
), and they even tried to trademark it! By 2012 that idea had failed, they changed their messaging but it evolved to "Business is Social". The same concept in different words. It's also important to note that Darwin's theory of evolution still holds in business and marketing - categories naturally fragment and we have a huge landscape of software choices and point solutions, and so maybe this plethora of choice and the lack of maturity of better known, larger social business offerings is part of the reason why we haven't made as much progress since 2006 or 2008, as many would have expected viewed from back then. But there is more to it than that. As Luis said, the culture change required is happening, but it will take decades. I quoted Susan Scrupski
"without executive direction, support and sincere engagement, internal efforts are nothing more than an aimless electronic water cooler"
There are smart companies who have heeded those words. I highlighted major enterprises like Lilly and BASF and Deutsche Bank who all have great case studies of what can be achieved using social technologies, and we need more good case studies like those to get the C Level executives on board. In the Q & A around the summary, Benjamin Ellis
from the floor highlighted that it's only a generation or two before our time that the average worker couldn't read - we now have a literate, educated workforce, with technology to help. We are beginning to move on from the Taylorist view
of flows and mass production efficiency to a very different, flat, networked World with technology in our hands and everywhere we touch. Over time we've used terms like Web 2.0, Office 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Social Enterprise and Social Business as well as Collaboration and Knowledge Management. We may not have the language right, but the idea of using these technologies to change the way we work is stronger than ever. The next stage has got to be about putting what we've learned so far in to practice, and making that Elephant (in the room) dance.
Finally, I just want to add that the vibe in the room during the afternoon was a bit special, a bit different, and the discussion at the end of each talk was lively and productive. We all enjoyed it, and I'd like to thank our friends at CompareTheCloud.net
once again for their sponsorship to help make it happen.
As any of the speakers or attendees blog about the event, I'll add references here. So far there is:
Graham Stewart: The Patchwork Elephant And The Impact Hub
Tim Callington of Edelman: Open Business: In praise of lawyers
Janet Parkinson of Technotropolis:
Thinking the unthinkable with the Social Business Patchwork Elephant
Business as a Social Object, the Shadow Economy and WOMnets
This week is Social Media Week
in London (but also Berlin, Bogota, Chicago, Los Angeles, Mumbai, Sao Paulo and Toronto). There is a packed schedule of events each day, heavily oriented towards social media marketing and using social to promote your brand and connect with your customers, fans and community in general. We (Alan Patrick, Janet Parkinson and I) are running one of the few events of this week that talks Social Business - about using social tools inside as well as outside the organisation to make business more effective - Social Business - The Patchwork Elephant Revisited
. We'll also be discussing the way today's technology landscape is disrupting traditional business models, changing society, and changing the world of work.
The event is being held tomorrow September 27th at Hub Westminster
, in New Zealand House in Haymarket (at the Pall Mall end). It runs from 13:00 (with a formal start of presentations at 13:30 and a 45 minute break, so ample time for networking) and ends at 17:30. I'm delighted to say we are sponsored by our friends at CompareTheCloud.net
Three years ago we ran a similar event within the February 2010 edition of Social Media Week London. We called it "Social Media in Enterprises - The Elephant in the Ecosystem" and we used a patchwork elephant to symbolise the theme - it's a patchwork elephant because it's very large, in the room, but it's hard to see the whole thing! Back then 3 and a half years ago our conclusions were:
- Using social to increase demand generation will be the early win
- Organisations designed on 18th century principles from the industrial revolution are just not fit for purpose today
- Social tools often subvert the corporate hierarchy and highlight the "real" networks that make things work
- Social network projects are happening bottom up and top down but implementation is patchy
- Traditional hierarchies are orthogonal to social media structures – resistance may be futile, but from some old style thinkers it will be strong
- We need to aggregate an emerging body of knowledge about what works and what doesn't, and collect case studies.
Here we are 3 and a half years on, and I can only say that I wish we had made more progress. Business models are changing, and social technologies are ever more important in the way we work, but where are we really? Tomorrow's event asks:
- How has social business evolved?
- What is the current state?
- How does social integrate with our systems and processes today?
- What are the challenges for implementation and achieving success?
- Where are we headed?
We've assembled a great cast of speakers - business people, consultants, academics - and we hope each will give a different perspective on the social business challenge. The "Patchwork Elephant" team will top and tail proceedings. Alan Patrick of Broadsight
and Janet Parkinson of Technotropolis
will introduce the social business landscape and set the scene. At the end, after our stellar speaker line up, I'll add my thoughts and pull together a summary of the key messages. We've left a 45 minute break in the middle for networking, and we'll be heading to the pub afterwards for anyone who wants to continue the debate and discussion.
Our speakers are:
Luis Saurez - IBM (famous for living outside of the inbox)
Will McInnes - NixonMcInnes (author of Culture Shock)
Mat Morrison - Starcom MediaVest Group (World's Oldest Living Social Media Guru™)
Anne-Marie McEwan - The Smart Work Company (author of Smart Working: Creating the Next Wave)
Neil Usher - WorkEssence
(Patchwork elephant image courtesy of Elmer and www.echidnaontheloose.com)
We'd love to see you there, and we'll do a follow on blog post with conclusions, links and thoughts from the event.
A few weeks ago I was invited by Daniel Steeves
to kick off his "Beyond Cloud" series of around 15 documentary interviews. It went live on IntelligentHQ.com
yesterday. Daniel is putting these sessions together with IntelligentHQ and Groupe INSEEC London
(the French business school). Daniel's idea is to have a series of video interviews based around the same set of 4 questions to cover the trends, issues and realities of the Cloud landscape from the many different perspectives of the players involved. I was providing the consultant's perspective, but he will be covering the viewpoint from the very large Cloud provider, the traditional vendor, the SME provider, the Cloud orchestrator, the network provider, the data centre, the Cloud broker, middle-ware provider, orchestrator, security expert, some different styles of SaaS provider, the industry analyst, the business user, the micro business DIY user and the Cloud lawyer. He's hoping to get some heretics, detractors and realists along with the evangelists and enthusiasts. At the end of the sequence Daniel is bringing me back so I can interview him with the same 4 questions to wrap up the issues and explain what he's learned from the sequence.
Daniel's 4 questions are:
Q1: You are here as the (whatever - I was the Cloud Consultant). Tell us about your role and how your business has changed as a result of today’s cloud computing environment, in terms of both risks and opportunities.
Q2: Why is this big thing different than the last big thing?
Q3: What are your views on regulating the cloud, or the cloud providers, or what sits in the cloud?
Q4: If you accept my premise that the cloud is a delivery vehicle, where is it taking us and what comes next along the way?
So here is my take on why Cloud (and particularly the intersection of the shift to cloud, mobile and social) is so important for all business, how it changes the balance of risk, why its not "just another technology disruption", and where we are headed next. I hope you enjoy it.
Beyond Cloud Interview with David Terrar from D2C from IntelligentHQ on Vimeo.
(viewing on an iPad/iPhone? - click link above to watch direct on Vimeo)
Daniel has a number of interviews "in the can" already. Anyone who is involved with this kind of video will understand how much work goes into the editing and production side beyond filming the raw footage. He expects to publish at least 1 a week from this point on.
is a platform that provides digital business insights, growth, executive education and change through the social media innovation lens to business – both startups and corporations.
is one of the best known French business schools, with 14,500 students, 38,000 Alumni, located in four French cities ( Paris , Lyon, Chambery and Bordeaux ), as well as Monaco, London, Chicago, and Beijing linking to a network of 200 partner universities offering MSc, MBA and academic exchanges worldwide.
runs Beyond Solutions Limited
with a consulting approach that has a lot of overlap with my own. He provides practical 'real world' advice on technology as an investment, delivering to the corporate view and to business requirements.
photo courtesy - IntelligentHQ & INSEEC London
Last month, on 17 April, I was invited to attend the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW
)'s annual Cloud accounting event - Winning business in the cloud: reap the benefits of SaaS
. A great title with with the promise of making the case for deploying Cloud. The hashtag for the event was #icaewcloud
- it's now at the stage that if your event hasn't got a hashtag, you're missing out in a big way. Actually this event was generally good, except for one presenter who was well off message, and with whom I have to take issue - more on that later. First I have to disclose that ICAEW is one of my biggest customers (we provide the technology supporting their on-line community
), and that I have a huge amount of time and respect for Richard Anning
, the head of the IT Faculty. He and Paul Booth
do a good job putting on events like this one, and fostering IT Counts
which is a great resource for peer to peer technology advice in the accounting space. I should also disclose we resell Twinfield's online accounting
- they presented last year and the year before, but not this time.
Richard did a fine job chairing and asking instant poll questions to test audience reaction with feedback from little handsets we all had. The event had 3 product showcases as well as 2 expert presentations. Chartered Accountant's Hall is a great venue for this kind of event.
Simon Rose of Intuit did a merely adequate job of presenting Quickbooks Online
. He didn't handle some of the basic questions well, and I can't work out why all the presenters focused too much on basics - I know your accounting system can do debits and credits - I want to see what's different, why I would switch from the traditional Sage/Quickbooks/whatever accounting solution but merely hosted, to actually doing things differently, doing things better. QBO being hosted in America, Simon was asked whether the US tax authorities could interrogate a customer's data, and just didn't really answer properly - data integrity and protection is crucial, and I'm sure Intuit have it covered properly, but that didn't come across on the day. QBO must have more potential than this?
Hugh Scantlebury did a better job presenting Aqillla
. It looks a good all round solution but came across a little like an Excel spreadsheet put on-line, with a user interface that's nothing special. The best job on product was done by Kevin McCallum of FreeAgent
. Their solution takes a business rather than double entry bookkeeping style approach, works for freelancers and small companies up to 15 people, and has a very nice user interface. FreeAgent started in 2007 in Edinburgh and I know the founders
(Roan Lavery worked with me on the ICAEW project). They've grown to 53 people and 30,000 paying subscribers which is impressive! They're probably the largest UK cloud accounting provider in the SME space. They also mentioned they're hosted in 2 nuclear bunkers at The Bunker
(more disclosure, The Bunker is a customer of ours too).
Andrew Joint a partner of Kemp Little
, and Ian Dunn, Assistant General Counsel of KPMG did a double hander on Cloud legal issues. They highlighted significant Cloud benefits both companies have achieved and went through all of the contractual, IPR, data protection, lock-in and service level issues to consider. They were great.
My main concern was with Chris Tiernan
's "The Business Case for Cloud". The second presentation of the day which should have supported the "reap the benefits" title but didn't. I can understand that ICAEW want to present a balanced view - accountants are risk averse at the best of times and they don't want sales hype, but it became clear from Chris's presentation and answers to questions that his opinion of Cloud solutions is anything but balanced or accurate. He was giving a précis of the document of the same name
he authored for ICAEW (attendees got it free, others have to pay). In questions he was asked about Cloud advantages and his opinion was that Cloud compared to traditional solutions are generally cost neutral, and asked about advantages his answer was that Cloud was "just sizzle!". I have to apologise to the other people sitting on my table because I was heading towards incandescent during most of his session and Q&A and that overflowed to disgruntled, strangled
noises as well as comments on Twitter. His presentation did contain a slide of Cloud business case benefits (shown here), which Kevin Salter has listed in a blog post and and put his own sensible spin on here
. Paul Booth also blogged
about Kevin's spin and mentioned the controversy caused by Chris's pitch during questions and on Twitter. However, Kevin's words of explanation and Chris's slide bullets (or in the longer business case document) did not match the way Chris actually presented on the day. It's quite clear that Chris's experience of public Cloud solutions like QBO, Aqilla, FreeAgent, FinancialForce (who had a stand at the event), Twinfield, e-conomic, Kashflow, or more importantly larger scale solutions like Saleforce, Workday, Netsuite, or SAP's various Cloud offerings is very limited. Pretty much all of his examples and positioning was around traditional IT software being hosted in the Cloud versus an outsourcing approach, or around private cloud solutions. A business case it definitely wasn't! Instead of presenting the advantages of Cloud solutions, comparing the differences with on premise, explaining where you'll get a return on investment, he kept listing all of the things you will need to worry about. He also kept mentioning how the cost of change to a new system needs to be considered. I asked about this. Surely the cost of change is there whether the new system replacing the old is Cloud based or on premise (he talked as if this was only a Cloud thing). One of the two big things he ignored is how these costs are different. Implementation and training with Cloud solutions happens in a different way - a smaller, leaner project. Training itself is different because Cloud solutions generally have a better UI, more self help, more on-line training, different support and on-line forums. I asked about this in the Q&A and he just didn't understand - a clear lack of real world experience implementing any of the type of public Cloud offerings I listed above. The other huge thing he ignored was how Cloud solutions help a company do things differently in ways you can't with on premise. Where was that concept in his "business case"? In so many surveys asking why people have deployed Cloud offerings they answer agility ahead of cost savings. The return from that agility has to form part of the investment case.
After the session we talked. I agreed to go through his business case document and give him feedback if he would go through my Intellect's Business Case for SaaS
document (free download, no capture of contact details necessary) and give me feedback. Although first published in October 2009 (I was only one of over a dozen contributors, but oversaw the editing job) I stand by everything it says today. Please take a look at it
If you do get the ICAEW documen
t you'll see Chris's business case isn't a business case. There is little explanation of the advantages of Cloud and the only case study example is negative. The language is positioned very much in the pejorative and the negative throughout. Nowhere does it cover the proper ingredients of a business case of any kind. It comes from an old world IT perspective and raises the many different things to consider versus on premise traditional applications or outsourcing. It feels like the topic is being presented as so complicated you need the help of experts. Is it a business case or an argument to suggest you employ a consultant to help you through the maze? My recommendation is only read it if you can get it free, don't pay for it. The ICAEW have an excellent brand, and this document isn't worthy to be published under it.
In email dialogue since the event I've given Chris detailed criticisms in writing. Up to now he hasn't responded about the Intellect Business Case in detail apart from to say that we view things differently. We certainly do that.
My friend Dennis Howlett
, well know in the accounting world, also attended the event. As I was writing this and having my email discussions with Chris I wanted to corroborate whether my opinions of Chris Tiernan's so-called business case were just me or I'd got it wrong. See this post on diginomica he just published yesterday: ICAEW flubs cloud case
Last Monday I visited a data centre housed in a nuclear bunker. Visiting data centres isn't usually that inspiring - rows of server racks, cabinets with uninteruptible power supplies (UPS) and the like. This one's different, which is why I want to tell the story. Can you think of anywhere safer for your data than an underground bunker capable of withstanding nuclear attack? But I must start with two disclosures. The first is that this company is our latest customer - we're helping them with product messaging, website content and social media strategy. The second, you may know anyway, is that I'm a bit of a business geek and I never tire of doing the tour of a new company or industrial site. I'm fascinated by the way organisations set themselves up, from the layout of the office to the machinery on the "shop floor", and all the processes in between - whether it's an agency using words, design and a bit of technology to heavy manufacturing and big machines making "things" I get excited. This visit was a bit more than special though.
I've known The Bunker
for years. I thought they had just picked a cool name for their company. I hadn't realised they have an ex-RAF nuclear bunker at Ash in Kent and an ex-USAF nuclear bunker that some would recognise as Greenham Common, Berkshire. Ash was the radar station and Cold War command centre, directly linked to Greenham Common which housed the missile silos for a nuclear response. During the tour we saw the actual Plessey terminal that would have initiated a retaliatory strike - I couldn't see any red button, but that's effectively what this piece of kit was.
Approaching and moving around the site is much like visiting any military site - fences, guard posts, and iron gates to negotiate with photo ID checks at various points and CCTV everywhere. A guy called Ben conducted the tour. The Ash bunker is inside a modest Kent hill, and Ben pointed out the two separate connections to the National Grid, one of which is dedicated to The Bunker so that no residential or other properties are on the same circuit. Backing up each grid connection is a generator - each chosen from a different manufacturer to minimise the chances of a common fault. Down inside the bunker we saw the UPSs that give them half an hour to switch over to generators if the grid power ever goes down. Ben told us the bunker was extended a few years before the radar station was decommissioned, and that extension holds the tanks for 250,000 litres of diesel. That gives them 80 days worth of power on generators to survive a major power outage or incident. Ben mentioned N+1 redundant air conditioning, but I didn't quite get what that was about. Then we went through the big green blast door, through a further manned security gate and a single person turnstile, to go down below and enter a world that felt rather like walking on to a James Bond or Bourne style movie set - Blofeld not included!
The concrete walls of the bunker are 3m thick and the main operational area is 30m underground - along corridors, down stair wells and through more blast doors. On the way Ben pointed out cabinets and cables for The Bunker's connections to the Internet and the outside world. They have a fully resilient self healing ring network with 10 Gb capacity. That provides multiple circuits meshed together. It's as redundant as you can get, as traffic can reroute so every individual client connection has multiple backups. Apparently they can also connect to clients via microwave or satellite too. Further in we went through a double door "air lock" to go in to one of the co location server rooms. These were blast doors that had both an airtight seal to keep gas out, and an interlocking tongue and groove to maintain a complete Faraday Cage circuit around the server room. That means that the kit inside would be protected from both an EMP event
(an electromagnetic pulse designed to knock out all electronics) or a sophisticated cyber attack using radio signals. Inside the server room there were the usual racks of kit. I like them, although I realise some would find that a bit boring. However, I was impressed by their fire suppression system, with separate controls and feeds to each individual rack. If a fire occurred in a particular rack, the system would deal with it locally, and so keep as much of the rest of the installation protected and running as possible. Actually this was as far as we could go. Deeper in to the bunker through more blast doors there are other co location rooms, the main server room, and other managed service rooms. Visitors like us, and The Bunker's own general staff aren't allowed in, even if escorted. Only a specific short list of personnel have that level of security clearance.
Back out through the airlock and along the corridors, we didn't pass any of Blofeld's henchmen in their uniforms. We were, however, shown the last remaining Plessey radar terminal and 70s style phone to show off a bit of Ash's history as a missile command and control centre. Awesome, although I wasn't allowed to touch any buttons (and none of them appeared to be red)! As we moved out Ben explained how, on the software side of things, The Bunker are PCI DSS
compliant (that's the stringent payment card processing security standard) across all of the 12 levels of that accreditation. Ben also explained about how all personnel are vetted, CRB checked
, and certified annually in line with their ISO27001 status. It's quite clear they have the most comprehensive set of physical, human and digital security systems in place that I've ever experienced.
I found it quite inspiring - partly because of the experience of going behind the scenes at this kind of ex-military facility, and partly because because of the attitude and commitment of all of the people I met there - they live and breathe security. And then there was the "red" button! Now I need to find an excuse to visit Berkshire.
photos courtesy The Bunker