May 18, 2022

How I built a helpdesk reporting system using Looker and BigQuery

At Cobry, we love data. We’re always searching for new ways to use our data, and since Google Cloud Platform is the cloud of choice for everything from data storage to machine-learning analyses, we have the finest tools at our disposal to make our data dreams come to life.

So, how do we manage our data? And where does it even come from? You may not think that you have any data to process, but if you use even a single SaaS tool, chances are you have plenty to start analysing. Do you run adverts? That’s data. Are you selling things? Data! What about your support desk? That will be generating data too!

Nowadays, basically everything your enterprise does will generate data in some way. And if you’re not capitalising on that data, you’re leaving yourself in the dark. Modern businesses make data-driven decisions, and that is what enables them to succeed over their competitors. For example, when Tesco introduced the Clubcard scheme, they “learned more about [their] customers in three months than [they] had ever learned in thirty years”, enabling them to become the UK’s dominant supermarket.

With this in mind, I began working on a data pipeline for Cobry. Specifically, we were aiming to analyse our own support desk so as to better understand our clients’ needs and identify where we could go further to help them succeed. Our support desk tool of choice is Freshdesk, and so this is where our data journey began. 

The Technical Considerations

Do I need streaming or batch data?

Data comes in many forms, and the type of data impacts how your data architecture will look. The two general forms of data for which you will create pipelines are streaming and batch data. Streaming data is a constant flow of real-time data, such as data generated by the stock market. Batch data, on the other hand, is retrieved periodically in large amounts, such as ‘every purchase made this month’. 

Which mode of data you choose will depend on your ultimate goal. If you’re aiming to make weekly or monthly reports, then batch data is a good choice because it updates your data all at once at a specified frequency. However, if you need fresh or live data, a streaming pipeline is a better choice since the figures will update as soon as new data is generated. 

How can I design with cloud principles in mind?

Like everything we do in the cloud, the goal is to make this pipeline secure, reliable and scalable. This is made relatively easy by GCP’s managed services, which automatically provision more resources as and when they are required, which keeps costs minimised. This process is known as elastic scaling. These managed services also offer multi-regional redundancy, so the pipeline is sure to be reliable.  We can also take advantage of other services on GCP - such as the Secret Management System - to keep usernames and passwords, API keys and other sensitive information encrypted and hidden from code files.

For our Freshdesk pipeline, we decided that monthly reports were the goal, and so with these considerations in mind, I started to architect a batch data pipeline on GCP:

There are four main services used in this pipeline: Cloud Functions, Cloud Dataflow, BigQuery, and Looker. There are a few other services at play as well, such as Cloud Storage, which we use as a data lake, and Cloud Scheduler, which is used to set the frequency of the pipeline’s ETL (extract, transform, load) cycle. In fact, thanks to Google's fantastic code libraries and managed services, and Apache Beam’s high compatibility with Cloud Storage and BigQuery, the whole pipeline required as little as 250 lines of code!

Step 1: Retrieving Data with Cloud Functions

Cloud Functions is a fully managed environment in GCP for running instantaneous workloads without any operational overhead. You can write scripts using some of the most popular programming languages, such as Python and Node.js, and you can trigger them in a number of ways, such as via HTTP(s), cron schedules, message queues, and certain events which take place in GCP. Cloud Functions are ideal for short, event-based executions, so it’s perfect for executing a small script once a day.

To begin the extraction of data from Freshdesk, I wrote a short python script that connects to their API, retrieves all of the latest ticket changes and then stores them in Google Storage. I’m then able to upload this script to Cloud Functions, and then I can trigger the script using a cron job managed by Cloud Scheduler, which runs the code once a day. And just like that, we’ve got our data on the Google Cloud Platform!

Step 2: Transforming the Data with Cloud Dataflow

Now that our data has arrived in GCP, I have to convert it to a more easily analysed form. Currently, the data is unstructured in Cloud Storage. This is essentially acting as a data lake, where we can store all of our data in one place before moving it selectively to be used elsewhere. 

Cloud Dataflow is a managed service for running Apache Beam workloads. You can create templates using their SDKs in various languages and then execute them on GCP in either streaming or batch form. GCP also offers many pre-existing templates, which means you often don’t even need to write any code. I wrote my own template in python, which takes the raw, unstructured JSON data we extracted into Cloud Storage and converts the values to BigQuery compatible formats. It then adds the new data to a BigQuery table containing all of the previous ticket updates. With Dataflow, we’ve taken care of transforming and loading our data into our data warehouse (that’s BigQuery).

Step 3: Creating a Data Warehouse with BigQuery

BigQuery is a relational database solution for storing large amounts of data ready to be processed. It’s highly available and can link to many other data analysis tools, from simple (but powerful) tools such as Google sheets to full-scale data analysis platforms like Looker. BigQuery’s role in this pipeline is to act as a data warehouse. Initially, our data was unstructured and stored in Cloud Storage. This is good for raw data as it means we can do absolutely anything with it, but it also means that we can’t easily access or query it. Once we move the data into BigQuery, it becomes structured, and we can query it using SQL - in other words, our data is now ready to be analysed.

Step 4: Visualising our Data with Looker

Now that we have our data in BigQuery, we can easily visualise it by connecting it to Looker. Looker is a powerful data analysis platform typically used for business intelligence reporting. Its goal is to create a unified data culture for businesses where data is clear and readily available to be analysed in new ways. Once I connected BigQuery to Looker, I was able to define data models using Looker’s intuitive LookML modelling language to refine the data in a manageable way.

The Results and Business Outcomes

Helpdesk Transparency

Our managers and directors have a direct picture of our helpdesk performance. We can pull this up in performance reviews, QBRs and forecasts. 

Helpdesk Autonomy

Our helpdesk staff can now generate reports on statistics through Looker. They can go and create reports themselves, using the same data that the rest of the company is using. Our technical team also has the ability to change the definitions of these metrics as business needs change.

Potential for additional services

Our customers come first, and we aim to be as transparent as possible. Having this helpdesk information in a system that allows for better reporting means that we can potentially include ticketing dashboards externally for our customers. This way, they can keep tabs on how much help their employees and colleagues get from us.

With the pipeline complete, I can create brilliant Looker dashboards and reports. They can be automatically emailed to stakeholders periodically, so we’ve been able to realise our data dreams using GCP and Looker!

Make your data dreams come true

To find out how you could make your data go further, get in touch with Cobry. Our team of experts will blend their deep knowledge of GCP’s data tools with your organisation’s needs. We’ll get your data infrastructure up and running, and you’ll be able to start making data-driven decisions in no time.

Drop your email and we’ll get back to you ASAP!

May 16, 2022

How to make your business more sustainable (with examples from Cobry)

“Sustainability” largely entered the business lexicon around the time of rising environmental consciousness, when talks of “going green” were becoming increasingly pronounced. A few years ago there was a dramatic shift in the business landscape, spurred on by a tide of public opinion that called for changes to the way we do things in order to take us back from the cliff edge of global warming - for, as any climate change activist will readily point out, there is no Planet B.

Sustainability is often synonymised with being environmentally friendly, and this is indeed half the deck. This does mean there is also another half to it: the human side. The UN Sustainable Development Goals, used by many organisations (ourselves included) as a measurement of how sustainable their practices are, have ten of these goals relating to how we live as a society. Diversity, justice, good working conditions and innovation are just as important to sustainable development as eliminating your carbon footprint.

To put it in simple terms, sustainability can be thought of as an elimination exercise: an elimination of activities that will, sooner or later, result in somebody saying: “we can’t keep going like this”.

So how does one move towards sustainability? Having been through a sustainability push ourselves, here are some of the methods we use!

Going green: the environmental side of sustainability

How can you ensure that your operations are the greenest they can be? There are several solutions that we implement.

  • While the installation of recycling bins has become something of a sustainability cliche (and some even more cynical people may call it a hallmark of greenwashing), it is worth mentioning and implementing since landfill contributes to 11% of global CO2 emissions. With both points in mind, we’ll just quickly say we do it and move things along!
  • Select an office space that uses renewable energy: this was one of the key reasons why we moved our offices to where they are currently located.
  • Encourage staff to use greener methods of transport: Cobry participates in the cycle-to-work scheme as well as the more recently released electric vehicles scheme, and our offices are located near bus and train stations to encourage staff to take public transport.
  • Go paperless as much as possible - not only will it save you money in printing costs, but it’s also much friendlier towards trees. All of Cobry’s documents are stored electronically, on Google Workspace, ensuring that our paper usage is kept to a minimum.

Taking care of your staff: The human side of sustainability

Staff sustainability is one of the key reasons why sustainability is more than a nice-to-have, for several reasons. An enthusiastic workforce is one that is more productive, is more likely to go the extra mile and is easier to retain. And increasingly, customers pay very close attention to how a company treats its staff when making purchase decisions.

Therefore, taking care of your staff is a core part of sustainability. There are several ways you can achieve this.

Salaries are worth discussing in their own paragraph. Anything less than a suitable wage is a false economy: you can have all the coffee machines in the world in your office and throw a pizza party for the ages, but as long as staff can’t make ends meet you’ll be saying goodbye to them soon enough. Becoming a certified living wage employer, as Cobry is, is one way to ensure that your staff will have enough to survive and thrive relative to local costs of living. Note to any companies based in London: as the Big Smoke is pricier, the living wage there is two pounds higher than in the rest of the country.

Moving onto other benefits, here are some that Cobry provides to every staff member:

  • Constant learning opportunities, in the form of in-person training and online courses and reading materials.
  • Provision of out-of-work benefits, such as socials and free books.
  • Free coffee, which we get delivered to employees’ homes.
  • Participation in government schemes such as the electric vehicle and cycle-to-work schemes - some of these can be joined at no extra cost to your business.
  • Flexible hours - staff members can have all sorts of different personal preferences for when to work for various reasons. Some may be balancing work and care responsibilities, some may feel more productive at different times of the day and some may prefer to take a longer lunch break.
  • Generous pension contributions - even if your team is young, it’s never too early to prepare them for retirement.
  • Allowing people to work remotely - Cobry is a remote-first workplace, and four of our current eighteen staff members live outside of Glasgow where our offices are based. Reduced stress, increased inclusivity for disabled individuals or parents, and the ability to work from areas with lower costs of living are just some of the reasons why working from home has been a boon to the human side of sustainability.
  • A four-day workweek - this was probably the most ambitious benefit Cobry sought to provide to staff, and after a successful trial that found it significantly reduced stress and burnout, and that the aim of achieving the 80/100/100 rule (80% time, 100% pay, 100% productivity) had been accomplished, we decided to make it an official policy. Flexibility is key here: staff can choose which days to take off, can split time off across multiple days or can choose to opt-out altogether.

The company you keep: ensuring your suppliers are sustainable

However green your own operations are, partnering with less-than-responsible organisations will spill over onto your sustainability score. Additionally, responsible suppliers can become a strong talking point marketing-wise. Note that suppliers are not just limited to groups that supply your product’s components (which may have been the first thought to enter your head if you’re a service provider).

For example, consider where you get your coffee from (everyone loves a good cup of coffee, don’t they?) - we get ours from Dear Green Coffee, a Glasgow-based supplier with sustainability right at the heart of what they do - a recently certified B corp, they make sure to treat people and the planet well by not only looking inward but also vetting suppliers carefully.

Digital infrastructure is another supplier to consider for sustainability wins. One of the major reasons we partnered with Google is that it is the greenest cloud solution available: already carbon-neutral, by 2030 Google aims to have its data centres running on completely carbon-free energy and deliver six times the computing capacity of alternatives for the same amount of power. Additionally, Google provides its solutions for free to many sustainability-oriented nonprofits, and all Google Cloud customers can access a tool called the Carbon Suite which enables them to calculate their carbon footprint.

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With sustainability close to our hearts and technical expertise to match, Cobry is the ideal partner to move your organisation to a more sustainable way of doing things with Google Cloud (as well as a myriad of other benefits). Get in touch with us to get started!

May 9, 2022

Why it’s essential to have a grasp of your data

Why data is important to making decisions, how to spot common data problems, and how to fix them.

Read more

April 14, 2022

Three things to consider when you’ve been SAAS shopping

It feels good, doesn’t it?

Your team has a new collection of software and tools that will make your work much easier - hello automation, hello efficiency, welcome to a brighter tomorrow for your business. 

A completed SAAS “blowout” is one of the best parts of digital transformation, whether you work in a new business or are in one that’s undergoing change. Now that you have been on this shopping spree though, there are a few things to consider to ensure that the blowout doesn't become a bother.

How will you pool together all the data these applications generate?

This is one of the most common problems and/ or missed opportunities businesses that have been splashing the SAAS cash will face. SAAS tools often have their own data collection abilities (if you want to check, look for a “download as CSV” option), but the way this data gets used often results in it becoming unreliable and a source of frustration. Data gets siloed when there are multiple pieces of data used by multiple teams in multiple locations: the marketing team is using Google Analytics, the Support desk are using Freshdesk, the sales team are using Hubspot, but some of them use Salesforce and some of them use a spreadsheet. The accounting team uses Xero, Quickbooks, practice ignition, Docusign… you get the idea.

The key to getting around this is to have what data practitioners call “one source of data truth”: a single, centralised database or data lake (the latter is best if not all the data is coming in columnar format), where all the data is available under the same definitions and everybody has access to its latest version. Since databases don’t present data in an easily digestible format, a self-serve BI tool such as Looker to analyse and visualise this data through dashboards makes for a valuable piece of the puzzle.

What will you do with all these new logins?

SAAS tools typically come with their own authentication, which raises questions around security - and, tied into this, accessibility. You will need a way of ensuring that the number of new sites to log into does not become a liability - ditto having a single password for everything, which can be a security risk. The flip side is ensuring it doesn’t create inefficiencies with staff members having to remember which password goes for what. 

Password managers are particularly useful in this regard as they ensure you only need to remember a single password to access the rest - this does mean you will need a PM whose own security makes it digitally impregnable. For that reason, among others, we recommend 1Password.

Will there be training required in any of these tools?

Some tools are simple and intuitive to use, others less so. Don’t get us wrong, sometimes complexity is a good thing, but it can mean training may be required. One possible avenue is to scour the net for online courses or tutorials. Many of these, including ones provided by the tool itself, are free. You may also find that training sessions are available, whether through the provider themselves or a third party (such as Cobry). And finally, if you’ve been assigned a customer success manager, book a call with them as they will, through getting to know your organisation and its goals, be able to recommend the parts your organisation will find useful.

How Cobry can help

With our years of tech expertise (techspertise?), Cobry can assist in every single aspect mentioned within this blog post:

  • With our knowledge of Google Cloud Platform, we can help you in every step of the data governance process from collecting the data with ETL pipelines to analysing it with Looker.
  • We hold training sessions for all of our customers, primarily in using Google Workspace, and can also organise sessions in other tools upon request.
  • With our Solution Stack we can advise on any additional SAAS applications to nicely round off your SAAS toolkit. We’re partnered with all listed organisations (including 1Password), and by purchasing them through us we can help you get started with them at no extra cost to you!

April 11, 2022

Building your data infrastructure: first picks from the Google Cloud toolbelt

Google Cloud Platform presents the ideal one-stop-shop for all things data, from collecting it to applying it in your everyday activities. We’ve put together this cheat sheet to demystify the whole process!

Read more

February 22, 2022

8 reasons Cobry chose 1Password as our password manager (and why you should too)

Cobry is an official 1Password partner. Read on to find out how 1Password can strengthen your organisation's cybersecurity down to the individual level!

Why does my organisation need a password manager?

No longer is the security of your organisation’s data and files just the IT crowd’s problem: every employee now works as a part-time cybersecurity guard. 

Any good cybersecurity initiative should take the Human Factor into account, and our memories can only hold so much information. When was the last time you remembered a single incarnation of something as secure as bn2ecf@M-HX$gHq*, let alone a new one for every site?

Enter password managers such as 1Password. 

Much like writing down all your passwords on a notepad, except much more secure, password managers store every password for every site in one place, one you can access through a master password. A single password. One password, if you will.

Why is 1Password the ideal password manager?

It enables you to perform a mini security audit.

1Password has a feature called Watchtower that enables you to quickly review all your passwords. Clicking the dropdown will quickly show you if you’ve reused any passwords, if you have stored logins for unsecured websites or if any of your websites have had security breaches. It will also flag up any passwords its systems categorise as “weak” or “terrible”.

1Password's watchtower feature is shown on the left, with all its features listed.

Their own security is top-tier.

1Password data is encrypted using AES 256-bit encryption, which is also used by major banks, Google and government institutions such as the NSA and US Military. Even with a supercomputer, it would take at least 220 nonillion years to crack - a number that is neither made up, exaggerated, nor younger than the universe.

It’s not just for passwords.

1Password also enables you to store information such as credit card details, documents, medical records, secure notes and databases. Clicking the plus sign beside the search bar will provide more specific suggestions on what you can add.

You can organise your data into what 1Password calls “vaults”.

You can set up as many vaults as you want, based on whatever segmentation you would like: data type (credit card details, passwords, ID documents, etc); the purpose for which this data would be used (e.g. social media logins, project documents, etc); and who can access each vault. One handy feature is travel mode. When enabled, it will only permit access to vaults that have been marked as “safe for travel” and prevent customs officials from clapping eyes on any non-essential docs.

1Password vaults are shown, together with the option to manage colleagues' access.

Your data is kept secret.

True to having tip-top security, 1Password forgoes the quick quid it could make from using trackers or displaying adverts. Perfect for those who value staying incognito!

You can leave the password creation to 1Password’s Chrome extension.

Remember our old friend bn2ecf@M-HX$gHq*?

Let’s take a step back: wouldn’t it be nice if you could generate something that impregnable in one click? With the 1Password Chrome extension added, every time you click on the password box when signing on for a service will be met with a hard-as-iron suggested password. Accepting it will store it, as well as your email address, in your account. The next time you log in will only require a click or a scan of your finger or face. 

Speaking of which…

Multi-factor authentication is built-in.

1Password constantly stays ahead of the authentication curve to offer users the latest and greatest in login experiences: two examples they have recently integrated into their systems are facial recognition and fingerprint scanning. So, as long as it works on your device itself, it will also work on 1Password!

The user interface is easy to navigate.

From getting started on your account to adding and accessing items, 1Password’s intuitive interface enables you to hit the ground running as a new user. 

Getting started

The best way to see how user-friendly it is? Give it a try! 1Password is offering a free 14 day trial for business accounts, and you don’t need to enter your credit card details!

Since you've made it this far, clearly this is resonating! We're official 1password partners, so drop your email below and one of our super-talented team members will help your organisation get set up with this trial at no extra cost to you!

November 12, 2021

Making Cobry a more sustainable business – the hurdles and the wins

Welcome to the latest instalment of the Cobry Cafetiere of Cloud Knowledge. In this edition we are discussing one of Cobry’s core values - sustainability, and the journey we are going through to become a more sustainable business. Often, we connote sustainability with the environment. Whilst this is an important element of sustainability, it is a concept which, in fact, goes much further beyond just the environment. So, before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s start by discussing what it means to be sustainable. 

What is sustainability? 

Sustainability itself has no single agreed definition. However, most point to a balance between the environment, the economy and society; and treating these in such a way that will preserve them for future generations. This means that sustainable development should not only concern itself with fighting climate change or preserving the environment but also with ensuring a fairer, healthier and more resilient world for those in it. 

Perhaps the most robust definition of sustainability can be drawn from the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These goals, agreed upon by the United Nations, span across society's most pressing challenges from climate change to poverty, inequality, peace and justice. It is hoped that if we can achieve each of these goals by 2030, then we will have ensured a better future for generations to come. The beauty of these goals is that they are so varied. This means that every business and individual can contribute to them in their own unique way and as a society we can work towards one common goal.

How Cobry are becoming more sustainable

Sustainability is central to everything we do at Cobry. We want to use our position as a business to take meaningful action and create real change. We have recently embarked on a project through which we have assessed how sustainable we already are as a business and how we can become more sustainable, in line with the UN’s 17 goals. Thus far, it has been an eye-opening process. We’ve learned so much about sustainability and how, as a business, we can make a positive impact.

Cobry's Sustainable wins

It’s always good to start with some wins, so here are some insights into some of the goals that we were (unknowingly) already working towards. 

Goal 3 - Good Health and Wellbeing. At Cobry, we have many initiatives and benefits in place whose purpose is to support the team's wellbeing. Access to a company-provided Calm subscription gives us the opportunity to practice mindfulness and look after our mental health; whilst the Cobry Book Club provides us with any book of our choosing which we can kick back and relax with.

Goal 4 - Quality Education. Continuous professional and personal development is central to everything we do at Cobry. We are encouraged to regularly use some of our working hours to upskill or learn something new that will help us continue to progress and draw enjoyment from our roles at Cobry. 

So, what's next?

Of course, there’s always room to do more and do better. We have already begun working towards meeting more of the goals and have some exciting plans up our sleeves!

One initiative that we are particularly excited about is the ScotlandIS Critical Friends programme which we will be joining. The programme aims to bridge the IT skills gap by pairing industry experts with local high schools who can advise on study topics and provide resources. By having a dedicated contact, the hope is that students will be inspired to choose computing science subjects and even go on to pursue a career in the field. 

This is just one example of how we’re working to become a more sustainable business and we can’t wait to continue to do more amazing things!

We believe that, as a business, it is so important to act and to draw attention to the sustainability issues that we are facing as a society. We hope that by sharing our journey, we may be able to help partners, clients and individuals to do the same. 

October 29, 2021

Google Cloud Next: Cobry’s Highlights

Google Cloud Next is an annual summit, held by Google, which celebrates the achievements of its customers and partners, and announces Google’s plans for future innovation. This year's summit took place recently and, as you can imagine, there were so many exciting things mentioned that we just had to shout about. We decided to pick the brains of each Cobry Department and have gathered what we believe were the show-stopping announcements. Firstly, we address the elephant that’s in everyone's rooms. The new world of work and how Google is supporting customers in sailing these changing seas. 

Fuelling collaboration in the future workplace 

As work was changing rapidly before our eyes, Google's focus was on providing solutions and tools to allow users to work from anywhere. Now that these are sturdily in place, thanks to Google Workspace, Google is turning its attention to Collaboration equity. 

Prior to the Coronavirus Pandemic, work, for most of us, meant travelling to a physical office location. During the pandemic, remote work became essential and we all had to familiarise ourselves with working at home and communicating virtually. Now, as we begin to move to post-pandemic, hybrid work is surfacing as a popular trend where organisations are implementing a mix of both in-office and remote work. 

Whilst this is an exciting new approach to work, it doesn’t come without its challenges. For example, team members may find it more difficult to participate in meetings to the same level of their colleagues, depending on whether they are there virtually or physically. 

In order to combat such disparities, Google has been working hard to develop innovative products which will allow employees to fully embrace new ways of working. For example, Companion Mode in Google Meet is a new feature which is designed to seamlessly connect virtual and in-person attendees by giving everyone advanced participation tools. 

The feature provides everyone, no matter their location, with interactive tools such as live captions, polls or hand raise, whilst leveraging the best video conferencing and audio capabilities. The idea is that colleagues in the same room together can connect visually and audibly to the meeting through use of a Google Meet kit. Meanwhile, enabling Companion Mode on their personal devices to connect and collaborate with remote colleagues. 

Empowering all users to build their own solutions

Continuing with the theme of the new working world, Google recognises that modern work requires employees to switch between contexts and tools more than ever before. Therefore, during Cloud Next, Google announced the brand new integration between AppSheet and Gmail. 

AppSheet is a no-code application development platform which tightly integrates with Google Workspace. It allows users to build apps and transform business processes. The beauty of AppSheet is that it is no-code. Meaning that you don’t need to have any development knowledge in order to create and deploy a valuable app. 

Now that AppSheet integrates with Gmail, Google is providing employees with even more opportunity to streamline processes, work more efficiently and regain time previously taken up by manual tasks. For example, users may create processes where budgets or holiday requests can be approved or create asset management systems directly from Gmail. This is an amazing new innovation which further enables organisations to customise their use of Google Workspace. Building a platform which satisfies their unique needs.

Making data sing, no matter the cloud

Each cloud has its own unique advantages. Understanding this, savvy customers have been adopting multi-cloud strategies in order to reap the benefits of each cloud. This, however, can cause some friction when users want to analyse data which sits across various clouds. Traditionally, to do this, you would have to move, or copy data from one cloud to another. Resulting in an extremely clunky and inefficient process. 

At Cloud Next, Google announced the general release of BigQuery Omni which will solve this problem for millions. Big Query Omni is a data analytics solution that enables you to access data across Google Cloud, AWS and Azure. This means that you will be able to gain critical business insights all from the same user interface. As well as use the same BigQuery APIs and standard SQL. In addition, since BigQuery Omni is powered by Anthos, you won’t have to manage the underlying infrastructure, you can just get straight to querying data. 

Data accessibility is pivotal for organisational decision making across organisations whose criticality will only become stronger as multi-cloud adoption increases. Therefore, development of BigQuery Omni by Google will provide customers with unparalleled support in gaining business insights and making transformative decisions. 

Building a more sustainable future, together

To round things off, we’ll take a look at a topic that is central to the culture and goals of Cobry - Sustainability. 

Google has already accomplished great sustainability feats, such as the use of 100% renewable energy and being carbon neutral. Now, it is pledging to use its unique position to help others do the same. It will do this by developing innovative solutions that will empower organisations all over the world to measure and reduce their environmental impact. During Cloud Next, Google announced its newest sustainability innovation - Carbon Footprint. 

Carbon Footprint is a product which provides customers with the gross carbon emissions associated with their use of Google Cloud. By logging into the GCP Admin Console, users can find such information and use it to measure, track and report on their own gross carbon emissions. Of course, net Google Cloud operational emissions will remain zero. With such strong reporting opportunities, organisations are able to demonstrate progress towards climate goals to employees, customers and boards. As well as uncover insight into how they can further develop sustainability efforts. 

This announcement is really just a drop in the ocean of all of the amazing sustainability initiatives that Google carries out. Nonetheless, a hugely exciting one as it provides customers the opportunity to understand their own emissions and do their part in the fight against climate change. 

So, as you can hopefully see, a lot to celebrate and a lot to look forward to this year with Google, and of course with Cobry! There’s nothing we love more than to help customers get the most out of cloud technology and apply it in a way that will positively impact business as well as the world around us. If you’d like to find out more about how we can support you in implementing the Google tools, please get in touch.

October 22, 2021

5 Google Calendar features that will transform your work schedule

For many of us, our calendars are the lights navigating us through our world of work. They tell us where we need to be, when we need to be there and what we need to be doing. Understanding this, Google has been adding great new features to the tool that will make schedule planning simple and speedy. These great Google Calendar features are the topic of conversation in the latest episode of the Cobry Cafetiere of Cloud Knowledge. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the Cobry team's favourites.

Collaborating in Google Calendar

As ever in Google Workspace, the collaboration capabilities available within Calendar are second to none. You can share your calendar, view those of your colleagues and even manage secondary calendars, should you need to. At Cobry, we find that having access to one another's calendars enables us to easily schedule meetings whilst respecting our colleagues’ other meeting commitments. Essentially, It means we can spend more time doing valuable work instead of playing the game of ‘does this time suit you?’ ping pong that we all know too well!

Setting your working hours 

Whilst this seems like a simple feature its impact is mighty. Within Google Calendar settings, you are able to define your working pattern which can be viewed by your colleagues. Once you’ve set your pattern, you also have the option to auto-decline meetings outside of these hours. Meaning that, if someone invites you to a meeting at a time that you don’t work, it will automatically be declined with a note sent to the organiser explaining why. 

In addition, working hours in Google Calendar can be synced to other Google tools such as Google Voice. Therefore, if someone calls your number outside of your working pattern, the caller will be automatically forwarded to your voicemail. This feature helps you to clearly define the line between your working and non-working hours, which for many has become slightly blurred as a result of remote work; and more importantly, stops you working when you shouldn't be!

Set your working hours in Google Calendar

Creating recurring events in Google Calendar

Using the recurring events function in Google Calendar is a great way to streamline the process of creating meeting events and reduce the time spent doing admin tasks. Whether you have meetings which recur daily, weekly or at an even more granular period, you can easily specify this in Google Calendar and eradicate the pain of setting up multiple meetings. 

Recurring Events in Google Calendar

Calendar Resources

Calendar Resources are a feature within Google Calendar which, if set up in the admin console, enables users in your organisation to book shared organisational resources such as rooms, equipment or company vehicles. For example, organisations using a 'Hot Desking' strategy for hybrid work may want to add their desks as calendar resources. Employees can then check desk availability in the resources calendar and book when they'd like to use one.

Additionally, admins can generate reports for calendar resources to understand how employees are using them, what’s most in demand and when. Thus, enabling important strategic decisions regarding business resources to be made.

Google Calendar Insights 

To round off this episode of the Cobry Cafetiere, we have one of Calendar's newest features - Calendar Insights. The feature allows you to see a breakdown of metrics related to meeting events. For example: the average number of hours per week spent in meetings or on which days you attend the most meetings. This is a really exciting development in Google Calendar - or scary if you spend a lot of time in meetings! At Cobry, we have been using the information given to us by Calendar Insights to evaluate how our time is distributed at work and what we can do to ensure we are using our time as effectively as we can. This is yet another amazing feature from Google that has helped us transform the way we work for the better.

Hopefully it's clear by now that Google Calendar has an abundance of features that are designed to help users work better together, maintain a good work-life balance and win back some valuable time. All of these initiatives will support teams whether they work in office, remotely or in a hybrid environment.

If you want to find out more about Google Workspace for your organisation, get in touch!

September 30, 2021

Why You Should Adopt a Hybrid Model with Google Workspace.

With the COVID-19 pandemic and the advancements in technology this has provided, a new way of working has become all the more possible. This blog aims to provide an insight into why Google Workspace is the perfect suite of collaboration and productivity tools to harness a Hybrid Model and therefore make the process of working from home, the office or anywhere for that matter any different or less efficient an experience.

So first, let’s set the scene.

What is Hybrid Working?

Put simply, hybrid working is a model in which employees split their time between the office and working remotely. The intention of this is to provide some flexibility for workers, making a work-life balance more easy to achieve and all the while not hampering organisational productivity. Some organisations may have this split between home and office working set fairly rigidly, whereby employees work from home half of the week and at the office the other half. Other organisations may allow their employees to simply choose which days they’d like to come in or not. The important thing to remember is there’s no right or wrong way to organise this split. 

That being said, there are fine margins for error when it comes to the tools at employees disposal. 

With that in mind, let’s look at some of the innovative Google Workspace features that can be harnessed to ensure hybrid working is seamless.

Google Workspace Hybrid Model Features.

1. Setting your availability in Google Calendar.

Let’s start with the basics. You work from home and you work in the office. But how are people going to be aware of this? This could be important for a plethora of reasons. Let’s say for instance you’re looking to host a meeting, or someone’s looking to invite you to a meeting. They may be able to meet you face-to-face if you’re in the office but know if you’re working from home you won’t be able to. 

Previously, there was no easy way to indicate this. With a new hybrid model geared update to Google Calendar, this once problematic situation is mitigated. Take a look.

Indicate at the top of your calendar where you'll be working from.

That’s not all though. For the avoidance of any potential confusion or a colleague turning up at your front door for a face-to-face meeting - when accepting an invitation for a calendar invite, you can indicate whether you’re joining virtually or in person.

2. Spaces - Your Place for Hybrid Model Collaboration

What were once ‘Rooms’ in Google Chat have been supercharged, becoming a hub for all of Google Workspace’s key principles; collaboration, communication, efficiency. This has been done through the power of tight integrations between Workspace’s innovative collaborative tools such as Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Meet and Tasks. 

Here’s an example. Your team is working on a new project and has started collaborating on a strategy document. They want to be able to communicate as they collaborate all the while in real-time. With spaces, users are able to still access their chat as they would in a ‘Room’ format, but can also collaborate and edit a Doc/Sheet/Slide all at the same time in the same tab.

This is such a powerful new addition to Google Workspace. It can be done from home, in the office, on your desktop or one your phone. It truly encapsulates how Google Workspace will help organisations fully harness a Hybrid Model.

3. Google Meet - Making Meetings Unified in a Hybrid Model

You can imagine it can’t you? Or maybe you’ve even experienced it. You’re in a meeting, some participants are in the office, some are at home, one person’s in a coffee shop having a double macchiato. It’s disjointed, it’s chaotic, it’s inefficient.

Google has put a lot of work into ensuring that when you’re in a meeting it’s a unified experience that goes without a hitch, irrespective of location or device. Rolling out in November, we’ll see Companion mode appear in Google Meet. 

With Companion mode, users can host or join a meeting from within a conference room using their laptop while taking advantage of the in-room audio and video all the while avoiding that terrible feedback you often get when someone else in the room forgets to mute their microphone or speaker. 

Additionally, this functionality lets users share content or see presentations on their own device, access the meeting chat and whiteboard, initiate and vote on polls, or post a question in Q&A, just as can be done from home. To ensure that users have greater choice over how they participate in meetings, live-translated captions will be available in Meet and through Companion mode some time by the end of the year!

Conclusion

We’ve listed 3 key features here that can help enable your organisation to collaborate efficiently and effectively with a hybrid working model. Whilst this is undeniably impressive, what’s even more impressive is that Google Workspace’s underlying principles have always supported the ability to work from anywhere on any device. So although some of these hybrid working features may be recent, they are being added on to foundations that have always supported the key principles of this working model.

If you’d like to find out how you can get started with Google Workspace and harness its ability to facilitate a hybrid working model or maybe you already use Workspace and want to get more from it, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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