3 ways to use IT / digital to add £value in a traditional organisation

Within many businesses, technology, whether you call it IT or digital, is absolutely intrinsic to the business itself. Digital is often a transactional channel in itself, with its own P&L.

Perhaps this is obvious in a business-to-customer environment (B2C), but what about in a business-to-business (B2B)?

Some “traditional” businesses (and I am thinking about manufacturing or distribution as I write this, where you are a part of the supply chain) may IT is seen as a back-room function, even slightly separate from the “real business” …supporting the business rather than an inseparable part of it.

Here are three areas where technology can provide business advantage in this context that you may not have considered.

  1. B2B eCommerce. This is the most obvious one, how can you supply your product and services to your clients electronically, getting the operational and efficiency benefits and stealing a march on your competition. Are there different scenarios and markets that you can access? Or new way of segmenting your customers, deciding how you work with them and how you invest your time to achieve the best business outcome?
  2. Adding value beyond the product itself. If you are manufacturing a ‘product’ chances are you compete on the basis of the product’s technical attributes or performance and price. You probably collect a whole load of data in your existing systems that produce that product. How can you use this data to develop new services for your customers? Services that provide some added value or advantage to your customers may make it less appealing to go somewhere else for a competing product, particularly if they become a part of your customer’s business process.

Use technology to enhance your brand. Say you make a product which is technologically advanced- perhaps part of your brand proposition is about modernity, innovation and a fresh approach. The way in which you engage and work with research partners and others in your supply chain can support and enhance that brand proposition. For example, using modern collaborative IT or digital solutions on research or joint-development projects from day 1 demonstrates modernity and innovation from the start, even before the innovation has been demonstrated in your end product. Branding this correctly will help enhance the experience or suggestion of lasting ‘partnership’.

Why Digital?

We recently published a paper called “the Digital Compass” which looked at some of the key internal arrangements worth considering when mobilising a digital strategy.

 

But let’s step back and look at why digital?

 

“Digital” is an amalgamation of what perhaps was previously known as IT and the Business – they become one-and-the-same.  The question becomes what method is the best to satisfy your customer or business interests and that might be people or technology based, or a combination of the two.  Whereas previously the method was typically people-based, with people using some IT systems.  

Key to this is understanding the business drivers. In a ‘for profit’ business the drivers can include building the brand reputation, proposition or those which directly increase profits.  Even if there is not an immediate requirement, there may be good reason to keep your current technology up to date.  This is so you can take advantage of a huge wave of new technologies we all expect to see over the coming years.  (Older systems are built with different design principles in mind and may not work with the new technology in a way that meets your business’s current and future needs).

But what about in a not-for-profit environment?  Not-for-profit is still about delivering value, it’s just that value isn’t measured in shareholder return or by the balance sheet.

I have sketched out the high-level context in social housing.  This is a fascinating sector which provides a combination of tenancy and related support services with profits (or surpluses) typically being invested in people, community or property development programmes.  The value is in the difference made to people’s lives, whether it’s a roof over their heads or providing other support services that enable a self-sustaining life.

So a different value-proposition to other sectors, but similar underlying drivers, reduce the expense on the operational things which don’t add value in return for doing more for the things that do, whether that is to grow the company, increase profit or ‘do more good’.

Going back to housing, there is an increasing opportunity: organisations are merging and becoming a size where the technology is (proportionally) more affordable; there has been a maturing of technology so appropriate solutions are now available (e.g. the development of the Microsoft / Azure tools), and; there is increased pressure generated by government policy for organisations to be more efficient.

Use the Digital Compass to find your direction

Use the Digital Compass to help you prepare for your digital journey.

35% of organisations have an enterprise-wide digital strategy, which means, despite the hyperbole, the majority of organisations do not. 11% of IT leaders reported that ‘no-one owns the digital strategy’ in their organisation, so if you are feeling you don’t have a firm grasp on your organisation’s digital opportunities then you are not alone.

This paper is aimed at Small-to-Medium Enterprises who are thinking about digital, perhaps aware that 1-in-3 of their competitors are already on the journey. Rather than considering the technologies or specific digital solutions (we can talk about that), it looks at the non-technical considerations in 7 areas relating to your preparedness to embark on a digital journey.

Download the document Digital Compass and feel free to share it.  Please contact Stuart at stuart.duthie@qualocity.co.uk if you would like to discuss any of the concepts, technologies or next steps.

[Stats taken from 2016 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey]

Fresh, Breathe, Sustain, Absorb and 5 other words that describe the benefit of an interim

Engaging an interim manager in your organisation can bring benefits that go far beyond that of a “temp” or delivery-focussed contract role.  Here are 9 words that describe the benefits you can get, some obvious, some perhaps you may not have considered.

Immediacy

Avoiding notice periods and lengthy on-boarding processes

Flexibility

Ability to quickly stop your interim’s assignment if it’s not working out, the internal situation, priorities or budgets change, and during the handover phase at the end of the contract.

Impartiality

The motivation and drive of an interim is different to that of a permanent employee. Permanent employees may be concerned with building their career; carving out their specialism; protecting their position; maintaining adequate performance or be driven by the view of their friends of colleagues and the various political allegiances.

That’s not to suggest on this basis that an interim makes better recommendations, but may be made and received without concern that it’s coloured by their place in the organisation.

Freshness

Sometime it’s good to have a fresh pair of eyes on something. Human nature is that it can be difficult to achieve this if you have been involved in something for a long period of time. And you probably know that when you discuss a thorny problem with someone previously uninvolved, they often ask a particular question or approach it from an angle you simply haven’t thought of before.

Perspective

…based on multifarious experience and working within different organisations and environments. I like to consider the IT team’s position from a maturity perspective, both that of the IT team and the wider organisation, because both need to match. And I have seen very different examples having worked in organisations from 6 people to one of the top 30 largest, certified at the highest level of maturity for software development.

Breathe

….some time for reflection and consideration. When you are recruiting a new permanent employee there is an opportunity, although it probably doesn’t feel like this when a valued colleague is moving on. Getting this new appointment absolutely right is critical for now and the future, particularly as a new wave of ‘digital’ technologies approach for organisations to take advantage of.

Having a capable interim in place should allow you to consider the future needs and draft a person spec that reflects future needs with the realistic possibility of attracting fresh talent for the journey ahead.

Network

Interims have to be good networkers because that’s where their next assignment comes from. When you buy an interim, you also buy access to this network for ‘crowd sourcing’ ideas and input when you don’t have the experience in house.

Sustainability

My mindset as an interim is different to when I was permanent, because it brings into sharp focus the short-term nature of things. Building capability, autonomy and sustainability so that what I set in play will continue beyond my departure (otherwise it was an investment wasted) is my number 1 priority. It’s all about writing the exit plan on day 1 of the assignment.

This plays out differently to someone who is doing the role longer term because they are there to lead longer term when the interim isn’t.

Absorption

Maybe there is the opportunity for the interim to do some work that dent a manager’s relationship with their team. Perhaps better to ask an interim to do that work, settle things down and then hand to the permanent unencumbered by the reputational hit from their reports. Absorbing any bad feelings and taking them with them.

Footnote

This article is written about the benefit of having an interim manager. This is a different proposition to a contract role, e.g. a programme or project manager, which are more task-focussed. Some of the words above won’t apply in the same way, so its worth making this distinction if you have used contractors, but not interims.

Finding your direction through GDPR…

…and why you may need to be compliant before 25th May 2018!

25th May 2018, and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be law. Irrespective of our relationship with Europe now, or in the future, companies will need to abide by it if they hold data relating to an EU citizen. This is one of the key differences between GDPR and the 1998 Data Protection Act, and is likely to be a theme with other global data regulation.

This article indicates some of the new elements of that GDPR contains to aid general direction finding. There will be processes to implement, same as any regulation, but also a few areas that may require closer consideration. We will look at 5 areas worthy of consideration and suggest 5 things for which implementing GDPR could be helpful.

Finding your direction : the GDPR Compass

5 Key considerations

1. Personalising your services

I am calling this out because there is such a strong trend in this area, particularly in the world of B2C commerce. However this may also apply for small businesses, where the identity of the person is almost interchangeable with the identity of the business.

  • Your approach to big data, personalisation and profiling (and pricing) based on people’s data and technical elements such as IP address or MAC address, may need to be reviewed. At the very least you will need to be clear with people what you are doing, requesting their specific permission to do it.  This would apply to online interactions as well as offline, for example through any in-store interactions with people’s phones, mobile apps, etc.
  • Need to be able to provide clear logic, mathematical evidence for the personalisation (maybe, particularly, if there are pricing implications or changes to the actual services provided) and fully secure the data involved in the personalisation alogorithms.
  • This would include the way in which external data sets (e.g. Facebook) are used.
  • As above, explicit permission (i.e. I want this) will be required rather than implicit (i.e. you didn’t say you didn’t want it), or its implied because you came into our store.

2. Review how you use and create ‘anonymous data’

Anonymisation or ‘pseudonymisation’ (the process of replacing key information such as names) becomes insufficient if the owner (or small group) of owners can be reasonably inferred.  This includes when the data is matched with other data you hold, or that is available publicly, or is “public knowledge”.

3. Consider your strategy and architecture for the hosting and processing of data

The law is based on where the individual lives, not the jurisdiction your company operated under or where your data resides, which is the assumption under the data protection act.

This is likely to be the trend with global data law. If you have customers globally you need to comply with GDPR, plus US state legislation, etc, etc.,. So you may have to consider different rules within your data set depending on whose data it is, and applying the segmentation that appropriate law defines (e.g. definitions and controls of children’s data/processing).

This has the potential to change your cloud hosting strategy, your database architecture and software architecture.

4. Some elements could be a challenge

GDPR follows legislation such as PCI v3 to essentially mandate a responsibility to audit your suppliers to ensure they are compliant.

Plus: immediately cease processing on request and ensure all data is up to date. This will require updates to supplier contracts and responsive systems to handle these processes, and as you know those types of interfaces (whether IT based or not) can take time to set up and test.

Some data sets may relate to more than one person, and there may be some complication in handling elements such as explicit permission or requests to cease in these circumstances.

In relation to point 3 above, the number of different systems you have, how you store the data within them and the degree to which they are linked (or not) may raise some challenges, particularly around keeping data up to date and requirements to cease processing.

5. ….and here is why you may need to be compliant before 25th May 2018

Think about how you are going to ‘cut-over’ from existing data protection law to GDPR. This will be particularly relevant for B2C organisations and their communication, marketing and personalisation activities, specifically the process of gaining explicit consent so you can continue, where previously you may have relied on implied consent .

It means that your date for implementing new compliant processes is sooner that 25th May 2018, to allow for those transition activities.

5 Things implementing GDPR might help you with (other than avoiding large fines for breaches)

Note: This is written with companies that own and hold personal data.  There may be further commercial opportunities for companies that act as data processors or provide equipment and services where a particular approach around GDPR may provide competitive advantage.

1. Grow your business by understanding your data

GDPR requires you to understand the data you hold. A review of this, and consideration of what you do and don’t need, should highlight the potential value of the data to your organisation. How could you use this data to better understand or grow your business?

2. Take a customer-oriented view of your data

If you are asking your customers (or potential customers) for permission to use (process their data), then it should be in the customer interest. How can you improve how you use their data to add value to their lives and the services you provide?

3. Ensure the quality of your data

The old maxim garbage-in-garbage-out applies. This legislative may help in promoting the need for accurate customer data to those in your organisation, whish in turn should improve the quality of the data you use to provide insight, transact and grow your business.

4. Understand the controls and security that apply to your customer’s data

Trust is such a key component of your brand value – GDPR may be helpful in reviewing your arrangements, but also those of your suppliers and partners, to protect you against being the next data-security news story.  You will need to consider security as part of your implementation and this may be helpful in getting this on the agenda or setting the pace.

5. It may bring a better understanding about the data architecture in your business

Sometimes it can be difficult for IT to articulate to non-IT people the implications of having a large number of specialist, “siloed” systems.  The process of implementing GDPR may help to better understand that and draw out some helpful discussions about your application strategy.

 

Summary

I hope this article is helpful and raises some useful points for you.  Its not intended to be an exhaustive review of GDPR and its impact on your organisation, more to give some general pointers.

Feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss the points in more detail or if it raises some challenges in your organisation.

Thanks for reading,

Stuart

stuart.duthie@qualocity.co.uk

07870 510839

 

Who are Qualocity and why are they interested in this?

Qualocity (Direction + Pace + Quality) increases the effectiveness of your change and systems development portfolio, providing interim accountability for delivery and empowering your organisation to leave a lasting improvement. Find out more here…

What is the relevance of this to what Qualocity does?

Understanding the environment and legislation that “change” is being applied to, and systems operate in, is important in ensuring a quality outcome, i.e. one that suits the intended purpose

A bit about Stuart, Qualocity Founding Director

Stuart is experienced in senior IT leadership within regulated environments to director-level with a long track record of building capability and practice to deliver transformational change, both within the business and the IT team.  Technically astute, he draws on a wealth of experience and understanding across all areas of IT, engaging with senior business leaders and technical experts, to deliver a quality outcome.

ILM qualified, he uses coaching techniques to enrich and empower your IT team to leave a lasting improvement.

He is particularly familiar with front-end digital and contact-centre systems that facilitate the customer journey and relationship, and end-to-end process-driven systems such as case-management and ERP, to achieve digital fulfilment.

He has also held Data Protection Officer responsibilities, implemented Freedom Of Information, been accountable for IT system compliance with regulations such as FCA, PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard), etc.,. He has a track record in contract negotiations and engaging with audit activities.

5 keys to unlock team energy & output [Video]

According to Warwick University a happy employee will be 12% more productive.  You have probably noticed this yourself that positivity and participation are key components of a “high performing team”…..but they are not the whole story.

The creation of a high performing team can be summarised in 3 areas:

  1. Get the basics right
  2. Engage the team to contribute toward improving and delivering (in the right direction)
  3. Future direction setting : presenting an enticing view of the future

The article and accompanying video focusses mainly on activities centred around no. 2, with a case example in mind which relates to work done within a team who starting with a “powerless” or “victim” mindset.  Staff were spending time describing and become blocked by challenges, in some cases simply escalating them, rather than being active in resolving them.  This resulted in poor confidence in resolving issues, distraction and pressure on delivery.

Fast forward 9 months and the team were reporting a 36% increase in engagement, 25% increase in “performance enablement” and 10% increase in customer satisfaction.

I recently discussed this subject area, and the work I did for a major UK Insurer, via FaceTime with Nick Middleton of Middletons Assured Talent. Nick captured the conversation and you can watch as part of his Leadership Path series of Leadership development articles.

5 Considerations relating to engaging staff in ongoing improvement activities

Described in the video, these include:

  1. Understand the individuals in your team, how different people will prefer to engage and use a range of techniques that will appeal.
  2. Understand the current team mindset and where you want to move it.
  3. Check to make sure that, as a leader, you are not displaying any of the behaviours you want to move away from.
  4. Step back from “control-and-command” styles of management and move the balance towards a facilitative, coaching approach. There may be an element of letting go, but the trick is to act as the conductor and ensure that the effort and energy is in the right direction.
  5. Understand ‘acts of leadership’ vs management actions and aim to instil this into your managers.

Resulting activities were based around building better Purpose, Mastery and Autonomy.  In this case-study this meant:

Mastery

  • Self-defined improvement themes (led by enthusiasts rather than the defined managers)
  • 3 x practice-development forums (sustained and run within the team)

Purpose (Clear Direction)

  • Clarity of goals and roles
  • Provenance of objectives
  • Range of projects in portfolio

Autonomy

  • Creating and running their own improvement themes
  • The team wrote their own objectives, developed from away days, post-project reviews, customer feedback, strategy and business objectives, ‘mastery aspirations’, etc

A note on getting the basics right

I have included this, because these activities can be overlooked, or maybe ineffective, perhaps because participants are unclear on the purpose.

These should include elements such as those listed below, but they need to be genuine, with expectations and outcomes managed.  This includes building trust by following through on actions and activities that arise (this is important in setting the culture).

So its worth checking that these are happening, properly and effectively, within your team.  My experience coming in to organisations is that they may not be (even when its suggested they are).

  • Continuous feedback on performance (good or poor) (include regular 1-2-1s)
  • Ensure that the value of the individual and personal development is regularly discussed (getting the right content/discussion in 1-2-1s)
  • Good resource management : Ensure that the team are actively contributing to the right work
  • Communication on wider business activities – this must be tailored to be relevant to the team, with the relevance discussed and not inferred or assumed to be understood. (likely to be some kind of team meeting/discussion)

Who are Qualocity and why are they interested in this?

Qualocity (Direction + Pace + Quality), provides interim accountability (through Stuart) for delivery of your programme or portfolio, increasing the effectiveness of your change and systems development portfolio along the way, and empowering your organisation to leave a lasting improvement. Find out more here…

What is the relevance of this to what Qualocity does?

It is said that anything can be achieved through people, processes and technology.  Arguably people are the most important component and building a high performing key is a critical element to fulfilling your business and change aspirations….the things that you are wanting to achieve through your technology or project portfolio.

A bit about Stuart, Qualocity Founding Director

Stuart is experienced in senior IT leadership within regulated environments to director-level with a long track record of building capability and practice to deliver transformational change, both within the business and the IT team.  Technically astute, he draws on a wealth of experience and understanding across all areas of IT, engaging with senior business leaders and technical experts, to deliver a quality outcome.

ILM qualified, he uses coaching techniques to enrich and empower your IT team to leave a lasting improvement.

He is particularly familiar with front-end digital and contact-centre systems that facilitate the customer journey and relationship, and end-to-end process-driven systems such as case-management and ERP, to achieve digital fulfilment.

Qualocity releases its new website

www.qualocity.co.uk

Qualocity is my company for the provision interim IT management to companies.  The company name is derived from Direction + Pace + Quality and aims to be reflective of the value that I can provide through applying my senior IT leadership experience to an organisation.

This site replaces a “placeholder” site and aims to better introduce my value, and also be the location for ‘knowledge-share’ articles (with links from my LinkedIn and Twitter feed @Qualocity).