Podcast: Digital technologies – How can you cut through the noise?

This episode of our podcast features Will McIntee, Regional Lead at QBS, the largest and fastest-growing, international network of Microsoft Dynamics partners – and Xperience digital transformation experts Gemma McAnally and Gareth McKee, discussing how clients can achieve their growth ambition through digital transformation, and the benefits of Microsoft applications to aid this.

Will McIntee has over 20+ years in the business applications industry with experience as an end-user, reseller, vendor, and now stakeholder at the QBS group. His role involves helping the community of Microsoft Dynamics partners provide outstanding experiences to their customers, whilst working closely with Microsoft on the strategy for Microsoft Dynamics 365 in the SMB market.

Both Gemma and Gareth specialise in business applications to deliver true digital transformation, helping organisations select best in class solutions cloud-based applications including productivity and collaboration, ERP and CRM to help drive their businesses forward and stay ahead of the competition.

Below is an edited version of the interview.

To listen, click here.

You can also watch below.

Democratised IT and its side effects

According to PWC, 90% of leaders say they are choosing technology for their organisation with their people in mind. But, only about half (53%) of their employees agree. For many years, organisations simply rolled out technologies to employees, with little consideration whether these solutions were the right ones in terms of empowering employees to do their jobs.

This has changed enormously when we all started working from home during the pandemic. Will McIntee, Regional Lead at QBS, explains, “Yes, I think there’s a really interesting phrase that’s become relevant in the last 6 to 12 months which is the democratisation of IT. We’re seeing more and more IT decisions being made by the workforce, and Zoom is a really good example of technology that we’ve all become familiar with on a 6 pm bi-weekly catch-up call with old school friends – I use that as a very personal example.”

Nonetheless, while many employees may expect their work experience to mirror their personal life – the zoom example – “the software selection internally may not necessarily be right in terms of the alignment with the strategy of the business” – says Will – “It’s all down to implementing change the right way with and the right partners.”

Technology in the “New Normal” – Microsoft Teams at the front of the remote working revolution

Businesses may have embraced Zoom and other video conferencing tools on a one-to-one basis but that’s just scratching the surface. They are missing out on what true collaboration looks like in terms of sharing files and data to create a single cockpit view of the entire organisation.

In order to create this view, it is important for organisations to understand where they have gaps. This could be data, process, people or technology gaps. If you are at the start of your journey, speak with your technology partners and find out where you can improve. These conversations don’t always have to end up with you eating into your CAPEX and OPEX. Your technology partner should be able to provide you with hints and tips on where you can get quick wins and where you need to start.

For many businesses, Microsoft Teams is a good example, Gemma McAnally, Business Solutions Manager at Xperience explains, “When you embrace Microsoft Teams chat and collaboration tools, it’s then easy to implement other business applications to manage data, documents and folders”

Microsoft Teams has been at the forefront of the recent 2020 wave 2 release of Dynamics 365 Business Central and Dynamics 365 CRM because of the importance of the collaboration in the workplace, which has been intensified by the pandemic. Gemma explains, “It’s about looking beyond that initial chat and video conferencing tools and looking into bringing other CRM and ERP applications to grow and adapt to the current times.

Application 2.0 – the speed of demand driving change in the application world with Cloud at its centre

According to Will, “Cloud has given businesses a lot more freedom in terms of software selection and integration with other tools.  Regardless of the size of your organisation, with cloud you’re able to access what historically would have been an enterprise-level solution with a high price tag. This is known as the democratisation of the cloud. “

“Moreover, historically it would have been your finance team who may have sent a report out every month or you may have even invested in a very expensive BI project, but still not everyone would have had the same access to that information. I’ll use a very personal example here. We have a multi-national business with a team-based across 11 different countries today. If we didn’t have Microsoft Teams to share information on a daily basis, the business would not be able to make the decisions at the right time. This data is fed by our Dynamics ERP and CRM systems giving us a single view. “

Nonetheless, businesses are still reluctant to use cloud-based applications. However, they don’t’ realise they already rely on many different cloud computing platforms every day. According to the report, half of the world’s 25 largest SAAS (software-as-a-service) companies run on AWS – Amazon Web Services cloud computing platform, including Zoom and Slack. These platforms have been already been integral to businesses to keep functioning in the era of remote working.

Will continues “We are seeing organisations who’ve realised that they have almost accidentally started that digital transformation journey, with cloud at its heart. What do I mean by accidental? When we speak to them, they say they don’t use the cloud. Then you find out they are using WhatsApp, Facebook Ads for their Marketing, or Microsoft Teams for their communications. “

“The main objection to cloud is security of data. However, in our personal lives we carry out online banking or make purchases online. Cloud applications are no different in terms of security’.

Removing silos – adding value through technology

Silo is a business term that has been discussed for the last 30 years, and many businesses struggle to tear down the barriers that prevent communication, collaboration and ultimately – success.

Silos are seen as a growing pain but technology can certainly help overcome those barriers to create a unified organisation.

Will comments, “For me, it’s always been about processes that started within a department, but never made it beyond that department. That process then leads to the accumulation of data that’s trapped within that department and is not visible company-wide.”

Will continues, “How do we add value through technology and remove those silos? For me,  it’s my daily Power BI dashboard embedded in my Microsoft Teams sales session that we run every Monday morning. How it works is that everybody can comment on the dashboard with regards to what is working well and what doesn’t. The impact on  my business has been huge as a result. We’re sharing market intelligence within our business that quite frankly would historically have only been talked about on a quarterly basis. It essentially means we are able to absorb and interpret data, as well as make changes far more quickly as an organisation. “

Gemma added, “ The biggest change for me in my role is putting Microsoft Teams at the centre of the business. It is great to see colleagues come together inside the system and seeing all that data come together. We’ve now got some of our ERP reports feeding straight into Teams so again it’s having that access and being able to chat about it through Teams without having to go through millions of emails. I can honestly say working from home without it would just be overwhelming.”

Gareth added, “ Teams is at the core of everything we do at Xperience.  We analyse our usage and it is interesting to look at which communications get answered faster than others and as a result we’re now resolving issues quicker, reaching out to customers faster and we’re more responsive because information’s at our fingertips. Even something simple like the mention function grabs your attention quicker as opposed to an email that you could interpret three or four or five ways.”

Get in touch if you have any questions or would like any advice from our Digital Transformation Team here.