Armed with a passion for the ever-changing and exciting world of technology, Patrick brings over 34 years of experience in Cloud Computing and Managed IT. As one of Xperience’s Directors, he plays a key role in providing clients with the best solutions and service possible, helping them on their digital transformation journey. Andrew specialises in digital transformation solutions. Prior to joining Xperience in 2008, Andrew ran a successful accounting and business technology company.
Below is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Why did Xperience undertake a digital transformation programme?
Andrew: For me, there were a number of distinct areas that we needed to address. We had made a number of acquisitions over the years which meant that we had duplicate systems and trade cos which made managing the business more difficult. As a result, we wanted to create a more joined up approach for our customers across key business touchpoints.
How did operating across multiple systems and locations affect the business? What challenges did Xperience face as a result?
Andrew: Multiple and disjointed systems meant that we did not have a single pane of glass across our business and departments, be it finance, sales, operations or IT. That ultimately made it difficult to extract data from our systems to determine our financial health or look at the sales pipeline – sometimes it took days if not weeks to get that information. In the current climate an inability to access data to determine the health of your business is a precarious situation to be in.
The multiple systems also meant that our processes were not streamlined. This led to a number of challenges including duplication of work which wasted valuable resource time, manual workarounds outside the systems and additional support required to manage legacy systems. This was really frustrating for our colleagues.
Patrick: I agree Andrew, and even more fundamentally it also held back our ambitions to expand. Too much time was being spent preparing data and information as opposed to acting on it. We were too focussed working in the business as opposed to working on the business. I also think there is one area that we have not talked about. There is also a culture element which needs to be considered as well to ensure adoption.
Andrew: Introducing change – people handle change differently. It is really important to increase communication and make people understand why you are making those changes. Make sure you bring your people with you.
There are a lot of businesses out there facing the same challenges. Can you explain what digital transformation is?
Andrew: For me digital transformation is a process of modifying or creating new business activities with the help of digital technologies. It’s about
Implementing new technologies
Driving efficiency and cutting down the costs
Improving the customer experience
Changing the company’s culture to be more dynamic and more agile and using technologies to become more efficient
How do we translate your description of digital transformation into a real-world scenario?
Andrew: For a start, digital transformation is about giving businesses the flexibility to scale with ease. Moving to the cloud is a great way to provide businesses with a flexible platform for growth.
It’s also about streamlining your processes and using technology to help you do that, whether that is via CRM, ERP or simple collaboration and productivity tools such as Microsoft Teams. But for me where digital transformation comes into its own is when those systems are integrated so that you can get a single pane of glass through which to view your business.
A starting point is looking at manual processes that take up a huge amount of resource time. Then overcoming the lack of integration between systems with a robust platform to manage your business – whether cloud based or on premise.
Patrick: I think that is a really great way to describe it. In my experience, for our clients digital transformation seems unattainable or a daunting task.
I remember Andrew, it was the same for us. We were thinking – Where do we start? How do we manage these projects in addition to the day-to-day running of the business?
Essentially, how we approached this was by breaking it down into bite-size chunks and if you remember Andrew, the process wasn’t very successful to begin with.
Andrew: I remember that well and if I was to think about it there were a number of reasons that our first attempt at digital transformation failed and these points are worth noting.
Patrick: The first is not laying out clear digital transformation goals in terms of what you want to achieve. Digital transformation must have a clear roadmap even if you don’t enact it all at once. I wouldn’t recommend biting off more than you can chew at any one time.
Second is internal resistance, as a result of not communicating clearly with employees and explaining the benefits of why you are undertaking a project. Let’s face it, these projects can be painful even with the best laid plans, so bringing your people with you is vital to its success. Trying to squeeze digital transformation into people’s daily roles without creating a project team means that ultimately, customer work always ends up taking priority with your digital transformation project taking a back seat.
And finally, Digital transformation needs to be led from the top. The senior management team in any business wear many hats but in order for digital transformation to succeed it needs to be driven and led by them and made a priority item at board meetings.
For us, we fell short in these areas. Thankfully, we are quick learners and changed our approach which has led to the successful outcomes that we have today.
What did we do differently the second time around that has led to our success in our digital transformation journey?
Andrew: We took a different approach. We started by making Digital Transformation a key strategic area with the board focus. We then set clear business goals in terms of what we wanted to achieve. As I mentioned earlier, we had duplicate systems across almost every department in the business. Consolidation, integration, accessing business data and delivering a better experience for our customers was a key focus for us.
We set out a clear objective to ensure that by the end of the process we would have:
A single pane of glass with integrated departments
A Single ERP System
A Single CRM System integrated into ERP
A Single Job Card System integrated with ERP
A Single Support System
To achieve this, we
Appointed two full-time resources including a Business Improvement Director. We stopped making decision by committee and got our people to compromise
We set realistic timelines
We increased communication and engagement with the business, clearly outlining the benefits of what we were trying to achieve – that really helped with adoption
The main point that I think businesses need to focus on is making sure that as part of their plan that they focus on the quick wins and those which are going to give their business the biggest benefit and the greatest return.
Patrick: It’s hard to believe the amount of ground that Xperience has covered Andew. I’d say we are about 80% of the way through our digital transformation journey and are now looking at the next phase of improvements and have, in fact, become more hungry for continuous improvement. Wouldn’t you agree? We now have the systems and processes that will form the foundation for growth and expansion. But, this is only the start of our journey – digital transformation should now form a key part of any business strategy.
Based on where we are now – what impact has COVID 19 had on our digital transformation?
Andrew: Strangely it helped.
Our business is cloud-based. Our IT infrastructure is in the cloud and with cloud-based ERP / CRM systems combined with Microsoft Teams meant that we as a business were able to move to remote working relatively seamlessly. Procurement processes were fully automated and paperless, so we didn’t have the challenges that maybe other companies had.
This extraordinary time has emphasised the importance of digital transformation even more with the need for more information, better controls and new ways of collaborating
In April and May, we had some capacity and we grabbed that opportunity to accelerate changes and increased focus on better information and controls to help us manage the business. That has been incredibly beneficial in terms of the information we are now able to get out of the business. With our latest Dashboards – we are now looking at information daily.
In summary Patrick, we learnt we could operate differently. Services that we previously delivered on-site are now being delivering remotely.
What are the key takeaways for anyone starting a digital transformation project?
Patrick: In my experience, the risk of not going digital is much higher than the risks of failure so although people may be fearful of taking a project like this on – businesses no longer have a choice, otherwise they’ll get left behind. My key digital transformation journey steps to success are:
Let’s be honest, these projects can be painful even with the best-laid plans. But the benefits as we have seen far outweigh any temporary pain during the project.
Get in touch if you have any questions or would like any advice from our Digital Transformation Team.