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Introduction

MICHAEL LONNON: Welcome to the very first HSO dynamics matters podcast. This, I hope will become your regular Sonic dive into the world of Microsoft technology related matters and much more besides.

I’m Michael Lonnon, your host for this, our first addition to the series, where I’m joined by HSO Managing Director, David Little.

I don’t want to give too much away, but by the end you will know the most important first step to take before considering any technology agenda.

So, grab a brew, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

MICHAEL LONNON: Tea or coffee?

DAVID LITTLE: Coffee, definitely in the mornings, although later at night, tea or lemon and ginger tea.

MICHAEL LONNON: How do you have your Coffee?

DAVID LITTLE: Old fashioned, white with some sugar. It’s very difficult to get sugar in some places.

MICHAEL LONNON: Dog or cat?

DAVID LITTLE: Dog definitely.  Although, we’ve had cats too. And the cat bossed the dog, obviously.

MICHAEL LONNON: I think you should tell the listeners the name of your dogs. I think it’s a fantastic name.

DAVID LITTLE: My dog’s name is Gordon and he is ginger.

MICHAEL LONNON: Ginger Gordon. De Niro or Pacina?

DAVID LITTLE: Pacina, do you mean Al Pacino?

MICHAEL LONNON: I mean Al Pacino.

DAVID LITTLE: Definitely Al Pacino. De Niro is overrated. But we just made the podcast controversial.

MICHAEL LONNON: You have just made that controversial? Because I love him as well. Technology first or people first?

DAVID LITTLE: Definitely people? No question.

MICHAEL LONNON: Which leads me into the first question of this podcast, and that’s how important is technology overall in helping businesses succeed?

DAVID LITTLE: Well, interesting. It obviously is. But I don’t think it has really delivered. So, I think the promise of it is incredibly important. But whether it’s actually done that, and I think that’s, one of the problems for a lot of businesses is that some businesses may not see it as important because of its track record.

MICHAEL LONNON: Why do you think it’s not delivering? Or what do you think is not delivered?

DAVID LITTLE: Well, I think it hasn’t for most of its history. Because I think it’s been too technology orientated. And you asked about people or technology, you can’t do one without the other. And I think it has been just far too much about the technology will solve the problem or affect the people side and the business side.

MICHAEL LONNON: I was going to ask you then, how could organisations turn that around? Is it to focus more on the business element of it, try to look out to what it is exactly where you want to take the business, what you want to achieve? before you then think about, how can we get there with the technology?

DAVID LITTLE: I would say. No, because people have always talked in those terms. Like, if we put together a strategic plan and layer the technology against it, it will work. I think there’s been basically almost a systemic problem within the industry. Going way back, it’s that division between the worlds of business and IT. It’s only very recently that they’ve actually started to come together. So, probably a good example of it coming together is when you look at chief marketing officers that do ecommerce businesses, there are people who understand technology and business together and the driver for reducing technology. In most businesses, traditionally, that’s not been the case, the worlds have been miles apart of technology and business, and therefore it’s not succeeded, it’s not delivered, IT’s ended up with a bad reputation. And then IT has also ended up not being supported by the business either. So, it becomes a very vicious circle.

MICHAEL LONNON: Yeah. So, if you if you are going to offer some advice into organisations that might have caught themselves in that position, or are thinking about the technology, how should they perhaps approach, not the selection process as such, but how they go about solving the problems that they’re encountering?

DAVID LITTLE: So, if I can just go back, and I think it’s useful to put it into historical terms, and then the rapid changes that are happening. Because actually, if I answered that question, it would sound like the same answer as 10 years ago, 20 years ago. These are the things that we need to do better, and why it’s changed. I think fundamentally, it’s changed because of the cloud. And when, the cloud first came around, a lot of people said, and I may have been one of them. What’s the difference? It’s just like a server somewhere else. It’s just like outsourcing. But then it’s what happened afterwards that has actually changed things rapidly. Because the cloud delivered things that very few IT departments could deliver themselves in terms of scale, security, that sort of thing. And therefore, challenged the idea of having an internal IT department and its role. At the same time, outside of business technology, the cloud was obviously powering devices, mobile phones, so people saw the benefits of, how quickly things could be done, effectively, using the cloud.

MICHAEL LONNON: Do you think the evolution of technology and the use of technologies, the cloud has become kind of the main focus? The main benefit?

DAVID LITTLE: I think, where I’m going with this is that the cloud is the underlying enabler, it is almost like the first step, because ultimately, it is just a server. But what it’s also meant, so whilst it’s challenged the notion of what an internal IT department does, it’s also meant that the software, the next thing is, if you’re going to have the cloud, you need to have standard software, there’s no point of having a single customer specific instance of software, what you need is basically a shared version of the software. Once you have that concept, then you have the concept of you can’t customise it, expensive customisation is not an option anymore, you can’t change the system. And if you customise around the system, you can’t then upgrade the system. So that makes projects simpler and faster, and also forces business involvement in those projects. Because, you basically need to work around customisation.

MICHAEL LONNON: Do you think there needs to be more alignment generally, between IT and business just as a matter of course of change?

DAVID LITTLE: Completely, and there have been good examples in the past where the very good IT people on the board of businesses, and they’ve done well. But traditionally, they have operated in, completely different worlds. And most boards of directors would not have a technology representative on the board. It would be reporting to finance, generally, sometimes into supply chain or some operations function, but generally didn’t have a seat at the board. And that I think said it all.

MICHAEL LONNON: Do you think that’s the mistake?

DAVID LITTLE: It is. And even today, many businesses still don’t have technology, literate boards, and CEOs. And those are particularly as we hopefully come out of COVID. It’s just a complete non debate anymore. If businesses don’t understand how technology can help make their businesses more flexible, and help redefine the services that they sell, then they’re basically not going to get through this. And I think businesses have had the shock of COVID, in many cases to really understand. They have to basically properly embrace technology, not just invest in it, but really embrace it. And that’s very different.

MICHAEL LONNON: It’s a strange paradox isn’t it you’ve got something that’s been quite unrelenting and been quite horrible, and in COVID, in this pandemic, but it has almost forced a lot of businesses to change their mindset when it comes to their process to technology. So, it’s an awful paradox those two things, but do you think the change is going to be a permanent one? Or do you think this is just kind of that shock? And we’ll get back to normal and things go back to the way where IT versus business? Or do you think it’s more permanent than that?

DAVID LITTLE: I think it is permanent. I think it’s because, maybe a bit of a cliché and sometimes overstated, those other businesses won’t survive. But I think it’s now more apparent that those businesses won’t survive. And also think when you become technology literate, you don’t become un technology literate, you start to see the opportunities that it brings. I mean, one of the examples I sometimes use is a bit of a silly example. But a business could set up a WhatsApp group that would immediately provide business benefit. That’s how easy it is to deliver a mini IT project nowadays, compared to the old days when you couldn’t do a single thing without taking 6 or 12 months or even more. So, the cloud has enabled that speed of change. And it’s broken down the role or taken away a large part of the technical role of IT departments. It’s then forced them to become more business orientated and more project orientated. And I think that’s irreversible, but it still needs to continue and accelerate. And there’s still a lot of businesses that are thinking in an old school way and need to run quite quickly to catch up.

MICHAEL LONNON: So, how is Microsoft helping that change because I hear the platforms like Dynamics 365 have been broken down so that the valuable elements of it can be used with other IT infrastructure. If you have an SAP infrastructure, you can still use part of dynamics as part of it. So, how do you see Microsoft helping that?

DAVID LITTLE: Yeah, Microsoft has been massive. And it’s been amazing to watch things that seemed impossible, which is effectively dismantling their system. So, they used to talk about monolithic IT or monolithic ERP, just a massive, big lump of code that was incredibly difficult. And what they’ve done is they’ve had a very clear vision, which is to dismantle it, and also to make it interoperable with other technologies. So, it’s not just about, the ERP dominates, it’s actually, you can work with somebody else’s HR system, you can work with somebody else’s data, and still use the analytics suite from Microsoft. So, that idea of being able to do things quicker and make them interoperable is absolutely key. And then when businesses start to see that they can get benefits quickly, they can then do a lot more projects. So, then we get out of the vicious circle and into a virtuous circle of, rapidly doing projects and rapidly doing benefits. And Microsoft is doing an incredible amount to facilitate that, not just in the technology, but also in the way that they approach customers to become better at implementing their partners to do things in a standard way, to make sure that those benefits get delivered more reliably, and more quickly,

MICHAEL LONNON: If there was a piece of advice you would give to an organisation that was looking to take advantage of Microsoft technology, for example, because their particular pain point that wouldn’t allow their business to grow in a particular way. Where would you advise that they start in that consideration of how to go about solving those problems?

DAVID LITTLE: So, they need a change management agenda at the heart of the business. When they have a real understanding of what change management means, it means by definition, it grows across all parts of the business. And it’s not something that you can just delegate. And so, businesses can get help from us, for example, their own change management, but ultimately, that’s about facilitating them to become good at change management in their business. And it has to permeate the whole business. And it’s bottom up in terms of people pooling the system in, but it’s also it’s the top-down enablement and facilitation of that technology. I mean, that is the number one thing.

MUSIC IN

MICHAEL LONNON: I really hope you enjoyed the first edition. It was a real pleasure recording and chatting with David who always has a tonne of insight to share. And in this case, including the fact he has a ginger dog called Gordon which is a terrific conversation piece if you’re ever lucky enough to spend time with him. David that is, not Gordon.

Stay tuned for more dynamics matters podcast as we’ll be releasing these weekly now. You can expect topics around how to build an agile business, why your analytics is lying to you, how to create a modern workplace and much, much more.

Make sure you visit www.hso.com/dynamics-matters.

Until then, take care of yourselves.

MUSIC OUT

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