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Intro

Welcome everyone to the HSO Dynamics matters podcast.

Your regular sonic dive into the world of Microsoft technology related matters and much more besides.

I’m your host Michael Lonnon, and today I dragged HSOs Retail sales director, Hector Hickmott, off the Brighton beach to join me to discuss a topic that impacts any organisation undertaking any IT project.

And that’s when choosing technology what are the most important things to consider. Compatibility, ability to solve problem now, but remain, ease of use. And of course, cost.

But what are the most important things you should have front of mind when deciding which direction you should take? Answers to this you’ll learn over the next ten minutes.

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

Michael Lonnon – 00:16

People first or tech first?

Hector Hickmott – 00:20

People.

Michael Lonnon – 00:21

Yes always people. When it comes to tech projects that you get involved in, I guess you’d say that it doesn’t really matter about technology but it matters more about the people who are involved in the projects.

Hector Hickmott – 00:38

Projects always go through ups and downs, they always go through challenges, difficulties, we get through it in the end, but the variant is always the people side of things. The technology is just there to enable the people to do something at the other end of it.

Michael Lonnon – 01:01

And when you’re considering as an organisation, what technology to put in place, it’s not always just about selecting the technology is it there are other things at play.

Hector Hickmott – 01:16

I think the technology in one regard is just a moment in time, I think the ongoing investment, the commitment to keep that technology up to date, the way it’s deployed to make sure it’ll grow as you grow, gives you headroom. You’ll need headroom to gain additional capability and also bring in new ideas. I think those are all important considerations. And often, particularly with Microsoft, they’ll launch something new and one of the criticisms will be, there aren’t many customers using it. Almost invariably, you go back and look at that same thing in five years’ time and you’ll find it’s now the dominant solution. So it depends whether you’re looking backwards, at referenceability and all those things, or whether you’re looking forwards in terms of how the supplier of that technology will be investing and working with you in tandem with your business to enable you to stay at the forefront. I think there’s bits around that but it depends whether your question is just about how do you choose the tech or how do you choose the overall package in terms of delivering it.

Michael Lonnon – 02:30

How do you choose to the tech then? It’s not just about the physical thing is it? What you’re also considering is where’s it going be in 5 to 10 years’ time? Is it going to be as valuable? Is it going to offer me the same sort of benefits as it will do at this point in time in five years? It’s not just about them now is it?

Hector Hickmott – 02:48

I think if you go back 10 years, there was a lot more technology vendors in the mid-market. I just think there’s so much commonality that if you’re doing that at scale in a way that I think only SAP, Oracle and Microsoft can really do, that swept up lots of the mid-market players. If you’re going to be a boutique specialist, writer of technology, you’ve got to be pretty niche these days or Microsoft and those guys could just sweep up your market. I think when people are looking at a technology, yes, sometimes there’s specialist solutions with a little bit more capability. However, that little bit more capability, as I mentioned earlier about it being a moment in time, if somebody like Microsoft is spending 20 billion pounds a year on R and D, it’s not going to take very long for that capability to be replicated, enhanced by somebody like Microsoft or the other big players.

Michael Lonnon – 03:50

So you’re going to keep getting value even beyond the first point of having it.

Hector Hickmott – 03-54

Yes and also, there’s the wider piece. If you’re looking at a CRM system, or any ERP system or something to manage stock, or manage your customers, that’s one thing and you can look at that in isolation. It’s also looking at the wider ecosystem within your business. How does that work with the way that your people or teams communicate on a daily basis? How does it work in terms of your interaction with customers? How customers can engage with it? So I do think you need to look at the overall and sometimes yes, there’s a piece of functionality that may not be as good as the specialist ones but the sum of the parts actually delivers it.

Michael Lonnon – 04:36

Do you think organisations sometimes miss looking at projects in that way and a whole of business kind of view? Do you think either they tend to look at things in isolation or generally do business get it right?

Hector Hickmott – 04:47

On the whole I think it’s sometimes quite traditional, like an old school selection process. We’ve been through the functional requirements. Here’s a list of 1000 things that it needs to tick. Who’s got the most ticks? We see far less of that now than we used to. I think increasingly, people recognize it’s so easy to create more ticks on that list and if you look at it now, in 3 months, 6 months, a year, that profile will look different. Therefore, what we really need to back is, who’s got the long term vision, who’s got that long term firepower, who’s going to keep us generally ahead of the market and enable us to innovate?

Michael Lonnon – 05:26

How much do you think cost comes down to the whole kind of selection process, what it is that I’m going to get and need?

Hector Hickmott – 05:34

Cost is always important. I think that’s been exacerbated in the recent economic situation. I actually think most people are more focused on what value are they going to get and how quickly are they going to get it. In my experience, the risk is in an overriding factor. You might be able to save a bit of money but you go back to the wrong solution, you’ve probably forgotten the biggest cost of that, then you’ve got to go buy another one in 3 years, 5 years. You get the technology right, work with the right partner to be able to deliver it, and then structure it so that you can manage the risk and get value as quickly as you can. I think cost is important but if a customer is buying purely on cost, then us and Microsoft are probably not the right solution or partner for them because I think our focus is around quality and value.

Michael Lonnon – 06:31

Technology has become more accessible to more organisations. Consider the small coffee shop owner in the corner here versus the large London based organisation over there has access to the same compute power. They’re obviously different businesses, but on the ability to access technology is the same for them, the same amount of power is there. That’s been a bit of a change, a massive change.

Hector Hickmott – 07:01

It’s definitely a leveller. I’m always interested in where technology sits on a board, and you can tell when it is a cost to be managed. You have an IT manager reporting to the finance director and it’s there a cost to be managed. I think if businesses really understand what technology can do these days, and how it can become so central to their business, it should be on the board, not even just from the CIO, but the wider business should be understanding and embracing and keeping themselves educated on how technology could enable them to serve their customers better than their peers, to keep their cost base lower than their peers, to keep their processes slicker, to reinvent ways of doing business. In almost every industry you can think of, there’s a business that’s come along and disrupted it using technology. Clearly everyone talks about the obvious people, Uber and people like that but I always think even at a basic level I look at people like Ringo. They’ve, effectively digitised a lump of tarmac and come up with a new business model using technology.

Michael Lonnon – 08:31

How big a deal do you think culture is in the way technology is changing, the way business has changed and what technology they’re going to choose and move forward? How big is culture? You talked about the alignment of the IT manager into the CFO is not ideal? You’re looking at somebody with more holistic viewpoint?

Hector Hickmott – 08:52

It’s a good point. I see businesses that get it. I don’t know whether it’s self-selecting that you would see people who do think, actually, I am going to invest in this, I am going to spend the money, we are going to get it right, we are going to create a culture of continually investing because the technology is moving on, their customers’ expectations are constantly moving on, supply chains are moving on. And therefore, it shouldn’t be, oh right, we’re going to do this project and then in 10 years’ time we’ll do nothing and in 10 years’ time we’ll look at it again. I think the speed that things are moving, it needs to become a cultural thing of constantly challenging the way you’re doing things. Constantly trying to move things along. And I see businesses that get it. They say we were a great mail order business, for example, but unless we completely look to become a digital business and truly use data more intelligently to understand our customers, to understand and optimise those things, then we will get overtaken by others. And that leadership, sometimes it gets inspired by a good CIO, but it needs to be embraced by the board. And when the board get it, then I think that changes things and then they can achieve a lot more.

Michael Lonnon – 10:22

If you’ve got an organisation that knows some level of change is needed, they’re looking to evaluate technology, what is the first thing you would recommend for them to do in that kind of evaluation researching phase? What’s the first thing the most important thing that they need to do?

Hector Hickmott – 10:47

That’s a good question. I think to be open-minded to what technology would enable them to do. I look at it and I think not too long ago, businesses would have a set of requirements and they needed to do 100 things and the technology was behind. So they’ve said, okay, which solution has got the highest fit to those 100 things? These people have got 60%, these have got 70%, these have got 85%. I’ve got two with 90%, okay, what one gives me the best price? I think probably because of the cloud, because of the consolidation, because of things like AI and apps and all the different tools and components, for the first time it has overtaken where customers are and I think going to this process with an open mind that says, okay, not so much we’ve been rigid and here are a 100 things we want but go into it and say okay you guys understand what tech can do and how other people are embracing it, this is our business model, what could your suggestions be? How could we set ourselves up to become the disrupter for the next 2 years, 5 years, 10 years?  A good example, a few years ago, a dry cleaning type business listed all the requirements, but actually, it’s about being able to have stuff shipped, just drop it at a drive through somewhere. And actually, it just arrives at your door, it’s just delivered and shipped. Instead of driving in, parking then going home, then driving in, parking then collecting it again. Let’s think about what a modern customer is going to want. If you were completely redoing this industry, what would you do? Clearly, there are degrees, you can do that. But again, when people say our industry isn’t like that, Ringo digitised a lump of tarmac, every business has opportunities to do it. Bringing your knowledge of the industry, your market your customers and combining that with somebody like HSO or Microsoft’s knowledge of what tech can enable people to do when you pull those things together, that’s where the real power comes in.

Summary

Perhaps, surprisingly, when it comes to selecting your IT technology direction, Hector believes that cost is no longer the overriding factor. There are more important things to have in mind.

For example, is the technology going to be as relevant in 5 or 10 years’ time as it is when you first bring it in? If not, you’ll likely have to put yourself through the rigmarole of technology selection and cost in the not-too-distant future.

This can have an impact on whether you go with smaller boutique providers, relevant now, but without a long-term development roadmap, or larger vendors where continuous R&D and a long-term roadmap is in place. Whatever direction you take, just make sure the needs/challenges/reasons why you started the journey in the first place, are addressed.

Thanks for listening, take care of yourselves.

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