Welcome everyone to episode 41 of 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 for today’s episode I caught up with HSO Managing Director Adrian McNay.
Many of the conversations on the Dynamics Matters podcast highlight how technology is rarely the solution to the challenges organisations face. Rather it’s the people behind it that determine whether it’s a success or not. The people choosing the technology, implementing it, and then managing it. As an expert in the area of managed services, I wanted to get Adrian’s perspective on how to get more value from investments in Microsoft technology.
So, grab a brew, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
When it comes to a role or comes to a job what’s more important to you think education or experience?
I think one underpins the other. Good education then overlaid with experience. You can’t beat it. I’ve seen people come in to do jobs and they do not understood the theory and try to learn practice on route and that doesn’t work. You need to understand theory before you do the practical. And then the experience comes with time.
What I have you here for Adrian is to extract from your experience of over three decades of experience, not that I want to indicate your age or anything like that, but my question is about getting value. Getting value from Microsoft investments or investments in Microsoft technology. Now, when it comes to getting that value, it’s important to have a good set of managed services to underpin it. Why is that important? Why are managed services important to get success out of your Microsoft implementation?
Well, I think the first thing is, it’s important to keep the lights on. Companies have made a major investment. Invariably the ERP applications, especially at the level that HSO deal with, mean we’re talking multimillion pound and multiyear investments, that’s even before you switch the system on. So why wouldn’t you want to maintain the system after that investment? It’s about staying current with the technology, which managed services give you. And also harnessing new capabilities as they come through after the initial implementation. A big thing for most companies, particularly of PLC size, is ensuring the solution is within the main support window as well. You know, you’re going to get the break fix service from the from the vendor and for me, it’s important to find a proactive partner that can help you with that journey. And that journey for our customers is often 10,15 or 20 years.
In your experience, do you ever come across organisations that think once the technology is there, think we’ll just do it ourselves, and that we can do it ourselves without a problem?
We do, and we have a few customers that are still in that position where they feel they can be self-sufficient. The reality is that that’s a misnomer. You can’t trust that customers that have moved on are adopting the new technologies; how much better they are performing and how much more agile they are as a business because of the new technologies. We see that contrast, even if the individual companies don’t. I think if you look at the fact we’ve just gone through a pandemic, which had a big impact on businesses, as a good number, as we know, unfortunately, have fallen by the wayside, but often, those businesses fell by the wayside because they weren’t agile and hadn’t adopted new technologies. More recently, and almost in parallel with the pandemic, there’s been a large-scale switch from on premise to cloud solutions. And it’s those that adopted cloud solutions early, that have survived the difficult trading environments, and will benefit them going forward.
It’s not just the vendor, but it’s also the partner who is current on the latest technology, on the way to implement, on the way to manage and the way to get value from it. More so than the organisation who has the system in place ever really is going to be, because the partner is closer to the vendor, closer to their technology and closer to the skills needed.
Absolutely, as years go by, the broader and more complex the technology and components have become. If you look at barriers to entry for example, HSO just in the UK, employs more than 300 staff now, it has to because of the range of technologies that it needs to keep current and support. You imagine a single customer trying to invest in those skills and capabilities to keep the lights on. It’s not practical and it’s not profitable. Getting the right partner with the current skills, also gives you economies of scale. We make investments, we support a good number of customers, and our customers individually benefit from that investment at a fraction of the cost.
Here’s an interesting question on that point. Where you mentioned about the variety of technology and why organisations like HSO are growing so quickly. Do you think the variety of technology is a barrier or is increasingly a barrier, because it’s so diverse because you need so many more skills?
Absolutely, when I go back 30 years, I can imagine setting up a business where you had your core ERP application, and some SQL skills those being the two main components that you have to look after. You could get a team of 10 and you become a partner, that is just nowhere near the situation today. You look at your core ERP, but you’ve got CRM solutions, you’ve got BI solutions, you got a multi multifaceted integrations, you got multiple databases, you got multiple supply chains, multiple ways of doing e-commerce, the list just goes on. It is complex and it all has to work in tune with each other, be maintained, and help in the next greatest new technologies in each of those avenues.
When it comes to managed service and supporting such complexity and such variety are all managed services the same? By that I mean are they approached in the same way by different partners, or does it change by nature of the people and what’s involved?
When I think about managed services offerings historically there’s been two main categories. Those dealing with infrastructure, just keeping the memory and disc storage going. Then there’s more like the HSO type of partners, more application focused, both in terms of the application itself but also the integrations that are required. I think there’s been a bit of a convergence as things have moved into Cloud naturally, between the two, for instance HSO introduced managed services, around what’s called operational support, probably areas that we would never have been involved with 5 or 10 years ago and some of that is similar to the infrastructure type supply partners and, conversely, we find some of those other partners that used to just do the tin also moved into more of the database and SQL tuning. I would say it’s still a natural stop, where in terms of what you’re able to support, and that’s primarily built on the skill sets. Again, just labouring the point that I suppose, is that barrier to entry, we have so many skills that need to be brought on board on the application side, which are going to be exactly the same on the networking side as well, so unless you want to get into a very broad money services type organisation, which there are some but very few around the globe, then effectively, you’re focused on your best skills and the best delivery
Would you say the best services delivered, or the best set of managed services have or are best delivered when the relationship is strongest? What I mean by that is a lot of business is about the relationships you build with the individuals you’re working with, even on a customer side and partner side. Particularly a services point of view, where you’ve got to become ingrained within the business you’re supporting, is it still a relationship led service?
It’s all about relationships, to be honest, whether that’s at the individual level, but I can also put relationships up to the more generic business level, and having a clear understanding of the pain points, potentially, but also the benefits you can bring. We’ve very much gone into certain sectors, so retail, manufacturing, distribution, and we’re now going to finance and public sector, but it’s understanding the nuances, so you speak the language, you understand the potential challenges without having to be told, what does that mean to me as a customer because we understand that industry, and all that is about relationships. Technology yes, that’s important and understanding how to fix something is important it will keep the lights on but being engaged with the client in a proactive way you need to be working with the client in a relationship rather than just a technology partner for sure.
Technology being installed is only one part of a successful project.
How you support, manage and build upon it determines whether it adds value, or not.
This was a point Adrian often made in our chat. That it’s the relationships you build that are key to success. Relationships within your organisation to ensure business buy-in and adoption. Relationships with partners to ensure the solution is aligned and implemented to address an organisational imperative. And with vendors like Microsoft. That relationship in particular opens the door to accessing more innovative technology approaches to solve a greater number of challenges. Which can only be good for business.
I hope you enjoyed this episode, until next time, take care of yourselves.