Dynamics Matters Podcast Ep 28: Transformation lessons of a CTO

With special guest Ursula Dolton, Chief Technology Officer, British Heart Foundation 

✔ Why lead any technology conversation with a business value

✔ Why you use business value language over a technical one

✔ The three factors to any successful technology project

Transcript

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’m joined by Ursula Dolton, Chief Technology Officer of HSO customer British Heart Foundation.

As a CTO, Ursula has a lot of responsibility, and challenges when it comes to using technology to create positive transformational change and when it comes to selling the benefits of change using technology, Ursula has one simple lesson she rates above all others, that would help in any technology conversation with senior management.

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

Michael Lonnon

As the CTO you’re going to be head deep in technology, strategy and decision making. From the point of view as CTO working at the British Heart Foundation, how important is technology in the running of an organisation?

Ursula Dolton

I think technology is everything in the running of an organisation, especially in the current environment. With people remote working to the hybrid working models, every organisation is dependent on technology in one way or another.

Michael Lonnon

Do you think people or organisations use of technologies has improved? Has it forced organisations to accelerate their use of technology?

Ursula Dolton

Definitely, when we went into the pandemic the British Heart Foundation had launched Microsoft Office 365 a few months before and we were still trying to get people to have occasional teams calls. The pandemic made sure people had to have teams calls and now when I go to the office, I still see people having teams more than the face-to-face calls/meetings. I think technology has really advanced.

Michael Lonnon

Do you think all organisations have advanced their use of IT, or do you think some are still lagging? Do you think peoples understanding or skill level is an issue and there’s a bit of a perception problem?

Ursula Dolton

I think technology is a journey. Every organisation finds ways to improve and we would never say we are there with technology. So, to your question, some organisations are further along that journey than others.

Michael Lonnon

Do you think vendors like Microsoft are helping? In particular let’s use the pandemic, as an example. Do you think they’ve helped organisations embrace more technology and they’ve helped people learn or made it easier for people to use or do you think they’re perhaps taking it a little too far too fast?

Ursula Dolton

Organisations such as Microsoft, are a big strategic partner most of our technology platforms are Microsoft. I have seen how they have supported us before and during the pandemic. They had lots of sessions with the non-profit sector and lots of sessions to understand how they could help. They have been actively helping, we ourselves got a lot of support from them.

Michael Lonnon

As they bring new technologies out it's important to show the way forward? How they make your business, your organisation change? What is it they’re bringing?

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Ursula Dolton

They are the tech experts; they know what can be done so quite often it is a case of show us what we can do. It’s how do we get the maximum out of our investments because a lot of the time, we make investments based on one kind of recommendation or one benefit in mind, but they know how to connect those dots to give us a lot more benefit, that’s where the success is.

Michael Lonnon

You might be getting the technology to solve one particular challenge but unbeknownst to you, there’s a whole lot of other value underneath it.

Ursula Dolton

Definitely and that’s where the likes of Microsoft have been amazing. It’s not just work as a tech provider or vendor what they’ve actually really done is gone out of the way to truly understand the business and what they are trying to achieve. They then advise us on the right investments for the right platforms and how to get the maximum out of those investments.

Michael Lonnon

From your point of view as a CTO, what sort of challenges do you have in trying to put together a technology strategy that the organisation can run with?

Ursula Dolton

I think it’s the age-old challenge of business leaders really understanding the value technology can really give the organisation. It’s think business first, before you think technology, that’s where I’ve noticed the challenge and the value.

Michael Lonnon

That is always the message we try and push. If you’re going to lead with technology, you’re going to struggle. Just putting a piece of technology in isn’t enough you want to know what it’s going to do and what problems it’s going to solve.

Ursula Dolton

One of the things that we do is when we’re looking at platforms is look at that whole business value because that’s something we never did in the past. We always said it’s a technology implementation or technology transformation. But now it’s looking at how do you really transform the way we work? How do you really improve the way you work and that’s what’s really important.

Michael Lonnon

If you had a piece of advice to somebody in a similar position as yourself, if you’re going to position a project or technology idea it would be lead with the business value – what pain points you’re going to solve and what are you going to get from it?

Ursula Dolton

I always say it’s a business solution. It’s a business problem we are trying to solve so it has to be a business solution. The technology element is part of that business, that’s my whole thought process. We always talk about end-to-end implementation. It’s very much what is that business solution.

Michael Lonnon

It helps in terms of landing new technology, then, to have a conduit between an organisation like Microsoft, and British Heart Foundation, somebody like HSO, who can mediate almost make sure that technology lands and it hits your goals at the end of it.

Ursula Dolton

Definitely. It’s a triangular partnership. The technology teams, the business teams working as one unit with the Microsoft’ teams. It’s all of us coming together and that’s where the success lies.

Summary
Moving technology projects forward begins with a business conversation.

That’s the method Ursula adopts when moving her technology agenda forward because it’s a language senior stakeholders understand – the language of business value and of return on investment.

So if you wish to move your technology agenda forward, begin any conversation with business value. What challenges will your proposed solution solve, and how will the business benefit as a result

And that’s a lesson to us all.

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