Dynamics Matters Podcast: Ep 50 -
Special Edition

In this special 50th Episode, Michael Lonnon, the host takes a deep dive into the Dynamics Matters Podcast series and recalls some of the highlights.

Transcription

Welcome to you our lovely listeners to episode 50 – yes, 50 – of the Dynamics Matters podcast series.

The idea has always been to provide you with insightful pearls of wisdom from a variety of industry experts in a short and easily consumable way.

I hope we’ve remained true to this and that you have picked up some interesting insight along the way, whichever editions you’ve tuned in for.

For this half-century edition we wanted to do something slightly different, and recall insight highlights from across the series, and thread these into some of the recurring themes.

And I wanted to begin with what has become one of my favourite messages from the series – alongside the fact HSO Managing Director David Little has a dog with perhaps the best of all canine names – Gordon – And it was the edition with HSO Enterprise Architect Mike Stanbridge who believes that because of advancements in technology, you are no longer restricted by its capabilities, but only by your imagination, It’s always like people process technology, isn’t it, it always comes together, get vision and people in the right sort of place process can follow in terms of what you want to achieve. And the technology will follow on. And with the world of dynamics, as it is now, I don’t believe that businesses are technology limited anymore. I believe that imagination limited before anything else.”

The great thing about this, as David Little pointed out: “And also think when you become technology literate, you don’t become un technology literate, you start to see the opportunities that it brings”, is that once you have the skills and capabilities, you won’t lose them, you merely plan how best to use them.

This direction is reflected in how Microsoft is evolving their technology. Moving away from large scale – often expensive – and unwieldy technology programmes, to a more modular approach to business application consumption as HSOs Head of Dynamics 365, Will Winter, has found: “We’re seeing customers say, ‘I’ve got to do this’, ‘I’ve got to do that’ within the next six to eight months. If you add that alongside a Big Bang, or a large-scale change, the business isn’t always ready to consume it. Perhaps they don’t have the resource, or the planning or the ability to roll it out. HSO can come in and go ‘okay we’re going to solve this problem for you straightaway within six months’, then we can work on the other things as we progress. So, it de-risks projects from a customer’s point of view so you don’t go away and in two years’ time come back with an ERP project that -because the business has moved on from where it was 18 months ago – is no longer fit for purpose.”

And it’s this modular approach that makes it easier for organisations to adopt the technology they need to solve unique to them challenges without having to buy another bespoke and often siloed solution.

A more modular approach means more choice. Lower risk. And greater ease of connectivity between systems and people for when decisions are being made, and new priorities identified, as David Little highlighted in episode 36: “Whereas in the past, it used to be ERP plus. I need to get the platform and ERP was the kind of data foundation that it could do other interesting things on top of it, that’s not quick enough anymore. Microsoft are trying to dissemble the solution so that it is more modular, and you can build on it piece by piece. You can put in, for example, elements of ERP, plus power platform, and elements of the data verse creating the foundation, and then evolve that over time as you add more things.”

This isn’t to say large scale transformation programmes are gone for good, far from it. Sometimes they’re a necessary. COVID, for example, forced many organisations to accelerate large transformational projects that may otherwise have taken years.

What is key when it comes to complex initiatives is the ability to maintain and capitalise on the digital momentum built, which comes back to the original point – that the only limitation is imagination. Some of the people I spoke with, including Ealing Council Chief Executive Paul Najsarek, are extending technology value by using it to solve new challenges not originally part of the project: Sometimes there are things you can do that hit multiple goals. To give you an example, if we are able to stimulate the green economy, locally and we do that, thoughtfully, it’ll help the climate agenda, it can help people in terms of economic recovery. And if we get the jobs and the skills packages right, it can help inequality at the same time. Not everything can be done like this but the more we focus our energy on things that hit multiple goals, that’s a premium.”

Paul’s observation of the need and ability to do more with technology was echoed by Microsoft’s Head of Public Sector, Sam Bramwell“I am seeing the barriers – which is often political, money, or ego – taken away. And when those barriers are taken away, we can go really fast. I think now that the light has been shone on IT, organisations are taking steps to say, ‘well, let’s just continue that momentum’. We have guardrails in place around procurement – for the right reasons – but we must ensure they’re not barriers to innovation.”

The topic of data also threads its way through many of the conversations. Mastering data is clearly a challenge – understanding where it’s coming from, where it’s going to, who’s using it, and to what end – but understanding of its value was echoed in many conversations, including this one with County Council Networks Jon Rallings“We’re all aware that we’re on the edge of an almighty revolution in what data is going to be able to do for us. We are already beginning to understand some of the potential data may have in terms of predictive nature, but we’re also alert to the fact there are possibilities we haven’t scratched the surface of yet.” Managing data formed one of the core components of developing a technology business case as was demonstrated by the work of Boden CTO Shaun Perkinson on their digital transformation project: “We’re building out a micro-services strategy. And within that micro-services strategy, managing the flow of data from our systems of record into our customer facing channels, and also the data flowing back into our system of record. We’re using an event driven architecture, and that event driven architecture is shining a different light on data moving through our operational systems, and this throws up all sorts of digital marketing and operational use cases that we weren’t thinking about before.”

Another of the themes that came through in many interviews is the importance of people when it comes to achieving organisational goals, big or small.

The message was that without good people with the right skills, it doesn’t matter how advanced your technology is, or how detailed your data strategy, success will be limited. And in episode 8, HSOs Head of Recruitment, Dan Rosehill, offered his thoughts on what he looks for in finding the right people: “One of the key features I look for is two things: it’s longevity and its loyalty. When we see people that have been part of a company for five or six years, that demonstrates to me that they’ve stuck with it for the long term. That they’re not just out for themselves trying to move around from one organisation to another.”

And once you have the right people, HSOs Head of Learning and Development, Rebecca Fox offered her advice on how you can develop the best learning and development environment to keep them: “It’s important to have a learning culture in order for people to stay in an organisation. People need to feel valued, engaged and feel like they’re able to progress in their career. Provide both technical skills as well as soft skills for employees that help them succeed in their career development. As well as the appropriate tools and skills to do their job effectively. More organisations realise that by investing in learning and development, it’s a win win. Organisationally you’ll have the best people to do the job, then people feel invested in, they feel engaged and valued as individuals.”

Tying any project together – to achieve long term buy-in and success – is in building the case for change. In the experience of HSO Sales Director Hector Hickmott, this has the greatest chance of success if starting with the board: “I think if businesses really understand what technology can do, and how it can become central to operations, it should be on the board. Not 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 building on this, I spoke with HSOs Head of Change Management, Tracey Roberts, to find out whether a proactive approach to change management can increase the chances of project success: “If you’re dealing with an organisation of 1000 employees, and 800 of those adopt the new ways of working well, then you will get some level of success. But maybe the ultimate return on investment won’t come until all 1,000 employees are working the new way. And so it’s understanding where those gaps might be and looking at an individual journeys through change.”

Partnerships, in any industry, are a leading part of success. Whether you’re a retailer managing partners in your supply-chain, or a local authority working with healthcare providers in support of citizens – choosing – if you have the choice – the right partner, is also an important part of success, aptly surmised by Microsoft’s Richard Wills when he said: “It’s a little bit like a football team, in that you can be really good at taking corners, and you can be really good at heading, but you can’t take a corner and head it in at the same time. And so it’s understanding that you need the skills from different people.”

And Chris Bally, Deputy Chief Executive from Suffolk County, has a particular penchant for partnerships because he is able to see the value of collaboration, “People bring different perspectives, and, this is a personal theory here and something I’ve observed and think true: if you bring subject matter experts together from different disciplines, that is the recipe for innovation.”

And it’s through collaboration that has built what I hope has been, and will continue to be, an interesting and useful library of insight you can refer to.

To close out this special 50th edition, I’d like to leave you with the thoughts of HSOs Cloud Application Director Andrew Welch on gave me his thoughts on where he sees the future of technology heading.

I hope you enjoyed this episode, thanks for listening.

“One phrase I use is the tyranny of the deliverable. We’ve got to get away from the notion of saying, ‘I need these 300 requirements to be met and vendor, please come to me and tell me what my deliverables are going to be over the next two years’. The new way of doing this is to right size the capacity of expertise, and then do things; innovate, solve business problems rapidly and continually and look more at outcomes, more at what the business value is, efficiency gains and how we make life easier for our employees and customers. That’s the tyranny of the deliverable. Saying I must have this delivered to me and this and this … it’s a radically different way of thinking about how we structure technology acquisition and service delivery.”

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