Viewing archives for IT strategy and vision

Bitcoin – What Is It and What Does It Mean to Business?

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a digital-only currency, or “cryptocurrency,” created in 2009. It has many (or perhaps all) of the characteristics of any currency, except it’s 100% digital and that it isn’t controlled by any bank or government—Bitcoin exists without any institutional support and parties transact without requiring a trusted third party, such as a bank. This is because the mechanism for recording Bitcoin transactions, which is called Blockchain, is secure and reliable.

These fundamental differences haven’t stopped people from using it: the total value of Bitcoins in circulation is now over $190Bn!

To find out more about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, and what they’ll mean to your business moving forward, read our CEO’s Briefing:

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

How Mid-Market Businesses Can Recruit a Quality CTO

IT leaders who focus on software development and digital are often called Chief Technology Officers, or CTOs. You’ll also hear Chief Digital Officer (CDO) and Chief Information Officer (CIO).

Whatever you call them, it’s getting harder for mid-market businesses to recruit a good one. Download our free CEO’s Briefing to learn:

What exactly does a CTO do?

Why are CTOs so hard to find?

Options for finding a CTO

Part-time or fractional CTOs

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

How Mid-Market Companies Can Recruit a First-Class CTO

Ambitious mid-market or externally funded start-ups are increasingly investing in custom software. They want to seize new opportunities, to disrupt their markets, and to amplify their value.

This is driving the requirement for more commercially focused, flexible, experienced Chief Technology Officers (CTOs). Recruiter Martin Davis spoke to Graeme Freeman, Co-Founder and Director of Freeman Clarke, to find out what CTOs are, and why so many mid-market businesses require them.

Graeme Freeman: So, Martin, can we just start by defining what a CTO does in the mid-market?
Martin Davis: Well, the role varies a lot depending on what the company needs. But the key point is that a high-quality CTO is more than just the person who is accountable for the delivery of the tech. Of course that’s vital, but a proper CTO is widely experienced in business and new ventures and properly contributes on an executive level.

GF: So is this an internally facing role?
MD: Well again, that depends upon what the company needs. Sometimes it’s all about setting strategy and leading software development. A lot of time may be spent dealing with external suppliers. The CTO may negotiate with suppliers, partners or large customers if necessary.
But, importantly, a CTO should be someone who lends credibility to the venture. For example, if there are investors or bankers, the CTO has an important role in liaising with them. He or she needs to understand how they think and work.

GF: Why is it getting harder to find CTOs?
Martin Davis: It’s very hard to find great technicians who are also leaders and tuned into business and commercial issues. The market for good people is always very tight, but it’s getting more difficult because demand from companies, large and small, is increasing.
Areas like fintech, proptech, healthtech and edutech are expanding and sucking up lots of great people. And all kinds of businesses are investing in custom software to separate themselves from the market.

GF: So what options do business leaders in the mid-market have?
Martin Davis: There are really only three ways forward.
Option one is go to the market and recruit someone. This is expensive — of course agents or headhunters charge a very large fee, and the truth is it often goes wrong, because it’s very difficult to assess competence and technical talent. You have to ask yourself whether the best people are available on the market in this way.

Alternatively, companies use interim hires. But they are really just hired-guns, and their commitment lasts until they get a call offering them a higher day-rate. Their flexibility is very limited, if there is any lull or hiatus then they will move on.

But our offer is unique. We have built a team of outstanding people, and they work for our clients on a flexible part-time (we call it “fractional”) basis. So they can be heavily involved during busy periods, and when things are quieter, they can reduce their involvement. They all have first-class records, they’ve seen it and done it, and we have tested and screened their experience. For a CTO that can help a company grow, to work in that company’s best interest and not someone else’s, the best option is Freeman Clarke.

You may also find our ideas on CTOs for software and digital helpful.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

The 6 Must-Haves for Hiring the Best CTO

Freeman Clarke has decades of experience in hiring the best CIOs and CTOs. In several years of refining our screening process, we’ve discovered that good CTOs always have six essential qualities.

  1. Technical Expertise. CTOs must have an extensive understanding of technology, security and engineering, and preferably years of experience in the industry. They need to understand infrastructure, business systems and online technology. And since no field changes more rapidly than IT, they need up-to-date and detailed experience of practices, products and vendors. The best CTOs don’t just follow the field, they’re leaders — active at events and in online discussions.
  2. People Skills. Of course, all of business is about people. And all software is built by people, for people. Teamwork is at the heart of any successful venture. So the CTO needs to be a coach and mentor to his team, and to ensure that communication needs flows easily upwards, downwards and sideways. Plus a CTO needs to engage with all the stakeholders, be a source of energy and good-humor, and needs to fit in.
  3. Entrepreneurship. The CTO needs to be passionate about driving growth and fully committed to the ambitions of the business. This means understanding funding and valuation mechanisms, business plans, and disciplines like marketing and legal. Of course, any complex project has issues, and the CTO needs to be creative, agile and proactive to rapidly recognize when changes are necessary to stay on track.
  4. Business Management Skills. Running an IT team requires good planning, communication skills, and a careful attention to detail. As CTOs are often responsible for compliance issues, they need to be aware of the implications of contractual and regulatory frameworks too. They must know how to monitor their budgets, manage contracts, and negotiate prices. Since so much of IT involves external suppliers, CTOs need to maintain good relationships and long-term commitments while keeping costs under control.
  5. Strategic Thinking Skills. Technical discussions are often painfully detailed. Custom digital technology is complex and intricate. A good CTO both understands the details and the bigger picture — meaning, how the technology will be part of the business strategy. A CTO should also understand that board-level discussions can be vague; key questions are often about the art of the possible. CTOs need to be comfortable with this and strive for strategies that are creative, sensible, useful and flexible.
  6. Compelling Leadership. The CTO forms part of the senior team. Thus he or she needs to lead from the front — contribute to decision-making, be bold and visionary, and hold others to account. As the business grows, the stakes become higher; the CTO must be able to handle the pressure. Where there are external investors, partners or other stakeholders the CTO needs to represent the business to them. External investors, in particular, need to draw confidence from the CTO, as his or her role is so critical to success.

We devote a huge part of our management effort to the recruitment, screening and selection of CTOs and CIOs. And, because we work in the mid-market, we only select CTOs who can fit in with dynamic businesses, rather than needing the comfort of the corporate environment.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

Digital Transformations – Internal Redesigns and Risk Management

This is the final post in our four-part series on Digital Transformation. For a more in-depth definition of Digital Transformation and its four types, read the first post. 

For many companies, the technology strategy begins and ends with technical details in which the Board has little interest. The absence of experienced IT leaders with vision means that the IT slot on the agenda is a wearisome discussion of details, issues and gripes.

But IT genuinely has the ability to transform a business. There are radical new ways to grow the business, to serve customers better, and to make more profit. Businesses that can connect with these benefits are, understandably, valued far higher than their low-tech competitors.

For our clients, Digital Transformation simply means using IT to deliver dramatic improvement. It’s more than just an upgrade or fixing niggling problems. It means using IT to make a significant change for the better.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. It may just mean simple IT done well—which is surprisingly rare! Or it may mean genuine technology innovation, something breaking new ground.

For one of our clients (discussed below) Digital Transformation not only radically improved how the business worked, it reduced IT spending by 75%! Other clients halved delivery times or became vastly more competitive with more accurate risk calculations and pricing.

We break down Digital Transformation into four categories:

  1. Market breakthrough
  2. Wowing customers 
  3. Internal redesign
  4. Risk reduction

In this post, we’ll discuss internal redesigns and risk reduction.

Growing Pains—When Problems Often Start

Entrepreneurs naturally focus on seizing opportunities. They tend not to worry too much about the details.

But when company revenue turns from millions to tens of millions, organizational issues build up. Typically, people’s jobs become progressively less productive. There is increasing reliance on individuals, and often there is friction between people because the processes have been designed ad hoc.

Most importantly, many employees begin to see these issues as normal, and they see handling these problems as the purpose of their job.

People stop complaining about how much time they spend in Excel processing an order; instead they ask for more Excel training. Meanwhile everyone seems to have forgotten that order processing should be entirely automated.

Three Main Opportunities

A useful way to navigate Digital Transformation is to consider three specific opportunities:

  1. Integrate with suppliers and customers. For many companies, integrating with their suppliers is the best way to reduce waste. Their ability to understand and integrate with customers is their biggest way to provide great service and differentiate themselves in a crowded market.
  2. Address “swivel-chair” users. Often employees spend their time switching between one system and another. We call this the “swivel-chair” problem. Often these manual tasks are complicated, and these employees may seem indispensable—but they are not really adding value. Free up their expertise with properly integrated systems or with software robots.
  3. Better decisions with real-time, accurate data. It’s impossible to make intelligent, informed decisions without real-time, accurate data. And in many cases decision-making can be simplified with simple rules-based automation or more sophisticated AI and machine learning.

Internal Redesign

In some cases, it’s possible to bring about genuine transformation via a well-engineered top-to-bottom system replacement program.

British Retail Consortium (BRC) is the go-to trade association for all UK retailers. Their membership encompasses over 70% of the UK retail industry (by turnover). With its twenty-five years history, BRC had a number of inefficient systems. Over the last two years, they have been through a complete systems transformation project with impressive results.

BRC’s CEO Helen Dickinson summarizes their objectives: “We had systems and ways of working that were deeply embedded but not always efficient. Several areas of our business were caught up in this problem, and it impacted people’s attitude to their work. Many aspects of our business are about publishing, and our website was completely out of date. Not only did it fail to project our brand, but publishing content was difficult and time-consuming. Our working practices were looking old-fashioned—lots of expensive office space and everyone chained to their desks. It was time for a major overhaul.”

Freeman Clarke’s Principal David Webb became BRC’s CIO. Over a two-year period he shaped, planned and delivered a program of changes. Webb explains:

“Real change is about systems and how people work, so a large part of this project was ensuring effective communication and that people were on board. For example, once we had created a more effective website and publishing system, we had to work out how to take BRC’s brilliant content and turn it into things people want to read, watch or listen to. This meant new ways of working as well as new roles and new attitudes.”

With Webb’s guidance, BRC replaced every system in the business. BRC also moved to modern offices and reduced office space by 30% with flex-time. To ease staff through the transition, they invested in workshops and discussions.

“The results speak for themselves,” Webb says. “The old systems were not fit. Overall IT costs were 10% of revenue. Now it’s 2.5%!”

Chillisauce is an example of how a Freeman Clarke Principal removed swivel-chair problems and improved integration with suppliers—and radically improved their customer experience at the same time.

Chillisauce is an events agency that specializes in bachelor and bachelorette parties. It offers a choice from over 5,000 different activities in seventy cities worldwide. Customers use their website to select all the components of their own event including activities, locations, hotels and transport.

James Baddiley, CEO of Chillisauce, explains their challenge: “Our website was just an online brochure. If a customer wanted to actually book an event they had to call us. We would craft the event with them over the phone, and we would liaise with the suppliers manually. We’d communicate with the customer through emails, and at the end, hopefully they would book!”

Another problem was their inflexible website. It was a major undertaking to add or change a product.

“A bachelor or bachelorette party is a major event for people,” Baddiley says. “We want to make it fun and offer the best experience and the best options on the market.”

Freeman Clarke Principal Tony Tinnirello advised Chillisauce to transform the entire fulfilment activity. Tinnirello explains:

“We implemented a suite of new cloud-based systems. And we used sophisticated technology to link them all together. So the entire process is far less manual, far faster and less error-prone. Customers can create their event online, book, and then check the status of each element as it takes shape. Critically, we generate prices dynamically so customers can see the price right in front of them—that’s very rare in this market.”

The system now also provides Chillisauce with a wealth of data. They can check revenue and margins on every product, ensure they are meeting service targets, and deal with any issues rapidly.

“In particular,” says Tinnirello, “this has been a huge time saver for the accounts department.”

Risk Reduction

Digital Transformation can transform a business by addressing risk management. By understanding risk in specific contracts, products or customers, you can price more accurately and competitively. Provision for risk can be applied more specifically, perhaps by more sophisticated analysis of a company’s own existing data, or by combining data from multiple systems, and potentially third-party data as well.

In some cases, the transformation may be achieved via a more timely application of existing risk processes. For example, real-time calculation may allow more accurate pricing for sales people on the phone or for online customers. Prices can be adjusted dynamically to reflect customer credit risk.

Accurate risk reporting also frees up time at the executive level. If simple risk data is available in real-time, then the Board can take measures to adjust as a routine activity. Automated rules engines or AI can pick out patterns or raise alerts when thresholds are near or are breached.  Simply having hard facts readily available reduces the level of anxiety!

For companies heavily reliant on IT, well-structured systems ensure resiliency when disaster strikes.

Employees of the British Retail Consortium were once locked out of the offices for three weeks after a fire. Thus, with good reason, their transformation project included business continuity plans. The tragic London Bridge terror attack in June 2017 put this to the test, as their office was again unavailable for several days. But this time they were able to continue working without interruption.

How to Start Your Digital Transformation

In our experience mid-sized businesses often have a huge advantage over their larger competitors in this kind of transformation. Larger businesses have layers of managers who are deeply entrenched in existing ways of working, and the changing their ways of working can be a huge task.

For ambitious mid-market businesses, the Board can personally see and hear what is happening with customers, and the company is small enough to make rapid decisions and changes. Of course, a major change is never simple, but the scale of effort increases greatly for larger companies.

The best way for ambitious mid-market businesses is to start with a blank sheet of paper and design the framework you really want. The following questions are a great way to kick start a Board workshop:

  1. How much of your cost is not directly related to winning customers and fulfilling their needs?
  2. How many experts do you have locked into swivel-chair roles where they simply manage systems and data, and help other people around the business to do the same?
  3. How could you integrate with your customers’ activities?
  4. How could you remove waste from your business by integrating with your suppliers or partners?
  5. How much is it worth to you to correctly quantify risk at a supplier, customer or product level?
  6. How much would it be worth if you were able to reduce the risk of a major outage affecting your business?
  7. How can you remove the barriers to enable you to lead this transformation?

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations, helping our clients use IT to beat the competition. For an informal conversation, Contact Us, and we’ll be in touch.

Digital Transformation: Wow Your Customers!

Digital Transformation: Wow Your Customers!

This is the third in our four-part series on Digital Transformation. For a more in-depth definition of Digital Transformation and its four types, read the first post.

 All too often, IT is a race to the middle. The Board exhausts itself with maintenance and whack-a-mole problems, and the aim becomes simply to provide basic services at minimum cost.

But IT can be an engine for growth. This is Digital Transformation—using IT to make a significant change for the better. It may just mean simple IT done well (which is surprisingly rare!). Or it may mean genuine innovation, using technology to break new ground.

Either way, these opportunities should be the focus of the Board’s discussions about IT. A good IT strategy is aligned with the business strategy. And that means IT should be tightly connected to marketing, sales and service.

When all this is executed well, IT has the ability to transform a business, giving it an advantage over the competition and significantly raising its value.

We simplify this issue by defining four different kinds of transformation:

  1. Market breakthrough
  2. Wowing customers
  3. Internal redesign
  4. Risk reduction

So let’s talk about how you can wow your customers.

Start Thinking About What’s Best for Your Customers, Not for You

Too often companies create a series of steps to suit themselves—but not their customers. But it may not suit them. And as a business grows and becomes more complicated, it can become more difficult to see this for what it is.

Think about how time-consuming it can be just to open a new bank account.

Want to get your car serviced? Spend ten minutes on hold, wait two weeks for your appointment, then spend half an hour each way driving to the garage.

Buy a product online? You’ll be plagued by ads for the same product.

All of these are examples of how companies use IT to do what’s best for themselves and not their customers.

However, when done properly, digital technology offers ways to find and engage with customers in more personal and relevant ways; to offer them genuine value-adds; or to allow them to interact with you how they want to.

Avoid Competing on Price

Small improvements allow you to stand out from the crowd. And this presents a critical business advantage because it allows you to “de-commoditize” your products or services and to avoid competing purely on price.

Many customers are short of time and frustrated by inflexible suppliers; in this case quality and convenience can matter more than price. Similarly, simple support mechanisms, reliable delivery and streamlined follow-on services can be more important than price.

Many people don’t get around to making purchases or switching suppliers—not because they’re saving money, but because they are simply not approached in the right way, at the right time, with the right product.

Wow Your Customers

Without changing the underlying business model or products or services, new technology provides ways to transform how you engage with your customers and how they experience your brand.

This kind of Digital Transformation is all about:

This area of technology can seem like an arms race, with companies constantly offering more, and customers constantly wanting more. Some examples:

In this environment, how do you wow your customers? By thinking about their needs, rather than your own.

Sleeperz is a lifestyle budget hotel group that believes in friendly service, stylish design, great value and a comfortable night’s sleep. Sleeperz wants to wow its customers by streamlining its customer experience.

CEO David Myers explains: “The hospitality sector is highly competitive and fairly low-tech. We want to provide a best-in-class service for our customers. For example, the check-in and check-out processes can start to look quite antiquated—line up, fill in forms, get a key or your receipt. We want to provide a more modern experience, to match or exceed the best in the business.”

Freeman Clarke Principal John Cawrey is Sleeperz’s CIO.

“We are researching solutions to allow guests to self-check-in and check-out using a tablet embedded in a pedestal kiosk,” Cawrey says. “Or even allowing guests to check-in before they arrive using their own mobile phone or tablet. They could use their phone as a key, so they can arrive and go straight to their room if they like.”

Myers adds: “This allows us to focus customer service where it matters. We can still have staff who can help guests who want to deal with a person or who have a problem. Or they can make you a coffee while you check yourself in.”

Another client, ComXo, provides outsourced switchboard services to large professional firms. IT is paramount to delivering the exceptional client experience that ComXo is known for.

Andrew Try, Managing Director of ComXo explains:

“Providing outsourced switchboard to large companies is very complex. It requires a multitude of sophisticated technologies. Our goal is to achieve an integration that delivers a seamless service to the companies’ employees and clients alike. Our technologies enable us to deliver a highly personalized service, even to the largest businesses with over 30,000 staff, at a global level.”

Freeman Clarke Principal Steve Clarke is ComXo’s CTO. For several years, he has created a strategy and overseen the delivery of technology.

“ComXo delivers a bespoke service for each of their clients,” Clarke says. “ComXo’s team of Virtual Personal Assistants are experts on each of their customers. Off-the-shelf software is therefore not the right solution.”

Clarke has helped ComXo develop technologies that enable staff to work remotely; whether in their offices, at their clients’ offices, or at home. This helps to manage costs and enables employees to achieve a better work-life balance.

“We have also created an automated billing platform that reduces costs and provides a better service for clients,” Clarke continues. “For instance, when clients use ComXo’s Muiltivoice conference system, calls are tagged with a cost code which appears on the client’s bill. That enables professional services firms to bill accordingly. It’s particularly beneficial to firms of attorneys who form a large part of the ComXo’s client base.”

With their IT, ComXo is able to stand out from the competition and punch above their weight, working for large firms and major corporations. They stay focused on transformative projects that make a major difference to their clients.

Where You Can Start

The best way for ambitious mid-market businesses is to think about your real customers’ needs and to work backwards from there. Start with a blank sheet of paper and work out what your customers really value—which might not be the same as what you currently give them! Think of it from their perspective.

The good news is that in our experience mid-sized businesses often have a huge advantage over their larger competitors in this kind of transformation. There are fewer layers between the directors and the customers; directors can see and hear what customers are saying. And the company is small enough to make rapid decisions and changes.

The following questions can be a useful kickstart for a Board workshop on Digital Transformation:

  1. What is it that your market really needs?
  2. What do you customers really care about and value?
  3. If you started with a blank sheet of paper, how would you do things differently?
  4. What are the barriers to solving the above questions, and how might IT remove them?

ComXo and Sleeperz wow their customers by thinking about their needs and employing transformative technology. With the right planning, you can wow your customers as well!

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations, helping our clients use IT to beat the competition. For an informal conversation, Contact Us, and we’ll be in touch.

Technology Roadmap for Growth – A CEOs Briefing

If you’re planning for significant growth — or better yet, your business is already seeing it — you need IT to match.

Freeman Clarke Principals provide clear leadership with a business-focused roadmap for IT and digital. We’ve found it’s the best way for our clients to drive and support growth, without getting way ahead, or falling behind.

A Roadmap Avoids Chaos

Growing businesses need to reconsider their IT infrastructure, business systems, and digital plans. Many businesses are additionally investing in apps, online initiatives, and artificial intelligence. Without a roadmap, all this new technology can lead to stress and chaos. Or there may be the opposite effect — without a clear plan there’s no investment in new technology or even a kind of IT paralysis. The easiest way to avoid so many potential problems is when an experienced senior IT professional creates a roadmap.

An IT Strategy That Supports Your Business Strategy

Our Principal create an IT roadmap to support a long-term business strategy. So now the leaders of the company understand where the business is headed and how IT will complement and enhance their plans.

We have the experience and authority to understand the issues involved with business, people, and technology.

Delivering a Comprehensive Vision

The roadmaps covers all aspects of IT including infrastructure, business systems, and digital plans. These may be simple improvements. Or they may be larger projects like custom software or complete replacement of back-office business systems.

Whatever your company’s particular IT needs, all aspects of the roadmap need to recognize your company’s unique processes, organization, and people issues, as well as its technology. Often clients rely on our Principal to clarify and restructure their ways if working to save money or improve customer service.

A clear roadmap ensures that senior management understands the vision and that the consensus feeds into budgets and plans across the business. Of course our Principal takes responsibility for the roadmap and its budget, ensuring, just like any member of the senior team, that all aspects are properly managed through to completion.

Roadmaps are the start of the story. But our Principals make the real difference by delivering them and being accountable for the outcomes.

Download the full CEO’s Briefing above which explains:

 

Watch this video where Graeme Freeman(Co-founder and Director) explains what a Technology Roadmap looks like, the benefits and how to start planning yours. or, visit our Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

If you’d like to discuss how Freeman Clarke could support your business contact us now for a no-strings conversation.

Digital Transformation: Real World Examples of Market Breakthrough

This is the second in our four-part series on Digital Transformation. For a more in-depth definition of Digital Transformation and its four types, read the first post. 

For our clients, “digital transformation” simply means using IT to deliver dramatic improvement. It’s going beyond simple upgrades or fixing niggling IT problems—it means using IT to make a significant change for the better.

At Freeman Clarke, we see Digital Transformation in terms of four categories:

  1. Market breakthrough
  2. Wowing customers
  3. Internal redesign
  4. Risk reduction

Market Breakthrough Defined

“Market breakthrough,” in our analysis, is really about using your expertise to create entirely new offers. For example, some of our clients have created software to provide new kinds of specialist services; some manufacturers or wholesalers have become retailers. Others have cut through supply chains, or they have positioned themselves as new kinds of intermediary, repackaging or combining products and services from other companies.

In our experience, mid-sized businesses often have a huge advantage over their larger competitors in this kind of transformation because:

We recommend that mid-market businesses think about their real customers’ needs and work backwards from there. Start with a blank sheet of paper and work out what your customers really value—which may not be the same as what you currently give them!

Market Breakthrough Case Study: Amberjack

One of our clients, Amberjack, is a global expert in future talent and intake-based volume outsourcing. They work with high profile global businesses operating in competitive international markets.

“Historically, Amberjack won business based on our highly specialist teams and great levels of service,” explains Cynthia Bostock, CEO. “That’s still true today, but the market moves on. Our clients are companies like Unilever, international brands that rightly expect more. The advent of automation and digital assessment means that strategies that worked in the past to attract and select the very best talent are no longer effective or competitive.”

Many Amberjack clients recruit large numbers of graduates and apprentices annually, and they expect a slick digital recruitment process to secure the best talent. For outstanding candidates it’s always a buyer’s market, and Amberjack needs to help their clients to stand out and attract the very best.

“We offer real strategic advantage to our clients rather than just cost-saving,” Bostock continues. “For example, offering to help a Big 4 consultancy recruit graduates more efficiently is interesting, but giving them a way to recruit the very best candidates in an exciting and immersive way offers them long-term strategic advantage. And that is a fundamentally higher-value proposition.”

Amberjack created a vision for an end-to-end digital experience for candidates and advanced tools that manage the entire recruitment process online.

Its clients now have a much slicker process, and they have far greater control, because recruitment is underpinned by data insight. They can easily review compliance information and ensure they are implementing their diversity agenda or ensuring gender balance. They can even measure the candidates’ experience of the recruitment process.

Freeman Clark provided one of our Principals, Kev Cooper, as Amberjack’s CTO. Cooper describes the challenge and the opportunity:

“We’ve only just started. There is so much further we can go. This industry will continue to be revolutionized by new value-add technologies, and Amberjack will be at the forefront, bringing increased value to clients.”

For these reasons, international advisory firm Bersin by Deloitte recently named Amberjack as a “global HR disruptor for 2018.”

In 2018, Amberjack was nominated for seven National Recruiter awards, and won four including Supplier of the Year. For more information about Amberjack, visit https://www.weareamberjack.com

Market Breakthrough Case Study: CoachHire.com

CoachHire.com is a British company providing group transport solutions to more than one million passengers per year.

The coach hire industry is typically very fragmented and local, and it’s not renowned for technology innovation.

For CoachHire.com, the opportunity has been to create a platform connecting buyers and sellers. Across the tech industry, new platforms always attract attention. But there are plenty of markets where specialist expertise and relationships are key, making established players better placed to spot opportunities than a Silicon Valley startup.

Mathew Hassell, CoachHire.com’s CEO, saw an opportunity to help customers find coaches and specific services, and to bring efficiencies to the coach operators.

Hassell explains: “Most coach operators are very small companies with very limited internal systems—often just paper, spreadsheets and whiteboards. On the other side of the equation, people who want to order a shuttlebus or coach may have an urgent need and don’t know where to start.”

CoachHire’s platform gives customers a simple, well-designed purchasing experience. At the same time, the platform helps operators manage their bookings, allowing them to move in the 21st century.

One of the biggest markets for coaches is schools. CoachHire.com uses technology to improve safety and to give parents more peace of mind.

Freeman Clarke Principal Mat Diss is CoachHire.com’s CTO. He explained: “We use technology to ensure the operator, schools and parents know where the bus is. And we can confirm children getting on and getting off the bus which is a real safety enhancement. So no-one worries unnecessarily.”

Where You Can Begin

It sounds like a cliché, but it’s true: the hardest part of Digital Transformation is just getting started.

We recommend a Board-level discussion to tackle these questions:

  1. What is it that your market really needs?
  2. What do you customers really care about and value?
  3. If you started with a blank sheet of paper, how would you do things differently?
  4. What are the barriers to solving the above questions, and how might IT remove them?

Both CoachHire.com and Amberjack have achieved market breakthroughs by combining their market expertise with new technology. There is every reason to believe that you can achieve this in your market.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations, helping our clients use IT to beat the competition. For an informal conversation, Contact Us, and we’ll be in touch.

What Is Digital Transformation, Really?

This is the first in our four-part series on Digital Transformation.

Many mid-sized businesses see IT simply as an ongoing problem. When the Board meets, the IT slot is dominated by discussions about anti-virus software, operating system upgrades, contract negotiations and laptop replacement costs. The Board uses up its time, money and emotional energy on these operational details.

What they’re missing is that IT genuinely has the ability to transform a business. IT can bring radical and new ways to grow the business, to serve customers better, and to increase profit margins. And the market places a far higher value on businesses that exploit these benefits.

These opportunities—which many refer to vaguely as “Digital Transformation”—should be the focus of the Board discussions about IT.

So what exactly is Digital Transformation?

For our clients, digital transformation simply means using IT to deliver dramatic improvement. It’s going beyond simple upgrades or fixing niggling IT problems. It means using IT to make a significant change for the better.

Sometimes it’s pretty straightforward, a matter of following IT best practice—which is surprisingly rare! Or it may mean genuine innovation, utilizing technology that breaks new (or newish) ground.

At Freeman Clarke, we see Digital Transformation in terms of four categories.

The Four Kinds of Digital Transformation

  1. Market breakthrough.For example, some of our clients have used their expertise to create software that offers new kinds of specialist services. Some manufacturers or wholesalers have become retailers. Some have added value by repackaging or combining products and services from other companies.
  2. Wowing customers.This happens when provide your customers with the experience they want, how and when they want it, rather than imposing your processes on them. And it can give you new ways to de-commoditize your offering by focusing on service rather than price.
  3. Internal redesign.Many companies’ internal business processes are a patchwork decades-old solutions. New tech allows you to completely rethink your processes, to design from scratch to suit your team, your profit goals, and most importantly your customers. AI or software robots allow you to automate manual tasks and reduce errors.
  4. Risk reduction.Traditional processes often carry unnecessary risks that affect your company’s competitiveness. New tech can provide real-time risk assessment and automation of controls. Or it may allow you to offer higher guarantees to demanding (but high-value!) clients.

These categories are not hard-and-fast rules. In some cases transformations cross boundaries, for example radical improvements to internal fulfilment that enables significant improvement to customer service as well. And better internal processes can reduce risk as well as improve margins.

But these categories are a good starting point for any discussion of Digital Transformation.

There may not be enough time at a Board meeting to consider these options, which is why we often suggest a Board-level IT workshop, where you can kick start a discussion with the following questions:

  1. What is it that your market really needs?
  2. What do you customers really care about and value?
  3. If you started with a blank sheet of paper, how would you do things differently?
  4. What are the barriers to solving the above questions, and how might IT remove them?

Visit our Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

Remember, Digital Transformation is one of those vague-sounding buzzwords that obscure a relatively simple concept: using IT to deliver dramatic improvement. If you’re interested in a pressure-free discussion about how IT can deliver Digital Transformation to your business, see below to get in touch!

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations, helping our clients use IT to beat the competition. For an informal conversation, Contact Us, and we’ll be in touch.

Bagging the benefits of BYOD

More and more people are using their own technology routinely for work, a trend that’s called Bring your Own Device (BYOD). For example, many use their own phones for work, or their own iPads, and some even bring their own laptops into the office as well.

BYOD works because people will use their own equipment when it suits them, whether it’s for the occasional evening email, or working from home for several days per week. It also works because many of the devices that people buy for themselves are better than what they get from the office. And staff will normally be more familiar and productive with their own devices.

The obvious opportunity for CEOs is to simply reduce their IT costs with BYOD. But many executives meet with resistance from their IT team or suppliers. To learn how to get past these challenges, and to seize the opportunity of BYOD, download the CEO’s briefing below:

This briefing looks at the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend which is becoming increasingly popular. We drill into the concerns your IT department might have, the opportunity for reduced technical costs, improved productivity, reduced staff frustration, flexible working and capability to move business services to the cloud. We review the risks related to security such as what data should be accessible on personal devices, how data is stored, whether its secure and encrypted and the movement of data between devices. There are also impacts to the Finance and HR teams and their policies which are covered in this briefing.

If you found this post relevant you might also want to read our How to make working from home work briefing.

For any advice or if you’d like to discuss how these working initiatives could work successfully in your own business get in touch: contact@freemanclarke.com

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Graeme Freeman
Co-Founder and Director

Subscribe to our Business Insights

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Thank you.

You’ll now receive regular expert business insights.

Call us on 0203 020 1864 with any questions.