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Online Service Delivery: Don’t forget job satisfaction

Your systems strategy should focus on what the clients want. But staff must be a consideration as well. Our IT and technology experts discuss how systems strategy can be a crucial factory in the attraction and retention of staff.

[Watch the full Online Service Delivery video here]


Online service delivery series:

Part 1: Ecommerce in the mid-market: The new normal

Part 2: Adding after sale value

Part 3: What it really comes down to…

Part 4: Don’t forget job satisfaction


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

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. To find out more about how we could add value to your business, get in touch.

Online Service Delivery: What it really comes down to…

What’s the real point of Online Service Delivery? Delivering value, not just the lowest price. Our IT and technology experts get to the bottom of it.

[Watch the full Online Service Delivery video here]


Online service delivery series:

Part 1: Ecommerce in the mid-market: The new normal

Part 2: Adding after sale value

Part 3: What it really comes down to…

Part 4: Don’t forget job satisfaction


 

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

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. To find out more about how we could add value to your business, get in touch.

Online Service Delivery: Adding after sale value

New tools have made it much easier and cheaper to deliver information, offers, and new services to customers after they buy. Our IT and technology experts discuss new ways to add value after the purchase is done.

[Watch the full Online Service Delivery video here]


Online service delivery series:

Part 1: Ecommerce in the mid-market: The new normal

Part 2: Adding after sale value

Part 3: What it really comes down to…

Part 4: Don’t forget job satisfaction


 

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

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. To find out more about how we could add value to your business, get in touch.

Online service delivery: E-commerce in the mid-market

We’ve seen a huge increase in Freeman Clarke B2B clients moving into the ecommerce space. Whilst many mid-market businesses have resisted the shift, it’s been a boon for our clients. Our IT and technology experts provide their thoughts on this ecommerce in the mid-market.

[Watch the full Online Service Delivery video here]


Online service delivery series:

Part 1: Ecommerce in the mid-market: The new normal

Part 2: Adding after sale value

Part 3: What it really comes down to…

Part 4: Don’t forget job satisfaction


 

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

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. To find out more about how we could add value to your business, get in touch.

Meet our technology experts

‘Between us all, we’ve been there, we’ve seen it, we’ve done it.’ Our IT leaders explain their extensive digital and commercial technology experience.

We’re a team of 85+ Board-level technology leaders (CIOs, CTOs, CISOs and IT Directors) who collaborate and knowledge share every day so that we can deliver the very best for our clients. We work across all industries including; retail, manufacturing, logistics, pharma, facilities management, professional services, construction, engineering, private equity to name a few. It’s safe to say we’ve got you covered!

Visit our Knowledge centres which include expert documents that will help your business improve and grow.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of fractional IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations, helping our clients use IT to beat the competition. Contact us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Hybrid working is the strategic challenge of the decade. Why?

Mid-market companies are facing enormous challenges. Customer expectations have shifted dramatically, and staffing shortages will be an ongoing problem. Freeman Clarke co-founder and CEO Graeme Freeman explains how the flexibility of hybrid work will be key to keeping workers and customers happy.

Visit our Hybrid Working & Post-Pandemic Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

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

The three-step strategy for hybrid working

The pandemic took us all by surprise, but we’ve had our eyes on hybrid working for some time.

In 2018, we wrote a CEO’s Briefing on Working from Home, prompted by the first sustained decline in UK railways’ season-ticket sales in its entire 150-year history. Urbanization and commuting remain established ‘mega trends’ across the world, but there were signs in both the US and UK that office working was on the wane.

Of course, with the pandemic, this gradual trend became a sudden flip. And what a flip: a US survey from late 2020 reported that the jump in remote-working was from 20% to 71%.

For many companies, there was a mass evacuation from the office conducted with little time to plan, and even less time for a strategy. Nevertheless, during the months that followed, people and companies adapted to new ways of working and found ways to cope.

Unlike the rapid flip required by the pandemic, this time there is scope to plan and strategise.

As the pandemic eases, many companies are looking again at office working, home-working and hybrid arrangements. Unlike the rapid flip required by the pandemic, this time there is scope to plan and enact a thought-through strategy.

We propose that your approach should be based on the following steps.

1. Strategise.

Remind your senior leaders of your business objectives and how your business stands out in the market. What makes it special in terms of customers and value? This should drive planning for you and other decision-makers in your organisation.

For example, if your market is highly commoditised, then of course this is an opportunity to look at offshoring further roles to lower costs (or to automate more roles and eliminate some costs altogether).

If your business thrives on creativity, however, we recommend that you bring your people together, because there is no substitute for the spark of brilliant people, in a room, face-to-face.

If you are competing to recruit rare talent, then perhaps home or hybrid working allows you to recruit more easily — to cast the net wider and to offer a better package than your competitors.

If you emphasise great service, then think about what your customers want, rather than what you want.

2. Segment.

Your plans for home, office or hybrid working should be rooted in the role profiles within your company. Not all office jobs have the same profile and needs; what makes sense for a credit control clerk may not make sense for a product designer.

Consider your roles in terms of:

Your adoption of home, office or hybrid working should be based on the needs of the role rather than the department or seniority.

3. Optimise.

It’s easy to do hybrid working badly. Meetings where half the team are in the office and half are remote can easily leave the remote workers feeling excluded. Getting the best from all your people requires more deliberate communications and inclusion; even more clarity on roles, processes, and controls; and investment in technology that supports hybrid working patterns.

In particular:

 

Need help with your hybrid working strategy? Get in touch.

One of our colleagues remarked that the pandemic was the first time that communication with his offshore providers had worked properly, because they were equals in video meetings rather than side-lined. This anecdote shows how easily we can get it wrong and lose so much of what people have to offer.

But when done right, hybrid working offers the opportunity to attract the best, to lower costs, and to reduce the impact on the environment. We have a unique opportunity right now to improve service to our customers and increase productivity and job satisfaction. Let’s make the most of it.

Visit our Hybrid Working & Post-Pandemic Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

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.

What is project management consultancy?

Project management consultancy is when an expert project manager from outside an organisation manages or oversees a project or contributes to its management or oversight. 

A project management consultant makes sense for mid-market businesses who are beginning a large project, as most of their people are already committed to other roles. And large projects may be rare, so the company lacks the necessary project management routines and structures.

A professional project management consultant will have the time and expertise to fill this gap. He or she will guide the project and introduce the processes necessary for its delivery. 

Project management consultants also bring their experience of different organisations and projects, and they can avoid getting drawn into routine work that eats up the regular staff’s time. 

What does a project management consultant do?

 

At its simplest, project manager consultants focus on four activities:

  1. Identifying the necessary work.
  2. Identifying the necessary resources.
  3. Ensuring resources are properly allocated to deliver the work.
  4. Monitoring escalating issues and delivery.

These are important activities: large projects won’t succeed if they aren’t done properly. But crucially, these activities alone will not guarantee success

Why do projects fail or get ‘stuck’?

 

It is a well-established fact that most projects fail to deliver. In our experience, projects go awry because project managers don’t address the following crucial issues:

How do you find the right project manager consultancy?

 

The above points are leadership gaps, and project management consultants may not always fill them. In contrast, here are the key ways in which Freeman Clarke consultants ensure a successful project.

  1. Set clear business goals. The underlying business value of the project must be clear and accepted by all the stakeholders. Our role is to have the courage and drive to ensure this clarity is maintained until delivery.
  2. Embrace change. Delivering value often requires significant changes: for example, changes in organisation, behaviour, and/or processes. We take ownership of these changes and ensure they contribute to the success of the project. 
  3. Communicate issues or challenges. Project managers may not communicate issues or risks to the Board in ways that inspire positive action. This can happen even when there is ample progress reporting! We make sure that technical and non-technical people understand potential problems and take steps to resolve them.

To sum up: for most mid-market businesses, large internal projects are relatively rare, so they do not have the senior-level management skills available in-house. Project management consultants provide a solution, but they often leave a leadership gap. Freeman Clarke works with ambitious mid-market businesses to fill this gap and ensure that projects deliver the planned business objectives on time and on budget.

To find out more about how we could add value to your business, Contact Us or call 0203 020 1864 and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it ‘fractional’) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition.

The future of work | Event

Virtual events can be tough, but we did well with this one!

On October 7th, we discussed the ‘Future of Work’, office space vs remote work and fostering employee engagement.

Our experts, Craig Teahen, Regional Director for Freeman Clarke Manhattan, Rachel Drunkenmiller from Unmuted and Richard Sexton from Office Concierge, gave an excellent virtual workshop which can be seen here.

Richard Sexton – Office Concierge

Richard Sexton, MBE, is the Founder and CEO of Office Concierge, a commercial real estate advisory firm. Richard helps companies review their workspace needs and navigate the spectrum of solutions, from flexible to traditional, to ensure companies align the right blend of office space with their WFH policies.

Rachel Druckenmiller – Unmuted

Rachel Druckenmiller is on a mission to humanize the workplace by guiding leaders and their teams to be more resilient, connected and courageous. Through experiential and interactive keynotes, workshops and leadership training – virtually and in person – Rachel activates what’s best in people and organizations.

Craig Teahen – Freeman Clarke

Craig Teahen is the Freeman Clarke Director for Manhattan. Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of fractional CIOs and CTOs. Expert IT leaders who can join organizations to oversee digital innovation, systems and infrastructure to drive business growth.

 

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it ‘fractional’) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

3 steps to online B2C: How to create a new channel

High street retail will recover, but spend may never quite return to previous levels. Restaurants and hotels will re-open, but it may be years before business is fully restored.

In the meantime, consumers are buying online like never before, online purchasing has increased by some 50% to 75%. Many consumers have adopted online for the first time, and, of course, many will retain this new habit forever. The SARS outbreak of 2003 changed consumer behaviours in Asia permanently; Covid-19 will do the same throughout the world.

So all consumer products businesses must ask themselves the question: how do I create and grow a B2C online channel?

Consider the experience of two different F&B wholesalers the coronavirus took from thriving concerns to the very edge of survival. Pivoting to direct-to-consumer sales seemed their best shot at staying alive.

The first company is a mid-sized restaurant supply firm. When all the restaurants closed, the company had to find a way to keep selling their stock, much of which was perishable. They hit on the brilliant idea of selling directly to consumers after all. The established grocery delivery services were already overbooked, people were afraid of supermarkets, and many shelves were empty anyway.

At first it went well. They were successful with high-profile guerilla marketing, and, while they were used to selling in bulk, it wasn’t difficult to repurpose areas of their warehouse to process individual orders for certain products. They put in place new delivery arrangements and temporary customer service and returns handling.

But within a fortnight they became a victim of their own success – overwhelmed by orders, the website crashed. And in the rush to serve their new customers nobody stopped to figure out if they were even making a profit. Now they’re burning through cash, deliveries are late, and they’re losing the goodwill of their customers. Their brand and the reputation of the management has been genuinely damaged, and their next step is uncertain.

The second company is a well-established meat supplier for high-end restaurants. They too nearly panicked when their customers closed their doors. But instead of rushing headlong into a new market, they carefully (but quickly!) considered which products would be more appealing to consumers and how best to fulfil orders. These guys have seized market share and created a new platform for growth.

These stories are being repeated quite literally all over the world. Some companies have pivoted nimbly and look well-placed to survive and thrive in the direct-to-consumer market. Too many others won’t last through the summer.

The ultimate question is, How to pivot? We’re not talking about stopping the bleeding but creating another long-term channel of substance. Obviously, it’s not going to be easy. But this is a whole new opportunity for the long-term; here’s how to get it right from the start.

Step 1: Understand what to sell and what’s not worth the bother

Many wholesalers and bricks-and-mortar retail stores are creating a new online, direct-to-consumer channel.  Here are just a few of the sectors in which we’ve seen mid-market businesses pivoting in the past few weeks:

The first step for any business is to take an honest look at your products and consumers. Successful wholesalers understand the sophisticated business demands of retailers, and successful high-street retailers understand shopper behaviours. But the online buying journey and rationale is different.

What’s selling right now and why? Where are you making money now, and where would you make money online? And who are your customers, what do they buy and why? Don’t make any assumptions; let the data lead you to the answers. These will be the products and people to focus on. (If you’re having issues with reporting, we can help.)

Look for opportunities to upsell and cross-sell. The idea is not to squeeze every penny you can out of your customer, but to serve them better. If they’re buying a cleaning spray, do they need kitchen roll? If they’re buying pet food, do they need grooming products? Such tactics may seem obvious; after all, we see them whenever we use Netflix or Amazon. Still, companies pivoting quickly to direct-to-consumer sales may miss the obvious opportunities!

This is also a good time to ask yourself what you can get rid of. It’s time to jettison products that aren’t moving, especially if they’re perishables.

With every product you sell, the questions should be quite simple: am I actually making money with it, and is it sustainable?

These are challenging marketing questions, and your own team may have the skills and knowledge. Or you make need external help. Be honest with yourself about the capabilities and limits of your team.

Step 2: Understand how to sell it

Marketing, technical and operational skills need to blend to create an attractive, convenient and reliable engine for bringing people to your products, helping them to buy, delivering, and handling service issues. Establish clear ownership for each function and establish who is accountable for joining all these up.

With direct-to-consumer, every aspect of this journey is critical in how consumers make judgments about your brand. Online DTC marketing skills like SEO, paid search, newsletters, and social are different from B2B wholesale and high-street marketing. Your marketing team may be able to adapt, but they will also need new tools and data to support this transition. Effective integration with price comparison and aggregator systems often makes the difference between success and failure.

While a utilitarian website may have been fine for, say, the above restaurant wholesaler, they will not retain their new customers without an attractive and easy-to-use front end. On the back end, companies like Amazon have inflated customer expectations and simple things like poor packaging, picking errors, unreasonable shipping costs or stock outages can have a very negative effect on your brand.

We can’t stress this enough: streamlined operations are vital to saving time and money and keeping errors to an absolute minimum. Delivery, packing, returns, and customer service are all critical in direct-to-consumer. Each step can make the difference between success and failure. The cost of one wrong delivery, with the subsequent customer service calls, return and resend can wipe out the profit on twenty correct orders.

Front-end to back-end systems may initially be joined by manual efforts when volumes are small. But as the business grows, you must have a plan for systems integration and automation. Customers need accurate product, stock and pricing information; back-end systems must be able to rapidly process new stock; dynamic and intelligent pricing must be automated.

To get live quickly may require much of this to be outsourced, at least at first. Either way, you must always own your brand and set the standards for the customer experience.

So set a realistic plan divided into a series of simple and agile sprints. Ensure clear roles, good communication, and a commitment to jointly overcoming problems. In our experience, success is built on collaboration, fact-based decision-making, and a can-do attitude.

Step 3: Evolve and build 

Creating a start-up within an established business creates new challenges. You’ve got to be smart, and you’ve got to rapidly evolve and grow.

What worked on Day 1 may not be right after a month, and probably won’t be right after a year. Decisions about insourcing and outsourcing will need to be revised to start building margin and to create a sustainable core of skills internally. Third party logistics (3PL) and fulfilment strategies mitigate short-term capital barriers and accelerate speed to market but slick systems integration and automation are the real key to scalability.

Reputation management will become increasingly important. Minimising issues and errors not only maximises profits and cash but it also retains your brand promise. Review and rating tools and aggregation engines can become an important part of your marketing strategy.

But these are mid- to longer-term questions that you can tackle after you’re smoothly taking orders and your customers are happy.

Just remember that short-term solutions have a tendency of becoming permanent, and it may be necessary to confront dependencies on other organisations that can end up being serious risks. For example, Amazon is a convenient answer, but they can be very particular; you may or may not want your brand associated with them, and one change to their algorithm may put your business in jeopardy.

We do know for sure is that online is the key to survival. No ambitious business can ignore the consumer revolution that has been accelerated by Covid-19, and the need to embrace multiple routes to market to minimize your risks and maximise your opportunities.

If you have questions or concerns about your own transition to B2C, then please get in touch. We’re helping our clients navigate these issues right now, and we’re always up for a low-pressure chat.

Visit our Technology Roadmap for Growth Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic. You may also want to look at our Digital Transformation Knowledge Centre.

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

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Graeme Freeman
Co-Founder and Director

Subscribe to our Business Insights

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You can unsubscribe at any time.

Thank you.

You’ll now receive regular expert business insights.

Call us on 0203 020 1864 with any questions.

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