Brighton-based Boundless is a membership club for public sector and civil service employees, both working and retired. Since 1923, Boundless has helped members make the most of their free time by delivering family days out and other experiences, alongside a wide variety of benefits for a modest yearly fee.
In partnering with Freeman Clarke, Boundless has enabled a major business transformation through the use of technology, enhancing the experience for both members and staff, whilst at the same time improving the bottom line.
Boundless’s systems had evolved to become unreliable, overly complex, and expensive to support and maintain. Also, the systems were no longer aligned with the strategic aims of the organisation.
Freeman Clarke Principal Les Davidson was engaged to review the technology landscape and provide independent, objective advice. Les subsequently recommended a major technology transformation, including the creation of a standardised, cost-effective platform that would be future-proof, scalable, reliable, and secure. The transformation would be based on a set of strategic guiding principles, allowing IT to become an enabler of business success, rather than an obstacle.
As the impact of the proposed change would be far-ranging and complex, Les worked closely with the Board and senior management to align the IT roadmap with Boundless’s business strategy, ensuring that every technology decision was made in the best interests of the business.
The overall aims were to:
✔️ Simplify by reducing the number of systems and suppliers, maximising investment returns.
✔️ Move from bespoke development to a ‘buy, not build’ and ‘configure, not customise’ approach.
✔️ Embrace cloud-based SaaS solutions for scalability, stability, security, and cost.
✔️ Implement strong governance to assess and prioritise initiatives based on ROI.
As part-time CIO, Les oversaw the technology transformation, with the first 18 months spent implementing the infrastructure, systems, and suppliers to ensure regulatory compliance and allow the business to operate more efficiently and effectively.
Les also set plans in place to allow the business to operate in the event of a disaster—which struck in the form of the Covid pandemic in early 2020.
‘If Covid had hit before we remediated the tech platform, Boundless would have struggled to operate,’ Les said. ‘But the infrastructure and systems had been tested to allow for remote working in case of disaster. So the transformation was pretty seamless.’
Boundless is now in the final year of a three-year strategic plan, and the changes so far have had a profound impact on the company, with a technology platform that can be easily expanded and enhanced to meet current and future business needs. Costs are closely managed to ensure spend is targeted on what’s important, with the experience for members continuing to improve and employee productivity on the rise.
‘Boundless are always looking forward,’ Les said. ‘There is an ongoing focus on increasing member acquisition and retention, through continual improvements in member experience, the development of B2B relationships, and using data and technology to enable it all’.
A future opportunity and significant area of focus is the planned transformation of the Boundless leisure division. Boundless owns several high-quality leisure properties, including a holiday park, hotel, motor museum, and self-catering cottages, acquired over many years.
A strategic review revealed that the sites operate independently, supported by a variety of stand-alone IT systems. The plan is to introduce a common technology platform to provide a better member experience, streamline the business operation, and drive new revenue streams, removing data silos and leveraging the important information they contain in a central database.
Data, in fact, will continue to be an important focus for Boundless. Through the delivery of a data strategy initiative, ‘We’re working with the business to unlock the value of data,’ Les said. ‘And we’ve seen an increasing interest from around the business, with staff curious as to how they can use data and technology more effectively to meet their departmental goals.’
‘We like the Freeman Clarke model,’ said COO Pete Worster. ‘We see Les as an integral part of the team, but at the same time he provides access to new contacts and networks and technologies, and that wouldn’t be the case with someone internal. Also, he brings an objective external viewpoint to the table. He can say things others may be unwilling to, and we see huge value in that’.
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