The competitive advantage is in making sure that you are ready for the future, leveraging the latest technologies that are fit for your purpose
In the digital era, you need to operate at a fast pace, says Patrick Kuiper “My intent is to have ‘everything as a service’,” says Kuiper, information technology and digital director at Smith&Smith, New Zealand’s leading vehicle glass repair and replacement company.
Concurrent with this, Kuiper forges strategic partnerships with vendors, while keeping an eye on ensuring all changes would improve the experience for both internal and external customers.
As he puts it, the competitive advantage of just having the latest technology does not cut it anymore.
“Your competition can buy technology with a credit card; they can go to Watson, Microsoft, and marketplaces around the world,” says Kuiper.
He stresses, “But next to that, it is very important that you work with partners and vendors very closely together.”
“If you work with good partners, you will be able to run at a faster pace.
“You will have more brain power, every partner has a different view on how to get a solution, how to solve a problem. If you combine brain power and those extra hands, you can run faster.”
Kuiper adds that, “In this environment, it makes sense to have a SaaS approach.”
“If I want something new, I do not need to buy any hardware. I do not have the infrastructure in place. It is in the cloud.
“I can go to digital transformation or digital optimisation because I don’t have to replace hardware. I don’t have to tell the business ‘we can't do that now because we have to first update our servers’,” he explains.
One of the latest projects Kuiper took on what moving a legacy system to a Saas-first solution.
“We moved the capabilities we were leveraging from the old system to the new system says Kuiper. “I decided to go for a SaaS first solution and not to have a big team but work with partners.”
He replaced the PCs with IGEL thin client and UD pocket devices. The company used Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops service and Citrix Cloud to provide easy access to a secure virtual desktop from any computer.
For the team, this meant ease of management, but the biggest comment from the users was the speed of the systems, he says.
The virtual desktop, running in Azure, contains the company’s new cloud-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and customer relations management (CRM) software (Microsoft Dynamics 365).
The cloud-based system allows staff to work remotely, helped increase response time for customers and improved employee satisfaction.
Instead of building a team of 20 to 30 people, Kuiper formed a more compact team. Its members included two project managers, a business analyst, and a service delivery manager.
“I ask people to give feedback on our service, and this helps motivate the service team.”
Kuiper says the ICT team has attained a service desk Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 91.
That is really high, Kuiper says (as he explains, 9 to 10 means users love the service and will recommend it to others; 7 to 8 is neutral, and 6 and below ‘brings you in the red’).
While he is very happy with these scores, “there is always room for improvement,” he states.
Pointers for success
He says his team was among the first in New Zealand to deploy Microsoft Dynamics 365.
“The success of a big ERP project is to make sure you get all people in the same room, literally.”
He says having a good project management officer was key to the success of the migration.
“We hired an office just across the road from us. It became the base for their employees and staff from their technology providers that were involved in the project. It was one big project office, there was really close interaction.”
Kuiper says further that they did not have extra space in their current office for this purpose, but advises other organisations working on similar projects to have a similar dedicated space.
The project office was just 150 metres away, and they later on hired another room in the same building for training.
He also advises: “Make the people in the organisation available, and you backfill them.”
“Do not underestimate the data migration and change management aspects,” he adds.
“Have those elements in place and you are really set for success.”
If you work with good partners, you will be able to run at a faster pace
As to his take on emerging technologies, Kuiper combines practical thinking while keeping an eye on trends.
Blockchain, for instance, is starting to kick off, especially in banks and logistics, he says. “Outside of that, you don’t see a lot of adaptation or use cases.”
“Blockchain concept is not hard, but it is also not easy,” says Kuiper. “At this stage, I am looking at what the others are doing.”
He has also invested in bitcoins. “It was ‘learning money’.”
“It is important for me to get a feel around what it does, what it means, how it works, and why the peaks and troughs happened.”
As to fostering an innovative mindset, Kuiper has a simple approach: Allow the team to work with new technologies.
“We play with it, we sniff it.”
For instance, he was looking at providing different channels for their customers. People are doing mobile voice search or communicating through Alexa, he says.
He bought an Alexa and told the team, “Do whatever you want with it.”
One staff member took on the challenge and built an Alexa receptionist and book online system.
“Suddenly, you get someone in your team who has a good understanding of how it works,” he shares.
He is also on the lookout for business technology trends that could impact their sector.
Kuiper points out digital transformation - or digital optimisation - is represented in different ways.
These could be around getting operational excellence, being a lean organisation, continuous improvement, and growth in different areas, including the NPS score.
Or, it could be around improving the customer experience - both for internal and external customers, he concludes.
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