Cloud2 has been part of the BCN Group for over a year now, and I’m delighted to report it’s been every bit as good as I’d hoped. The leadership team is superb and the warm welcome we’ve received across the Group has been overwhelming at times (in a good way). And while talking about the ‘human’ side of technology businesses is often neglected, BCN has been perfect for Cloud2’s approachable, friendly and cooperative culture. It’s somewhere we feel right at home and I think that’s partly down to the fact we have a similar approach to, and appreciation of, people.
Technology powered by people
A big challenge we often hear about in the technology sector is recruitment. Some might call us lucky to have such depth and breadth in our team, but really it’s the investment we make in attracting and developing our people – not just technically, but also interpersonally. This includes the BCN Academy – an internal initiative to nurture and develop in-house talent, in particular from my home town, Bradford (also the next City of Culture 2025).
We want our people to enjoy the challenges of working on multiple projects for multiple customers, to get the support they need for ongoing Microsoft certifications, and to love being able to use all the latest shiny Microsoft tools. Also, I don’t think the on-site café, table tennis, and full-sized sports hall do any harm either. And based on our customer surveys and retention rates, we know all this has a positive impact and, ultimately, everyone benefits – our business, our team, and our customers.
Tools are a means to an end…
While having the latest tools from Microsoft is great, what’s more interesting to me is the business outcomes we can achieve with them. Put another way, the cutting-edge tools we use at Cloud2 and BCN are just a means to an end, not an end in themselves…
…like IP is to recurring revenue
We started building intellectual property (IP) on Microsoft SharePoint technology back in 2008, then on business intelligence and analytics using Power View and Power Maps around 2013. And since 2015, as new Microsoft cloud-data technologies like Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate and Azure data services emerged, it became very obvious to me that companies operating in this space would grow. But at Cloud2, we didn’t want to become just another “generic” Microsoft partner. Instead, we wanted to stand out by continuing to innovate by creating our own IP.
While our innovation process is collaborative, customers typically have only a high-level overview of their requirements, so it’s up to our team to support them through the process. In our experience, customers are the best people to describe a problem they’re having, but they’re often too close to it to be able to hone in on the best solution. So it’s vital we do our due diligence on the broader commercial opportunity. This can be challenging, but it’s something we relish and have a lot of experience in. And related to that is transferring our knowledge to customers as their tech ecosystem matures. That way, they develop a better in-house understanding of their own needs and capabilities to grow and improve.
A three-pronged approach
As a business, Cloud2 has three key focus areas:
Our first analytics project was for Rotherham Foundation Trust where we used Power BI to cut outpatient waits by up to 65%, saving them a staggering £800,000 a year. Always looking to maximise end-user adoption, we’ve developed a UX design-led approach which has been incredibly successful with customers like it was for East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT), a mental health and community Trust, known for its focus on Quality Improvement.
Microsoft referred ELFT to Cloud2 to develop a non-standard SPC (Statistical Process Control) solution in Power BI. A major challenge was to ensure any solution complied with specific global and local healthcare standards and rules. The EasySPC solution we created has proven so successful it’s now used by 15 healthcare organisations including a hospital in Australia, with other healthcare organisations around the world contacting us weekly. Collaborating with the NHS to create such an impactful product is a genuine source of pride for everyone at Cloud2 and it’s just one example of several innovation projects we’re currently partnering on with the NHS.
It’s also been interesting to see how some areas of reporting translate well across industries where you swap one set of KPIs for another. Board reporting is a good example, as is financial reporting and we’ve worked with the Institute of Motor Industry on their Sage Financial Reporting [case study link?] in Power BI to optimise their management accounts.
The value of these projects to senior management and Boards is to provide them with an intuitive and interactive experience, ideally on a single report. And though they can be significantly more complex to build, brilliant UK design can ensure the complexity remains hidden from the end user.
Our second focus area is automation and this includes business process automation (BPA) and robotic process automation (RPA) where robots do the work. BPA is exciting as we get to automate what’s often an existing, inefficient manual, paper, print or email-based process.
My favourite automation project was for a hospital that wanted to transform its new-starter process by simplifying and consolidating five forms. However, after our “Discovery” phase, we found there were 11 different forms for new starters to complete – for IT access, for payroll, for their uniform and so on – many of which required duplicate or similar information. As you can imagine, these forms had to be emailed to multiple departments and teams and often got lost or buried. Our automated solution has a single online form that continues to save a lot of paper and countless hours for everyone. It also provides real-time visibility of process performance for senior managers, as well as specific status updates for individual processes.
The third focus area for many of our customers is help with automating their underlying data processes in their data warehouses. ELFT is one such example, we’ve enjoyed working with them to deliver a “modern” cloud data warehouse that enables them to bring in data from several key clinical and back-office systems that were previously unavailable.
Another example is the work we did for System One’s reporting data. Previously, this was only available monthly but is now updated daily, enabling System One to make better operational decisions, faster.
We’re also helping other customers make more of near real-time data, not only to better understand their forward-looking capacity but also their demand planning projects. Plus, we’re even using machine learning to connect silos of patient data across multiple clinical systems.
The four lenses to success
So there we have it, three areas that Cloud2 focuses on to create real value for our customers. And, together with BCN, we do it by genuinely understanding them and the problems they need to solve through four lenses:
- Outcomes – can it be done faster, cheaper, better? Is it a problem that needs to be solved? Is it a problem that needs to be solved now? And is it a problem senior management and the Board care enough about to invest in?
- Innovation – how and where can we innovate to create unique, UX design-led solutions that achieve those desired outcomes.
- Solutions – what solutions and processes are highly repeatable, either within an industry or at a horizontal technology level across industry, or ideally both? Either way, we always look to provide tangible, measurable outcomes.
- Partnerships – in our experience, a “partnership” approach eats the “customer-supplier” approach for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As well as providing more opportunity for everyone to benefit commercially and financially from any IP created along the way, it also creates the right environment for better knowledge transfer where we can help our customers’ team in terms of their technical know-how.
Right now, we’re working on solutions that incorporate analytics automation and data for customers that face complex data and compliance issues, but it’s become clear that many of our customers are also looking to us to provide 24×7 enterprise Azure platform management and security for an end-to-end service. The lucky thing for us (and for them) is that we’ve already got equivalent expertise in all these areas with our teams in-house at BCN to fulfil their vision…whatever it may be.