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Posted by Alfie McDonald on February 24th 2022
Being at the helm of such a dynamic organisation has been an amazing personal journey. But what’s amazed me more is the incredible focus and energy the whole team has put into transforming BCN into the company we are today. Which is ironic considering our “raison d’être” is to help other companies use digital technologies to transform their businesses for the better.
For context, we now have a world-class customer and employee retention rate (two measurements that goes hand in hand and a real challenge in the current labour market), plus, an industry leading Net Promoter Score. And how have we done it? By creating a world-class combination of skills, expertise and solutions. A combination, I hasten to add, not based on what works for us a business, but on the myriad different stages, agendas and ambitions of our SME, mid-market and enterprise customers.
I’ll be honest, getting to this point hasn’t all been plain sailing and to pretend otherwise would be to miss the point: digital transformation can be hard. But we’ve backed the right technology, shaped the right business model, and invested in our people to create a really strong, tried, and tested value proposition that properly supports our customers’ through their digital transformations. One that’s proving to be positively game-changing for their businesses, their people, and their customers.
While the industries, growth stages, and operating cadences of our clients may be wildly diverse and numerous, the motivations behind wanting to transform digitally are much narrower. So whether they’re separating or merging with another company, migrating to a greenfield cloud, implementing a new IT strategy, or coping with technical or legacy debt, the process of digital transformation is about getting from a typically expensive, frustrating, or lower-performing Point A, to a more efficient, more effective, and more competitive Point B. And our role at BCN is to make that journey as swift, smooth, and seamless as possible for them.
So how do we do that? Well, in myriad ways but below are four key things we do that I think separate us from our competitors.
You can loosely categorise our “services wheel” into five spokes. So we have solutions for the modern workplace. We have application and SharePoint development. We have centralised cloud platforms and on-premise. We have data analytics. And we have cyber security services – a key growth area, as you can imagine.
“But we don’t want a generalist, we want a specialist in X, Y or Z”, is a common industry refrain. But talking to customers, investors, IT Directors, and even Microsoft, one thing they all point as a strength is our breadth of service. Obviously, we haven’t just bolted on any old stuff.
In fact, by focusing on outcomes before technology we’ve got closer to customers and in doing so, become better at helping them become better. And by cultivating our broad spectrum of service to work in various verticals, we can understand our customers’ language and agenda, adapting to their needs faster, and ultimately take on the role of trusted advisor. In turn, this has fuelled even more success in those verticals – whether it’s healthcare, housing associations, food and beverage, financial services, professional services, manufacturing, wholesale, transportation.
It’s how we helped Ferrero Rocher upgrade its SharePoint on-premise intranet site to better reflected their distinct brand ethos and culture. It’s how we helped military agencies collaborate to fight piracy in the Gulf of Aden. And it’s how we helped APS Salads upgrade its production and supply chain IT infrastructure to meet the huge growth in fresh produce.
And our diverse range of customers are our best examples of this strategy working, because they’re consuming more and more of our services. It’s fair to say they’re also recommending and referring us to new clients, which has really supported our growth over the last few years and tells me we currently have the right balance of people, knowledge, and capability as a business.
Most managed service providers focus on the technology that supports the business. But we go beyond that infrastructure layer to look at how technology can improve the business. Typically, this is going on a data journey with customers – how to secure it, make it available, accessible and optimal – and ultimately, use it to help run the organisation better.
For example, it could be a mail migration to Microsoft 365 from an on-premise platform. This then might lead to a desire for the business to start collaborating using Teams or SharePoint, which then leads to assessing their data, how it’s held, how to optimise it, and the infrastructure it runs on. Typically, this is where most managed service providers stop. But not BCN.
Our teams of business analysts, consultants, engineers and application developers can go further to address the core business objectives and challenges customers need to move forward. In other words, creating solutions that drive technology rather than technology that drives solutions. Of course, not every customer needs these capabilities, as they develop, grow, innovate and mature as organisations we get more requests for this type of work. And because we already have a strong relationship with them and a deep understanding of their business and its ambitions, we’re ideally placed to fit that “trusted advisor” role.
Our business strategy is focused on helping our customers to transform digitally. And because we’ve got development skills in .NET, AI, SharePoint, Power Apps and the whole Microsoft development stack, we’re now building out specific solutions in different verticals so our customers can benefit technically, commercially and quickly. It also gives us a platform from which to continuously improve as our customers’ businesses change.
I’d say we’re unique as a business in the sense we’ve created a compliant solution around data analytics in the Microsoft ecosystem. For example, we’re one of a handful of companies worldwide with Statistical Process Control (SPC) capabilities for data analytics. One customer, the East London NHS Foundation Trust, is using SPC for its reporting and data analytics and seeing impressive results in reducing errors and inefficiencies. It’s no surprise it views SPC as key to its Model for Improvement.
But SPC can just as easily work for housing associations, or food manufacturing, or a host of other specialist businesses, so long as there are processes and systems that have measurable outputs.
We’ve also repackaged and repriced solutions we’ve developed at enterprise level for mid-market customers – an area where we have a lot of traction and a strong reputation. In effect, we’re productising solutions in Power Platforms across different verticals. And as well as enabling digital transformation, it will serve us in future acquisitions, help us get to market faster, and release the benefits to our customers more quickly.
Obviously, we need to make sure we have the technical skills and knowledge our customers need, but what’s less obvious are the other qualities I believe it takes to make a digital transformation project successful. Qualities that only really come with experience and which tend to be forgotten when talking about technology. Qualities like empathy, humility, patience, honesty, and interpersonal skills.
These are often neglected as a “nice-to have”, when I think they’re absolutely essential in our line of work. Why? Because how can you really get to grips with your customers’ ambitions and challenges if you cannot relate to, empathise with, or understand deeply, their motivations or objectives? And just as importantly, how can you build the trust you need to collaborate and develop long-term relationships, or work the way customers want to – whether that’s us taking the lead, supporting them to, or acting as reassurance and escalation if they need it?
This is why we’re so focused on developing our people “in the round”, because it’s our technical know-how and human-centred approach that really differentiates us from other companies who do what we do.
It’s also why we set up the BCN Academy, our training and development program to create the BCN tech leaders of tomorrow. The Academy works with the likes of Microsoft, HP and HPE, and Dell to provide technical, sales, marketing, back-office and support teams with the knowledge and expertise to make a difference to customers. We also work with a local technical college to provide regularly training to the next generation including the opportunity for students join our apprenticeship scheme.
In doing so, we’re also making sure we have the right people, with all the right technical and people skills, in the right seats in the business – today and tomorrow – to maximise the benefits of our customers’ digital transformation journeys.
I’m really pleased at how far we’ve come in the last few years. I’m also equally excited about BCN’s future, and how we can continue improving and innovating for our customers.
To find out more who we are, what we do, and who for, head over to BCN Group.