IJYI

Menu Contact

Software Delivery and why a “Digital Skills Jacuzzi” is going to be the next office must-have

Laura Hood

In a follow-up to our last episode we return for a more indepth look at software delivery and digital transformation.

This week the team take a look at exactly what we mean by the term software delivery, why digital transformation is so important to a business like Ipswich Building Society and the relative merits of installing a “digital skills jacuzzi” in the office (Andrew had a particularly strong coffee on the go for this episode…)

We’re delighted to be joined again by Jim Overy, Head of IT and Change at Ipswich Building Society and the IJYI team – Robyne Birkby, Senior Business Analyst and Martin Dumbill, Business Development Manager join us alongside our COO Alan Jackson.

Make sure you subscribe to the podcast so that you never miss an episode! We have a great schedule of podcast content coming up.  We’ll be discussing how we can encourage the next generation into tech, diversity in tech, DevOps and in the new year we will be taking you on a Sprint Safari! Subscribe here.

Podcast Transcript

Andrew
Welcome back to another episode of the IJYI Way Podcast here from sunny Ipswich coming to live and direct from our headquarters today. We’re still discussing interesting topics around software delivery, its role in the business cycle on digital transformation. Joining us, uh, this week again, we have Jim Overy who’s the head of IT and change at Ipswich Building Society. We’ve got Alan Jackson, Chief Operating Officer. We have Robyne Birkby, Senior Business Analyst. Also with us again is Martin Dumbill, Business Development Manager. I’m Andrew Walker, freelance writer, and I’m here for the coffee…..

Andrew
If you imagine going back, uh, when you’re a kid, which for me would be the 1970’s , there I’ve said it. You know, I were to say to my mother that one day I would be banking with my telephone and also making films with it. She would have said I was a very naughty boy and it was time for bed and stop telling crazy stories. So there is this weird thing that happens with technology, but of course, it’s easy. to look with nostalgia and talk about it. But when that’s your job trying to hit that target – Jim, that must mean that digital transformation is, ah, difficult position to drive.

Jim
Oh, is I mean, you know, obviously you look around in terms of the way that things have developed the way that things are still developing now, and you know that they’re moving target. It’s a rapidly moving target. And the way that people we engage with banking financial service organisations. The way they deal with everybody now is so fundamentally different to what it was even just a couple of years ago. So trying to sort of predict where to invest your time and effort in terms of any sort of, digital transformation is incredibly difficult. So I think that you have to keep it in this short, sharp burst in order to try to factor in at least or try to get the groundwork right to make sure that you could build on that. And I think that’s certainly what we’ve tried to do is to look at the areas where we’re okay. We understand that we need to go down that route in terms of digital transformation. But what do we need to do? First and foremost to shore up the services that we have at the moment in order to support that journey.

Martin
Because I think to that point, I think as quickly is the appetite is there for technology to support services it can go the other way because if you go too much down the digital route, then you know your customers are gonna lose face time with in branch staff for example. And you may lose customers because of that as well. So there’s a real balancing act there to be had because again, and that’s why the short sharp burst. Because if you do all of that and invest all of that money, you’re almost forced to continue down that path. Whereas you can realign and refocus your your budgets and all of the financial elements to achieve that kind of move with demand, if that makes sense.

Andrew
This is a  business risk that were sort of uncovering here. If you move too fast with the technology that might, I mean, I use an example supposing you’d invested a lot in building a MySpace presence. That would feel really, really silly now, looking back. But that was huge at the time. So your constantly exposed to a kind of risk if you invest too early in technologies that haven’t, you know, maybe caught on with the right demographic yet

Jim
And to Martin’s point  about not, everybody is engaged digitally in that way. So you know, from our perspective, it’s been about making sure that, you know, with the service’s we’re offering from that digital transformation are complementary to our more traditional methods of engagement with customer. So because you have you need to make sure that you’re not losing sight of the customers that you already have in order to chase something different,and again that makes it. It makes that journey a little bit more complicated.

Alan
I think the thing is, we have the same challenge. So we have a challenge with no just recommending the latest bleeding edge whatever fun thing is that we want to do and there’s really good resources out there, such as Gartner and people like this, who will tell you about how unique something is and what the adoption rates are and how sustainable they think it is in the future. And the tools we worked on with with IBS, such as PowerBI, are right in that sweet spot at the top right quadrant of the Gartner Framework.  So what that leaves hopefully leaves Jim with is, you know, an implementation that he’ll be able to stafffor in the future and will stick around for more than just five minutes.

Andrew
I hate to interrupt, but for those of us who are listening and myself included who are unfamiliar, possibly with the Gartner Framework. Tell me more about that.

Alan
So why’d you call me out on that? Now I have to back this up right?! Yes. Oh, Gartner are a big consultancy, actually. And they take this sort of pulse of the market in IT. And they do a lot of the groundwork that companies do that would have to do themselves otherwise. And everyone would be doing the same sort of thing. Reviewing products, reviewing technologies, coming up, surveying the market, seeing how well things were used. And they produce a qaudrant and they maintain it quite often. I think they update all the time. It basically tells you which technologies are new and up and coming, which which one’s are cool, which ones you might want to look into but also balances that against which ones are being adopted and which ones they see being around for the longer term and the things, the things that you want, the safe bets are up in the top right corner of the quadrant. So you know, there called they’re innovative. They’ve got a lot of great features, and they’re being well adopted. And they see them being sustainable And that’s ideally where we want to work with our customers because that makes it easier for me to resource as COO I can find these people to support these products going forward and it gives Jim a stable base, to build his MI platform on in the future.

Andrew
And presumably then that’s why the Ipswich Building Society doesn’t have a Google glass offering…!

Jim
We’re not quite there yet.

Andrew
Robyne, obviously from a Business Analyst point of view, You have to be particularly focused on the technologies that have got longevity and will deliver our ROI

Robyne
Well, I’d say a lot of the technology choices come from I’m gonna call them the techies out in them in the other room. I obviously need to bear in mind about what’s available, and when we’re specking out the projects, I need to bear in mind what’s achievable, using the technology that’s being chosen. But the choice of which technology to use for each project is completely dependent on what the customer needs, what is in their current infrastructure, space and also what’s being worked on with our internal devs and what they think is achievable to get the goal or to get to the goal.

Andrew
And I’m guessing that’s not just about software, is it’s about hardware as well. When you’re in a consumer facing business, it’s about the phone that’s in people’s pockets or the machine they have at home kind of connection they’ve got.

Jim
Yeah, it is also to do with, you know, not just around…….it’s what you can accommodate within the business as well. So as Alan was alluding to earlier about making sure that you could get staff that can support those products and work with them longer term. But it’s also something that the business can adopt and can work with. If it’s too complicated then, obviously, it makes it very difficult to find the right uptake within the business. If it’s, you know, it’s something that doesn’t really develop as quickly as they want to provide them the outputs that they want, people will get bored and move on to something else or shift away. So it’s important to understand what the business actually requires as well.

Andrew
I got another question that sort of follows on from that about what are the roadblocks that sort of sit in the way? What’s the typical problem you’re going to encounter if you want to transform a digital service that makes you think twice about OK, is this the right part of the business for me to apply a digital solution to?

Alan
He’s gonna say money!  *laughing*

Jim
It’s always money! *laughing*

Jim
I think the road, you know, finances obviously are always a big thing for any business that everybody’s got to be very mindful about, what they’re what they’re investing in and making sure that the investments they make are in the right place for the business in terms of roadblocks. I think you’ve got to consider how it will be adopted by the business, how it be used by the business and whether it’s gonna add value long term to the business, whether it is going to be you see as a foundation for other digital pieces that you’re bringing online later on, whether you see it as a building block that will help serve your customers better so that the roadblocks are always gonna be around, how the business is likely to adopt that process. And if you can’t get buyin from the business and they don’t see value in what you’re looking to achieve, then that’s a huge stop for anything you want me to do in that space.

Robyne
I would say another thing that the customers have to think about is where the risks are. Where is the biggest risk? So we will be creating a say digital transformation project where we would need to mitigate against certain risks. And if the problem is complex, for example, with IBS we did a month’s discovery project where myself and a colleague were sent in for a month to really try and understand about exactly how big the problem was and how far reaching the problem was and how we might be able to solve that, but sometimes that’s just not very clear. Sometimes it it’s extremely clear and in IBS’s case it wasn’t clear at the start, but became a lot clearer towards the end.

Alan
I think for me we’re kind of in the change business. I think it’s very easy to underestimate the impact of any change, even the slightest one. When you tend to introduce a new reporting framework some of this front and centre of people’s day and months and things you’re talking quite large-scale change and you’ll think come on, it’s the same report. It’s just a different shaped graph or it’s a different tool. You just have to go to this website. You can never underestimate how much people will resist if you don’t listen to what they’re what they’re saying to you.  So I think we  try and help with that. We do demos we own in the process up. We try and get people involved, it’s a constant challenge in any project that we work on for our customers is how they manage that into their business after we’re done.

Martin
Front and centre it’s that enabling piece again, isn’t it? It’s around, you know, this is doing a purpose, and it’s making sure that you keep the people that this is going to affect your staff, your customers front and centre of any decision, because you have to understand what is going to do for them. And if it’s not adding value, sometimes you know it’s not a popular opinion, but sometimes digital transformation is just there because people feel like they should be doing something. So, you know, there’s always a case for considering whether or not that transformation is going to be too disruptive. But on the whole, as long as you keep the looking to improve in the right ways for the right reasons….

Andrew
How do you recruit in? Someone to work in digital transformation what’s the skill set they need to have in that team and on the flip side. Sorry, I’m just I’m not going for the job……*laughing*

Alan
Very relevant question.

Jim
Yeah, incredibly difficult one.

Jim
So if we are…..I wish we could find what that key thing is to actually get them.

Martin
I think ironically as well that you know, you’re looking for people to drive digital transformation, but you needed to have the softer skills, so, you know, it’s not necessarily all about the technical understanding anymore. It’s can they communicate, which seems counter intuitive….

Andrew
But there’s an interesting coming together here. Okay, so here’s a financial institution that needs to bring technically savvy people onboard who have got soft skills. And here’s a software agile software consultancy who need to bring in more business analysts who have got harder tech skills and experience so that this kind of a emerging here, it’s like this is a giant skills Jacuzzi that we all need to get it hang out….!

Andrew
I realise a  giant skills Jacuzzi might not catch on as a term! *laughing*

Martin
I’m not getting in the jacuzzi! *laughing*

Andrew
I’m just I’m thinking about it now. I’m thinking increasingly every office should have one!

Andrew
Jim I’m gonna ask you first. How do you address that? I mean, how do you recruit into digital transformation? Your job title is head of IT and Change tea. So I get how you hire people for IT but how do you hire for change?

Jim
It is incredibly, incredibly difficult. I think we have, we have a number of digital transformation projects on going at the moment. And I think it’s true to say we have struggled. We’ve pretty much all of those in terms of how we how we how we fill those gaps. I think we have very strong individuals internally that really understand the business as it stands at the moment, but finding those people that can facilitate that journey into sort of digital transformation is incredibly difficult to find that right skill set you tend to find either very heavily on the technical side or very heavy on the project management side. But finding that that middle ground is incredibly hard.

Robyne
It comes back to what we were talking about earlier where. The software. It’s not software and business separated. The software is a tool to help the business, and it’s becoming closer and closer. And it’s exactly the same when we’re when we’re talking about recruiting, we need the people to have the soft and I’m gonna say the hard skills because we need everything to come closer together. It’s no longer IT and business, it’s everything’s coming close together.

Alan
I mean with IJYI we  overhauled our recruitment process about 19 months ago, something beginning of last year, and we put in……we went around well I went around and spoke to a lot of different people about the various ways other companies recruited. And we came up with a three stage process. And the first stage is fairly vanilla in terms of being a competency based interview with a couple of senior members of the team, you know, quite dull. Nothing fancy there. The second stage is where we started to differentiate ourselves because we decided that the most important thing we had to recruit for is people that could work within this environment and work with this team. And we had good people who were doing the job. So we decided they were the best arbiters of whether someone else was capable of it in the future. So the second stage is then meeting the team and the team, having their say on whether it’s the right type of person for the type of work that we do. And then we do a third stage, which where we ask people doing something called Bring the Weird where we get them to tell us a bit about themselves and they’re supposed to express their personality at that point. Now all of the stages require someone to be confident, they require someone to be competent, and they require someone to be able to have lots of different conversations and lots of different scenarios. And it’s intentionally framed to find that type of person that we want. One I recently had a recruitment agent require describe us as his “Everest” because he was having so much trouble getting staff through the door into our company, and it’s because we were looking for we were looking for that sort of niche 5% of the market who would operate in the way that we need them to to serve guys like Jim and Jim’s having the same problem, basically, except that it’s gonna be hard of recruiting into a building society as opposed to a software house. We we could be a little more fluffy about make it little more…..it’s easier for us to to sell. I think

Andrew
You say that. But when I was at school, that careers teacher, always used to roll his eyes. if he said “What do you want to do at university?” He said. “History” he rolled his eyes and say, “Well, why can’t you do chemical engineering or something that’s got a job at the end of it?” But then, in this digital world, it seems like having a very specific skill set gets you so far, but actually you gotta lift your head up and see the broader business picture and the process picture if you want to get in that job.

Alan
And certainly if you want to work here.

Andrew
I’m going to ask Martin about that right now because your business development and traditionally business development covers a very broad spectrum of activities often involving fine wines and fabulous expense accounts.

Martin
No, I wish *laughing*

Andrew
I was just hoping maybe you’d take me out for lunch or something, man, come on it’s been years!  *laughing*

Martin
I mean, it’s a great point because, you know, I did a technical degree, I did an IT degree. The technical skills are now the foundation. They’re not the destination of your journey. You can apply them in multiple different scenarios, so to speak, because, you know, they can reflect different challenges.

Andrew
You’ve all got experience of this transformation process and looking at it from different sites. So between you, you must be able to give loads of really good advice for someone who’s looking from two sides of this. 1. They want to work more in digital transformation. Or they want to drive more digital transformation within their own organisation. So how? What’s the advice you would give people?

Martin
Apart from call IJYI?!

Andrew
Apart from call IJYI…

Martin
That is the advice. Yes, all IJYI!

Andrew
Right. Okay, so before, don’t call that number right now. Wait until the podcast is over. Because we’ve still got the comedy bit that comes at the end. Jim, I’m gonna ask you, what would you advise? Because someone who’s been transitioning and transitioning in an industry that is not known for being sort of agile and particularly faster change is in the heavily regulated environment what would be your advice to other people in financial services about digital transformation?

Jim
I think with digital transformation. You have to stay….. You do have to consider or focus your efforts on the business itself and understand what it is the business is trying to achieve by the digital transformation piece. It’s like I said already. You can’t just go ahead and change things for the sake of changing things there has to be a genuine value add in order to to do it. Digital transformation could be sort of any from down to a very small piece of work right through to huge engagements. And this. You’ve got to also consider that the staff and the people that you have working in the industry as well. And if you have very siloed people that been only focused on one particular area of the business, it can be very difficult for them to accommodate and adapt to digital change. So you have to also consider how your staff were going to react. How your business is going to react to that change and all of those are an important aspect before you get anywhere near the type of technology you’re gonna use or you know how you’re gonna do it, you have to consider all of the business aspects first, because otherwise you’re just you’ll fail in what you’re trying to achieve. You know, you can’t just plonk something a different way of doing something in front of someone that’s been doing it for 20 years and say, Well, this is the way we do it now because it’s digitally the correct way to do it. If it doesn’t meet what actually what the business needs it to do. And they are the best people to understand what the business needs to do because they’ve been doing it for the last 20 years. So digital transformation, the Harbin really is, is marrying up the expectations of the business with the technology but also marrying up the expectation of the resources that you have the skills and resources that you haven’t making sure that you make best value out of it.

Alan
We were over at IBS’s offices yesterday talking about something else, and Jim was telling me about how they’re planning for the future, and what I was really impressed with, with IBS is they’re….. It sounds like there gonna buck the trend in the banking market because they seem to be going down the route of expanding or opening branches as supposed to closing them and sticking an app in front of people. So it’s clear that there’s a very specific vision for IBS that serves their customers that serves the local area and then the digital transformation comes in to support that vision, so it’s not, in no way, the other way around. So you know, that seemed to me to be a really so clearheaded and sensible approach to the problem.

Robyne
I would also say that we need to focus on the why. Because the software and the digital side of things, they’re all completely useless and that if you don’t know why you’re doing it and if you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve, so understanding that why and understanding exactly where the value is and where the highest value is the most important. And only from then can you start defining exactly what any application or software is actually going to do.

Alan
I think, as Jim said earlier, you’re about to spend a bunch of money, so it’s important to expend it in the right places.

Martin
Yeah, do it incrementally. I think as well. So, you know, have the opportunities to release consolidate, then go again because it keeps it aligned to your business.

Andrew
So then you’ve got relationships, you’ve got delivery, you’ve got digital transformation. It’s much more exciting than it used to be in software back in the day, and it’s all happening here and IJYI here in sunny Ipswich that’s about all the time we have for today. So I would like to thank Jim Ovary from Ipswich building Sandy head  of IT and Change. I would like to  thank Alan Jackson, Chief operating officer.  I would like to thank as well. Robin Bitkby who is the senior business analyst here.

Andrew
I’m gonna thank her again because I tapped my leg. There’s something in there that made a weird noise and say, I’d like to thank Robin Birkby, Senior Business Analyst here. And I’d like to thank Martin Dumbill the business development manager. Thank you for the lunch I’m gonna get! It’s it’s even If it’s a sandwich, I’ll take it.

Robyne
I’m coming

Martin
I’ll buy you lunch when you buy us a hot tub!

Andrew
Okay! *laughing*

Andrew
Remember to join us. We are on the web at ijyi.com. If you don’t know how to say it, it’s E.G. like a good example and, you’ll find us on Twitter at @ijyiltd . Then, oh I got it right that time! That’s good. You haven’t heard all the other cuts. Trust me. I got that wrong for about an hour. Thanks very much. Join us next time on the IJYI Way.