Digital Quick Wins was the first in a series of monthly breakfast webinars for leaders in SME businesses.
The myth of cloud = good, legacy = bad
FluidIT Director Jonty Abbott attended the Confederation of British Industry annual conference in November, where the phrase ‘digital-first mindset’ was repeated by many of the keynote speakers. They talked about the shortage of skills in the high-tech economy, and how the furlough scheme perpetuates the skills that were needed before, but aren’t necessarily the skills that are needed now.
Most businesses are already on their digital journey. The first lockdown propelled companies into remote working, the adoption of Teams and Zoom was a clear first step. The next move is not so obvious. The idea that cloud tech is good and legacy systems are bad isn’t that simple on the ground for SME businesses. For companies like Checkmate Fire there is a lot of value in existing systems, and digital transformation is about finding the right blend and striking a balance.
‘We didn’t want to throw away the investment and learning that had gone into our systems.’
John Lewthwaite joined Checkmate Fire as their new CEO in March 2020. He’d been in position two weeks when the country went into the first lockdown. The importance of data to inform management decisions became critical. There was an appreciation with Covid that the company needed to change and get ready to come out of the blocks when the crisis lifted.
The business had good core systems, Boris, an industry standard, bespoke solution for the passive fire protection industry, plus sales software in Salesforce and a finance package ClipIT that was at the end of its life for Checkmate. They had a great administration team who processed the information with a lot of spreadsheets and workarounds because the systems weren’t integrated. It all worked, but it was inefficient, there was duplication, scope for error and time wasted.
The fundamental issue for John was in access to real time information, decent data, turning into management intelligence. They looked at an end-to-end system, an ERP, but they didn’t want to start again and throw away the investments they’d made into systems that were very good.
As an SME the investment into an ERP is drastic in terms of the impact on people, process, training, but also the costs. He wanted a strategy and plan for the short to medium term, making sure they future-proofed by using the right technologies, that they had the agility to deliver change in a phased way, and also get the phased return on investment.
‘A key challenge was choosing a partner that would understand us as an SME. We needed to explore something that would be bespoke to Checkmate Fire.’
John said what they liked about FluidIT was the flexibility, listening to what they thought they needed and advising them through the decision-making process. He said they scoped discrete projects with cost certainty and governance set up. They felt they were in control. They set up working groups with the administrative team, the contracts managers and directors. Everyone was engaged and everyone had a chance to contribute. The buy in was really important and FluidIT were really good at that.
'It was everyone's baby. We just didn't know what to call it so we called it the Bot.'
The solutions Checkmate developed with FluidIT have seen the business keep their CRM system Salesforce and introduce Power Automate to reduce the heavy administrative burden and link Salesforce to their other core systems. They developed a mix of SQL server and PowerBI to give them the management intelligence they needed. One of the key reports was the Contracts Managers’ dashboard which looks at customer satisfaction, quality, health and safety and also productivity and profitability.
The information was there before in systems and spreadsheets but they couldn’t access it easily or quickly. Now the information is available to John as CEO as a company-wide view across the five areas, and he can also burrow down to the level of a contracts manager. The massive benefit is the transparency in the data through the business that allows them to make better decisions.