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#MSB18: How investment in technology can drive productivity

27 June 2018

Adopting better management systems is just one of the ways firms can find competitive advantage 

The common refrain at the CBI’s MSB Business Insight Conference this year was “Be more magpie” – and to do so by picking up tried and tested technology to boost performance. At a breakout session hosted by Sage UK, a case study of how one firm – City Cruises – was benefiting from upgrading its software was a good way to prompt discussion around what this means in practice.

City Cruises’ Financial Director John Rowthorn and his colleague IT Manager Ian Vale explained that the business had long-outgrown its existing accounting systems – but they were already seeing the results of investing in a cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) system within a month of it going online.

The business now has “one version of the truth”, which was far more efficient than trying to match up data from a variety of different spreadsheets. It also has a real-time view of how products and services are performing and more visibility over spend, which means that they can be much more responsive, making better business decisions, more quickly.

Here are some of the practical insights shared by City Cruises, and fellow panel members Sue Goble, Executive Vice President, Business Operations and Services at Sage and Chris Stock, Managing Director at Sage partner Percipient:

  1. Be clear about what you want for the long term – At City Cruises, a requirements document was drawn up long before the proposal went to the board, but IT Manager Vale said it was vital in helping to “sell the vision”, drive momentum on the project and hold people to account. By focusing on the end goal, the solution the business opted for is also scalable, reducing unnecessary costs in the future.
     
  2. It doesn’t have to be difficult to upgrade – City Cruises is taking a phased approach, rolling out the technology in “bite-sized chunks” so that it can be managed by a small team. “Customisation is becoming a rarity,” added Percipient’s Chris Stock. As the CBI’s Be More Magpie report highlights, businesses can often get 80 per cent of what they need, quickly and efficiently by using an off-the-shelf solution.
     
  3. There’s a big difference between being an early adopter and a first adopter – You can be more competitive simply by being open to what technology is available; you don’t have to take huge risks, Vale added.
     
  4. Communication is key when adopting new technology. Don’t underestimate employees’ fear of new technology and what it means for their jobs – it’s unlikely to dissipate until the technology is up and running and they can see the effects for themselves.
    In the meantime, good communication is important. “Staff need to understand why the change is happening,” said Sage’s Sue Goble, suggesting that it’s often helpful to focus on what it means for the end customer.

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