ECI recently brought together tech leaders from across our portfolio as part of our networking forum. We asked Peter McNaney, CTO at Peoplesafe, who has progressed key tech transformation initiatives since joining this time last year, about his top tips for putting a product strategy in place and putting data at the heart of your business.
1. Have a clear strategy and vision and align technology to it
If you’re looking to deliver a business change programme, everyone needs to be aligned to the same strategy and vision. At Peoplesafe, their vision as an organisation is to provide innovative technology solutions to enable every employee to perform their role safely, securely and efficiently.
With this clear vision across the organisation, then Peter and the technology team was able to work through what needed to happen to support it, such as internal systems, products and services, and the tech team skills required. For example, their product strategy needed to go beyond their traditional lone worker focus, to servicing the safety needs of employees more broadly. That vision provides a useful starting point, but also a reference the team can use to assess whether a particular initiative is or is not supporting the business to deliver on this vision.
2. Create one version of the truth
At Peoplesafe, in the prior investment cycle the business had made a number of acquisitions, which remained under their own brands until recently, including systems and datasets aligned to each brand. This disparate approach led to a number of inefficiencies managing customers, and performing analytics due to no “single source of the truth”. As a result one of Peter’s key objectives has been to streamline the systems, processes and data architecture to enable efficiencies.
Alongside considering what your customer facing products need to be, ensuring the “back office” systems (finance, CRM, service platform, etc.), processes and data are streamlined allows the organisation to provide the best possible experience for customers in the most efficient manner, as well as leverage its data to aid decision making, and to spot opportunities to deploy commercial initiatives (whether it be new products, cross sell opportunities, churn reduction, etc.)
3. Have a balanced approach between “back office” improvement and customer facing innovations with consideration of how you can support tactical initiatives
Given the scale of change required in the back-office systems the tech team at Peoplesafe could consume all of its capacity on those projects before starting to think about initiatives with greater customer impact and visibility. However, in order to maintain its positioning as market leader in the UK, it is important that Peoplesafe is seen by its customers to be continuing to innovate, so Peter and team have taken a balanced approach, prioritising and working through systems change projects alongside more directly customer impacting projects (new product initiatives, customer portals, etc.). Alongside this, Peter and the team have considered which of the business’s shorter term tactical initiatives can be supported by technology, and ensured that they are helping the business achieve these shorter term goals. Taking a balanced approach like this ensures the business retains its edge in market, and helps with organisational alignment internally as tech is delivering for all stakeholders in the business.
4. Focus on product initiatives that have the greatest commercial potential aligned to the strategy
Peter established a Product Development Life Cycle (PDLC) to make sure that there was a process for how products were initiated, validated, developed, tested, launched and reviewed on an ongoing basis. This process meant that any product suggestions were thoroughly reviewed to make sure that they aligned with the organisational strategy, there was a clear and validated hypothesis of how they would add value, the level of resource to implement was well defined, and initiatives could be re-assessed and prioritised at different stages of their development. This process has bought strong alignment between strategy, product and tech, as well as a clear method for prioritization ensuring the business is focused on the most valuable initiatives.
5. Build your team at pace
Once you have a clear product and service strategy and vision, it’s imperative that you have the services, systems, and team in place to deliver on it. Peter stressed the importance of always moving more quickly than you think you need on team build – it’s rare that people feel they hired too soon, or that a hiring process has gone more quickly than they anticipated. Making changes where needed and strengthening your team so they’re in place to deliver your roadmap, will be fundamental to delivering on your strategy.
6. Focus on business outcomes
Delivering a tech transformation project can be a lot of change and can often be quite disruptive. For this reason, it is essential for the CTO to bring the Board – and the wider company – with them on that journey, by really understanding and communicating the opportunity available, and the risk of not making the change at a commercial level to the business overall. Not all changes are necessary, even if they might deliver improvements, but by focusing on the risks and benefits to the business of a tech project, rather than just the impacts on tech alone, it allows everyone to understand where the priorities lie.