January 2017 – Part 1

This last 2 weeks has been immensely busy and really enjoyable with lots of opportunities to chat to colleagues, share experiences and learn in training sessions, UKGovCampX and webinars. With 2 new customers in the UK signing up I have been busy creating bespoke training to help them get started fast with ENGAGE™. I really enjoy the training with new users showing them the wealth of benefits the tool provides for their projects and programmes. I welcome both Eastleigh Borough Council and East Ayrshire to the rapidly growing ENGAGE™ UK family.

On the subject of the rapidly growing ENGAGE™ family I must give massive congratulations to our Dutch colleagues who had the innovative and creative thinking to make (and spend the last 8 years developing and continuously improving) the software to help us improve our processes. I count myself very lucky to be working with the mature evolved product in the UK that has come out of the last 8 years of learning from our Dutch public and private sector user community. Having worked in Local Authorities delivering technology enabled change for the last 15 years I am used to products that deliver some of what you want. All too often key features are not there yet, don’t quite deliver what you want or need to be developed with long lead in times and large costs. I am really please every time I get asked the question ‘Can I do this in ENGAGE™?’ and to be able to say an emphatic yes and show the user how to do it.

This week ENGAGE™ hit a major milestone in Holland with now 100 Dutch Municipalities (Local Authorities) using the product. That’s 25% of all Local Authorities in Holland using it. This is a massive achievement and I am proud to be a small (probably the first time that’s been said about me) part of the family. Dutch Municipalities are using the tools to deliver real business benefits across all their processes from refuse to health and social care. The users in Holland are split 50/50 across public and private sector and it is another huge achievement that Schiphol Airport are another new customer with over 58 million passengers and over 450000 flights the massive international hub are now improving their processes using the ENGAGE™ tools.

With a user community such as this in Holland can you really afford not to take a look? If you’re interested please contact us for a free trial, demo or to buy the tools to help you improve your processes and save money.

Last week on Friday I had the pleasure of delivering the first of 2 half day training sessions for our new customer Eastleigh Borough Council as an ENGAGE™ certified UK training partner. The preparations for this session highlighted to me that the new printer I had bought maybe wasn’t the wisest purchase I had ever made. Printing the 50 page training manuals for the 7 participants took a little bit longer than I expected. The folly of putting a printer on best quality and each booklet taking over an hour to print really did eat up a lot of my week and I now regret not spending a little more to get a slightly faster printer!

Being based in Torquay has many benefits living in a beautiful area by the coast but does tend to mean I have a lot of time in the car to think about things. On the way to Eastleigh to deliver the training it got me thinking about how training is often one of the first things that gets cut or restricted in order to save a few pennies. All too often in the public sector we are looking to cut costs wherever we can and in doing so inadvertently cut something that delivers real business benefits. The fact that internal staff costs are often overlooked in projects and programmes is a real weakness that contributes to some bad decisions being made when implementing new solutions or ways of working. Our employees in our organisations are the assets that make the difference between your organisation being a success or failure. Investing in our employees helps drive significant business benefits and save money overall.

Although I am a complete process geek (I have yet to come across a single process that could not be improved following even the most high level analysis) it is also important that in our organisations we get the culture right to enable our employees to drive the business forward. Too often our public sector bodies are still stuck in the command and control management style which stifles creativity and innovation. In the public sector we need to take a leaf out of the private sector and follow the more modern approach of lean thinking and allowing our employees time to ‘work on the work’. There are many proven examples out there of innovative companies delivering significant business benefits by giving their employees time to develop and improve the way they deliver the work. Google’s 20% time and Atlassian’s ‘Ship It’ are great examples that have delivered innovative new products to the marketplace even if Google are now doing things slightly different. I am no expert in culture and culture change and I always enjoy catching up with Esko Reinikainen of Sartori Lab I always learn something and GovCampX was no different.

If you want to do something innovative with your organisation culture you can do a lot worse than contacting Esko to discuss it.

Back to training, all too often this is omitted or restricted from an implementation and although ENGAGE™ is simple and easy to pick up and use, it also has such huge depth of features that can help you deliver more and faster for the organisation. It is well worth ensuring you include this in your procurement. Eastleigh Borough Council were really keen to get going fast and as well as performing by far the quickest procurement I have ever been involved in they were also very clear they wanted to make sure their analysts were trained to deliver more benefits faster hence why I was travelling to Eastleigh. It got me thinking about the benefits of training and the real metrics to back up the business case. At Eastleigh I had the pleasure of training 7 people who are going to use the software to deliver a huge change programme and tangible business benefits. Those that know me and have worked with me will not be surprised I have got my ‘metrics pants’ on to look at the benefits of training. At a really rough estimate (guestimate of £30000 annual salary average with 25%) the annual salaries of the people in the room is likely to be around £260k and the cost of a day’s onsite training (as well as free webinar support and mentoring) is £2k this is 0.7% of the annual staff costs.

At ‘We are Lean and Agile’ we deliver bespoke training courses tailored to your specific requirements and the needs of your organisation, project or programme. The Eastleigh training approach was designed specifically to get them confident in using the ENGAGE™ tools in the way they need to in order to deliver their programme. Although this approach takes additional effort from both the customer and us I am confident it delivers real benefits. I believe this is where we can deliver the most added value to our customers aligning our training to your key deliverables. Just as an aside we are happy to provide training to any ENGAGE™ user irrespective of where you bought the product.

The two sessions with Eastleigh have hopefully (I am yet to analyze the feedback) been useful to them and got them on the front foot with the ENGAGE™ suite of products. I am confident these sessions will deliver benefits far in excess of the £2k investment. Another feature of our training approach is that customers who purchase the days training also get a free ‘come back’ session after a few weeks of use. This enables us to ensure the users are confident in using the tool and to help address any questions or issues that have arisen after using the tool for real processes. Customers that receive the training also get access to webinar mentoring and support that can be pulled down on request to help deal with further training and development requirements that emerge. This approach has been developed in no small part due to the advice, support, training and guidance given to me by the  #1 ENGAGE™ guru Pascal van der Waa giving me the benefit of his years of his experience of working with ENGAGE™ and its users. Pascal is a fellow self-confessed process geek and our discussions have given me many insights into the tool and best practice lessons from our Dutch family of users. Massive thanks to Pascal for his continued support and answers to my constant questions!

Part 2 will follow shortly.


Andrew Sandford
Andrew Sandford Director
Agile guru and process evangelist

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