The challenge we had in 2019 was that our data centres were growing old, and there was a real need to upgrade the hardware. And secondly, our customers require 100% uptime. Some sectors can be unforgiving about downtime, and there are fees attached for unplanned outages. At that point, our teamsaid, “Well, you know what? Hosting hardware is simply not our core competency as a logistics provider.”
So, we started the journey to look for an infrastructure as a service provider. Next, we looked at software as a service (SaaS) for our key applications. From Office 365 and now Workday, I see a lot of value in the SaaS product delivery methodology, such as feature updates. I don’t have to worry about what’s coming in the next release and keeping software up to date. This frees up the team to spend its time more strategically.
How do you approach the business case for cloud technologies, and how does that differ from the traditional on-premise software world where you’re trying to make the business case for those deployments?
One of the reasons I joined LGI was that I have been at other large enterprises where these kinds of budgeting processes take up a lot of time. You have to make business cases that are sometimes complete guesswork. At LGI, we fortunately are more entrepreneurial. It doesn’t mean we are loose with cash or simply throw it around. What’s great is that the senior management team is open, and they understand that if there’s an enabler and there’s a driver, you can make a case for that. That’s not to say we have to plan for every euro we need for the project. The important thing is to make decisions as if it were my own company, and that’s what we did with the HCM system from Workday.
By the same token, you have to account for, and drive the benefits of, any IT decision. What are the savings, the value, and the added benefits from moving to the cloud—and the knock-on impact to the business? That’s how we think about it.
In the end, you have to do it, and you have to then make sure you get the benefit out of it, and that’s the hard part. But I would rather spend time on getting the benefit from the technology rather than arguing over what the benefits might be for five years, and by then the next wave is already over.
What are the added-value benefits and improvements that cloud computing drives further down into the business?
I’d start by saying having accurate data is key. If you have one system and one process across the entire group, then you have the same process, the same data, and you can rely upon it. Some might say you can get those with on-premise, but it’s certainly more difficult. The second point I alluded to earlier is upgrades and maintenance. I’ve spent a lot of time in my logistics career thinking about upgrades, bugs, fixes, patches, and so on. How do we deploy them? How do we test them? What’s the business impact? SaaS goes such a long way in eradicating those problems. Because of the way new versions are delivered, there’s an appetite for innovation internally. It wasn’t like that before. If something worked, people didn’t want the new release because of the work involved in pushing it out.
The third point would be that in the logistics software space, if I want a feature, I need to pay for it. I then pay the software supplier to deliver that feature. That’s not the case in the SaaS world where my subscription buys me innovation; it provides me with a roadmap for the future. Even if I don’t turn on all of the features, the fact that someone else is thinking about that software development, testing it, and rolling it out, that’s powerful. Hopefully, we’ll see more of this in the future in the logistics space as software vendors catch up.
For IT leaders starting their cloud journey, how should they be thinking about the business case and defining the value of cloud to their organisation?
Start by asking, “If this were my own money, would I put a bet on it?” I think if you follow that rule, you can shortcut many of the decision-making processes. The second question would be, “Is it a one-way door or a two-way door?” In other words, is it so costly I can’t get out of it if it turns out to be the wrong choice? Because often if you do a two-way door, it’s no problem correcting yourself after a year. If it’s a one-way door, you should be comprehensive in analysing what it means.
I also think it’s making that case for cloud, and trying to get business leaders to understand what decision will help the business do better—where they could create value, and where they could also work with their own teams to configure and maximise the value of the solution. That’s how businesses should be thinking about the cloud and its benefit to the business.