In their own words...
Read on below for the full transcript of the podcast.
[00:00] Ursula Cullen: Hi, everyone, I hope you are well. So today I'm delighted to be joined by my FlowForma colleagues Paul Stone, Product Strategist, and Shay O'Connor, Head of Solutions. Welcome guys and thank you for joining me today.
[00:15] Shay O'Connor: There's only three areas that we're going to cover today and they're basically broken down by, the new normal, how to face to change and then what to do moving forward. So just with the new normal, I know it's a very coined phrase at the moment, but we have been using our connections with the likes of Forrester Research, reports from McKinsey and so on, just basically getting to grips with what organizations are facing at the moment. Now, everybody will obviously understand, cause we're all in this together, which makes this really unique, so myself and Paul are not going to be sitting here telling you about things that you're not aware off, it's how to organize yourself to get out of this. So the new normal is going to give you lots of struggles. This big change, the foot, the reality is there is gonna be a new way of applying yourself to your workload, there is gonna be a new way of approaching how you deal customers, etcetera, because not everybody wants to meet face to face so much anymore, with safety considerations, etcetera. So you're going to have to start adopting new practices to try and fit in to this new normal. Now, Paul and I have come across a lot of customers firsthand and who basically have to grab this head on and face this new challenge. Luckily for us, and it makes it very important at the moment, we deal with a lot in the healthcare industry, Beaumont Hospital for example, and we have a few of the care homes also that use FlowForma. They've had to adapt really fast to going fully digitized and Paul, just from your point of view, you would have found the same thing I presume was that people just started getting overwhelmed.
[02:30] Paul Stone: Yeah, absolutely. There's so much change going on at the moment. That's the one big thing about COVID is change, change, change everywhere, and people are having to change the way they work, change their processes and they're having to move away from anything involving paper. Papers are a transmission medium for COVID, so you want to get away from paper processes and move to digital processes and that can be a big thing if you're not used to this working from home, working remote environment, where you're constantly using digital tools and to carry out your work and it can be a big change.
[03:38] Shay O'Connor: So we were lucky in a way, lucky here at FlowForma that we from time to time work remotely so our digital footprint is pretty strong, so everybody is set up to do it. But we were finding a great reaction from even some of our own customers, who are actually digitizing but it's the whole remote network, their ability to collaborates that got a bit of a knock on the head and that ability to communicate where people stand within their steps of process, that became a bit of a nightmare. It still is.
[03:50] Paul Stone: Absolutely. If you're used to communicating with paper or even with with email, they're not very efficient communication mechanisms and it's difficult to replace those. You have to replace them with managing things via in your attachments and so on, spreadsheets to manage them, it's much more difficult to do that in a controlled way, in a way that you can get basically manage effectively and keep up your productivity, it's much harder.
[04:20] Shay O'Connor: Yeah, you were saying there about the spreadsheet element of things, it's funny where as before you could nearly look over the partition and say "are you in a spreadsheet I need to work on it?" You can't do that anymore, things we took for granted. It's just changed
[04:36] Paul Stone: That's it, things you take for granted and everybody's grabbing whatever they have to hand to try and whatever tools they have to hand to try and still work productively and effectively in this new environment, while working remotely and it's a big change. People have a lot of difficulty in doing that, not so much in doing it like we're doing it now, so we're communicating over a phone conference that's actually easy to set up on and do but it's getting the results that's the thing. It's tying it all into business goals, keeping yourself productive and that's the hard part.
[05:17] Shay O'Connor: Your daily to do list and the visibility of where things stand for what you're trying to do, so we're finding that even with customers who have adopted FlowForma in our case, who wouldn't have digitized everything they were then scurrying to get that visibility going so they needed to get processes open running while being overwhelmed by the fact that they're not used to remote working. So they would have had a lot of digitization in the workplace, but not from a remote point of view.
[05:52] Paul Stone:That's right and while they would have got their key processes maybe digitized, there's plenty of things that were not digitized, and they needed to basically get something in place very quickly to enable people to continue carrying out those processes to continue to get results basically, so you need a tool to help you do that.
[06:17] Shay O'Connor: Well, you do, but you also need a mindset for it as well. So this is the whole scenario of the new normal that, so forget that people think they cant wait to get back to do things the way we used to do it. No, no, the reality is your workplace isn't going to be packed anymore, like especially in the medium term, short anyway, but in the medium term, they're not going to allow you to have lots and lots of people there. You're gonna have to have more people working remotely. We're dealing with one of the construction companies over in the UK and they were saying it was being muted, that in order to go back to the workplace, they would have to remove paper and bring it down to half the number that were in the office could go back to it. You have this combination of some people in the office, some people working remotely, but that being the new norm for a long time.
[07:17] Paul Stone: That's right. It's hard to see the regular office gatherings that we used to have ever come back again. At least until the vaccines out next year so we're stuck with this for a good long time so you need to learn to work a new way. It was interesting, I was listening to our chairman recently who had met with a large banking institution in the UK and they were saying, "about 40% of our staff for I've actually figured it out, they've managed to be productive when remote working and they're happy to stay there, you know? So it is the new normal in a way, some people actually want that type of way.
[07:59] Shay O'Connor: Just just on that, when you move forward and the reality is, we have a new normal, that's it you gotta accept it. You got to get going, so what do you do? If you've realized this is not going back to the way things used to be, we as an organization need to adapt, the best thing to do is to actually get committed to something. The worse thing you could do is nothing would you agree Paul?
[08:38] Paul Stone: Yeah, absolutely. COVID has come along and COVID has taken control and you've basically got to gain back that control again on you've got to be committed to doing that. You gotta say to yourself "okay, well, actually, you know what? This is a change, a fundamental change in the way we work, by working remotely, we've gotta face it head on and put in new processes and new solutions that actually allows us to stay productive and remain competitive against our competitors." The competitors are still there but they're also struggling but they're also finding ways. You gotta keep competitive and keep your efficiency and productivity up, so to do that, you gotta be committed.
[09:22] Shay O'Connor: I And as well as that, you've got to be prepared. I was reading a McKinsey report the other day. There were a few facets where they were explaining what industries were being hit, how they were being hit and somewhat the future was going to hold, but the reality was no matter what vertical you are in, once you realize that things are changing on, you realize you have to do something about it. You need to start preparing now because what will happen is those that are in your vertical, like your competitors, some of them are preparing. So what'll happen is they will become more efficient, be able to do a lot of their remote working, etcetera. While if you waited the day, they say you go back to the office or some of you can, you're already gonna be behind the curve.
[10:18] Paul Stone: Yeah, absolutely and you know, there's a danger as well if you don't change now, change becomes harder in the future because the new normal becomes less productive, you know? You know that if you don't change now, you don't keep your productivity up well then the normal says "hey, you're not productive. The earlier you start that change journey, the better your results are going to be. People realize that in this moment collectively, that things need to change, but down the line, people become a bit complacent, it's gonna be much harder. So now is the time.
[10:52] Shay O'Connor: It's funny one of our news customers, Maverick Construction over in the US decided, not that this was an opportunity, but that then the CEO of the organization knew that when you are in times of trouble, those that turn around and actually upped the ante straightaway usually performed better than their counterparts. Then they have evidence of producing the goods, so they have started digitizing all their process that used to be receive as a piece of paper. They just started changing it straight away because the workforce, they were willing to take on new ways of doing things. Because the kind of realize 'yes OK, I believe you, there is requirements to change things, so I'm with you on this.' It meant that they could adopt really quickly. The head of the organization, instead of sitting back and going, this is a terrible place that we're in decided, no, no, I'm gonna inspire these guys. I'm going to get these guys going on. Let's try a new way of doing it and that's just one of our customers. That was literally only last month they started.
[12:15] Paul Stone: Yeah, but that's an excellent point. You know this kind of crisis that we've be fallen into does breed opportunities and people can see that if you can get early success those changes within introducing digital processes, get early success it really does inspire people. Then they'll say, well why didn't we do this six months ago.
[12:39] Shay O'Connor: Yeah, I was listening to webinar the other day and basically the guy on the webinar, Jeffrey Gotimer, he said "what are you doing today to help yourself for tomorrow?" It was a real call to arms, but his thing was - don't be sitting around, just actually do something today that will help you get better results tomorrow on moving on. You got to do it now.
[13:10] Paul Stone: Yeah, definitely. And you'll see that in a lot of old motivational speeches that say, well, the first thing you gotta do is get started. You know, if you never got started, then you you never achieve anything. And I think that's that's so true. In the case off the opportunity for introducing digitize processes now is you got to just get started and get in there. I think you'll very quickly see that you get results and inspire everybody.
[23:14]Shay O'Connor: When you start moving forward, you've realized that things are abysmal, they've changed. They're not gonna change, and flip back to the old way and I don't even know when they will, nobody knows when or if. You've decided we are going to do something about it. In our area of expertise at the moment is around helping companies, and we've been doing this for the last few years is happy cos digitize and helping them make the most of the processes that they already have in place. Just making them more efficient. We've sort of come up with a five step plan, they're five varies that you need to take in consideration when you want to digitize. So, Paul, I mean, you really focused in on this over the last few years for us and found the results.
[14:42] Paul Stone: That's it, there's a few common traits that you find. You know after you've had several successful projects, digitization project projects, there's a few common traits that seem to ring through. The first one there is finding a champion. So what you're proposing here is to digitized quickly and basically that's something that that traditionally companies didn't do. So this is something where it's a new idea, a new a concept to most people in the workforce. So you need to find that champion in the work force that's going to promote the whole idea and push people to success.
[15:25] Shay O'Connor: And they need to be committed to this right? That's the bottom line, if don't have the analogy of a captain on a ship type scenario, if you don't have the champion or an evangelist and somebody who knows the benefits etcetera and can communicate that to all of the users you're really up against it, and we've seen this time and time again, where if the champion isn't strong enough or isn't committed, the adoption suffers.
[15:59] Paul Stone: Yeah, and that's it. The adoption suffers and ultimately you end up with a lower return on investment. If you go back a long way, we've had companies, come to us who want to digitize just one process. They have one particular, painful process that they want to resolve, and for sure, it gets resolved and that's where it stops and they get a lot of benefit from that. But the real win is where you have that champion who actually pushes the company to change on a broader scale, digitized many processes and suddenly you have a snowball rolling, and you really gain a lot of a return on investment taking that approach.
[16:45] Shay O'Connor: Just going to say, a great out example for us, and it's really relevant at the minute is in Beaumont Hospitals. Where the director of IT championed the whole scenario off getting everything digitize. They have been doing this for the last few years and they have been, I think at last count they've 60 odd maybe a bit more processes digitized, so when they came into this problem, this pandemic, they're the second largest hospital in Ireland, an epi-center for treatment of people at the moment. They could easily adapt to the new environment where, they took away paper and they actually extended the footprints of FlowForma to involve thirdparty. So they got all the GP's on the platform so that referral letters would no longer be physical paper, they did not want the physical paper cause I said that the virus can transfer over and they put them all on FlowForma within, how long did it take Paul? You were dealing with them.
[17:55] Paul Stone: I think a few weeks was total project time. It can be done really quickly. I think speed is the real key thing with this particular situation where in the moment, Covid, you need to be able to react quickly and get systems in place as soon as possible and absolutely in that hospital environment in particular, healthcare. This is so important and is a real success story that they were able to change really quickly.
[18:30] Shay O'Connor: We had the same with the construction guys, so the construction guys over the UK, for example, the likes Balfour that's a customer of ours where they realized we we gotta take paper out of this, we have to, we want to get our workforce back.
[18:48] Paul Stone: Yeah, definitely and the key thing there is a lot of projects will be suspended. So when the initial Covid outbreak happened, they've got to get those projects back up and running again, too do that, they've got to get all the resources on site working again on. Of course, that's not a trivial thing, every resource that goes back on site has to be medically checked in, to be sure that they don't have the disease, for example. So there's lots of lots of processes related to getting everything back up and running again, get everybody re-mobilized. That's something that's common across many industries, we've seen in construction sure, but then we've seen lots of other industries come to us about Covid specific processes. Re-mobilization, we only talked about this when Covid came along, it's just one example of the change that Covid brought along. There's many others, there's emergency funding, for example, for funding to be released people. That's also a common process we've seen in relation to Covid too.
[20:00] Shay O'Connor: Your're describing and giving examples of the processes, when you're moving forward, once you found your champion, you've got to target the obvious. And explain what that means Paul because you thought up the phrase.
[20:18] Paul Stone: Target the obvious, it's all about building momentum for change. You gotta convince people that actually change is a good thing, what you do is target your pain points, the processes that everybody knows is a difficult area in the business and then digitized those guys first so you have early wins.
[20:42] Shay O'Connor: So simple ones or complex ones? Say you have four or five?
[20:49] Paul Stone: It is the processes that everybody knows, it's not so much whether the complex or simple or whether it's basic processes, they're processes that everybody knows are are difficult. It can be really simple stuff, like site visit requests that are done on pieces of paper and those pieces of paper are lost, things that are actually quite straightforward. But then they can be complex as well, and the key thing here is to select the right ones to generate momentum for change. What you want to do is digitize those processes quickly, get results and then show the results. That's clear and evidence that digitization works and is a good and then build that momentum within the business to get the snowball rolling.
[21:38] Shay O'Connor: Now, just on that and it's something crops up all the time especially on the first process, people start looking at it and go 'that's nearly there, but I'm gonna make this small change' or 'I've got a request to make this small change', the process is built to 98% like that, you could actually have it done in days. Then it gets stretched out because everybody wants to have an input and make that small tweak to this first process but you wouldn't advocate that?
[22:13] Paul Stone: No, I wouldn't at all. So I've got in 30 years in IT, most of that work as a business analyst. Working on defining processes is my bread and butter. I can tell you from working on so many projects that if you try and be a perfectionist and get the process 100% right, you'll be there for months. You'll be there for months scribbling a piece of paper, having meetings, talking and talking and talking, you're not getting any results, right? The right way to do this is, get something out there in front of users as quickly as possible, a prototype. The first version. The first draft. Draft the process and get in front of people and then wait for some feedback to come back in.
[22:54] Shay O'Connor: So that's your react quickly scenario there.
[22:57] Paul Stone: Yep, absolutely, react quickly, so get the process out there as quickly as possible, get a solution in front of people let them try it out, let them test and discover what the problems are.
[23:14] Shay O'Connor: Until you put it out into the live environment, you're not going to get the proper feedback that sitting around a table would produce, it literally has to be live feedback, having an environment that you can react quickly to those inputs from your end users.
[23:32] Paul Stone: Yep, and keep that momentum going. At the end of the day, what does it result in? Adoption. So people actually adopted in the workplace and that's the secret success, if you get your system adopted in the workplace, you're going to get your returns. Then you can refine that process over time to increase those returns. But if you don't get it out there in the first place, you'll never seen any of that. Get the feedback
[24:00] Shay O'Connor: I used to be a developer back in the day but now, with the likes of FlowForma being a no-code environments and tool you can react quickly and you can show people what the change could look like. Get agreement quite fast and get it updated and out there and even created and out there because I remember a long time coding and coding and coding and when I used to develop back in the day, it was very difficult to get things agreed. Whereas when you're dealing with the no code environments of this world like FlowForma, you've got that opportunity to make the changes.
[24:39] Paul Stone: Change and refine, I would used to be in that space as well and people would reject systems that you'd spend six months building because of some silly little thing. Like you didn't have this or this field was wrong, people would come up with all sorts of reasons. Very often there were good reasons that people building systems just didn't know there was a need, so it could be very legitimate reasons. If you can actually react to that quickly and fix the problem quickly, get back out there again then it really makes a big difference.
[25:15] Shay O'Connor: The final two pieces just there. When you have this environment created, you need to train people how to use this, get them up to speed, get them comfortable to use it and then hopefully the more that they get comfortable, you set up that center of excellence, if at all possible, where you have more than one person who knows how to do things.
[25:309] Paul Stone: Yeah, being able to train people in system quickly so they can get adopted quickly is really important. You want to keep that training cycle right down to the minimum, especially for the business users out in the field who have to use this system, they want to be able to get using that system as quickly as possible. Minimal training and it'll be pretty much obvious how to use the moment they turn on their laptops or PCs. So a short training cycle is really important and then having a system that can be modified by business process owners, is very important as well. So you set up like a center of excellence in your environment, where your business process owner are actually the support members who support the rest of the team on how to use the system. That's definitely the way to go.
[26:26] Ursula Cullen: I really appreciate your insights, Paul and Shay. I'm sure everyone listening really benefited from all your discussions. Paul and Shay, thank you so much again for joining me. Great conversation.