Beyond ICT: How Golden Marzipan helped Southdown embrace a digital vision

Having previously invested in the IT infrastructure, Sussex-based Southdown Housing were well positioned when COVID hit to respond to a different way of working with very little issue. They were eager to build on this solid platform to really explore where they wanted to get to digitally, beyond just the basics. They commissioned Golden Marzipan to help them on this journey as Neil Blanchard, CEO at Southdown explains:

One of my observations is that in-house IT teams must focus on the technical bits that keep your business going, but this can sometimes be at the expense of having the time or steer to consider the organisation’s wider vision beyond IT kit and infrastructure.  We wanted to explore what benefits we could achieve by working in a more digitally informed way, investing in business tools that could support our business strategy.  

The pandemic was a real catalyst to this as it got us thinking about our vision. We wanted to look at how we connected with our staff and clients and the platforms we use for that. We also wanted to look at the ways that we collate and use the vast amount of data that flows across the organisation.

It was a real aspirational-piece and I felt we needed external expertise to get fresh ideas and healthy challenge. We looked at several consultants to provide a three-year digital strategy and our Head of IT suggested Golden Marzipan after hearing them speak at a conference. When we undertook the selection process, they just understood the complexity of our organisation and they were able to tailor their response to the quirkiness of Southdown. The other real positive was that from the very start we spoke to the people we would be working with on delivery, so it’s personalised, you don’t just get given a consultant.

The team we worked with at Golden Marzipan were the right mix of technical knowledge and strategic thinking, but without making you feel stupid. You don’t need to be a technical expert or know or the right terminology, because it’s not about that. It’s about the vision and the roadmap.

Golden Marzipan started by speaking to staff from across our business, preparing a health check assessment of how digitally prepared we were. They then developed a roadmap that outlined how we were going to get from where we are to where we wanted to be, and this included predicated costs and their recommendations.

The roadmap had four areas of focus and they are: Connecting easily with our clients and each other; empowering people with a choice of where and how they work; upskilling and supporting people during change and innovation and finally modernising our systems, telephones, and ICT architecture. So, it really did cover that broader transformation and not just the digital systems bit.

We now have an ongoing relationship with Golden Marzipan. They’ve helped me recruit a business change manager and they’re overseeing the implementation phase of the digital strategy roadmap, facilitating the programme board and providing a critical friend role. I also have individual catch ups with Steve, and I’ve found that it’s almost like having a business coach where you can have those bigger conversations around how I take forward transformation and change the culture.

“In a positive way it’s challenged my views of consultants. All too often you get people in and they tell you what you might already know, but this is not my experience in this case.”

In a positive way it’s challenged my views of consultants. All too often you get people in and they tell you what you might already know, but this is not my experience in this case. Having that longer term relationship really does provide benefit and gets you that value for money.  I know that we can reach out to Golden Marzipan to sense check our ideas in the future and it’s great to have that trusted expertise at hand.

My advice to anyone looking to embark on this type of journey is to keep an open mind about your vision and reach out to someone who will challenge your thinking. As a CEO it’s your role to transform the culture, the experience of the organisation and really embracing digital in a positive way, so look beyond IT.

If you are looking to embrace digital to achieve your business strategy, contact Steve at Golden Marzipan for an informal chat. Email steve@goldenmarzipan.co.uk or call 0333 210 7531.

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