Please tell us something about yourself.
I am Matthew Salter, director responsible for professional services at Idox. We have a team of about 120 people delivering implementation and customer experience services to a client base across both public and private sector. Most of my career has been in professional services, latterly with companies such as Capita and Northgate. Idox is a software and services company providing solutions to manage processes where there’s an element of regulation such as supporting planning, building control licensing, public protection, environmental health as well as the energy and construction industries.
What makes for a successful professional services team?
You’ve got to be absolutely people focused. I can teach you about products, I can teach you about the industry sector. But I can't teach attitude. Having a team that cares and can empathise with customers is really important. It cuts across all disciplines. Our consultants clearly have an advantage because they know the business processes, but it is equally important that our technical staff, our data staff, our project managers all understand enough about the customer pressure points to be able to empathise because inevitably, when things go wrong, it's understanding the impact.
A one week move to the right on your Gantt chart might not feel like much, but if it is just before a key billing cycle, then that's a real pain point for the customer. We want to build a trusted relationship that lasts over time and the way in which we interact with customers is just as vital as the quality of the products that we provide. In addition our team will advise, question and sometimes provide a different perspective. A little bit of thought leadership can add real value to a customer’s decision making processes.
What are your measures of success and how do you know you are doing a good job?
We have the usual professional services statistics around running projects to budget, staff utilisation, and those sorts of things, but there is also the customer satisfaction angle. We think about processes and outcomes, translating that into Net Promoter Scores both internally and externally, but for me it is often the softer measures that are more important than the hard stats. I'm directly engaged with 15 customers at the moment and those weekly calls are the ones where I know whether we're doing things right.
We've done a couple of process redesigns as a result of customer feedback, implemented the new process with them and it's been so well received. We had a problem, we listened, we took advice from the customer in terms of what was working for them, we took advice from our team in terms of what wasn't working for them. We've put something together, it's worked and it's starting to deliver that better experience for customers.
How important is it to have a common view of data across the business?
Having a single repository of data is vital for us; we call it the ‘Golden Record’. Salesforce has been in the business for a couple of years, and really revolutionised the visibility of the end to end processes and tools for the sales team. We are extending that with FinancialForce, building that same experience for the professional services team, one version of the truth, providing a shared view of a project.
It starts with work packages that we can take off the shelf then flex for the particular needs of a customer. Then we can track the progress and revenue against the project. Keep the customer happy, and the cash comes in, run your projects properly, and utilisation rates get hit anyway. So it's your where are we? What's our RAG status on our projects? What's our burn rate through our projects? It makes sure that we're on target, helps us understand what the levers are when we need to change.
For a growing organisation, especially one like Idox that is doing a lot of acquisition activity, having one common platform, with no integrations, to underpin the business, is absolutely critical.
What advice would you give to organisations that are looking to achieve the kind of growth that you have?
First, get out there and spend time face-to-face with your customers, not just the ones that are having troubles. Sit by the side of them, learn what they're doing and really understand their businesses, that is critical. Small businesses are brilliant at that but as you grow, there is a risk that you can lose that connection with customers. Second, accept the fact that your processes are going to need to change, always have a view beyond what you're delivering at the moment, and consider what you need to underpin the business moving forward.
We have a saying in our business, ‘don't sleepwalk into something’. Don't sleepwalk into suddenly discovering you've not been spending as much time with customers as when you were good. And don't sleepwalk into your systems creaking because you've grown beyond their ability to support the business.