Video – Why are Procurement Conferences so vital to successful hiring?

Talent spotting, nurturing long-term relationships and assessing both the calibre and personal characteristics of the people we meet are just a few of the benefits of attending in-person events in the Procurement Technology world.

This short video from Andrew tells you where it fits in our range of candidate sourcing tools and why it’s so vital to our success.

If you are hiring into your team, don’t miss out on this useful intelligence!

Our latest promotions within the Edbury Daley team

We are delighted to announce the promotions of two key members of our team reflecting their outstanding contributions to the business over the past year.

Peter Brophy becomes VP Digital Procurement & Supply Chain and will lead our growth in the North American market in addition to his existing client work in Europe which has been so successful.

Georgia Daley becomes Head of Talent Acquisition reflecting her brilliant efforts in identifying and engaging a raft of fantastic talent that has joined our customers in recent months.

How we chose our charitable donations for Christmas 2021

Throughout our seventeen-year history, we have made a series of donations to support what we consider to be worthy causes.  This year we asked two members of our team to select charities that they feel passionate about for our annual Christmas donations.  This is who we are supporting and why:

Peter Brophy, Associate Director chose Fareshare.  Here’s why:

We decided to support Fareshare this year as the work they undertake in many respects fits the ‘spirit of Christmas’ by redistributing surplus food to charities that turn it into meals so that many people do not go hungry.

It also matches our aspirations around sustainability by helping to reduce food waste which globally has been a major contributor to carbon emissions, as explained on the Fareshare website:

Hidden carbon and water cost of food waste.
If food waste were a country it would be the third-largest emitter of carbon globally, yet the issue has been largely ignored in climate discussions at COP, according to food charity FareShare.

In the UK, food waste accounts for between 6 and 7% of total greenhouse gas emissions, with an estimated 2m tonnes of perfectly edible food needlessly wasted on UK farms and in factories every year, instead of being sent to charities and community groups.
Why should anyone go hungry (especially at Christmas) and reducing greenhouse gases. Two great reasons to support a worthy cause.

Georgia Daley, Senior Research Consultant chose the NSPCC:

“Following the year anniversary of passing my Childline training to become a volunteer counsellor and being awarded the 140 hours of service milestone, it was time to reflect on what it’s been like to support struggling young people throughout 2021.

It was clear to me that I still want to continue to support Childline and the NSPCC in any way possible, but it feels even more crucial to do this at Christmas. It’s a time that is associated with love and family celebrations, but for many young people in the UK, it will be about facing loneliness, neglect, or even abuse.

The NSPCC exists to fight for every childhood and given the fact that there has been a 29% increase this year in contacts suffering from complex mental health issues, particularly since the effects of the pandemic, we feel they could be benefitting from extra support and donations more than ever.

The NSPCC produces a report to evidence how the money you donate can be spent, and promise to spend 80% of every £1 directly on helping young people, so we were assured our business’ contribution will go towards significant work and research.”

Some thoughts from Andrew Daley, founding Director:

“We are proud of our commitment to supporting such worthy causes and this year our team has chosen especially well.  With Georgia’s admirable commitment to volunteering at Childline throughout the pandemic, a cause she is so passionate about, it seemed right to support the NSPCC for the amazing work they do.

With Pete’s choice, again this resonated with us, not least because so much of our work this year has touched on the vital subjects of ESG and Sustainability.

They are both areas where we really want to grow our market presence so we can make a bigger, long-term impact by helping our clients in this sector hire great people who in turn can make a real difference in the fight to protect our planet.

Thanks to both of you for all your hard work this year and making choices that truly fit with our organisational values.”

Our Customer Advocacy program makes your Supplier Due Diligence simple.

Have you ever engaged a new person or supplier in your business or personal life and regretted not doing your homework on them?  It can be a costly error.

Receiving positive feedback, recommendations and testimonials from friends, colleagues and suppliers is always nice but what really tells you what you need to know about a person are the words from paying customers, particularly in a profession like recruitment where many people have had mixed experiences.

Here are a few examples of what my paying customers, people who have used me to help them hire the best possible talent in the digital procurement and supply chain markets, have said about me: 

  • Andrew is absolutely a key expert when it comes to recruiting in Procurement and Supply Chain.
  • Partnership is about mutual trust, and unique value proposition. Andrew is one of these rare businessmen who accomplishes both, building on his Procurement deep knowledge, unique Talent pooling capabilities, establishing long term relationships.
  • I’ve worked with Andrew for almost a decade to identify and recruit numerous roles into BravoSolution and subsequently JAGGAER across EMEA including Marketing, Pre-Sales, Field Sales and Professional Services. In addition to being fun to work alongside, Andrew has deep expertise and a broad network within the Procurement/ Technology landscape – a rare and valuable combination I’m delighted to recommend!
  • A step above the rest, Andrew is one of the best recruitment agents I’ve had the pleasure to work with. Andrew not only knows the procurement industry well enough to advise, he has great intuition for finding great people. Engaging with Andrew was easy, and allowed me to quickly build trust in him and the candidates as we assessed a number of candidates for various presales rolls across Europe. I look forwards to working closely with Andrew again in the future.
  • Andrew will challenge respectfully and operates with high integrity. A pleasure to work with and has intimate knowledge of the SaaS Procurement, AP and Supply Chain market. Adds great value to any Sales Leader engagement when hiring. He was also very supportive when it came to making what was a big decision for me and unlike many in his industry, he gave space to the process. His knowledge of the procurement tech market is a real asset.
  • I’ve had multiple dealings with Andrew over the last five years and what I’ve been impressed about on both sides of the head-hunting fence, is his commitment to providing the best experience for both clients and candidates. He’s thorough, has vast in-depth knowledge of the S2P space, really tries to understand the needs of the hiring organisation as well as the way in which it operates to ensure the person recruited not only has the requisite skills but also will be the right cultural fit.

Andrew has built quite a reputation over the years and is a valued asset in the procurement technology world.

If these sound too good to be true, you can view the people who left these kind words on my LinkedIn profile here.

Here are some insights into the other side of the equation from senior professionals in the sector who I have helped move roles:

  • Andrew’s industry knowledge and professional attitude is what sets him apart from the rest. Every friend, colleague and partner organisation I work with know and use Andrew, and for very good reason. His professional and client network is exhaustive, he has helped me on many occasions, not just personally but also with colleagues.
  • Throughout the process, he was very supportive and ensured that my expectations and skill set were aligned to the role and client’s expectations, this is where I believe Andrew goes above and beyond to ensure success.
  • Always proactive and ready to support, Andrew is determined to ensure his clients’ next career move is a success. I cannot recommend his services highly enough!
  • I’ve always seen Andrew as an Industry peer and long term coach/advisor. I think that’s the difference between regular recruitment and the experience I’ve had with Edbury Daley.

There are more references on my colleagues and I on our website here.

If this is the standard of service you need for your business or to further your own career, please do get in touch with me via

Andrew Daley

Director – Procurement & Spend Management

Procurement & Supply Chain Technology Trends – Supply Chain Resilience, Risk and Visibility

We interviewed a series of business leaders from the procurement technology sector earlier this year about the key trends impacting the procurement and supply chain professions. Everyone we spoke to for our Insider report emphasized that supply chain risk and resilience have been the key areas of focus in 2020/1.

Franck Lheureux of Ivalua told us: “The increased focus on supply chain risk and resilience had moved direct spend to the top of the agenda for many companies across the various manufacturing verticals.”

“With planning made much more difficult by increased volatility, it’s very difficult for organisations to make predictions with any confidence. So with CFOs and CPOs facing the challenge of balancing costs versus supply chain resilience when making decisions about offshoring and nearshoring, the 20/80 model that often relies on a small number of large suppliers etcetera, there are significant risks impacting on production capability, cash flow and investment.”

Ivalua’s capability across these areas of spend and their ability to provide their customers with a single source of truth in their data has been vital in aiding the decision making as clients balance the variables in these complex equations. This is a key reason why Ivalua enjoyed a very successful year in 2020.

When people talk about events like Covid accelerating digital transformation, it’s examples like this where Ivalua has made a real difference across its customer base that should be celebrated across the market.

As one widely respected source from Coupa told us: “The industry needs strong competition as it pushes us all to get better and we respect the likes of Ivalua and Ariba for the part they play in that.” The focus on this area was echoed by many that we spoke to.

One consulting leader told us: “What we’ve seen in response to the Covid Pandemic is a much greater focus on managing supplier risk, particularly for those that were exposed by a reliance on business critical suppliers overseas.

Clearly the obvious example of that is those using international suppliers who had major problems earlier in 2020, but focusing on more local supply chains is also a factor for UK based organisations with concerns about the impact of Brexit.”

For solution providers able to offer greater visibility across the supply chain 2020 has seen the market move in their direction with increased demand for their services. Tealbook, a US based specialist providing a ‘Trusted Source of Supplier Data’ has experienced spectacular growth in 2020.

HICX founder Costas Xyloyiannis told his LinkedIn followers that the business had grown fivefold over the year. One of their hires was Steve Cobley, a hugely experienced sales specialist who has spent time at both Ivalua and Coupa.

Steve told us: “We saw companies realise just how vulnerable they are in their supply chains in 2020, particularly those in manufacturing sectors with international supplier bases. For example, if you are sourcing 60% of your materials from China and it effectively shuts down as it did in early 2020 that leaves you in a very difficult situation. That was an alarm call for a lot of organisations and the result of it is driving major transformation.”

In fact, Dun & Bradstreet found that five million companies, including 938 of the Fortune 1000, had tier two suppliers in the Wuhan region in China, where Covid first appeared. Steve Cobley continues: “As a result companies are looking at the diversification of their supplier communities as part of addressing how they mitigate against future global problems like the pandemic. They are also looking at how they get better information to help manage that situation.

For some companies, they may have already invested in cloud based procurement solutions which have helped them enormously but what if their production and planning systems are still on premise and key staff are home based? How do you get full visibility across your operations in that situation? So problems like this are driving the move to cloud, better interoperability between solutions and moving high onto the supply chain agenda alongside sustainability, visibility and risk management.”

There are many more who have told us similar stories. At the heart of all this is a reliance on accurate information to inform decision making. In very simple terms, those manufacturing businesses who have accurate supplier data have benefitted hugely from that in their response to what for many has been a crisis in their supply chains.

It’s clear that firms providing best of breed tools around supplier data saw a significant, in some cases drastic, increase in demand for their solutions in the second half of 2020 and this is driving more hiring in this particular niche of the procurement technology sector.

This article is an excerpt from our Spring 2021 Procurement & Spend Management Insider report. 

Skills Implications – The Rise of Digital and Sustainable Procurement

In our bi-annual Procurement and Spend Management Insider report we have consistently talked about the skills needed for the future of procurement, particularly digital procurement. 2020 saw the rapid rise of the ESG agenda in supply chain and further acceleration of the adoption of digital procurement tools.

Both trends had been around for a while, and are now more interconnected than ever with the rise of businesses like Circulor and Ecovadis, but the pace of change has materially changed in the past year as we’ve seen in this research.

So we are no longer talking about the future of procurement when we discuss digital or ESG because the future is here, and it’s called the present. This is procurement in 2021. You, your teams and your colleagues can either get on board or you and your employer can get left behind as the more agile, digitally enhanced businesses with a clear environmental and social purpose thrive.

In terms of further evidence to support this theory, management consultancy Hackett Group asked Procurement leaders if they recognise a need for more tech-centric roles in their teams. Here are the results:

It is clear from this that roles such as that of Digital transformation program manager are recognised by the leadership community as being important. For many, this function is effectively run by their advisory partners, but on the evidence of those that have specialist in house roles in this area, their management of the advisory businesses, specialist contractors or internal resources are vital to the successful adoption of procurement tools, whether they be full suite solutions or a range of best of breed, specialist tools.

There is now a significant talent pool of people who have undertaken this role on behalf of end users. There are also consultants who would like to go into this sort of position so they could see projects through to completion and ideally push for ongoing pursuit of best practice.

The frustration for the people we know in this space is that there are so few organisations who currently have dedicated in house roles. There is growth in this space but it has been slow so far. We hope and expect that will really start to change now.

The other roles that score heavily in this research like RPA or AI/ cognitive specialists, and data architects are also on the rise but again at a disappointing pace. There is a much smaller talent pool of people who can point to experience in this area dedicated to procurement and supply chain but they do exist.

In each of these areas we hope to see accelerated growth in demand for the skills but it will be constrained by the availability of skills. The answer to that question lies in the ability of CPOs to attract sought after external talent and/or train and develop these skills in house.

The best examples we see involve hiring an expert who has been down this path already in their career who can then influence those around them in a new organisation to become a catalyst for upskilling colleagues and ultimately the function as a whole.

The key is to know who the early adopters are, the companies who have got it right and then understand who their trailblazers are. If you can find a way to attract them into your organisation you can do great things.

It’s a similar story when it comes to identifying people who have been at the heart of innovative projects that have materially changed the impact procurement and supply chain teams can have on environmental and sustainability initiatives. Many of them have joined the wonderful Sustainable Procurement Pledge initiative created by a group of visionary leaders, the growth of which tells its own story.

Looking at the achievements of some of the members of this initiative supports our belief that great hires in these areas can be a catalyst for raising the contribution of procurement and supply chain teams, raising the bar across the function and helping leaders to position their functions at the heart of the sustainability agenda.

If you know which companies are already at the forefront of these initiatives, you can identify the people who can make a real difference to your organisation. It’s all about prioritising your objectives and attracting the talent that will enable you to deliver on those aims.

Procurement Leaders – if this resonates with you then Edbury Daley can help you make real progress when it comes to identifying, attracting and ultimately hiring high performing specialists in these areas.  Please contact Andrew Daley via or Peter Brophy –

If you enjoyed this article and found it useful, perhaps you might be interested in Fairmarkit’s piece that raises some relevant points on this topic –  The hidden threats COVID-19 poses to procurement sustainability

Procurement & Supply Chain Technology Trends – Accelerated Digital Transformation

When the Covid crisis first hit Europe everyone was faced with an unprecedented set of circumstances. Understandably there was an initial move away from major transformation projects as more short terms measures were prioritized.

Franck Lheureux, General Manager EMEA at Ivalua told us that: “2020 saw CPOs have two dominant areas to manage as the focus shifted towards a short term emphasis on savings and analysis of where and why you spend.”

That latter point was echoed by Nadia Law, Client Director at Rosslyn. She said: “The major issues for our clients last year centred around cash flow. There was a shift from ‘what are we spending and from whom? ’ to ‘what and when are we paying?’

Fundamentally, the objective is to understand the future commitments of the business and to prioritise supplier payments to maintain the integrity of the supply chain. For example, some SME suppliers may need more urgent support than others and our solution is able to provide vital insights to support business critical decisions in this area.”

So, it’s clear that companies who had already adopted some of these tools successfully had an advantage through the efficiency in their systems and/or the value of having accurate data to support their decision making. This is supported by Deloitte’s recent CPO flash survey where they reported that “organisations that are thriving (in the pandemic) had higher visibility into both tier 1 and tier 2 suppliers and were twice as likely to prioritize digitization in their day-to-day operations.”

For those that didn’t have the data that gave them the supplier visibility, the events were acting as a potential catalyst for change within their organisations and this resulted in the market becoming much more active in the third quarter of the year as conversations about how to solve these problems with better use of technology really started to increase with customers.

We asked Mo Ahmad, Vice President, Alliances and Channel, EMEA/MEE, at SAP Ariba & Fieldglass what he’d seen change in 2020 from a customer perspective. He told us: “We have seen two particular trends in our market develop over the course of 2020. Firstly some CIOs have taken the view that they need to embrace the transformation agenda more than ever and this has accelerated the process.

“At the other end of the spectrum, you have companies that are fearful of such a big commitment whilst they are fighting for survival. In this community the tendency has been to start small with a solution that can deliver real value, effectively pay for itself and help build the business case to go to the next level.”

SAP has had success offering solutions like Ariba Discovery and Start Sourcing for free or significantly reduced cost to help organisations out and show what they can achieve when they adopt these solutions.

Other solution providers who offer a full suite solution like Ivalua have also had success with the “land and expand” philosophy encouraging customers to start small and build the business case to take the next step by delivering meaningful return on the investment. Mo told us: “In 2021 we expect the market to talk more about this philosophy and SAP will be driving this model as a core part of our business strategy going forward. This will mean agile solutions, delivered faster with a quicker ROI but at the same time connected into the Intelligent Enterprise which gives you the room to expand your operations in the areas where you need business transformation the most.”

Much of Mo Ahmad’s role focuses on working closely with SAP’s key partners who support the implementation and adoption of tools like Ariba. When we asked him what the partner organisations were experiencing, he said: “In terms of Partners, companies need more help. They are leaning on the advisory businesses more than ever to get the results they need. So it’s not just about the solution, they need the advice and experience to reap the benefits and deliver the value that justifies the investment.”

This is a view shared by consultancies themselves. Speaking to a senior leader from one of Coupa’s key transformation partners, we were told that companies generally fall into two brackets when it comes to adoption: “There are those willing to embrace the full transformation agenda and adopt a full suite solution like Coupa and others that are more risk averse, or possibly have smaller budgets, who are adopting the solutions module by module, ideally justifying the investment by demonstrating value before moving to the next step. Either way, there is certainly some stimulation to digital procurement and supply chain from the events of 2020.”

Fred Akuffo of specialist Supply Chain planning consultancy Olivehorse offered a similar view. “What we’ve seen in 2020 is an acceleration in organisations moving to the cloud, particularly for solutions that support integrated business planning (IBP). One reason is the simple practical problem of employees accessing old, clunky on premise systems from home but the others are more around speed, agility, efficiency and opportunity to drive profitability from superior systems.”

Covid hit at a time when there’s been a revolution in the capability of systems to address issues around supply chain maturity and resilience in a more proactive fashion enabling people to ask, ‘how can we do this better?’

That thinking has pushed more companies to explore alternatives to their current systems and whilst they probably would have gone this way eventually, the unique problems caused by Covid have accelerated the process for many organisations.”

Besides the practical benefits of cloud over on premise, what has driven this? In some cases it’s fear of getting caught out by this sort of crisis again in the future. For others it’s the need to stay competitive in the face of changing market conditions and possibly more agile competitors gaining competitive advantage over them. As Fred Akuffo said: “Procurement and supply chain leaders can’t wait days to make decisions whilst planners evaluate hundreds of lines of Excel information and different potential scenarios. They need accurate information that can be interpreted quickly to support better decision making and this is what IBP solutions can offer.”

At the other end of the market, Paul Heron of specialist vendor Claritum offered the view that the trend was away from ‘static’ ERP packages or those difficult to customise to those with high levels of functionality.

His clients want to see value and real benefit so off the shelf solutions are not enough and many customers want a tailored solution that is flexible and adaptable. They also need a partner whose strengths are a willingness to listen with the capability to adapt their solution to their needs.

Recently he has found clients are approaching them, often from old projects that never progressed beyond the RFP stage.

They also have created a new BRIGHT by Claritum solution which is aimed specifically at SMEs and provides capabilities that to date have only been available to larger enterprises, usually at a higher cost.

Regardless of scale, their clients want to know if their software solution can help them do more with either fewer people or with constrained headcount and enable them to work smarter with transactional work done automatically and easily.

It is our view that these events have driven an increase in demand for both solution providers and transformation consultants’ services. That has resulted in greater demand for people in client facing roles for both sectors late in 2020 and already in 2021. This is driving relatively buoyant job market conditions compared to many other sectors and particularly compared to the second and third quarters of 2020.

This article is an excerpt from our Procurement & Spend Management Insider Report for Spring 2021.

If you would like to discuss any of the points raised, please email

How Covid has unsettled the professional labour market – trust and reputation are more important than ever.

Our recent research into “The importance of job security and the criteria for your next job move – How have your opinions changed since Covid?” has produced some very interesting results.  Here are our findings:

Question 1: Given the events of 2020, how would you describe how your confidence about job security has changed?

The results given demonstrate that almost half of all respondents feel that their job security has been affected in some way by the Covid 19 pandemic. Within that group around 4 out of 5 feel less secure, perhaps unsurprisingly given the rising unemployment figures and the adverse effect of most companies’ revenue streams. Perhaps more intriguing is the remaining fifth who feel more secure as a result of the pandemic. Specific industries such as food retail, healthcare and certain technology businesses have thrived in response to global behavioural changes. However, the headline remains that Covid has unsettled the labour market and a much greater number of people are at least keeping an eye on other job opportunities.

Question 2: How have the events of 2020 affected your attitude towards a job move?

The results here tie into the first question in respect of those more likely to seek a new job being an almost identical proportion of those feeling less secure in their current position. This makes perfect sense, as to some degree, these individuals are being pushed towards the job market by their present less certain circumstances. However, for the remainder, around 60%, over half are less likely to move jobs than a year ago. Economic uncertainty and a volatile employment market are undoubtedly triggering a cautious approach amongst professionals who might otherwise have been open to a switch of employer. The takeaway here appears to be a polarisation of people’s attitudes towards changing jobs: if they feel insecure then consider a move but otherwise be extra conservative about moving.

Question 3: How receptive would you be if you received an unsolicited approach about a job move from the following sources?

Times of uncertainty tend to throw a spotlight on trust and this is borne out by the results to this question. From the five possible options “A former colleague” ranks top as a source of a job opportunity that a prospective candidate would pursue. Second highest was a “recruiter you already knew” which contrasted sharply with “recruiter you didn’t know” which was bottom of the five options offered. In summary, there is a clear divide between willingness to pursue a job through a known and trusted source versus a previously unknown or untested channel.

Question 4: Reflecting on the events of 2020, how have your attitudes changed? Are you more or less receptive to unsolicited approaches about a job from the following routes than you were previously?

The responses here reinforce the findings in question 3. In short, the better known the source of the job vacancy the more likely the individual is to follow up and express some interest in pursuing.

Question 5: Which of the following factors are important to you when considering a job move?

Work/Life Balance and Company Reputation have topped the priorities for job seekers in the current climate. Covid 19 has pulled the genie from the bottle in terms of home working and for many the prospect of going back to being 100% office-bound is undesirable. Apart from saving time associated with travel to an office, workers are able to have more flexibility when they work during the day facilitating school dropoffs for example. The increased importance of company reputation potentially has a couple of dimensions to it. Firstly, in a volatile economy, it makes sense for professionals to be more circumspect in choosing a new employer with a strong reputation as this associates closely with better job security and fair treatment during difficult trading conditions. Secondly, people are showing greater awareness of a potential employer’s corporate social responsibility and want to work for a firm that positively engages with customers, suppliers and the wider community.

Question 6: Bearing in mind the events of 2020, have the following factors become more or less important to you?

The responses to this question do much to support the conclusions from the previous question. The slight deviation is the higher ranking of a company’s financial performance suggesting that prospective candidates are more sensitive to the wider fortunes of the business than a year ago and are more reluctant to join a company that they perceive as suffering during the crisis. Again, there is a strong association between a company’s profit and future employment and career progression opportunities.


If you would like to discuss the implications of our findings for your hiring plans, and how we are helping our clients overcome some of these issues, please contact Simon Edbury via

Senior Leader’s BI Software Market Perspective – An Interview with Bill Harmer

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Bill Harmer, an SVP in the Business Intelligence software market with experience working at Information Builders, SAP and Microsoft. Our discussion provided some great insight on the current state of the Business Intelligence market, what customers are looking for and where we might be heading over the next few years.

I hope you find the conversation interesting and if you think Bill could be an asset to your organisation feel free to contact me on 07946 577145 or and I will put you in touch.

Simon Edbury

SE: What impact did the pandemic have on customer appetite for BI software solutions in 2020?

BH: The demand for better analysis behind decision making has been an increasing priority over the last 10 years. McKinsey have spoken of “breakaway companies” both surviving and thriving when exploiting data to guide future direction. The alignment of teams on strategy (via “data derived” logic), creating a foundation for people to exploit data with technology and importantly enabling operational staff with decision support dashboards – underpin the ability of companies to succeed and become category leaders.

Overlay the pandemic impact on companies, I have seen a ying-yang response, on one hand a need for preserving cash, then an opposite pressure to identifying the growth and shrinking markets and deciding where to invest. This has increased the appetite to exploit BI tools, but balanced with leadership agendas for short term survival and/or change. Assessing where the meaningful data resides, its consistency, quality and age, along with the best presentation of the information then become key factors to consider. This in combination with clarity of the client’s preferred business application platforms (eg. SAP, Oracle, SFDC, AWS, open source or…) and integration technologies, result in time to a decision on the appropriate BI tools and careful implementation planning. For these reasons I have seen customers be diligent and although keen to adopt the solution, many 2020 decisions were delayed from initial time frames.

SE: How do you think potential customers’ behaviour changed with regard to buying SaaS solutions? How did this affect your sales cycle?

BH: Most organisations today, across multiple sectors are a hybrid mix of on-premise, managed service components and cloud based subscription services. The pandemic has not really changed the fundamentals of how a solution is deployed, to support a business. One of the important variations is that speed to value may be accelerated when adopting a solution that is already operational as a cloud service.

The factors that impact how a solution is consumed by a business are many and varied but include: Data security – can you place customer data in another entity’s datacentre? Country boundaries for data privacy? What user availability demands and code update controls are required? What level of IT services and resources does the organisation elect to self manage and invest for differentiation? Or are certain areas ready for outsource?

My experience of the market in the last year, showed a delay in some contracts as diligence and budget approvals had increased scrutiny, but companies were still keen to underpin better data exploitation, possibly as part of a transformation.

SE: It’s been said that Covid 19 accelerated digital transformation for some businesses with 3 years progress happening in 3 months. Do you agree?

BH: Hmm good question! Let’s re-frame this point. Covid-19 certainly forced an increase in remote working and the need to rapidly deploy infrastructure to support a large percentage of the national workforce to WFH – this had to happen in a matter of weeks / months.

Digital transformation is more of a business model evolution, to focus on existing and potential new customer areas, exploiting assets in an organisation and to potentially create new value streams from existing processes and data. As a result of a transformation programme the business aims to be more agile and able to drive growth from new or differentiated markets.

Talking to my customers and prospect forums in 2020, I sensed drivers that did accelerate projects, but the times scales to impact vary. A drinks provider was moving rapidly to on-line order management as the bar / restaurant route to market diminished. A German manufacturer of cleaning products struggled to fulfil customers with a 400%+ increase in demand for certain cleaning agents, while their vehicle parts division saw demand decrease dramatically. Utility companies are re-framing the attention of customer service to support the less able and vulnerable, talking of “food delivery with a meter reading”. Insurance companies are looking to accelerate claim turnaround, minimise fraud and capture new risk data, while dealing with claim volume increases. Not least of all in health, organisations were looking to ensure both tracking of available resources (eg. bed availability) along with systems to ensure “duty of care” over staff.

In summary, I would say that the pandemic had varying triggers on organisations ranging from survival to operate in a different way to market, through to accelerating some specific processes / capabilities that could be defined as part of a transformation programme.

SE: Did the pandemic shift the kind of problems customers wanted to solve with data? And if so, can you give any examples? Were there any common themes?

BH: As discussed in the prior point customer’s problems ranged from survival due to for example loss of distribution channel (eg. drinks supplier), to companies that had massive growth to manage as the Covid impact drove demand for cleaning products, PPE products (masks to synthetic gloves) and numerous on-line services.

A common theme that I saw was the need for data cleansing and normalisation. BI tools had evolved through a period in the market where the User Interface and display modes became the focus – but poor data consistency supplying these dashboards resulted in a lack of confidence in the accuracy of the information presented – very “pretty & logical” displays, but not reinforcing trends anticipated by the users.

A second common theme I saw was the massive growth in on-line payments as physical retail distribution moved to “digital windows” and fulfillment. This is a theme we have all witnessed with some of the significant High Street retail brands failing due to their poor on-line capabilities to manage customer engagement in a pandemic – Top Shop, Debenhams… Equally, I read in the Sunday Times this weekend of JD Sports & Sports Direct achieving 25% of their 2020 turnover online, with ambitions to over 30% soonest in this athleisure annual £50Bn market.

Continuity of supply chains and the data giving clear status of shortfalls or supplier diversity have become another key topic for retail and manufacturing markets. Understanding the supply chain and risks from lockdown scenarios impacting staffing and distribution were key to some clients. I spoke with a large retail brand for which food was a major element and they were running risk assessments on prior experience of fulfilment.

SE: With so many people working remotely what impact did that have on the implementation of BI solutions for customers?

BH: Many factors impact the ability to deploy a solution, customer staff availability, leadership investment, a framework and clear method to implement a solution, experience with skills transfer, maturity of professional services team, possible partner knowledge, to name a few. However, if there is good clarity of project scope and the processes to be addressed, a culture of co-working / collaboration to a clear set of staged goals – then implementing a solution working remotely is achievable. IBI has a Spanish banking client that deployed a whole new branch reporting system with the professional services team never stepping on site! The project was a “poster child” in our EMEA South team for top quality customer engagement and working also with a key partner – Accenture.

SE: Amongst customers you have worked with what has been the biggest internal hurdle to them making the leap to being a data driven business? How have they overcome that barrier?

BH: One of the most comprehensive digital transformation projects – exploiting data, that I have witnessed in the last year was the fundamental change that Clive White is driving at the broadcast services company Arqiva (Parent Macquarie Group). Although their core business focuses on the management of infrastructure – masts, dishes, transmission centres, providing TV, Radio, Satellite and data communications. The transformation project has touched all aspects of their business, systems, processes, data pools – customer and supplier – internal stakeholders to provide a more agile and targeted business in the future to service the broadcast media and utility markets. In summary, I believe that leadership supporting cultural change in a company, for employees to exploit data based decisions and to seek new outcomes at multiple levels in an organisation is one of the key hurdles to cross.

SE: What is your expectation for the global economy in 2021?

BH: Unfortunately, I think the first half of 2021 will be largely impacted by the Corona pandemic as the vaccination programmes are rolled out internationally.

Following 2020, some sectors – travel, hospitality, live entertainment, luxury brands will continue to be negatively impacted and hopefully recover – all be it slowly. While the food, health, medical supplies, consumer goods, financial services, public sector markets continue with significant workloads based on the populations limited activities and demand for services in this time frame.

On a local level I believe the UK has still yet to understand the detailed implications of Brexit and the now completed separation agreement with the EU. A European at heart, I believe that we need to continue to work closely with our European colleagues and in some way act as a unified market – when compared to the economies of the USA or China, it will be important to find ways to collaborate. But the detailed implications of our agreement will only become clear over the next 6-9 months. Intelligent data solutions will inevitably be part of the fix, helping resolve some of the issues, including supply chain continuity, trade compliance documentation, and quota management guides. Requirements in this area will I believe emerge through 2021.

SE: How closely tied are a wider economic recovery and increasing deployment of BI software solutions?

BH: I predict a continued level of consolidation and M&A activity in the marketplace (eg. ibi acquisition by Tibco). This is partly driven by companies with aligned customer propositions and gaining economies of scale over a larger customer community. But increasingly I believe the aggregation of data integration, data “cleansing” and intelligent processing and display, into a combined platform to address the business need for widespread input, of trusted clean data into an intelligent application making interpretation or auto response to data feeds possible and effective.

To answer the question, broad cross sector economic recovery will only come as the vaccines have an impact on Covid-19 and the “sleeping” sectors are able to re-emerge. As companies look to rebuild and target carefully to survive, or companies look to diversify from the “boom products” (eg. medical supplies) of the pandemic era – data BI tools will be one part of that equation, so partially linked.

SE: What is the toughest challenge in terms of skills and talent for a senior executive in a BI software vendor?

BH: The depth of experienced skills and talent that understand integration data management, data quality, data science, process definitions, UI and information presentation, machine learning (ML), predictive and Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms, is variable. There is often quoted a shortfall of these technology skills in the market, however at a local level I believe there are a few key factors in play.

There are many specialists in one or two of these disciplines but limited few able to cross all elements in the breadth of an integrated business solution, plus able to knit partner assets to extend solution value. Securing good programme and technical talent will be key for success.

Increasingly the market will demand true predictive capabilities, applying more data a feeds, than past performance ML to derive future outcomes and the talent in the form of data scientists and AI tool builders are nascent skills.

I predict the definition of the BI market offerings will evolve to be broader – including the AI elements of incremental value and sector specific templates will evolve around, for example, supply chain intelligence, consumer tracking intelligence and IOT/Manufacturing intelligence. Specialism will be needed due to the complexity of each specific market dynamics.

SE: How do you think the landscape for BI solutions will change over the next five years? Do you see big players acquiring best of breed niche players to augment their customer offering, for example?

BH: Five years is a lifetime in technology so let’s focus on the next 3 years. The pandemic will influence the 2021 window as mentioned earlier. So moving forward there are some interesting changes impacting the market.

I have listened to the annual forum’s from some of the major technology players in the market (that have had to all move to online updates in 2020). AWS Re-invent – Andy Jassy eloquently spoke of the incremental cloud based releases of data storage /databases, processing, analytics, AI tools “Sagemaker”, call centre capabilities and sector specific stacks. This moves AWS up the value chain from infrastructure provider and supports the developer and “build cloud service” technology teams. Salesforce – Steve Benioff spoke at Dreamforce of the Digital Imperative and growing SFDC capability stack – Tableau, Mulesoft, Customer 360, now tying into a consistent user experience with Slack ($27.7Bn) purchase in December 2020. Microsoft spoke of the evolving commitment into Microsoft BI with increased intelligence in the cloud via “Synapse” data tools.

Google remains a significant cloud service option with their global processing power and self managed tools, currently increasing focus on delivering SAP services to the Enterprise, including the cloud platform analytics (updated from Business Objects capability). Other enterprise companies such as Oracle, IBM, ServiceNow having considerable customer bases, continue to assess should they carry on alone with their own cloud service capabilities or exploit the scale and partner with these players – AWS, Azure, Google?

Then there are the more niche players and innovative new entrants, including Alteryx, Tibco, SAS, Domo, Microstrategy, Cloudera (Hadoop), Databricks, Elastic Search, Data Robot, Dataiku, Domino. (I recognize I am blurring analytics with data management vendors in some of these cases, but this is supported by my earlier point on the importance of data management and data quality).

I do see some level of acquisition and consolidation in these two market tiers in the next 36 months, the larger companies will buy-in the appropriate niche player to fill a capability gap or gain deeper presence in a specific market area. My perception is AWS tends to build itself and work with client sponsors to add incremental value. Therefore I would suggest that Google and Microsoft may buy in some of these niche companies – provided the technology combination is not too high a hurdle to overcome.

SE: I know you are actively seeking your next challenge in the world of BI software. Where do you see yourself and what do you want to achieve?

BH: Great question 😊  my career has spanned exploiting many technology evolutions from mainframe to distributed, web commerce to security, open source to ERP, digital transformation, to recently over 5 years in the data analytics, data management and AI marketplace. I aim to exploit this experience and importantly the application of these technologies to deliver positive, business outcomes and thereby value for clients. I enjoy leading cross functional teams, identifying partners where value add, to find innovative business propositions that have an impact on the markets served. I also enjoy working across EMEA, identifying and nurturing technology professionals, forming teams, in each culture, to be successful, finding ways to increase their impact – I welcome continuing this international dimension.

I am currently seeking my next project that will exploit my leadership skills and ambition to “make a difference”, key components in that move will include some of the following elements:

■ Sustain and grow an evangelical customer base

■ Lead new business growth and identify new market segments

■ Lead a clear and differentiated, high impact value proposition

■ Foster a culture to retain & lure top talent to join the “brand of choice” for A-list professionals

■ Build a sustainable & profitable ARR for services delivered.

■ Gain the respect of my team & peer group for the results achieved and the culture that underpins such success.

■ Embrace the evolution of AI capabilities to drive competitive advantage.

I trust you have found some value in these observations and welcome the chance to discuss, as appropriate.