Vision and persistence in a multiple transformation program
How do you give direction to a relatively decentralized company from a central vision? How do you address divergent expectations regarding IT within the SPIE group and among employees? How do you stick to a long-term strategy in a highly pragmatic culture? Lieve Declercq, general director of SPIE Netherlands accomplishes it. The IT landscape overhaul is successfully linked to strategic and organizational challenges.
The Dutch branch of the international multi-technical service provider SPIE has grown rapidly over the past fifteen years. With a major takeover almost every year, about five thousand people currently work for the daughter of the eponymous and originally French parent company. For example Zuit, specialist in public lighting, was acquired in 2017.
“Growth is good, but the integration of systems has lagged” says the top woman who took office in May 2017. After her start, she faced an extensive transformation with four strategic spearheads: people first, house in order, innovation and growth. In that context, she encountered an outdated IT environment, that was not qualified to support the SPIE business towards the future.
Lieve Declercq: “Our landscape had more than 250 applications, a lot of shadow IT, hack-string interfaces, plenty of manual work and multiple interpretations of the outdated core system, which was used by people and departments in various ways.”
At SPIE Netherlands, there was also the question of how the company would develop further towards customers and the market. “Will we continue as a ‘jobber’, delivering purely labor according to the principle of hourly rate times the number of hours? Or is there more to it? For example, some of our customers were interested in smart asset management, predictive maintenance, and managed service contracts. To be able to deliver this, the information provision had to be improved” according to the general director.
In 2018 it was decided to put the technological basis in order, to create value by providing new or different services. Another consideration was that, as a large organization, SPIE still operated as a collection of many small, independently operating companies.
“Different management of work processes was also needed. No longer individually, but from a central and standardized point of view.” However, the old core system, is mainly transactional and did not fit in at all.
“Sometimes it collides, but that is what characterizes any good relationship“Lieve Declercq – general director of SPIE Netherlands
It soon became clear to Declercq that the approach requires a complete programme, and not just a series of projects. In addition to selecting the right core application, a large change component is attached to especially the implementation of the application. “We were not sure that we ourselves had the necessary competencies within the company.” Coincidentally, in a former company were Declercq had the role of CEO, she had met a good external program manager: Niels van Loon. “From the start Niels indicated that he could not do this job alone and introduced Anderson MacGyver.”
“Together with Anderson MacGyver, an analysis was made in 2018 based on the Operating Model Canvas” she continues. “This immediately resulted in good conversations about our activities, organizational structure and the associated IT support ultimately summarized in clear pictures and actions.”
This rational view of the entire organization helps enormously in determining the course and decision-making. Analysis shows that SPIE Netherlands is characterized by overlapping roles and systems and is struggling with contaminated databases. The core system lacks the required functionality and the capability to integrate acquired companies. The lack of a group solution leads to revenue leakage, faulty processes, and high failure costs.
Lieve Declercq: “The change program consists of four workstreams: selection of the new core application, cleaning and integration of the databases, approach to peripheral systems, and professionalization of the internal IT department. Until now, IT has mainly focused on service and support and must now contribute to the system implementation and strategic development.”
Seen from the perspective of the international SPIE Group, this is a decentralized implementation. Nevertheless, the experiences from the various countries and divisions are taken along. After all, application selections have also been started abroad, which can lead to possible purchasing benefits. Ultimately, IFS Apps 10, a solution of software vendor IFS, was chosen in the Netherlands. “A company and solution we had not heard of before.”
“Anderson MacGyver, thanks in particular to Onno Wasser, has played a major role in the selection, negotiation, pricing, and conditions surrounding IFS” Declercq continues. “We as SPIE could never have done that ourselves. Fabian Haijenga has made a smart architectural plan. Lisa Folkertsma and Else de Meijer guided the first Agile migrations in such a way that we could take it over ourselves for the remaining migrations. We frequently discuss the progress with Gerard Wijers.”
Since the first proof of concept in 2019, SPIE Netherlands is at about twenty percent of the system implementation. In parallel, the functionality is being further developed and business units are switching step by step to the new application.
“As the implementation is gradually being handed over to our own people, Niels and the people at Anderson MacGyver sometimes have to jump over their own shadow. The transition from hired teams to the mostly newly appointed managers is progressing smoothly and faster than we initially anticipated.”
Sticking to the adopted strategy is not an issue for Lieve Declercq personally: “I am naturally steadfast. As SPIE Netherlands, we are also very committed to the strategic objective. You always encounter problems, but where there is a will, there is a way. And sometimes you have to adjust a bit.”
Challenges play in four different areas. After all, IFS cannot immediately deliver all promised functionality. Furthermore, the first migration was underestimated in the pilot phase, which required the necessary aftercare. Cleaning up the databases also turned out to be more difficult than expected.
The first roll-out was deliberately based on a minimum viable product, so users did not go straight from the old world to Valhalla. “Gradually, people notice that it works, and they automatically become enthusiastic” according to the general manager. “The corona crisis has no major impact on turnaround time. Training and implementation are mainly executed digital.”
Lieve Declercq is very pleased with Anderson MacGyver‘s contribution. “The commitment of the aforementioned stakeholders is phenomenal. They are external and at the same time internal. Sometimes it collides, but that is what characterizes any good relationship. They never compromise on quality and understand that we will not be connected forever. That is very neat.”
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