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In the Hot Seat with Dan Clibbens

Q&A with Dan Clibbens, Operations Director at Percipient

So it’s been quite a year. How has Percipient responded to the current challenges?

I think it’s an interesting question as the impact of the current pandemic has varied enormously from organisation to organisation.

For us, it’s been a relatively straightforward shift as we’ve simply extended our existing virtual support models and remote working practices.

The very nature of technology means that most businesses in the sector have adapted pretty well from what I have seen.

What impact has the pandemic had on your customer support model?

We’re pretty fortunate in many ways as prior to the pandemic we were asked by a couple of customers if we had the capability to run a project entirely off site. The first of these went live around 18 months ago, and the fact that we were able to manage the deployment from start to finish, including on premise software, without being onsite has been hugely valuable in two ways. Firstly, it has given us a blueprint for best practice, and secondly it has enabled us to reassure and instil confidence amongst our customers as they’ve navigated their way through the current challenges.

As I’ve said to many of our customers, delivering a project remotely has actually been easier than getting my parents to use a webcam! So, we’ve been ahead of the curve really, which is always a nice position to be in. We’re also incredibly lucky that broadband is at the stage it’s currently at. Can you imagine if this had occurred 10 years ago? Without the kind of robust infrastructure we have in the UK, things might look very different!

How have your customers transitioned?  

As I’ve just mentioned, I think there has been a growing appetite for remote deployments over the last few years, as organisations seek to drive down costs and capitalise on enabling technology. So, the events of this year have really expedited some of that sentiment. Crystal clear video calls have truly been a game changer in transitioning to a remote model where it’s requested or required, and have seen us all transition to a slightly different way of working.

In my view good relationships are crucial in project success, and I firmly believe that you need to see people, read body language and pick up on queries or signals in order to fully understand agendas and objectives, and to drill down into potential hurdles or issues.

The dynamics of video calls are very different to face to face meetings so we’ve established a kind of code of conduct from which to run project meetings virtually, including ice breakers, encouraging questions, both during the call and directly to participants, and organising one to one follow up sessions where needed. We also keep meetings to half a day maximum as the nature of video means they can be pretty intense. But the lack of travel means that there’s a clear cost benefit to this approach.

I believe that we’ll see more and more organisations start, or indeed ramp up, digital transformation projects which may have stalled in recent years. This pandemic has really put the importance of technology firmly in the spotlight, both personally and professionally, and while we are likely to see caution around spending, many will view transformation as being synonymous with survival.

Dan Clibbens
Operations Director, Percipient

How has demand for specific services changed in the lockdown?  

Initially we spent a lot of time reassuring customers and helping to set up teams remotely. For those where infrastructures couldn’t support the shift, we enabled direct, secure access into systems via VPN to ensure continuity. For areas such as finance, there is no option to default on workflow, particularly in light of new issues such as furloughing employees, so ensuring this access was critical.

Another trend we saw initially was the provision of additional first line support to users. As many roles had been furloughed, those in situ weren’t necessarily those with the skills and experience of using the system. Our team was very busy helping less experienced system users to interrogate systems and use them efficiently.

Now we’re starting to come out the other side, we’re seeing demand for data analytics projects and our remote deployments are ongoing. To some degree it’s been business as usual with a few twists and turns along the way.

What has been the biggest surprise?

There haven’t been any major surprises which we’re thankful for. We actually closed our offices two weeks before lockdown as a test to ensure a remote operational model worked. By the time we had confirmed that it did, lockdown had been announced so we have yet to fully return from our ‘fire drill’.

One small surprise has been that we’ve realised how much time we previously spent competing over meeting room bookings, particularly when they overrun. Avoiding those situations has been a small silver lining!

What measures have you put in place to look after employees’ mental health and maintain motivation?

Our Managing Director, Chris Stock, has led the charge in celebrating and sharing best practice, success stories and keeping everyone connected, positive and motivated. I think this sharing of stories has been really valuable in appreciating the roles everyone plays in the company’s success, and instilling empathy across the board.

We also get together every Friday for a quiz, which is a really nice opportunity to check in on how everyone is feeling – especially for those who typically don’t have a need to speak to many people outside of their own department day to day.

The Friday quiz is pretty interactive and to keep it interesting and we take turns in being the host with different themes every week. In the absence of an actual Friday pub club, they’ve been really good fun and a chance for everyone to let off steam in these strange times.

Finally, what lessons have you learned and how are these likely to impact the future for Percipient and its customers? 

The main lesson from my perspective is that I think remote deployments, for some customers at least, are here to stay. The cost and productivity benefits are clear, and while there’s no substitute for face to face, the quality of video calls now means that they come a close second.

I believe that we’ll see more and more organisations start, or indeed ramp up, digital transformation projects which may have stalled in recent years. This pandemic has really put the importance of technology firmly in the spotlight, both personally and professionally, and while we are likely to see caution around spending, many will view transformation as being synonymous with survival.

Contact Percipient

If you would like to speak to Dan to discuss the benefits of a new Oracle or Sage finance solution for your business, get in touch or call us on 01606 871332.

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