When you think of the factors that could affect England’s chances at the next World Cup in Qatar, IT may not be chiefly among them.
Middle East humidity, Harry Kane’s form and whether Gareth Southgate perseveres with Raheem Sterling in attack would be more likely to spring to mind.
However such is the prevalence of technology in businesses and organisations today that choosing the right suppliers and generating an effective roadmap for IT success could be the basis for a World Cup-winning blueprint.
The Football Association appointed Mason Advisory, which was recently awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise, to help oversee its technological transformation.
“It’s no longer about introducing technology into organisations for its own sake – it’s about how do we continually improve their performance using tech?” CEO Steve Watmough told BusinessCloud.
“We worked with the FA to provide a review of the IT service across the organisation and how they bought in services.
“The first part of that is about the people who work for the FA and the technology it uses, the same as with any other organisation. But the second part, perhaps the biggest deal for them and other sporting organisations, is about the data on the people that play football.
“The number one goal of the Football Association is to win the World Cup. To figure out how to do that, it needs to be peeled back to a level of how we improve the coaching; how we understand the performance of the players; and learning from successes.
“What was behind them? Can we do more of that across all aspects of the game, from grassroots and kids coming through to every element of the professional game? That is how to improve the teams at all levels.”
Mason Advisory was presented with its Queen’s Award in the International Trade category last week after securing significant growth in overseas sales following projects in the USA, Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, Jamaica and Qatar. BusinessCloud paid the firm a visit to watch Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester, Warren Smith, formally present the award.
Employing 30 staff, it advises medium-to-large organisations across both the public and private sector, including the government of Mauritius – a prominent off-shoring location in the French-speaking business world – and one of the UK’s major supermarkets.
Technologies such as contactless payments are now demanded by customers, says Watmough.
“We work across all geographies and sectors but retail in particular is under huge pressure at the moment to adopt technology,” he said. “Think about the sheer size and number of endpoints a major retailer has – it might have upwards of 40,000 tills.
“In a self-checkout world, you and I are operating the checkout ourselves – the need for that to be both reliable and easy to use is critical or you lose the sale and they might not come back next time.
“The tech challenge becomes more acute as the organisation gets bigger. It also gets more expensive and the cost of failure gets higher.
“Look at the system failure at TSB – how hard a project would that have been? There’s not an easy answer to that: it’s a complex environment where you need really good technologists, really good planners, really clear thinking about how to do it – and it still isn’t guaranteed to work.”
Cloud technologies are easing the cost burden and reducing risk, Watmough says, while businesses are now happier to spend money on technology than in times past.
“The world of cloud enables amazing creativity because people can use new cloud-based apps to try things whereas in the past they would have had to have invested massively to get the first thing off the ground,” he explained.
“The retailers, for example, wrote all their own early point-of-sale applications and had to commit millions and millions of pounds without really knowing whether the value would come back from it.
“Now you can take an off-the-shelf app that runs in the cloud, try it for a few people and once you start to see the returns on it, scale it up quite quickly.
“Traditionally the IT industry has had a reputation for promising a lot and delivering a lot less – or not as fast as it was promised.
“Now we’re getting to a stage where you’re confident that you’re going to get what you spend your money on.”