Successful public service transformation – what works and why?

Everyday governments face the question – evolve or transform? Focus on well-defined shifts in ways of working within one department. Or radically transform government through new technology enabled business models.

Public service transformation was the subject of a recent Institute for Government (IfG) roundtable, sponsored by Sopra Steria, where senior civil servants identified principles for successful transformation. A lack of focus or clear objectives, inadequate resources, unrealistic timescales, departmental silos, limited insight from service users, unpredictable and changeable political agendas. The reasons for failed transformation programmes were many and varied.

But there were examples of successful transformation. Civil servants cited automatic enrolment to workplace pensions (more people are now saving for retirement), Getting it Right the First Time (reducing unwarranted variations in medical care) and Making Tax Digital (digitising the reporting of tax). There were also many examples – such as Universal Credit, NHS Vanguards and School Academisation – were it is just too early to reach a sound judgement. Transformation can take time.

In reality, high performing government agencies do resemble well-run companies. Both have worthy goals; well designed, rational processes; strict accountability; and effective leaders. But the profound differences in their purposes, their cultures and the contexts within which they operate conjure up different obstacles.

Transformation across government is arguably more difficult than the private sector. It is not possible to exclude a ‘difficult’ service user. Priorities change with new political leadership. Traditional structures tend to be hierarchical rather than flexible and agile. There is increasing political and media oversight. And there might be public opposition to novel efficiency initiatives such as remote video hearings or online pleas for minor offences or even divorce applications.

This means that transformation, through flexible new operating models designed around users and data, requires new thinking across government. Civil servants told us there was no ‘magic bullet’. Instead there is a need for empowered teams that deliver an agreed vision and work through a detailed plan. They have cross government support to remove systems and structures that undermine progress. There is a willingness to experiment, with pilots and early wins building credibility. And incentives, positive and negative, drive behaviours, including ‘invest to save’ schemes and the use of behavioural insights.

The suggestions made will play a formative role in the development of a ‘Transforming Public Services – 2020 and beyond’ research programme. I’d welcome comment on the this or any other issues raised in this post. And you might want to know more about our recent research with NIESR, where we asked whether the recent more upbeat assessment of the public sector finances was realistic.

From Farm to Fork: How Blockchain Will Revolutionize the Way We Eat

When we think of potentially hazardous foods, chicken, pork or perhaps eggs might come to mind- but not lettuce.  Yet just last month in America, this supposedly harmless vegetable left 5 people dead and just under 200 seriously ill. The culprit? Contamination with the deadly E-coli bacteria at some point in the lettuce’s supply chain that, two months on, authorities have still been unable to identify.

In today’s complex and increasingly globalised supply chains, cases like this are becoming unwelcome regulars in our newsfeeds; so too are instances of mislabelling or even malicious tampering.  Outdated systems, never-ending paper trails and lack of visibility all contribute to the chaos. Every year, 30% of food produced worldwide is lost to supply chain errors, costing businesses a staggering US $1 trillion. Over 420,000 people die annually from contaminated food, a quarter of these being children. Our supply chains are long overdue a renovation, and the food industry thinks it has an answer: blockchain.

Over the past six months, major retailers across the globe, including Walmart and Carrefour, have announced pilot projects to experiment with blockchain-based supply chains. Proponents say that these new systems will revolutionize our current supply chains, reducing waste and creating safer, more efficient and more transparent processes for consumers and businesses alike. But is this simply another example of the hype endemic to blockchain, or will it prove genuinely transformative?

What is blockchain?

At its heart, blockchain is simply a ledger. Like a normal ledger, it can be used to document digital records of transactions. However, unlike centralised ledgers, which are stored on one single device, a blockchain is stored across multiple devices, and can be updated by multiple participants simultaneously. This makes it extremely transparent, and a highly effective tool for transacting across complex networks with numerous, geographically dispersed participants. Blockchain also offers a high degree of security and is effectively tamper proof, thanks to specialist cryptographic infrastructure- meaning it is virtually impossible to alter or delete information once it has been committed to the network.

On the surface, these characteristics of distribution and immutability make blockchain a highly attractive proposition for businesses with complex supply chains. It cuts out the need for the disparate, independent databases and paper trails that plague today’s systems, giving businesses an automatic, reliable and digitalised bird’s eye view over the journey of any product.

This increased transparency and traceability could offer significant advantages to food retailers. First, it incentivizes suppliers and producers to label products accurately and honestly- if an item has been tampered with, it is easy to identify the culprit. Currently, retracing a product’s journey through a supply chain takes weeks or months- something that was exemplified by the powerlessness of American authorities in the face of the E-coli crisis. A blockchain-backed system, by comparison, could reduce the time it takes to trace products from months to a matter of seconds.  This increased control over their networks could allow retailers to mitigate or even prevent contamination or quality incidents.

Giving customers increased visibility over the provenance of their food could also give businesses a competitive edge. Currently, consumers around the globe have little insight into the origins and quality of the food they are eating. In Chinese markets, where counterfeiting and quality has long been an issue, we are beginning to see this change. Retailer Alibaba, who is running its own blockchain pilot, is currently experimenting with adding QR codes to the back of imported butter. These are designed to allow consumers an overview of the butter’s lifecycle, giving them in depth information about the origins and quality of the product and acting as a reassurance that what they are buying is not a counterfeit. Retailers operating in the UK should pay attention. As we leave the European Union and its stringent food laws behind, consumer complacency around sourcing will likely decrease. Just earlier this year, there was wide scale public uproar against a potential import deal with America which threatened to bring in low welfare, chemical laden meat into the UK. If consumer mentality changes, businesses that prioritise transparency will stay one step ahead.

An imperfect system

While these potential benefits are significant, blockchain is no one-size-fits-all solution for supply chain management. Despite its transparency, this system- like any other database- is only as good as the participants operating on it, and will still be subject to human error (intentional or otherwise). The transparency of blockchain platforms does incentivize honesty, but businesses will still need to take measures to counter mistakes or fraudulent behaviour if they want a truly reliable overview of their supply networks. Such measures might include data verification technology like satellites, drones or sensors, but these will inevitably add to the cost of implementing these platforms.

Digital inclusion- or the lack of it- will also be a challenge for businesses who operate supply chains in developing nations. While the western world takes for granted digital technologies and our ability to operate these technologies, access to the same luxuries (or, in some cases, even the internet) cannot be assumed outside of this bubble. This has been a significant challenge for Moyee coffee, an Irish company trading on a blockhain powered supply chain, who have resorted to stationing employees in Ethiopia to operate the platform on behalf of producers. While this may work well on a small scale, linear supply chain, for larger organisations with more complex, disparate supply chains, it may not prove so easy.  It is also only a temporary solution; to make these platforms truly sustainable, businesses will need to take a longer-term approach to the underlying issues.

These challenges mean that blockchain, in spite of the noise currently being made in popular media, remains firmly in the proof-of-concept stage as a solution for supply chain management; it is not likely that it will be viable for widespread use for several years to come. However, despite these hurdles, blockchain’s impact on this industry should not be minimised. It has challenged the tired, outdated systems that are no longer fit for a globalised world; even if food retailers choose not to turn to blockchain for innovation, they should be striving towards the same goals it promotes- a more efficient, transparent supply chain for the benefit of businesses and consumers alike. Blockchain is no magic cure for the many woes that plague the food industry today- but it is certainly a good start.

 

How telcos are turning data into a true business asset

The good news – we have more data than ever. The bad news – we have more data than ever.

Data, and more importantly, how you harness it to create real business value, is a topic that crops up time and again in my conversations with the telecoms companies I work with. The challenge they’re facing is how to master and govern their escalating data volumes: how do they ensure they have a data driven business, but that the insights they drive action from are based on the right information. How can they be confident that their data is clean, up to date and accurate, and given the sheer volumes in question, how do they master and control their data going forward so that investments to establish the right data environment have longevity?

In the digital economy, the power of data is there for all to see. To many companies created over the last 15 years, data is not just in their DNA, it often forms their currency. Whilst we may view Amazon as a digital pioneer in the retail and logistics market, and Uber as similar in transport, the fact is that they are data driven through every part of their business. They offer a digital customer experience that sets the standard to which other organisations now aspire, and they form their entire business around the use of data.

The challenge within the telco environment is primarily that data; such as customer data, product data, etc, is in so many different systems, and often in multiple formats. A customer entity may exist multiple times, and without structured data hierarchies or unique identifiers, it’s hard to deduce what is the ‘truth’ and how should it be mastered. Even if you can get all you data in one place, which is difficult enough, you then have to make it usable and ultimately valuable. And often the value in unstructured data is simply overlooked.

Getting this data issue solved is not just an ambition, but a necessity. It forms the bedrock of digital transformations in customer experience and process automation. In my previous blog I focussed on intelligent automation, but this will only materially occur when there is high confidence in the data. Enabling robotic process automation on questionable data is not where you want to be. Data, drives Insight, drives Action – but you have to trust the data if you are to make the right decision and get the right outcome.

Seeing the bigger B2B picture

Telcos really have made great strides in transforming their businesses over the last few years, and I’ve witnessed this especially in B2B. Cloud computing and increased IT agility has underpinned the move towards a more data driven approach. Suddenly, better quality data is starting to emerge as a result of system migrations and associated data cleansing activities, and a continued focus on data stewardship and resulting data quality. The next stage in this evolution though is to establish a scalable and lasting solution, and this is where a focus on Master Data Management (MDM) is key. Whether a data registry model or a data hub approach has been opted for, there are still issues around achieving a single version of truth, whilst avoiding repeated manual data cleansing processes.

Because telcos and other large enterprises capture, store, share, secure and analyse millions of data records day in, day out, in too many cases, projects introducing or upgrading MDM capabilities to solve ongoing data challenges, or to meet new regulatory requirements, have, and continue to fail. It’s time to look to a different way to turn enterprise data assets into competitive advantage and make those projects deliver on their promise.

A new approach

MarkLogic (a Sopra Steria partner) advocates a new approach (its heliocentric solution) to getting on top of disconnected data silos. What it refers to as its ‘schema-agnostic platform’ allows data to be stored in its original form and enriched as necessary. Instead of a big-bang approach required by traditional MDM – which demands all data be mapped before the system is useful, a schema-agnostic approach is more flexible and responsive. Iterative transformation of data after ingest allows businesses to focus on high value tasks first, testing each change for correctness, and being able to respond to business changes quickly.

That’s just one aspect of this heliocentric approach. At the same time, semantics, a new database technology, provides a new approach to modelling data that focuses on relationships and context, making it easier for data to be understood, searched, and shared. Using semantics, it becomes possible to integrate disparate data faster and easier, and to build smarter applications with richer analytic capabilities.

In-line with Telcos digital strategies, and the underlying need for increased agility, the opportunity to address the “data challenge” in an agile way, tackling high value areas and accelerating business value is now a reality. Several years, and many millions of investment that struggles to solve the issue, could now be a thing of the past.<

Get in touch

To find out more about seizing control of your data with a new approach to MDM, contact Jason Butcher on jason.butcher@soprasteria.com

Read the MarkLogic blog ‘A new way to master MDM

Why telcos are getting smart with their process automation

If you’re a telecoms operator providing services into consumer and business markets, you will know how important customer experience is to your business. Whether you’re providing connectivity (fixed, mobile, converged), unified communications and IT services into Enterprises, or quad-play offerings to consumers, you will know the importance of an increasingly digital experience and efficient and effective processes.

It is often the case though, that the experience for the customer when trying to work with you is less than they have become accustomed to with organisations who have been born in the digital era. These companies have changed the paradigm for customer experience and set a new bar height to which organisations now aspire. But these organisations do not have to carry the weight of process complexity, and challenges that the myriad of systems within a multi-decade year old IT estate create.

So against this backdrop, how do you make the complex simple? How do you take what your customer expects to be easy and make it so? How do you achieve significant operational cost savings, especially in back-office functions, whilst the work of your customers continues to exist? Moreover, how do you deliver all this, stay true to a digital strategy that makes you fit for the future, AND improve today’s customer experience in the process?

Turning to process automation

Can you afford the cost? In today’s increasingly commoditised telecoms industry, where every opportunity to reduce operating costs is being pursued, it’s no wonder that telcos have been investing in process automation for some time now. For heavily process-driven businesses, process automation brings significant benefits, from improved efficiency and heightened productivity levels, to reduced operational costs and assurance of compliance – not forgetting greater customer satisfaction.

Now this automation is becoming smarter, more intelligent. Self-learning, self-healing, intelligent process automation that leaves only genuine business reasons for exceptions to require expert human intervention. It has the potential to deliver significant savings and productivity increases. To quantify this, let’s say that you took 80% of your standard customer transactions and fully automated them, using Robotic Process Automation. But with Intelligent Automation, your ‘robotic process engine’ uses Artificial Intelligence in order to analyse data and apply continuous learning to optimise processes. So, in other words, it becomes increasingly smarter.

Adding up the gains

What you’re left with is the 20% of more complex customer requirements better handled by human agents, with these ‘exceptions’ reducing as the intelligent automation is applied. This not only cuts costs through enabling significant people savings in back-office functions (you get the work done, but with a fraction of the resources), but it also has a positive impact on customer experience. How? Expert human decisions remain integral to the end-to-end process for personal contact where required, but customers can quickly and easily carry-out those standard transactions in a digital and frictionless way. With the option of presenting the customer choices of interface, including voice integration into the same intelligent automation engine, your customer experience is improved, whilst your operational processing costs are reduced.

Using intelligent automation to reduce manual processing also increases accuracy levels by removing errors and issues with data quality. The less human interference, the less human error. Customers are now achieving more than 5 x processing speed benefits with 99.5% accuracy from customer service processes using intelligent automation. All this with the ability for the robotic engine to be accessible 24 x 7 within vastly reduced operating costs.

The other benefit is that of systems integration. The intelligent automation platform becomes the means by which different systems are accessed and data transferred between them in real-time, and with quality assurance occurring on the fly.

A platform for rapid adoption

At Sopra Steria, our Intelligent Automation Platform (IAP) offers a way for clients to fast-track their adoption of intelligent automation. IAP learns ‘on the job’, fine-tuning people-less processes to continuously improve the level of straight-through processing available, and reducing the requirement for human intervention. For organisations with global entities, such as telcos, it is fully scalable and geographically independent. This means businesses can link up processes from previously disparate parts of their organisation.

Intelligent automation really is a game changer. It enables automated and intelligent decision making, using real-time business insight. Whether the process is to on-board new customers or suppliers, transact for services or enable change management, or deal with in-life operational support, the ability for intelligent automation to underpin a digital customer experience and transform front and back-office processes is incredible. It may seem like the stuff of science fiction, but organisations, especially those heavily dependent on systems and processes such as telcos, will be increasingly looking at intelligent automation as part of their digital strategy.

Get in touch

To find out more about our Intelligent Automation Platform, please contact me via jason.butcher@soprasteria.com

3 tips for accelerating digital transformation in telecoms

The telecoms industry is no stranger to change. After all, the leading players in this sector have delivered network connectivity and devices that sit behind many of the world’s game-changing digital innovations. Take digital pioneer Uber as an example; it simply wouldn’t exist without the proliferation of smartphones and underpinning mobile network engines. But there’s a problem for the telecoms companies providing the networks and devices enabling these new business models. These telco giants need to accelerate their own digital transformations but, unlike digital start-ups, they have made massive investments in legacy IT over the past few decades and can’t simply ‘switch on digital’.

Nonetheless, business leaders recognise that, as consumers increasingly demand a digital customer experience, one that offers instant gratification, they must embrace the digital economy. Failure to become a truly digital company, is not an option. You only have to look at the number of big name companies that have gone out of business in recent years because they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, transform.

So, how can traditional telecoms companies survive in today’s fast-changing digital economy? Not known for their agility, how do they forge ahead quickly with digital transformation programmes that ensure their business models and operations are fit for the future? There are many recommendations for accelerating transformation, embracing technical, operational and process change, but I’m going to focus on just three in this blog.

Tip 1 – Modernise legacy applications, rather than dispose of them

At Sopra Steria, we encourage those clients with a heavy investment in legacy assets to modernise what they’ve invested in over the years, while ensuring they also keep pace with modern, cloud-based developments. It’s clearly not feasible to replace decades-old systems and applications in their entirety. That’s especially so in an industry experiencing significant pressure on revenues and margins (e.g. decreased roaming revenues, commoditisation and price erosion) and needing to continue investing in their networks (SDN/NFV & 5G, etc). So, my recommendation is to adopt an evolutionary approach. Ask what you need to do to extract more value from existing IT assets in line with a digital strategy. Then look at the real business triggers for legacy applications to become redundant or the option to replace with new, cloud-native ones. Be selective in your investments and opt for projects that give a rapid ROI. Modernisation offers a quick win as you accelerate your digital transformation.

Top 2 – Use Agile coaches to turn DevOps from theory into reality

We all know that speed to market with new services and products that give customers the digital experience they’re looking for is vital. To achieve this, organisations recognise that they need to transform their software development processes. Traditional lengthy waterfall-style development must be replaced with a DevOps culture that enables rapid, frequent releases through Agile sprints. This is typically a strategic top-down decision that sounds good in theory. The message is clear: we need to release fast, often and with assured quality; and we need to be agile so that we can respond quickly as the market changes. Yet that message becomes lost as it filters down through the management layers and those people expected to put theory into practice struggle to make it happen. I’ve seen enterprises overcome this by embedding Agile coaches at different layers of the organisation. These are people with practical experience of DevOps and Agile, able to lead and demonstrate this new way of working. This is a case of ‘don’t just tell us how to do it, show us as well’.

Tip 3 – Address adoption challenges with a defined vision and value position

Even with Agile coaches embedded in the end-to-end DevOps cycle, we still see instances where an organisation has implemented a new system or launched an innovative app that fails to gain traction with users. Let’s say, for example, you want to launch a mobile-front end on your Oracle DB system, enabling your employees to access what they need, where and when they need it. Or you might have invested millions in a new cloud platform for better visibility and control. If you want to avoid this being money down the drain, you must encourage user adoption. This requires communication of the ‘vision for’ and ‘value of’ your investment. So, it’s not just a case of communicating what the new capability is for (the vision), but clearly articulating the benefit it will bring both to the business and the users themselves (the value). If it’s a sales application, why would your salespeople use it if they perceive that’s it’s just a management tool for tracking what they do? How much more enthusiastic would they be if they understood how it will help them to sell more, faster? It sounds a simple tip for ensuring successful adoption of new digital tools, but the lack of a defined vision and value proposition can so easily stand in the way of you achieving your desired business outcomes.

Get in touch

The above three tips are just a flavour of the new thinking and approaches that telcos must take on board to survive in today’s digital economy by accelerating their digital transformations.

To find out more please contact me – jason.butcher@soprasteria.com 

Confronting the M&S challenge – why data is the solution

The impact of digital on the retail sector hit home at the end of May when M&S announced that it was accelerating its digital transformation following plunging profits. That one of the UK’s best-known retail brands had clearly failed to keep up with digital consumer trends may have come as a shock to many. I wasn’t surprised, however. I’ve recently written a paper on this very topic. In ‘Why data is the new retail battleground’ I look at one of the key reasons why traditional retailers are struggling to compete with their digital competitors – data.

For me, the challenge is not that these retailers have failed to invest in online commerce channels. Indeed, many are doing well in this respect. What’s holding them back is that they’re still using decades-old back office systems and processes governing Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Product Information (PIM) and Product Master Data Management (MDM). These retailers, and especially those with a catalogue heritage, retain a large legacy of systems, processes and cultural norms that are not aligned to the expectations of today’s customer. They’ve typically expanded into digital channels to meet the consumer appetite, but they’re being hindered by operating models that remain wedded in their legacy data management principles.

The Amazon effect

To compete with the likes of Amazon and other digital retailers, traditional companies must transform – and they need to do this fast. The ability to capture the right product information quickly and accurately, then push it out to the relevant operational (Finance, Warehouse, Transport, Order Management, etc.) and commercial (Merchandising, Marketing, Pricing, etc.) systems will be critical for this. However, these processes are typically not well managed, or even automated, by many traditional retailer organisations today. Everything from data input, data cleansing and data matching, data enrichment and data profiling, through to data syndication and data analytics, is still dependent on disconnected and largely manual operations.

It’s clearly time to automate those areas of data management that are tying up valuable human resources in manual repetitive tasks. Trying to do what they do now without automation will not work for traditional retailers. In my paper, I describe a set of automation best practice that all retailers should be considering in this respect.

A strategic choice

I also point out that this isn’t just an IT challenge. It is a strategic choice to build a single source of data truth on which product decisions can be made. This is built on an understanding that to remain competitive with responsive and agile operations, every day, organisations need to bring about both technology and cultural change.

Like many traditional retailers, M&S clearly has a number of digital challenges to confront, such as those described above. After announcing its 62% drop in pre-tax profits, the retailer declared it would be modernising its business through ‘accelerated change’ to cater for an increasingly online customer base. I hope it puts data at the heart of this transformation.

Read my paper for more on how to move to a new data-led operating model in today’s fast-moving retail environment.

Community Matters Week at Sopra Steria is here: here’s how (and why) we’re doing it

Each year hundreds of Sopra Steria people support their local communities and local, national and international charities by volunteering and raising money for them.  For one special week, we do as much volunteering and fundraising together as we can.  This is what we call Community Matters Week, and today, 18 June, is the first day of our 2018 campaign.

Corporate community initiatives have become commonplace.  Almost all large companies and many small ones have some sort of philanthropic or charitable initiative.  If you ask us why we do it (we are for-profit entities after all), we will tell you that it is the right thing to do, and it is.  Companies must give back.  But there’s so much more to it.  Organisations that only think of community impact as the right thing to do, won’t do it as well as they could if they thought about it as a real business imperative, as important as (and, as I’ll argue later, in fact intrinsically linked to) the focus on profitability, the talent war, and pretty much any aspect of a company’s corporate strategy.

The problem with ‘the right thing to do’

When companies only think about community impact as the right thing to do, they aren’t forcing themselves to be imaginative and innovative; a reasonably sized cheque written out to a charity that may or may not have anything to do with the company’s objectives – or more importantly, its role in society and its capabilities – is often the sum total of its community impact work.  Certainly supporting the vital work charities do is important.  But these organisations miss the opportunity to have a much greater impact on the world while also benefitting themselves.  Furthermore, if cheque-writing is the main way a company seeks to make a positive difference, those cheques might get smaller when times are tough; organisations will want to continue to do the right thing, but it often becomes harder in lean times.  In short, this doing the ‘right thing’ mindset is not very sustainable.

Serious impact takes imagination… and critical business thinking

I like to think of developing a strong community impact programme in the same way we might think about choosing careers when we’re young.  We are encouraged then to think about what we’re good at, as well as what we enjoy, and the ultimate career path chosen should build on both aspects (probably with a slightly greater emphasis on what we’re good at).  For example, as a teenager, I really loved dance, but I wasn’t good enough to make a career out of it (don’t worry, my ego survived!).  It wouldn’t have made sense for me to pursue dance, just as, perhaps, it doesn’t make sense, for example, for a technology company to focus all its community impact resources on activities that have nothing to do with technology.

The question we ask ourselves at Sopra Steria is, ‘how can we make best use of our capabilities and resources to make a difference?’  We know that we will have a bigger impact when we do what we’re good at.  This will be true for other organisations as well.

The second step is to think big.  Too frequently, community programmes aren’t as innovative as the organisations that run them because they’re seen as something separate from the rest of the company.  This is another pitfall of the ‘right thing to do’ mentality because the ‘right thing to do’ can be anything (there is so much good work that needs to be done, so this is understandable), and the programmes don’t draw on an organisation’s innovators and strategists.  When companies think big about community impact, they follow up the question above, with another question: ‘what are the world’s most pressing challenges?’, and they get others to input: sector directors who work with customers and have a deep understanding of the things businesses are trying to address; strategists; and, of course external stakeholders, such as academics and organisations focusing on sustainable development).

It is important that this is the second question, and not the first because there are so many pressing challenges that it will be too difficult to answer this in any meaningful way.  With your answers to the first question in mind, you can identify some areas that your company, no matter its resource limitations or industry focus, could actually make a difference in.

The third and final step is to whittle down the long-ish list of ideas that will have emerged from the first two questions by testing which ones will integrate with and support your corporate strategy.  Ideally, your community programme will actually transform your corporate strategy, making it stronger by bolstering organisation mission and purpose.  Organisations stuck in the ‘doing the right thing’ mentality bristle at the idea that community impact should be a part of corporate strategy and therefore yield business benefits, but those that do not will be constantly at risk of being cut, and if they’re cut, they become less effective, have less of an impact, and that is not what anyone wants, surely.

Some help on the third question

It might not be possible to do the third step above well if you don’t have the business case for community impact programmes well established.  Although this will vary from industry to industry, there are some universal truths:

  • Communities are part your infrastructure and your future: they are the potential sources of your near and long-term future workforce and supply chain, so supporting effective, inclusive education and strong, inclusive local economic growth benefits everyone.
  • Community impact programmes provide competitive advantage both in terms of talent attraction and retention, and in winning business. Employees and customers alike want to work with companies that are making a positive difference in the world.  Employees want to be able to contribute to that in their work.
  • Community impact programmes are lenses through which to spot innovation and development opportunities: because of the point made above – that people want to have the opportunity to do good in their work – some of the most compelling innovations come through well thought-out community programmes that encourage employees to develop solutions to the problems in the world they care about.  For example, in France, a Sopra Steria employee has developed a solution to help homeless people keep digital copies of their important documents and photos so they are not damaged when they are sleeping rough.  Now we are taking this to market.  Furthermore, employees who work on such projects are developing valuable skills they can use in their jobs.

This week at Sopra Steria

All of this is informing what we are doing during Community Matters Week.  Last year we introduced a new Community Strategy that focuses on four areas:

  • Digital inclusion
  • Educations, skills & employability
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Employee engagement

Entrepreneurship and employee engagement are at the heart of Community Matters Week: all of our volunteers are using entrepreneurial skills to find new, more effective ways of fundraising for the charities we’re supporting.  They are marketing, selling, building relationships, sourcing products (for example to go in raffles and auctions), and managing projects.  Employees have a say in how Community Matters Week is run, helping to choose which organisations we support and to develop and run their own activities during the week.  All Sopra Steria people get paid time off for volunteering, too.

This year we have more digital activities than ever before.

Our Digital Innovation team has developed a new app that will be used by dozens of employees to track distances walked, run, and cycled in our Step Up for Scholars Challenge, which will raise money for scholarships for young poor people in India to go to university.

We have an eBay-style e-auction that will enable our large, distributed workforce to get involved wherever they are during the week by bidding on great prizes, with all proceeds going to charity.

We will be live-streaming events, again, so all employees everywhere can join in the goodness.

Finally, Community Matters Week isn’t where our Community programme ends – it’s just the mid-year celebration of all the things we do throughout the year.  For example, coming up soon we’ll be driving greater digital inclusion through coding clubs for girls, gadget surgeries for older people in libraries, and support for the digital skills curriculum at local training colleges.  Watch this space for further updates on how we’re going beyond ‘the right thing to do’ and making a bigger difference to communities because of it.