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How Transport Systems Catapult IT Director Alex Farr and his team add value, helping businesses transform and grow

Matt Egan | March 10, 2017
We find out about the ups and downs of Alex Farr's career in IT.

"That's one of the biggest transformation projects that I ever took," he says. "Funding came in peaks and troughs, depending on how well you do and also how much money the government were releasing.

"Netball started years and years ago: it was all done by hand and fixtures were organised on bits of paper. They had lots of systems, and lots of data, just data separated everywhere.

"They relied on volunteers and people who had an interest in the sport. You rely on those people that have just got a vested interest. International games were being arranged on an A3 bit of paper.

"They had all these silos of data, they had a membership database, they had people who bought tickets, and then people that played. But we had no way pulling up a list of people who are interested in netball. We couldn't tell whether we were growing netball at all, so we needed to undertake a project where we combined all these legacy systems, some of which were technical solutions and some of which were just bits of paper."

This wasn't a technically complex project. But it did require vision and soft skills to get buy in from the various stakeholders.

"It was a good opportunity to go in there and really change the way the organisation was working," Farr says. "The technical solution we delivered wasn't very complex and it wasn't too difficult.

"The biggest thing was getting people to embrace this change, because we'd have people who were 60, 70 years old and had been working in one way for a long time. To come in and explain, and try and help them understand why we needed to do this and what the benefits were for them, was a different type of challenge, It was the first time I got something back that wasn't just technical. I liked it.

"The results have been amazing. The organisation is growing, and able to do more to support the core mission. And those same people have been able to change the way they work, and can see more people playing netball for longer."

There is a critical message here. In the post-cloud world, digital transformation is not primarily a technical challenge, but a question of understanding a business and its route to customers.

"You hear people talk about digital transformation, and really it is just a new word for what we did back then," says Farr. "It's just a bit of a buzzword. This was something where people could actually see the benefit."

Another key lesson here: bigger organisations are not always better organisations. "We did some great case studies: we would go to the FA and the RFU, and talk to them and see how they managed it. They all struggle with the same thing, still."

The Transport Catapult

 

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