Chris Bacon is an agent and driver for change, with over 20 years leading and managing IT and Business Change in the Financial Services and Construction industries.
Chris’ first interaction with Andrew Buxton (Founder of PDCS) was as a client, during his 15 years working at Morgan Sindall Group. Chris then spent 3 years with The West Bromwich Building Society, before joining PDCS as a project manager in 2018.
As a client, what was your experience with Andrew?
With Andrew, it is all about getting in the right person in order to do the job. I have dealt with others in the past who were only interested in talking about everything they thought they could do for me, speaking rather than listening. When I was at Morgan Sindall, Andrew made sure that he brought in the best person, and to be fair to him, he got it right every time.
Unlike my experiences with the Big 4, who would send a very expensive person to tell you what you already know, Andrew was a perfect match for me in my role as I am someone who is there to make real change. That then got the confidence of the organisation to go to Andrew if they needed more specialist resources.
Why did you move to Financial Services?
After 15 years of experience in construction at the Morgan Sindall Group, I needed change. I did not want to be pigeonholed within construction. For a fresh perspective, I decided to move into Financial Services, joining The West Brom Building Society. I was still within the IT team, but leading Business Analysis, Business Functions and Architecture Functions. I was able to take my project management and people management skills from Morgan Sindall into a new area of architecture and business analysis.
Why did you turn to Contract Work? And why join PDCS?
As a contractor, it is much easier to challenge the things that are given to you by the management team. You are brought in because of your expertise, which means you can be more forthright in having those difficult conversations which help in yielding the right results. This is an important factor and part of the appeal of PDCS. Andrew is not sending in ‘yes men and women’ to ‘fill the space’, but actually finding the people who have the right expertise needed for the role.
An example of this came up in my time working at Taylor Wimpey. We did a business case looking for a Supplier Management System. In doing the supplier management analysis, I concluded that the business case simply did not stack up. The benefits we would get from a Supplier Management System on its own would cost a huge amount more to implement than we would ever save. Even though there was a lot of excitement and willingness for this Supplier Management System, I had an honest conversation with the CIO at Taylor Wimpey to say there is very little point in doing it, which they respected and were grateful for. This is the benefit of using an independent specialist and working with PDCS.
After spending 25 years in permanent work, you are trying to be the embodiment of the organisation, whereas contracting is a different challenge altogether. You have to think differently, asking how I can leave the role without everything crashing around me. No matter how well I do while I am there, if everything crashes upon my exit then it is my name and PDCS’ name going downhill. Therefore, it is imperative to me to have a full plan for leaving, which you are thinking about right from the beginning.
Why did Taylor Wimpey bring you in?
Global Systems Integrator CGI were commissioned to deliver the overarching Commercial Excellence Programme for Taylor Wimpey. CGI selected PDCS as their consulting partner to manage the Tender Management and Supplier Portal workstreams of the programme.
Taylor Wimpey were trying to address the questions: How do we tender better? How do we get more money and efficiency out of the tendering process?
PDCS selected me for the role based on my previous work and experience at Morgan Sindall. Together with PDCS, Andrew and I built a high-performing team of business analysts, system analysts and developers. Initially, our aim was honing down what Taylor Wimpey were trying to achieve through their Tender Management. We concluded that they wanted to improve their Tender Management System and Process, as well as their Supplier Management System. The reason they selected a specialist project manager was that a knowledge of commercial and financial is unique, as well as understanding how they interact. Because I had that knowledge, I found it easier to settle in quickly and understand what Taylor Wimpey were trying to achieve. We were quickly able to get to a point where we knew what we wanted to do, then the question became how do we achieve it?
What did you achieve during your engagement with Taylor Wimpey?
We soon realised that it was not feasible to develop anything internally in order to improve the Tender Management System or Supplier Management System, so we were left with only one viable option, which was going to market.
The first stage was all about procurement, requesting information from various different suppliers and solution providers. We used Gartner to understand what those potential solutions might be and went out to providers to ask for Proof of Concept. The Supplier Management System was deemed unfeasible, however we were able to proceed with the Tender Management System. I managed the scoring process around those responses, whittling down the list of eight companies to three, before moving on to Request for Proposal.
The Request for Proposal process is a lot more in-depth, so to not prolong the procurement process, you have to make sure you are asking the right questions at the beginning and getting the answers you need. This is the reason for hiring an experienced project manager. Whilst there were obvious conversations about price and solutions, we were also asking about how the company worked and how it would feel to be working with their organisations. We conducted reference visits with Network Rail and another organisation who were as similar to Taylor Wimpey as possible. We had very honest and open conversations with those organisations about how the deployment worked and how the adoption was taken up afterwards. We were getting a full picture about how it was going to work and what it would be like to work with these companies, meaning we could base our decision on more than just price.
After the contract negotiations, we moved to the implementation phase. Ironically, this was also the time we were heading into lockdown. We had everything signed and ready, so we decided to push on remotely, but things slowed down for three months. During that time, we had workshops with the supplier about the new solution, asking how do we configure it? As it was an off-the-shelf solution, it was very configurable, meaning we could make it work for Taylor Wimpey without making it bespoke. As soon as you have something bespoke, it is very much harder to support and develop.
The pilot began in July and we started getting tenders out from specific Taylor Wimpey business units. Communication around that was very important, saying ‘we are expecting problems with this, but we are also expecting benefits’. We had a strong buy-in from the business units who really wanted to grasp the new technology and get the benefits early, and they saw those benefits. North Midlands were first to go through it, they had a steep learning curve, they learned a lot about using the system and I learned a lot about training people. Before this process, tenders normally took months. But with the click of a button they got their budgets sorted out for the entire job. What the solution had done is say ‘you get this right in the first place, then follow through, the latter bits are much easier’. They were really happy with that result and getting those costs in, but importantly, more and more people then wanted that solution. More areas in the Midlands were saying, ‘I want to have a piece of this now’, which is great because we had people actively buying into it, not being forced on them.
We have put in place a mechanism for people to get the training, but most importantly, we put in place a self-service function with videos on how to operate it from start to finish.
In summary, we started right at the beginning where we did not have anything, we just had a concept. We turned that concept into a design and an order, we turned that order into a configured package, and then we delivered that out and trained people to use it as a solution going forward. This met Taylor Wimpey’s specification, in time and within budget.
At PDCS, we are a Programme, Project and Business Change Consultancy. We help our clients to make a step change in their Project, Portfolio and Work Management development.
As change experts, it is our job to make sure you have the right people and resources so that you can deliver more projects, more successfully, for less money.