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As Featured in ERP Today | Written by Paul Esherwood, Editor in Chief, ERP Today

Can a new entrant change the game in the experience economy?

Getting the band back together is not always a prudent idea. How many times have we seen legends reform in their twilight years only to undo their previous good work and rewrite their legacy with a failed attempt at making it again? Pink Floyd (Momentary Lapse of Reason), The Pixies (Indy Cindy), Guns ‘N Roses (Chinese Democracy) and Queen (The Cosmos Rocks), to name just a few, have all tarnished their position in history with comebacks that were a pale comparison to their heyday. 

There are exceptions of course. Bowie aged like a fine wine after his evolution from Ziggy Stardust. The Detours reformed into the legendary, The Who. Even Take That, post Robbie, became credible following their unlikely comeback. There are plenty of other things that are better the second time round too – but that’s a conversation for another day.

So how does this music analogy translate into the tech world? Well, one of the industry’s most recognisable characters is starting over in an attempt to recreate some of the magic he enjoyed with his previous business, Certus Solutions.

Read the full article on ERP Today here.


Press Release

Introducing de Novo Solutions
(“de Novo”)

Announcing the return of Tim Warner and Mark Sweeny and introducing de Novo Solutions. 

London, United Kingdom – 21 September 2021: Building upon their previous entrepreneurial endeavours in creating, growing and exiting one of the first third party professional services firms dedicated to Oracle Cloud Applications in the UK&I, Tim Warner and Mark Sweeny today announced the launch of a new technology company for the emerging experience economy marketplace – de Novo Solutions.

Traditionally, SaaS Cloud enterprise ERP applications are designed in functional silos and do not always reflect the way employees work. The workers of today demand consumer-grade, virtually seamless digital experiences that help empower and enable them to deliver services efficiently and effectively to the customers or citizens they serve.

With a projected services to product ratio of 3:1, the total addressable market size of the professional services industry, supporting the experience economy, is estimated at $330 billion globally. The opportunity for an alternative dedicated focused consultancy offering against the large Systems Integrators and Management Consultancies can be significant.

de Novo is a boutique consultancy focused upon the experience economy specialising in creating industry vertical experiences and blueprints using ServiceNow and Oracle Cloud Applications.

The new organisation has said it is seeing many former executives and employees returning to pioneer into this exciting marketplace in both public and private sectors, with their goal to build another great British company, actively contribute to rebuilding the economy, and generating sustainable jobs in the UK technology sector.

Tim Warner, Chairman, said “We have watched the enterprise applications SaaS marketplace evolve, and again see the opportunity to pioneer and positively disrupt the systems integrator landscape. Pioneering new technology solutions, creating industry vertical solutions, and leading from the front made our previous ventures successful. de Novo is enhancing a formula for success and having many of the old team return we know we can achieve what we are setting out to be one of the very best systems integrators in the experience economy”.

Mark Sweeny, Chief Executive, said “Neither Tim nor myself are individuals that have ever accepted the status quo, and delivering innovation means bringing positive disruption to the marketplace. Where others talk about doing things, we have always surrounded ourselves with people that go and make things happen. We are in the era of hybrid Cloud architectures and experience workforce platforms, and it is great to be part of both the ServiceNow and Oracle families. Exciting times lay ahead and the team we have assembled are some of the very best industry recognised consultants that not only have deep product expertise, but also know how to build a great business and fuel customer advocacy for our services”.

About de Novo Solutions

de Novo Solutions is a ServiceNow and Oracle Partner. It is a provider of industry vertical solutions, digital transformation and business support services for both ServiceNow and Oracle Cloud Applications.

About ServiceNow

ServiceNow (NYSE: NOW) is making the world of work, work better for people. Our cloud-based platform and solutions deliver digital workflows that create great experiences and unlock productivity for employees and the enterprise. For more information, visit: www.servicenow.com.

ServiceNow, the ServiceNow logo, Now, Now Platform, and other ServiceNow marks are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of ServiceNow, Inc. in the United States and/or other countries.   

Contact Info

de Novo Solutions
Alex Alexandru
alex.alexandru@de-novo-solutions.com 
+44(0) 1633 492 042 

Press Release

Introducing de Novo Solutions (“de Novo”)

Announcing new British technology venture for the experience economy

London, United Kingdom – 21 September 2021: Building upon their previous entrepreneurial endeavours in creating, growing and exiting one of the first third party professional services firms dedicated to Oracle Cloud Applications in the UK&I, Tim Warner and Mark Sweeny today announced the launch of a new technology company for the emerging experience economy marketplace – de Novo Solutions.

Traditionally, SaaS Cloud enterprise ERP applications are designed in functional silos and do not always reflect the way employees work. The workers of today demand consumer-grade, virtually seamless digital experiences that help empower and enable them to deliver services efficiently and effectively to the customers or citizens they serve.

With a projected services to product ratio of 3:1, the total addressable market size of the professional services industry, supporting the experience economy, is estimated at $330 billion globally. The opportunity for an alternative dedicated focused consultancy offering against the large Systems Integrators and Management Consultancies can be significant.

de Novo is a boutique consultancy focused upon the experience economy specialising in creating industry vertical experiences and blueprints using ServiceNow and Oracle Cloud Applications.

The new organisation has said it is seeing many former executives and employees returning to pioneer into this exciting marketplace in both public and private sectors, with their goal to build another great British company, actively contribute to rebuilding the economy, and generating sustainable jobs in the UK technology sector.

Tim Warner, Chairman, said “We have watched the enterprise applications SaaS marketplace evolve, and again see the opportunity to pioneer and positively disrupt the systems integrator landscape. Pioneering new technology solutions, creating industry vertical solutions, and leading from the front made our previous ventures successful. de Novo is enhancing a formula for success and having many of the old team return we know we can achieve what we are setting out to be -– one of the very best systems integrators in the experience economy”.

Mark Sweeny, Chief Executive, said “Neither Tim nor myself are individuals that have ever accepted the status quo, and delivering innovation means bringing positive disruption to the marketplace. Where others talk about doing things, we have always surrounded ourselves with people that go and make things happen. We are in the era of hybrid Cloud architectures and experience workforce platforms, and it is great to be part of both the ServiceNow and Oracle families. Exciting times lay ahead and the team we have assembled are some of the very best industry recognised consultants that not only have deep product expertise, but also know how to build a great business and fuel customer advocacy for our services”.

About de Novo Solutions

de Novo Solutions is a ServiceNow and Oracle Partner. It is a provider of industry vertical solutions, digital transformation and business support services for both ServiceNow and Oracle Cloud Applications.

About ServiceNow

ServiceNow (NYSE: NOW) is making the world of work, work better for people. Our cloud-based platform and solutions deliver digital workflows that create great experiences and unlock productivity for employees and the enterprise. For more information, visit: www.servicenow.com.

About Oracle PartnerNetwork

Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) is Oracle’s partner program designed to help enable partners to accelerate the transition to cloud and help drive superior customer business outcomes. The OPN program allows partners to engage with Oracle through track(s) aligned to how they go to market: Cloud Build for partners that provide products or services built on or integrated with Oracle Cloud; Cloud Sell for partners that resell Oracle Cloud technology; Cloud Service for partners that implement, deploy and manage Oracle Cloud Services; and License & Hardware for partners that build, service or sell Oracle software licenses or hardware products. Customers may be able to expedite their business objectives with OPN partners who have achieved Expertise in a product family or cloud service.  To learn more visit: http://www.oracle.com/partnernetwork.

Trademarks
ServiceNow are registered trademarks of ServiceNow Inc. and/or its affiliates.
Oracle, Java, and MySQL are registered trademarks of Oracle Corporation.

Contact Info

de Novo Solutions
Mark Sweeny
mark.sweeny@de-novo-solutions.com
+44(0) 7775 675 704

Cloud Software as a Service (SaaS) applications are constantly evolving embracing new levels of innovation as the world we work in continues to change and user’s expectations constantly increase.

The first generation of Cloud SaaS applications was focused upon the application Vendors establishing a comprehensive suite of SaaS services -Finance, Procurement, Supply Chain, HR and Payroll across the Back Office, but as we enter the new decade the focus of the market is now moving towards the experience economy.

The experience economy literally redefines the way we work, recognising that People do not work in functional silos.

Whether the experience presented is for an end customer or for an employee the market is constantly evolving with the next evolution of enterprise Cloud solutions based upon delivering personalised experiences over standardised processes by digitalised workflows.

Creating personalised experiences not only takes advantage of the new breed of technologies that are now available such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and adaptive analytics, but also allows implementations to be undertaken with an understanding of human behaviour of engagement and a fresh perspective as to how we can connect customer to employees and digitalise operational processes that span the enterprise support service delivery.

Introducing de Novo

de Novo Solutions is both a ServiceNow and Oracle Partner, allowing us to reach further across the enterprise connecting Client and citizens to employees creating experiences driven by digital workflows.

de Novo Solutions brings to the market its own Experience Architecture through the use of ServiceNow and Oracle SaaS Cloud, taking advantage of the strengths of both platforms to unlock hidden value with an enterprise.

ServiceNow and the Now platform provides the enterprise-wide platform that allows us to create personalised work experiences through digital workflows pulling in data from multiple front and back office systems; as well external 3rd party systems where required.

Oracle SaaS Cloud provides leading practice standardised processes across Finance, Procurement, Supply Chain, HR and Payroll.

It is this combination of platforms forming a hybrid Cloud structure that unlocks maximum opportunity for any Organisation, allowing it to personalise its employee experience, whilst having the security and knowledge that’s its underlying business processes are standardised ensuring data integrity.

Press Release

de Novo Appoints Peter Jenkins as VP of Business Development and Board Member

Langstone, Wales – 17 January 2022:  de Novo Solutions is delighted to announce the appointment of Peter Jenkins as VP of Business Development. Peter will join the Board of Directors from 1st February 2022.

Tim Warner, Chairman said “Peter was instrumental in teaming myself and Mark Sweeny back together again in the post Certus era. His ability to understand customer’s pain points, solve their problems and ability to work closely with the platform vendors in making their sales teams successful has long been the secret to our own success. His experience, knowledge and direction as part of the de Novo Board will be most welcome as we move forward on our journey”.​

Mark Sweeny, Chief Executive said “Peter has been a long-time mentor to both Tim and myself over the years and played a key part in the sale of Certus. His wise council and perspective have stood us well in the past and I know he will continue to put us in good standing in the future. Whilst its going to be hard work I also know we are going to have a lot of fun!”

Peter Jenkins, VP Business Development said “I have seen Tim and Mark create one of the most respected Systems Integrators in the SaaS space, pioneering and leading from the front, whilst focused on creating a family supportive environment for everyone involved. It says a lot given the success of Certus Solutions, that they are both willing and committed to create de Novo and turn it into a powerhouse across the ServiceNow and Oracle SaaS ecosystems with a laser like focus on developing its people and creating customer success and advocacy. Looking forward to being part of this journey”.  ​

About de Novo Solutions

de Novo Solutions is a ServiceNow and Oracle Partner. It is a provider of industry vertical solutions, digital transformation and business support services for both ServiceNow and Oracle Cloud Applications.

About ServiceNow

ServiceNow (NYSE: NOW) is making the world of work, work better for people. Our cloud-based platform and solutions deliver digital workflows that create great experiences and unlock productivity for employees and the enterprise. For more information, visit: www.servicenow.com.

About Oracle PartnerNetwork 

Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) is Oracle’s partner program designed to help enable partners to accelerate the transition to cloud and help drive superior customer business outcomes. The OPN program allows partners to engage with Oracle through track(s) aligned to how they go to market: Cloud Build for partners that provide products or services built on or integrated with Oracle Cloud; Cloud Sell for partners that resell Oracle Cloud technology; Cloud Service for partners that implement, deploy and manage Oracle Cloud Services; and License & Hardware for partners that build, service or sell Oracle software licenses or hardware products. Customers may be able to expedite their business objectives with OPN partners who have achieved Expertise in a product family or cloud service.  To learn more visit: http://www.oracle.com/partnernetwork.   

Trademarks 
ServiceNow are registered trademarks of ServiceNow Inc. and/or its affiliates.  
Oracle, Java, and MySQL are registered trademarks of Oracle Corporation. 

Contact Info

de Novo Solutions 
Mark Sweeny
mark.sweeny@de-novo-solutions.com 
+44(0) 1633 492 042 

Great coverage in ERP today with Mark Sweeny and Tim Warner being interviewed by Paul Esherwood around de Novo and the Experience Economy and the worlds of ServiceNow and Oracle Cloud applications.

Read the full story

As Featured in ERP Today | Written by Mark Sweeny, CEO at de Novo Solutions

Inflection 2021 – The Missing Piece of the Enterprise Jigsaw

This year will see the continued evolution of SaaS cloud applications and once again we find ourselves at another inflection point. The next step brings into focus the final piece of the jigsaw and delivers on what ERP has been promising for decades – simply to make our lives easier at work.

Digital transformation is already here. There is no need to carry on debating whether people will continue to work from home or return to the office. Everyone is already working everywhere but the emphasis is changing. We have to break out from the functional silos that ERP systems create and look across the wider enterprise. Work is now coming to you rather than you going to work.

Organisations that continue to ignore the evolving needs of their workforce and do not have their people and the employee experience at the centre of their strategy will continue to lose pace with those who are prepared to invest. For some, this has already proven to be fatal. Be warned, no industry is immune to digital disruption.

Stay relevant – take the experience economy seriously

Any company that does not deliver a seamless customer experience will be forever chasing the next sale while their competitors build meaningful and lasting relationships with theirs. Deep customer relationships create customer advocacy and this creates repeat business.

JP Morgan estimate that the experience economy Total Addressable Market (TAM) size is $110bn globally and Gartner research analysts are predicting that by 2024 organisations with an established multi-experience strategy will outperform their competitors in both customer and employee experience satisfaction metrics with:

To be successful organisations must always stay relevant to their market. The Gartner research makes a compelling argument that understanding both your customers’ and employees’ needs, wants, and behaviours on an individual level is more important than ever.

Delivering great products and services still needs human interaction. The consumer grade digital B2C world we all experience in our personal lives has now arrived in the workplace. We demand one click.

By creating real-time subconscious digital experiences that make employees efficient, effective, and most importantly successful, increases employee satisfaction as they feel valued. Employees now get to spend their most precious asset – their time – dealing with customers and/or citizens and not wading through endless back-office organisational bureaucracy.

The time to invest is now

The infamous Richard Branson quote, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients”, is true. So why then do we continuously deny the type of capability we subconsciously use in our social lives to our employees at work?

Even with modern SaaS cloud applications the way we interact with technology still does not reflect the way an organisation actually works and does not reflect the human element that contributes to an organisation’s culture. Very few employees inside an organisation work within a functional silo as the business processes that support service delivery connect front-office to back and span multiple functions and supporting systems outside a core ERP platform.

Inefficiencies in the workplace exist as individuals spend considerable amounts of time undertaking non-productive work in driving processes in functional silos rather than focussing upon those value-add strategic tasks that require human thinking and business relationships. This often creates pure frustration on an employee’s part. Consequently, there is a strong phycological human behavioural and cognitive element to finding the employee experience nirvana.

As we crawl out of economic recession the war on talent still remains.

Employees’ expectations are that they will not only get technology that works but tech that makes them successful in their role. If you want to attract and retain the best talent you need to create an environment that clearly demonstrates you value them.

Any company that does not deliver a seamless customer experience will be forever chasing the next sale


The direction of travel has been set

The experience economy is no passing fad with industry titans like Bill McDermott, CEO at ServiceNow, Marc Benioff, founder and CEO at Salesforce, and Mike Ettling, CEO at Unit4 all setting the direction of travel since late 2019. Just recently Larry Ellison, founder and chief technology officer at Oracle has also entered the fray.

The front office platform vendors are now looking to provide enhanced customer and employee experiences across the enterprise, breaking down the silo functionality of back office systems and bringing the work to the user by using technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, adaptive analytics and interoperability.

Josh Bersin, a renowned HR industry evangelist and analyst was quick to identify this as early as 2019, with his insights on the ‘employee experience platform’ being introduced into the workplace architecture.

Naturally being in an industry that loves its labels and acronyms we refer to it as Enterprise Service Management (ESM). However this is only the beginning as the workplace cloud-based technology agenda is now set for the next decade.

The rise of the employee experience platform

The evolution of the experience economy is so much more than an intelligent employee portal enabling access to a wider range of inter-departmental services. The leading ESM technology vendors like Salesforce and ServiceNow are providing platforms that will in time have the capability to deliver individual personalised experiences automatically in the workplace. This is the nirvana of the experience economy.

However to achieve this you have to combine the experience layer ESM applications with the back office business process ERP. Consequently, a new experience architecture materialises that can provide personalised experiences over standardised processes.

An experience architecture is data driven and takes advantage of a myriad of new technologies. It is this that drives a personalised employee experience bringing the relevant application services to the user at the appropriate time, unifying the underlying ERP platforms, various lines of business, front office systems, and external trusted industry relevant systems but without the user ever having to touch these systems directly.

Imagine being contacted by phone or text message to initiate an action, or to make you aware of a relevant event, and then being able to communicate through voice when required to access the company portal on your remote device; what you are presented with is an individual personalised front end. All automatically generated and configured with no customisation and applicable to you for that moment in time, with the same standardised processes in the background being executed. This is what the future looks like.

Adopting the entrepreneurial mindset

2021 will only see the experience economy gaining momentum. To take advantage, organisations need to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset, have a positive attitude and a willingness to step up and do something to embrace the direction of travel.

So think big, think different; be prepared to take calculated risks; ignore your critics and remember it’s not just about making money! It’s about contributing by making a positive difference.

My advice for 2021, be different, be you and go be brave, because this train is leaving the station. 

Mark Sweeny, founder, de Novo Solutions

Published on January 11, 2021

Chasing Rainbows – Looking for Experience Economy Nirvana

When you are pioneering out in the new frontier you are constantly looking for the elusive leprechaun’s pot of gold. Personally, this is all part of the challenge and the fun of being an entrepreneur. As Einstein said “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing”.

You are searching for something new, constantly asking why? and pushing the boundaries of the art of the possible, often to the soundtrack of the word “no” with many dismissing you for just chasing rainbows.

The pot of gold we are seeking is the digital equivalent of the employee experience nirvana (and I am not talking the band here, but what a great band!). It is fundamentally rethinking how we engage and interact with technology at work to deliver the core business, a paradigm-shift to where we are today.

Being brave and thinking big is all part of the journey, so read on…

Cloud SaaS ERP systems supports our work but does not reflect the way an Organisation delivers its core business 

The first generation of Cloud SaaS applications saw the creation of specific functional modules for human resources, payroll, finance, procurement and supply chain. Many were stand alone, but a few like Oracle Cloud delivered a fully integrated solution on a single data model with a modern look and feel for user experience. But even for an industry which, I conservatively calculate, has invested around $150-200 billion in research and development activities over the past 10 years, the journey is never over and SaaS innovation drives constant evolution as the world continues to change around us.

So did we lead everyone down the garden path regarding Cloud SaaS applications over the past ten years? Absolutely not. The benefits of moving to the Cloud for the back office and adopting standardised business processes are well documented.

We continuously promote the many benefits of Cloud SaaS ERP systems, and it is a personal frustration fo me when I see organisations still delaying in migrating to the Cloud. Opportunity missed? Absolutely, as they are denying themselves to a wealth of innovation. For some, the stubborn refusal not to invest in either their front or back office technology platforms has in my mind been a contributing factor for them having to close their doors forever due to the pandemic and the accelerated shift to digital as they could not modify their business operations fast enough.

Looking back to the beginning of SaaS applications a completely logical place to start was always to re-engineer and redesign the underlying business functions for HCM, Payroll, Finance, Procurement and Supply Chain that are all required to support core business operations.

The correct way to implement Cloud SaaS is for an organisation to adopt, not adapt the SaaS standardised business processes, but with the exception of the professional user whose job requires them to spend most of their time inside one of these modules the majority of employees have little interaction with such systems on a regular basis.

The irony being that a significant part of any SaaS implementation project’s budget is allocated and spent on business transformation activities where we target this same audience. Once the project has finished this becomes a sunk cost as we often see that the change hasn’t stuck and then we ask why?

A new direction? No, it’s just evolution…

Today it is still rare to find an organisation’s front office systems that interact with customers directly or the systems that are used by employees internally to enable core business delivery to the end customer are connected to the back office ERP systems.

The vast majority of front office transactions will initiate a back office ERP transaction. Consequently through the lack of digital integration it exposes a number of inefficiencies in an organisation’s business operation.

Even with current modern Cloud SaaS applications, the work an individual undertakes is still disjointed across a number of distinct front and back office systems. Ironically, this has been compounded further by those who have already moved to SaaS for their back office and subsequently compounded even further if an organisation has decided to use multiple different functional systems from different suppliers for their ERP platform.

The human drives the machine, and this creates inefficiencies in the workplace as individuals spend considerable amounts of time undertaking non-productive work in driving processes rather than focusing upon those value-add strategic tasks that require human thinking and business relationships.

The systems we use do not reflect the way an organisation executes its core business and also do not reflect critical “human” elements that contribute to an organisations culture.

Finding Nirvana – The Algorithm of Business & the Human Pulse of the Organisation

So what are we looking for? Fundamentally, we all want to be successful at work, regardless of whether we work in the private, public or the 3rd sector. To do that, we have to be constantly connected with what is going on around us both inside and outside the organisation as this influences and impacts the way we execute and deliver our core business.

Consequently, it is necessary that we have relevant accurate information immediately in order to take action in a timely fashion. Being able to execute a service on the go that has an interactive experience completed anywhere between 30 and 60 seconds before we have moved on is imperative.

Why? because we have developed, thanks to the internet, an insatiable human behaviour for immediacy, before we are distracted and our attention has moved on. Our time is our most valuable asset and to be effective we want to maximise it. People compete for our time and our attention.

You have to look no further than basic business strategy and algorithm of business of “Better, Cheaper, Faster” that is underpinning the evolution of SaaS.

Imagine a scenario where you as an individual didn’t have to change; a place where the technology you access adapts to you as an individual and reflects your behaviours. True individual personalisation not just based upon one’s persona or role within an organisation but something that is dynamically tailored to you individually relevant at a point in time enabling you to operate at peak performance subconsciously in regard to effectiveness and efficiency at work.

Technology should be an extension of oneself. I am already at the point in my thinking where there is a digital chatbot of me, reflecting my personality – now that would be interesting. Think Tron! (for those that don’t know who Tron was, find the time to sit down and watch the wonderful Disney movies Tron (1982) and more recently and applicably Tron Legacy (2010)).

A step to far? Not really, the concept of a digital avatar of oneself as a robot running around an organisation’s digital systems on one’s behalf is quite feasible and not that far away.

Technology driven experiences are a multi-dimensional entity that changes constantly over time and any digital nirvana will have the following characteristics:

There is a strong phycological human behavioural and cognitive element to finding the employee experience nirvana. It is this that needs to be understood on an individual basis as part of the design.

Technology that contributes to an Organisations Culture

Great technology should contribute positively to an organisation. It should be something that customers and employees can embrace, the interaction creating a positive experience with the organisation.

Enterprise Service Management (ESM) – the starting point but not the final destination

The platform vendors are now looking and already beginning to provide enhanced customer and employee experiences across the enterprise, breaking down the silo functionality of back office systems and bringing the work to the user by using technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, adaptive analytics and leveraging interoperability. 

Labelled as Enterprise Service Management (ESM) this is really only the beginning of the journey, as the workplace Cloud based technology agenda is now set for the next decade. ESM in my opinion is just the first stepping-stone on the journey and not the final destination. 

ESM Cloud solutions like ServiceNow and Salesforce are leading the technology charge into the new frontier connecting customers and employees creating connected experiences.

You only have to look at the R&D investment highlighted on earning calls and in the wider media as well as the acquisitions being made to accelerate platform functionality to acknowledge that the direction of travel has already been set.

The experience economy nirvana is achieved by creating value by delivering personalised experiences over standardised business processes across an enterprise. To do that Enterprise Service Management Cloud solutions provide the platform to facilitate the necessary integration into the leading ERP Cloud platforms.

The technical architecture equation is simple… Experience Economy Nirvana = ESM + ERP

It’s all about Leverage – Recognise, React and Realise

As evidenced Cloud SaaS applications are evolving and we are clearly moving out of functional silo’s and across the enterprise by the addition of an experience layer within an organisations technical architecture. The direction of travel has already been set however the gap now exists in regard to delivery and implementation capability to make these solutions work. Customers who are becoming the early adopters are going to find that delivery of such experiences are not going to come pre-packaged and just jump out of the box, rather they are toolsets that need to be assembled and installed across the enterprise. In time this will change as the platform vendors and the Independent Software Vendor (ISV) community create industry wide experiences. However, once an organisation has invested in this hybrid Cloud infrastructure connecting front office to back, they will be on the road to the experience economy nirvana. The trick being to become an intelligent customer and leverage the platform vendors and ISV R&D investment and not build everything yourself.

As this journey continues there will be numerous twists and turns in the road ahead with many new chapters still to be written…in many ways we have only just begun.

Published on November 16, 2020

If you are going to do something, then do it with Style…

This blog is definitely one from left field and is possibly my only forage into music journalism with a subject matter that is also political in nature. Advanced warning, this one’s for those that remember the 1980’s, whose misspent teenage years were spent listening to great music on vinyl and cassettes; the era of VHS video players; going to nightclubs midweek as you could get in with free vouchers, memories of the girls with big hair and smoking 10 B&H; weekend jobs at McDonalds; lunchtime drinking at work; and an era where Ford XR2’s and VW Golfs ruled. A decade that saw Sir Bob Geldof telling us all to get a “f**king grip’’ while he woke up the world to see 8 million people affected by famine with over 1 million dying in Ethiopia.

Geldof did it by getting all our attention through music. The ultimate text-book example of political activism, which saw the creation of Band Aid and the charity single “Do they know it’s Christmas?” and then followed up by putting on the greatest pop concert ever in Live Aid on 13th July 1985, literally screaming at all of us from royalty, politicians and to the person in the street to give money to save lives. It also saw the greatest live performance of any band of any era in Queen, and frankly 17 minutes that became the stuff of legends and made music history.

What’s this all got to do with business? Well it is all about influence, and especially the power of subconscious influence through music, and as de Novo Solutions is all about the experience economy, there is simply no better experience than great music!

So read on and let’s see where this takes us…

Music & Me

For me music has always been in my life. I was a drummer, learning my trade in the Boys Brigade, playing for the school band and then went on to play in several really good pub bands, the last one called “One Night”, which actually lasted about 4 years from memory and had a following of around 200 people at the end.

My musical influences started early, shaped heavily by my Grandparents, as they introduced me to the likes of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jnr, Nat King Cole, Burt Bacharach, and numerous Hollywood musicals which formed the bedrock of my musical education. Naturally the Beatles, the Beach Boys and Elvis all followed.

My tastes developed further covering everything from Motown, Queen, Elton John, through to the Carpenters (yes really), Bee Gees and ABBA during the 70’s, as I would camp down by the radio every Sunday afternoon before dinner to listen to the Top 40.

Discovering Paul Weller and The Jam

A great song for me is one that has a memorable melody, a killer middle eight, and lyrics that are relevant to how you are feeling at the time.  Hence genres like punk at the end of the 70’s just confused me as it was just noise, (similar to what my own teenage sons listen to now), but out of this came a band that was rebellious and a sound that was both musical and felt like it was talking to me directly. 

Enter Paul Weller and the Jam. Singles like “Going Underground” was inspired and “That’s Entertainment” reflected the sounds of real life. Weller’s lyrics related to a society that I recognised and he became the voice of a generation, a label I know he distains and still distances himself from, but the man had a talent of interpreting what was going on around us through his music. Above everything else he was authentic and just “real”. Weller has never been one for b*llsh*t and he always calls it how he sees it. 

So why is Weller so Important to Me?

Weller’s music has always in some form been in my musical life. I don’t like everything he has produced, far from it, but I have the ultimate respect that he has always been willing to try new things and move in new directions. I can’t imagine how many times he must have been told that he would fail and should not try something. 

His musical career spans five decades, and he has produced a massive body of work over two bands and a solo career that continues to this day alongside numerous side projects with other artists. 

To be honest, his straight up attitude and approach has always had a profound effect on me. He is one that never looks to recreate the past, regardless of how successful he has been, and he is always looking forward, always willing to experiment and try new things, especially as the world changes around him. 

Weller has always been ahead of the musical curve, sometimes too far ahead for his own sake but when I need inspiration it is this man and his music I turn to.

The End of the Jam 

For those who were not around let me enlighten you with a little musical history.

The Jam were absolutely massive, and they defined youth culture in Britain for a moment in time at the end of the 70’s and start of the 80’s. For me they were three working class lads from Woking, Surrey, who had an opinion, were politically outspoken and wanted to be heard as they had something to say. Weller was the genius through his song writing ability and was the leader, associated with “Mods”, or modernists, a subculture that started in London from the late 1950’s, he himself being heavily influenced by the Small Faces. Through their music they created a youth platform for political conversation. 

1980’s Britain

80’s Britain was a hot bed of Conservatism politics and Thatcherism that spanned and defined the entire decade, which saw everything from the Falklands War, The Cold War, Apartheid, The Miner’s Strike, MTV, Live Aid, Yuppies, Stock Market Crash ‘87, the Storms of ‘88, all against a political backdrop of foreign policies of Gorbachev, Ronald Regan and Margaret Thatcher, ending with the fall of the Berlin Wall – and that’s just what I can remember. Wow – a decade in a paragraph.

The beauty about democracy is you don’t have to agree with everything, and everyone has a voice that can be heard, but there is no better way of making a statement through music. This is nothing new, Edwin Stars “War”, John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance”, and of course Marvin Gaye’s master-piece of “What’s Going On” are all classic songs with strong political statements using music to get their point across. Weller was no different, “Eton Rifles” (how apt for 2020) reflects the oppression of ruling classes, recounting the difficulties faced by the un-employed and lower paid working class in protesting against an elitist system.    

Then in 1982 Weller did the unthinkable and broke up the Jam at the height of their power. His rationale was simple, he had taken the Jam as far as he could musically. What had once been a release mechanism for his music, had now become a straight-jacket of constraint. 

To give you some idea how big this was, some 40 years later there still exists a hardcore set of Jam fans that still have not forgiven him! – talk about being stuck in time and holding a grudge. 

Introducing The Style Council

Weller immediately set about his next musical journey, and it could not have been anymore different from the Jam. Weller formed a new musical partnership with keyboard player Mick Talbot and was soon joined by a 17 year old jazz drummer – Steve White, whilst he poached D.C. Lee from George Michael & Andrew Ridgley’s Wham to join him on his musical adventure – The Style Council. That alone deserves merit as the coolest name ever for a band. 

What followed was musical creativity and innovation at its very best. Whilst the sound waves of early 80’s Britain were full of pure pop, courtesy of Culture Club, Wham, Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran. Weller et al in the Style Council were exploring Jazz, Latin, Soul and being strongly influenced by European culture. 

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In-fact it could easily be argued that the Council had moved to Paris, France, given the influence Europe had on their music. Equally Weller had lost none of his ability to send a political message – 1984’s Café Bleu had “Dropping Bombs on the Whitehouse”, which actually is a Jazz instrumental, where the 1985 album “Our Favourite Shop”, had tracks like “The Internationalists”, “The Lodgers”, and “Walls Come Tumbling Down” – with its famous opening line of “We don’t have to take this crap”. The Council were anything but your average pop group, and the majority of their songs had some kind of political message.

Success followed with the Council being the second band on at Live Aid in ’85, as they played to a global audience of 1.9 billion at the time.

By ’87, the UK was truly in the grip of the MTV generation and the likes of Whitney Houston, Gloria Estefan, Anita Baker, Luther Vandross, Madonna, Prince and Michael Jackson blasting the airwaves, alongside American rock newcomers Bon Jovi.

The Council flipped to soul music, with their infamous Orange album sleeve – “A Cost of Loving”, which imitated (but failed) the same marketing technique as The Beatles famous White Album. The Album flopped, and whilst a couple of singles were knocked out with success, the writing was on the wall.

End of the Council

The final harar, was “Confessions of a Pop Group”. Critically slated at the time, it is an absolutely fantastic album and a hot bed of musical innovation, as Weller drove the Council in the direction of classical music. It is without doubt my favourite album and contains some of Weller’s and the bands best work – check out “Changing of the Guard”. With the group knowing that the end was nigh, they remained true to their values and branched off again covering various musical genres.

Folklore talks about the final disastrous “Council Meeting” gig at the Royal Albert Hall in July 1989, which supposedly saw fans ripping up their programmes and walking out as they didn’t understand what the band was about anymore. 

Looking back, Weller was again just taking the Council in a new direction, this time it was “Chicago House” music, but it was a step too far and the record company refused to release the final album, fittingly called “Modernism – A New Decade”. The adventure ended, as the Council had lost its fan base and had become irrelevant.

The Wilderness Years & Come Back

Subsequently, Weller stepped back from the limelight, burnt out and without a record deal having fallen out with Polydor his long term record company. He was now married to D.C. Lee, a family man with two children and his priorities had naturally changed.

He turned up two years later in 1991 with the Paul Weller Movement. I remember seeing him just before Christmas that year, on a shitty, rainy night in Kilburn, North London. The crowd was around 1,000 people at the point with a significant number just wanting to hear Jam songs! However, there was one new song that caught my attention and again Weller sending a message to everyone with “Into Tomorrow”.

Don’t under-estimate how hard it must have been for Weller to come back at this time. The Style Council were playing sold out arenas all around the world and he had gone from hero to zero again and was playing what can be best described as a very large pub. Courage, grit and a lot of tenacity were the tools deployed here to drag himself back to the top.

In June 1992, I was one of just around 500 people at the Grand in Clapham, South London, again supporting the man as he was putting back his career. The band had been slimmed down from the “Movement” and they were now tight and sounding really good. More importantly Weller had his mojo back – I was witnessing a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.

What was to follow, was the start of another creative renaissance, and the so called “Mod Father” became the unwritten driving force behind 90’s Britpop. Everyone remembers Oasis and Blur, but it was Weller that was innovating and developing a body of work, that is frankly unsurpassable.

Weller launched the self-titled album “Paul Weller”, overshadowed by the two albums that followed to much critical acclaim in “Wild Wood” and “Stanley Road”. The touring band stabilised, and the gigs became stuff of legends and many happy memories for those that attended. Check out the Wild Wood Tour 1994 – Glastonbury 1994 with Weller, White, Charles, Tuner, and Cradock – the finest lineup in my opinion he ever assembled.

Or find the Jools Holland Later Show from 1996 and watch Whirlpools End on Youtube (Whirlpools End). Weller and the backing Band, including trusted stickman and ex-Councillor Steve White again on drums is absolutely infectious and they are playing like people possessed. Simply Brilliant.

To this day Weller constantly reinvents himself on every album, and like a fine wine his music just keeps getting better over time. At 62 he is still constantly educating himself and exploring new genres, he is a genuine creative force, that just never seems to tire.

So what can you learn from this musical adventure?

Beside the 80’s being the coolest decade ever and definitely the best for music (so if you missed it, then take some time to check it out), Weller and his musical forays with the Style Council and beyond teach us many things including, but not limited to:

Or if you feel like kicking a door down try “Walls Come Tumbling Down”, as it sticks two fingers up to the elitist political ruling class when you want your 3 mins 23 seconds of being an absolute rebel.

Go on, we all need to do it, even if it’s just in the car!

Published on October 30, 2020

“We’re Putting the Band Back Together”​ – Finding the Way Back

The 30th October will always be a special date for me. It was on this day in 2006 that I was privileged to oversee the go-live of the HM Prison Service Shared Services operation in Newport, South Wales (known today as Shared Services Connected Ltd – SSCL) providing HR & Payroll services for 45,000 employees over then 120 geographic locations and ultimately being part of a truly wonderful team that created 500+ jobs.

By serendipity, ten years later in 2016, it was also the same date that saw Certus deliver the very first Oracle ERP & HCM Cloud implementation at the Office for National Statistics (ONS), ironically the ONS campus being just around the corner from the SSCL. So, I find it quite apt to publish this blog today 30th October 2020 regarding the next venture – de Novo Solutions.

Just because you have been successful previously does not give you the automatic right or a free pass straight back to the top of the mountain. Running any kind of business is full of inherent risk and it still surprises me as to how so many people do not grasp this, let alone understand it. However, those in the entrepreneurial community live with this day-in and day-out, as any financial risk materialising is often immediately inherently real. For those who are prepared to embark on such a journey, to give themselves and others a better quality of life and just make the world a better place by creating a progressive economy they will always have my undying respect.

Coming back from a standing start was never going to be straight forward, and “getting the band back together” is not as easy as it may seem or perceived to be, but that is what we are doing. So, let me give you some insight into how we have gone about this.

It just starts with a conversation…

It always starts with a conversation. Back in October 2011 Tim Warner and myself were in a Client’s office late at night in London, ironically just 200 yards from Accenture’s HQ. Who would have guessed that in May 2018 that they would be our eventual acquirers? we certainty didn’t.

Roll forward October 2020 and this time it was a phone call to Switzerland, with the opening line “You done with retirement now?”. The discussion that followed talked about what we had achieved, the opportunities missed, what we had learned and what we definitely would not do again.

For those who follow my blogs, it should not be too difficult to work out that I have been researching the experience economy for some time so I had a firm idea of what we were going to do but not necessarily as to how we were going to do it and if anyone would really be interested. However, I enjoyed myself for an hour, the first time in many months and my wife commented I was smiling when I came off the phone and that I appeared to have my mojo back.

It was fun exploring with absolutely no constraints the art of the possible. I was also excited in that we could not only build something again, but to do something nobody had done before to my knowledge in positively disrupting the same market twice.

Getting the Band Back Together

One of the many rules of creating a successful business, is to surround yourself with people who are better than you. Our famous “black book” of the UK Tech ecosystem is full of talented people and naturally this is always our first point of call.

I often joke with my peers in Oracle and across the wider community, reminding everyone that we created the football pitch for Oracle Cloud professional and managed services in the UK&I that everyone today is now playing on and now we are coming to take our players and ball back, as we need it for the new pitch. (by the way were also going to need the goal posts as well for those that are reading!)

Seriously though, the trick is to create a collective that is exponentially greater than the sum of its individual parts. The basic characteristic that underpins everything is trust. Hence, why I always stress that we never ever promise anything we cannot deliver, and we clearly outline the risks to everyone involved we talk to so they can make an informed decision regarding if they want to play?

Coming on an adventure with us is anything but risk free, there are no guarantees, but we do promise working with a group of liked minded individuals that are building a great British company, will push the envelope from a technical perspective once again and will have a good laugh along the way.

We don’t have the monopoly on talent, but we do have an eye for spotting potential and bringing people together and developing individuals and teams.

Just a Game of Chess

I have used the analogy so many times, business is just a game of chess. To be successful you need to see the whole board…There is a lot to do in getting started, so here is just a starter for ten. In doing so you begin to see some, not all, of the pieces on the chess board.

1.     No Idea is a Bad Idea –  “Be Poets, and let your imagination run riot!” – Nothing is off the table, The beauty about being an entrepreneur and working with a small team is total unconstrained thinking! Nobody can constrain your ideas except oneself, nobody to shout you down, and most importantly no b•••sh•• corporate bureaucracy to navigate.

2.     Stealth Mode – Despite our enthusiasm we have taken our time. We are not in the business of just re-entering a market, albeit one we created, that is now both competitive and is commoditised where the race to the bottom of the rate card has become the only game in town. We have absolutely no interest in this.

The market is constantly watching what we are doing so we are in stealth mode where we can keep the market waiting and guessing until we are ready, but this also gives ourselves time to research and develop the proposition and to test it with all our stakeholders. We need time to see the whole board.

The cheapest and most effective form of marketing sometimes is just being quiet.

3.     Business Strategy – No war and peace required here, but by getting the business idea down onto paper allows clarity of thought and understanding for everyone involved.

Included is the hypothesis is the exit strategy and timeline. By undertaking this activity up front, we achieve consensus and agreement as to what the end game looks like, and how we are to get there. Albeit the route we decide upon we know from experience will have many-twists and turns.

Our approach is simple, we are repeating the same strategy we did a decade earlier because we know it works. We focus upon creating not only a new service proposition but a new niche market and in doing so we become the number one service provider by default. This underpins all of our thinking from the outset. 

No idea is ever entirely unique, so you need to know and understand who your competitors are, and also have an idea as to how they will react. The beauty about the Management Consultancy and Systems Integrator landscape is the large players are extremely predictable. They won’t see this themselves, they never do, but you can use this kind of market intelligence and insight to shape the market. The SME market is far less predictable so you have to do your research. Somebody will always come at you from left field.

Differentiation is the name of the game and resonates with a saying we use internally ‘Be Different, Be You!’

4.     Test, Test and Re-Test the Business Proposition with the Market – Any hypothesis of what the business proposition is has to be tested with as many people as possible including but not limited to former employees, business partners, industry experts, former customers and even previous prospects who didn’t buy from us. This allows any business proposition to naturally evolve, but also allows the 30 second elevator pitch to develop naturally.

5.     Know the Numbers – This was something in the early Certus days I will be honest we never had a proper grip of. This time it is very different as we have a sophisticated financial model (Yes – it is an Excel Spreadsheet, but in the right hands!), so we can determine our cash runway, our commercial proposition, and understand how we are going to fund the venture. 

Cash is always King. Don’t get distracted by future valuations based upon EBITDA multiples – this is absolute nonsense. No cash, you have no business, and you have no value. It really is that simple.

I can’t stress this enough you have to know the numbers from the outset. Make it an obsession.

6.     Bootstrap Financing – If you raise equity money (which is not a bad thing) you are always going to be giving something away. Our approach is always to self-fund and use debt financing through Directors Loans to get going. Depending then on how the business plan develops we can decide funding options to support expansion at the appropriate point in time.  Admittedly were not scratching around in the dirt this time.

7.     Legal Structure – Important; get the share structure agreed upfront. The reason is simple – All the Founders understand the agreement, know the rules of the game and have the agreement on legal paper. Consequently, everyone then feels their interest is protected, and we can all focus on building a great Company. The right expectations are set from the outset and consequently there are no arguments or fall outs. Failure to do this, creates ambiguity and allows bad feeling to foster. This breaks trust and can contaminate the culture from the outset.

8.     Develop the Employee Value Proposition – Again undertaken upfront. We know a lot of people, and because of what we do, our success, and most importantly how we go about it, we are quite lucky a lot of people want to work with us. 

I am always reminded by the words of a Senior Partner of one of the Big 4 when he said about what was then Certus ‘It’s like an exclusive private members club, many want to join, but only a few are let in’. And before anyone starts over thinking this in terms of diversity or inclusion, we recruit purely on talent, attitude and mindset of the individual regardless of their background. We always like to say to someone ‘you are really good, but we are going to make you even better’.

Financial remuneration is always going to be a key factor. There has to be limits to what the business can afford, and timing is always an issue. You can’t go writing blank cheques.

9.     Team – Identify the designated executive team, knowing what you need and why you need them. Subsequently you can determine the onboarding strategy and onboarding waves. 

Think of it like fantasy football, in that you cannot afford all the best players, as you don’t have unlimited funds. So, you need to buy carefully. Remember in starting out you have to have people that buy into the vision.   

10.   Start Selling! – Conversations through testing elements of the new business proposition creates opportunities. So, start selling from day one. Always good to get a run on the board however small as early as possible.

The famous Peter Drucker quote ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’ is right, but you still need a strategy. You can’t wildly go wandering off using ‘hope’ as your strategy, burning money left, right and centre. Equally you don’t have an action item that just says ‘Create Culture’. We don’t make businesses overly complicated and the values of the business are our values from which we create our culture:    

Insight delivered. As President Bartlett, from the West Wing, would say “What’s Next?” – well we need to get on building a great British Company in de Novo. See you soon…

Mark Sweeny, Founder de Novo Solutions