Sam Selby

Blog – Reflections on the #GartnerSYM

Reflections on the #GartnerSYM

It’s been just over a week since the Gartner Conference and in that time, I have been reflecting on a few things. I thought it might be a useful close of the conference chapter with this reflection blog. There are two key reflections: 

The first one is something we all do, which is to always question whether attending any event, whether it’s virtual or in person event is going to add value to you and the business you’re operating within. I spoke to many peers on this subject and there was a unanimous feeling that attending this event was indeed valuable, not least because the sessions were in-person. Whilst there are benefits in attending virtual events, it’s not a one size fits all and in this case, the ability to network and bounce ideas off over 7,500 peers with similar challenges wouldn’t have been anywhere near as effective at a virtual event. So, on reflection, I do believe it was worthwhile and I have a number of business benefits I will be looking to implement as a result.  

The second reflection was on the sheer volume of information available and as per one of my previous posts, I was glad that I had done my preparation prior to the event! I planned to attend specific sessions that I knew aligned to our business priorities, for example cyber security. One of the challenges with an event like this is figuring out what you turn into actionable outputs. After much thought, here are my actionable items in the form of pledges: 

  1. I will investigate Protection Level Agreements with the aim of improving the alignment between level of protection, risk appetite and funding in the future.  
  2. I will re-enforce the need to treat cyber security as a business risk, not technical risk, and will also re-enforce this principle across all decision making.  
  3. Whilst I believe we fare well in terms of executing against our strategic objectives, it would be remis to say we are perfect. Therefore, I will implement a more focused process in my team to ensure we prioritise the right initiatives and then maintain the focus on these. 
  4. I identified opportunities to optimise my non-people costs and have already started work with our CTO to pursue a large one for our business. I will see this through to the end. 
  5. We are already undertaking a programme around Customer Experience; I will make sure we include some of the recommendations from the Gartner sessions on Empathy. 
  6. Whilst we do undertake various activities as part of our preparation for a Cyber event, I will increase what we do in this space.  
  7. We have had minimal impact so far from the Talent crisis which is credit to our HR & Recruitment team, however I will review with the team some of the ideas from Gartner to see if it will help sharpen the saw. 
  8. I will positively challenge the “it’s impossible” response and tell people, nothing is impossible. I’ll even share the amazing story I was told about the team who developed the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. 
  9. I will encourage difficult conversations and continue to support our HR and OD team who are doing some fantastic work in this area already. 
  10. I will continue to promote a Shared Services First strategy as an enabler for value generation as referenced by Gartner in its Operating Model session.  

I hope you found this and my other posts interesting and of value to you. If you also attended the conference and have not done your pledges, then why not challenge yourself to share them with your business. 

Paul Jones, Chief Information Officer

Photo by Paul Jones.

Blog – How sustainable is AI?

How sustainable is AI?

I wrote, a little while ago, about the magic of AI text to image generators. In the few weeks that have passed since then, there are a whole raft of new artistic AIs that are getting better and faster than I can write about them. What were machine created still images a few weeks ago is already video. I know video is just a series of still images but nonetheless, the ability to create completely original video, from just a text prompt, seems like a generational leap forward. 

It was somewhat tongue in cheek that I observed what was the first useful application of AI I had seen in reality. I am sure that AI has amazing potential to positively change the world but at this point, it seems too far away for me and for our customers. I had a brief AI chat last night with a customer service bot, which seemed to be the only way I could get an answer out of a vendor. After 10 minutes of painful discourse the AI decided I needed to speak to a person. Value added – zero. Frustration created – 100.  

One of my key concerns at the moment is sustainability, of everything. People, supply chain, customers, the company, the economy, even democracy itself. ‘Everything’ must also encompass AI. I wonder how sustainable that is? I feel a bit late to the sustainability party as, although Delt has always been very much about wider social benefit we are only just starting to codify that with the adoption of the triple bottom line (Profit, People, Planet). I’ll write more about that journey in another blog, but for now, lets just take it as a given that sustainability matters. 

So, just how sustainable is AI? The answer is, at the moment, not very. The problem with AI is that just like a human baby, it starts life being pretty helpless. Both humans and AIs need a lot of training to become useful and productive. All that feeding and education is expensive. You consume lots of finite resources. It doesn’t matter whether you are a very small person or an AI, you require a ton of investment after birth to do anything useful.  

My children both started working at around age 16. I’m not sure they are yet sustainable, but they are at least making a positive contribution to society and reducing (oh so slowly) the call on the bank of Mum and Dad. In a 2017 study, the carbon cost of a child was calculated at 58.6 tonnes annually. So, 16 years of that gives us a total carbon footprint of 937 tonnes per child. That’s a lot of elephants! 

In 2019, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst analysed various natural language processing (NLP) training models to estimate the energy cost [in kilowatts] required to train them. From that, the authors estimated that the carbon footprint of training a single big language model is equal to around 300 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s a lot less elephants, but not zero elephants.  

Still, in elephant terms, AI seems to be doing pretty well. Or rather, it was doing well in 2019. Remember what I said about the pace of development earlier? In the deep learning era, the computational resources needed to produce a best-in-class AI model has on average doubled every 3.4 months. That makes a very big pile of elephants, very quickly. 

On the flip side, Moore’s law sees computers getting more powerful all the time (and more efficient) but that rate of growth is doubling only every 24 months. This means the power we need to consume vs the extra power we get for free is way out of whack. The exact maths of the two different exponential growth curves is beyond me, but AI comes at a significant cost. 

For a much smaller carbon investment than that required to process ‘natural language’ I can grow something that not only communicates in natural language but can also make me a cup of tea, ride a bike, solve a Rubik’s cube in under a minute and on alternate Sundays, after a lot of moaning, empty the dishwasher. 

I’m starting to think about the impact on the planet my AI and computing choices has, but given somebody has already consumed the large amount of carbon to train the model, here’s a slightly disturbing picture of a tower of elephants, drawn for me by AI. 

Giles Letheren, Chief Executive Officer

Photo by DeepMind on Unsplash

Plymouth Active Leisure

Plymouth Active Leisure

Who are Plymouth Active Leisure?

From the 1st of April 2022 Plymouth Active Leisure Ltd, a new Plymouth City Council-owned company, was set up to run the existing leisure facilities, within the city. These include Plymouth Life Centre, Brickfields Sports Centre, Plympton Swimming Pool and Gym, Mount Wise Outdoor Pools and Tinside Lido.

How does Delt Support Plymouth Active Leisure?

When Plymouth City Council decided to set up Plymouth Active Leisure and retain the commercial operations of city’s leisure centres; Delt were approached to provide the necessary IT Services across all leisure sites.

Blog – Advice I Would Give My Younger Self

Advice I Would Give My Younger Self

I’ll jump straight in… 

  • Leave a job if it brings you no joy, however good the money is 
  • Embrace change, you may as well because you will not stop it 
  • Drive change, even in the smallest ways, it takes a lot of people doing a lot of small things to make big change happen.  
  • Take a stand and challenge poor behaviour as that will eventually change a culture. 
  • Surround yourself with people who challenge you to be the best version of you that you can. 
  • Share your knowledge. Time invested in training and developing others is never wasted and seeing your team grow will give you some of the proudest moments in your career. 
  • Never compromise your integrity. Your moral compass is yours and yours alone. Live by it. 
  • Keep the balance, do not forget you are a cheerleader too! Work hard but remember what is really important in life. 
  • You are not a square peg or a round peg, you are just you. You are good enough. You do not have to fit into any hole.  
  • Never stop learning. 

Karen Morris, Chief Financial Officer

Photo by Elisa Photography on Unsplash

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service

Who are Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service?

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service is responsible for ensuring that the communities of Somerset and Devon, including Plymouth and Torbay, are protected, and supported by an effective and efficient fire and rescue service.

 

How does Delt Support Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service?

Following an independent reviews, it was suggested that DSFRS implemented a phased move to a new model of service delivery that included a single HR and OD with greater emphasis on partnering, collaboration, culture, behaviour, and talent management with OD and HR Business Partnering at its very core.

To support this direction and HR transformation, Delt were engaged on an HR consultancy basis with work commencing in January 2021.

 

Case Studies

Our case studies outline some of the work involved in making amazing things happen;

South West Academic Health Science Network

South West Academic Health Science Network

Who are South West Academic Health Science Network?

The South West Academic Health Science Network  (South West AHSN) is one of 15 AHSNs set up by NHS England across the country in 2013. As an AHSN, they are uniquely placed to connect NHS and academic organisations, local authorities, the third sector and industry, using their position to drive the adoption and spread of innovative ideas and technologies across large populations.

 

How does Delt Support the South West Academic Health Science Network?

 

Case Studies

Our case studies outline some of the work involved in making amazing things happen;

Feeling Supported is Everything

Feeling Supported is Everything

There have been so many people that have helped and supported me in my career, and they fit into three groups, role models, team, and cheer leaders. 

I have been lucky to have some great role models. It started with my dad. He would never just do something for me, he would help me to do it myself. Everything from decorating to changing the wheel on the car when I had a puncture, patiently teaching me how, well mainly patiently, not so much on the learning to drive! He taught me I could do whatever I tried hard enough to do. He did not just fix things he gave me skills, made me strong and independent. I have had lots of bosses over the years, and they all taught me something, some by showing me the kind of leader I wanted to be and others by showing me the kind of leader I definitely did not want to be.  The good ones invested time in mentoring me, developed my confidence, challenged me to go out of my comfort zone. They sat on their hands and watched me fail then helped me pick the pieces up and try again until I succeeded. I remember them all and I try the best I can to be the kind of leader that inspired me. 

Team is everything. Without the right team you are nothing. I had a job where I was not unhappy, but I was not happy either, I was not thriving I was just going through the motions. I wish I had realised sooner that it was because I just did not fit. That does not mean the other people were wrong and I was right. I just did not fit; they were not my team, and I was not where I was supposed to be.   

You need the right balance of people with different strengths and skills that come together to form a whole. The team need to share the same vision, the same values, they need to offer strong support and strong challenge.  It is only when you are part of the right team that you can thrive. I joined Delt 4 years ago, on a 12-month fixed term maternity cover contract, now I am CFO. I think I have found my team! 

Where would any of us be without our cheerleaders? The people in our lives that are always there giving encouragement, picking us up when we fall down, celebrating our successes, a sounding board, a shoulder to cry on, the bringers of wine. Our nearest and dearest that make it all worthwhile.  

So many people have helped me get this far and I cannot thank them enough. Somewhere up there I hope a proud dad looks on. Now the hard work and the challenge continues. I still have so much to learn and a very big role to continue to grow into. Being CFO anywhere is a privilege, being CFO at Delt is an even bigger one because of what we do and who we do it for. 

Karen Morris, Chief Financial Officer

One in a Million?

One in a Million?

On the 1st October, Delt will be 8 years old. I’ll have been here for most of those years and it is the longest I’ve ever stayed in a single job. Normally after 8 years I would have (been fired or) run out of interesting things to do and be seeking a new challenge. Delt is different [stick with me, this isn’t some longwinded sales pitch].  

We are significantly bigger than we were in 2014 with more people, more revenue and more services. What was 80 people and about £10m in revenue is now 230 people and £21m. What was just IT is now IT, Cyber Security, Print, Mail, Payroll, Facilities, HR, Finance, Procurement and Consultancy. Every day brings a new challenge. It feels like I have as big a job to do today as I did back when things started in 2014. We Help People Do Amazing Things and that makes coming to work not just a job, but a genuine joy. The impact of what we do is felt in places across the whole of the Southwest. To be able to consistently keep doing the right things for the right reasons speaks volumes about those who chose to start the company in the way that they did. I remain in their debt.  

Things that are very rare (and the success of a public interest shared service is very rare indeed) are sometimes described as one in a million. I wonder if we qualified as such? 

2014 was a good year for new businesses. It had the highest rate of start-ups for 14 years with 351,000 new company formations, an increase of 1% over the previous year. I am sure there are many worthy companies in that number but of the 351,000 I am of course, mostly interested in just one.  

By the end of the following year, 7.8 % of those businesses had folded, leaving 288,522. 

The next year was a bit worse with only 76% of the original formations left. That’s 266,760. 

By 2017, we were down to 214,110 from the original cohort. 

By 2018 it was 171,990. 

By 2019 we were down to 150,930.  

After 2019, things get a bit vague as business survival rates jump from being reported annually to being measured over a decade. However, we know the approximate 10 year survival rate (36%) so can calculate the missing values. This tells us that by 2022, only around 137,943 of our cohort businesses are still trading. Making it this far is a victory in itself but perhaps not one in a million. If we are looking only at our longevity alone, that makes us about four in ten which sounds a lot less impressive. Still good though and I’d certainly rather be in the four that are still going, than the six that aren’t. 

But Delt was never just about staying the course. It was and is an amazing experiment in thinking differently and by doing so, delivering very different results. For those of the class of 2014 who remain I am certain of one thing: we are unique in that 137,943 and that’s good enough for me. 

Happy 8th Birthday Delt. 

Giles Letheren, Chief Executive Officer

 

All data from ONS. 

Embracing change is the way to success

Embracing change is the way to success

Way back when in June 1989, aged 15 years and 11 months, in a smart beige New Look suit with rolled-up sleeves and kitten heeled shoes (trust me it was a very fashionable look at the time) an incredibly nervous young me turned up at Grant Thornton for her first day at work. Somehow, I had convinced them to take me on as an AAT trainee. I had calculated that it would be a quicker route to qualification than A levels, a degree and then graduate conversion. Plus, I would learn on the job, get paid and have 5 years’ experience by the time I qualified. Sounded so easy when I formed my plan. 

Fast forward 33 years to March 2022, aged 48 and 9 months, in a smart top, cut-off jeans and slippers (standard Teams meeting fashion of the modern world) a slightly anxious middle aged me received the news from the Chair of the Delt Board that I had been appointed Chief Financial Officer. After several months acting as interim, a recruitment process that was certainly not for the faint hearted and an intense period of proving I could step up and deliver at this higher level, I had done it, I had convinced the Board that I was the woman for the job! 

I have got to admit it has taken awhile to sink in and has caused me to reflect a lot on what happened in those 33 years in between. Apart from the obvious of learning my debits and credits, passing exams etc it all really comes down to the ability to adjust to and drive change and the people you have around you.  

There has been so much change in the last 3 decades, especially in technology and culture. Back in ’89 on my first day one of the first tasks I was given, after the tea run, was to add up a column of the phone book using an add lister (a calculator with a till roll print out). I wondered if this was a joke but back then using a calculator was a skill all accountants needed. These were pre computer days and were very different times.  Everything was manual and on paper. The data centre was a massive room of filling cabinets, and its firewall was a band of secretaries that would tackle you to the ground should you try to enter their domain.  

I remember the first portable computers being delivered to the office, the biggest change in my working world. It was a HP Compaq, the size of an Ikea bag, weighed a tonne and had a strange pop-up orange screen – but I loved it. I just thought it was so cool and it added up quicker than me and my add lister! Fast forward 33 years and now you can do pretty much everything from your phone if you need to.  

The changes to culture are also beyond recognition, we now have leaders not bosses, diversity not the old boy’s network, Gordon the Grope is no longer welcome. Most organisations now understand that the workforce is their biggest asset and must be nurtured and looked after, that having engaged, and motivated staff is critical to the business. 

Change can be carefully planned for and managed, or it can just hit you out of nowhere, like a global pandemic! The fact is there has always been change and there always will be change so you have to be able to deal with it. I learnt early on to embrace it, to see it as an opportunity not a threat. Continuous improvement is so important to business and people and that only happens if we continue to evolve and change. It is not always easy, but it is almost always worth it.  

Imagine if we still had manual ledgers, life without Excel… does not bear thinking about.  

Karen Morris, Chief Financial Officer

The Power of a True Partnership

The Power of a True Partnership

“A partnership is a relationship in which the participants exchange equal or fair advantages or benefits, have common interests, and form an alliance or play on the same team(1). 

True partnerships between organisations can be a powerful combination, if “true,” and lead to significantly more value being delivered than, for example, a supplier relationship.  

I purposefully used the word “true” as I have become quite cynical of the term ‘partnership’ where marketing a business is concerned. We all strive to achieve the holy grail of partnerships – but what does this look like in business terms? 

I have been reflecting on our recent, successful take on of the Devon NHS Partnership Trust (DPT) IT service back in June this year. Both Delt and DPT had been working tirelessly, for over 12 months, to make it a success and one of the key foundations for this success was the true partnership we worked hard to build and continue to nurture. Our partnership was, and is, built on the following foundations;  

  • Shared values – which engenders complete trust – for example, honesty, mutual respect. A public sector organisation is often routed in their values and that is something us at Delt have in common. We understand what is important because it matters to us too.  
  • Shared ambition – we both want to leverage technology for the benefits of patients and staff. 
  • Shared benefits – neither organisation is incentivised to benefit more than the other and it is not a relationship based on one organisation focusing on profit for remote shareholders. Whilst of course money does exchange hands, for Delt, it is more about the value we can deliver and of course the benefits of having a new customer. That in turn further strengthens our ability to grow and add incremental value to our existing customers and future customers in the public sector.  
  • Shared resources – both organisations operate as one, creating a team who drive towards common goals and sharing in the success of those achievements.  
  • Shared accountability – when things go wrong (we would be kidding ourselves if we said we never get it wrong), both organisations jointly take accountability, there is no blame. Only a commitment to finding and implementing sustainable solutions. 
  • Shared commitment – both organisations are committed to a successful partnership and put real skin in the game, whether that be financial investment or hiring additional resource. 

I have learnt over the years that it is better to start small with a new “partner” to allow time to test the relationship, as often what is said on paper [like an RFP] is not the reality of what you get. 

It is through this consideration of mutual foundations that we have been able to establish a true partnership. Something all of us at Delt are proud of and will take forward into developing more partnerships and improving those with our current customers.  

Paul Jones, Chief Information Officer

 1. The Politics of Powerful Partnerships (gartner.com) 

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash