Episode 23 of The Andy Show
ANDREW MCLEAN [00:01:08] Good afternoon and welcome to The Andy Show. It is the 20th Wednesday, the 20th of May 2020. Time right now is 12:31 in the afternoon. Must be time for The Andy Show. I’m Andrew McLean, your host. So we’ve spoken to lots of different people the last few weeks around about what the… I know Campell Macpherson is going to hate me for saying but what the new norm is around this lockdown, not just what was came before, but what’s happening now, how companies have changed. However, fewer conversations around about what happens next. How do companies go back? How do companies do any of us know? Well, to help guide us to the path of hopefully normality or at least semi normality, I’m delighted to be joined by my special guest today, a good friend of mine, Michael Foote, the current Sales Director for New Business Europe at Birlasoft. Welcome, Michael.
MICHAEL FOOTE [00:02:07] Hi Andy, thanks for having me on the show.
ANDREW MCLEAN [00:02:09] Hey, so, um, let’s see. You have a long and varied career of which many people would be thoroughly jealous of some of the things you’ve achieved in your time. So why don’t we start by giving the audience a little bit of background of who Michael Foote is and what you’re doing at Birlasoft?
MICHAEL FOOTE [00:02:31] Yeah. Well, thank you for that opportunity. I’m by trade a mechanical engineer, spend a lot of time in the nuclear industry, moved through a number of roles in companies like Novell, Micro Focus and IBM, and then worked for a number of years, in fact its 10 years for Oracle, and then subsequently joined both TCS and Infosys as part of their new business development and then recently moved from Hitachi to Birlasoft. So I’m now Sales Director at the self focussed on new business as you quite rightly said. Really, the objectives are to bring an understanding of digital transformation, helping customers through what can be very challenging engagements right the way through too systems integration and enterprise level Cloud.
ANDREW MCLEAN [00:03:32] I think you’re very much the right place at the right time. It’s a fantastic opportunity where you are right now. And I know, I know you’ve been a big enthusiast of what were how businesses have been pivoting at the moment using certain enterprise technology and also how they could possibly cope moving forward. But let’s come back to Birlasoft in a bit. But let’s say let’s just talk about the roadmap then. So we have companies that want to go back. They want to return. We’ve got lots of things on the news at the moment about transport, schools we’ll leave the politicians to that. But let’s look at the logistical stuff. Let’s look at the practical stuff. First of all, we spoke earlier on in our pre call. And one of the things you were speaking about were health and safety. So to me, that seems like a logical place to to start. What’s your thoughts on health and safety and how could maybe technology and human beings maybe help us in this back to normality?
MICHAEL FOOTE [00:04:36] Well, it’s a really big question, actually Andrew and I don’t think anybody has got the perfect answer, as you quite rightly said. I think the politicians are fighting with a number of challenges and obviously there’s a lot of people that have a lot of views on things. But I think things have changed and things have moved very dramatically and very quickly over the last few months. In fact, the digital transformation or use of digital to drive people working from home has been accelerated by probably three years at least, if not five years. I think a lot of the technology that would have taken time to be implemented and bedded down and focussed on and then reviewed and then upgraded etc. Has all gone into place within a couple of months and people are using this technology now. We know that everybody’s spoken about these names in the market. Well, that’s happened. And that’s great. You know, in some respects, some people have found it different. Some people have found it very challenging. Some people have found it very easy to do it. But I think realistically, what it’s done is helps us to understand how important it is to start to focus on health and safety of employees and of clients and VIP’s and all of these other wonderful terminologies. But the reality is health and safety is no longer well am I going to slip on the floor because it’s wet. It’s actually now about, you know, sort of really looking at how employees and how workers work within the true environment. So I think the changes will be quite dramatic. I think a lot of the technology that will be coming in is very much going to focus on trying to identify potential temperature, hot spots in people looking at things such as social distancing. Looking at things have been able to track people through an office. Now we’re going to be reduced in the number of people in offices. You know, I’ve had a conversation with number of quite senior people at different companies, and they’re all saying the same thing is that their workforce in the office on any one day will be probably a third of what it would normally be. And I think that distancing that challenge will all come into it. So technology will help them.
ANDREW MCLEAN [00:07:07] Yeah, I mean, social distancing has been difficult. It’s very, very difficult, especially in offices. I can see why companies are going down that route. I mean, do you think, you’ve been speaking to these big business leaders, do you think this transition because this your answer will almost reflect what’s coming in the future but do you think this transition to this sudden everybody’s got work from home or a lot of people got work from home. Do you think companies have done, I know it was a bit rocky to begin with. But do you think companies have done quite well with this kind of strategy?
MICHAEL FOOTE [00:07:41] I think in general, yes, I think, you know, that it’s a change in people’s daily habits. You know, those habits are, you know, founded over many, many years. Okay. Some of the younger and younger ones it’s no. But it’s found after many, many years. It’s founded over, you know, working them, you know, being home, you know, doing home things, being in the car. All of those sort of things have formed a way of us, I suppose, getting around them and our own health and safety. I think those changes of, you know, washing your hands, the distancing thing is is unusual for many people to get used to because, you know, we are a very busy country. We are, you know, very well populated country. And the difficulty is is that walking down the street. It’s very difficult to keep two metres apart from each other. But I think the fundamental idea of keeping apart is right. And it seems to be working well. I think in certain situations, we may need to be prompted. So, for instance, you know, we’ve been sort of developing a relatively inexpensive solution for thermal sensing, which allows us to be able to identify fluctuations in temperature of people as they enter a building, as they enter a workplace, as they enter a factory, taking into account all the ambient temperatures taken into account all the different variables. Also take into account that people could be traveling by bike or different modes of transport. But the idea is that you could identify potential heat thermal issues that could indicate that somebody is suffering from something they don’t know about. Not say necessarily COVID, but it could be that they have a temperature. They might have a flu, you know, they may have a cold coming. That thing links in to the next sets of activities, which is how do you keep people distant from each other? Well, if you can combine that into a thermal capability with some sort of an alert system that will alert an employee that perhaps they’re getting too close or perhaps they’re breaking that rule of whatever that distance is that’s agreed in those premises. Then the next thing would be, well, actually, who is that person coming into contact with? Who have they, you know, bumped into or potentially been alerted against getting too close to? And then you start to trace how potentially that issue could have been. You know, obviously maybe contracted by somebody. So in health and safety, as we said at the beginning. And in a situation where, you know, social distancing will be the norm for the next certainly for the next months, if not years, then it’s about being able to warn people, but not necessarily to be mean about it. This is about you getting too close. Perfect. Have you been in contact with this number of people? And then ultimately, are you showing signs of some sort of thermal so that potentially could ward an employer that they might perhaps isolate an individual, or they perhaps need to instruct the nursing staff to perhaps make a visit to that employee to help them through that process. So I think that linking now becomes part of that. And I think, you know, a lot of these track and trace type apps are starting to think that way. But I think it’s becoming more prevalent now to employers that they will have to think about how they manage that. And it can be done relatively easily and linked to H.R, to all sorts of systems to allow people to be able to be looked at as being, you know, helping them with their health and safety and also helping their customers to know that doing something for their workforce, which is positive for everybody’s health.
ANDREW MCLEAN [00:11:53] It’s. Yeah. I mean, I want to talk to you in a minute about the supply chains.
MICHAEL FOOTE [00:11:59] Sure.
ANDREW MCLEAN [00:12:02] And it’s great. So, you know, companies are going to have to implement social distancing and people. And I think most companies are sensible. I think as you say, there’ll be a mix of working from home and people go in and offices and how we do this. However, here’s a good question. Well, I think it’s a good question. How do people actually – I mean, for some people, it was going to be incredibly difficult to do their job. So I’ll give you, for example, if you work in sales and sales is very much around human beings. A lot of it is about relationships, about pressing the flesh, going to events, even, you know, you’ve got and then and you meet people networking and things like that.
MICHAEL FOOTE [00:12:45] Sure.
ANDREW MCLEAN [00:12:46] That’s going to radically change the sales. I mean, I can think of countless other things that could be I.T. support, could be anything. Do you think people’s job roles and the way that they would then have to go about that role is going to have to change because being sociable is going to be more of an issue?
MICHAEL FOOTE [00:13:07] I think that’s a very good question. And I don’t think there is a perfect answer to that. If I looked at my own personal points of view and looked at it from what I’m doing, it’s slightly more challenging because you can’t have that active interaction with somebody that you would do face to face. You know, there’s still a challenge of booking that meeting. There still is the challenge of actually meeting that person and going to a show and all of the things that go with that. So it’s not like it’s some it’s easier. It’s just different. And I think the most important thing here is to then start to look at the value that you bring with your interaction with that individual. It’s about how you work together and build a report in a situation where you’re both virtual. It could be a whole group of people that you need to get to know. And I think the challenge is getting the message over. That makes sense, getting a message that people understand and would be willing to investigate. Which again, is the next part. But I think also, you know, this sort of context based insight now becomes even more important, because what you’re now starting to do is to challenge what a salesperson says vs what can be delivered. So you’re now starting to break down those barriers and say, right, fine, I believe you. I like you. We get on well together. We have good conversations. But I need to see results. And I think the new, as you quite rightly put it, that terminology of the new normal, which are, you know, obviously a lot of people get fed up with hearing now, I’m sure. But that new way of operating is going to put a lot of pressure on those solutions. So it’s no longer a situation of let’s try it and then build it for the next two years. It’s going to be let’s try it. Let’s see what he does in 30 days. Let’s see what results we get from that. Let’s see how quickly we can move this forward. How quickly can we start to see a return for what you’re talking about? I think what tends to what will happen is organisations that have potentially been quite loose with their returns for customers and potentially ones that have asked for a huge investment from customers before they get a return will be more challenged going forward. And I think that challenge will come to the sales people to be able to get that case clearly over to that individual but at the same time, build that relationship and ultimately then engaging. And at some point, yes, of course, you’ll meet whether you will shake hands. I don’t know whether that will be different in the future, but I think we will build stronger partnerships together. I think. Relationships between businesses will be better. I think there’s going to be a real resurgence in this whole concept of relying on each other, partnering with each other and building a relationship going forward that is not just going to be based on buying stuff. It’s gonna be based on a whole host of things and as salespeople and as myself, I challenge myself to get better, to be able to communicate better, to be able to bring value better and understand what it is I’m delivering.
ANDREW MCLEAN [00:16:31] Yeah, I think a lot of people, including myself, have to learn some new skills, both at work and at home. And we’ll talk about your guitar in a little bit. But let’s go, let’s move on from the people then. For now, let’s just talk about the supply chain. So supply chains been a difficult one for some people, not just during this long time, but going forward. Have you got any thoughts around supply chain resilience?
MICHAEL FOOTE [00:17:00] Well, it’s a very interesting question because it sort of looks at a whole set of parameters now, you know, supply chain resilience to some people, is one topic and there’s another topic and there’s a whole host of other things. I think what’s been seen in the market is this whole concept of, you know, what stocks are available, where are these stocks. And how can these stocks be moved around to to meet the criteria of whatever that challenge is at that point. And I think if you looked at it from you know, a government point of view, that’s good. That’s been the PPE stuff. You know, this personal protection stuff. You know, it’s been in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s been there. It hasn’t arrived on time etc. Well, it’s not actually that bad. The fact is that the supply chain has worked very well because it was built on a just in time supply lines so that you didn’t have huge stocks of things sitting in a warehouse or huge stocks of things sitting in a hospital gathering dust. But of course, in a pandemic type situation, you use more of these items. Therefore, that whole logistic thing changes. So I think the supply chain now needs to evolve into the next level, which is to be able to understand where things are. So if, for instance, one hospital has lots of masks, let’s use that as an example, loads of masks, but doesn’t have any gowns and another hospital has loads of gowns and no masks. We need to understand that we can basically cooperate together to move that stock in a way that would allow it to balance what’s happening generally. And I think that’s one example. And of course, that’s not like he’s going to be fixed tomorrow because it is an ongoing demand that will not stop at this point in time for the next few months anyway. If we look today as going forward into this sort of consumer world here when we first started the lockdown, people rushed out to buy toilet rolls. Well, you know, that seemed like an awful long time ago now. And laugh about it now because it was probably two months ago. It wasn’t that long ago. Why did that happening happen? Because social media set an expectation to people in all countries that toilet rolls would run out, but it wouldn’t run out because we have factories in the U.K. that make toilet rolls and therefore it’s a completely different situation. So if you look at what people did stockpiling this stockpiling of tissue paper, stockpiling of toilet paper, perhaps stockpiling of boxes and beans and all sorts of stuff, suddenly now what you’ve got is a supply chain that’s rebalanced because it’s taken into account the demand. But there’s a bunch of people out there with a whole load of stuff sitting in their garages they can’t get rid of because they bought it, thinking that that supply would be quite small. So, again, in this sort of new supply line type world, we could actually and companies can actually start to look at everybody’s capability and everybody storage and everybody’s use of products and start to identify where if someone’s got fifteen tins of beans and somebody wants to buy some beans that actually they could trade that between different people that required that type of product. Now, that’s quite simplistic, but in real terms, what that actually means is that we no longer get a problem then with the supply line because ultimately the companies that are providing the goodds will know where the goods are. The use of those goods and whether those goods are surplus or not. And if that’s the case, then redistribute those back into the system, which could, for instance, go to charities or it could go to, you know, some form of government meals on wheels or it could actually go to schools, whatever it might be. It could be redirected. And therefore, we don’t have that panic situation. Yes, of course, we have individuals that might buy too much. But if the supply line can be rebalanced and readdressed then that’s how we start to move it forward. And as a country, what we start to move away from is this excess of storage to a point where we’re comfortable with how these things could be delivered and ultimately how that supply line would work. And everybody’s then knowledgeable about the fact that there is enough beans, there are enough tissue paper, there is enough of this sort of stuff, and it can be redirected accordingly to meet demand.
ANDREW MCLEAN [00:21:51] Challenging stuff, challenging stuff. Well, we’ll keep in with that challenge then, as a lot of our viewers are within the I.T. industry. I feel for the I.T. industry, the poor people that have had to figure out ways to get their workforce on online when you have laptops. But let’s look at the return. I mean, I.T. challenges around returning after this lockdown. I mean, what were your thoughts on the I.T. challenges that companies might have and maybe how they could look at it?
MICHAEL FOOTE [00:22:31] Well, I think, you know, one of the big things that they’ll be looking at is their investment in digital. I think any good CIO, any good I.T. Director will start to look at the money that they’re spending on working from home. They will start to look at the usefulness of that technology. They will start to review its weaknesses and its strengths, and they will start to look at hardening that technology so that they can have a more resilient environment. So in other words, reducing the risk of potentially somebody cutting into a conference call or cutting into a discussion. I think also they’ll start to look at employees to define if they need other technologies, if they need other items to work better at home. In fact, one of my neighbours. You know, she’s had discussions with her company. And, you know, they’re convinced that shutting some of the office space off in their, in their offices in London will be absolutely fine. And they’re moving people to working from home. And that’s excellent. So what did she get? She got a couple of new monitors. So they sent a couple of new monitors out to her, a new system. They’re setting the system up remotely. And she’ll be able to work from home. And, you know, they were sort of saying to her, well, you know, you don’t need to come into the office, probably, maybe, I don’t know, maybe once a month just to really come in and see people. And I think that change started to happen. So going back to what they’re going to have to do is to look at that, look at the way they’re working. I think many companies will be looking at office space. Many companies will be looking at, you know, the validity of people working from home again. They’ll be fast accelerating those views. I think the Cloud aspect of storage, the Cloud aspect of, you know, using enterprise solutions will be pushing forward. You know, we have this new sort of intelligent ERP type stuff going on now where, you know, it’s no longer the traditional sense of data on one side, information on another. This is about complete interaction. This is about being mobile. This is about being remote. This is about being able to investigate information at a regular pace. So all of those things will need to be reviewed. All of those things will need to be calibrated, all of those things will need to be, you know, the risk will need to be reduced. Once that’s gone through, I think then the next set of things will be to see how much they can get out of that technology. So rather than buying more, they’ll say, how far can we take this technology? How far can I push this technology? How much can I get out of what I’ve bought and what I have available? And as we go through that process, they will then define getting reducing operating costs because the digital environment will allow them to do that, getting more out of their software, getting more out of their people, working from home, because you know that they will be actually better, more constructed, probably more time available. And I think the loss of time to travel to people going, you know, having breaks and stuff will all come down. So all of those things will need to be reviewed. And, you know, right the way down to simple things such as coffee and tea and Cokes and water and all of these things, all of these things will start to shrink. And also, they won’t need as many copiers. They won’t need as many printers. All of these things will need to be taken into account to help to reduce costs, because ultimately the bottom line is effective because of COVID-19.
ANDREW MCLEAN [00:26:22] Thank you. 12:56 here on Disruptive LIVE, I’m joined at the moment by Michael Foote, the Sales Director of New Business Europe at Birlasoft. So let’s talk about Birlasoft itself. How are you? Well, actually why don’t you – we’ve kind of touched on it, but maybe tell us a little bit more about what you actually do and how you’re helping with this return to normal after lockdown.
MICHAEL FOOTE [00:26:47] Okay. So as an organisation, we’re into digital transformation, we are a systems integrator. Our predominant product sets are Oracle. We do quite a bit with SAP and Infor, we work with Salesforce and so we work with ServiceNow, Microsoft, and the Microsoft sets of products are part of that regime as well. So we are truly a systems integrator. We help people on their journeys to Cloud. We help to advise and guide customers. And we have a great capability because we have an offshore capability, initial capability and an onshore capability. We’re not one of the big guys. You know, we’re not one of the top 10, 15 in the world. We are probably more in the mids here, which means that we can bring a degree of capability that customers would really enjoy and the experience that they would enjoy, but at a cost base that is far more conducive to, you know, moving things quickly. Agility, flexibility. And, you know, we go back to the cost side of it. You know, we have a mixture of capability that allows us to keep the costs at a reasonable level. You know, one of the things we focussed on in the last few months is to build, you know, flexible solutions that allow people to get up to speed with, you know, H.R. systems payroll in 30 days to build intelligent ERP systems, to build smart environments. And I suppose the question always comes back, well, what’s our credentials in being able to do that? Well, you know, we’ve got a long history of working with J.D. Edwards, with, SAP, SuccessFactors, Oracle, HCM. So we have many success stories, much capability in those areas. But also we’re owned by the C.K. Birla Group, which is a manufacturer in it’s own right in the construction industry. So not only are we able to put a solution on paper and talk to a customer about how to manufacture things, we actually have factories. We actually have environments where we can bring skill sets that allow us to share with our customers the journey with the right experience and the right knowledge and certification of the staff.
MICHAEL FOOTE [00:29:15] And you mentioned some very impressive clients. but mentioned some clients so just briefly, how do you work with clients – what’s the type of engagement that you have with these clients?
MICHAEL FOOTE [00:29:27] Well, you know, I think most companies would say, well, we have a way of working, which is perfect to work with our customers. I think the reality for us is that we work in a onshore and offshore capabilities. So we have active engagements with our customers. So to give you an example. I’m working with a customer at the moment and we have regular governance calls with all the right people, they’re a part of the projects. We review each of the projects individually with that customer. We review the results of that part of that. you know, that engagement. We review the deliverables. We make sure that we are delivering efficiently and professionally and meeting the deadlines of the customer. You know, in many cases, you know, we are very strict on deadlines. We’re very strict on our deliverables because the knock on effects is that other things get delayed if we’re not on time and we’re not on project. So we work closely with our customers in partnership to make sure that we meet that criteria. And we’re more than happy to review that regularly with the clients. And, you know, one of the things that we also get heavily involved in is helping the customers on that next journey, which is the innovation side. So we mentioned the sort of the thermal imaging stuff. You know, we’ve mentioned well I didn’t actually mention, but we have a journey risks supply chain where we can actually look at the risk of a journey for a deliverable. And that journey risk of the road traffic. It could be hotspots for potential hijacking. It could be all sorts of things that come into that. So as a global organisation, we can help to work with customers to introduce new technology, new innovation, new ideas, to take them on a regular technology journey that allows them to be more competitive and actually be able to compete better not only with newer products, but also bring other things to their customers that perhaps, you know, would have normally have gone to a competitor.
ANDREW MCLEAN [00:31:29] Okay, so I’m going to be your… I will be your client. So put your sales hat on here. If you had to sum up where you focus. But not only that, what value am I getting from coming to you opposed to whoever else?
MICHAEL FOOTE [00:31:50] Well, I think that’s you know, again, a lot of people watching this will be saying, well, we do that, we do that, we do this well. Yeah. Okay. I think I think reasonably anything I mention will be somebody will say exactly the same thing. But, you know, when we engage with a client, we talk about their challenges. We talk about what they’re trying to achieve. We talk about how they want to go about that process. You know, what are their restrictions? What are their concerns? What is their, you know, their real drivers in this situation? It could be that perhaps they’re losing experienced staff to retirement. It could be that they’re losing experienced staff because they’re not able to maintain that level of staff because of, you know, competitive situations, because of margins, because of different pressures of the business. So we try to understand that. We try to bring that into our discussion and then we look for ways that we can help to share that risk. And the key to a lot of this is about sharing that risk is about being in partnership. It’s about being able to deliver a high-value deliverable with a return on investment that allows the customer to be not only a reference site for us, but somebody who’s going to stand up and say, yeah, these guys have made a difference and they would come back. So in other words, we continue that partnership together to help them to be more competitive, to be more profitable and to be more successful because in return, we have a case study that people want to hear about it.
ANDREW MCLEAN [00:33:27] I’ve noticed now more than ever that off the shelf i suppose the expression is where it’s like that, right, there’s X amount of pound. And away we go, I think people have – I certainly in my role, people have been very much about the journey now. Well, we’re actually trying to achieve this. we’re trying to achieve this so how do we tailor this to do this? This, this, they don’t just want a box that just does something. They want something specific. They want it tailored. They want an understanding of what they’re doing and what they’re trying to achieve. So, yeah, no I absolutely. Get where you’re coming from. I think it’s a fantastic way of approaching things. So as I reach the dying minutes of our interview, just if you had to sum up. Why should someone pick up the phone and engage with not only Birlasoft but probably one of the most smartest men in business, Michael Foote himself?
MICHAEL FOOTE [00:34:25] I think he goes on a simple, you know, working together, you know, developing solutions that make your challenges, understanding how your company operates. Being there to support your people. To be able to support your company as you start to move forward and helping you as an organisation to achieve, you know, this status of what we termed as the new norm. Being able to be competitive in the market and deliver great value for the customers and give the customers the feeling that know we’re all in it together and we’re here to support each other.
ANDREW MCLEAN [00:35:01] Fantastic. And my final question, of course, is I’m going to ask you. Behind you, there’s a guitar. Is it yours?
MICHAEL FOOTE [00:35:09] It is mine yes. Well, I am just learning. And I’m not in that position to be able to stand on the stage. But I promise you that in probably a couple of months time, I’ll give you a rendition.
ANDREW MCLEAN [00:35:23] You heard it here first, everyone. We’re going to hear a rendition of Michael Foote’s new musical legacy. just out of interest, is this something you’ve taken up? Because I keep asking people this is like new skills during this lockdown. Is this a locked thing or something you’ve just done for a while?
MICHAEL FOOTE [00:35:41] Well, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I think like a lot of people, there are things you want to do. And I just walk past the music shop one day and I just went, you know what? I want to play the guitar and went in there, chose the guitar and, you know, took it home. And I’ve had some lessons. Unfortunately, my teacher is you know, he has got, I don’t have medical complications, so it’s not easy for them to be able to do face to face at the moment. And certainly, you know, doing it online is quite difficult. So, you know, I stopped my lessons. I’ve taken on the Fender lessons online. I’ve got my book over there and I’m just going through things there and hopefully in the next few months I’ve to go back to lessons and I get back into it. But no, it’s some it’s great for relaxation. It’s good fun. And I’ve always wanted to be able to pick up the guitar player it so hey, that’s where I’m coming from.
ANDREW MCLEAN [00:36:41] New skills every day, both in work and in your personal life. Fantastic. Well, Michael, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on today and hope to speak to you again soon.
MICHAEL FOOTE [00:36:51] Thank you. And thank you again.
ANDREW MCLEAN [00:36:52] Thank you. That was Michael Foote, the Sales Director for New Business Europe at Birlasoft. The time is now six minutes past one on Disruptive LIVE. You’ve been watching The Andy Show. Make sure you’ll check some of our other content. Today we have a very special broadcast with Axians. And also, we have our – one of our charity appeals, which is Get Lippy. So we should go check it out later. Until then and until tomorrow, I’ve been Andrew McLean and I will see you soon.