8 months Blog

Staying Relevant – Nine Not Out

ROQ is now officially nine years old – it was our birthday at the weekend. As a joint birthday present with my other half, I celebrated with a once in a lifetime treat - an amazing meal at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons – (Raymond Blanc’s multi-Michelin starred restaurant).  Whilst I was eating the “Les Asperges – Cornish Lamb, Oxfordshire Asparagus, Jersey Royal & Goat’s Cheese” (one of seven delightful courses), the maître d' asked me what I did for a living, and I answered faultlessly – the wine had not yet taken over at that point (I don’t think!).

Now, testing and quality can be a pretty dull subject at a dinner party (let’s be honest) so I have found a way to answer that makes it sound like the most exciting thing in the world. I don’t lie. I tell it from the perspective that I did over nine years ago when I was asked why I was setting up the business.  We help people.  We make large companies successful.  We get enjoyment from the challenges modern technology and organisational pressures provide us. Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?

But what dawned on me the most is that what makes ROQ successful is similar on many levels to Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons. They have an amazing location, they are impeccable in everything from the pre-stay service, the reception, the hotel rooms and of course the food.  But my visit really revealed to me why, when times are tough economically, these places thrive (not survive).

I realised that it is their ability to be totally relevant.  They continue to meet the needs of their audience – value is a greater measure than price. Fact. I never felt anything other than the most important person there – and that was amazing.  The value is on the enjoyment I had, the emotions ignited by the experience and the memories and stories that I will share forever.

Bringing it back to my day-to-day world - I attended the Forrester Digital Transformation 2018 Summit in London two weeks ago and I listened to the leading industry analysts talk about the three stages of transformation that organisations are going through – Bolt-On, Transform and Disrupt. Organisations from across Europe presented on how they have achieved success through technology impact, business re-alignment and even re-invention of their product to meet demand.  All of them talked about how they need to change to be relevant to their customers to survive.

The one that sticks out, as I am a big cricket fan, was from a presentation by the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) who had looked at their marketplace – spectators and future players – and determined through deep data analytics, that unless they attract kids playing cricket before they turn eleven, they will never take up the game or watch it.  As such, they have recently announced a new 100-ball cricket tournament that aims at exactly this market - young families, relaxed environment and an easy-to-understand game.  They also plan to use lots of digital interaction in building the participation and attraction to the new format.  Changing the game of cricket is the best way to survive – brilliantly brave, but totally disruptive.

One other very interesting fact that wobbled the audience was that analyst research predicts that 75% of all S&P listed organisations will disappear by 2027! That is why organisations are now, more than ever, in a continual cycle of change.

And supporting all this change is exactly where ROQ can remain relevant. Very relevant in fact. Change brings huge risk.  No questions about it.  Business risk is now so intertwined with technology risk that it is very scary as a CEO of a large corporate and incredibly exciting as CEO of ROQ!

In the current climate, the CEO’s are faced with shareholder pressure on delivering quality services to their customers, faster than ever. Although, in the backdrop they are petrified of letting technology failures hit the front page, having to sit on parliamentary panels or taking the main slot on the BBC news, taking the hit for risks that weren’t mitigated.

The CEO agenda for change is aligning with the CIO manifesto for action and these two overarching roles are becoming symbiotic on business survival beyond the 3-year strategic plan whilst remaining totally relevant now.  But, in reality, this is just another journey – one of many, like these institutions have been on before and certainly one they will invest in and embrace. 

However, investing wisely and partnering with niche organisations that provide value in the right areas is now more critical than ever.  I believe the landscape of the corporate eco-system is changing massively and long gone are the multi-year, noose-like lock-ins to the large integration companies. Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons instead of McDonalds is the order of the day and I am glad to say we fit the former.

So, along with having a thoroughly enjoyable weekend in Oxfordshire, with fine food and wine, I had a “live for the moment” experience, where I recognised, that after nine successful and happy years with ROQ, the proudest thing we can take away is that we are still absolutely relevant – and I’ll take that.

Stephen Johnson

Director - ROQ


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