Having spent over 15 years working in the Cumbrian nuclear supply-chain and growing up on Britain’s Energy Coast, you’d think that I’d have learnt a little something about how certain topics of conversation can fill people with dread…
The bad jokes
I used to think for many of those who work outside of the industry that the term ‘nuclear’ was one of the prime causes of dread and concern, or at the very least something to make a few dry jokes about. Believe me, I’ve heard all the goofs about glowing in the dark and growing extra limbs over the years. I’ve even had the glowing green joke told to me today.
Despite it being rather easy to poke fun at a contentious industry such as nuclear, there is one other term that’s likely to fill any business person with fear and dread more than nuclear – and that’s IT!
Sadly, as an IT guy who spent his formative years developing his skills within the nuclear industry, I can send people running a mile with a mere mention of my background and what I do now.
Although I have to admit, I was very lucky; lucky enough to spend my time developing my skills within one of the resounding success stories of Cumbrian business. We grew quickly, so much so that we were recognised in the national press. We had a pool of growing resources, a large amount of growing support and goodwill and a client that was keen to see us succeed. Every day was a challenge and every day was fun.
I’d like to think I learnt a few things on that journey. We had to develop solutions to cope with growth and we had to impress our client more so than any of our competition large or small.
From that particularly journey I’ve had in my career, I’ve gained three key lessons that working in IT within the nuclear industry has left me with:
Know your Challenges
The challenge of growing a business in the nuclear industry is no different to many others these days, but reputational awareness, delivery and safety were clearly key concerns to us. These days I’d have to admit, security and information security are key challenges to any business, especially those in nuclear.
Align your Strategies
I work with the strong personal belief that IT, IT consultancy, and company strategies are inseparable. IT should not and cannot be developed in isolation from the rest of the company. Sadly, in my consulting work, I do see this a lot. Even the smallest of businesses should have an IT strategy – even if you only have ten people and two PC’s, unless you’ve given up on beating your competition or any hope of growing your business, your IT strategy should align with your business strategy.
I’m also sorry to say, Mr. Managing Director, just as it’s your job to understand what your accountants are up to – your IT company (or IT manager) is also something you should take a keen interest in what they’re doing and how they’re actually helping you grow your business.
Another thing I’ve learnt over the years is to go back to basics. It’s Information Technology. We talk about IT in terms of boxes, gadgets, brands…IT should be Technology that’s there to improve the Information within an organisation. If it’s not making it more available, quicker and more detailed then it’s not doing its job. Information is your main edge on your competition, these days our businesses are so replicable and easy to compete against, the edge comes down to having better management information they do.
Applying the lessons…
For me, I had those three things settled. We knew the challenges at the time of working on a site like Sellafield. Our business strategy, to simplify, was to be the ‘user friendly’ provider of our services to Sellafield. We had to say yes to every bit of work, profitable or not and turn it around so that our administration was minimal, but accurate. This is where we aligned our IT strategy, the systems had to deliver all costs on our work, quickly and accurately to produce bills and claims for invoicing that resulted in as few as queries as possible. The IT ultimately kept our administrative head count low as much reporting and cost calculation was automated, as was the verification of figures.
I have to admit, developing systems like this is like painting the Forth Bridge; you’re never quite finished – but that in itself is a good thing. Continual tweaking, improvements and this feeling that you know you’re not quite there yet, is a drive forward. The minute you stop spending on your IT systems, is the minute you’ve just handed competitive advantage to your competition – they’ll be working to catch up and over take.
For smaller businesses, it is far easier to win with IT. Smaller businesses are more responsive, don’t have a global infrastructure to work within the confines of and they can tailor their offering directly to their key clients. Believe me, this can and does impress your clients – even more so if they’re multinational and large businesses who can’t respond as quick as you.
I recognise that a lot of Managing Directors or business owners who read this blog may be scratching their heads at how they can apply these lessons and wouldn’t know where to start in getting reliable advice and consultancy. As a shameless self-plug, that’s what I set Unleashed up for. Whether you’re a mid-sized business with your own IT staff or the owner-director of a growing firm, we can provide that sound advice based on our long standing knowledge of not only IT but many industries – not just nuclear.
There are many ways to contact us – but you can start by calling us or emailing us via the contact page or reaching out to us via our social media sites.
For me, having grown and developed within the UK’s nuclear industry, I don’t find that glowing in the dark has posed a particular problem either. In consulting jobs, sometimes it can help you see things others can’t. If not, it’ll at least keep you with a sense of humour!