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WILL BLAKE ON ADAPTING TO THE REMOTE ERA AND MAXIMIZING EFFICIENCY WITH TECHNOLOGY

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

It’s time to take a look at another episode of the Precursive Perspective Podcast, where we’ll delve into some of the key talking points and highlight the things you should be taking away.


Jonathan is joined by Will Blake, chief technical officer at CRU, a business intelligence company, offering their expertise on the global metals, mining and fertilizer industries through market analysis, price assessments, and consultancy.


Take a look below at some of the issues Jonathan and Will tackle, all of which can be easily digestible by either reading or watching our short clips:



 
“Only 15% of companies registered on Company’s House have been around for longer than 50 years.”

THE NEW REMOTE REALITY


Remote working has become the norm for all manner of businesses since the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses that were almost exclusively in the office had to adapt, and do it quickly. The businesses that adapted were much more well versed at coping while employees were spread throughout the country or even the world. Digitalization has been a big part of why many companies could float rather than sink. Will discusses how CRU managed during this time.



Jonathan: When we originally met, it was obviously in London, and obviously our teams have been in your offices, and that's no longer happening. How has your organization adjusted to the change with remote working in this new remote reality that we're all in now?



Will: Overall, it has been pretty smooth. I suppose we've, as I just alluded to, we're quite a global business anyway, so we've been used to people working in quite a distributed model because we've had to work between the different offices. We also have quite a few homeworkers. Because our area is quite niche, it's actually quite hard to find people. There's not many people in the world who understand the zinc industry, and so we have to recruit them where they are and they can't expect to come to the locations where we work. We have been set up to work in that way, particularly over the last five years, our whole technology strategy is to move to a cloud-based model and decentralize our services. And I like to say, well, what I want to drive towards is an export distribution of information and services to anyone, regardless of where they are located. I suppose we had a bit of advanced practice because we have an office in Beijing in Shanghai. They went into lockdown in January. Right. Between those offices, we got 40 people. We'd already had some practice of people working at home permanently for an extended period of time.


 

ADAPTING TO CHANGING TECHNOLOGY


When it comes to adapting to new tech in the industry, the mantra is often get with the times, or get left behind. Will discussed how CRU has involved to incorporate the newest technology, and how it aids efficiency which ultimately fuels scaling.


Jonathan: Going back a little bit, how has technology changed the way that CRU has worked over the last years?


Will: Yeah, I think it's really changed. I've been at CRU 15 years, so I've seen this whole evolution and change firsthand. When I first joined CRU, it was essentially a paper publishing business. We actually produced all these reports. These are 200, 300-page reports, and thousands of those used to get posted out across the world. It was a very manual process of doing that. I think our DHL bill is about half a million pounds a year.


We’ve transitioned that to a fully digital model, so we no longer print and distribute everything online. That's all driven by technology. That's all managing data, content management systems, publishing websites. And how has that changed CRU as a business, it has improved our efficiency massively. People can do a lot more, they can focus a lot more on the analysis. It's faster analysis cycles. Where we used to produce an annual report, we're now pushing stuff out daily or weekly. It's a lot more scalable. It's quite hard to scale. There's a lot of costs in a paper-based business. It's a lot easier to scale now across different markets. We can create new products and the cost of delivery is pretty minimal. That's been a big change. We're getting a lot more profitable. It's probably more quantitative analysis now. There's more access to data, where it used to be a lot more qualitative, is now a lot more quantitative. It's improved IP protection, so we can see where we're trading on our IP. That's what we get value from. So we can protect that more.


 

HOW TECHNOLOGY IS EVOLVING IN THE NEW ERA


Jonathan: How do you see the role of technology evolving in this new era now?



Will: People have seen the true value of technology. People obviously saw the value of it before, but certainly with recent issues, and I know if I speak to someone, if this had happened five or eight years ago, our business, and I think it would be the same for many other business, would have really struggled. They couldn't have just operated remotely. But I think that's just going to drive... It's going to drive that change, particularly re-architecting your whole technology architecture. The perimeter has changed forever. The perimeter used to be your office. This has been changing over time, but now the perimeter is where anyone is. It's a laptop, where they happen to be and how they can connect and then moving in accessing all the cloud services and unified communications. We have a lot of those things in place, but is this going to accelerate that change further?


I've already been talking to our security network architects around, What changes do we need to make? Because as far as I can see, this is going to be a new normal. We're going to probably have any one time we're going to have 60% of our workforce working at home. Once the virus has passed, I think that might be the new normal. Technology comes around that to enable that. And coming back to what I said previously, just making equitable, export availability of services, technology services to anyone who can connect. They don't have to be in an office to get the best experience.


 

HOW PRECURSIVE BRINGS VALUE TO YOUR BUSINESS


Of all the new technology that companies need to utilize in order to grow, a powerful, professional services automation software like Precursive has been the answer for many businesses. Will attests to this, and discusses the power of a Salesforce-native app that can be plugged into its ecosystem, and how it aids the work of CRU’s consulting team, as well as improving the efficiency of their project management capabilities.


Jonathan: What's been the value of bringing more of your business onto Salesforce and Precursive?



Will: Yeah, it's been a huge step change for the business. I think the first thing, it's the cloud-first approach, so it fits in with our overall technology strategy. It suits our business very well. We've got salespeople everywhere. Sometimes they're operating out of Mongolia or parts of China. So it really is very distributed. And the good thing is, from a technology perspective, I know it works. I never worry about Salesforce. And I know if we make a change, we deploy it, everyone's got access to that regardless of where they are. So as an example, I didn't worry about Salesforce during the current lockdown. It didn't even cross my mind that it wouldn't carry on working and everyone had access to that information. That's really helped our business. It essentialised our customer data. We're still not completely there. There's ongoing projects to move all the data into Salesforce, but it's becoming the single source of truth. I don't like to use those dreadful acronyms, but cliches, but it's becoming that single source of truth.


I suppose people think about it as a sales pipeline tool, but it's more than that. It's a whole business process platform. Now we're seeing we can improve efficiency, we can reduce complex integrations. Speed of innovation is a lot faster, we can give more access to data to a wider audience. There's a whole ecosystem. And if you can't build it in Salesforce, there's a partner who solved it. I think Precursive is a good example there. We've put Precursive in our consulting team. Yes, it handles the sales pipeline in terms of proposals or consulting projects, but then it moves into a whole other issue we have is around process management and project management within the team. Once the project's been won, how do you manage the resources and the time and all the billing to get the best efficiency out of your workforce? Now, Precursive provides that, and it just plugs into Salesforce. We don't have to go and procure another different system and integrate it. It's native. And that's just one example. You can expand that across multiple areas. I think it's onboarding as well. We onboard our customers at the moment, but we want to systematize that and make it a more efficient, better experience for our customers. Again, there's another partner who provides that, which sits on top of the Salesforce Stack.


 

If you're hungry for more of our podcasts, click here.Check back regularly to listen to our latest podcasts.


If you would like to find out more about how Precursive can help you increase your business's operational efficiency, get in touch today.



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