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Ainscough are a crane hire company that have 30+ depots across the UK. With over 400 cranes in their fleet, they needed a solution that could optimise their processes, maximise usage of their cranes and ultimately boost their bottom line.

In episode 2 of ColumbusCast, my colleague Toby Mankertz (Dynamics 365 Business Consultant) and I sit down with IT and Transformation Director at Ainscough Ian O’Reilly, to talk about their digital transformation journey.

Digitising the rental space

Ainscough operates in the construction industry which, according to Ian, “historically hasn’t been the leading edge in digitisation.” As consumers, we’re used to digital transactions and interactions with businesses. Now, B2B industries like construction hire are starting to adopt that.

“We (Ainscough) moved to Microsoft Dynamics 365 and that opened up a number of opportunities at the back office where a lot of things became digitised,” explains Ian. “The focus now is in the front office. So, how customers access information or how we can digitise our traditional manual processes such as customers having to phone up and place orders.

“And when you apply this to what consumers do in their daily lives or how other B2B operations work in other sectors – I don’t want to be unkind – but the industry is a good few years behind. But we’re starting to see digitisation in the rental space and learning some of the lessons of what’s been done elsewhere.”

Enhancing customer value through transformation

Ian speaks of three “transformational buckets”:

  • Improving customer experience – which Ian says we could “probably spend an hour talking about” how digital transformation drives customer experience
  • Boosting efficiency – for Ainscough, this was boosting internal operational efficiency, gaining access to new information and a better understanding of “what’s going on” in the business
  • Increasing visibility – this is both making information visible externally (such as transactional data for customers) and internally (e.g. better data insights for employees making it easier to interpret)

digital value

“To bring that (visibility) to life for you, in a service rental business like us, there’s nothing more important than the accreditation/safety stuff,” says Ian. “So, if customers can digitally see that accreditation, it’s hugely efficient for us and adds to the customer experience.”

Be prepared for your digital journey to evolve

When Ainscough started their project they had a clear vision in mind, but as they discovered the vast capabilities of technology, their journey according to Ian “evolved quite rapidly”.

“Our journey didn’t start as ‘right we need to embrace digital transformation’ – the original idea was we needed a new finance system,” he reveals. “But when you start looking at that, that led you to how do you bill a customer, which then got you into what information do you need to a bill customer…

“That opened up the digital landscape regarding customer interaction, which meant we could now do X and you build off that.”

digital value

Although having the right technology is important, your focus shouldn’t just be on technology. There are several other factors in the transformational part that drives new value (such as your employees) which if you don’t do, you won’t drive the value you want.

Ian also raises the people point as well: “you may have the greatest systems in the world but if your people don’t know what they’re doing – forget it, it’s not going to work”.

To find out more about how you can create an effective change management strategy, click on the button below.

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How should you manage your digital transformation programme?

Ian explains how Ainscough employees were seconded out of the business to work on the digital transformation project. They were long serving employees that were “forward thinking and had a lot of commitment to Ainscough”.

“That worked really well for us,” explains Ian. “And those people were developed over 18-24 months to be not only advocates but also business change managers. They’ve been part of the people who helped steer the organisation through digital transformation. So, if you can find people in your organisation who live and breathe it (the need for change), it can be really powerful.”

Ian also advises not to focus too much on where your transformational journey will finish. “Never lose sight of your objectives. But we’re talking about a never-ending journey, so one thing we can say for certain is where an organisation thinks they’re going to end up is not where they’re going to end up.”

Want to listen to Ainscough’s digital transformation journey in more depth and discover further tips and tricks to manage your project? Scroll up to the top of this post to listen to the episode. Or, search for 'ColumbusCast' in your podcast app.

Alternatively, watch the video case study by clicking the play button below.


Why you should put value first during a transformation project

From listening to Ian about Ainscough’s experiences, we’ve discovered how digital technology can unlock opportunities for you to create new business value. And that’s what our value first framework goes in depth about. Our five step framework will help you ensure successful value management.

Download it below.

Value management


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