In April 2017 the business to business water market deregulated to become a fully open, competitive marketplace for the first time in England and Wales. This presented the newly formed water retailers with massive opportunities and also major new threats. That this required a rethinking of their business models and operating procedures was a given. A key differentiator for AfB was always going to be their service levels and intrinsic to this is their digital provision.

6 intensive

workshops conducted

57%

of staff involved

5

interviews completed

The opening of the water market for business to business customers in England and Wales forced a rethink on every aspect of the way water is packaged, sold and serviced to the business customer. What was clear from the outset though is that AfB’s core focus was and always will be great customer service. In an industry where margins are tight the only real differentiator is service. The AfB team understood that digital is the intrinsic enabler of great customer service in today’s market, helping to drive efficiencies, create savings and but also freeing people to work with customers in a more human and personal way.

Discovery: Qualitative Research

Kicking off the project, our strategists travelled to AfB’s head office in the heart of rural Hertfordshire to define the outcomes of the project and then structure a series of workshops with staff that would support and augment the quantitative research being undertaken by our digital marketing team.

There then followed a series of in-depth workshops covering all aspects of the business and their service offering. We looked at everything from brand and tone of voice to CRM, data structure and taxonomy, organisational requirements, legacy IT systems and skills and workflows.

“It was a pleasure working with the AD team, an absolute highlight for me were the well thought out, fun & engaging workshops! Steve is an excellent facilitator and what we learnt about our business and our people during these sessions has proven to be invaluable. ”

Jess Thomson, Head of Marketing, Affinity for Business

The research aimed to evaluate the digital activity, tools, processes and people currently in place as well as what the future should look like.

“The whole process of working with AFB has been inspiring. Everyone has such a desire to succeed and focus on what the future holds. Our challenge was capturing this energy whilst framing it into realistic outcomes that would drive AFB forwards whilst allowing them to maintain their need for business as usual operations.”

Steve Plummer, Head of Strategic Consulting, After Digital

Discovery: Desk Research

In-depth research was conducted into AfB and its marketplace, as part of our standard engagement process, with key outputs including a detailed Technical Website Audit, a Competitive Social Media Audit and a complete Digital Portfolio map.

Digital Infrastructure

A number of workshops focussed on the legacy infrastructure that AFB had inherited with the benefits and limitations that this imposed. Liaising with their IT department and with Affinity Water systems team we identified the numerous systems in place, how they interfaced and integrated with one another (or not in some cases) and gained an understanding of data management in AfB. From here we could evaluate the usefulness, efficiency and practicality of the current infrastructure and offer recommendations for improvement. This has led to major decisions being made as to how best to proceed with integrations so that AfB’s data and CRM can better support strategic goals and business growth.

Business Case

In order to clearly demonstrate the benefits and risks, in line with opportunity costs and savings, we created an in-depth business case to support our Digital Roadmap. The business case was then summarised for the Board to enable a clear understanding of the investment required balanced with the benefits expected.

92 pages

of insights delivered

16 page

board paper drafted

18 month

Action Plan outlined

Digital Roadmap

The project culminated in a Digital Roadmap report, which outlined key opportunities and actions, against a detailed timeline and with the indicative investment required. This report covered everything from suggested new systems to enable closer collaboration and innovation and integrations of some of their legacy systems to the required internal skill sets and support structure needed to establish AfB as an Organisation of Digital Excellence. At the heart of this Roadmap is practicality and actionable insights, ensuring the next steps are clear, succinct and focused.

Having presented our findings and reports to a very happy AfB Web Steering Group, we are now continuing to work closely with them to put the Roadmap in place. Data definitions, website enhancements and the ongoing development of their My Account areas are just a few of the recommendations that are now being rolled out across 2018.

“The roadmap has been a very useful benchmarking tool to allow me to check progress on key recommendations and refreshing me on the thinking behind the activities. ”

Chris Hailey, IT Programmes & Strategy, Affinity for Business

Appendices

Due to the complexity of some of the challenges facing AfB, particularly around the streamlining of legacy IT systems inherited as they span out of a larger business, many of our recommendations were centred around simplifying their infrastructure, data and CRM.  As a result, we offered the AfB team a selection of reports, supporting systems overviews and new working best practice guides within our standard set of supporting appendices. These have supported a number of critical decisions by offering an informed position justifying the investments we have recommended.