“‘We’re now at the cusp of something important”

Talwyn Whetter, Head of Global Solutions and Sustainability at Sysdoc, describes 2015 as a good year for the firm. “We’ve been growing quite consistently in recent times and continued to do so in 2015, both in revenue and people. Despite losing a little ground in telecoms, owing to the emergence of other specialist needs in that sector, we grew in many of our preferred markets, with automotive, transport and manufacturing especially strong. We have seen particular growth in our transformation and change management consulting services and also our learning services and integrated SharePoint business tools where great user experience is key.”

Sysdoc are clear that recent growth has been built on strong client reputation and referrals. “Despite a slight cooling in manufacturing, we expect to continue to do well again throughout 2016, our 30th Anniversary year. Indeed, we’re now at the cusp of something important. Word of mouth has grown us from a small to medium-sized firm, but we are now pursuing a more strategic growth strategy to take us to the next level. Whatever our growth plans are, however, it is critical that our growth remains true to our principles and doesn’t compromise the quality of what we do.”

Talwyn highlights some substantial partnerships as key to Sysdoc’s growth strategy. “We are engaged in a number of strategic, long-term relationships with clients. This allows us to understand their needs deeply, in a way that promotes sustainable value.” Talwyn stresses that the value Sysdoc brings involves working with clients to deliver real and practical help. “We are noticing that clients are not just interested in consultants with an o -the-peg proprietary methodology, important though these are. They want to be clear that the advisers they appoint understand their business and can quickly identify and deliver work that will add real value and help make the changes needed.”

Not all the value Sysdoc’s clients demand is explicitly financial. “Of course, our clients want improved margins and profitability, but they are also looking for ethical organisations that can help them address longer term challenges.” Combined with their emphasis on creating value, the message from clients is consistent with the thrust of Consulting Excellence.

“And these factors link to what clients ultimately seek: sustainability, in its broadest sense.” Talwyn suggests that the long-term relationships needed for sustainable business strategies and the agile, short-term engagements that characterise the Digital Age, are not necessarily incompatible. “Sustainable transformation doesn’t happen overnight. You need to set a course and keep a hand on the tiller. Clients must think about where their business should be over a reasonable timescale and weave short- term considerations into that vision. Indeed, immediate tactical decisions can have huge impacts over the longer haul, especially those relating to resources. Jaguar Land Rover, for example, are leading drives to recycle aluminium, a crucial raw material for them, since emerging issues of supply scarcity and cost may prove unmanageable.”

To promote client value, Sysdoc sustains a number of consulting partnerships. “Our supplier ecosystems tend to comprise other small firms, with skillsets complementary to our own, and some exciting new technology. The combined experience of groups of specialist small companies can be very powerful. It can be attractive to clients, who have an evolving understanding of consulting and of the quality and value they expect (which is a good thing).

“And sometimes it isn’t that we can’t do something for them, but we’d rather focus our e orts on what we know we do brilliantly, and bring others in to help us keep that focus or drive better outcomes for the client.

“For example, we have brought in specialists in programme and project management where there are multi-supplier programmes of change. It isn’t that we couldn’t run the programmes, but we believe the client will be better served by objective, independent programme oversight.” Talwyn suggests that wherever Sysdoc partners, they only work with organisations that share its ethics and values, again consistent with Consulting Excellence.

Political challenges loom large for Sysdoc and its clients. “The EU referendum has created great uncertainty. Whatever the outcome, the implications will not feed through immediately. Some of our clients are weighing up the implications of a Donald Trump presidency. In both cases, political issues are encouraging clients to ‘wait and see’, stalling major initiatives.”

Sysdoc have also noticed M&A activity, which creates both opportunity and uncertainty. And Talwyn notes continuing challenges in the resources sectors. “Plainly oil and gas suppliers have been hit heavily in recent times. Paradoxically, the low price of oil, while reducing energy costs, may make the case for decarbonisation even more compelling. Some oil companies are already cancelling exploration projects in Alaska and the Arctic, because the business case is not as compelling as it once was. Whatever the politics of those projects, oil and gas need new supplies to remain dominant. If they can’t afford to maintain their position, this may supercharge the search for new energy sources.”

Talwyn was one of the leading lights in an MCA-sponsored project earlier this year to help Carlisle City Council deal with the aftermath of the floods in late 2015. “The Council did really well and we were impressed by the ‘can-do’ culture and commitment of sta to their community. I hope the project also demonstrated a key area of consulting value. Responses to major incidents like floods are invariably multi-agency. The cultures and procedures of different bodies involved don’t always fit together harmoniously. Consultants are independent. They take a ‘helicopter view’ of how the relationships should work and suggest improvements.

“We’re not flood management specialists at Sysdoc. But we understand process, partnerships and culture. So analysis of multi-agency systems in emergency situations or in pursuit of sustainability goals is an area of emerging specialism for us. In our experience of a lot of multi-agency working, there are plenty of working groups, but not always enough real cooperation. We learnt a lot from the Carlisle assignment, where we also seem to have done some good. We’re applying those lessons in other contexts.” 

Talwyn Whetter, Head of Global Solutions and Sustainability at Sysdoc, was interviewed as part of The definitive guide to UK Consulting Industry Statistic 2016.