Hills Deploys Machine Learning to Support On Time Delivery of Digital Transformation

Hills Limited (ASX:HIL) is a value added distributor of technologies that ‘connect, entertain and secure people’s lives’ with turnover approaching $280Mill. It has built up a strong presence in the security, audio-visual, communications and health markets.

The Challenge

Like many large companies, Hills saw an opportunity to digitally transform its operations and become more customer-centric in order to drive new growth opportunities.

In September 2017, Hills announced plans to “develop an e-commerce platform that will provide the customers of Hills with 24×7 real-time inventory and self-service capabilities, including customer statements, invoices, pricing, online payments, and delivery information.”

“Hills believes the e-commerce platform will allow staff to be more engaged with customers and vendors, and create a stronger platform to promote vendor products”.

However, as with other organisations that choose to tackle digital transformation, Hills knew it would encounter challenges along its journey that would threaten the success of the project and had not attempted a project of this complexity for many years.

The Solution

As a result and following a board-lead initiative, Hills decided to deploy an innovative assurance approach using an artificial intelligence (AI) service by Certus3.  It selected TeamAmp, an innovative, lean ICT project assurance system developed by Certus3, to keep the project on track right through to its successful delivery and provide predictive measures of success which could be reviewed at any moment in time thereby avoiding potential pitfalls such as late delivery or budget blowouts.

Certus3 is Australia’s leading provider of independent specialist ICT assurance services. Its AI enabled tools and services have become critical to running healthy, complex IT transformation projects, providing quick, accurate, bias-free, systematic measurements and actionable diagnosis of challenges before they can adversely impact the delivery schedule or outcomes.

TeamAmp is the first use of machine learning to enable executives to continuously monitor and improve the people (behavioural) characteristics of a project that are predictive of success or failure. Certus3 have also created an expert system that supports TeamAmp by enabling clients to precisely measure the risk profile of their project and define a specific improvement or reform plan.

The Benefits

Hills used the TeamAmp system at key milestones during the e-commerce implementation program to drive improvements in team performance and ensure people remained aligned to the common goal.   It was also able to provide executives with unique insights into any areas of concern that enabled them to proactively guide and lead the project team to success. This also gave comfort to the Board given that this was a multi-million dollar project.

On a practical level, rather than using external consultants to run health check services, the project team was periodically sent a carefully designed, multiple choice digital survey that took less than 10 minutes to complete, ensuring it did not disrupt the team delivering the new platform.  All through the transformation program, the internal team at Hills were in control and were able to gather data and produce results through the online platform with no human intervention.

As a result, the new e-commerce platform went live on schedule in February 2018.

Chief Financial Officer, Chris Jacka, who sponsored the e-commerce program, says TeamAmp helped guide the program to success.

“It is a key pulse point in our project, delivering to Hills valuable insights to discuss with the project teams and refine project plans accordingly, which was more than just anecdotal feedback”

“There is no other way you can get this kind of analysis from the 40+ people involved in a program regularly and provided a clear value for money solution for our project team ” Jacka says.

The TeamAmp system also gave confidence to the Board and executives that the project would deliver the stated outcomes.

Non-Executive Director, Philip Bullock AO, strongly supported the use of TeamAmp for this project, based upon his industry experience built up over 20 years at IBM and the benefits he had witnessed elsewhere.

“Almost 40-50% of all technology based projects are late or over budget1. As a Board, we needed to ensure that the governance processes gave us the best chance of success. Certus3, via their TeamAmp, which has been developed over 8 years, gave us a level of comfort that we could deliver a critical project for the future success of Hills” Bullock commented.

Hills CEO and Managing Director, David Lenz, says TeamAmp “gave us a very clear insight into areas of concern” during the e-commerce platform delivery, “which resulted in us addressing those areas immediately. This was very beneficial for Hills and allowed us to move forward with the project.

“Through the use of a specialist assurance company we have been able to get a deeper understanding of the issues affecting people in a transparent way,” Lenz says.

An Eye on the Future

Hills is now embarking on yet another transformational initiative to upgrade its enterprise resource planning (ERP) to better position the company to support growth. Based on the success of stage one of the digital transformation, it is planned that TeamAmp will be used to provide assurance around the delivery of the ERP work.

For more information, visit TeamAmpapp.com or Certus3.com

  1. PMI’s Global Pulse of the Profession, 2017, “Success Rates Rise”, p5