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Case Studies and Testimonials

Appen |

Appen is a leading digital, audio and video transcription specialist offering a range of transcription and recording services, with expertise in secure transcription solutions. Formerly Mendip Media, the company has been established for nearly 25 years is now a leading transcription company with an international and legal focus. The company can access expertise in 150 languages, with more than 50 experienced staff working from offices in Exeter and 40 freelance transcribers across the UK. Each year, the business produces more than 12,000 transcripts and attends hundreds of meetings, inquiries, depositions and hearings.

Caroline Williams is the Operations Director and has worked at Appen since 2001 during which time she completed a BA in Business Management at Exeter University. She has worked in all areas of the business and has a wealth of knowledge in both transcription and audio editing. Currently, she is responsible for the high-security areas of the company, recruits all on-site transcribers and researches and implements digital innovations to help move the business forward. Caroline has a geeky affection for Excel and has completed PRINCE2 Registered Practitioner, Advanced Excel and Microsoft Access Level 2 courses.

Being in the Digital Leadership programme resulted in Caroline being able to closely review the juxtaposition of existing business and legacy structures, with the opportunities offered by the parent company Appen, looking to increase value propositions for key markets and sectors.

As Caroline explains, “I’ve been in a position to utilise the learning and the project I completed during the programme to inform and support developments throughout and following on from the acquisition. I’ve also been able to use the learning and my better understanding of digital leadership to encourage and embrace change and innovation. Currently we are now working with colleagues in Sydney looking at the systems they have in place and how we could possibly redevelop these to suit our requirements here in Exeter. We are in the process of drawing up customer personas to work out the customer journeys and how we can improve on these. We have mapped out our gold-plated system and we are currently undertaking research around each part of this, especially to make use of digital development where possible within the business.”

The business is now transitioning to a new HR, project and financial management system. Caroline is acutely aware of the further opportunities now to develop effective systems, their use by staff, and the integration with the workflow system.

Impact: having produced and agreed an action plan and roadmap for digital transformation the aim is to reduce the manual inputting of data for incoming jobs and work allocation as well as enable our clients to have greater visibility and tracking for their work (we hope to save approximately one third of a person). At the same this will enable us to futureproof the business for growth via tenders and sales opportunities that stipulate digital client portals and digital profiles in their bid specifications.

This course has given me the tools and stimulus to address the challenges facing our business. Engaging with others and viewing what is possible has equipped me to drive these changes forward and explore opportunities with our global parent company.

Axminster Tools &

Axminster Tools & Machinery has established itself as a market leader in the mail order tools and machinery industry, offering service to many thousands of customers ranging from trade professionals to amateur DIY and hobby enthusiasts. Axminster sources products from all over the world as well as supporting a number of specialist UK companies. With over 17,000 products, Axminster has long been recognised as holding the most extensive range of tools, machinery and accessories in the UK. The business has experienced significant growth and expansion in recent years.

Alan Styles, newly appointed MD, and Andrew Parkhouse, Operations Director, both joined the Digital Leadership programme at Cosmic last September, with the aim of developing their understanding and knowledge of digital technologies to further develop strategic plans for the business over the years ahead.

Alan already holds an MBA qualification and is well experienced in executive level learning and development. Andrew has experienced over 25 years at Board level in the business with a remit for digital and IT developments. Both Alan and Andrew hold good levels of understanding of digital technologies and had already embraced it personally and within their teams. They were both keen to explore how to innovate more in the coming years with the benefit of a revised digital mindset and vision.

Being in the Digital Leadership programme resulted in learning new perspectives and drivers for the improvements needed at Axminster Tools. The focus on data, its capture, management, privacy and security as a vital component of future business was the subject for Alan and Andrew’s project on the programme. Embracing the project approach meant that the business benefited from mentoring support as well as the learning sessions – providing opportunities for team sessions focussed on future plans for data, security, privacy and systems integration. This resulted in a new project plan embraced by the wider executive team to provide firm competitive advantage and commercial success.

Impact: Having produced and agreed an action plan for digital transformation, the business is now putting in place the investments of time and money needed. As Alan explains, “the Digital Leadership programme from Cosmic has made us look at technology differently. By trialling and testing before we fully commit will ensure we make better decisions in the future. We've embraced platforms like Trello at no real cost, and trialled AI with Nosto before fully committing to a full package marketing system. Both these examples have ensured we've not shied away from the technology but embraced them and gathered evidence before to allow us to continually improve how we work.”

We now consider technology as a solution in many more scenarios. Trello is now used in the business in a number of different departments. It's not just used for project planning, but is also being used for marketing plans and new product development. Some departments were being a little resistant initially but are now seeing the huge benefits it brings.

Devon Community

Established in 1996, Devon Community Foundation (DCF) is a unique organisation, privileged to be working alongside people who are motivated by wanting to make a difference across Devon. They use their knowledge of local needs and the voluntary sector to manage high impact distribution of funds designed to achieve sustainable outcomes. Awarding financial support on behalf of our fund holders and donors, DCF enable local people to achieve inspiring change in their communities. 

Devon Community Foundation are recognised across the South West as a leading local charity, with growth and extension of services in recent years, which in turn has resulted in bringing increasing finance to local organisations in the form of philanthropic funding and social investments.

Scott Walker, Development Director and Laura Hewitt, Marketing Manager, both joined the Digital Leadership programme at Cosmic with a good level of existing digital skill and experience. Scott was previously senior manager in digital agency, with a strong understanding of digital marketing, advertising and business planning. Laura is an experienced marketing manager with a strong understanding of the marketing function at DCF. She is a real ‘girl geek’ with a passion for digital tech.

Being in the Digital Leadership programme resulted in learning new perspectives and drivers for the changes needed at DCF. Both Scott and Laura embraced the opportunities to revisit their existing understanding of digital as well as build on their previous experiences to learn new trends, innovative approaches, and best practice. Their joint approach to the project work meant that DCF was able to benefit from a full strategic review of the use of digital across the organisation and colleagues were consulted in the process of developing a year-long roadmap for digital transformation. Specific digital touchpoints, for example (and very importantly) gaining top quality donor engagement and experiences, soon became a key feature of the plans for improvements. But equally the charity was able to embrace a fully scoped review of its operations, marketing plans and projects in order to align a range of digital technologies in the roadmap approach. Cosmic was also able to offer mentoring support to this process in order to keep the challenges and assumptions under regular review.

Impact: having produced and agreed an action plan and roadmap for digital transformation the estimates for savings/increased income are, according to Scott Walker, “too many to calculate”. “This is more than just a bottom line exercise. It’s about adopting a Digital First strategy & culture into your business. The risk of not doing this far outweighs the savings that we are making already”.

Thank you for such a great programme of learning. It has opened our minds to future possibilities and also potential challenges. We have so many ideas we want to implement that we know will make us as leaders, and DCF, even stronger.

Laura Hewitt, Marketing Manager

A great course, delivered by very knowledgeable and engaging presenters in Kate & Julie with some excellent guest presenters giving a real-life view of how to embrace, adopt and improve your organisations digital strategy. A great way to carve out time to tackle this important topic.

Scott Walker, Development Director

Exeter Leukaemia

Leading charity to achieve £100,000 savings following digital transformation programme.

Exeter Leukaemia Fund (ELF) is recognised as a leading local charity, experiencing growth and extension of services in recent years. ELF’s vision is that every family affected by a blood cancer or blood disorder across the South West receives compassionate, tailored support. The charity provides much-needed resources, accommodation, support and transport from its base at the Haematology Centre at RD&E Hospital, Exeter. It also supports a network of volunteers who can provide emotional and practical support in patients’ homes. 

Established in 1987 by the consultant haematologist at the hospital, it has supported many thousands of people, and in 2003 opened the first Haematology Centre at RD&E which now sees over 600 patients per week.

Mags Naylor is CEO at ELF and a well-respected and successful leader in the organisation. She works with her staff team and Board of Trustees to ensure that services continue and grow in line with patients’ (and their families’) needs. Mags is already highly qualified in management/leadership (Level 7).  Mags already had a fascination with digital tech, and readily embraced new devices and gadgets.

When Mags joined the Digital Leadership programme at Cosmic, she was keen to explore her digital knowledge levels and understanding of the digital changes needed at ELF over the years ahead. She understood the major strategic challenges the charity faced with its operations, fundraising and growth – all of which could potentially benefit from digital transformation. Being in the Digital Leadership programme resulted in learning new perspectives and drivers for the changes needed at ELF. She recognised her key driver as cost reduction and started to visualise how digital could impact on this.

Mags was very keen to engage in learning with others in the group which provided cross-sector perspectives and variety in their learning. Charities, private and public sectors were represented in the group; as well as a range of business scales from very small, local business, to major, national retail operators. She embraced the project-based approach supported by the programme and benefited from mentoring support as well as the structured sessions. Using her project work and regular reports to her Board, she built and agreed a digital transformation plan during the course. As she progressed, she could share the potential impact of her work with other learners, inspiring their progress.

Impact: Her digital transformation journey has started, she has produced and agreed an action plan and roadmap for digital transformation at Board level. She has set up a cross-sector steering group to advise her on processes and progress. She has developed staff workshops and training to bring her staff along with her and has implemented many big changes. Mags has estimated the cost savings in year one of around £100k with more to come in year two.

10 months ago, you wouldn’t have thought it was possible for me, and the charity, to move so far but the Digital Leadership programme has given me the foresight, confidence and skills to act now. The programme has created a charity that is fit for the 21st Century. Thank you Cosmic.