What we did
Building great communities
Sarah Group builds great communities. Founded in 1961 in Adelaide, Australia, the company is still family-owned today and run by co-managing directors (and cousins) James and Tim Sarah.
Sarah Group’s hardworking IT, finance, and people and culture teams support the company’s various operating businesses: Sarah Constructions, a commercial construction contractor; Hindmarsh Plumbing, a commercial plumbing, maintenance and water treatment contractor; and Longridge Group, a retail housing builder. The group places value on strong relationships, high-quality solutions and long-term sustainability.
It’s an approach that has served the organization well. When Sarah Group reached out to Slalom, the company had been enjoying a five-year period of strong and sustained growth. Revenue had increased by more than 300% and employee head count had risen significantly. But there was one problem.
For many years, Sarah Group had maintained an IT support-centric approach. The IT teams were industrious and valued by fellow employees, but crucial touchpoints with business teams were either manual or missing altogether. There was little room for business and IT work together iteratively, and launching new technology was a challenge. Sarah Group’s leaders wanted to make changes that could support the company’s growth and help it take advantage of innovative technologies in the construction sector.
Day-to-day focus areas for improvement were identified as project management, QHSE (quality, health, safety and environment), and point-of-sale software. In addition, Sarah Group’s leaders recognized the blue-sky potential of engaging with inventions like modular construction software and on-site tools that use augmented reality and virtual reality. There are very few Tesla-like companies in the construction world and, to lay a foundation for the future, they wanted to reset the relationship between business and IT and develop a strategy that would allow for growth, encourage innovation and enable new competitive advantages. To do that, they needed consulting assistance.
“Slalom came highly recommended to our business from a trusted board adviser and they did not disappoint,” says Matt Woodrow, chief operating officer of Sarah Group and the executive sponsor of the engagement.
Surveying the landscape
Our consultants partnered with Sarah Group’s leaders to develop a business-led technology strategy, one that was the right fit for a modern, growing organization.
Says Ian Goshko, a senior principal at Slalom Sydney, “We came in to understand Sarah Group’s true business goals and objectives, and then help design how those goals and objectives could be supported from an IT technology perspective.”
Our approach was technology agnostic. Instead of focusing on specific tools and platforms, we helped leaders explore the relationship between their company culture and their technology.
First, we reviewed Sarah Group’s current capabilities and maturity level. We assessed its enterprise architecture, held 30 stakeholder interviews, conducted surveys, listened and built trust throughout the organization.
Then we sat down with C-suite leaders in a series of workshops to co-create the group’s strategy and help leaders reach consensus and agree on priorities.
Together, the Slalom and Sarah Group teams explored how business and technology could be brought into closer alignment, how to build support for new capabilities within the organization, how to minimize silos, and how to ensure technology would be implemented and used effectively and successfully.
Says Khale Lewis, a senior principal at Slalom Melbourne, “Systems and applications only took up a very small portion of the framework. The rest of it covered what needs to be organized around those systems and processes. This included the more people- and organization-oriented elements. How do you deliver projects? How do you govern investments, spend, and decisions around your technology? How do you plan strategically? How do you define the right software architecture?”
A common mistake, says Goshko, is that “You can’t just put someone from a business team onto an IT project or initiative on top of their day job. You need to start thinking about them at a 20% capacity or a 50% capacity. If a project is critical to the business, IT needs that link into the business in order to make the right decisions and work collaboratively.”
Slalom challenged our thinking ... We now have a strong sense of where we want to take our technology operations.
A blueprint for a new way
The result was a strategy with an actionable three-year roadmap that supports leadership in independent exploration, decision-making and innovation – and, crucially, allows Sarah Group to adapt to changing circumstances.
The roadmap includes improvement opportunities for:
- IT project delivery
- Automated data and reporting
- Operating model and resourcing
- Change management
- Enterprise architecture
- Process and governance
- Funding for high priority initiatives
The end goal, says Lewis, is “not a nirvana where Sarah Group has solved all of its technology problems. It’s that it has the capability to recognize them, define pragmatic solutions and then the capability to deliver.”
The roadmap is an iterative, living document that guides leadership through their options and helps them measure progress. It’s not an inflexible “one and done” deliverable. Rather, it’s designed to be reviewed regularly, to prompt reflection on progress and to be refined by Sarah Group’s leadership every quarter in response to real circumstances. And our consultants are continuing to provide aftercare by regularly checking in Sarah Group and ensuring its teams have what they need.
A foundation for the future
With a new vision and strategy in place, together with the guidance of the roadmap, Sarah Group’s leadership is empowered to build on the company’s strengths, start investing in high priority initiatives and enjoy a future of continued growth and quality outcomes.
Says Woodrow, “We now have a strong sense of where we want to take our technology operations.”