A Q&A with Cameron Hay Dispatch CEO
These days, all businesses feel the need for accelerated digital transformation. Lower costs, greater flexibility, and increased capabilities have led businesses to adopt modern cloud-based applications. But with new platforms and technologies cropping up every day, organizations are now faced with the challenge of smoothly managing and integrating the ever-changing set of tools and technologies they need to run their business.
Dispatch is a boutique professional services firm, specializing in data integration for companies in the midst of a digital transformation. As companies move from older, on-premise systems to modern, cloud-based solutions, Dispatch helps them stitch together multiple applications in a way that’s both reliable, robust, and secure. Dispatch serves all kinds of clients, from early-stage startups to global businesses with hundreds of thousands of employees.
We sat down with Cameron Hay, CEO and co-founder of Dispatch, to learn how they’re using Internal to help their clients get more out of their digital transformations while spending less.
Can you give us a little bit about the project you were working on and particularly, the challenges your client was facing in their digital transformation?
Cameron: The client was an agribusiness client, a large multinational company that was moving from an older, on-premise HR system (PeopleSoft) to a modern cloud-based solution (Workday). We were helping them navigate this transition of their mission-critical business applications and sensitive HR data.
This was a pretty typical project for us, and like most other digital transformation projects, our client had to choose what data they brought over to the new system. In this case, to simplify the Workday transition, they decided not to migrate their historical data - which is not an unusual decision; almost no one chooses to migrate over all historical data, as that can be costly and time-consuming.
However, there’s still a lot of value within that historical data. For example, HR admins might need employment history, salary history, or performance history going back 3 to 5 years for an employee. Or they might not realize that this person is a re-hire, instead of a new employee. Things like pension history and benefits history -- all of that is valuable data that’s not in the new system.
So a lot of companies are forced to keep spending money on these licenses for old systems -- even though they’re trying to make this leap into cloud-centric, modern applications, they still have a massive amount of data sitting in old systems that they must maintain, manage, pay for. Further, the knowledge of how to use those systems diminishes over time.
So our client came to Dispatch looking for a new option: Is there a way for them to maintain access to the data in their legacy systems without having to spend so much on old licenses?
What kind of options did you examine with your client?
C: We looked at and presented several options, including custom app development, which was too costly and Excel, a non-starter as holding large workbooks on the network wasn’t feasible or secure. We considered data warehouses & business intelligence tools, but they’re also quite expensive, and difficult for the end-users to access.
The reality of this type of data is that regular users have to be able to access it - not a lot of business users, like an HR person, may know how to write a query for these systems, but they need the data for their job. So we discarded the traditional data warehouses & BI solutions b/c they were too expensive, too rigid, and not designed for business users. We wanted to design for the people who were going to be using it, not necessarily data analysts.
Going through these options was a real voyage of discovery for us. We were frustrated that there was a need in the market for a great UX portal to access historical data, without it being a heavy lift -- such as requiring training or data analyst abilities.
So we decided to keep looking for new solutions, and that’s how we came across Internal.
What factors led you to choose Internal, out of all the options considered?
C: Speed of delivery for our client was a big factor. You know, before our client came to Dispatch, they went to their internal IT team with the same issue. Their IT team said they could develop their own solution, it would be scripted, and you have to go to them to run queries and searches. And it’ll take a year to do, as there’s a number of other priorities in the IT queue.
Obviously, that timeline and those limitations wouldn’t work for our client. Being able to deliver quickly was important and we knew Internal could help us accomplish that, since it doesn’t require code to build. We estimated it would only take a matter of weeks to complete building the portal. Compare that to a year. Basically, their heads exploded - not only were they getting the user experience they wanted, but they didn’t need extensive training to query the data, IT was no longer the gatekeeper, and it was all happening much faster than they could ever have thought.
As I mentioned earlier, Internal’s ease-of-use and the fact that it’s geared towards nontechnical users was another important factor in our decision. But in making it easier for business users to access this data, we also had to consider the robust security that would be needed for this use case. Since we’re dealing with sensitive HR data, it’s imperative that any solution we go with is ultra-secure. This was another reason we chose Internal, since it offers built-in user controls and permissions management, as well as enterprise-grade encryption and secure connections.
In the end, the speed of delivery, ease-of-use, and robust security really made Internal that exact perfect application for the use case that we needed. We thought to ourselves, this is exactly the type of front-end that we can apply to this problem to allow our customers to truly embrace the cloud-centric future and say goodbye to these old systems once and for all.
Can you share a little about the implementation of Internal and summarize the results?
C: It was easy for us to learn Internal, one of our team members was able to pick it up with no technical issues. In terms of speed, from inception of the concept to when we were live was 6 weeks. Compare this to the year it would’ve taken an internal IT team, that’s an 89% reduction. Cost-wise, it allowed our client to say goodbye to their old licensing fees. For example, maintaining an old license of PeopleSoft could easily go into 6 figures. We were able to use Internal to deliver on-time and control costs for our client.
Security-wise, we were able to resolve some of the long-standing tension between business users (who want more access), and IT (who want more control) by separating the data and the application layer through Internal. The data itself remains under IT’s control, ultra-secure in a PostgreSQL database. We made it so the only way to get access to that data is through a portal built on Internal -- locked tight, using Internal’s built-in user controls and permissions management. This setup actually decreases risk, compared to previous approaches that relied on a business user asking a data analyst to run a query on protected data. With our solution using Internal, the only people who can access that data are the people who are authorized to use that portal. Since there is no intermediary that I have to ask to get that data, it's actually even more secure than the previous approach.
In terms of ROI, one of the interesting things is how a solution like Internal completely changes the equation for things like payback period. Instead of taking a year and being very costly, businesses can innovate quicker and more affordably by using low-code solutions -- this makes a lot of new projects viable where they simply weren’t before.
Would you consider using Internal for future projects?
C: 100% - we’re actively talking to all of our clients right now about the success we’ve already had, getting them to look at Internal as a potential solution. We’ve become fans very quickly and would like to rinse and repeat this with other clients.