12 March 2020
Heather Payne joined FirstPort as its Chief Technology Officer in 2019. She is leading on the company’s new digital strategy, set to transform our technology, processes and culture. Heather explains why she thinks it’s so important, and exciting.
Q: Why do you do the job you do?
A: Because I LOVE making a difference!
What FirstPort is doing is hugely exciting. We’re transforming the way the business functions, and we’re doing that through changing the way people do their jobs with the help of digital technology. And although I love technology, what I love even more is making people’s lives simpler and easier.
I want to look back at the end of this process and know we’ve landed this programme well and it’s made a huge positive difference, not only to our customers but the working lives and careers of people at FirstPort, too.
Hopefully it will also have a ripple effect across the Property Management industry so others will say, “Wow! Look at what FirstPort are doing – isn’t that impressive!?”
Q: How did you get into Transformation and Technology?
A: My dad was a builder and then he moved into Health & Safety so from a really young age I’ve been interested in problem solving, understanding how things work but also how we make products and processes better.
I went on to do engineering at University and worked in manufacturing and operations management – that was all about engineering products and processes for efficiency and quality. At Ford Motor Co. I moved into virtual engineering, developing digital software, and from then on I have always been interested in ‘the new’ – how we improve on what we already have and keep learning.
So as an example, at Avis Europe I put in place a new pricing system and that was being implemented at a time when no-one really knew what that should look like or indeed how it should function. So, I worked really closely with the evolving business teams to do rapid prototyping to just really work out what they wanted and how it should work in the future. Iterating new ideas as we went to make things better as they used it.
And at FirstPort it’s exactly the same, but on a bigger scale. So we’re looking at how customers interact with us – so what are the things that cause people a challenge – and how can we make their lives easier, as well as making things more simple for our colleagues and suppliers.
Basically, what I’ve done throughout my career is to pick the difficult jobs which will have the biggest positive impact, because being able to make people’s lives better is something I really enjoy – and I couldn’t be a doctor, so this is the closest thing to making a real difference!
Q: What is the strategy behind this?
A: We are in the process of a Business transformation – put simply we are changing our core processes to make them more efficient, and we’re underpinning that with good technology.
It’s about making everyone’s lives easier by making sure everyone understands our best practice processes and then using digital technology to help you do those processes more simply and easily.
And those improvements will make all our customers, colleagues and clients happier – so everyone benefits.
Q: What are you currently focused on and what excites you about that?
A: We are in the final stages of defining our processes and developing our digital products ready for a pilot later in the year.
We’re getting into how we test the products we are developing, how do we move data from old systems to our new systems, and how do we train and upskill all our people. The point I would like to reinforce is this programme is all about the people and the journey that we’re going on, together, not just a digital transformation.
For example, right now there are a number of colleagues in FirstPort who have already stepped out of their usual jobs, and their comfort zone, to join an exciting digital programme in new roles they would never have dreamed of doing. They’re now helping us build the products we need, helping us manage and migrate the data and ultimately deliver the change.
That will all change how our people think about things, potentially change careers and lives for the better – that’s why I do the job I do.
We’re looking at how customers interact with us – so what are the things that cause people a challenge – and how can we make their lives easier, as well as making things more simple for our colleagues and suppliers.
Heather Payne, FirstPort's Chief Technology Officer