Alan Cambridge, Founder & CFO of Peacock Engineering: Customer-First Approaches to Enterprise Asset Management Are Critical

Facility management has rapidly evolved over the last few years, and enterprises are seeking the best enterprise asset management (EAM) solution to support their operations. But does it always mean getting the most advanced solution on the market? We interviewed Alan Cambridge to get his unique perspective as a CFO on how leaders need to evaluate and choose their EAM.

Alan Cambridge holds a unique place within the facility management sector. He began his career more than 25 years ago in an organisation that provided facility management solutions to Marks & Spencer. A man with a finance background, he chaired a committee that was to choose the best and most viable EAM solution in the market at that time. Eventually, the committee chose Maximo.

The choice proved fateful. While evaluating Maximo, Alan gained an intimate understanding of the solution. Soon enough, he was invited by Maximo’s authors to be a part of their sales team. From there, there was no looking back for Alan.

When Maximo was sold to IBM in 2005, Alan moved to the latter as the Maximo Services Manager. Four years later, in 2009, Alan founded Peacock Engineering with two other partners, Mike Knapp and Roger Walker in Amersham. Peacock Engineering is an IT consultancy that designs, delivers, rolls out and services EAM solutions built on a core of Maximo capabilities. They also sell their own proprietary mobile solution called Fingertip.

Today, the organisation boasts 117 employees, two additional branches in Leeds and Bristol, and a couple of offshore offices in Bangalore and Pune, India, to support recruitment and software development. And their clientele includes some heavy names: DHL, MITIE, Bouygues, SSE, Northern Ireland Electricity, Nippon Gohsei, Siemens, Dragon LNG, and Cavendish Nuclear.

Their success has two essential ingredients: gradual growth and a customer-first approach.

Meet Alan Cambridge
Founder & CFO, Peacock Engineering

Alan has worked in EAM for over 25 years across many industries, such as Oil and Gas, Retail, Facilities Management, Travel and Transportation and Utilities. He has spent time working from all sides of the facility management equation: client/specifier, vendor (working for IBM) and delivery partner. This includes the first Maximo 4.0 implementation undertaken for M&S (1993) and subsequently for Pret a Manger, Superdrug and Kings Sturge covering over 3,000 locations.

Having the Customer’s Best Interest First Pays Off in the Long Term

Alan’s unique career trajectory, which started as a customer of Maximo, profoundly shaped everything Peacock Engineering does. They speak and live the language of the customers. They understand their pain points intimately. And most importantly, they always put the customer’s best interest first. In practical terms, this means focusing on long-term goals rather than immediate, short-term gains, both for themselves and their customers.

“We’ve always strived to put our customer first,” Alan says. “We’ve probably foregone some of the profitability of our organization because we try to do the right thing. It may have cost us a bit more money in the short term, but it’s been the right thing to do for the customer. So, if you look at a particular snapshot in time, we didn’t make as much profit as we could have done, but the flip of that is we did the right thing for the customer, and it was the right thing to do.”

This approach has earned Peacock Engineering quite a name for them in the industry and an extremely loyal customer base, with some of them being with them from day one. Their reputation has also travelled widely and brought them new customers. However, this customer-first ethos informs more than just their sales and support team.

Recruiting With the Customer in Mind

Alan believes that to deliver a truly customer-centric experience, they must also recruit with the customer in mind. What does this look like in the real world? It means recruiting employees from industry to do their design, development, sales, and service. According to Alan, they are the ones in the best position to understand the pain points in their sectors, and address Peacock Engineering’s customers authentically.

“We’ve got guys who have come from ICI in paint production We’ve got guys from the nuclear industry. We’ve got people who are ex British Airways staff, who have worked on jet engine management. So, a lot of the guys that we put into the workshops talk the same language as our customers. So, they’re very quick to understand most of the pain points.”

And this empathy pays off, says Alan.

“They’re very quick to understand the innovation and ideas that are being brought to the table [by the customer]. So, our ability to model [our solution] is a lot quicker because we know what they’re talking about. And so, striking up rapport with the end users and the management layer to explore innovative ideas is very easy for us.”

This, according to Alan, is their biggest advantage. They understand the industries they serve because they are from those industries. Which allows them to use Maximo’s capabilities to the fullest and model solutions that give their customers a strong competitive edge.

“If you’re trying to make buying decisions about very, very expensive assets, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, but if you scrimped and scraped on the asset management solution, you could end up spending millions on replacing assets that only needed maintenance. Or you could spend millions on maintenance for something that you should have thrown away years ago and replaced.”

Alan Cambridge Founder & CFO, Peacock Engineering

Employee-First Leads to Better Finance Outcomes

As a CFO, Alan is constantly seeking ways to maximise the value of the money he spends internally as well. And he thinks the best way to do that is by prioritising the employee. Peacock Engineering shares 25% of its net profit with its employees. It means the more money the company makes, the more everyone makes. Alan is also keenly aware of the effect that the pandemic has had on employee mental health and is seeking ways to improve it through a different approach to budget management.

“From a CFO point of view,” Alan says, “it’s about retraining my brain to look at different ways of spending money internally. Looking after the health, well-being, motivation, and incentive of our workforce and therefore not expecting a level of churn is a big part of my budget for recruitment.

“So, it’s taking my recruitment budget and making a conscious decision, ‘I’m not going to spend that money on recruitment. I’m going to spend it on the motivation, wellbeing, and health of our existing workforce, because, actually, I get a better return on my investment.’ So, that’s been something for me as a CFO and as a business to learn in this new economy.”

Cost or ROI: What to Focus on When Investing in an EAM

We used that focus on internal ROI to pivot to our question about what a buyer must focus on when investing in an EAM. Is it about getting the latest and greatest technology? Or is it about getting the cheapest solution? Alan’s response was enlightening. According to him, the answer is somewhere between the two extremes.

When procurement teams are focused too exclusively on driving down costs, it often leads to poor outcomes and ROI. Asset management, Alan says, is all about historic data. When a company has accurate historical information about their assets, they can make decisions that increase their ROI. This means servicing an asset that needs service and replacing an asset that needs to be replaced.

But accuracy of historical data depends on the ability of the technician to capture the data accurately at the point of work. The more manual it is, the more prone to human error. Over the course of years, a small margin of error in each individual data entry leads to a skewed picture and poor decision making.

And this is where technology comes in: Mobile, Cloud, IoT, AI, AR drive down the margin of human error tremendously. However, there’s no point, says Alan, jumping directly into the most cutting-edge technology without the necessary foundation. A staggered approach works best.

It’s more about thinking about how the best decisions are made, having the best data at hand. And what you’ve got to do is look at what’s the best way for me to get the best quality data. And that could be AI. It could be mobile. Or any other technology.

Alan Cambridge Founder & CFO, Peacock Engineering

To Invest or Not to Invest: Closing Thoughts

The advantages of investing in technology are many, and yet, companies routinely complain of not getting the promised outcomes and ROI. What are they doing wrong?

Alan says that technology, per se, is not the answer as much as getting the right data in front of the right people at the right time and in the right format. And this is where he thinks many companies need to pull back and question what purpose technology is serving.

“It’s more about thinking about how the best decisions are made, having the best data at hand. And what you’ve got to do is look at what’s the best way for me to get the best quality data. And that could be AI. It could be mobile. Or any other technology.”

Alan’s closing advice is to really look at your business case and the kind of data you need and then choose the technology that best enables it. A staggered approach pays off best in the long term and creates the least amount of disruption for your business. Finally, he encourages businesses not to be deterred exclusively by the initial cost and balance it against the ROI.

Learn More About Peacock Engineering

Peacock Engineering are specialists in providing IBM Maximo EAM solutions to industry, and they work with businesses of all types and sizes, ranging from growing SMEs, up to critical national infrastructure providers.

To learn more about their work, visit: Visit the Peacock Engineering website