23 Jan 2023

SME Member of the Week: Tecknuovo

Tecknuovo is an award-winning challenger technology consultancy. Kieran Blackstone, Managing Director and Co-Founder, discusses his company Tecknuovo and digital trade. 

Tecknuovo is the third of January's SME Member of the Week. This month, techUK are focused on digital trade and are showcasing SME member's who have tapped into overseas export opportunities and taken advantage of the UK’s trading partnerships worldwide to successfully export their product or service in international markets.

Tecknuovo is an award-winning challenger technology consultancy. Kieran Blackstone, Managing Director and Co-Founder, discusses his company Tecknuovo and digital trade.

How did your company start?

I founded Tecknuovo together with Gus Sargent in 2015 to challenge the industry standard of supplier dependency. Today, it’s an award-winning technology consultancy with a Deliberately Different approach. We are disrupting the industry by empowering our customers to own the technology, processes, and people that drive their business success. 

Gus Sargent and I came from the recruiting world, and Tecknuovo started as a DevOps recruitment company. The more we worked for end customers, the more we learned about the typical frustrations they experience when working with traditional consultancies — namely that the work created heavy dependences on the niche skillsets they were accessing through their suppliers.

To try and rid themselves of this dependency, our customers often hired us at the end of the consulting period, tasking us to find unicorn skillsets on a budget that didn't always match the requirements.

This is where we saw a hole in the market. To help our customers fill the skills gap sustainably, we began bringing in skilled contractors to work alongside and upskill permanent hires who had the right attitude and aptitude, but as of yet lacked the experience.

Three years later, we had pivoted into technology consulting fully. We decided to make a change that would maximise the customer’s value by solving their current problem, which is the complex delivery, as well as their future problem, which is how they will run everything after the project is completed. That is how our challenger proposition to the tech consultancy market — Zero Dependency — came to be. 

How does your company contribute to this month's theme?

Digital trade may sound like an all-encompassing term made up of an intrinsic web of complexity but, at its heart, it’s a people and skills challenge that’s only grown over the past few years thanks to the combination of Brexit completely rewriting the trade script and the pandemic. These factors have undoubtedly resulted in an increased skills gap that must be closed.

At Tecknuovo, we’re proud to approach things in a Deliberately Different way through our Zero Dependency model. We may be an SME, but our approach is actively challenging the age-old methods used by large enterprises which tend to tie organisations into long-standing contracts with over-reliance on both legacy systems and third-party consultants. There’s no upskilling and any time there’s a tech issue, external support is required.

Tecknuovo instead takes a people-centric approach that puts the power back in our customers’ hands. We build an in-depth understanding of our customer’s organisation and the issues they’re facing, provide them with the expert support they need, and upskill internal team members on the technology introduced. That means once the project is finalised, there’s no dependency on us whatsoever. 

We’ve channelled our innovative approach to upskill the teams and capabilities of a major government department that handles national security-critical digital trade. Our teams built a testing capability for the new Import Control System (ICS) that would screen the safety and security profiles of goods entering the UK post-Brexit. We designed it with reusability at its core and built it side-by-side with our customer’s teams — mentoring and upskilling them during the build. 

This approach meant we could leave the teams fully capable of operating, re-configuring, automating, and ensuring secure digital trade through the framework — fully independently of our support. 

Who's behind your company?

We have a two-pronged people model. 

Our associate community are the group of 2,000+ technical experts that we engage with, nurture, and form into the teams that deliver excellent solutions for and upskill our customers. With expertise spanning the complete technology landscape, they are an integral part of our tech agnostic delivery approach. They enjoy being part of a technology community where they can share knowledge with their peers, attend events for upskilling and networking, and have the chance to return to work on new, exciting projects when their current one has finished. 

Scrum Master Erin Gray says:

"I was drawn to Tecknuovo because it was clear that they’re dedicated to delivering quality with technically excellent people." 

Our HQ team based in our London Bridge office are a collaborative and driven group of people who lace Tecknuovo’s values into everything they do: curiosity, pace, openness, courage, and connection. 

Our Chief Experience Officer, Wayne Palmer, comments on our values:

"What gets me excited about our values? Most companies' values are meaningless as they don’t actually form part of their day-to-day practices. They aren’t sense checked or validated. We‘re different. Our values are genuinely integrated into everything we do — every day and for every interaction. We regularly challenge, review and update them to ensure they reflect our reality. They are inherent in everything we do and everything we say. This authenticity is vital."

You can read more about our values in our blog post here: https://tecknuovo.com/what-we-think/deliberately-different-tecknuovo-s-values/ 

The HQ team is spearheaded by our CEO Gus Sargent, myself, and the rest of our senior strategy hub.

Gus Sargent, with his people-centric values, ensures Tecknuovo stays at the forefront of delivering industry-defying, high quality outcomes for our customers 

In my role as Managing Director and Co-Founder, I work with all our hubs to help them deliver at maximum capacity to serve our customers — setting, evolving, and maintaining our business strategy to help them sustainably transform and thrive.

Renee Hawkins, our Chief Operations Officer helps our customers overcome their challenges by channelling our alternative to the traditional consultancy model — continuously improving how we operate to meet our customers’ complex business needs.

Andy Price, our Chief Commercial Officer, helps our customers solve complex challenges with his sharp professional services expertise and a people-first approach. He’s dedicated to building lifelong relationships, and loves nothing more than creating extraordinary customer experiences.

What’s your perspective on the present and the future of this month's theme?

Traditional consulting models do have their worthy place in the transformation fabric. But when it comes to affecting rapid change in the public sector, it’s down to forward-thinking, agile SMEs to challenge how our larger counterparts play the game. I hate to think of businesses being tied into never-ending contracts with third parties, but it’s even worse when it happens to public sector bodies. 
This is especially salient in the digital trade context. Because digital trade often relies on emergent technologies, it lets suppliers who have capability in those technologies set up dependency traps for government bodies to fall into. 
In times like these, when the cost of living crisis is rumbling on and we seem to be on the precipice of a recession, taxpayers’ money should be spent as wisely as possible. This simply isn’t the case if contracts are going to large consultancies as they’re not incentivised to provide the simplest possible solution. Far from it. Traditional consulting business models rely on creating dependency to ensure long term annuity revenues rather than training in-house teams to increase their skillsets.
The future must see SMEs challenge the fundamental nature of the customer and consultancy relationship — focusing on delivering rapid value while providing the best quality tech professionals and upskilling those already present. 
Recruitment and traditional consulting has failed to address the technology skills gap the faces all organisation going through digital transformation, digital trade included. It’s time for a novel approach to the growing problem, and that is Zero Dependency engagements.

Recent Success

In 2022, we were listed on the Sunday Times Fastest Growing 100 list as the number one technology consultancy, and on the FT 1000 Europe’s Fastest Growing List. We are proud that our growth was recognised by such distinguished business experts. 

Thanks to our Deliberately Different offering, we have won big contracts over the last three years despite our relative infancy. This includes work to support the delivery of HMRC’s post-Brexit digital trade strategy and a project that has helped Thames Water decouple from complex and costly legacy technology contracts and migrate to modern cloud-based platforms. We are also excited to be working with DWP on their DevOps journey. This allowed us to demonstrate 290% compound annual growth between 2021-2022.

The growth doesn’t stop there, our HQ team has increased by more than 90% last fiscal year, with plans to continue that growth into 2023.

What does the future look like for your company?

We want to keep building on the successes we’ve helped government bodies and other organisations achieve through our challenger approach to technology consulting. In the government and digital trade context specifically, we want to keep building on the momentum of the seismic innovation we unleashed by building a greenfield Good Vehicle Movement System (GVMS) for HMRC. 

Prior to modern declarations processing system, HMRC was using a legacy system. The immovable Brexit deadline made modernising quickly a priority — it required us to rethink how HMRC could keep its frictionless borders through novel ways handling data. This pressing political need helped us enable HMRC to drive unprecedented innovation in a timeframe of just nine months. 

In an ever faster-spinning world of political, security, and economic change, innovative government programmes like GVMS won’t only be impressive, but imperative for government bodies to fulfil their duty to the citizens who rely on them. If government partners with SMEs to capitalise on the nimble and fast-paced change they can help them deliver, they will succeed. Our future holds continued disruption to legacy challenges, and a continued commitment to upskilling our customers’ teams on how to take control of their solutions without our support. 

Asks for other members  

I would like to connect with other like-minded SME leaders to talk about how we can innovate and get the word out about novel approaches to problem solving collectively. Every SME has its strengths, and I believe that we could create exponential value in the government transformation space by complementing each other’s areas of expertise.

I would be interested in forming a consortium around this cause to discuss how we can deliver the most innovative solutions for our customers together. SMEs rarely go looking for the big contracts, but it’s time that we did. With the new procurement bill going through parliament to make it easier for government bodies to buy from SMEs, I’m looking forward to continuing to support the public sector alongside my SME peers.

More information

Website: tecknuovo.com
Linkedln: Tecknuovo

SME Member of the Week: February, Digital apprenticeships

For February's SME Member of the Week, we’ll be focusing on digital apprenticeships. Digital apprenticeships offer one of the best pathways to a career in tech and can provide a company with a diverse range of talent. We'll be looking to showcase SMEs who have been successful in recruiting digital apprentices and illustrating the positive impact this has had on their business.