Under the Spotlight with Nicky Tappern, MD of Empyrean Digital

Here at TechHub, we're incredibly lucky to be able to chat to and learn from our community of talented entrepreneurs every single day.

Nicky Tappern, MD of Empyrean Digital, is no exception to this. With over 22 years of experience in digital innovation and transformation, we met to discover how this hugely inspiring female lead harmonises a blend of expertise to transform services.

1. In a nutshell, please tell us about your role and specialisms.

I am the Managing Director of Empyrean Digital, a highly skilled digital services and product development company based in TechHub Swansea. We specialise in the development of innovative digital services and supporting organisations with difficult and complex digital transformation from legacy estates to new world technology environments.

Our team includes senior and experienced digital practitioners that have held some of the highest profile technology roles across the UK and have led some of the most complex IT contract exits and subsequent digital transformations across UK Government.

2. Can you share something that you are proud of in your career?

Prior to joining Empyrean Digital, I was the regional (Wales and West) Technology and Commercial lead for PWC and have had over 22 years experience in some pretty interesting and market leading digital change programmes. The engagements I am most proud of are those that have fundamentally improved the lives of citizens, including those with previously low digital literacy and/or restricted access to digital services.

3. If you could zoom back to the beginning of your career, what advice would you give yourself and why?

These may sound a bit trite but If I was able to write some guidance for myself as a graduate it would be:

  • Do what you enjoy, or you will never be truly good at it
  • Don’t believe the hype, the IT industry has a unique way of making everything seem overly complicated
  • Good Karma…..do the right thing by people
  • Invest in Bitcoin as soon as it launches!!

4. With technology always seemingly changing, how do organisations best bring their digital strategy together?

Pulling together a cohesive and de-risked digital strategy takes time, blended skills and organisational support. Organisations I have worked with that do it well have the following ingredients:

Organisational support and a strategy that achieves the wider business objectives. Many organisations give responsibility for the creation of their digital strategy to a single part of the organisation, the result is almost inevitably expensive shelf-ware that is not supported by the wider business.

Strategic outcomes that are designed through the user lens, truly embracing digital creativity and innovation. Although user led is well documented it is still inconsistently implemented. Many strategies go with the digital flow rather than challenging the norm.

Deal with the nitty gritty of digital change. Many strategies talk about moving to the cloud etc but many fail to address the pragmatic steps needed to move to the target environment. This is particularly painful at the moment with many organisations struggling to unpick their legacy estates.

Adhere to their strategy through times of distraction. For example, even with well articulated strategies the temptation of a shiny digital solution that is relatively quick and easy to deploy is ever present even where it doesn't fit the medium/long term strategy.

Commit to implement new ways of working and organisational approach to change. I have seen really strong strategies and implementation plans fail because the right operating model and business processes are not in place at the right time to support success.

Have enough money/investment and skill to pull it off. Unrealistic budgeting or an organisation that resists an injection of critical new skill will generally need to compromise on its outcomes.

5. How has the use of tech changed in the last 5 years—and where can you see it heading?

The tech landscape has changed in many ways over the last 5 years. What makes it really interesting is how these changes have interacted with each other to fundamentally restructure the way organisations handle technology.

Organisations have taken back control of their digital operations from outsourced, third party, providers. This has unlocked organisational capability to implement wholesale restructuring and change in the way they provision and manage their technology estates.

The move to cloud computing has fundamentally changed the way services can be provisioned and scaled. Allowing new services to be prototyped at a fraction of the cost and flex with demand.
DevOps as a culture has redefined the way services are built and run and allows real focus on user needs and the ability to react at pace.

Commoditised IT has introduced infrastructure and software as services which can be seamlessly integrated into an organisations technology offering. Organisations can now focus on solutions that differentiate.

Services are now built to be multi platform and socially integrated from the outset with mobile access an expected component and not a luxury.

With a redressed balance of technical agility and control, increased product choice and rising in house development capability, the stage is well and truly set for organisations to be able to innovate and control their digital agenda like never before.

For me, the exciting part is how digital organisations, once their own internal digital services are more mature, will start to interact more across boundaries, sectors and organisations.

Joined up digital services, with maturing AI capability and live data, will transform the way users interact digitally and bring to the fore the reality of Smart Cities and Smart Societies.