View From The Other Side: Julie Lorraine on Making The Jump from Public Sector to SaaS (and back)

After a long and distinguished career across the public sector and social housing which included section 151 officer and CFO roles in local authorities and RSLs – Julie Lorraine made the jump from public sector client to strategic technology partner when she joined Mobysoft as strategic director in April 2021. Following a two-year stint with the social housing sector’s leading data-analytics provider in the UK, she’s on the move again, returning to her public sector roots as Corporate Director of Resources for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Before she sails off into the sunset though, we thought it’d be a nice idea to get some insights into the unique experience gained from working on both sides of the fence ahead of her departure (ex-sights, if you like).

How do you look back at your 2.5 years at Mobysoft and what would you say are your key professional learnings from the experience of working for a tech supplier?

The customer truly is king in any commercial setting. At Mobysoft, the fortunes of the business and everyone in it totally depends on successful customer outcomes. Customer retention rather than one off sales is the core commercial driver at the heart of the business and that is what embeds the customer focused culture at the very core of the organisation.  Everyone cares when a contract is won or lost, regardless of the individual role each team member plays. The team spirit and collective cultural focus on success is dramatically different to the public sector where we tended to celebrate things from a more specialist, and to be honest, less collaborative perspective. So, my key professional learning I will always carry forward is that embedding a shared customer focussed culture relies heavily on a cross cutting collaborative operating model.

Is there anything you will now do differently and take back to the sector having had this experience?

YES! There are so many things but my top four would be:

Harness and welcome relationships with tech suppliers – they know more than we do about the art of the possible. They also have no interest in wasting your time because they only succeed based on results.

When buying tech in future I would include accuracy as a key requirement of any predictive analytics solution. If you are going to use AI and predictive analytics to shape services that affect tenants’ lives, then the accuracy of those predictions MUST be a key selection criteria. On a similar note, I’d want to know the impact on customers as well of course as the experience of users and weight the ethics and equity of the data analytics solution highly.

I’d always look for ways to improve existing systems and facilitate data insight for collaborative use across departments and the organisation, rather than automatically assume that I needed a whole host of different systems or even a single big new one.

Finally, I think I’m cured of ‘paralyses by analyses’ – a curious affliction that tends to affect the public sector and results in decision makers not wanting to do anything before they can do everything (and often end up doing nothing as a result…because we never know everything).

Would you recommend the experience to others in the sector and what advice would you give to executives looking to make a similar career move?

I would definitely recommend anyone working within social housing to make the jump and see for themselves what it’s like ‘on the other side’ as it were. For me Mobysoft was a good match as we each brought something to the party – I knew the issues facing the sector the company specialised in, and they knew the tech solutions that could address them. So, my advice would be go experience the other side – it really isn’t the dark side, more of a trip on the Starship Enterprise from my perspective. I feel that during my time with Mobysoft I made a real difference to social housing, a cause I am passionate about – and I loved it!

Peter Steele