Data Software Analysis tool
Unlock the Power In Your Data
Unlock the Power In Your Data 882 606 Jon Stace

Every business is sitting on a pile of valuable data; but few know how to get it.

In this blog we share insight into two of the free tools available to businesses, to help you make better use of your data. The good news is, you don’t need a degree in computer science and it doesn’t need to cost! If you want to know even more, sign up for our latest free webinar taking place on Wednesday 7th August at 4pm.

Let’s start with the obvious one – why should businesses be accessing data?

Data is the lifeblood of any organisation. When gathered, analysed and presented effectively, data can be used to inform and empower business leaders to make decisions based on insights. Data-based decision making avoids business leaders having to rely on ‘hunches’ and can be used to improve your business for both employees and customers.

So, what next?

Think about all of the data your business gathers across all departments. Are the sources integrated and working together? Finally, reflect on what percentage of your data is being used to provide meaningful insight to inform what you do? How do you visualise it in an easy to read format?

There are a number of tools available which offer different capabilities including Excel, Power BI, SQL Server Reporting Services and Python.

Excel: Comes as part of Office 365 and the one you’ve probably already used. The basic capabilities are easy, making it simple to create reports which indicate patterns in data. To make the most of the full range of capabilities some will need some training but the basics are there and just waiting to be utilised with the right guidance.

Power BI: is a free data visualisation application also from Microsoft. Power BI allows you to build interactive dashboards and reports quickly. It enables business users to visualise their own figures and data in an easily-readable format to help you make key decisions. Once you know how to make the data available, you can avoid having to bother accounts, for example, to provide that added level of insight.

SQL Server Reporting Services, Python and other tools can be used for more advanced analytics to help with data integration and for mining larger volumes of data. Probably best left to the experts.

What’s the next step?

It’s obvious but important to state: most businesses have access to large quantities of data. Improving your data analysis and integration can be relatively easy and does not need to be expensive. Data analysis provides business advantage by making it easy to spot correlations and trends which inform decision-making at many levels and across many departments.

And that’s it! Want to know more? Join me for our ‘Data Analysis for All’ our free webinar on Wednesday 7th August at 4pm. If you can’t make that time or date don’t worry. The session is available to all registrants to watch at a time to suit. Sign up here:

Register for the webinar

 

Software Solved has delivered over 1000 successful projects, spanning over 20 years, providing cost-effective custom solutions, built on time and to budget, for the likes of RSA, the National Trust, Save the Children, BBC and many more.  

Contact us for a free consultation on any issue connected with your data or software systems on 01392 453344  

Build v Buy
Build or buy? The data software systems debate.
Build or buy? The data software systems debate. 1024 683 Jon Stace

The decision has been taken to update your software system (never one to be taken lightly). The requirements are done and the spec is written. What next?

Now one of the toughest decisions you face is whether to build or buy your system! This is a contested topic often full of complicated jargon and contradicting claims as everyone battles to sell you their ‘perfect’ solution!

Having been through all, and part, of systems development and implementation with our clients on many occasions, we can help by shedding some light here on the decision-making process and potentially save you some valuable time and a lot of painstaking research.

Build or buy? To help you choose the system that best suits your business needs, we’ve listed some of the pros and cons of each.

Buy:

If there are existing products out there with the functionality to meet your requirements, off-the-shelf software may be the solution for you.

The pros:

  • This route offers a lower entry price and for internal, non-business critical systems an off-the-shelf solution can be very cost-effective.
  • It is generally quicker and easier to implement causing minimal business disruption.
  • Significantly functionality testing has already been carried out by someone else so you don’t have to put in the extra hours.
  • Research and development and bug fixing sits with the software owner, so your business doesn’t have to cough-up the extra.

The cons:

  • The software may fit your business now, but you have no control over the road map of the system going forward.
  • You can’t simply just add another user or add additional modules to the system of pre-existing software as your business activity grows.
  • When fixing glitches, you are totally reliant on the software supplier and can’t take matters within your own hands.
  • Complex licensing agreements can be difficult to control and very costly when they are out of your hands.

Build:

If you are looking for a more personalised experience and don’t want to settle for a part-solution based on what’s available, you can choose to build a tailored software data system instead.

The Pros:

  • Bespoke systems do tend to cost more, however the investment usually offers better ROI due to downstream adaptation and upgrade costs being lower.
  • The data systems are functionally tailored around your business and you control what happens going forward removing the need for additional costly modules that may only then be a part fit.
  • Bespoke systems which are client facing are far better at representing your individual brand and simply by being bespoke, offer you a USP amongst competitors.
  • Work on bespoke systems is often eligible for R&D tax credits which can help to offset a proportion of the cost of the system.

The Cons:

  • Bespoke systems usually cost more than off the shelf solutions.
  • There is often a longer lead time for implementation and before ROI is realised.
  • The R&D behind a bespoke system can be time consuming and costly.
  • Testing has to be carried out at your time and expense to ensure that the software system is perfect for your business needs.

Plenty to think about therefore! We hope your business-brain is a little less clouded and opportunities to improve your software systems are on the horizon.

Software Solved specialises in custom and bespoke development, data visualisation and insurance risk management systems, delivering over 1000 successful IT projects since 1998. We are running a FREE webinar entitled Build v Buy: choosing your next software systems supplier on July 3rd, 2019. To pre-register click the button here.

Register for the webinar

 

If you have any more pressing systems requirements that need  talking through now, contact us on 01392 453344 or  hello@softwaresolved.com. We’re happy to have a chat.

health check
Why a Software System Health Check?
Why a Software System Health Check? 1024 683 John Howard

Why companies need a software systems health check

You’ve been there…

It’s Monday morning. You’re well rested from the weekend and raring to go.

Well, that’s the theory anyway.

A good week for me starts with key tasks prioritised and I’m well on top of what needs to be done in the coming days.

But, have you ever switched on your computer and…guess what…it doesn’t load up. The clock is ticking. It still doesn’t load up. It still doesn’t load up! The system is crashing. It still won’t load up! Result? Out goes the cool, calm you, and in comes the unnecessary stress and annoyance caused by wasted time and an inevitable productivity dive. Doubtless it won’t have been the first time it’s happened.

That can add up to significant lost hours and cost to the business.

Begin the process of reducing business systems downtime

Why it doesn’t have to be like this…

I’m John and I work with businesses everyday to take away that stress and help users to overcome difficult IT systems and show them that business dependent software does not need to be troublesome and disruptive like this.

Want to know how? Download our FREE checklist below.

It’s not too long, it’s not too complicated. I will get straight to the point as we take a closer look at the eight key areas every organisation should be covering when reviewing their IT infrastructure  optimisation and viability.

What are they?

  • User Experience
  • Technology
  • Interoperability
  • Maintainability
  • Supportability
  • Scalability
  • Data & Analytics
  • and Security of course!

Software Solved has prepared a FREE download of our basic systems health check criteria. Fill in the form below to receive your version by return.

Complete the form to receive our FREE Health Check Guide

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Project Management
Don’t Panic! Recovering a Failing Project in Five Steps
Don’t Panic! Recovering a Failing Project in Five Steps 1024 683 Josie Walledge

You’re working on an important IT project. You’re focused and doing your utmost to pull everything and everyone together to deliver. But you can see that, despite your best efforts, the project is failing. You know your customer  is not happy; the team is well-intentioned but not clicking. Deadlines are being missed, costs are spiralling and management are on your back.

Admitting failure is not in most people’s nature. So, here’s a question. Do you…

  1. Ignore the project objectives (they must have been wrong anyway).
  2. Throw more resources at the project – increase staff, overtime and budget.
  3. Blame your colleagues, they’re obviously not working as hard as you.
  4. Carry on regardless and hope for a miracle.

The IT Road to Project Recovery

At Software Solved the answer is always, “none of the above”! Instead, we take a step back to understand the project, assess the current status and make a plan. It’s not always the easiest choice but it’s the right one if you want to get back on track and succeed.

You’ll need to be a team player with the ability to think creatively, make evidence-based judgments and lead from the front, demonstrating strong and courageous decision-making.

Take control of your software project

 Here are our top tips for recovering a failing project:

  1. Understand the project

Review the project background and objectives. Understand the project plan, key milestones and deliverables. Interview team members and other internal stakeholders to understand their perspectives. Then, when you have clarity, talk to your customer about the situation and let them know what you’re planning to do next.

  1. Assess the current status

Once a project is identified as failing, you need to address these questions:

  • What is the true project status?
  • Do the activities in the project plan align to key business objectives?
  • What work has been completed and what is left to do?
  • What is the critical path and what threats and opportunities does the project face?

Armed with the information from steps 1 and 2, apply root cause analysis techniques to help understand why the project is failing. There could be a number of reasons: inadequate planning and control, poorly defined requirements, lack of appropriate resource, loss of management support, poor quality processes leading to excessive rework, to name but a few. Throughout this process, let your team know what you are doing and why. Seek opportunities to boost morale and create a positive culture for change.

  1. Identify trade-offs and negotiate

Prioritise requirements and tasks based on business value and importance (the ‘MoSCoW Technique’ is a helpful tool). Identify possible trade-offs, opportunities for increasing business value through change and alternative delivery models. Is the project even worth saving?!

Having agreed a negotiation position, it’s time to talk to the customer again (face to face is best). Be honest about the current situation and present your options for recovery. Use this opportunity to validate assumptions, rebuild trust and confidence by demonstrating a clear and comprehensive plan, then negotiate a way forward.

  1. Re-baseline the project

Congratulations, you’ve done the hard part! Now you need to update your project plan, including actions to address and mitigate key issues and risks.  Establish control measures to keep the new project on track. We recommend holding a ‘kick-off’ meeting to communicate the new baseline. Keep your team focussed by defining clear roles and responsibilities: set short, achievable tasks and give regular constructive feedback.

  1. Execute the plan

As the project is recovering, keep an eye on your key metrics with scheduled checkpoints. Remember, the customer and other business departments will probably be watching the project more closely. Be sure to protect your team from unwarranted pressure and maintain open communication with relevant stakeholders. We find that a regular supply of cakes helps to keep everyone happy too!

It’s not easy to turn around a failing process but it’s not impossible. The longer you delay, the greater the risks, so it’s vital to act quickly and decisively. And, worth remembering, Software Solved are always here to talk to people about delivering successful IT projects.

Josie Walledge, Senior Project Manager

Software Solved specialises in custom and bespoke development, data visualisation and Insurance Risk Management systems, delivering over 1000 successful IT projects since 1998.

Contact us at hello@softwaresolved.com to discuss any systems, data or project requirements. We’re happy to talk.

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Big Data Course Plymouth Uni
No small talk for big data: Software Solved spend time with Amazon scientist at Plymouth University
No small talk for big data: Software Solved spend time with Amazon scientist at Plymouth University 629 437 Aneeq Rehman

If you want to learn about how machine learning is being applied in the business world, e-commerce giant Amazon is a good place to start.

Software Solved’s Aneeq ur Rehman spent a week with big data experts including Amazon’s Dr Zhenwen Dai at a course at Plymouth University.

Supported by the Environmental Futures of Big Data Impact Lab, the course was led by Dr Antonia Rago alongside key academic figures from the Mathematical Sciences department including Dr Mu Nui, Dr Matthew Craven, Dr Malgorzata Wojtys and Dr Craig McNeile.

That’s a lot of Doctors – all experts in their respective fields!

Dr Zhenwen Dai, a Machine Learning Scientist at Amazon, whose, research interests include the development of scalable probabilistic models and inference methods for autonomous learning from real world data was one of the keynote speakers who shared his expertise with Aneeq and others on the course on probabilistic approaches to deal with huge volumes of data.

Aneeq, who is at Software Solved as part of our own machine learning research project, running in partnership with Plymouth University and funded by Innovate UK, said: “The course was about enhancing people’s understanding of big data and how to use and derive value from large volumes of data to make smarter decisions. Large volumes of data in machine learning often require flexible models that can imitate the way the human brain processes data and assimilates multiple sources. That was a key aspect of what we learnt.”

Topics covered included Gaussian process, machine learning and neural networks.

  • Dr Mu Niu – overview of Gaussian Process, different models and how they function in theory and practise
  • Dr Matthew Craven and Dr Malgorzata Wojtys – detailed explanation into various machine learning parametric methods
  • Dr Craig McNeile – summary of deep learning and neural networks and running hands-on workshops and exercises to learn more about topological data analysis and high-performance computer facilities.

Aneeq, already a Masters Graduate in Data Science himself, added: “It was a good knowledge sharing platform with a blend of workshops, practical exercises and lectures. We reviewed many interesting topics such as topological data analysis, neural network design and artificial neural networks. In addition to this, we also got insights into some of the cutting-edge research and practices in the world of big data and AI.

There were also intriguing discussions over the use of neural networks and gaussian processes and good comparisons over their use and limitations. Some of it was a good refresher session for me, some of it really new and interesting.

It’s all highly relevant to the research work I’m doing at Software Solved into the application of machine learning and advanced data analytics for risk modelling and mitigation for the insurance sector.

It was great to meet with other students and learn from the academics and other organisations. It’s technical but truly fascinating and a fundamental part of how organisations will operate, interpret and derive value from the data in the 21st century- the advantages of which are manifold.”

Author: Aneeq Ur Rehman is Software Solved’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership Associate from Plymouth University

Software Solved are specialists in giving organisation’s a competitive edge through software and data. Contact 01392 453344 to find out more.

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Venturefest Launch
Software Solved set for Venturefest South West 2019
Software Solved set for Venturefest South West 2019 1024 768 Simon Hollingworth

We’re delighted to be exhibiting at Venturefest South West at the home of the Exeter Chiefs.

Businesses will have the chance to meet with us in the Exhibition Zone and learn about the systems projects we are delivering for our customers to help transform their use of technology and data. It might just be something they too would like to explore further to help grow their businesses.

The expo, at Sandy Park on the edge of Exeter on Monday June 17, looks like it’s going to be a great event.

Entrepreneurs will be trying to win us over at Pitchfest, an Innovation Showcase will have hands-on technology for delegates to check out and, led by Plymouth College of Art, Hackfest will focus on the next generation of tech talent. Plus there will be talks, workshops and networking opportunities too.

For our part, visitors will be able to have a free and open discussion with us on how their current systems may be holding them back. We can demonstrate the work we do in helping organisations achieve an integrated and intuitive software solution and how we help them transform their data to boost productivity and performance.

And for those of you interested in artificial intelligence and machine learning, we will also have news on our exciting national project with Plymouth University, funded by Innovate UK, and how you can get involved. We hope to have news on our one-off immersive learning workshop we are running later this year.

So, armed with delegate packs, coffee and biscuits, and a host of people to talk to and things to see, come find us at Venturefest South West. Or, if you are so excited about the whole thing and just can’t wait until June, (we feel the same!) then why not contact us on 01392 453344 or hello@softwaresolved.com and we can book in a one to one meeting in the Networking Zone or even chat in the coming weeks.

For more information on Venturefest and to book tickets https://www.venturefest-sw.co.uk

 

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