Software

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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International Women’s Day – Women in IT
International Women’s Day – Women in IT 732 211 Simon Hollingworth

In celebration of International Women’s Day, at Software Solved we decided to ask some of our women what it was like to pursue a career in an industry very stereotyped as a male vocation. Our policy is one of always employ the best people for the job which is why we have exceptional staff both female and male. We felt, on this day, of all days, you’d want to hear from some of our excellent women how a career in IT is for everyone.

Bethan David – Project Manager

Bethan David Project Manager Software Solved1. What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I wasn’t sure but I knew I wanted to do something I really enjoyed and that I wanted to manage people! Is that odd? I hope not.

2. What made you choose IT as a career?

I enjoyed IT and Computing in school, so carried it onto my degree. It was always interesting and I knew there were job prospects, especially for women.

3. What challenges have you faced as a woman in IT?

Doing a degree in Computer Science and being one of only four girls on the course, I was surrounded by men. Most of them found it hard to even talk to or work with girls! Group work was difficult. Making friends on my course was hard. I certainly learnt to work things out on my own.

4. What do you love about your job?

Working with different clients on different projects and with different people at Software Solved. And I have to admit, I do enjoy getting to ‘boss’ the project team around! No two projects are the same and I love that. Learning from one, taking that into the next, new challenges and lessons to be learned.

5. What advice would you give girls/young women thinking about a career in IT?

Do it, and don’t be put off by the stereotypes that surround IT – like the type of people who do IT or that it’s mainly men. Things are changing fast!

6. To encourage more diversity, what would be the one thing you would change in the I.T. industry?

The stereotypes surrounding the IT industry. There’s a big stereotype that people working in IT are just weird, sat in a dark room coding and that is all they are interested in. Whereas that so isn’t the case! There are a range of different people with different interests and hobbies. There are loads of interesting people AND there are girls in IT!

Lindsay Lucas – Director of Operations

Lindsay Lucas Software Solved1. What did you want to be when you were growing up?

A vet, Formula 1 engineer or racing driver. My love of cars and animals has stayed with me and I studied engineering at bachelor and masters level. But it was exceptionally hard to gain employment in the engineering sector as a female engineer. It was a very different landscape back then and I was definitely in the minority.

2. What made you choose IT as a career?

I sort of fell into it. After many knock backs from the engineering roles I desperately wanted, I still needed to pay the bills, so I went temping. My first temping role was with a local internet provider for a week and they offered me a permanent job. I will be forever grateful to those who recognised me and promoted me through that company. I worked in customer service, sales, as an office manager, PA to 3 directors and then Technical Project Manager. As a grounding on how businesses really work, it was invaluable and I was lucky enough to work with some amazing mentors.

3. What challenges have you faced as a woman in IT?

Compared to the challenges within the engineering sector, any challenges in IT have been relatively insignificant. You do still occasionally meet the odd misogynist who would rather hear what your male colleague has to say, but that is very rare these days and they are a dying breed. On the whole, IT is a very progressive environment, certainly in software development and I have never heard any of our female developers or colleagues complaining about their male counterparts., it really is one big team working towards a common goal. We’re seeing more and more women at the top in the tech industry these days and I think that’s more about external stigmas being removed from women who want to pursue a career as well as have a family. There is so much support available and so much good quality childcare with business friendly hours, that it’s no longer such an issue.

4. What do you love about your job?

The variety. No one day is the same. I also have an amazing team that I enjoy working with and great clients too. Working within a software development environment you are at the forefront of changing technology, solving real life issues and I always enjoy seeing a project go live.

5. What advice would you give girls/young women thinking about a career in IT?

Do it! It’s a great career with so many opportunities open to you. You don’t have to be technical to get involved and find a really rewarding career within an industry that is not being left in the Dark Ages!

6. To encourage more diversity, what would be the one thing you would change in the I.T. industry?

The diversity is there now. But from my perspective, I don’t see the CVs coming through from so many women in deeply technical roles, which tells me that there aren’t enough women studying technical disciplines at university. This is why it is so important to support initiatives to make it more accessible to women. I’m proud that we have a really diverse team at Software Solved, with women in technical and non-technical roles and we definitely have an ethos of gender neutral recruitment. It has to be the right person for the role, nothing more complicated than that.

Josie Walledge – Lead Project Manager

Josie Walledge Software Solved1. What did you want to be when you were growing up?

From when I was very young, I wanted to be a doctor but life took me down a different path!

2. What made you choose IT as a career?

IT chose me! I loved messing around with my ZX81 and ZX Spectrum when I was younger (ok, that ages me) but never saw IT as being something you could do for a living. I discovered the power of the Internet while I was at University in the early ‘90s and then, while working at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, I found that technology was starting to transform the way we stored and shared information. This led me to doing a Masters degree in Information Science. After a brief interlude teaching librarians how to use digital resources, a chance encounter in a pub landed me a job with a global tech company, where I stayed for 20 years!

3. What challenges have you faced as a woman in IT?

For many years I was the only woman working in a team of men who were mostly a lot older than me. While I never faced the low-level sexual harassment that I know many women put up with in male-dominated workplaces, I did miss the company of other women and – more importantly – found that my career progression was severely limited after having children. My employer was of the view that, as I worked part time and largely from home, moving into a more senior role wasn’t an option for me. This led me to significantly undervalue my skills and experience, and I found it very difficult to find the confidence to go out into the job market again.

4. What do you love about your job?

After many years working in a large multinational where one can feel rather faceless, it is an absolute joy to be part of a small, dynamic and diverse team where each person is truly valued, supported and respected. As an IT Project Manager, no two days are ever the same and I love the constant challenge of solving problems in a collaborative environment. Even in a management role, there are always opportunities to learn about new technologies and to develop new ways of working as the industry evolves so rapidly. I also enjoy getting out to meet clients, helping them to deliver business change through technology.

5. What advice would you give girls/young women thinking about a career in IT?

Go for it! Don’t be put off by gender stereotyping but instead let yourself be driven by what you love and what you are good at. Also, don’t limit your imagination to the careers that are available in today’s job market. The pace of change, particularly in technology, is lightning fast so it’s better to focus on developing the skills and knowledge that really interest you and to keep your mind open to what the future might bring.

6. To encourage more diversity, what would be the one thing you would change in the I.T. industry?

For several years, I ran a Code Club for Year 5 and 6 children. To begin with, it was all boys but over time we worked to attract more girls and, by the time I left, we had as many girls as boys. (Guess what: the girls were every bit as good as the boys!) This demonstrates that the key to addressing the gender gap in Stem subjects, and IT in particular, is education. Schools and colleges need to do more to break down the conventional stereotypes, perhaps by bringing female role models in to inspire girls from an early age. The industry also needs to do more to raise awareness of opportunities for women in tech.

If you would like to know more about careers in the Software and IT industries, or even if you’d like to have amazing people like ours working on your next software project, contact us at hello@softwaresolved.com or call 01392 453344

 

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Project Management
5 Steps to Successful Software Project Management
5 Steps to Successful Software Project Management 1024 683 Josie Walledge

Embedding good project management practice at the very heart of the software development process is one of the secrets behind our success at Software Solved.  We have our own tried and tested process for ensuring timely and budgeted delivery which sits at the core of everything we do. But underpinning that are some sound principles that any successful project manager should follow for optimum success.

1       Manage expectations

Clients don’t like surprises! The ability to set and manage expectations, particularly in relation to time, budget and scope is key. Set out a strategy for formal and informal communication – be it weekly calls, face to face meetings, written reports or daily stand-ups and you’ll be able to pre-empt and manage the element of surprise.

2       Plan and monitor the project

You’d be surprised how often proper project planning is neglected, resulting in failure. Planning doesn’t just mean preparing a schedule: it means ensuring you have an understanding of who needs to do what, when and why; the governance model and methodology you will be following; how you will communicate internally and externally; what your key milestones and deliverables are; how you will demonstrate project success; risks; quality; financials; managing change; etc.

Planning should be a collaborative process with input from multiple sources. Start by agreeing a Project Initiation Document and baseline Schedule with the client. Monitor and update plans regularly, adapting to changes in scope, resource availability, business and organisational needs and project risks and issues.

3       Deliver the right solution first time

Too often in software development the delivered solution does not meet client expectations. In this industry, the later a defect is detected, the more expensive it is to resolve.

Our Business Analysts have developed a rock-solid process for capturing, documenting and validating user and business requirements and for ensuring they are managed and tracked throughout the project lifecycle. The key is in helping clients to understand their business drivers and user needs, and working with stakeholders to define a clear, unambiguous statement of work supported by a robust business case.

Test project deliverables regularly against those requirements so that delivered product and client expectation are aligned. Use document walkthroughs, UI design mock-ups, show & tell sessions with developers, sharing of system test results, and user acceptance testing against defined acceptance criteria. At every step, give clients the opportunity to verify that their expectations are being met so that no surprises await in the later stages.

4       Manage scope

One of the project manager’s responsibilities is to ensure that only the required work will be performed and that each of the deliverables can be completed in the allotted time and within budget. Another reason projects fail is a lack of control of the scope resulting in spiralling costs and missed deadlines. Clients may request additional features, analysts may over-spec the requirements, developers may seek to ‘gold-plate’ a feature and testers identify ‘defects’ that are really new features. The PM must be constantly vigilant for such changes and ensure that any deviation from the requirements baseline is managed with the client. Embedding a culture of awareness to change can lead to opportunities for new business.

5       Learn from your mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes! What differentiates a successful project team is the ability to understand and learn from them. Many of the most successful IT companies in the world actively celebrate failure and see it as part of the continuous improvement cycle, driving positive change in the organisation.

Like us, maintain a ‘Lessons Learned’ log from inception through to client acceptance. Encourage team members to recognise where things have gone wrong, think about the impact of their mistakes and identify ways to prevent them happening in the future.

Do you have a software project that you could use some help with or do you simply want a chat about an upcoming idea? You can call us on 01392 453344 or email us at hello@softwaresolved.com

 

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Innovate UK Machine Learning Project Team
Living the dream with Eric Clapton, ice-cream and machine learning…
Living the dream with Eric Clapton, ice-cream and machine learning… 1024 680 Jon Stace

So, what are the best collaborations in history? Eric Clapton lends a mighty ‘slow’ hand to The Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield shared a passion for the frozen stuff before going into business together. Today they are worth an estimated $150m, each. And I’m not even going to mention what became of the pairing of the ‘Steves’, as in Jobs and Wozniak.

Machine learning collaboration

At Software Solved we’ve got our very own and very exciting collaboration going on. It’s not music or food related even though we do have plenty of talent in that department. But we’ll save that for a later blog.

We’ve teamed up with some very clever people at Plymouth University and our client RSA UK. Backed by funding from Innovate UK, we have collectively fired the starting gun on an exciting two-year research programme into machine learning and advanced data analytics for the corporate insurance sector.

Data insight

Leveraging data architectures to model relationships and interactions to mitigate risk, the aim is to derive greater value from the large volumes of datasets used in the industry.

Dr Ian Howard and Dr Luciana Dalla Valle of the University of Plymouth are providing research expertise in the areas of machine learning and pattern recognition, data modelling, statistics and predictive analytics, with Aneeq Ur Rehman, Knowledge Transfer Partnership Associate, being based at Software Solved for the project.

RSA UK role

RSA UK are another key partner in the project. We already have a close working relationship with them. Their underwriters use the award-winning RSAred application for a real-time view of risk, along with a secure, mobile-accessible client risk portal for brokers and customers to understand, benchmark and manage property and casualty risk in real time, both created by Software Solved.

With all this in mind, and with RSA UK’s experience as one of the world’s longest standing and most forward-thinking of general insurers, it made perfect sense to invite them to be part of the project. They will be providing the data and working closely with us so they and their clients can benefit from the advantages of automated data integration in risk assessment.

We’ll be updating everyone on the project as it progresses and we will be looking to hold some workshops at key milestones to involve and share with others.

Special thanks to Innovate UK for funding the project and if you’d be interested in joining one of those workshops (in person or online), or if there are other truly great collaborations we clearly should have flagged, then walk this way and tell me! jon.stace@softwaresolved.com

Jon Stace, Principal Technical Consultant and project lead

 

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How can effective collaboration be an enabler for councils to deliver ‘best of breed’ digital platforms?
How can effective collaboration be an enabler for councils to deliver ‘best of breed’ digital platforms? 1000 666 Simon Hollingworth

Introduction

At LocalGovCamp18 in Birmingham we ran a session aimed at all local authority leaders who are struggling in the face of shrinking budgets, lack of resources, increasing costs and rising demand to deliver engaging online self-service solutions. We explored how collaborative approaches between multiple authorities could be the enabler for the development of ‘best of breed’ digital platforms.

 

In the session we looked at:

  • The opportunities a ‘best of breed’ platform offers in terms of effective and efficient service delivery and increased revenue generation
  • The potential cost advantages of taking a collaborative approach to developing a ‘best of breed’ platform
  • Reviewed some of the research conducted around delivering a collaborative online online services platform
  • Explored the opportunities, critical success factors and barriers to delivering a collaborative online services platform.

 

So what did we discover?

Knowing what they need to achieve

 

We started off by exploring with the group what they need to achieve to create effective collaboration as an enabler for councils to deliver ‘best of breed’ digital platforms.

 

Key points raised included:

  • Platform and forum would be required to facilitate the collaboration
  • Skills and expertise required to ensure effective collaboration
  • Buy-in is critical, both politically from members and from the officers
  • Should the private sector be involved in collaborations and if so how does that work?
  • Leadership from the very top is key to mandate that collaboration happens and then support its development by creating an enabling framework to support collaborations
  • Identifying commonalities that can be collaborated on, and this is not necessarily with your neighbour.
  • Funding – how will this work?

 

So plenty of challenges, with the 2 key ones being leadership and support from the top and having the skills and platform to support the collaboration.

 

Is the leadership challenge just a smoke screen used by staff, whose job it surely should be to make savings in their service areas by exploring new ways of working?

 

Whether this is or is not true, there is a perceived issue that collaborative initiatives rarely gain enough inertia. Is this a cultural issue? Should collaboration just be encouraged as viable alternative or does it require a more formal approach with councils developing collaboration processes and frameworks?

 

Understanding where they are now

To progress their goals, we 1st need to understand where they are currently positioned.  To achieve this we ran a SWOT exercise with them to define their key Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

 

Key points raised included:

 

Strengths Weaknesses
·         Subject matter expertise

·         Commitment to deliver

·         Existing partnerships

·         Data volume

·         Core services

·         Shared services agenda – towards provision

·         Staff empowerment – empower talented people

·         Resistance – what does this mean for me and my job?

·         Culture

·         Contracts (terms)

·         Commitments and arrangements

·         Openness and sharing (will to share)

·         Private sector costs/trust

·         Public sector culture (e.g. perceived competition/rivalry between councils)

Opportunities Threats
·         Leadership

·         Cost savings

·         Citizen satisfaction

·         Innovation

·         Talent management

·         Efficient services

·         Connectivity and better turn-key solutions

·         Funding crisis – creativity and partnerships

·         Central Government legislation

·         Political change (politics and temporary/changing agendas)

·         Legacy services/systems

·         Speed of change

·         Societal trends and habits

·         Superficial solutions for PR/political purposes

·         Keeping pace with technology

 

So plenty of opportunities identified where improvements in collaboration would make a real difference, link that with the strengths in commitment to deliver and empowering staff, then surely the wind of righteousness should be well behind the ship of positive collaboration?

 

But apparently not when you look at the key threats which tend to be external ones that the organisations have little control over, including biggies such as the political agenda and societal trends and habits.

 

So how can this all be wrapped together to create a harmonious environment where it is accepted to share from like minded organisations (public and private) to the benefit of everyone?

 

Defining what they have to do to accomplish their goals

So what key changes need to take place and barriers overcome to progress towards effective collaboration as an enabler for councils to deliver ‘best of breed’ digital platforms?

 

  • Currently happens on minor scale, often between neighbouring councils, so how can this be opened out?
  • Needs to be driven by leadership, who are currently seen as the constraint on collaboration
  • Often rivalries such as size, politics, demographic can be barriers, this needs to be overcome
  • There are mechanisms such as pipeline and MHCLG fund which encourage and facilitate improved collaboration, but how successful are they and how can they be improved?
  • Culturally, with councils collaboration needs to be seen as a viable go to option for solving problems, better service delivery and delivering operation efficiencies giving staff the permission and incentive to explore opportunities

In summary

So do the councils need a catalyst to help foster collaboration? It seems more likely that successful collaboration will happen if its proactively brokered than if its left to its current organic processes or gentle incentive. Is this a role for the Private Sector to take the lead to create this collaboration culture and supporting environment or should the Public Sector pick up the reigns and manage their destiny?

 

There is such a large opportunity to be proactive around mass collaboration before the Government makes it compulsory by further increasing the budget deficit, surely acting now is acting smart?

Insurance Survey: Unlocking the Power of Data to Produce Actionable Insights
Insurance Survey: Unlocking the Power of Data to Produce Actionable Insights 1024 683 Simon Hollingworth

The team here at Software Solved love problem solving. We’re pleased to share some of our useful resources and insights with you. These have been selected based on the areas we’ve helped our clients with. We hope you find them useful and if there’s anything we can do to help you, we’d love to talk to you.

We love solving technical problems. We’re pleased to share some of our useful resources and insights from our work developing bespoke software for clients.
Insurance: Unlocking the Power of Data to Produce Actionable Insights
Data has been called the new oil, the lifeblood and a valuable currency. So, insurers are fortunate in that most have vast amounts of this most precious commodity. But, are they maximising its potential or is it too often an untapped resource?

There’s no doubt some insurers are starting to leverage the value in their data, even if an elite group is starting to pull away from the rest of the pack. However, as the rise of InsurTech shows, size is no barrier since smaller providers can prove highly effective through using with the right technology and, not least, having a forward-thinking mind-set when it comes to sharing data.

Whether or not insurance is playing a big enough role in the data revolution is a moot point. The technology now exists to connect legacy systems, while machine learning and analytics allow for transformational work to take place, with the goal for many insurers being to turn their data into actionable insights. The question is, will this remain a goal or become a reality?

Software Solved, who work with a range of large and small insurers to deliver Risk & Claims Management Systems as well as data rich Customer Portals, are seeking to better understand this crucial area and so we conducted a research project, in conjunction with Insurance Post. This involved speaking to around 60 providers, covering commercial and personal lines, and with those providing opinions including directors and professionals from various disciplines including underwriting, claims, risk management and IT.

Download this report from an in-depth analysis of the research findings.

How Does Business Process Mapping Relate To IT And Systems?
How Does Business Process Mapping Relate To IT And Systems? 1024 683 Simon Hollingworth

Business Process Mapping (BPM) can be an incredibly valuable exercise for an organisation. In the simplest terms, it visualises and defines the processes within an organisation. Not only does this help provide clarity to job roles and business procedures, it can often be the catalyst for changes that improve a business’ efficiency and performance.

What is a Business Process Map?

A Business Process Map is the documentation that prescribes how problems, information and decisions are processed. It identifies a roadmap to solutions by documenting the necessary steps in any given process, from managing data flows to fielding client requests. They help analyse, understand and improve segments within a particular process, thereby improving efficiency.

Flowcharts are a common format for Business Process Maps, documenting workflows and activity from beginning to end. This will include the many variables within a process, such as feedback loops, ad hoc inputs and decision gateways. At any one time, a stakeholder should be able to see all the available options and directives.

What should Business Process Mapping cover?

It is essential that a Business Process Map is clear and detailed. In theory, an outsider should be able to review a Business Process Map and have a strong understanding of the activities and responsibilities within an organisation.

Effective Business Process Maps will provide clarity to operational roles and will often cover workflows across multiple roles within a business. This can be invaluable when onboarding new employees or clients and decreases the training time required.  This also helps delineate responsibility and remits, which can be a significant obstruction within large organisations.

What are the benefits of Business Process Mapping?

In addition to the operational benefits of a Business Process Map, they also provide significant organisational value. BPM considers specific objectives, which can then be compared and aligned to an organisation’s wider goals and objectives. This helps outline performance and can highlight processes that are either working efficiently or require improvement.

One of the key benefits relates to quality assurance and management. Process documentation is required for compliance with many valuable quality accreditations, such as the ISO 9001 standard. As data security becomes more critical to a business, an effective Business Process Map demonstrates the actions and contingencies an organisation employs to safeguard data

Who should use Business Process Mapping?

Business Process Maps are an essential tool for project managers overseeing operational delivery. However, they can also be relevant to c-suite executives, particularly chief operating officers, to review and analyse how a business is performing. This can be crucial when scaling a business or making an organisation more agile to adapt to market developments and innovations.

So, whilst there are many reasons to use BPM, they can all be summarised as improving efficiency and performance across an organisation. But how does this extend to IT and technology solutions specifically? In our next blog, we’ll be talking about how business process maps play a critical role in a business’ path to digital transformation.

The New Age Of Business Intelligence And Data Visualisation
The New Age Of Business Intelligence And Data Visualisation 1024 512 Simon Hollingworth

Businesses have always amassed data, however the rate at which it is created has grown exponentially. Globally, we output 2.5 quintillion (that’s 18 zeros) bytes of data every day. Estimates suggest that 90 percent of the total data in the world was created in the last two years.

There are now myriad electronic devices, all connected to one another in an ever-expanding network of data generation. However, for all the data amassed, organisations are barely scratching the surface of what it is capable of doing and translating this into real commercial value.

In short, there is a vast amount of data at your fingertips, just waiting to be utilised.

Data Visualisation for Any Business

Until recently, business intelligence (BI) solutions were only available to global organisations with vast budgets at their disposal. One of the key barriers to entry was the ability to interpret these immense datasets that businesses were acquiring. As inter-connectivity has come to the fore, so too have BI solutions that answer the question of ‘what can I actually learn from this data?’

Tools such as Microsoft’s Power BI have bridged this gap, opening data visualisation up to more businesses than ever before. Businesses and organisations of all sizes and industries can now take advantage of the value in data visualisation and business intelligence. It has helped to democratise data, enabling powerful data analysis and decision making in a fast, accessible and easy-to-use platform.

Business Intelligence to Inform Decision Making

Power BI provides the tools to not only assimilate data from vast sources, but to interpret it as well. This is a crucial factor for executives, who can now immediately examine the data that is relevant to them and draw immediate conclusions. This leads to more informed and responsive decision making across a business, driven by actionable data insights.

Today, every business is a data-driven business. Utilising this data properly could create tremendous value for businesses. From greater market understanding, to more effective trend forecasting, the answers are now there for anyone to see. Powerful analysis can link the dots between data and performance, revealing new insight and opportunities.

Customisable Data Visualisation for Businesses

More importantly, platforms such as Power BI are customisable to the needs of a business. All businesses have different requirements and needs from their data, so a customisable and interactive platform is essential. It can help bridge and connect data silos from marketing, finance and sales, breaking complex data into clear insight across all departments and functions.

Even now, BI solutions and their applications are developing at a rapid rate. That’s why the BI market has exploded and is set to grow to a value of $22.8 billion by the end of this decade. It will become the cornerstone of high-level strategy and decision making, which was once impenetrable without vast budgets and specialised resource.

If you’re interested in business data solutions and would like to discuss your business requirements, talk to us today or call us on 0203 281 7342.

How System Audits Help Charities Improve Efficiency
How System Audits Help Charities Improve Efficiency 1024 682 Simon Hollingworth

All businesses face pressure to make the most from tight budgets. It is charities and non-profits, however, who experience this pressure more than most.

Improving Efficiency and Productivity

With complex governance and shoestring budgets, the third sector needs to make every penny count. System audits offer an effective way of maximising an organisation’s efficiency. In fact, they could be one of the most profitable projects you undertake.

A system audit may not seem like the most effective use of time or resource, but they can be. System audits make every penny spent on IT and systems work far harder. Whilst they may not represent a direct return on investment, they improve efficiency and productivity of the entire organisation.

Preventing a System Crisis or Breakdown

Regular system maintenance is far more cost effective than an entire disaster recovery. If a system were to malfunction, the unexpected cost of repair can be crippling. When it comes to your IT and systems, prevention is far better than the cure.

Not only do system audits help keep your system network healthy, they identify problems before they become critical. Often, breakdowns arise from simple oversights that a system audit would catch.

Maximising the Return on Investment of a System

There are few better ways to improve organisational efficiency than a system audit. By assessing how stakeholders use systems, they often highlight knowledge and skills gaps that you may not be aware of. This ensures that systems meet their full potential, whilst also identifying new opportunities. If you need to improve or modernise a system, an audit will highlight it.

System audits also reveal new opportunities for innovation and integration. By better integrating disparate systems, you can streamline processes and avoid duplicating work. This helps free up resources for more beneficial tasks and improves efficiency.

The data that system audits provide about operations is invaluable when considering investment. It will help prioritise particular systems and identify what needs to be maintained, modernised or replaced. This helps build a clear picture of your system network and the true value of an update.

Supporting Digital Innovation for Charities

Organisations process more data than ever before, with data security becoming increasingly important. One of the more technical benefits of a system audit is that it provides more control of sensitive data. This is even more crucial for charities, who often need to optimise pathways through complex and regulated processes. If you’re thinking GDPR at this point you’re on the right track.

Charities and non-profits are already acknowledging the need to embrace new technology. This will have a drastic impact on how charities operate, internally and externally.

In this way, regular system audits have never been more valuable for charities. Each new innovation presents a new set of questions; ones that system audits can help answer. Only through regular health checks can an organisation be confident in the long-term viability of their systems.

Otherwise, you could find yourself throwing good money after bad – something that charities can ill afford to do.

If you are a charity or non-profit who need support with an external system audit, talk to us today or call us on 0203 281 7342.

System Audits in the Insurance Industry
System Audits in the Insurance Industry 1024 658 Simon Hollingworth

The insurance industry is frequently accused of being slow to adapt. We often hear about the burden of legacy systems and how they cause problems for the industry.

It’s no surprise when you consider the scope, disruption and cost of updating a legacy system. Yet, with so much money left on the table and businesses at risk from more agile competitors, insurance firms must face up to modernisation.

So, when is the right time to maintain, modernise or completely replace a legacy system? This is a difficult question to answer, but regular system audits can help solve this problem.

Adapting legacy systems

As the insurance industry grew and developed, systems had to adapt to meet the demand. This meant patches and updates beyond a system’s original scope, which complicated them.

Many of the legacy systems used in the insurance industry will be decades old. Countless updates will have transformed them, adapting to each new regulation or requirement.

Modernising or replacing a system can be a big risk for an organisation. Nobody wants to disrupt business critical systems. What if the new system doesn’t work as intended? Or your clients and customers don’t like the changes?

If a system stopped working one day, the decision to invest in something new would be much simpler. But it won’t. It will keep plugging along. A new process here; a rushed update there.

That’s the problem. Legacy systems still ‘work’. But how well?

When should you update a legacy system?

A system audit looks at how your organisation uses all your systems. It gives you precise usage data and identifies priorities for modernisation or replacement.

This is often invaluable when trying to build a business case for investing in new software. Without this information, it’s almost impossible to assess the true value of an update.

In short, system audits help answer the question of whether you should maintain, modernise or replace a legacy system.

New technologies in the insurance industry

So, why has the insurance industry been slow to update ageing legacy systems? According to a survey by Willis Towers Watson, 42% of senior level executives believe that complex regulations slow digital adoption and innovation.

It would be easy to dismiss new technology as another regulatory hurdle to overcome. In reality, the insurance industry stands to gain more from developments such as the Internet of Things or data visualisation than most. More data points and machine learning assist with risk profiling, as well as the accurate and timely provision of data.

Of course, firms shouldn’t adopt these technologies in isolation. You should consider them in relation to the impact they will have on the performance and security of existing systems.

Again, a regular system audit helps ease the adoption of new technologies. It considers your entire system network, identifying appropriate solutions for the wider business.

Systems audits and business agility

We know that global insurance firms are being disrupted by more nimble competitors. Today, more than ever, business agility is imperative to remaining competitive. Firms must adapt to new models and ways of operating quicker than ever before.

For example, the market is currently experiencing a trend towards self-service and customer experience. Whilst this is most prominent in consumer insurance, we know from our own experience that corporate and commercial insurance isn’t that far behind.

How do you know when to adopt these new practices and technologies? A system audit builds a picture of how your business uses its systems so that you can prioritise accordingly. In other words, it helps a business stay agile.

By understanding your current systems, it is easier to assess the value of new technology. You become better informed and can be quicker to adapt when it is necessary.

Instead of reacting to changes, firms who use system audits can proactively plan for them. It creates a forward thinking culture, rather than one that is always fighting fires with patches and updates.

Which, if we’re being honest, is something that the insurance industry needs to be better prepared for.

If your business needs support with an external system audit.