Posts By :

Jon Hogg

How Does Business Process Mapping Relate To IT And Systems?
How Does Business Process Mapping Relate To IT And Systems? 1024 683 Jon Hogg

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 Jon Hogg

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 Jon Hogg

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 Jon Hogg

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.

The Business Case for Regular System Audits
The Business Case for Regular System Audits 1024 682 Jon Hogg

We call them ‘healthchecks’. You might call them ‘system reviews’. But, whatever name they go by, system audits are rarely an easy sell with the director or the board. They can take a long time to complete, the associated costs may not have been budgeted for and they might divert resources from the delivery of other business projects.

Whilst that may sound pretty damning, the truth is that they actually provide value and competitive advantage, if you know how to leverage them. So, if you’re struggling to get sign-off, we’ve prepared the business case for regular system audits…

System audits improve cost efficiencies and return on investment

One of the major benefits of a system audit is that it can help you assess how those systems are performing. Whether it’s shelfware or a bespoke system, you need to ensure that you’re getting a return from your investment and the system is performing as it should be.

Whilst this could mean examining the underlying code, a system audit also takes how the system is being used into consideration, identifying solutions to improve efficiency and performance.

Many organisations will have business critical systems, yet fail to properly utilise them. In the case of legacy systems, many of your most senior employees may not know how a system functions, which can cause significant inefficiencies and is, in essence, a wasted investment and use of budget.

It’s important to remember that the person or team performing the audit need to be impartial, which is why businesses often engage a third party or external supplier. This ensures that there is no vested interest in the review, so you don’t end up with the developer of a system trying to gloss over it’s flaws and inefficiencies.

System audits can be required for valuable system accreditations

As data and information security becomes more important to clients and consumers, demonstrating the security capabilities through an accreditation or industry standard will become even more valuable for businesses.

Often, accredited certifications and regulatory frameworks will require evidence of regular and robust system audits. If your business wants to achieve or maintain ISO 27001 standards, you’ll need to have a system audit in place.

Not only will a system audit help you demonstrate that your business meets the necessary standards, it will also identify any problems and resolve them if there are gaps in your system security.

System audits ensure legal compliance with licensing agreements

A robust system audit will consider the terms of your software licensing and any compliance issues that you may not be aware of. It may not sound exciting but it could save your business tens of thousands of pounds.

If you’re a large business or enterprise using shelfware, eventually the publisher will come calling with a software audit request to ensure that you’re fulfilling the terms of your contract. They want to see if you’re using more software than you should be, which they are legally entitled to do.

The number of software audit requests are only going to increase as well, as publishers like Microsoft, IBM and Adobe respond to rising cloud integration, which makes the issue of licensing significantly more complex.

As software is moved to a cloud environment in your own data centre, you open yourself up to a number of licensing issues. For all of the benefits, it also makes it very easy for users to take on more services than they need and violate license agreements. In fact, because it is harder to track, simply moving to the cloud may alert a publisher that it’s high time for a software audit.

A system audit, however, catches this early and rectifies it by identifying if you are overbuying or underbuying, which is well worth doing, because…

System audits protect your business from penalties and outstanding fees

If you are found to be using more than your agreement indicates, you could be liable for penalties, retroactive charges and outstanding licence fees. By this point, it will be too late to revise your licence and someone will be in hot water for not having identified the problem sooner.

Of course, regular system audits can prevent this from ever happening, ensuring that you’re fully compliant with your licensing and terms of service. Not only that, they also minimise any business disruption software audit requests can have, by providing readily available usage data.

So, it’s pretty plain to see that in this case, the prevention (a regular system audit) is much, much better than the cure (paying a lot of money in penalties).

If your business needs support with an external system audit, or to discuss your business software needs, talk to us today, or call us on 0203 281 7342.

Software Solved are now officially a Xamarin Authorised Consulting Partner!
Software Solved are now officially a Xamarin Authorised Consulting Partner! 1024 682 Jon Hogg

Good news folks – we have just had the honour to be officially recognised as a Xamarin Authorised Consulting Partner. This is a great reward for our team who have been working extensively with Xamarin recently. They delivered a fantastic project for The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health – read more about it and how we saved them £40,000 here.

Being able to work with Xamarin means Software Solved are even better placed than before to deliver a fantastic service for our clients. You can trust us to advise on when Xamarin is the perfect technology for your needs, and also trust us to deliver on time and on budget.

If you want to know why Xamarin is the perfect technology for Cross-Platform app development, then read our blog here.

If you want to talk to one of our experts about how Xamarin could help you with cross-platform app development, talk to us today.

Software Solved at the Tech Exeter Conference
Software Solved at the Tech Exeter Conference 958 491 Jon Hogg

On Friday the 8th September 2017 we sent a few lucky representatives of Software Solved to the Tech Exeter Conference. If you haven’t heard of Tech Exeter, here’s what you need to know:

  • Run by Kris Sum and Rob Glover – it is a focal point for all things ‘tech’ in Exeter.
  • They organise regular meetups for those who work, or are just interested in the tech industry.
  • Their meetups include lightning talks, a chance to network, and are a chance for community members to collaborate and connect, whilst also providing training and workshops.

They run an annual conference highlighting the most exciting tech trends, with the best regional and national speakers who are experts in the field. So it would have been remiss of us not to go!

Flying the Software Solved flag at the conference were Rudi, Jon, Dom, Duncan, Ash and our MD, Anthony. They spent the day soaking up tech knowledge like sponges and over the next couple of weeks they will be sharing what they’ve learnt right here on our blog.

You can look forward to blogs on the following topics over the next 2-3 weeks:

  • Turning developers into testers
  • The Internet of Things
  • Augmented Reality
  • Machine Learning

Without descending into hyperbole, these topics have the genuine potential to cause significant changes in the tech industry, and indeed, they already are to some degree. Our experts will be looking at what these changes may look like, how it will affect the industry, and what it means for other businesses.

Keep your eyes peeled, and look out for our tweets signalling there is a new one out!

If you want to find out more about Tech Exeter, click here.

Five Major Benefits of Data Visualisation for Charities and Non-Profits
Five Major Benefits of Data Visualisation for Charities and Non-Profits 1000 667 Jon Hogg

Huge amounts of data are being generated every minute of every day. In fact, 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years alone. When you factor in the global proliferation of internet connected devices, this isn’t surprising. But, how do you extract the value from this data?

Data isn’t worth a great deal unless it can be interrogated, analysed and used for decision-making. And it’s worth even less if people don’t understand it.

Data visualisation, the presentation of information in a graphical or pictorial way, is a great method of making data easy to view and understand. Tools like Microsoft’s Power BI mean this is no longer an incredibly complex task – its quick and easy to set up, and start getting insights from your data.

The five major benefits for charities and non-profits are:

1) Increased transparency with stakeholders

Charities and non-profits must be transparent with donors, supporters, service recipients, and members of the public about how much they are spending on what and why. Presenting this information in a graphical way helps people understand the data quickly and easily.

2) Removing the complexity

People can digest images and graphs more easily than reading through rows and rows of numbers. If you are dealing with large and complex datasets, visualising this data makes it much easier for other people to understand, particularly if they are not subject matter experts.

3) Deeper insight

Data visualisation makes large and complex datasets easy to read. This means that you can identify trends, anomalies, and insights with ease. Comprehensive data visualization tools will enable you to drill down deeper into specific data segments as well. This allows you to glean more insight from your data and identify areas that need further interrogation.

4) Improved internal communication

No matter how hard you try to avoid silos, they often exist within organisations, especially those with several large departments. Sharing insights and information in a graphical way can be a great way of informing other departments what’s happening in the organisation. These can be presented as dashboards on intranets or internal applications, enabling self-service, and saving you even more time.

5) Improved organisational performance

When you are actively using insights from your data, you will be making better strategic decisions, thus improving the perception and performance of your organization, both with potential donators and volunteers, and your current team.

As a non-profit, you’re highly likely to be collecting your own data, whether it’s as simple as user behaviour on your website using Google Analytics, or more detailed information on how stakeholders are interacting with your applications or services. Are you confident that everyone within the organisation can understand the information? Is it being used to inform decision-making to improve the effectiveness of your organisation? If the answer to these questions is no, then talk to us today to see how data visualization could benefit you.

If you’re interested in a great visualisation on just how much data is generated every minute, then take a look at this infographic

Why Not-For-Profits Need to Ensure Applications are Cross-Platform
Why Not-For-Profits Need to Ensure Applications are Cross-Platform 1000 667 Jon Hogg

It takes considerable resource to build, test and launch an application – people, time and money. Most not-for-profits don’t have these resources in abundance. So if you’re going to build an application, why wouldn’t you launch an application that works across all devices and platforms; and even works when there is no internet access?

Keep your users happy and engaged

It’s a no-brainer. But you would be surprised how many applications are launched that give a poor user experience on one platform, but an amazing one on another. To reach your entire audience you need to ensure your application gives a consistent user experience regardless of whether it’s an Android, i-Phone or a Windows device. That’s what we mean when we talk about cross-platform.

As a charity or public-sector organisation, you will want your application to engage in a meaningful way with your target audience regardless of the device they are using. You need to be clear on the ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘who’ and ‘when’ of your application before any coding begins. A good development company will work with you to scope this out.

Offline connectivity

A really thorough development company will use technology that ensures your application not only works across platforms, but also works when users are ‘occasionally connected’. This means they may not be online 100{7465c2450dcd042996416963879c72771606ba211532680daeb6e67dd6282842} of the time. For example you may have a staff member or volunteer using the application in an area where there is no internet connection. Ensuring your application has offline and online functionality means no data will be lost when the application is used without connectivity, as the data can be synced later when the user has internet access.

To generate maximum return on your IT investment and to ensure you are giving your target audience a seamless user-experience, you need to ensure your application is truly cross-platform.

You can read about a recent cross-platform application we developed for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Or, if you’re ready to see how a cross-platform app could benefit your organisation, talk to us today.

Why Customer Portals are Key for the Insurance Industry
Why Customer Portals are Key for the Insurance Industry 150 150 Jon Hogg

Today’s customer has certain expectations about how they will interact with businesses and organisations. Naturally, this extends to the insurance industry – covering both commercial and domestic markets. This consumer expects to be able to get the information they need, whenever and wherever they want – and in a way that makes sense to them. This isn’t something particularly ground breaking, the importance of customer/user experience is well known – we’ve even blogged about it before – Could a poor user experience be damaging your business?

It may surprise you to learn then that certain industries, insurance amongst them, have been slow on the uptake with things like customer portals. The insurance industry is also one that could gain far more than others from implementing customer portals. Giving customers instant and easy access to contracts, schedules, T’s&C’s, and other useful information, such as their risk profile, makes their life easier, and also saves the insurers valuable time and money as well. In an industry where new business is hard to come by, and customer loyalty is a top priority, the importance of this is easy to see.

Carefree Customer Communication

Communication is key to any business, and it’s the least customers will expect. Plus points for the customer portal here then. With information centrally stored and easy to access, 24 hours a day, there can be no more confusion about who is sending what to whom, and if something has got lost in the post or a Junk mailbox.

It also means it is far easier for insurers to update documents and information, without having to resend everything to customers. Update the centrally stored file, and voila. The whole process just became simpler and far more efficient – not to mention the time and money savings to be had as well.

Tailor Made Customer Experience

We talked briefly about the importance of customer experience, and linked to our blog as well. Customer portals are an extremely simple way to improve this. Let me explain, the customer portal is an environment over which the insurer has complete control. I.e. they can decide how it looks and what messages are displayed to what customers. This will ring especially true for those of you in marketing – getting the right message to the right people is the biggest battle.

It also means insurers can adapt the portal to the feedback that they get from customers. Do they want more information on latest offerings? Or would they like more visibility on their risk profiles and how they can be improved? All of it is possible within a customer portal.

Happy Customers = Loyal Customers

Customers value businesses that give them the opportunity to interact the way they would like to. This means giving them easy access to any information they may need or may be relevant to them. If they have to fight against a poorly designed website, or have to phone a helpline to receive a simple document, the experience quickly becomes frustrating. Frustrated customers are far less likely to renew.

Many of these points are quite simple, and may seem obvious, but they are far too often overlooked. In an increasingly crowded industry, where customer loyalty is becoming more and more important, insurers cannot overlook the value to be gained from something as simple as a well-designed customer portal.

If you’d like to know more about our work in the Insurance industry – click here.

Alternatively, if you’d like a free consultation about implementing a customer portal for your business, talk to us today.