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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 or call 01392 453344


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Case Studies 150 150 Simon Hollingworth

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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.

The Business Case for Regular System Audits
The Business Case for Regular System Audits 1024 682 Simon Hollingworth

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.

Xamarin – a year on. (Part 2 of 2)
Xamarin – a year on. (Part 2 of 2) 1024 576 Tom Kington

Following on from Part 1 earlier this week, Tom now takes us through how exactly Xamarin can help you with cross-platform development.

If you missed Part 1 – catch up here.

How Will It Help Me

  1. Code sharing – by sharing up to 95% of your code across platforms you reduce the amount of duplicate code between platforms, as such, you dramatically reduce the development effort involved, this of course reduces the cost of the project significantly. We were able to save one of our clients over 30% on the initial cost of their project by choosing Xamarin Forms over native development. The saving also translates to the long term maintenance costs of the App over its lifespan
  2. Testing – since you are able to share a significant amount of code, Xamarin lends itself well to unit testing. Unit testing can automate the testing of logic and visual elements reducing the amount of time required to perform manual testing. Additionally, the Xamarin Test Cloud allows you to perform visual unit testing on physical devices (many more than you could ever hope to test on manually) rather than emulators or simulators so know exactly how layouts will render on real devices
  3. Quick time to market – since development and testing effort is reduced, the time to develop your App and get it onto the App Stores is much quicker than a native App
  4. Integration – there are thousands of third party libraries and plugins available for things like authentication, social media, payments, offline storage etc. so you can extend your App almost limitlessly. Additionally, cloud services such as Azure and Amazon Web Services can be easily integrated with to provide central storage, hosting of REST APIs, push notifications etc.
  5. Language – Xamarin uses C# and the .NET Framework to implement Apps, as such anyone familiar with these technologies can learn to develop using Xamarin. Furthermore, C# developers tend to be more cost effective when compared to more specialist developers such as iOS and Android developers, this is usually reflected in the cost of a Xamarin project
  6. Future ready – the Xamarin platform is a solid platform on which to build Apps for the future. More platforms are being supported all the time and updates are rolled out regularly. Similarly, when Apple and Android roll out new features or APIs, Xamarin Apps have access to these right away so there is no penalty for using Xamarin over native
  7. University – the Xamarin University is a structured learning portal with regular seminars presented by Xamarin experts. Once the necessary modules have been completed, you can sit exams to become certified. Software Solved are now a Xamarin Authorised Consulting Partner and know all there is to know about Xamarin
  8. Community – Xamarin has a fantastic developer community with experts who are happy to share their knowledge so any problems can usually be resolved through these channels

The Conclusion

Put simply, Xamarin can do anything a native App can do (plus more); you can leverage all the native functionality of a device, provide a native UI and achieve native performance. Furthermore, you can target all the major platforms including iOS, Android, Windows Phone, MacOS, Linux etc. and share up to 95% of code between the platforms. All this and cheaper than native development! So, if asked whether I would use Xamarin again – that would be a big fat YES! In fact, there would need to be a very good reason to even consider developing a fully native App given what Xamarin can do for us and the time it can save. Even if approached by a customer wanting an App for iOS only or Android only I would still have to recommend Xamarin, not least because inevitably when they did eventually want support for other platforms, it would be a lot simpler than writing a new App from scratch.

If you want to know more about our cross-platform development services and our skills with Xamarin, talk to us today.

Key Considerations for Data Flow Mapping
Key Considerations for Data Flow Mapping 150 150 Simon Hollingworth

Your Data Flow Map will be entirely unique to your organisation so it is hard to give a fool proof method for doing it. That being said, there are some key things you need to think about along the way, and we’ll look at those now.

You can read out blog about How Data Flow Mapping Can Get You Compliant with GDPR here.

The key elements of Data Flow Mapping

The key elements of what you will be looking for will focus around what the data is, what format it is kept it, how it is transferred and where it is stored.

  • For data think; name, email, address, health data, criminal records, location data, bank details etc.
  • For format think; Paper copies, USB drives, databases
  • For transfers think; post, telephone, email, social media, internal, file share services such as Dropbox etc.
  • For locations think; on site (in the office), in the cloud, or with a third party.

Getting the most out of Data Flow Mapping

Now you know what it is you’re looking for, and how to assess it, how do you go about finding these things out? We have listed some questions below, along with some techniques and methods you can apply to help get the most out of it.

Asking yourself the following will help get you moving;

  • How is Personally Identifiable Information (PII) collected? By phone, email, online forms, paper forms etc.
  • Who is responsible for collecting it?
  • Where and how is that data stored?
  • Who has access to where the data is stored? (Hint: if it is paper copies stored on site, think about who has keys or even just access to that room)
  • Is the information shared with anyone? Partners or third parties for example.
  • Do any of the systems information is stored on transfer it to any other systems? If so, you’ll need to make sure these are included in your map as well.

There are a few different ways and settings in which to ask these questions as well. Our favourite, and probably the most productive is workshops. Setting out some time to sit down and focus on this means you can achieve quite a lot. Key things to think about here is to involve the right people – i.e. you want people that have access to the data and an understanding of at least part of its journey through the organisation.

Other techniques you can think about; start by inspecting existing documents and plot where they sit on the map. Try questionnaires to your staff to see how their daily tasks interact with the data, and maybe consider observing work in the office or wherever you’re based to see how the path of data is affected and interacted with day-to-day.

Data Flow Mapping should be seen as one of the earlier stages of becoming compliant with GDPR. After all, how do you know what needs to change if you’re not sure what the current situation is? It may seem obvious to say it, but this process will highlight any strengths and weaknesses and the short and long-term actions you may need to take to address them.

GDPR is coming, and will impact every organisation. With less than a year to go its important that people get a handle on their data, or risk the ICO’s wrath. If you’d like to know more about how Data Flow Mapping can help you become GDPR compliant, talk to us today.

Salesforce Integration: how to integrate Salesforce with other applications
Salesforce Integration: how to integrate Salesforce with other applications 150 150 dan.macduff

Salesforce Integration: how to integrate Salesforce with other applications

With many organisations adopting cloud CRM systems, how do you ensure that all of your business applications ‘talk’? In this case study, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity were looking to integrate their custom Salesforce solution with an existing bespoke casework management application. The project enables staff to work from one central system without re-keying or duplicating data.

Learn how to connect disparate apps and streamline data between systems

Watch the presentation to discover:

  • Top tips for implementing successful software integration
  • The benefits of application integration
  • How to overcome the challenges of system integration

This presentation was filmed at The Charity Technology Conference 2016. To register for future Software Solved events or webinars email or call 020 7127 4558 for further information.

To discuss your integration requirements with a Data Solved expert, get in touch with us today.

Data Visualisation: Using Business Intelligence Software to get the full view
Data Visualisation: Using Business Intelligence Software to get the full view 150 150 Kindy Mann

We’ve all seen how popular infographics have become to convey data; newspapers and magazines are full of them, bar charts or geographic maps complete with beautiful imagery and colours to help us understand the most complex to the banal. This is a form of data visualisation. The presentation of data in a pictorial or graphical format, enabling users to grasp difficult concepts or identify new patterns. In other words, it turns raw data into stories with few words.

Data visualisation is important to the business world too because of the way the human brain processes information. Using charts or graphs to see large amounts of complex data is easier than poring over spreadsheets or reports. Data visualisation is a quick, easy way to convey concepts in a universal manner through interactive dashboards.

Interactive dashboards in data visualisation tools

Patterns, trends and correlations that might go undetected in text-based data can be exposed and recognised easier with data visualisation software.

Today’s data visualisation tools go beyond the standard charts and graphs used in Excel spreadsheets; displaying data in more sophisticated ways such as dashboards, dials and gauges, geographic maps, sparklines, heat maps, and detailed bar, pie and fever charts. Taking the concept further, the dashboards include interactive capabilities, enabling users to manipulate them or drill into the data for querying and analysis, quickly changing what data is presented and how it’s processed. Indicators can also be included, which are designed to alert users when data has been updated or predefined conditions occur.

The benefits of data visualisation

Whether you need to predict sales volumes, understand which factors influence customer behaviour or identify areas of the business that need attention – data visualisation will assist.

The key benefits are:

  • Understand information quickly; its much faster to analyse information in graphical format
  • Competitive advantage; discovering trends within the business and the market will help give you the edge on the competition
  • Improve strategy and forecasting; because data can be combined from a variety of sources that previously existed in silos, you can identify new relationships of strategic importance
  • Communicate the story to others; once your dashboards are set up, you can easily share them or embed them within your applications
  • Any time, any device; Since data visualisation tools like Power BI are cloud based, you will always have the latest information at your fingertips

Unlock insights and actions

The important thing to remember, is that the data is just the working tool – the main object of data visualistion is to enable users to form an understanding quickly so that they can move on and take action that will benefit the company, and ultimately the bottom line, based on those insights.

If you’d like to find out more about our data visualisation software options and how your company will benefit from using Power BI explore our Business Intelligence Services.

Alternatively get in touch for a free consultation.

Software Solved – why we changed our name
Software Solved – why we changed our name 150 150 Simon Hollingworth

As many of you already know, we recently changed our name. We’ve dropped the ‘MSM’ bit and are now simply Software Solved. We felt this better reflected our position as a market-leading provider of a full range of software solutions.

We have been trading as MSM Software Solved for the past year and we are delighted to confirm the legal change to Software Solved. Having gathered feedback from customers, suppliers and industry analysts, the response has been overwhelmingly positive and it is the right time to make the change. Our clients, partners and suppliers told us that MSM Software Solved was disjointed and that in line with our core offerings, Software Solved is clearer and explains exactly what we do.

Software Solved services

Other than the name, nothing is changing within the company and our focuses on innovation and ‘re-innovation’ remain the same. These focuses allow us to deliver bespoke, tailored, technology, designed around the individual requirements of the end user (innovation), as well as providing optimisation of legacy systems and new applications (‘re-innovation’).

Our services cover four pillars; software, mobile, cloud and data. Which means we can solve the entire range of our clients’ technology problems. Our innovative solutions are increasingly seeing us involved in system integration, data visualisation, digital strategy and user-centred design.

Developed with you

We spend time with our clients to ensure we deliver high quality solutions that are designed around the user at every stage of the process. Our development methods mean our solutions are easy to use and meet the needs of the user and the business, every time.

With offices in Exeter, Bristol and London we’re perfectly placed to get to know you and your organisation. Once we know who you are, and how you work, we deliver software solutions that are tailored to your precise requirements. We develop our solutions with you, that’s the Software Solved difference.

If you want to develop your IT solutions, talk to us today.

Managing the risk of legacy systems in the public sector
Managing the risk of legacy systems in the public sector 150 150 Kindy Mann

In a recent blog, we looked at the risks legacy systems pose to the public sector. At a time where the original developers are retiring, and expertise is leaving with them, organisations are being forced to tackle legacy systems head on.

Legacy systems prevent local government from delivering services digitally; this could be through self-service websites and portals (think about renewing your car tax online). The older technology simply isn’t fit for purpose in terms of automation and data integration. Whilst many public sector organisations have started on the digital journey to improve customer experience (CX), they may not have considered the back-end legacy systems which contain customer data and workflows. Failure to address this could put your organisation and data, at risk.

Three tips to manage the risk of legacy systems in the public sector

IT health checks – stabilise legacy systems

If decommissioning the system is not on the horizon, it is cost effective to initially invest in an IT health check. For relatively low budgets (depending on the complexity of your systems), a health check examines programming, architecture, processes, people and data, to identify issues with performance, stability and security.

A thorough health check will not only document the ‘as is’ (current state of the systems) but also ‘to be’ (the steps you need to take in order to meet objectives in the future). Assuming that an evaluation of your systems doesn’t highlight any stand out issues, the risks of implementing new solutions should be minimal and the health check can form the basis of your digital roadmap.

Decommission the system – out with the old

On the rare occasion where the legacy system is no longer required, perhaps due to departmental mergers as seen across many legal teams, it might be that the system can simply be made redundant. Whilst this can be a very cost effective solution, it is imperative that you first check that there is nothing currently relying on the system. Make sure that any system integrations such as databases or applications will not ‘break’ by decommissioning the system.

‘Re-innovation’ – upgrade legacy systems

Re-writing a system can seem like a daunting task, especially when skill gaps are the reason for the issue arising in the first place. By working with an expert partner, you can ‘re-innovate’ the existing legacy software incrementally, to ensure that your systems are robust enough to cope with today’s challenging environment of increased risk.

The better suppliers in the market should be capable of re-creating the source code if it is lost or doesn’t exist. That way, their developers can also start to efficiently integrate new portals, mobile and cloud solutions with existing systems to really protect the public sector from risk and improve customer experience.

With knowledge of over 40 technologies in-house, Software Solved is well placed to help you overcome issues with legacy systems. Why not talk to us today?