Software services company Clearvision humanises the code developers’ world with tools that support consultants and match the right skills with its clients’ requirements. Managing director Gerry Tombs tells Tim Wickham why people are as important as the technology.
Although he describes himself as a “pretty bad computer coder” Gerry Tombs has form, having written a backgammon game for the legendary Sinclair ZX81 home computer back in the 1980s. His software development skills spurred a career in IT consultancy.
Tombs’ company offers a range of services covering consultancy, technical implementation, hosting, training, and support. Two Clearvision products he is passionate about, ClearHub and Teamify, are less about technology than bringing software developers together to deliver better outcomes for clients.
Clearvision’s turnover rose from £20 million in 2016 to £23m in 2017. A team of around 80 employees is based mainly in Southampton. The company also has offices in London, Philadelphia, Dublin and Bangalore. To date, it has completed over 8,000 client projects.
Tools for the job
Tombs started the business in 1997 after leaving IBM. He was an expert in the US computer giant’s ClearCase and ClearQuest software configuration and workflow management tools. He chose the name Clearvision to establish a link to the IBM products and also as a statement of intent.
He spent two and a half years working mainly for Ericsson, at the time one of Europe’s largest ClearCase users, commuting weekly between Hampshire and Sweden. During that time, he bought three acres of land in Durley, near his home in West End, and set up Clearvision in an old barn on the site.
By 2001, having built up a £2m turnover business with two co-directors, he realised he had rather too many eggs in the telecoms sector when it hit a slump. He identified a new opportunity with Australian company Atlassian, whose products for software developers are now used by the majority of Fortune 500 companies.
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“In 2005, Atlassian introduced new, modern, well-written software. I trained myself up on it and before long, we were one of probably only three globally recognised Atlassian partners. The timing was good for us – I backed the right horse,” said Tombs.
Humanising IT: ClearHub and Teamify
Tombs sees ClearHub and Teamify as valuable revenue generators for Clearvision and has invested heavily in them over the past two to three years. ClearHub is the world’s largest database of Atlassian freelance engineers with over 600 listings.
“We need a mix of experienced consultants and freelancers on client projects. Consultants generally build firm foundations to get a project off the ground, and then freelancers carry out the ongoing, more repetitive tasks. Getting the balance right is a challenge and ClearHub enables us to draw on a pool of people we know well. We use positive psychology techniques to help us identify the best combination of talents for a job,” he said.
Teamify is a social media platform that allows users to find and share information, and collaborate. “It’s about getting more out of teams by putting the human aspect on top of traditional online collaboration tools,” said Tombs.
Clearvision supports clients choosing to move their software development from their servers to cloud platforms, as trust in the reliability and security of the cloud increases. Tombs sees new opportunities in sectors like retail and banking, where companies are expanding their teams of in-house software developers to build and run digital interfaces with customers, for example apps and online services. As part of its expansion, the company moved to larger premises in Southampton in 2014.
Looming on the horizon are advances in artificial intelligence that Tombs believes could one day take over a lot of the work of software developers. But not quite yet. While humans are still needed – and software developers are in short supply – he sees ClearHub and Teamify giving his business a clear lead. The company keeps its internal team motivated with initiatives like Cheervision, a staff-run entertainment and welfare programme.