Technology is a vital element of almost every function of a business. For companies with growth ambitions, it is important that IT provision is capable of meeting not just their current needs, but also the demands that will come as they grow, writes Tim Walker, MD of Aura Technology.
It’s sometimes easy to overlook this need for scalability when an organisation is head down, with its team working hard on increasing its customer base and profitability – but this can store up trouble for the future. All too often a business will leave it too late to ask for specialist help, only calling on support when increased demand causes systems to reach the limits of their capability. The absolute worst time to replace an entire IT system is at a time when it is already struggling, demand has increased and it’s all hands on deck to deliver. Worse still, is the time when disaster has struck in the form of a cyber security attack, leaving the organisation’s entire future seriously vulnerable to hackers.
As with all aspects of a growing business, investing time to get the fundamentals right at the start reaps rewards later, ensuring the organisation is built on strong foundations.
Demand can change over time and the ability to scale up – and if necessary, scale down – can lower overall costs, improve the user experience, increase productivity and ensure the overall agility of a business. Approaching IT systems with scalability in mind is vitally important.
The business first approach
The key is not to start with the IT but to begin with the business – how does it work, what do users need technology for, and how might that change in the future? Once we understand that, our specialists can implement a technology roadmap which supports the medium and long-term goals of the organisation.
The earlier we can carry out this piece of work, the better, as it means business operations and staff are familiar with software and systems before periods of growth.
Setting vehicle specialist on the road to success _________________________
Our strategic approach has transformed the IT provision at Southampton-based commercial vehicle conversion specialist VFS. The company is a leading supplier of bespoke conversions of mid-sized commercial vehicles and works closely with well-known automotive businesses.
At the time VFS engaged Aura, its IT was managed by a single consultant. This had worked well up until a recent period of growth, but it became clear the systems in place would no longer be fit for purpose as the company embarked on its growth journey.
VFS appointed Aura to undertake a full review of its IT systems, including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) – the integrated management of the main business processes, often in real-time and mediated by software and technology.
Specialists at Aura created a bespoke technology roadmap before designing and implementing a new IT system with business strategy and scalability at its heart, making hardware and infrastructure upgrades using a combination of cloud-based services and
on-site servers. A disaster recovery and business continuity system was installed in collaboration with data backup experts Datto, meaning that VFS is fully protected in the event of unforeseen data loss.
The new IT system has enabled VFS to start operating more efficiently and has introduced a host of operational benefits. For example, the firm also now has a secure system for sharing sketches with clients, protecting its intellectual property from potential theft.
Communication software has been introduced to increase collaboration. Sales teams can communicate by video conference while away from the office and can share information with customers online in real time, increasing efficiency.
Elaine Maskelyne, head of finance at VFS, said: “VFS had been through a short period of expansion, and as we were expecting another step change in growth over the new few years, so we decided it was time to review our IT capability.
“Aura examined the business in detail, spoke to people across all departments, and produced a comprehensive technology roadmap that was individually tailored to VFS.
“They then created a bespoke, user-friendly package that is exactly what the business needs for now and for our expected growth in the future. It’s created a culture shift internally; people realise there are so many opportunities they can now make use of.
“We were worried about business interruption with such a big IT overhaul, but the whole thing has been totally seamless.”
Walker said: “Where a business’s needs have grown in its early years, we often find all kinds of bolt-on, patches and
workarounds have been applied to keep the IT running. It’s very often easier to start with a fresh slate. The key is not to start with the IT but to begin with the business – how does it work, what do users need technology for, and how might that change in the future? Once we understand that, it’s easy to implement a road map for IT in the medium and long term.
“Your IT needs to be able to grow organically with your business, and that’s why we work closely with our clients to align their bespoke IT solutions to their business strategy and goals for the future.
“That way, we are able to support them every step of the way and ensure that they have the technology and software to succeed as they grow.”
Redefining the relationship between business and IT
Backed by a team of technology professionals with decades of experience, Aura, based at Ocean Village, Southampton, works with clients including Vail Williams, Spinlock, Inspiration Marine Group, VFS and many other organisations.
Walker said: “Your IT needs to be able to grow organically with your business, and that’s why we work closely with our clients to align their bespoke IT solutions to their business strategy and goals for the future.
“That way, we are able to support them every step of the way and ensure that they have the technology and software to underpin their growth and success.”