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Sean Price Posts

Bespoke software is crucial for small businesses today

What’s holding your business back in 2015? Are you tracking your sales leads efficiently? Are you remembering when to contact that client who said six months ago to remind them in a few weeks time to get back in touch? Do you know at the touch of a button how much revenue you have derived from a particular client whilst flipping through email?

In business there is no shortage of necessary evils we all have to take care of no matter our position in the company. Be it a sales rep or small business owner who needs to keep track of new leads, potential clients, deals that are in development or just who said what about a particular project that is being discussed — this problem is typically solved by CRM systems. However, the problem here begins when your business doesn’t fit into one of the cookie cut CRM systems out there on the market and you require something a little more suited to your exact business.

Perhaps your company maintains mission critical data on your clients finances, stock management or resources — the Excel spreadsheets don’t cut it anymore in today’s digital work. With all aspects of software moving to the cloud — the ways in which your business can benefit from such a change is endless there are a number of cloud providers that offer productivity suites from the likes of Salesforce for CRM or Microsoft 365 that allows your to get not only email but also project management and CRM aspects in the cloud. But what about your business, that may not fit into the ‘general’ CRM mould or perhaps you need some integration with your accounting package — this is where bespoke software comes in and really can help improve the productivity of your staff and business as a whole.

With the economy bouncing back from recent years, companies are beginning to fight back with growth and looking to increase sales and profitability. The systems your organisation uses every day really does power how effectively your team works together — understanding how your staff is performing with resource management, inventory tracking or customer relationship management systems that is all available from your iPhone/iPad anywhere in the world aids companies to achieve massive growth, and this is where a good software development agency can help sit down with your organisation, identify the pain points, areas of improvement and explain the benefits a system could improve your business efficiency.

Functional bespoke software doesn’t need to go down the route of typical IT projects the likes of the NHS has seen which cost millions and over run by five years that said the benefits of such software could end up saving your business thousands, even millions and weeks or months of lost productivity. A recent bespoke CRM client we worked with commented that last quarter their CRM system helped them keep on top of deals they weren’t giving enough attention to, keep in contact with customers and maintain proactive relationships that generated further business with customers that otherwise may have slipped through the cracks.

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A safety first approach

Even a 3-person company can’t rule out the need for cyber security reviews in their businesses.

The government recently allocating some £860M to its cyber security efforts particularly focusing on the recently launched CERT-UK (http://cert.gov.uk) which aims to provide advisory notices of cyber security issues related to national security. CERT-UK with Chris Gibson former cyber security chief of global banking corporation Citigroup at the helm launched in the last couple of months certainly seems like the first milestone towards achieving a more proactive approach to cyber security in the UK.

Because it’s not just governments and large public companies that need worry about computer security, with the average cost of a cyber security attack ranging from £400,000 — £800,000 every business small and large needs to be aware of the implications of cyber threats.

Smaller companies with smaller budgets still need to face the facts that these things occur and in order to remain competitive in the market place and resilient to current climate — IT security is something they need to keep in mind. With everything moving to the cloud its crucial there are policies and procedures in place to monitor goings on across their network.

From system downtime, lowering staff productivity and of course legal and financial problems that may occur due to a cyber attack there are many facets to take into account. These problems stem from poorly configured network appliances, out of date software, weak passwords, staff training and much more.

To give an example of possible threats you may not have thought of as being important enough to consider. What about Dropbox or similar ‘cloud’ data sharing accounts — it’s not just what you put into it that you need to be careful of but what others can put into it also.

It’s not unheard of during security audits we perform to see not only small business owners, but mid level execs, CEOs and more placing crucial company information into sync services. This poses a threat in more ways than one as you may share certain folders or files with others & this happens to allow others to not only ‘read’ what you share but also ‘write’ to your shared folders meaning a virus or similar malicious program could end up in your system without you ever clicking a thing. Once onto your system there’s no end to where this may stop.

So whats the solution — stop using these services altogether? No of course not — but to be vigilant about which you use, how you use it and who you give access to even if its only a single folder shared.

That’s just one of the many things we see happening on routine audits.

You may not lose 40 million credit cards like shopping giant Target did in 2013, be at risk of losing trade secrets or having your corporate data leaked across the Internet. But what would happen if your business systems halted for a day, a week, a month? Published author losing a manuscript, finance directors having their entire systems wiped out for ‘fun’ by a computer hacker. Companies are rarely ‘targeted’ any more with much of the ‘hacking’ being done for amusement by a variety of age groups across the globe.

What you need to take away from this is the knowledge that policies and procedures need to be put in place for any sized business, small, medium or large.

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Local economy, Richard Branson, web design and Coca Cola

Local economy, Richard Branson, web design and Coca Cola

It’s not unusual to be working on exciting projects but when one of your projects is put in line for the likes of Richard Branson to review, it gets the staff motivation pumping that much higher.

Whether it’s building mobile apps which I discussed last month, or fuelling our development team with Coca Cola and Red Bull to get the very best out of their creative abilities and the long hours they put in to produce incredible results — as a local Derby-based business we are always looking to the future and how our web team producing mobile responsive ecommerce sites, tie in with the marketing team and can continue to push local businesses forward and help the local economy.

This year we added a digital marketing team within our business with social media and online advertising operating as a perfect combination to our ecommerce clients. We are actively looking to grow each team within the company.

It’s no surprise that as a fast growing digital agency here at iBox we get to work on some incredible projects for some fantastic clients across the country who have one goal in common — to improve their online businesses in this digital era. That said our biggest pain point is finding the talented individuals to join our team as there is a severe lack of web designers, developers and high quality digital marketers in the local talent pool.

As a result we focus heavily on internal training and looking at recruiting with a more open mind than most when it comes to educational background. So that we can continue to grow our team as we expand our strong web and software development teams we need to in this era look towards not just who has a piece of paper stamped with a degree qualification but who is making waves and developing ideas of their own, who is putting together their own online projects and have a drive for success.

Saturday mornings I run Code Club in Derby which teaches a class of 9–11 year-old children to code and how to build games. This is merely the start of what I believe as a employer and local business we can give back to the community.

With ambitious growth plans to expand the team over the next 12 months coupled with a great order book of new contracts we are looking to next tackle some of the problems in our industry closer to home with a number of projects which will be announced over the coming weeks.

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Mobile app development: I looked — you’re doing it wrong

It seems forever ago since we got that first iPhone in our hands, but in reality it was June 2007, eight years ago…

The first iPhone came out without the app store — it was web apps only, something which raised a lot of concern for the developers of the world.

A year later in 2008 the second generation iPhone was released complete with the app store — available to everyone and developers were happy. The only problem is most iPhone developers pretty much stopped there. With the exception of run away hits from the likes of King and the Candy Crush Saga games — there haven’t been that many real apps of significance from developers particularly in the business world.

I won’t lie, we build iPhone and iPad apps for clients, have we revolutionised any businesses — that’s probably a stretch but what we have done is provided enormous value to their companies through doing so. The problem stems from the fact that many businesses don’t know what they want, they claim every year its ‘the year of the app’ — this simply isn’t the case. It’s like proclaiming its the year of the car…

We have analysed a number of apps produced by companies in the East Midlands, found some to be suffering the same issues Moonpig went through — leaking millions of credit card numbers, some are websites sat in an app frame and the list goes on. What needs to happen is developers need to work closer to businesses and realise its not about using a dummy app they have built before and simply repurposing it for the next client in just a few short hours. It’s about adding value to the clients business, adding revenue streams or simplifying processes to lead to more productive environments — not overcomplicating systems or creating apps that deliver no more value than a website would.


You don’t need an app — when a website will suffice — an app may run into the thousands of pounds to create and thats just for one platform, maybe you have users on Android or Windows (who knows) and these are all separate apps, you shouldn’t be trying to squeeze the same app into different phones or tablets expecting it to run and be something your customers or users would enjoy.

The year of the app came and went in 2008, the marketing is wrong and the thought process is wrong. We actively promote the fact that app development is a long term process, its not going to be done in a few months nor should it be thought of as a replacement for a website. The real facts are your business may very well need an app but probably not for the reasons you can think of — perhaps its your staff that need it and not your customers.

Perhaps that development shop that told you an app to display your restaurants menu is a great idea simply want to increase billables and don’t care about your business.

Take it from me, the year of the app is irrelevant — your business is what’s important, regardless which device, screen size or type of customer you deal with.

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Another city employer joins academy project

ANOTHER employer academy has been added to Derby College’s portfolio of links between itself and businesses, which are intended to benefit students’ job prospects.

The latest company to form a partnership is web and software development company iBox Security, which is based in the city’s Cathedral Quarter.

The firm has an apprenticeship programme, offers internships to university and college students and works with Derby City Council to support IT and coding teaching through schools and libraries.

The iBox Web and Programme Development Academy is the next step in the company’s commitment to skills development, according to managing director Sean Price.

He said: “Our industry faces similar challenges to those in construction and engineering. Although young people have the interest in and passion for technology, they often do not come out of college or university with the up-to-date skills that are relevant and viable in a business environment.

“Web and software development are fast-moving and are led by industry rather than the education sector. We relish the opportunity to work with the college to ensure students have the skills and attitudes we need as employers.

“We will be offering master classes for IT students, work placements for academy members and everyone will be guaranteed an interview for jobs and apprenticeships at the end of the course. We envisage taking on one or two young people as part of our expansion plans.”

Other employer academies are: Atlas Building and Groundworks Academy; Cricket Derbyshire Hospitality Academy; Cricket Derbyshire Sports Academy; Derby Telegraph Media Sales Academy; EPM Technology Advanced Composites Academy; Huub Marketing and Product Development Academy; and The Finesse Collection Professional Cookery Academy.

Interviews with employers are being held and the first students will join the academies this month. This will be followed by recruitment in October for September 2016.

For details about the academy programme, call 0800 0280289 or visit www.derby-college.ac.uk.

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