n-Coders is a leading South West based software development company developing bespoke business automation packages for a wide range of companies in many different sectors. These systems have included amongst others: time management programmes for a large skilled workforce, software applications for a hi-tech gym system; business applications for financial; legal services with a need to automate man-hour intensive processes; and a booking system for a holiday company.
We were invited to work with the n-Coders team to look at three key areas: Strategic Planning, Operational Streamlining and Business Development.
Strategic Planning was something that the company’s senior management had made an initial start. However, as is often the case, the day to day pressures of delivering products and outputs to the customer had pushed this strategic development down the priority list. We were able to help. Initially by understanding what n-Coders did; its unique offer; its process for delivering that offer; its aims for the future. We were then in a position to write a comprehensive plan for developing those aspirations for the future; putting in place some realistic way-points to get there. We were able to set the team off on this course. Going forward it is essential that the plan is regularly reviewed and adjusted according to circumstances and progress.
At the same time we looked at Operational Delivery. As is often the case the company had grown organically from a very small and efficient 1-2 person team into 8 team members. This is fine until the demands of orders become such that a process needs to be established in order that manpower is efficiently used, quality is assured and output in delivered in a timely fashion. Building software requires all of these factors to be well refined and understood. This is what we did. Key within it was the process of build, test, merge and deployment of each version of software and importantly building a matrix by which each project had sufficient time allocated to it to reach deadlines required. Not easy and there were some difficulties however now there is a robust process in place which should ensure: Quality and Timeliness.
With all small teams there is often the need for team members to be double or treble hatted. So while delivering operational output, within the optimum processes that had been developed there was a need to also look for new business. We worked through this with the team; identifying time needed in which to reach out to new customers – attending business shows, online research, developing an online presence, through websites and social media. Importantly the need to maintain and upset to current customers is a must; they know how the company works, its products and hopefully are very content with what they have had developed previously.
Finally recruitment we helped to identify where and what priority the next team members should be. Technical operational lead was essential, the constant search for the right software developers and key administrative support.
The company has a full order book going forward and we maintain a close link with the senior management.
We are celebrating our first eighteen months of support to HM Publishing an Hong Kong based publishing house. HM Publishing produces quarterly journals for the financial services sector in 3 regional (Americas, EMEA and APAC) editions covering issues and topics across all asset classes. The content relates to electronic trading best practice and technological development as the industry faces severe penalties, legal action and regulation in equal measure. The publication aims to access copy, commentary and observation from the industry’s leading decision makers through educational thought-leadership content.
Benbole Management plays a key role in delivering these goals by remotely managing the distributed team from around the world, namely Hong Kong, Chicago and London; all co-ordinated from Lostwithiel, Cornwall. Communication is key and achieved through regular channels such as email, Skype, What’s App, and the telephone in timely fashion. Timezones can be as challenging as beneficial allowing work to flow across regions through a 24 hour working day.
Quarter 2 2014:Will My Next Trader Sit In A Data Centre
Content is also driven through the hosting of round table and face2face events and webinars lead by the GlobalTrading team. These offer virtual and real time forums for thought leaders to gather and discuss ideas and solutions facing the industry in an inclusive yet unattributable way.
Every quarter a new Head of Trading
Benbole Management has been integral to the operational delivery of this venture; using our experience of managing a distributed team, finding innovative business development opportunities and streamlining processes.
As we approach our first full year of support to Azook Community Interest Company it seems appropriate to report on some of the work we have done with them.
Azook Community Interest Company is an organisation, based out of Pool Innovation Centre, that aims to help people connect with the culture and heritage of Cornwall. It has a number of projects going forward. Azook CIC is a not for profit organisation and relies on funding from bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and also from match funding from individuals, organisation and commercial companies.
Benbole Management was contracted to care-take Azook CIC in January 2014 for the duration of 2014. It has been a busy year during which the Azook CIC project portfolio has thrived and grown. First and foremost among the outputs of 2014 has been the continued development and delivery of the Heritage Lottery Funded re:collect project which has created and is building cornishmemory.com. This is a £330,000 heritage project that aspires to build the go-to online resource for digitised archive material from the 150 years in Cornwall.
cornishmemory.com is a free online website which has a vast archive of photographic, audiovisual and audio records held in perpetuity. The project relies on a volunteer force which has done a terrific job of digitising the many archives that have been contributed. Volunteers are also able to access an archive management and digitisation qualification. Whereas much of the work has been achieved at Pool Innovation Centre the team has also got out on the road with its mobile digitisation studio; this has been a key aspect of the project spreading the word and promoting the website in the community and also it has provided the opportunity to gather archive gems held in the community.
Dickie Trant with the Azook Team delivering digitisation training for a Guides Project
Azook CIC also runs the Sense of Place website which is a wonderful resource available to schools in Cornwall. Sense of Place has taken the topics and modules of the National Curriculum and created place-based learning modules to mirror them. These placed-based learning modules give students and teachers a vast resource to tap into and also, because they are orientated to places in the region, make the learning experience accessible, more relevant and engaging. Administration for this has fallen within the remit of the Benbole Management contract.
For sometime Azook CIC has been seeking to initiate a sister project to the cornishmemory.com website. MemoryFish is the result. It was launched in November and will run for a year; in the run up to the launch significant effort was required to secure funding for the valuable project. Benbole Management has been a the vanguard of this effort during the year.
Some thoughts on Remote Management. Benbole Management supports a small editorial team based in Hong Kong while living in the UK. The nature of the team’s output is by necessity a global one; the team delivers a quarterly journal and on-line content world wide. This content provides an educational service to the financial industry which specifically deals with electronic trading protocols. However, for the purposes of this post the nature of the team’s output is only relevant in passing; it is the method of steering and managing the team that is interesting. Management in many instances is inherently a people function where the manager is striving, with the team, to achieve a number of objectives. This is no less so in this instance and good relationships between team members is essential; the relationship between the manager and team members has required constant effort due to the constraint of remote management both in terms of geographical spread and time zones. Nonetheless, the in-place systems work and works well. It is interesting that the team will soon have a member in the US.
Four key areas have proved to be the pillars of success: Remote Management Communications Techniques and Systems; Using Technology to Focus Effort; Tasking the Team; Planning and Face to Face Meetings.
Welcome to the Benbole Management Blog. Our aim is to offer useful information which we have found relevant to the work we do, whether it be delivering Programmes and Projects, or the broader issues that relate to operational delivery and management, or issues that have arisen during our experience as management consultants. We hope you will find our blog informative and interesting.