AdEPT Acquire Datrix

A substantial, strategically important acquisition in the growing advanced cloud-based networks market

AdEPT, one of the UK’s leading independent providers of managed services for IT, connectivity, unified communications solutions, and cloud services, is pleased to announce that yesterday it completed the acquisition of the entire issued share capital of Datrix Limited (“Datrix”) for an initial cash consideration of £9.0m (the “Acquisition”), which has been funded through the Group’s new bank facility.

Datrix is a well-established, award-winning supplier of advanced cloud-based networking, communications, and cyber security solutions, headquartered in London, with expertise in the growing Software Defined Wide Area Networking (“SD-WAN”) market.

This substantial, strategically important acquisition is wholly in line with the Board’s stated strategy to; a) grow both organically and by acquisition, leveraging the Group’s banking facilities which are supported by a strong balance sheet and high cash generation, b) to consolidate a fragmented market, through complementary acquisitions with strong levels of recurring revenue and margin, and c) continually bring enhanced capability to customers.

Datrix fulfils all of these criteria, enhancing the Group’s capabilities and increasing its market share in a key cloud-centric growth market and in complementary verticals.

Financial highlights:

Following the Acquisition, Group run-rate revenue and adjusted EBITDA1 for the year ended 31 March 2022 is expected to increase by c.18% and c.13% respectively
Initial cash consideration of £9.0m on a debt free cash free basis as at 31 March 2021, funded through the Group’s new banking facility
Datrix unaudited reported revenue in the 12 months ended 31 January 2021 of £10.7m, generating adjusted EBITDA1 of £1.5m and profit before tax of £0.6m
63% of revenue and gross margin were generated from recurring services for the 12 months ended 31 January 2021
The Acquisition is expected to be earnings enhancing in the current financial year ending 31 March 2022, being the first2 full year of ownership
Earn-out consideration of up to £7.0m payable in cash based on the performance of Datrix in the 12 months ending 31 March 2022

1 Adjusted EBITDA is after £0.4m of synergies, comprising staff savings post acquisition.

2 Pursuant to the terms of the share purchase agreement, the effective date of the acquisition is 1 April 2021

Operational highlights:

Datrix provides instant scale in the growing advanced cloud-based networking market, expanding the Group’s portfolio of core competencies to include the latest technology, SD-WAN
With 63% of revenues generated from complementary customers in the public sector, Datrix strengthens the Group’s position on Local and Central Government supplier frameworks and its presence in key vertical markets, particularly the NHS
Strengthens AdEPT’s cloud product portfolio, bringing additional highly complementary, market-leading, Gartner Magic Quadrant products to the Group, from significant new partner relationships
Experienced senior management team, who have transformed the business since joining Datrix in 2019, are being retained by AdEPT and incentivised to continue delivering growth

Background information

Datrix designs, delivers, and manages end-to-end enterprise solutions for large, complex, multi-site, mission-critical environments. Approximately 63% of revenue and gross margin is generated from recurring services, with 63% of total revenue generated from public sector customers.

The Acquisition provides instant scale, expanding the Group’s portfolio and creating core competencies in the latest secure cloud technology, SD-WAN and related cyber security products.

The demand for such unified, secure cloud-based network and communication solutions has been accelerated by the changes to working lifestyles, driven by the pandemic, and this demand continues to grow in both the public and private sectors. Datrix is very well positioned to benefit from the increased need for these new technologies.

Complementary vertical markets

Datrix has a strong customer base which is well aligned with AdEPT’s vertical market focus. The Datrix customer base includes NHS Trusts, care homes, local authorities, universities, energy companies, law firms and construction companies. As well as bringing new customer relationships, the addition of Datrix strengthens AdEPT’s position on Local and Central Government supplier frameworks.

This builds on the AdEPT expertise in this field, as evidenced by the recent completion of the Kent wide NHS HSCN network deployment benefitting over 400 NHS locations across the county, including critical care hospitals, care homes and Doctor’s surgeries. 

Gartner Magic Quadrant product strategy

The Datrix strategy is focused on the delivery of next generation solutions from companies ranked as leaders by Gartner within their Magic Quadrant methodology. Gartner is a widely respected technology research and advisory firm.  To be deemed a leader by Gartner the product or company must excel based on their vision and their ability to execute the vision within their field.

Outstanding partner relationships

Datrix is a highly respected partner of Extreme Networks, a provider of end-to-end networking solutions for large enterprises. Datrix holds the ultimate Black Diamond Specialized Partner status with Extreme. This status reflects that Datrix has significant expertise and experience in their technologies and solutions. Bringing benefits in terms of technical, marketing and pricing support. Datrix is a premium partner with Cato Networks, which provide converged SD-WAN and network security solutions delivered as a cloud platform, and is also a Gold Partner of Palo Alto Networks, a global leader in cyber security.

Financial information on Datrix

The valuation of the business was based on the unaudited management accounts of Datrix, for the 12 months to 31 January 2021, reported revenue of £10.7m, up 8% on the previous 12 months’ revenue of £9.9m. Gross margin rose 36% from £3.1m to £4.2m, driven by an increase in contracts for highly secure enterprise networks and professional services. The business was restructured, during this period, to match the new product focus and EBITDA improved from a loss of £1.1m, in the prior 12 months, to a profit of £1.1m. Net liabilities and gross assets at 31 January 2021 were £1.7m and £3.8m, respectively.

Additionally, as a result of the Acquisition, the Group expects to generate cost synergies of £0.4m in the year ending 31 March 2022.

Terms of the Acquisition

Initial consideration of £9.0m of Datrix on a debt free, cash free basis as at 31 March 2021 is payable in cash. Pursuant to the terms of the share purchase agreement, the effective date of the acquisition is 1 April 2021. Further earn-out consideration of up to £7.0m may be payable in cash dependent upon the trading performance of Datrix in the 12-month period ending 31 March 2022.

The total consideration will be funded out of AdEPT’s new bank facility, announced as part of the Trading Update announced on 7 April 2021, with headroom in the facility to support further acquisitive growth alongside the payment of the outstanding deferred consideration.

Management

The key management of Datrix are retained in their current capacity, with a clear focus on expanding the Group’s presence in advanced cloud-centric networking.  The Datrix operations will be migrating to the new One AdEPT platform, creating improved operational and financial insight. Under AdEPT’s ownership, Datrix will be led by a current Managing Director of Datrix, Mark Thomas, who will report directly to AdEPT CEO, Phil Race. 

Mahmood Chaudhri, Datrix exiting CEO, will be retained in a consultancy role during the earn-out period. 

Financial impact of the Acquisition

The Board expects the Acquisition to be earnings enhancing in the year ending 31 March 2022, being the first full year of ownership.

Following the Acquisition, the Group run-rate revenue and adjusted EBITDA1 for the year ended 31 March 2022 is expected to increase by c.18% and c.13% respectively, including the £0.4m of cost synergies the Group expects to generate for this period.

Phil Race, Chief Executive of AdEPT, said:

“This acquisition is a game-changer for AdEPT, taking us to the forefront of next generation networking delivery. The AdEPT Group already has a strong presence in the networking and cyber security arena, as evidenced by the delivery of the mission critical Kent NHS network, the deployment of the secure Fortinet firewall across London schools, and through offerings on our AdEPT owned hybrid cloud platform, Nebula.

Datrix, with the outstanding new products and partners it brings, builds significantly on our capabilities, adding scale and extending both our expertise and our solution breadth, which will benefit our customers in this large and growing marketplace.

“Datrix is a high-quality business with a well-established customer base, generating strong levels of recurring revenue and a cash generative, capex light, business model.

We are delighted that the key members of the Datrix senior management team have chosen to join us. I look forward to working with them over the coming years and, on behalf of the Board, welcome them wholeheartedly to AdEPT.”

Mark Thomas, Managing Director of Datrix, added:

“We are delighted to become part of the AdEPT Technology Group.  From the outset, it was clear that the solution set we take to market is complementary to AdEPT’s, and that the combination of AdEPT and Datrix expertise will bring benefits to both parties, and crucially to our customers. Our joint presence in the NHS will undoubtedly create new opportunities and being part of a larger group will help us capitalise on the growing and substantial market for advanced cloud-centric networks and cyber security.”

For more information please contact:

AdEPT Technology Group Plc 
Ian Fishwick, ChairmanTel:  07720 555 050
Phil Race, Chief ExecutiveTel:  07798 575 338
John Swaite, Finance DirectorTel:  01892 550 243
  
N+1 Singer (Nominated Adviser & Broker) 
Shaun Dobson / Iqra AminTel:  020 7496 3000
  
Belvedere Communications 
Cat ValentineTel:  07715 769 078
Keeley ClarkeTel:  07967 816 525
 adeptpr@belvederepr.com

This announcement has been released by John Swaite, Finance Director, on behalf of the Company.

About AdEPT:

AdEPT Technology Group plc is one of the UK’s leading independent providers of managed services for IT, unified communications, connectivity and voice solutions.  AdEPT’s tailored services are used by thousands of customers across the UK and are brought together through the strategic relationships with tier-1 suppliers such as Openreach, BT Wholesale, Virgin Media, Avaya, Microsoft, Dell and Apple.

AdEPT is quoted on AIM, operated by the London Stock Exchange (Ticker: ADT). For further information please visit: www.adept.co.uk.

For further information about Datrix: https://www.datrix.co.uk/

About SD-WAN – advanced cloud-based networking:

Networks were historically designed to support a collection of locations, joined by fixed connections, where the locations held both users and their data, all within a firewall to protect information. 

This has changed dramatically in recent years, accelerated by the pandemic, with users requiring remote access to systems from any location. Information needs to pass via the unpredictable internet, and via owned and managed networks.  Data sets can be substantial, and security and performance challenges are exacerbated by the remote nature of users, who may not be ‘living’ within a firewall.  Furthermore, applications can reside either within a company network or hosted virtually in the Cloud. 

This new world needs to connect groups of users securely, in a resilient and highly performant way, to their applications, and their data – all in a flexible manner which can be changed readily. 

Enter the new world of SD-WAN and Secure Access Service Edge technology (SASE), encompassing the latest technologies and advanced services, which allow networks and their security to be controlled, managed, adapted, and monitored, through software, in a cost-effective way.

Written by Ben Rogers

Group Marketing Manager at AdEPT

How technology can put the ‘home’ into ‘care homes’

What might we think of when we hear the term ‘care home’?

We might imagine rooms that look a little different, with walk-in baths, handrails and emergency alarms.

We might envisage nursing staff checking the health of residents.

We might picture medication trolleys wheeled around, rattling with medicines as they go.

These are all typical care home scenes. But they discount a crucial aspect of these places: that they are homes.

It’s a subtle but important distinction. Being homes, they must go beyond medical care to help residents enjoy a comfortable, rewarding and rich life – just as we all strive for in our own homes and our lives.

Technology can be a huge help where this is concerned. But before we consider how, it’s worth spending a few moments on the bigger picture.

Person-centred care

If you work in a care home, you’ll already know that the CQC (Care Quality Commission) is the independent regulator for England’s health and social care sector.

The CQC inspects, reviews, and rates social care organisations, having the power to order improvements or shut homes. And among the criteria it uses to do this are its 13 ‘fundamental standards’.

One of these standards, ‘person-centred care’, sets out that residents must be at the heart of their care. It requires that residents are treated as individuals with unique needs, and they must be closely involved in the planning and monitoring of their care.

As an example of how this might work in the real world, consider an imaginary resident. Let’s call her Joan.

She has always taken pride in her appearance but now finds getting dressed a little tricky due to arthritis.

Joan is a private woman, so she would like a female carer to lay out her chosen outfit then wait in the bathroom next door while she dresses, in case she has any difficulties.

On days where her arthritis flares up in her hands, Joan might need help buttoning her blouse and applying her makeup and nail polish.

Once she is ready, Joan feels more confident, sociable and prepared for the day ahead. And painting her nails in her favourite shade brings back happy memories of her wedding day.

This example does not entail a great degree of ‘medical’ assistance – the things that we might imagine are the mainstay of healthcare.

But it does involve listening closely to Joan, understanding what makes her tick, and developing a plan of care that puts her first. Doing so can help her feel respected and valued. And doing this for every resident is what makes a care home a real home-from-home.

And this is why thoughtfully-designed care plans are essential to person-centred care. It’s also one area in which technology can help.

Digital care plans

More and more organisations – in more and more sectors – are moving towards paperless systems. The care sector is no different, and for good reason.

But let’s take a step back. Historically, care plans have some similarities with the folder you might see hooked at the end of a hospital bed. But there are drawbacks with this approach:

  • Being in one place, staff must visit the bed to update the records.
  • It’s not easy to share this paper record between staff, across teams and departments.
  • To use their time efficiently, staff members might save all their note-taking for one period, meaning there may be a delay between talking with a patient, or resident, and recording the conversation. This can, in turn, mean important details – like Joan’s favourite nail polish – get forgotten.

Of course, more than ever, digital technology is being used to record notes like this. But putting them on a static desktop computer in a nursing station still poses similar problems.

One care home that we work with closely has found a solution to this. It has now installed care plan software on a suite of tablets. This means care plans are easily accessible, everywhere and at all times.

The care home is using Person Centred Software. We have no affiliation with this software developer, but we know that it has made a hugely positive difference to staff – and ultimately, to residents.

It’s helped the care home iron out these wrinkles in care plans. And when you make improvements to lots of little things, they all add up to a big difference.

Enriching entertainment

As with our own homes, a big part of making a care home a rewarding place to live is to offer a mix of leisure activities.

TVs are one such aspect of entertainment. Typically, residents’ rooms each have one – as do communal areas. But in many cases, these TVs function in a traditional sense – that is, they are the glowing box in the corner of the room that might make us laugh or groan. Ultimately, they’re a passive form of entertainment.

But they can be much more than this. Again, using our client as an example, this care home has installed internet-connected smart TVs and, through them, now runs various software designed to enrich residents’ lives.

Interactive Me, for example, is one application this home uses in its smart TVs. It’s software that allows family members to send their relatives digital media – like images, music and video. It can work as a family photo album, or provide a collection of internet-sourced media that will entertain the resident. One family created a library of images, sounds, and articles about Italy to help their grandparent recall their fond memories of growing up there.

Another smart TV application used by our client is Care Messenger. As the name implies, this is a messenging service that residents and their families can use to stay in touch. It allows for the sharing of rich media, but is designed for simplicity – so residents can interact through their remote control. The care home can also use it to send messages and news to residents, rather like an internal noticeboard.

In the age where Facebook, Twitter and the like are so widely used, it may seem unnecessary to have standalone applications like these – with features similar to those we see in social media. But social media can be complex and intimidating for people who have not grown up with such platforms. And so, incorporating simple apps into televisions is a more accessible, ‘gentler’ way to bring technology to older people.

Smarter safety and security

We all like to feel safe and secure in our homes. Care homes are no different – but they have a tricky balancing act to consider in this regard. On the one hand, care homes look after vulnerable people and have a duty to protect them from risks – but on the other hand, they must ensure their security measures do not encroach on residents’ lives.

Clearly, technology has an essential role in this respect. CCTV and access control systems can now connect wirelessly to IT systems – making it easy to change security settings in certain areas, and view live reports of staff, residents’ and visitors’ movements. Additionally, RFID, swipe cards or biometric systems can be used to ensure the right access for the right people. They can work as clocking-in systems, too, which is valuable for tracking and planning employees’ work patterns.

From the perspective of individual residents’ safety, one innovation that we’ve seen is the GPS watch from CareLine Care. Used by our care home client, it has proved to be especially valuable for residents at risk of falls or wandering too far from the home boundary.

It features a GPS-based alarm, which can be programmed to alert carers if the wearer travels beyond the care home perimeter. It also has an accelerometer that can detect if the wearer has fallen over, again automatically alerting care staff so they can respond promptly.

For both scenarios, the watch offers an advantage over more traditional protective measures. It means residents can enjoy the outdoors with a greater degree of independence – and do not even need to think about reaching for an alarm in the distressing moments after having a fall.

Another, less obvious, aspect of security in care homes is that of cyber protection. Care providers handle, store and manage sensitive resident records. And consequently, they must be compliant with the UK GDPR, and must protect themselves from cyber attacks.

Care homes in the post-Covid world

No blog right now would be complete without a mention of the pandemic. But we’re conscious that nothing we can say can do justice to the amazing way the care sector has responded to events of the last 12 months.

As a technology company, we’ve seen the emergence of two contrasting trends within care sector technology and innovation during this time – and both are entirely understandable.

The first approach has seen technology projects put on the back burner. Given that time, resources and budgets have been stretched by everything from staff self-isolating to extra cleaning, it makes complete sense that things like IT upgrades have taken the back seat.

The second approach has seen some care homes divert their technology plans towards innovations that can help during the pandemic. For example, one of our care home clients installed special visiting ‘pods’ so family members could see residents in a safe way.

Sadly, good work like this never makes headlines quite like the rare occasions when things go wrong. But there are impressive and moving stories everywhere. Our experience is that, overnight, care homes became extraordinarily self-sufficient, sourcing their own PPE, taking brave steps to protect residents in the face of ever-growing challenges.

One article we read recounts the experience of a care home nurse working through the pandemic. She said of her colleagues:

“What teams they were and are to this day; professional, uncomplaining, and immensely hardworking, keeping the home clean, residents well-fed and cared for in the best way possible.”

People first, technology second

There is one common theme to all the technology described here: underpinning all of it is high-speed, reliable and secure internet connectivity. This is where we can help – but it’s about more than the technology products and services. Here are some unique reasons why you might choose us:

  • We put people first, before technology – as reflected in our slogan, ‘Uniting technology, inspiring people.’ For us, that means technology should serve people, not the other way round. We believe this approach makes a good fit for person-centred care.
  • We work with more than 20 care home organisations of different sizes.
  • For a London-based care home group of eight affiliated homes, we’ve provided a full set of IT services including secure Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery service to protect their data and IT applications – a real comfort over the last year, when so much uncertainty has existed elsewhere.
  • In north east Lincolnshire, we work closely with a provider of community health and care services. For this organisation of more than 800 staff, we’ve provided a fully flexible telephony solution, which has enabled them to react quickly to changing circumstances.
  • In the case of the care home described in this blog, we have helped them simplify their IT support, upgrade their internet line and their wifi to support the great person-centred technology they’ve implemented in their home.
  • We are also HSCN (Health and Social Care Network) Stage 2 compliant. This means we are approved by NHS Digital to provide HSCN connectivity services to health and social care organisations. In fact, we’re one of only 20 in the marketplace to reach this stage – and we were one of the first to receive this accreditation.
  • We have a long history of working with health and social care organisations. One example of this is our work in Kent, where we provide high-speed connectivity to more than 400 hospitals, GP surgeries and hospices through the HSCN.
  • With HSCN, we work with over 60 health organisations, including Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust and Great Ormond Hospital – you can read the case study here.
  • We don’t have pushy sales agendas and prefer to spend time at the outset getting to know you and your needs. Our founder, Ian Fishwick, has driven our year-on-year growth for more than 30 years by focusing on customer loyalty. And loyalty is never achieved by dazzling clients with hyped-up products for the sake of a sales target. Ian shares some valuable insights into our ageing society in this video.

One last point

As mentioned above, we are not affiliated with any of the companies listed in this blog. But we have worked with the care home sector to help them make the most of these services. And we are sure that they could help other care homes, too – so we hope you found this blog valuable.

  • Written by Tim Scott

Tim is AdEPT’s Chief Commercial Officer. He leads our work with partners and suppliers, and develops our products and services. In his personal life, he is closely involved in a local children’s football team and a local care home.

Written by Tim Scott

Chief Commercial Officer at AdEPT

Life beyond the pandemic: People-first technology for housing associations

A grandmother who lives alone needs her leaking tap repaired. She calls her landlord, which is a large housing association.

She gets through, and the call agent checks the woman’s records. He notices a history of similar issues reported at regular intervals for some time.

For a moment, the agent wonders to himself about the plumber’s past work. So he makes a note to investigate after the call.

But keen to help her right now, he arranges for another plumber visit, confirming the booking details to the woman. She is delighted.

Three days later, the plumber arrives at the woman’s flat to discover the leak has mysteriously stopped and the woman has been baking.

The plumber needs to go to his next job, but the woman insists he stays for a moment. So over tea and cake, she starts proudly telling the plumber about her 12 grandchildren, who she hasn’t seen for far too long. She shows him the drawings stuck to her fridge and talks him through every family photo on her bookshelf.

In a fortnight, the woman will call the housing association again to report yet another problem. Until then, she will spend her days looking longingly at reminders of her family, hoping she will soon speak to a human being.

This is not a fictional story. In today’s society, the impact of loneliness is significant and has increased as an effect of Covid lockdowns.

Social landlords face a huge challenge. Face-to-face contacts are expensive and unnecessary repair calls are a huge financial overhead. At the same time, many social landlords believe it important not only to provide housing but also look after the welfare of their customers, too.

So why am I – an independent ICT consultant – and AdEPT talking about it?

Because for housing associations, it’s one of many unique challenges that have been compounded by, or emerged due to the pandemic. And technology has a critical role in helping address all of them. 

This blog takes a closer look at this very topic.

Working from home

Before we expand on the topic of loneliness, let’s consider the most obvious shift of all: working from home.

As with organisations of all shapes and sizes, March 2020 saw housing association employees decamp from offices and onto home working.

For me, strangely, this switch feels like it happened both yesterday and a million years ago. For housing associations, having staff work from home on this scale has posed some new and significant technology problems.  Challenges have included communications with customers – significant numbers of interactions have traditionally been face-to-face. There has also been significant disruption to repairs, safety checks, and void processing. Visits necessary to investigate ASB cases have been difficult. And with many customers’ work patterns disrupted, income has often been erratic whilst working in an environment where evictions have not been permitted.

First and foremost – and like all businesses – housing associations have found themselves having to find the bandwidth in their infrastructure to keep all of their basic customer-facing and property maintenance services functioning.

This has seen a demand for laptops and suitable furniture for homeworking – and for many, has presented challenges to provide secure remote connections. Providing telephone, and in particular contact centre services has often presented significant challenges. Alongside this, many working practices have had to change to remove the use of paper and support a geographically dispersed home workforce.

None of these areas are unique to housing associations – both have affected other many sectors. But, combine them with the duty of care that many housing associations see as an obligation to their tenants – and the increasing demand from those tenants as they spend more time than ever in their homes – and we’ve seen a perfect storm form before our eyes, affecting every facet of these organisations.

One other big factor here is the speed in which the changes happened. Tectonic plates shifted overnight. There was a clear distinction between those that were prepared for these changes and those that were not. And as I’ve continued to work with housing associations throughout the whole period, I’ve realised that although the changes have been enormous, they are in fact an acceleration of trends I’ve seen over recent years.

AI and chatbots

Using AI in customer service is one such trend that has been on the cards for housing associations for some time. We’ve already seen widespread adoption of chatbots in the private sector – and they tend to get mixed reviews.

For housing associations, using chatbots throws up some unique hurdles related to the demographics of social housing. Namely, that this sector tends to serve a greater proportion of older, vulnerable and disadvantaged people than in other sectors.

Take, for example, age. According to government statistics for 2016 to 2018, 17 per cent – or 3.9 million – of England households lived in social housing. Of those households, the biggest age group was those aged between 55 and 64.

Now consider the leaning towards chatbots by age group. Although it’s wrong to stereotype older people as more reluctant about technology than their younger counterparts, it does appear that older people are particularly unenthusiastic for chatbots, at least according to this GenPact / YouGov survey of 5,170 people.

Consequently, housing associations that are looking to use chatbots – and many are, in the wake of the pandemic – must tread carefully when rolling them out.

One housing association I am working with is doing precisely that. It’s looked at the common, repetitive tasks that can be automated – for example, booking a plumber – and now offers a chatbot to help with such enquiries.

In turn, this has allowed the organisation to reassign customer service staff to more complex tasks – and during the pandemic, that includes more regular outbound calls to isolated and vulnerable people.

In going through this process, this housing association found, first-hand, what we often see in other projects that involve unfamiliar technology: the more people use it, the more people get used to it – and even come to appreciate the rationale.

But, as I’ve seen over decades of working with this sector, whenever you increase capacity, you increase demand. Let’s return to our first story for a moment.

Video conferencing and collaboration

Many housing associations have been traditionally reticent to adopt video conferencing.  This, particularly for those who cover wide geographic areas, has meant a huge cost in travel expenses and time for both staff and board members.

We now live in an age of Zoom and Teams calls. The social housing sector is no different. With that, I’ve seen many organisations making the switch to Microsoft 365 – and they’ve soon realised that by using Teams, it makes sense to integrate it with Microsoft’s related products. This in turn is promoting greater use of other elements of the 365 suite such as SharePoint.

Business intelligence

Recent trends show that there is an ever-increasing demand for artificial intelligence to interpret the vast and rich sources of data which are typically held by housing associations.

This has included adoption of business intelligence and PowerApp tools available from within many housing associations’ Office 365 subscriptions. These are now being used to provide customer insights to allow better planning particularly around lettings, repairs and rents.

These tools can create dashboards which simply and visually highlight the use of resources and customer trends, allowing housing associations to have better insights about demographics and customer demand. This in turn allows a more proactive service to be delivered to customers whilst ensuring an efficient use of valuable budgets. For example, as mentioned at the start of this blog, it can help identify where demand is being created and can allow planning around more appropriate and cost-efficient remedies. 

Proactive response to customers benefits the customer as well as the housing association, as often simple solutions can be found – let’s not forget that technology exists to serve humans, not the other way round.

This is just one example of where using technology to provide real business intelligence can make a difference within, and beyond a housing association. It’s also ties into the many and complex regulations that this sector.

Tougher legislation ahead

In November last year, the government published its long-awaited social housing white paper. While some argued that the paper did not properly address the issue of housing supply, it did say “We will establish a new arm of the Regulator of Social Housing to proactively regulate on consumer standards including quality of homes, repairs, meaningful engagement with tenants and complaints handling”.

In short, this points to tougher regulations for the sector – and any housing association technology partner that’s worth their salt must be fully on board with these regulations.

For me and AdEPT, it’s about seeing the big picture and the seemingly little details – and being able to comply with rules from every direction.

For example, housing associations are obliged to make paying rent as easy as possible, including taking payments over the phone. And they must do so to meet the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

Prior to the pandemic, this was well established. But in the age of home working, processing such transactions over home networks carries greater risk of non-compliance.

Consequently, we at AdEPT helped housing associations take steps to improve their data security, ensuring that they comply with all payment regulations.

There’s a reason why we’re Stage 2 compliant with the Health & Social Care Network (HSCN) and work with more than 30 NHS Trusts – it’s because we know the regulations inside out – and we know how they translate to technology.

As the pandemic continues – and the true impact of the government’s whitepaper emerges – it’s clear that there are many areas where technology must step up to the plate.

For housing associations, this can only happen with a deep understanding of the complex regulations involved – and foresight to see what’s ahead.

Flexible working

With the mass vaccination programme now well underway, there is some hope on the horizon. But will we return to our old ways of working? I doubt it. And for housing associations, this offers some food for thought.

One lesson of the pandemic is that we perhaps do not need to follow the 9-to-5 routines of old. Perhaps we need to rethink our long-held view that being tied to a desk, at set hours, is not always the best option. And this may be especially beneficial for housing associations.

Prior to the pandemic, many housing associations remained traditional office-based organisations. The pandemic has led to a more pragmatic approach with appropriately socially-distanced visits to estates and properties.

It has also led to a move away from a rigid 9-5 office hours mentality – and home working has meant that housing officers have been able to adjust their work-life balance, in turn making them more available to customers at more appropriate times such as early evenings and weekends.

It has also seen a move to communications systems appropriate to customers’ needs. For example, in many areas WhatsApp has become a common way in which housing officers keep in touch with their customers.

One housing officer’s experience was particularly telling. She explained to me that prior to lockdown, her Monday-to-Friday hours meant she would visit homes to find people at work, wasting her time. She told me she would complete more home visits in a few hours on a Saturday morning than she would through all five weekdays.

Now, through the lockdown and home working, she’s seen a more flexible mindset emerge. Staff have been more willing to spend a few hours in the evening helping tenants – when tenants are available – if it allows them time in the day to be with their children. And home working affords that flexibility.

This one example illustrates the adage that necessity is the mother of invention – and I believe it heralds a permanent change in the housing association sector towards more flexible working. And technology must follow suit.

Legacy systems

It is worth mentioning one long-running technology challenge affecting the sector – that of the housing management systems used by the majority of housing associations.

Typically, these applications were developed decades ago for ICL mainframes, but they now struggle to work with the modern software used and valued by the sector, often meaning that staff must re-key the same information in multiple systems.

So far, I’ve not seen any software developers offer any real solutions to this problem. And so, I see a big opportunity here and hope that innovation comes soon.

I say this because it’s a critical point to address when working with housing associations – and we already factor this into our work with existing clients.

How we can help you

There are lots of ways we can help your organisation to use technology to better support your tenants now in lockdown, and tomorrow in life beyond the pandemic. Below are some of the areas where we already help housing associations, the public and third sectors:

・AI
・Business intelligence
・Data and cyber security
・Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)
・Internet of Things
・Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Dynamics
・Microsoft Teams and collaboration tools
・Networking
・Private / public / hybrid cloud
・VoIP and telephony
・WAN and SD-Wan

It may be that you’re already aware of these technologies, or do not know exactly what you need. Instead, as with most technology projects, you have a problem and want help finding a solution, irrespective of what that might entail. Either way, it all starts with a conversation – get in touch today through the contact details below.

People first, technology second

For a blog from a technology company, I’ve said very little about technology itself! And that’s because the housing association sector is inherently focused on people.

Returning to the story of woman at the beginning of this blog, there are clear ways that technology can help with the unique challenges this sector faces at this time and beyond.

Like all good technology solutions, they start and end with people. Here are our details – let’s start the problem solving with a conversation today…

  • Phil Riley is an independent ICT infrastructure and network consultant for housing associations. He has worked with this sector for more than 40 years – and at AdEPT, he is joined by Garry Drinkwater and Dean Barnes, who also specialise in supporting housing associations.

    You can get in touch with Phil, Garry and Dean on:

    0333 4002490
    enquiries@adept.co.uk

Written by Phil Riley

S.Tel Consultants Ltd

In 2021, small businesses need bigger ways to join the dots

In 2021, small businesses need bigger ways to join the dots

In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk about Big Data, and how it promises so much for businesses.

This excitement makes sense – after all, thanks to our connected world and the Internet of Things, we can use technology to give us all kinds of insights into our products and customers.

But not every company wants entirely new datasets to handle and analyse.

In our experience, a lot of companies just want better, smarter ways to manage their existing data and information. And sometimes, that can translate to one simple need: “I just want my systems to talk to each other.”

It’s for this reason that we’d like to introduce you to Sage 200.

But first, a little background.

The roots of Sage 200

Sage is a real British success story. Back in the early ‘80s, Sage’s founders wanted to automate accounting processes, so they worked with a team of Newcastle University students to develop the original software. And staying true to its roots, Sage still has an office in Newcastle. But it also now has 7.5 million business customers across the globe, with 800,000 of them in the UK and Ireland, including more than one third of the FTSE 100.

One of the Sage’s most popular products with small businesses is Sage 50. But a small SME can soon become a medium SME – and when it does, software requirements often change.
You may identify this in your own business. Perhaps you’ve used software for word processing and spreadsheets, and have reached a point when you need to upgrade your licence for more features.

Similarly, while Sage 50 is an excellent product for accounting in smaller businesses, it does have its limitations if your business grows beyond a certain point. And that’s where Sage 200 comes in…

The basics of Sage 200

From the ground up, Sage 200 is built for bigger businesses – the medium enterprises that fall into the SME category. According to Sage, it can handle more than 100,000 annual transactions and is designed for businesses with multiple cost centres, departments and locations – and for firms that need warehouse inventory management.

The software is available in a number of deployments. It can run in the cloud, or it can be installed on a server at your business – the ‘on-premise’ version. Your choice depends very much on the specific needs and nature of your business.

Much more than accounting

Businesses move from Sage 50 to Sage 200 when they grow and see their processes and needs becoming more complex. Nonetheless, many companies still associate Sage software with accounting and finance. After all, it’s accounting where Sage started – and decades on, it still tends to be associated with those business functions.

But one of the most valuable aspects of Sage 200 is that it goes beyond accounting and finance. It is modular, meaning you can add in modules for everything from stock control to customer relationships, using the CRM module. Here’s a full list of the modules available:

• Base platform (sold as a single user suite):
・Financial Ledgers (Sales, Purchase and Nominal Ledgers)
・Cash Book
・CRM
・Business Intelligence
・Sage Services

• Commercial modules:
・Stock Control
・Purchase Order Processing
・Sales Order Processing
・Price Book

• Additional modules:
・Project Accounting
・Bill of Materials
・Manufacturing

Another benefit of this modular setup is the agility it gives you for your business and its future. If you’ve outgrown Sage 50, you may be ready for Sage 200 – but you may not yet want to add additional modules, preferring to work on an ‘as and when’ basis. Sage 200 gives you this flexibility from day one, allowing you to be confident that you’ve chosen a system that can genuinely grow with your business.

The customisation doesn’t stop there.

Integrated services and adapting to the unique ways you work

There are more ways you can adapt and enhance Sage 200 to better suit your business. One option is to consider integrations with third-party software. We work with a number of Sage-accredited partners that can help with everything from document management to linking your finance functions with your website.

For example, one of our partners offers software that automatically converts invoices received as an email attachment into a Sage 200 entry. And another partner offers software that can connect your Sage 200 software to eCommerce platforms such as Shopify, Woocommerce and Magento.

Another route for customisation is to consider how the modules are built from the outset. I’m sure your business has its own unique ways of working. We certainly do. And so, one of the most valuable benefits of Sage 200 is that the modules can be customised at a very granular level to match your processes – a feature that is highly valued by existing customers, making Sage 200 stand out from similar products.

Imagine you have a particular, routine way of working on a regular task that you’d rather not change to accommodate new software. With Sage 200, the modules can be adjusted to suit your processes, which I’ll explain more below.

In doing all these things – allowing you to integrate different business functions in a way that suits you, your colleagues and your organisation – Sage 200 joins all the dots.

When I say this, I think back to my early days involved with Sage 200 (then known as Sage Sovereign) and can remember visiting many companies that ran manual ledgers and were reluctant to move to a software platform.

Fast forward six months and I would revisit them to see how they were going. When I did, I couldn’t help but notice their ledgers sat on the top shelf gathering dust, and people asking “why we didn’t install this software before?”.

Fast forward again to these days, and very often it’s a similar story visiting companies that are growing, having started with a number of software systems that whilst helped the business grow, are now actually holding them back – systems that simply don’t join the dots and suit employees’ working routines.

Having said that, a lot of our working routines have been completely shaken by the pandemic – and there are many ways Sage 200 can help with this.

Why now?

If growth feels a little out of reach right now, but you’re still interested in getting your business systems to work better with your accounting functions, then it might be worth considering the changes we’ve all experienced over the past year.

Knowing that customers have no choice but to shop online, many businesses have turned to ecommerce to keep trading. That might be for selling physical products, or for delivering everything from fajitas to flowers. It might even be for selling services, such as consulting, recruitment, and counselling – if it involves an online platform to promote and secure such work, then it’s ecommerce.

Certainly, stats for the retail sector bear out this change in direction. According to leading consultancy IMRG Capgemini, November 2020 saw a 39 per cent increase in year-on-year ecommerce sales.

It’s a monumental shift that may be irreversible – and if so, we’re facing a future where ecommerce is the norm and other forms of shopping are the exception.

So where does that leave your business – and how does it relate to Sage 200?

Here’s where I share a more recent anecdote, about a customer’s experience of the pandemic.

Wanting to do all they could to weather the storm, this customer decided to move into ecommerce. And to begin with, it all went well – it even started to make up the shortfall in physical sales. But, as time passed, it became apparent that the website wasn’t talking to the stock system, which in turn wasn’t talking to the financial system.

And so, customers were unknowingly ordering out-of-stock items; the warehouse team struggled to manage inventory, and accounting struggled to track all the associated financials. Consequently, a sensible and well-intentioned move to ecommerce brought its own headaches.

If this sounds familiar – or your own business is looking to launch an online store, then this is precisely the time to think long and hard about how your systems talk to each other – and ultimately lead right back to your financials.

It’s also why we advise all customers looking to move to Sage 200 to invest time at the outset in understanding how your different business functions work together, so Sage 200 can be built to match. Doing so will mean it’s right for everyone from day one, and ready for future changes and growth.

Why AdEPT?

As I’ve mentioned, one of the most important parts of setting up Sage 200 is getting under the skin of your business. In the initial stages, this means we’ll spend time with you and your colleagues to understand your priorities, how you work and the other things that makes your organisation tick.

This is no small undertaking. But at AdEPT, we take the view that if you ‘fail to plan, then you plan to fail’. In other words, we want to get it right for you from the start so it’s right for the future. Not all companies have this ethos.

Beyond the initial setup, there are other unique ways we at AdEPT can help you.

We have in-house Sage developers, so we can add or adapt modules for you as your business changes or grows.

It all stems from our problem-solving culture. So, while in nearly all cases we’ll address issues first time round, we’ll also put our hands up when we don’t know something – but do all we can to find the answer and solve the problem, rather than pass you off with an abrupt ‘no, it’s impossible to do that’. Again, not all companies are like this.

Finally, we’re not the sort of company that completes a project and says goodbye. Our support and training staff focus on being approachable, with a can-do attitude. And as my anecdotes suggest, we value long-term relationships with our customers.

It’s for these reasons that we’re an accredited Sage Support partner.

Where next

If any of the points in this blog resonate with you and you’re interested in Sage 200, then it’s time to talk.

You may now be wondering how much Sage 200 costs and how long does it take to set up. Unfortunately, those questions depend very much on a long list of variables: the size and nature of your business; the size of your workforce; which modules you’re interested in; how you’d like them adapted to suit your business… the list goes on.

Consequently, as much as I’d love to give you a fixed price and an idea of turnaround, it’s impossible to do so without listening and learning from you. And that leads me onto my conclusion.

Let’s talk today

Having worked with Sage products for decades, I hope to have a wealth of experience about how its products, including Sage 200, can help your business.

But more than talking about how we can help you, I’d like to learn as much as I can about your business and your needs. It’s how I’ve been fortunate enough to develop long-standing relationships with clients throughout my career.

So if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch. You’ll find my contact details below.

• Mike Sheard is our Sage 200 Sales Consultant. You can find out more and connect with him here on LinkedIn. Alternatively, you can get in touch with him through our website, here.

Written by Mike Sheard

Sage Consultant

Everything you need to know about government funding to help your business recover from the pandemic

The story of Blueberry

It goes without saying that the past year has thrown unparalleled challenges at all of us – relentlessly, and in every aspect of our lives.

We’ve all contended with everything from the smallest of domestic matters – like shortages of everyday groceries – to the biggest of all concerns: the health and wellbeing of our loved ones.

At the same time, businesses across many sectors have faced the most arduous of tests. We’ve seen this as a technology specialist, but we know that all business functions have been affected. And some industries – like the hospitality sector – are hanging on for dear life.

Throughout it all, the unavoidable narrative has been one of doom and gloom. Of course, much of this is an understandable reflection of what is really happening. But sometimes – and perhaps now more than ever – we need glimmers of light to get us through the darkness.

So as 2020 comes to an end, we’d like to offer one such glimmer of light. It’s about the funding that can help your company recover from the pandemic.

It centres on Blueberry – a telemarketing company – and one of its directors, Faresh Maisuria, whose knowledge of grants, and whose tenacity and optimism is the medicine we all need right now.

For those of you who read our blogs for technology insights, there is a technology theme in Faresh’s experience. But this blog goes beyond technology – so we hope you find it useful irrespective of your role or the nature of your business.

Growth from day one

“We’re a telemarketing company based in Leeds, specialising in helping businesses grow,” explained Faresh. “And what’s interesting, is that it isn’t just our unique selling proposition – it’s in our DNA too, because our early years were spent working in the business incubator in Leeds Beckett University.

“So from day one, we were not only geared towards helping businesses grow, but we ourselves were immersed in an entrepreneurial spirit, too. And being so closely tied to the public sector, we learned a lot about government funding available to new businesses.”

The more Faresh and his team investigated these grants on behalf of clients, the more they realised the true purpose of such schemes: they exist as a springboard and enabler of ideas and innovation – and not to paper over the cracks.

“By 2017, we were working in a fairly old, small building,” he added. “The floor literally cracked beneath our feet and felt like it would give way any minute.

“At the same time, we’d expanded and really wanted to upgrade our phone system – but we didn’t want to do so in the old building with the cracking floor and the shortage of space. So the process of switching our analogue system to VoIP made relocation all the more compelling, becoming a real driver for change.

“We did our homework, and with AdEPT’s help, found that a VoIP system would reduce costs, and increase our resilience. And so, we bit the bullet and applied for a government grant to cover the cost of the new system. We were successful, and we moved into our new city centre home, where we’ve been to this day.

2020: the grant pays off

As with all government grants that Faresh has applied for over the years, he found the process to be a lot more straightforward than one would imagine. By focusing on the growth the grant would enable, Blueberry’s application was successful – and it wasn’t long before the business was using the new phone system.

Of course, this led to immediate benefits – such as more flexibility and richer features, as Faresh had identified in his application. But it was in 2020 that the VoIP telephony – an Avaya IP Office system – came to the fore. And being an Avaya Diamond Partner, AdEPT helped Blueberry make the most of the new system.

“As a telemarketing company, a phone system is at the heart of what we do,” said Faresh.

“Our business relies on our people being on the phone – so the pandemic and lockdown could have seriously threatened our very existence.

“But with VoIP, we were able to continue business as usual – or as close to it as possible. With it, our telemarketing staff could continue their normal roles from home, and the tools and analytics we use to manage our work continued as usual.

“For example, we record our calls for training purposes – and with the Avaya system, we could still do this even though our staff were working from home.”

For Faresh, the experience of applying for the grant, rolling out the new telephony, then using it through the pandemic offers a lesson that goes far beyond technology.

“It’s about growth and resilience,” he said. “Undoubtedly, the VoIP system allowed us to grow when we first adopted it. But it also set us up for a more resilient future.

“I honestly don’t think we’d have got through the last six months without the Avaya system in place – and the grant that helped us get that system.”

Beyond VoIP

Throughout its lifetime, with Faresh at the helm, Blueberry has applied for other government grants, advising other businesses on such funding. And when the pandemic took hold, their attention turned to funding that would help businesses survive the crisis and beyond it – to recovery, and future growth.

“In autumn 2020, we applied for a Covid-19 recovery grant,” said Faresh. “Due to the volume of applications and more pressing needs of other businesses, our submission was not approved on this occasion.

“But, that won’t stop us from trying again. Our view is these schemes are there to not only help businesses, but to help the local economy, employment and the community, too. And since those things are important to us at Blueberry, we have high hopes for future applications.

“The grants are available for lots of areas in business – not just for technology. For example, the Business Support Service here in Leeds offers funding for equipment and machinery, employing apprentices, for trading overseas and help with energy bills. Many of these things could be very useful to businesses looking to bounce back from the pandemic.”

Practical tips

Applying for government grants sounds easier said than done – and Faresh is the first to admit that the process to a newcomer can feel overwhelming and demanding. But he says this impression couldn’t be further from the truth – and has some valuable advice to all businesses.

“The first thing I’d do is look into your Local Enterprise Partnership, or LEP. You can Google this term, and find the LEP Network website, which lists all the local schemes by region.

“Once you get to your region’s website, it’s worth spending some time reading to see what’s available to you. I know this sounds obvious, but it’s really worth understanding what’s on offer and how the process works.

“What you’ll probably see is different names for different schemes – which can be confusing – but they largely work in the same way. Funding is made available, and you have to register your interest, and then later formally apply.”

To help him in this process, Faresh closely follows the developments of the local LEP in Leeds.

“I’ve signed up to all the newsletters that are sent out by Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership,” said Faresh. “This seems like such a small thing – especially as we all get so many emails every day – but it makes all the difference.

“For example, towards the end of September, I got an email from a business manager at our LEP advising that there was new funding for small businesses to help them recover from the pandemic.

“And in the email, there was a clear instruction that businesses should register their interest by the end of the day, or risk missing out.”

Such an email highlights another valuable aspect of LEPs – they are staffed by business development managers who can advise on all the grants available, and how to make a successful application.

“Registering your interest is often a matter of three clicks,” explained Faresh. “It’s that simple. And then the process of formally applying is similarly straightforward.

“So long as you can demonstrate that the funding will be used in a way that will grow and strengthen your business – and not just help keep it ticking over – then you’re well on the way to a successful application.”

Final words

If your business is one of many that is picking up the pieces of the pandemic, it may come as welcome relief that applying for grants needn’t be as onerous as it sounds. In fact, technology does appear to have made the process much more straightforward – gone are the days, it seems, of reading long, complicated documents and filling in lengthy forms.

With this in mind, Faresh and Blueberry will continue to look to build on their entrepreneurial spirit as they too look to recover from the pandemic. And his advice to those of you looking to do the same can be summarised in a few simple points:

1. Visit https://www.lepnetwork.net/ and find your local LEP.

2. Study the information on your local LEP website.

3. Don’t be bamboozled by the different names of the schemes. The principle behind all of them is largely the same.

4. Sign up for all the newsletters available. And make sure those emailed newsletters don’t disappear into your junk box.

5. Register your interest for funding schemes as soon as they are announced.

6. When it comes to making your application, make sure you emphasise how the funding could help your business grow and benefit the local economy.

7. If you are unsure about any of this, then get in touch with the LEP business managers – or indeed Faresh himself.

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

Demystifying government grants for Covid-19 recovery: Blueberry and AdEPT unite to share their experiences and advice for SMEs

13 January 2021

 

In the wake of government announcing a new round of emergency funding for businesses, AdEPT Technology Group shares the story of one telemarketing company that used a government grant to fund technology that helped it stay resilient through the pandemic.

SMEs looking to bounce back from the pandemic may find some inspiration in the experiences of Blueberry, a telemarketing company that successfully applied for a grant and used the funds for a new telephony system that kept it fully functional through the past six months.

The Leeds-based firm specialises in helping businesses grow – and as such, has a long history of advising companies about business grants, having used such financial support to buy and set up an Avaya voice-over internet protocol (VoIP) system, with the help of AdEPT.

“I honestly don’t think we’d have got through the last six months without the VoIP system in place,” said Blueberry director Faresh Maisuria, who made the application in 2017, focusing on business resilience and growth in his submission.

Faresh applied for a Digital Growth Voucher from Leeds’ Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), was successful, and it was during the pandemic, in a much-welcome good news story, that Blueberry saw the fruits of his labour.

“As a telemarketing company, a phone system is at the heart of what we do,” said Faresh.

“Our business relies on our people being on the phone – so with an older analogue system that was tied to our office, the pandemic and lockdown could have threatened our very existence.”

In making the application and rolling out the new telephone system, Faresh sought the advice and services of AdEPT, whose telecoms expertise and foresight helped ensure the system brought both immediate and long-term benefits. Notably, AdEPT is a vendor agnostic company, but in this instance, an Avaya IP Office system was right for Blueberry – and being an Avaya Diamond Partner, AdEPT ensured Faresh and his colleagues were comfortable and confident about every last detail of the new system.

“With VoIP, we were able to continue business as usual – or as close to it as possible,” explained Faresh.

“By using it, our telemarketing staff could continue their normal roles from home, and the tools and analytics we use to manage our work could continue as usual.

“For example, we record our calls for training purposes – and with VoIP, we could still do this even though our staff were working from home.”

Now, as the government continues to offer financial support to businesses affected by the pandemic, Blueberry and AdEPT are on a mission to help other businesses that might find the application process intimidating or confusing. And although it was a telephone system that brought the two companies together, both Blueberry and AdEPT are keen to point out that the funding schemes are not limited to technology.

“The Business Support Service here in Leeds offers funding for equipment and machinery, for recruiting and employing apprentices, for trading overseas and for help with energy bills,” said Faresh. “Many of these things could be very useful to businesses looking to bounce back after the pandemic.

“What’s interesting about Blueberry is that helping businesses grow isn’t just our unique selling proposition – it’s in our DNA too, because our early years were spent working in the business incubator in Leeds Beckett University,” he said.

“So through that experience, we’ve come to realise that there’s an understandable perception that applying for grants is a long-winded process that takes a long time, and involves lots of complicated forms.

“This couldn’t be further from the truth,” he added. “So long as you can demonstrate that the funding will be used in a way that will grow and strengthen your business – and not just to help keep it ticking over – then you’re well on the way to a successful application.”

The experiences of Blueberry and Faresh form part of AdEPT’s new blog about government grants. But for those businesses looking to apply for funding right now, Faresh has some quick-win pointers…

1. Focus your attention on your Local Enterprise Partnership. There are other bodies out there, but if you’re new to the process of applying for government funding, this is a good place to start.

2. Visit https://www.lepnetwork.net/ and find your local LEP.

3. Study the information on your local LEP website.


4. Don’t be bamboozled by the different names of the schemes. The principle behind all of them is largely the same.

5. Sign up for all the newsletters available. And make sure those emailed newsletters don’t disappear into your junk box.

6. Register your interest for funding schemes as soon as they are announced.


7. When it comes to making your application, make sure you emphasise how the funding could help your business grow and benefit the local economy.


8. If you are unsure about any of this, then get in touch with the LEP business managers – or indeed Faresh himself.

• On 5 January 2021, the government announced that it has made a further £4.6billion in lockdown grants available to businesses, including one-off grants worth up to £9,000 for firms in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors.

ENDS: 853 WORDS

 

For a full briefing please contact:

AdEPT Technology Group Plc

 

About AdEPT Technology Group plc:

AdEPT Technology Group plc is one of the UK’s leading independent providers of managed services for IT, unified communications, connectivity and voice solutions. AdEPT’s tailored services are used by thousands of customers across the UK and are brought together through the strategic relationships with tier-1 suppliers such as Openreach, BT Wholesale, Virgin Media, Avaya, Microsoft, Dell and Apple.

AdEPT is quoted on AIM, operated by the London Stock Exchange (Ticker: ADT). For further information please visit: www.adept.co.uk

Written by Ben Rogers

Group Marketing Manager at AdEPT

AdEPT helps NHS deliver technology transformation

11 January 2021

AdEPT connectivity powers part of the NHS’ biggest data network transition programme to date.

With its mission of ‘uniting technology, inspiring people’, AdEPT Technology Group has helped the NHS succeed in a major technology transformation.

Relevance for investors

Winning a mandate to deliver a substantial program of work is only the start of the journey. Delivering success, and being commended as a result, is a far more important milestone and augurs well for winning new projects to provide critical infrastructure in both the public and private markets.

The story

In November 2020, the NHS declared victory on a massive project to transfer hundreds of NHS and social care sites from a legacy data network to an updated version in a project expected to save the health service £75million a year.

About 12,000 sites belonging to 950 NHS, social care, private sector and local authority organisations have moved from the legacy N3 network to the new Health and Social Care Network (HSCN). It is the largest-known public sector data network transition programme, according to NHS Digital.

The legacy N3 network has now been decommissioned.

Organisations that have moved to the HSCN are expected to get faster connectivity with improved security capabilities at a reduced cost. They can now pick from a marketplace of 21 different suppliers who compete to provide standardised network services. It means organisations can get the public internet and private network connectivity services they need over a single connection, at highly competitive prices.

Patrick Clark, Associate Director of Infrastructure Services at NHS Digital, said: “This is a hugely significant achievement both in terms of the scale and the benefit of what has been delivered.

“Reforming long-standing services in order to promote real choice, competition, innovation and value for money is always difficult but the HSCN initiative demonstrates what can be achieved when you work collaboratively across the health and care system, and industry.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated how important it is to underpin online, digital services with the right connectivity and I’m delighted that the HSCN initiative has enabled so many organisations to upgrade and future-proof their connectivity services affordably – in many cases obtaining far greater bandwidth for less money.”

The value for money generated by the new HSCN marketplace has enabled many organisations to significantly upgrade their connectivity in order to adopt more digital and cloud-based services, cope with rising levels of online activity, support their Covid-19 response and ultimately realise their digital ambitions, NHSD said in a statement.

AdEPT’s role

AdEPT already provides HSCN connectivity across the UK, however the most concentrated success was a programme across the entire Kent NHS, in a contract valued in excess of £4m. This initiative provided connections to over 400 care homes, hospitals, and doctors’ surgeries in a project that will be of huge benefit to clinicians and the public at large.

Patrick Clark commended AdEPT. “On behalf of NHS Digital, I wish to express my sincere gratitude to you and your colleagues at AdEPT for your co-operation in driving HSCN migration activity. I have no doubt that without your organisation’s hard work and commitment we would not have arrived at this point so soon.”

Future impact

The credibility arising from delivering such a substantial programme positions AdEPT to secure further infrastructure projects across the UK; whilst the presence AdEPT now has facilitates conversations about additional services from the AdEPT portfolio across the NHS.

ENDS: 552 WORDS

For a full briefing please contact:

AdEPT Technology Group Plc

N+1 Singer

  • Nominated Adviser & Broker, Shaun Dobson / Iqra Amin: 020 7496 3000

This announcement has been released by Ben Rogers, Head of Marketing, on behalf of the Company.

About AdEPT Technology Group plc:

AdEPT Technology Group plc is one of the UK’s leading independent providers of managed services for IT, unified communications, connectivity and voice solutions. AdEPT’s tailored services are used by thousands of customers across the UK and are brought together through the strategic relationships with tier-1 suppliers such as Openreach, BT Wholesale, Virgin Media, Avaya, Microsoft, Dell and Apple.

AdEPT is quoted on AIM, operated by the London Stock Exchange (Ticker: ADT). For further information please visit: www.adept.co.uk

Written by Ben Rogers

Group Marketing Manager at AdEPT

What is the difference between LAN and WAN?

Networking is the heart and backbone of all information sharing and internet activities of organisations today. It drives and facilitates business communication and other key functions. With a well-designed and configured business network, your business can run as effectively, efficiently, securely and productively as possible. There are two main types of networks – LAN and WAN. What is the difference between LAN and WAN? And how can your organisation benefit from either or both of these networks? This article details the key aspects of both networks and how they can improve the running of your organisation.

Let’s start from the basics,

What is a Network?

A network is any group of computers (workstations or servers) and devices like printers and smartphones that are connected and can communicate with each other. As mentioned earlier, there are two main types of networks i.e. LAN and WAN. LAN is short for local area networks while WAN is short for wide area networks.

Local Area Network (LAN)

LAN, local area network is a group of computers and other network devices such as printers, servers and laptops connected within the same geographic location. LANs are typically found in offices, schools or other establishments and operate within the same building or the same floor of an office building.

LAN Setup

A basic LAN is created by connecting computers and other network devices using Ethernet cables or Wi-Fi through a network switch. Each computer and network equipment is assigned a unique IP address either manually or automatically through a service called DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol). Most LANs comprise of a network switch and a network router either on the same device in a small LAN like a small office network or different devices like in an enterprise LAN network. Additionally, most modern routers have Ethernet ports or switch ports together with Wi-Fi capabilities hence the term WLAN (Wireless LAN) which falls in the LAN category.

Devices on the same LAN can see each other on the network and connect through various protocols for file transfer with or without encryption, connect to a remote command line or for Microsoft Remote Desktop etc. LANs also serve as the gateway to the internet for local devices through a centralised device such as a router through which internet traffic is sent and received.

LANs can be configured in many different ways depending on need including limiting and managing access to shared resources over the network among local users. These considerations carry a cost and security implication with security taking priority in today’s world of cybercrime.

Pros and Cons of LAN

One of the key advantages of LANs is the speed they offer which is typically over 1Gbps and significantly faster than the average WAN. On the other hand, its biggest downside is that it is limited to a local area such as an office building or school.

Wide Area Network (WAN)

Some people tend to think of WAN as a larger LAN although some foundational differences set them completely apart. For example, the internet itself is viewed as a WAN and, like typical WANs, it has a significantly more complicated infrastructure than LAN.

A WAN connects LANs typically across multiple locations including individual devices connecting from a remote distance. Think of it this way, if one of your employees wanted to send a file to a colleague next door, they will probably use LAN. However, if they wanted to send the same file to one of your satellite offices across the world, they will most likely use WAN.

WAN Setup

WANs often connect hundreds of devices, contain different sub-networks with differing security requirements and need to use more address space and employ more security measures. Typically, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are the main players that create and implement WANs.

Devices can connect to a WAN through wired options such as Direct Internet Access (DIA), Metro Ethernet and T1 Cables or through wireless options that are now gaining popularity such as safelight signals, public Wi-Fi and 4G LTE services. WANs can be administered over a public or private connection or a hybrid of both.

Pros and Cons of WAN

A WAN can cover almost an unlimited geographical distance depending on resources. However, this also means that they are can be costly to implement, can increase latency, security exposure and lower speeds of data transfer.

Differences between LAN and WAN

Speed

Due to the technology and distance involved, LANs tend to transmit data more quickly and efficiently than WANs. This can be a determining factor for mission-critical business activities such as financial trades.

Network Security

LANs tend to be more secure as they can act as stand-alone networks without having to be connected to a WAN. WANs, on the other hand, are more prone to security concerns as they connect one LAN to another which can lead to intrusion.

Ownership

LANs are typically internally owned by individual companies who then depend on the internet to act as a WAN. WANs, in contrast, are typically run by a collection of entities such as companies operating in a business network or city departments.

Having the Right Network for Your Organisation

LANs and WANs have some key similarities and some important differences that can contribute to the efficiency and productivity of an organisation. The important thing to remember when creating or upgrading your business network is to work with a reliable and experienced IT partner.

With close to 2 decades of providing the best data networking services to organisations all over the UK, we have the skills, experience and expertise to provide your organisation with an optimal business network. The AdEPT Nebula core, part of our WAN service can allow your organisation to operate, communicate and perform efficiently across multiple locations. Contact us today and let us help you get connected.

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

What is MPLS? How Multi-protocol Label Switching Works and Benefits Business

It is no secret that for companies to function properly and grow in the current digital age, they need to be connected – to the internet and eventually to other branches. This creates a unique problem of how companies can maintain their data network and its security while simultaneously managing costs and increasing productivity. Unfortunately, many multi-site businesses end up managing their various locations as multiple businesses rather than a single business which is not only costly but also very inefficient and a major stumbling block for growth. MPLS network, also known as multiprotocol label switching allows companies to address these challenges, but how?

What is MPLS?

Contrary to what most people might think, MPLS is not a service or a type of internet connection, it is more of a technique that helps you use your internet more efficiently. MPLS has been defined as a protocol for shaping and speeding up network flows. This means that MPLS labels, sorts and prioritizes your data packets according to your business needs which effectively increases your available usable and guarantees 100% uptime for your critical applications on private routes.

How Does MPLS Work?

Although we know that MPLS is a networking technique that labels and prioritises types of data, let’s use an analogy to paint a clearer picture.

Let’s think of MPLS as mailing a package from a distant retailer. As you track the package in transit, you might notice the package make random and seemingly illogical stops across the country. This is how most connections work. Networks are required to look inside every data packet at every router to know where to send it next. Imagine having your package opened at every post office before it arrives with you. Wouldn’t it be more efficient and frankly more secure if the package has a destination label on the outside so the package could be sorted and forwarded without lengthy inspections? This is exactly what MPLS does. An ingress router labels the data packets on entry to the network so that routers can quickly and more efficiently direct them where they are going without much delay. This not only adds efficiency but also allows some packets to take priority over others – think of it as ‘express shipping’. Mission-critical data packets take priority over less relevant applications.

In more technical terms, MPLS replaces/switches the long network addresses with short path labels on private routes.

Why is MPLS Important?

MPLS has emerged as a simple, secure telecommunications solution that allows many multi-site businesses to have a solid backbone for cost-effective, secure communications. Additionally, MPLS is a flexible network solution that accommodates and facilitates scalability so companies can create custom solutions for their unique needs. Also, having that MPLS uses path labels for worldwide connections on private routes without special hardware or encryption, this further drives down the cost and increases efficiency. MPLS bandwidth relief also allows for reduced overhead expenses and support.

One thing to note is that even though MPLS networks are unencrypted, they are more secure than a normal internet connection.

Importance of MPLS to Businesses Today

Lower Cost

MPLS can slash down your on-going WAN operating costs by up to 50% depending on your current enterprise-class network while still maintaining a higher level of service and reliability.

Improved Quality of Service

Probably the most cited benefit of MPLS is the ability to assign QoS and classes of service features to traffic. This allows your network to prioritise the most important traffic over other traffic.

Scalability

 The protocol-agnostic nature of MPLS allows many different types of traffic to be carried via MPLS routing regardless of type. Additionally, automatic network configuration allows larger and more complex networks to be scalable according to need.

Is MPLS Dead?

With the emergence of competing technologies such as SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network), Gartner published a crucial report on the future of MPLS. In the report, they noted that even though most enterprises would transition to a hybrid environment with both the public internet and MPLS networks, MPLS would continue to be a fundamental part of the WAN landscape, particularly in multi-site companies.

Going forward, MPLS will continue to play an important part in organisations that rely on time-sensitive applications that require guaranteed delivery such as IP phone traffic, Quickbooks, video conferencing etc.

How Can Your Business Take Advantage of MPLS?

As you continue to grow, guaranteed connectivity will play an ever-growing role in your enterprise. In this regard, it is important to work with a networking specialist that will monitor and analyse your evolving needs and implement the right data networking implement. With close to twenty years in the industry, AdEPT works with a variety of key partners including every major carrier in the UK to ensure we give you the right mix and match of data networking options for your specific needs. Additionally, the AdEPT Nebula offers a comprehensive, reliable, scalable and diverse range of networking and communication solutions from a single provider so you can focus on running and growing your business. We also have a variety of other networking solutions to help you elevate your business to the next level through improved connectivity and productivity. Contact us today to learn more.

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager

Helping you with your IT projects is a lot like helping you build an extension

If you were looking to build an extension on your home, where would you start?

Would it be with a sledgehammer and pile of bricks?

Or would it be with an architect, who can tell you what you can and can’t do, and the implications of your choices?

Unless you happen to be an architect, it would most likely be the latter. And you’d have good reason to…

Take, for example, the process of extending a kitchen. You might want to knock down a wall, but if it’s load-bearing, the process isn’t so straightforward – and you’d rather not see your home collapse.

Or you might want to add some windows, but you’re not sure where they should be positioned for the best light, or how they might affect the temperature and humidity of the room.

In both instances – and many, many more – your architect will consider your aims and give you expert advice on how to best achieve them, looking at all the possible outcomes of your choices. And they’d probably do this before you hired a builder – and certainly long before anyone took a sledgehammer to your home.

And so, armed with clear plans based on professional advice and experience, you’d be able turn your dream home into a reality.

Perhaps you’re now asking why should home renovations matter to you as an IT professional?

Well, it’s an analogy that lends itself to our new, unique consulting service. But before I get to the nuts and bolts of it, here’s a little context.

In the UK, some 63,000 professionals work in consultancy roles, in a market that’s worth around £10 billion. Of that market, some 28 per cent work in technology – and consequently, you’d be justified to feel a little swamped for choice if you were looking for guidance on an IT project.

At the same time, you may have picked up on certain headlines about consultancies – stories that quite rightly reveal some of the more unsavoury practices of the big consultancy firms.

And consequently, you might be wondering if consulting is all it’s cracked up to be – and if you should even continue reading.

But stop right there.

You might have noticed I referred to our new programme as a ‘consulting’ service, rather than a ‘consultancy’. But if you didn’t, you’d be forgiven – after all, it’s only a few letters different.

Let me explain this deliberate wording: although we offer IT consulting, we are not a consultancy.

And it’s an important distinction, because at our heart, we’re a very practical, hands-on business technology provider, with the scars to prove it.

And so, when we talk about ‘consulting’ – it’s exactly that in its truest sense. As with the architect analogy, you’ll talk to us about what you’d like to achieve, and we’ll help you get there. And we’ve already been doing this for many years, with clients as varied as the smallest SME, to large public sector organisations, like Kent NHS.

Of course this all sounds too simple to be true, so let’s look more closely at the details.

In the case of our consulting service, we have some specific offerings that we’ve developed based on the experiences of our clients. For them, IT tends to pose an overwhelming number of choices and infinite complexity.

Two areas this is particularly true is in cybersecurity and cloud. And so, we’ve developed our Security Readiness Assessment and Cloud Readiness Assessment. There’s a practical example of how these work below.

You might notice that the names of these packages are pretty self-explanatory. And there’s another important quirk of wording – we believe the world of business IT is already too complicated without grandiose names. So when you talk to us about either of these programmes, you’ll get approachable, friendly advice that’s built around real customers, not our sales agenda.

And this brings me onto another couple of points about our consulting service – points that make the service unique.

Firstly, we are genuinely vendor-agnostic. And so, while we work with a wide range of technology partners, we’ll never push you towards a particular product or service. Our priority is developing loyal customers and to achieve that, we know that it’s no good to be one-hit wonders.

Secondly, our people are unique and remarkable.

Of course, every company has unique people – and most companies talk about their people when in self-promotion mode. So allow me to elaborate on something that stands out for our clients: our people know their work inside out and back to front – but they also know what they don’t know.

And by this, I mean that our people have humility with their knowledge. Because, perhaps more than others, technology is a rapidly-evolving field and no IT company should ever claim to be 100 per cent on top of technology – that’s not how technology works.

What really matters is having curious people who live and breathe problem solving – and who know where to turn when they don’t have the answers, in order to get the right answer and provide it in the most transparent way. This mindset became obvious to me when I recently asked my colleagues to write short statements about themselves for an internal project – as demonstrated by the responses from two colleagues:

“I have tested (and broken) firewalls that cost more than the house I live in!”

“My strongest attribute is being able to take this very technical world to someone who doesn’t understand the technology and break it down to point where they do understand the design and products available.”

And on that positive note, I’m going to leave it there. Well actually, I’m going to say thank you for reading – and that there will be more on the way about our consulting service. But if anything I’ve said here rings a bell, then do get in touch. You can find out more and make an enquiry here – and you can also find me on LinkedIn here.

  • How a Security Readiness Assessment could work for you: a real example

One company that has benefitted from our cybersecurity consulting is Premier Partnership (PP). The Doncaster-based firm offers leadership, management, health and safety training – and it was looking to tender for more public sector business. But to do so, it needed to strengthen its cybersecurity. Likewise, PP found that Cyber Essentials (CE) Plus certification was required to renew existing government contracts.

None of this was news to PP. As an AdEPT managed services customer, the company gained prior knowledge of these topics, since we make a point of proactively advising our customers of developments that affect them. In PP’s case, it meant we could help them go straight to Cyber Essentials (CE) Plus certification, bypassing the standard Cyber Essentials (CE) criteria.

To do this, we carried out a Pre-Cyber Essentials Security Check – or ‘Security Readiness Assessment’ – and highlighted the areas where PP needed to improve its cybersecurity, advising how they could be addressed. Next, we worked with PP to roll out these improvements, including networking changes, IT policy updates, and independent penetration testing.

After this methodical process, PP passed its Cyber Essentials (CE) Plus test first time, gaining full certification. PP can now confidently renew and tender for new government contracts knowing that its cybersecurity has significantly improved – to the benefit of their users, customers and partners.

Written by Tim Scott

Chief Commercial Officer at AdEPT