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Arad Research

Arad Research is a professional services consultancy, specialising in economic, social and cultural research.

Learning points

  • Costs of increased bandwidth can be countered by reduced expenditure in traditional technology and a replacement with digital technologies.
  • Cloud-based tools, such as Microsoft Office 365, promote efficient collaborative document sharing and editing.
  • Remote working is made accessible due to the flexibility of cloud-based tools.

Overview of the business

Picture of Arad Research logo

Initially established in 2004, the Cardiff-based business employs a small research team with expertise in designing research methodologies, engaging with partners, clients and respondents, and reporting on impact. A USP for the business is its bilingual communications, with six of its nine employees being fluent Welsh speakers. This allows the business to offer its clients and partners meetings and reports in the Welsh language.

The business works independently and with a number of partners, including universities, other commercial consultancies and sub-contractors. Its clients are largely public sector based, in particular the Welsh Government, local authorities and Assembly sponsored bodies. In addition, a number of third sector and private sector contracts are tendered. These public, private and third sector projects extend across Wales, as well as into England, Northern Ireland and continental Europe.

Research projects cover a number of sectors, including education and skills, employment and the labour market, child and young people, social inclusion, and Welsh language research. Recent projects encompass an evaluation of the 30 hour free childcare scheme for the Welsh Government and an initiative to reduce child poverty in Wales through the Flying Start programme for families nought to four.

Arad Research continues to incrementally extend its client base, strengthened by an established reputation built on excellent standards of applied research. An ethos of the team is the active involvement of all its members throughout the project stages.

Arad Research information flow diagram

Highlighting the internal and external communication flows of the business.

Superfast broadband adoption

The previous offices benefited from early adoption of superfast broadband through the Superfast Cymru initiative. When relocating to its new Cardiff offices, Arad Research struggled to access a reliable connection to superfast broadband, instead relying on multiple ADSL lines. More recently in 2017, an ADSL line has been combined with fibre optic broadband, with estimated speeds of between five to 15 Mbps download and one to five Mbps for upload.

The business is looking to invest in a leased line in the near future to provide greater bandwidth and importantly, improved reliability. While this might see an increase in cost, it is considered that these costs could be mediated by cutting expenditure through superfast broadband-enabled technologies. A particular consideration is switching from a landline telephone connection to the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) that allows for telephone communication via the internet.

IT skills capacity

The micro business employs 7.5 full time equivalent staff, each with access to either a fixed working station or a personal laptop. All the staff are highly knowledgeable in ICT, with use of advanced Microsoft Office applications being a core part of the everyday operations.

Requirements for mobile and remote working are becoming an important adjustment for the business. Responding to these needs, Arad Research is investing in more portable ICT equipment. These changes have already seen a move toward greater use of laptops and docking stations.

The business draws on external ICT support from a small ICT firm when appropriate. Recently, the ICT support has involved upgrading cyber security throughout the office. Alongside these upgrades, recent investment and training has led to a Cyber Essentials Certification.

Use of digital technologies

Arad Research relies extensively on cloud-based tools, in particular Microsoft Office 365 is integral to the everyday running of the business and interaction with employees, partners, and clients. The main functions relied upon include cloud-based storage, tracking and adjusting changes to reports, and email.

Skype for Business is increasingly used for internal communication and occasionally for consultations and interviews as required. Once the upgrade to the broadband connectivity is complete, these tools will be extended further and become central instruments for the research consultancy.

The business makes use of survey software for online questionnaires, allowing for specific databases and large sample sizes to be explored.

Continued investment in digital technologies is important for Arad Research. Recently, an updated network has been installed, docking stations added, and there are aims to further incorporate cloud storage through a greater investment in SharePoint.

Alongside these more advanced digital technologies, the business continues to utilise web browsing, as well as Microsoft Office packages for business applications. In addition, the company’s website provides an overview of the facilities offered, past and current research, and its team. An analytics package is used to monitor traffic and better understand its customers.

Improved broadband reliability is central to advancing these digital tools further. However, the consultancy remains focused on ensuring there remains face-to-face interactions with its team, partners and clients.

Business performance

Arad Research relies on reliable and high speed connectivity to undertake its core business processes. In particular, the uptake of cloud-based working has enabled greater document sharing internally, benefited collaboration with partners and clients, and extended the scope of projects and communications.

For the team at Arad Research, there is no longer the need to rely on continuing emails for correspondence and editing, instead Microsoft Office 365 enables projects to be easily accessed and edited. As well as improving the speed of operations, this also provides the flexibility for the projects to be accessed remotely. This provides the potential for home working and for the team to access necessarily files while visiting partners and clients:

It’s given us more flexibility, and also enabled us to work more efficiently … When I think back to a few years ago, the amount of emailing documents back and forth, version control was a lot trickier.

Manager, Arad Research

At present these document sharing benefits are mainly realised within the team. However, the business is looking to extend this further by enabling cloud based project sharing to extend to its partners. These benefits will be realised with the completion of the SharePoint installation.

Having access to the cloud enables the business to keep pace with competition and make every day work more productive. Nonetheless, the consultancy recognises the need to continue to advance its connectivity and corresponding technologies.

It is claimed that with the upcoming improvements in bandwidth and reliability, the business will continue to advance its competitive position in a saturated market. This will be achieved through improving communications with greater use of Skype, VoIP and cloud-based digital tools. In addition, improving the reliability will benefit time allocation management and delivery of the service.