The North Walian consultancy firm provides bespoke advice and structural guidance on the geological stability and composition of land that is intended for use in proposed construction projects.
- Implementation of broadband enabled digital technologies is essential for responding to increasing client expectations.
- Portability and convenience of digital technologies promotes remote working.
Overview of the business
Established in the early 2000s, the business’ portfolio comprises of two interconnected companies. One operating as a consultancy and advisory firm, while its partner company fulfils the construction and manufacturing components.
Both businesses were initially located in North Wales. However, the construction and manufacturing company has since relocated outside of Wales, in part because of the potential for enhanced profitability and greater skill-pooling in its relocated region. Nonetheless, the consultancy firm retains its base in Wales, with employees working largely remotely or in designated business incubators.
Operating predominately as a B2B service, the company has a range of clients including contractors, landowners, property developers and civil engineering contractors.
The company employs five full-time staff, of which two work remotely. The small size is seen as beneficial for the business, allowing for high quality service within a manageable infrastructure. Previous business growth initiatives saw higher turnovers at the expense of a reduction in bottom line profits.
Superfast broadband adoption
Varying bandwidth is available at the different business locations. The consultancy office in North Wales receives speeds up to 20 Mbps for download and 1 Mbps for upload. The speeds experienced in the Wales based incubator and relocated region are greater than this, with a connection speed of 30 Mbps and above.
Consistency of service is seen as the biggest hurdle in broadband adoption. While bandwidth remains important, it is the continued reliability of the service that has been the fundamental driving force behind investment in broadband and its enabled services.
The cost of these investments has been modest, with the faster speeds costing the North Wales base approximately £20 to £30 more a month. This leads to broadband outlays of approximately £60 a month for the North Wales base.
IT skills capacity
The small size of the business negates the need for large scale investment in IT and physical infrastructure. Nonetheless, there remains a need to invest modest sums in physical IT infrastructure, such as desktops, laptops and increasingly tablets for use out in the field.
For the most part the IT is managed internally by the business owner. When more specialist IT support is needed then a local external IT consultant is commissioned. This predominately relates to support in setting up new hardware or software or resolving specialist IT difficulties.
Vault Construction information flow diagram
Highlighting the internal and external communication flows of the business.
Use of digital technologies
The Network Attached Storage (NAS) is one of the key digital technologies utilised by the consultancy firm. The Cloud based storage replaced the pre-existing Windows server, allowing the employees to retrieve and upload company files internally and from remote locations.
Other important technologies include use of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communication, Microsoft Office 365, video calls and, increasingly, access to webinars.
Digital technology and everyday business practices
The company uses commercial software, such as Mathematica and Maple, when developing analytic and design outputs. Despite the ability to run these applications through the Cloud, the company chooses to use standalone machines, preferring to retain autonomy over the processes, rather than becoming too reliant on internet connectivity.
Previously the business would gain access to geographical survey data, such as LIDAR or the Bridge Geological Survey, by directly contacting the providers and requesting that documentation be sent in the post. The internet has seen a change in this process for all companies, with the survey material being available online and accessible instantly.
Internal and external expectations are changing and it is increasingly considered a necessity for firms to implement and utilise broadband enabled technology in its everyday business practices. With this necessity comes the fundamental importance of consistency in broadband access.
To meet these demands, the business uses a mixture of offline and online resources to implement its business processes and retain its desired functionality and profitability. While the consultancy favours a mixture of approaches, the onset of broadband enabled technologies has allowed the business to meet rising client expectations, keep pace with competition and save time and money.
A noteworthy example of these efficiency savings relates to the installation of the VoIP systems. By using an internet replacement to a traditional landline, the business was afforded the benefits of portability when relocating offices and working remotely. The on-going cost savings provide a continued benefit for the firm.
Access to broadband and enabled services also allows for easier and more commonplace remote working. For the owner, the same business processes can be undertaken at his desk at home, as could be undertaken from an office location.
All the data files are readily available through the NAS, the VoIP can be redirected and the software is available on any desktop, laptop, or tablet. This brings with it the benefit of convenience, as well as financial, time and environmental savings when removing the daily commute.
Similarly, the access to geographical survey data essential for the business is now instantly available through the internet. The owner remains dubious as to whether these changes allow for overall greater efficiency yet points to the greater speeds in data generation. In the past the process of requesting and receiving these files could take several days, whereas at present it takes no longer than ten minutes.
* Company name and details changed/ omitted to allow for case anonymity.