The benefits of digital partnerships

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14th April 2022

Many companies have their own IT departments. But can they do everything a business needs, when it needs it?

At Sapere, we frequently work with firms that have their own IT teams, who are brilliant at managing the business’s all-round day-to-day needs, but maybe don’t have the capacity or expertise of an external provider when it comes to creating software.

These software partnerships work well for us, in that we have time to really get to know the client and what makes them tick, and well for the client, who gets access to dedicated software support when they need it.

One such partnership is ours with the Pacifica Group, which supplies services across a range of industries, including domestic appliances, home heating, insulation and renewable technology.

We’ve worked with the team for nearly a decade now, on various pieces of software, the first of which was for their Warranty Online service, when they needed something more modern and scalable than their existing CRM.

In our most recent ExperTEES episode, Sapere commercial director Paul Drake caught up with Pacifica’s CEO Kevin Brown to discuss why the set-up works for them.

Kevin said: “At Pacifica, we do have our own in-house development team, and yes, commercially, it’s more expensive per hour to get something done externally, but I think you’ve got to look at the overall financial picture and ROI.

“If you’ve got one person that you’re paying more for to do some development, but you’ve got 100 people on the other side of that who are going to benefit from the development, then that’s a way of measuring that ROI.

“That’s definitely been the case with us, and we’ve now definitely got our business into a position where we have the leading piece of software in the market that we operate in, from a warranty point of view. So, although there was a risk, my view is that it’s definitely been money well spent.”

In fact, as Kevin agrees, there are commercial benefits to working with an external partner, especially when it comes to hitting deadlines and ensuring client satisfaction – their fee depends on it.

Kevin added: “Some of the benefits of outsourcing are precisely that professional distance. You detail the specification, you detail the timescale and you detail the parameters, and commercially, you’re working to those parameters.

“Therefore, I’ve got to make sure I get those parameters right and, for you [Sapere], you’ve got to make sure that your guys are putting the time and effort in to achieve those outcomes in the right timescale.

“So that has a lot of benefits and while I could have employed someone and put them into the business, I think sometimes, with internal development, there is more likelihood of project creep, where the project becomes much wider than the original remit, than with an external developer.”

However, while external agencies are just that – external – there must be a lot of collaboration between everyone involved to make sure the project is of benefit.

The development process starts with an idea, which is fleshed out in-house before being brought to us, as Kevin explains.

“Between us, the team get an initial idea, which we’ll talk over and decide what the financial or operational benefits are going to be for undertaking the project. Once we’ve done that, it will become a high-level plan, which is when we’ll approach your team [Sapere] for further discussions, and to see how it could fit with any existing developments.

“From there, your team [Sapere] will produce a detailed spec through consultation, which will be shared internally, before being signed off and becoming an actual project.

“Throughout the project, we’ll have bi-weekly catch-ups on progress, before the software is released into the test environment and tested fully, before being onboarded into the business.”

This way of working is not without its pitfalls, however, and one challenge can be ensuring that everyone is involved in decision-making, not just those at the top.

It is vital to be aware that software does not only happen outside the building; it must have people in it, taking ownership of it, making it work, as well as the digital partnership arm of it. In our experience, those are the most successful end products, when everyone is pulling in the same direction.

Kevin added: “Over the years, I’ve seen many things developed, and those that are developed in isolation to the ops guys don’t get embraced, they don’t get adopted fully and you don’t get the full benefit.

“In every process, you’ve got to make sure that the operations guys are taken along for the ride and are involved in the decision making. It can become a wishlist, you’ve got to be careful of that, but it’s essential that these guys are involved because, at the end of the day, you’re going to hand this software over to them.”

The advantages of working with a digital partner are clear; the lack of project creep, the external expertise and the outsourcing of work your in-house team may not have the capacity to deal with.

It’s something we’re passionate about encouraging throughout the region, with the ultimate aim of creating a software centre of excellence here in the North East by increasing the number of digital partnerships we have.

If you’d like to talk to one of the team about working together on a partnership basis, get in touch on 01642 955645, email or fill in our contact form.