Softools for Independent Consultants

Independent consulting or contracting can be a lucrative and flexible venture for those who choose this path. However, unless you are working on a contract or have a good pipeline of follow-on work, your future (and your income) is rarely guaranteed. 

Independent consultants usually share common characteristics:

  • They are good at what they do (or they won't last long)

  • They have deep networks so they have confidence they can find work

  • Their employers trust them

  • They acquire detailed knowledge of their clients' processes and pain points (and are often the only ones with this knowledge)

These characteristics bring an opportunity to deliver digital solutions that can drive tremendous value to the client. Offering digital solutions can strengthen the consultant's position with the client - firstly from a reputation perspective and secondly stickiness.

Imagine operating as a PMO Manager. Every week you generate program status reports. To do this, you attend numerous project status meetings/calls and chase project managers to update their risk logs and status reports.

Now imagine having access to a Digital Platform on which you can deploy a PMO application to digitise the process and the capturing of information, and automate the generation of reports.

Firstly, the app captures best practices tailored to the needs of your program, the culture of the client, and the methodologies that users must follow.

Secondly, the app guides users through the process, which brings consistency and best practice.

Thirdly, the app automates tasks like gathering status information, reminding action owners of their to-do's, and generating status reports for governance.

PMO is only one example. The benefits of digital transformation apply to a wide range of process needs: the need to collaborate, the need to share best practice (e.g., Standards Audit), the need for visibility of information (single version of the truth) or the need to adhere to a process (e.g., a Stagegate approval process).

But why do it? Many reasons:

  1. Be the one to bring innovation to the table

  2. Be the hero or heroine

  3. Elevate your brand and the services and capabilities you bring

  4. Create stickiness - it is harder to replace a consultant who has assets than just a warm body (albeit a clever one)

How can you do it?

Softools is a Zero Code Apps Development platform that enables the construction and deployment of business process applications without code. Consequently, deployments are rapid and low cost. Learning how to build Apps on the platform is quick and easy.

Softools have over 100 off the shelf apps to get you started.

To learn more, click here and begin your journey towards a refreshed business offering Digital Solutions.

Softools and Franchise Operations

The success of a franchised business hinges on its ability to maintain consistent quality across locations. Think about the world’s most successful franchise brands. We all know the familiar taste of a McDonald’s hamburger and what to expect from a night’s stay at a Novotel hotel. What ensures these consistent customer experiences? Standards and the central governance of continuous improvement.

For a franchiser, visibility and collaboration are essential to maintaining standards and ensuring brand cohesion and protection in this model.

Softools helps franchise owners implement applications that maintain and improve standards. We do it by capturing best practices, enabling collaboration between franchisor and franchisee and providing visibility of performance. Some areas of franchise management that we currently work in include:

  • Standards Assessment – These assessments allow your business to enforce brand standards, customer service standards, quality and manufacturing. Softools embeds a defined process in its digital platform where you can:

    • Design an assessment that defines best practices. Assessments can be customized as necessary using Softools’ zero- code

    • Execute the assessment. Softools assessments are mobile and tablet enabled so managers can complete site audit questions easily. Photos and videos can be instantaneously uploaded and evaluators can sign and validate the audit directly in the app

    • Evaluate. Assessment results are stored in a single entry and require no manual consolidation. Automated reports stored in the cloud allow decision makers to instantly see real-time performance.

    • Create Actions. Track improvement actions for assessment results that didn’t meet the standard.

Best practices of high performing franchisees can be shared and adopted across locations as part of a performance management process.

  • Performance Management – As standards are evaluated and improved, performance will improve as it is catalogued and measured. Softools enables a three-step performance management process:

    • Set clear and visible KPIs. These allow you to monitor minimum performance criteria, and ultimately implement loftier KPIs to motivate hungry franchisees

    • Measure and evaluate real-time performance. Softools’ visual dashboards consolidate performance charts, reports and data to provide executive teams with real-time information and insights.

    • Implement corrective action and quickly intervene with underperforming franchisees

  • Incident Reporting - Document, address and prevent incidents through sound reporting.

    • Softools’s zero code allows you to establish a common template for incident reporting that can be shared for use across locations

    • A common form ensures reports are completed with facts, visually aided and validated with the appropriate signature.

    • The app functions as a central location where reports can be uploaded and catalogued, giving the franchisor the visibility and control it needs


Are you a franchised business and in need of inter-company collaboration? Contact us for an initial discussion.

These Softools solutions are currently used by global franchises looking to achieve world class performance across Automotive, Hospitality and FMCG industries.Please contact us at info@softools.net for more specific information on these solutions.

Digitally Transform your Procurement Processes

Intro

According to the CIPS website the importance of procurement to organisations can be summarized in these three categories:

  1. Control Spend

    • Companies can spend 2/3 of their revenue, so small cost reductions or avoidance can have dramatic impact to the bottom line.

  2. Prevent Corruption

    • Corruption adds up to 25% of the cost of procurement contracts in developing countries, and can add up to 10% of business costs globally.

  3. Protect Your Brand

    • Accountability for inadequate or exposed supply chains now goes right to the top, with the company’s reputation on the line.

While there are established Enterprise grade systems in use to manage the volume of transactions, many Procurement Organisations are forced to manage many of the processes geared to delivering the above objectives outside of these systems, often in Excel. As soon as information starts to be captured in Excel and shared via email then central visibility and control is compromised and collaboration becomes increasingly difficult.

Softools is a cloud-based digital platform that enables Apps to be developed in hours without the need for code.

The advantage of using Softools to manage processes that cannot be handled within core Enterprise systems is it provides: visibility, governance, real-time collaboration and scalability across locations. Softools’ zero code capability means Applications can be fully customized to address the processes that you want to digitally enable.

Over the past two years Softools have successfully been helping CPO’s address these challenges. Here are a few examples;

Project Portfolio Management

Procurement teams are always challenged to find and deliver cost reduction. How do you capture potential initiatives, prioritise them and then track their progress from delivery to benefit realization?

  • Codify your best practice approach to managing spend reduction initiatives in Softools. This provides a consistent way of planning, managing and reporting on procurement projects.

  • Automated reports on progress, risks, issues, actions and benefits.

  • Visible and collaborative action planning to manage the deviation between actual savings and target savings – seeing the gap early and formulating and tracking a robust plan to address it brings the best chance of delivering results.

 Automation of Processes

  • Despite efforts to automate, purchasing processes can still involve multiple people executing paper processes including RFPs, contracts and supplier onboarding forms.

  • One customer sends an Excel Sheet all over the world to collect and verify supplier information before being able to accept the supplier and instruct a Master Data Record to be created in the ERP system.

Imagine there being a workflow driven digital process with rule based validation to avoid errors and rework.

Supplier management

  • The risks of suppliers being unsuitable to your organization are increasing and the threat to your brand could cause catastrophic damage. Consequently, there is an increasing need to perform Due Dilligence

  • The Due Dilligence itself is ever evolving, with new threats emerging like cyber crime. There are more questions to be asked and evidence to be gathered. So to remain agile companies often conduct these checks on paper forms or using Excel.

  • There is not one size that fits all, the level of due diligence required on an established global supplier will be different to a small enterprise operating from a high risk country.

Imagine an application that can orchestrate the due diligence process, is adaptable to respond to new risks, is accessible by your suppliers and internal teams and has intelligence to ask the questions required based on the supplier’s profile.

Please contact us at info@softools.net to for more information on how we can help to rapidly transform your Procurement Processes.

Maintaining a Robust Customer/Supplier Database with Softools

On our travels with customers we came across an interesting challenge, for which we have a pragmatic and impactful answer.

The contact details of your customers/suppliers can become outdated quickly as people change roles or leave companies.

Still, companies rarely have processes in place to keep this information fresh.  Here’s where Softools can help. Easily configure an application that generates actions which are divided and assigned to the appropriate data owners responsible for validating the contact information. 

Custom stage/gate alerts track progress and ensure nothing is missed.  The audit trail gives management visibility of what tasks were completed, when, and by who to ensure accountability across a data cleansing framework. Users can be notified of any changes via email, SMS or Slack.

The benefits of an accurate and robust customer/supplier database are innumerous, including the ability to generate trustworthy insights and analytics, and optimal business correspondence costs. But, the primary benefit is ensuring opportunities are not missed due to inefficient communication.

When is the best time to perform this data validation process? We recommend these activities become a periodic process but should definitely be undertaken during a change of systems ahead of migrating data.

Are you about to embark on a systems migration? Do you need to implement a process to consistently validate your data? Whichever the need, get in touch!

Supply Chain Collaboration and Getting Proactive on Non-Compliance

Today’s customers carry a heightened awareness of how products are made and where key inputs are sourced. They expect accountability and transparency. Given these expectations, supply chain compliance commands more attention and importance than ever before. These expectations also present complex challenges in the form of rapidly emerging supply chain requirements. Regulatory requirements at the national and local level, multilateral trade agreements and the tightening of internal corporate policies are all factors that must be accounted for. Furthermore, companies have diversified their supplier base, justifiably so to minimize risk, but must maintain and ‘police’ more supplier relationships. Real-time visibility into your supply chain network, and effective communication and collaboration between businesses and their suppliers are crucial for successful supply chain management and compliance. 

The barrier to achieve this is often the lack of a single source of truth that tracks progress. Information is largely shared via email because suppliers and customers rarely operate on the same systems. Communication on common ground allows each party to collaborate effectively, track progress and glean insight for constructive improvements.

 The Softools platform hosts applications that enable a collaborative relationship between your business and suppliers. Having one place for all participants in your supply chain to collaborate will bring visibility of issues, risks and actions. This also prevents important actions, usually lost inside a spreadsheet or inbox, from falling through the cracks.

 Three solutions centre specifically around preventative and corrective actions and function as the connective tissue for a healthy supply chain:  

1.The Non Conformance Incident (NCI) app captures, tracks and reports on supplier non-conformances. 

2. The NCI is linked to Corrective Action Requests (CARs) and is part of the overall supplier innovation or continuous improvement program. CARs capture, track and report on corrective actions associated with a non-conformance or supplier related issues.

3. The Suppliers app anchors the supply chain management process. It assesses the performance of all suppliers in terms of outputs and number of non-conformance incidents, and plans improvement actions or innovation activities. 

Companies can gain real-time, high-level visibility of supplier performance. The solutions are quick to deploy and use, and totally customizable. It is simple and fast to update and share supplier data or supplier compliance standards. This is of paramount importance in today’s changing landscape, and it is necessary to avoid losses associated with delays in identifying and acting on root causes.

A Comprehensive Project Management Office

We have made significant upgrades to our widely used Work Plan App and transformed it into a Project Management Office Suite. This suite is a comprehensive P3M solution, flexible to fit the needs of each level of project management including the Portfolio Manager, Project Sponsor and Project Manager. Key Features include:

  • Program/Portfolio Visibility : Project Managers/teams can view a snapshot of their projects and drill into details where needed

  • Checkpoints : Project managers can manage the status of their projects through customized checkpoints/stage gates. Workflow capabilities enable alerts by email or Slack when stages must be evaluated

  • Risk and Issue Management : All users within the 3PM hierarchy can view and manage all risks, issues and actions assigned to them in one centralised place

  • Benefit and Cost Management : Track the progress and health of business case benefits through the project life cycle. Track commercial benefits on both the project and portfolio level! Control and track budgets, and track committed and anticipated spend

  • Reporting : Two-tiered reporting: View in-app dashboards  or generate output reports. Reports are tailored to a selected audience (Client, Teams, Execs, Finance) and can be generated automatically at a project or portfolio level.

Betty Crocker, IKEA and Softools?

What could US food company General Mills,  Swedish furniture giant IKEA and Softools have in common? The BBC recently published an article about economic behavior and psychology, specifically the idea that consumers experience higher levels of satisfaction from products they help create. Originally pioneered in the 1950s with General Mills’ Betty Crocker cakes and now dubbed the “Ikea effect”, this concept is truly the spirit of Softools! Except, rather than baking a cake or assembling your new desk, you can rapidly transform your business’s software use. We empower companies with a zero-code development tool, allowing them to construct process-improving business applications in their own image. Check out the full article here and see why dessert, furniture and software sometimes aren’t all that different.

Reliance Energy Case Study

Context

Reliance Energy is a professional services company working with organisations which develop, construct and operate energy projects. More recently Reliance has diversified, offering services into other industries. Despite modest staffing resources, Reliance Energy often have up to 50 projects running at any one time. The avoidance of duplicated work is imperative, and business critical project data must be efficiently captured and shared across the team.

Challenge

Operating within an industry which frequently undergoes regulatory change, Reliance needs to be agile and responsive, continually evolving its business model and processes. Standard off-the-shelf CRM and Project Management systems proved to be too rigid and expensive to customise and regularly adapt. As the portfolio grew rapidly, so did the back-office workload and the commercial risks associated with managing this off-system.

Solution

Reliance implemented Softools’ zero-code platform on which employees developed and configured applications without coding.  The resulting suite of apps automated previously time-consuming processes and has provided a much-needed means of effectively managing the projects.

Key capabilities include:

  • Project tracking & access to key documents

  • Automated Key Action reporting

  • Storage of project photos and videos directly to instantly accessible records

  • Project information exported into pre-formatted slides and reports for clients

  • Performance Reporting

Outcomes

Reliance now has an easily accessible, real-time view of all its projects. It’s now possible for Reliance to monitor and review its business, and to produce KPI reporting to help focus the team’s efforts where they’re most needed. Reliance now have complete visibility of key deadlines - “In one instance, our app alerted us to a deadline to sign a legal agreement that otherwise put a £350k project at risk”.

The ability to export data into pre-formatted slides saves Reliance up to a day each week in producing important project status reports necessary to keep key stakeholders in the know. Key suppliers have controlled access to the system, while clients and investor representatives are confident in Reliance’s abilities to manage projects and business successfully.

Reliance continues to grow their business supported by Softools’ agile and scalable system.

“Every bit of time we invest in configuring the system pays back 10-fold in terms of time savings and reduced risk of errors” - Natasha Goode, Reliance Energy

Softools attains ISO27001 accreditation

As part of the continued push towards quality, and recognising the importance of information security for a software services provider, Softools have attained the industry standard ISO 27001 certification to ensure we use best practice policies to ensure the organisation operates in a way which gives information security the importance it warrants, for both ourselves and our clients.

The certification was presented on 30th January 2019 on a sunny day at our offices in Henley on Thames before the snow arrived!

IMG-8398.JPG

Image lists showcase

To make apps more user friendly and intuitive we try and use image lists wherever we can to help users. Below are some visual examples of some image lists that have been used across the platform, please contact us if you would like any of these on your site. 

Speedometer

Speedometer

Current/Future impact with auto-complete number

Current/Future impact with auto-complete number

Faces for performance

Faces for performance

Auditor score happy

Auditor score happy

Auditor score unhappy

Auditor score unhappy

Speedometer

Speedometer

Risks, Actions, Insights and Decisions

Risks, Actions, Insights and Decisions

Cog almost complete

Cog almost complete

Cogs at 3

Cogs at 3

TBA Cog

TBA Cog

GMP Audit scoring

GMP Audit scoring

Yes slider button

Yes slider button

Harvey Balls and Red, Amber, Green arrows

Harvey Balls and Red, Amber, Green arrows

Risk button

Risk button

Insight Button

Insight Button

Action buttons

Action buttons

No slider button

No slider button

Self-registration with time-out sign up code access

SelfRegSoftools.png

Options to allow self registration of users with a given code has been enabled. This will allow the setup of one or many special codes, with expiry dates to allow different levels of access and use of a Softools site. Especially useful for allowing users to try systems for a limited period, or to give access to a small set of apps and data for users who self register.

Softools Newsletter No. 17

Softools Newsletter No. 17

2018 is proving to be the most exciting year in IT for the last ten years.  We talk about this as the ‘perfect storm’ with four major industry disconnects happening concurrently – all enabled through technology:  1) Corporate and Public Sector adoption of a cloud-first strategy, 2) the emergence of Enterprise Application Platforms (EAP) as the solution to ‘Shadow-IT’, 3) the Internet of Things (IOT) where all parts of the business can be connected real-time, and 4) Progressive Web Applications (PWA) that can work off-line and on any device.

In this months newsletter we cover a variety of topics including a new project with a globally recognised car company, our new relationship with OE consultancy Simpler, Industry 4.0 and Internet of Things discussion and an insight into the benefits of transitioning to an Enterprise Application Platform. We also have a whole host of New Features including a bar code scanner, draw box and self-registration with verification codes among others. 

Read More

So, just what is a 'Smart Business'?

Smart Businesses are those that adopt emerging new technologies in a way that delivers: a) their business strategy, b) operational excellence across all internal core processes and external supply chain and c) pushes IT development into the hands of the operational teams.  However, technology will not be implemented just for the sake of staying ahead, but rather selectively in areas to drive productivity and competitive advantage.  This does not involve a wholescale change of technology, but one where all processes and supporting technologies are reviewed on a regular basis, in order to make simple KICK decisions: do we KEEP it, INVEST in it, CHANGE it, or KILL it?  And to enable it to make such decisions, the Smart Business will be constantly scanning its external environment for next generation technologies that should trigger the opportunity for innovation in the areas of: new value chains, streamlined processes, new products and services or innovative approaches for go-to-market.

To deliver the smart business will also require ‘smart leaders’ who understand the critical role of technology in delivering their growth strategies, and who utilise digital technologies to have the visibility and control they need over all aspects of the business.

- Andy Bruce, CEO Softools

Softools Newsletter No. 16

Softools Newsletter No. 16

This month is a bumper newsletter! We have so much going on at the moment that we have included everything from our new GDPR update, how to capture and share best practices, new marketing materials from Softools, mobile optimisation and updates on our 3 world-class events. In the Hot Topic area we discuss the rise of Shadow IT and its organisational impact and then we go on to cover our financial tracking for Operational Excellence projects toolkit. 

Our new features section covers some fantastic new updates like the ability to show which attachments you have in records, image action buttons, auto-translate for app builders, the ability to add calendar items directly to the users personal calendar, export to pdf and buttons to send out reports!

Read More

Softools Newsletter No. 15

df6529e6-f65c-49fa-8092-63e37da2f6d8.png

The Softools Team wishes you and your team a very Happy Holiday season and a peaceful and prosperous New Year. 

This final Newsletter of the year will focus on upcoming items happenning in 2018 including the Smart Apps events happening in Q1, the Year of the App Builder, and access to the Softools Community Area. Our final Hot Apps for this year include Program Risk Management and the Asset Register and we have just released some new features including the ability to add a homepage background colour, buttons on homepages and naming of attachments. 

Would you like to have another app builder in your team or fancy learning the process yourself? Perhaps a refresher? Join us on one of our webinar-based Apps Incubator Programmes. See dates here.

Smart Apps London & Paris Events


We have two exciting events for CIO and CTO's as well as Operational Excellence Directors in London and Paris in 2018. Discussions with Business & Technology leaders over the last 12 months have identified new opportunities arising from emerging technologies and the increasingly pivotal role of IT to business survival and growth.  But they also talk about the complexity of their current infrastructure and how in an ideal world they would prefer to start with a blank canvas.  In these thought leadership events Softools,  in combination with Microsoft present what they call the the ‘2018 Tech Agenda’ - key challenges being faced by tech leaders, the key drivers of change, and a 10-point plan for Digital Transformation of the business.

Smart Apps UK - 31st January 2018
Smart Apps France - 6th February 2018

Sign up below if you would like to join us

Sign up here

2018 - The Year of the App Builder
 

We see 2018 as the Year of the App Builder, and to support this we have courses starting throughout the year and covering multiple time zones. The webinar based Softools Apps Incubator programme certifies users to ensure they have the ability to build apps from scratch, to configure existing off-the-shelf apps and to develop/optimise existing sites. App Builders in all sectors are utilising new features to create innovative new stand alone apps or complex enterprise solutions in hours.  Click here to download the latest Apps Incubator program outline and sign yourself or your colleagues up today.

Sign up to an Apps Incubator course here

Softools Community Area


Do you have a suite of Apps that you would like to offer to existing Softools Users? Are you an App Builder and would like to read and share tips with the App Build community? Do you have a new feature you would like to suggest? We have now launched our Softools Community area., introduce yourself to other Softools Users to discuss latest trends in Business Apps, learn helpful Tips & Tricks and raise Feature Request for what you would like to see in future releases. Sign up for an account on support.softools.net to be able to create new posts, comment on discussion topics and vote on feature requests.

Access the Community

Hot Topics

Smart Business Whitepaper


What will sector leaders be doing in 2018?  Whilst the answer will vary from sector to sector, it is clear that it will not be the same as in 2017.  We are already seeing the emergence of new value chains that involve companies working together in fundamentally different ways and using emerging digital technologies that will have a profound impact across all aspects of the business. 
Gary Hamel said in 2000 that “those that live by the sword will be shot by those that don’t”.  As we enter 2018, this statement will be truer than ever.  Those that fail to adopt new technologies and ways-of-working will be left behind by those that do!
This white paper focuses on the pivotal role of smart apps and Enterprise Application Platforms as the critical enablers of Digital Transformation – delivering a step-change in business, financial and operational performance based on the adoption of new technologies.

Access it here

Hot Apps

Program Risk Management


Over the last 4 weeks we have develop a Risk Management app based on international standards using in major construction and infra-structure programmes.  The Program Risk Management app allows the client, principle contracts and suppliers to work together on a joint Program Risk Register, where individual risks can be hidden or escalated as required.  As well as delivering in a mobile and off-line context, this new app offers to ability to: classify risks against a Risk Breakdown Structure RBS, render program risk on a 5x5 matrix ‘heat map’, and to present risks overlaid on a site map.  

Add this app to your site

Asset Register


The Asset Register app is a list of the assets contained in a business unit or team, and forms the basis of either the initial installation of the asset or the ongoing preventive or reactive maintenance program.  Assets are captured in terms of the meta data but also photographs taken by the installation engineer on the mobile, geo-location details and perhaps barcode information.  Linked to the Asset Register you would often deploy an Inspection app for planning scheduled reviews, and a Issues list for preventive maintenance or resolution of problems.

Add this app to your site

New Features

Homepage background colour


Linked to the ability to create clickable buttons on a homepage, we have introduced the option to add a background colour on homepages. This feature allows a clickable homepage to look like a single joined up page, rather than the clickable buttons looking slightly separate. This is especially useful on mobile devices.

Buttons on Homepages


There is now a new feature on homepages for zero code configuration to allow images and or buttons in some pre-defined layouts, combined with the other new feature - Homepage Background colours, we can now create a bespoke clickable homepage with images, colours and zero code buttons. Configuration of the homepages allow a range of options from 2x1 through to 3x3. Buttons can be zero coded to quick link to adding new records, or loading pre-selected reports. Buttons will also wrap responsively which is a key considerations on mobile devices.

Naming of attachments


Previously there has been no way to show on a record what attachments have been uploaded. There is now a new field type which shows a list of the attachments, including the friendly name of the attachment if one has been added. Because this is a new field type, it can be included in a word export for a record. The list of attachments also includes a link to the attachment, useful for naming image attachments for example.

All of these features are live and ready to be used on your site and in your apps.
Need some help getting started? No problem, drop us a note here:

Drop us a note

Softools Newsletter No. 14

Softools Newsletter No. 14

This month we've been Trick or Treating to bring you a bundle of treats ready to get your App Building tricks up to the Advanced level with our Apps Incubator programme gathering more and more attendees each month. We also have two upcoming Smart Apps events for CIOs and CTOs as well as Operational Excellence leads in both London and Paris where the conversation will focus on the 'Tech Agenda' and developing the Smart Business.

Would you like to have another app builder in your team or fancy learning the process yourself? Perhaps a refresher? Join us for an App Builder day at Henley Business School, including a lovely lunch with river-side views or sign up to the webinar-based Apps Incubator Programme. See dates here.

Read More