Business and technology is a funny thing - some shun it, some embrace it, but few companies manage to hit that hallowed sweet spot where the technology meets the needs of the business instead of the other way around...
This article was recently published by HighwaysIndustry.com and reproduced with permission.
The Directors at LMS Highways- Wendy and Paul Winter- have seen their share of technological developments, and had to hit the ground running when they bought the company - it didn't even have a website back then!
As levels of business increased, Wendy and Paul knew the key to maintaining the quality and reliability they were famed for was to invest in technology to help maintain and drive new business. After using a couple of off-the-shelf CRM and quoting tools that didn't quite service the specific needs of the company, LMS designed their own. Produced by a local programmer, the system was an early success and until it was replaced recently with the new 'Drive' system, was still in use daily!
Even back in those early days, the directors wanted to eliminate paperwork on the road and replace it with modern systems running on a tablet.
"Thank goodness we didn't jump too early!" recalls Paul Winter. "The tablets at the time were terrible - the iPad had only just been released and trade was generally using outdated Windows hardware and software. These were generally too slow, badly connected and had dismal battery life.".
In 2014, after trialling some off-the-shelf software to achieve on-the-road functionality, the company found it couldn't fit a square peg into a round hole. Drawing on the experience of success in earlier years, LMS decided they would design the next generation of system themselves.
The project was too large to be produced as a one-off, and the company wanted their new system to be continually developed as the needs of the business changed and new areas of business were explored. LMS took the decision to employ a developer full-time who would also take responsibility for the company's general I.T. systems. Danny Corder joined the team not long afterwards.
After a couple of development years and being released in phases, the new 'Drive' system flows through the veins of the company, touching almost every area.
Every single aspect of the system has been designed in-house and programmed by Danny. He admits it has been challenging, but interesting:
"This is an industry that I knew absolutely nothing about, so as well as developing systems that work for the company, I've had to learn how the business works and what our customers expect from us. This makes us even easier and more attractive to work with."
Looking forward to 2017 and beyond, the company has ambitious plans to further integrate elements of their business. Danny continued:
We're going to be working hard on parts of the system to help our staff with continuous development- ensuring that we're on top of stuff that expires well ahead of time such as inductions and qualifications. Additionally, we're looking to provide our customers with instant access to all the data relevant to the work we've done for them, even if they need to access it later."
Paul sums it up nicely...
"We've never subscribed to the one size fits all mentality with technology. We know how to run our business, so the technology needs to suit us. If I were ever to give advice to a company struggling to work around a system, I'd tell them to not be scared to define and design their own system and make it work for them."