35EDGE IT SYSTEMS |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2018
The EDGE IT team
A collaborative approach
Founded in 1989, EDGE IT is an IT consultancy based in
Coventry, West Midlands. Today, they are part of a group
of three companies, with eight employees, that specialises
in providing IT services and cloud-based software for local
councils, cemeteries and crematoria. Founder and managing
director ChrisEdge discusses the key steps on their journey
sofar.
Establishing EDGE
I have always sought the practical application of technology, which is why I opted
for a four-year degree course in computer science. This allowed me to start a job at
GEC in IT support during my third year and the experience was invaluable.
When I graduated from Coventry University in 1986, Amstrad had just launched
the PC1512: one of the first affordable IBM compatible personal computers.
In 1986, I married my wife Linda and joined the smallest division in GEC
Telecommunications in Coventry. After three years developing expert systems to
configure digital phone systems for large organisations, I realised that I preferred
the challenge of SMEs and developing administration software.
In 1989, I established EDGE and started my apprenticeship as a small business
owner with premises and staff. We began developing tailored software and
covered our costs by providing IT solutions to businesses in the Midlands. Our first
product was an administration system for GP surgeries, which ran on Microsoft
DOS, in black and white and without a mouse.
FACTS ABOUT
EDGE IT SYSTEMS
»Founder and managing
director: ChrisEdge
»Established in 1989
»Based in Coventry
»Services: IT services and
cloud-based software for
local councils, cemeteries and
crematoria
»No. of employees: 8
»www.edgeITsystems.com
EDGE IT Systems
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
36 | EDGE IT SYSTEMS
Funding
One of the challenges faced by
computer software businesses is that
balance sheets are currently better
suited for the industrial age and
not the digital age. A balance sheet
can include tangible, physical assets
such as stock, plant and machinery,
but there is no practical method for
small businesses to include intangible
assets such as software developed by
the business. Today we have eight
software products, and we hope to be
able to include them on our balance
sheet in the future.
Following Black Wednesday on
September 16, 1992, the UK was
forced to leave the European Exchange
Rate Mechanism (ERM). Our balance
sheet did not include our software
products, which encouraged our high
street bank to withdraw funding. As
a result, we moved bank and have
remained with the same bank ever
since. In the UK, it is now easier to
get business funding from alternative
sources, such as Funding Circle, than
from high street banks, who have
essentially abandoned small businesses.
On-site software
In 1992, we started to develop our first
Windows product called AdvantEDGE,
which was built for town, parish and
community councils in England and
Wales. This provides eight modules:
agendas and minutes, allotments, asset
management, bookings, cemeteries,
customer service, finance, and planning.
Distributing our software was rather
time consuming for the first 14 years.
We started by posting 5¼-inch floppy
discs, which grew to 35 3½-inch floppy
discs for some clients before the discs
were replaced by a single CD with
updates downloaded via the internet.
In order to ensure that our clients
always had the best possible platform
for our software, we offered a full
turnkey solution including IT support,
third-party software, hardware and
networks. We still offer this solution
today including VOIP.
Meanwhile, with the introduction
of dial-up internet connections we
experimented with our first online service
called Co-NET – local council network.
This was a bulletin board system that
provided email, downloads and forums.
Soon after, we migrated to websites
and Outlook, but Co-NET provided us
with valuable experience in providing
an online, around-the-clock service.
Software as a service
In 2006, a consortium of prospective
clients challenged us to create a
new product to replace their existing
cemetery and crematoria software
,
while they could only afford to
pay us what they paid in annual
maintenancecharges
.
As a result, we changed our business
model to the rental software as a
service (SaaS). To achieve this, we
had to build a data centre to host the
new Epitaph software, but we never
lookedback.
A healthier, sit-to-stand
workstation
When will
software
assets be
allowed on a
company
balance
sheet?
37EDGE IT SYSTEMS |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2018
In 2006, cloud computing was not
well known or understood, but today
it is the norm, given the popularity of
Office 365 and G Suite. Despite this,
by 2010 we had migrated all of our
AdvantEDGE clients onto our software
as a service with three or five-year
contracts, and today we also offer
monthly and annual contracts.
As our client base and their needs
has expanded, we have had to
occasionally supplement our internal
development team with a mixture of
UK and offshore expertise, but we
have always retained the intellectual
propertyrights.
In 2018, we still own and manage our
own data centre, which is in its fourth
generation and allows users to access
our Windows applications via a web
portal, tablet or smartphone. As a
software company, we look forward
to a future when we can focus on
software development and outsourcing
the data centre when more cost-
effective, third-party platforms become
available. Alternatively, in maybe five
years’ time, when web technology
has improved sufficiently to provide
applications with the same level of
performance and functionality as
Microsoft Windows applications,
we might have redeveloped our
applications using only web technology
and retired our data centre.
Portals and apps
Since 2006 we have provided a web
portal to enable funeral directors to
book cremations 24/7, and today some
crematoria operating Epitaph benefit
from over 50 per cent of their services
being booked online. In 2017, we
released our first app for smartphones
and tablets, and it records timesheets
for council staff that are providing
services to the local community. As a
result, we are now designing a range
of four apps including one for the
public to report problems.
2018 review
GDPR compliance did prove easier for
our clients because they had effectively
outsourced the responsibility for
security for their data and software
to their cloud provider, be it EDGE for
AdvantEDGE or Epitaph, or Microsoft
for Office 365.
It may be coincidental, but the
combination of Brexit and GDPR
does appear to have encouraged
Microsoft to open UK data centres for
Office 365. This has been particularly
welcomed by the first tier of UK
government, namely town, parish and
community councils.
The internet is our fourth utility
service after water, electricity and gas.
Therefore, we do need legislation to
specify the minimum quality of UK
internet connections, including packet
loss of no more than 0.25 per cent in a
15-minute period. This will help deliver
reliable phone calls via VOIP and
robust, cloud-based services.
Finally, I would like to thank our clients
for their support and the team at EDGE
for their loyalty, both present and
former members, and I look forward to
EDGE continuing to innovate using the
latest technology.
We do need
legislation to
specify
minimum,
reliable
internet
service
EDGE IT exhibition stand