Edge IT Systems

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Edge IT Systems's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Edge IT Systems is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett, MP
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles, MP

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Exchange_Rate_Mechanism

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

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Exchange_Rate_Mechanism

The Parliamentary Review Publication, in which this article originally appeared, contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister