Tom Haworth, B13 Technology: “every company must obtain a cyber essentials certification”

It can be difficult to start a new business, especially for SMEs, as their budget can be quite limited.

Trading software can give you a huge advantage here. From simplifying tasks to streamlining workflows, there’s no doubt that it can help elevate your business in many different ways.

Recently, the Cybernews team decided to show you what we think is the most important software for SMEs. So we reached out to Tom Haworth, CEO of B13 Technology, a company that helps small businesses capitalize on digital possibilities by proposing technical consulting, software, and mobile development services.

How was your trip? How did the idea of ​​B13 Technology come about?

Technological progress is under threat due to a shortage of software development skills in the West. I first became aware of this 8 years ago while working as a software developer with a high-level security clearance. The group of developers with the appropriate level of clearance was small, and it took a long time to get the clearances to add additional resources.

This was the first time I had noticed the effects of a digital skills gap. There was a shortage of resources available to hire, which led to rapid salary inflation and meant retention was low because developers were constantly being approached for other jobs. I realized that this problem (at the time isolated from the development group with security clearance) would soon spread to the wider industry as the world’s demand for technology increased.

The digital skills gap has now fully manifested itself and the pandemic has now brought us to a tipping point with developer salary inflation at 50% in the last 12 months, an average tenure of 18 months and a universal move towards 100% remote work for developers

Can you introduce us what you do? What are the main challenges that you help navigate?

B13 Technology makes software accessible to SMEs by addressing the digital skills gap. We are a UK based consultancy with a team of UK based staff who are responsible for understanding, managing and delivering bespoke software solutions to our clients on time, on budget and to a high degree of quality. We have addressed development capacity issues through our wholly-owned development center in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

There is no digital skills gap there, and we have access to a large pool of highly skilled and dedicated developers. Offshore software development is hard! We’ve spent years refining our processes and communication to eliminate risk, allowing us to deliver high-value, custom software solutions delivered on time at a fixed price.

Why do you think companies are often hesitant to try new and innovative solutions that would improve their business operations?

Companies often do not know what is possible through technology. These days, every business is a software business, but business owners rarely have software experience.

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People know they need to do something in the digital space and often have a great idea of ​​what they want to achieve, but delivering that solution can seem intimidating and they don’t know where to start.

B13 technology helps clarify the journey through a consulting and education process and by breaking it down into smaller iterations. Our clients learn the art of the possible and can avoid common mistakes by relying on the extensive experience of B13 Technology.

How have recent global events affected your field of work?

The global pandemic accelerated the pace of digitization. Clients and staff have become accustomed to highly flexible and adaptable digital solutions and they know what’s good. Simplification and convenience are a must if a company wants traction and retention.

The rapid rise in demand for digital solutions was accompanied by a surge in demand for software developers which has left SMEs struggling to keep up with the spending power of corporate competitors. Companies know they need technology to compete, but struggle to find the expertise to deliver it.

What do you think are the most common problems that companies face in their digital transformation process?

A big problem we see is that companies do not know who to trust with their digital transformation projects. We often pick up broken projects where a digital agency or offshore consultancy has taken on projects that fall outside their skill set. It’s vital that the right tools are selected to deliver any project, and the most appropriate technology stack differs widely depending on business goals.

Digital agencies will often shoehorn their preferred technology options into a project even though they are totally inappropriate, leaving gaps in scalability, maintainability, performance, and security.

B13 Technology has picked up and salvaged several projects over the years that could have been a lot easier if the right technology choices had been made from the start. Our development team in Ho Chi Minh City has experience in a wide range of software development languages, which means we can choose the best tools for the job.

What are some of the best practices organizations should follow when developing software?

The most important part of any software development project is the specification and design phase at the very beginning. B13 Technology can and has thrown resources into a project during the development phase to deliver it under very tight deadlines, but we will never rush the initial phases.

A project will live or die based on the quality of the functional specification, technical specification, user interface designs, user experience analysis, and acceptance criteria. Get this right and the rest will be much easier.

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As the world becomes more connected, what security tools do you think everyone should have to stay safe?

All businesses must obtain a cyber essentials certification. This will walk you through the best practices for digital security and it doesn’t cost much. It’s a bit dated, but if you get certified, it’ll put you in a good spot.

I would also recommend creating regular and secure backups of all data on separate servers. This would render any ransomware attack ineffective.

What advances and innovations in the field of software development do you expect to see in the near future?

The biggest challenge in the field of software development right now is access to talent. This needs to be addressed in several ways:

  • More talent needs to be nurtured and developed through the education system in the UK;

  • We need to tap into the huge international pools of talent and capacity while controlling communication and quality of output;

  • We need to make it cheaper and easier to build functionality from software that has been delivered many times before.

The most exciting development I’m seeing in the field right now is the rapidly improving capabilities of low-code platforms. It is now possible to deliver a huge and growing volume of functionality with much less effort than ever before. This represents a major step forward in addressing the third solution and will be a great option for SMEs that would otherwise struggle to attract and afford software development talent.

What does the future hold for B13 technology?

B13 Technology has gone to great lengths to refine processes and teams in order to deliver high-quality, fixed-price projects on time, on budget, and within scope. This capability has been painstakingly developed through continuous learning and improvement.

We have big ambitions, and the goal has always been to build our delivery capability so that it can be easily scaled by repeating the same proven process for any project we undertake. We have well-defined roles that perform well-defined tasks that have been shown to consistently deliver project success. Customer satisfaction is at an all time high with customer retention through the roof.

Our delivery engine is now tested and ready, so we are looking to embark on our scaling journey. We have hired senior directors of sales and marketing to develop those functions within the business for the first time. We have ambitious growth plans and are excited about the opportunity to help make software accessible to SMEs at a much higher volume.

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