Tom Haworth, B13 Technology: “every business should obtain a cyber essentials certification”

It might get tricky while starting a new business, especially for SMEs, as their budget can be quite limited.

Business software can give a great head start here. From simplifying tasks to optimizing workflows, there is no question that it can help elevate your business in lots of different ways.

Recently, the Cybernews team decided to take you through what we think are the most important software for SMEs. Therefore, we reached out to Tom Haworth, Managing Director at B13 Technology – a company that helps small businesses capitalize on digital possibilities by proposing technical consulting, software, and mobile development services.

What has your journey been like? How did the idea of B13 Technology come about?

Progress in Technology is under threat due to a shortage of software development skills in the West. I first noticed this 8 years ago whilst working as a software developer with a high-level security clearance. The pool of developers with the appropriate level of clearance was small and it took a long time to obtain the clearances in order to add additional resources.

This was the first time that I noticed the effects of a digital skills gap. There was a shortage of resources available to recruit which drove rapid inflation of pay and meant that retention was low because developers were constantly approached for other work. I realized that this issue (which was at that point isolated to the security-cleared development pool) would soon spill out into the wider industry as the demand for technology in the world increased.

The digital skills gap has now fully manifested itself and the pandemic has now driven us to a tipping point with developer salary inflation of 50% in the past 12 months, an average tenure of 18 months, and a universal movement towards 100% remote working for developers.

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

B13 Technology makes the software accessible to SMEs by addressing the digital skills gap. We are a UK-based consultancy with a team of UK-based staff that are accountable for understanding, managing, and delivering custom software solutions to our clients on time, on budget, and with 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 huge pool of highly skilled and dedicated developers. Offshore software development is hard! We’ve spent years honing our processes and communication to remove risk which allows us to offer great value custom software solutions delivered on time at a fixed price.

Why do you think companies often hesitate to try out new and innovative solutions that would enhance their business operations?

Often businesses don’t know what is possible through technology. These days, every business is a software business, but business owners rarely have a background in software.

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

B13 Technology helps to make the journey clear through a process of consultancy, and education and by breaking it down into smaller iterations. Our clients get to learn the art of the possible and are able to avoid common pitfalls by leaning on B13 Technology’s extensive experience.

How did the recent global events affect your field of work?

The global pandemic accelerated the pace of digitization. Customers and staff have grown accustomed to highly flexible and adaptive digital solutions and they know what good looks like. Simplification and convenience are a necessity if a business wants traction and retention.

The rapid increase in demand for digital solutions was matched by a surge in demand for software developers which has left SME businesses struggling to keep up with the spending power of corporate competitors. Businesses know that they need technology to compete, but are struggling to find the experience to deliver it.

What do you think are the most common problems companies run into on their digital transformation journey?

A huge problem that we see is that companies don’t 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 of their skill set. It’s vital that the correct tools are selected to deliver any project, and the technology stack most appropriate differs widely depending on the company’s goals.

Often digital agencies will shoehorn their preferred technology choices into a project even though they are wildly inappropriate leaving scalability, maintainability, performance, and security holes.

B13 Technology has picked up and rescued several projects over the years that could have had a much easier ride if the correct technology choices had been made from the start. Our development team in Ho Chi Minh City has experience in a broad range of software development languages which means that we are able to pick 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 start. B13 Technology can and have thrown resource at a project during the development phase to get it delivered to 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, UI designs, user experience analysis, and acceptance criteria. Get this right and the rest becomes much easier.

As the world gets more connected, what security tools do you think everyone should have in place to keep themselves safe?

Every business should obtain a cyber essentials certification. This will guide you through best practices for digital security and doesn’t cost much at all. It’s a little antiquated, but if you obtain the certification then it will put you in a good place.

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

What advancements and innovations in the software development field do you hope to see in the near future?

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

  • More talent needs to be nurtured and grown through the education system in the UK;
  • We need to make use of the huge international pools of talent and capacity whilst controlling communication and the quality of the output;
  • We need to make it cheaper and easier to build software functionality that has been delivered many times before.

The most exciting advancement I am seeing in the field at the moment is the rapid improvement of the capabilities of low-code platforms. It is now possible to deliver a huge and growing volume of functionalities with much less effort than ever before. This is going a long way to addressing the 3rd solution and will be a great option for SMEs who otherwise would struggle to attract and afford software development talent.

What does the future hold for B13 Technology?

B13 Technology has put a considerable amount of effort into refining processes and teams to be able to deliver high-quality fixed-price projects, on time, on budget, and to scope. This capability has been painstakingly developed through learning and continuous improvement.

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

Our delivery engine is now proven and ready so we are looking to embark on our scale-up journey. We’ve brought in senior sales and marketing directors to build out those functions within the business for the first time. We have ambitious growth plans and we’re excited about the opportunity of being able to help make software accessible to SMEs at a much higher volume.