CSG Turns Five!

A look back at the last five years

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CSG Company Director Andrew Matthews

A look back at the last five years

As Clever Software Group turns 5, Company Director Andi takes you on a journey of events that have taken place within the business over the past half decade.

Taking Care of the Difficult 

In the year that Usain Bolt made Olympic history in Rio and Pokemon Go took augmented gaming to new heights, I also attempted a great feat when I launched a new bespoke software development business called Awevio on 8th December 2016. 

With sixteen years’ experience already working in the software development industry, firstly as a programmer and then being at the helm of a software company, I set about creating a new business that crafts cleverly simple business software. To enable business growth and innovation through the design of clever, for people focused software solutions.

Throughout my career, in both software and database development, I’ve always embraced technical challenges; utilising the amazing capabilities of modern technology to create simple solutions to a business problem. 

Taking care of the difficult has been my motto for some time. Looking after the technical aspect of developing a new software system, automating businesses processes and producing a super smart software product that makes lives easier. I’ve always set out to create exciting software that makes more missions possible. Today we are a team of 16 talented and clever clogs, and we have a valued client base in sectors from aviation and architecture to retail and public information services. I’m thrilled to have reached this milestone and that in the short space of five years we’ve come so far.

In the Beginning

When it comes to technology, I think that most things are possible. My love for computers started at a young age, back when computers were like gold dust. Not every home had a PC, IT wasn’t even on the curriculum and there were a precious few BBC Microcomputers scattered around school that I would stare dreamily at. For those young enough not to remember, the BBC Micros were built by Acorn Computers for the BBC Computer Literacy Project. Although there were various models, in its infancy the Micros were based on the 6502A microprocessor, which ran at 2MHz and had 32K of ROM. In the 80s and 90s these modest machines proved massively influential to budding young programmers. 

Back then I didn’t know that I wanted to be a programmer; or that we were in the grip of a digital revolution. All that I knew was that I was itching to get my hands on a keyboard and see if I could create code similar to that in my beloved computer magazine. Luckily for me, my maths teacher agreed to let me tinker away; I was as giddy as a kid who had found a golden ticket in their chocolate bar. I remember getting the greatest buzz from having actually managed to get my code to work. Even that maths teacher, who shall remain nameless, was taken aback that I was able to fix a problem he’d been having with Windows emulator. And just like that I was hooked.

The Last Five Years

Having run a successful software company previously with a business partner, this time round I was riding solo with even bigger plans to become a leading development studio and provide a bespoke service. In the six years since I’d first set up a bespoke software business, the market had become much more crowded. Software development companies were popping up left, right and centre. It was really important for me to start small, nurture our values and really ensure we offered a personalised service. I wanted to ensure that we could really understand our clients’ businesses inside and out. In our first year of trading, our team of two moved into offices near Bournemouth Airport and within months we partnered with our first two clients, who we are still very fortunate to still work with today. Building long term software partnerships has always been a key focus of this business. A business app, for example, will need TLC to evolve in line with technology advancements and business changes. Right from the early days, we set out to help our clients realise what is possible with the power of software. 

Our team was small for the first couple of years, working with a select number of clients who were leaders in their field. It was always really important for me to be able to provide a personalised and consultative service. As well as responding to a client’s project specification, making recommendations to improve system performance and reduce costs long-term was just as valuable. It soon became clear that we needed to expand the team, with me moving into more of a project management role. 

During our second year, we were very fortunate to welcome four new wonderful clients on board, which saw us expanding our development team and moving to a larger office space in Ferndown. Every project was varied, from sector to specification. We were supporting existing software systems to advance as well as developing customisable web form builders and creating some really whizzy screen casting solutions. All exciting and impactful in their own way. 

In year three, amongst continued growth, we decided to rebrand. We needed a stronger brand identity, which would better correlate with our business values and mission. And we’d lost count of the number of times we’d had to re-pronounce Awevio. So, we undertook a significant research, planning and design process to develop a brand that really reflects who we are and what we are striving to achieve.

This change became more than just about a name. It became an opportunity to really focus on our culture; to put our creative cogs to good use. By designing a look and feel that echoes our personality, we were able to demonstrate how we’re different to other software development companies. A brand that speaks for our approach, our quirks, our ambition, and our openness. And so, in late 2018, we became Clever Software Group and we’ve never looked back. 

As Awevio grew into Clever Software Group, a fantastic team starting to take shape, I moved into a strategic role to focus on the future direction of the company. We began to have a greater focus on user-driven development too, building software for the people at the heart of businesses. For me awesome software centres on user experiences that are fast and effortless. We want to creating systems which are shaped around user behaviours.

With a renewed focus, we welcomed our seventh and eighth clients, along with three new recruits. Bursting at the seams with people and technical equipment, we opened a second office in the same building. 

Of course, as for any business owner, navigating 2020 was scary and uncertain as we had to adapt the way we work and waited to hear about how our clients would be impacted by the pandemic. Some of our client’s businesses changed for a short while, while others changed for good. In some cases, this has involved making new additions to operational software to automate processes, in other cases we have had to re-tailor the level of support we provide. 

As a business we adapted quickly to a cloud based working environment, utilising Microsoft Teams as our virtual office space when we couldn’t all be in the same room. I was blown away by how productive and adaptable our team was to such a significant shift but all the while, was acutely aware that working as a software developer can be isolating and taking care of our wellbeing was paramount. 

As it was a year of great change, we saw it as a great opportunity to take another big leap. We moved from a business centre to our own stand-alone modern office in Ringwood. And it couldn’t have come at a better time, as we now have plenty of room to grow and social distance too! It’s been wonderful settling into a new business community in Hampshire and the New Forest, having the first-hand experience to see how other small businesses have adjusted and thrived throughout the pandemic.

Throughout the course of this year, we have welcomed a staggering 11 members of staff to the team. That’s our biggest expansion yet, allowing us to double our size in the space of 6 months.

We were proud to emerge from last year with our most successful year to date, which is absolute testament to how our team have embraced and bossed new challenges. It’s never been more vital to be forward thinking to keep our clients ahead of the curve. 

My Five Favourite Things

1.    Undoubtedly, the projects that we’ve worked on and clients that we’ve worked with have been a highlight. In the last five years we’ve created, supported and developed software systems which are helping to revolutionise businesses throughout the UK and beyond. Helping both small businesses and leading providers to effect change. With projects including everything from a Cloud based solution using IoT tech for the remote monitoring of assets, to the creation of a full practice management system, we’ve brought software systems to life from just an idea on a page whilst also breathing new life into legacy systems. 

2.    Seeing our team thrive when given opportunity always makes me feel like a proud dad. The brains at work in our team are pretty incredible. They are wizards, scientists and developers all rolled into one but they are above all, passionate about what they do. Qualifications are great but in my eyes, but passion is even greater. Nothing beats loving what you do. As a self-taught software developer, I am also a big believer in offering opportunities to software fanatics. There is nothing like teaching yourself to code to really learn the art of problem solving. In 2018 we took on our first Apprentices, one of whom is a huge part of our team today, having worked his way up steadily and has flourished beyond measure.

3.    I’ve loved when we’ve been able to introduce real innovation into one of our client’s businesses to help them make big changes. Sometimes what starts as a small support project, being parachuted into support a business with a troublesome system, can grow into a realisation that software can unlock the way for even greater business improvement and a rebuild being undertaken of their wider digital infrastructure. 

4.    Being able to support and care for our clients through the pandemic was hugely important to us as a business. We wanted to do everything in our power to keep their software running in a time of crisis, while also acclimatising to new processes and protocols. No one had an operating manual for 2020 or could predict what was around the corner but looking back I’m proud of the decisions we made and how we carried on and thrived through it all.

5.    Seeing significant growth year on year has been an incredible boost and something I’ll never take for granted, no more so than in the last two years. However, what I’m most proud of is that throughout that accelerated growth, we’ve stayed rooted in our foundations. 

Looking round our office today, I am constantly in awe of what we’ve achieved, facing challenges head on and overcoming them in our stride. We’ve still got leaps to take, mountains to climb (next year we’re literally climbing three mountains in twenty four hours as part of the Three Peaks Challenge!) but we’re confident that we’ve got what it takes. One of my absolute goals with this business was to take care of the difficult. I can safely say that we do just that on a daily basis, and we’re excited to help our clients achieve even more. 

I can hardly believe how far we’ve come, since I first hit that launch button. And eleven year old me? Well, his inquisitive little mind would have surely been blown. 

Stanley and Strong

Stanley and Strong

Client Stanley and Strong is a London based firm of Party Wall Surveyors with experience in residential and commercial surveying. Together we developed a clever web based workflow and project management tool to manage the complex administrative Party Wall procedures.

Read Client Story

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