Natasha Goode, Reliance Energy Operations Manager
Reliance offers professional services to organisations which develop and operate energy projects
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ST: What challenges did your business face before your work with Softools?
NG: I joined Reliance towards the end of its first year. During this time, the business had grown quickly to develop a healthy pipeline of projects and had reached a point where we needed to establish processes and controls to scale up the business. The team knew what good practice was, and care had been taken to retain data as best as they could, but they were being held back by the limitations of the tools available. Project information was stored and tracked on a number of spreadsheets, and there was no central repository for contact information. We were still growing rapidly, so we needed a way to improve our efficiency and accuracy and to minimise duplication and risks.
ST: What catalysed your decision to build apps?
NG: I was looking for a system that could manage both our CRM needs and provide a portal for handling all our project information. I knew exactly what I wanted the system to do, and any off-the-shelf system would need significant modification to deliver it. As I researched solutions, it was clear that purchasing a bespoke solution was simply too expensive. The other option was to build something myself, but it needed to be a supported platform where we could be sure the data was safe and backed up. Plus, I didn’t want it to look home-made! When I read about becoming a Softools App Builder, this seemed to tick all the boxes.
ST: How did you learn and develop app building?
NG: Initially, I spent a day in Henley with members of the Softools team, understanding basics and having a go at building our first app. This training got me to a basic level where I could start to begin to shape up the apps that would go on to form our Project Management Portal.
ST: How long did it take to put your skills into action?
NG: Within three months, I advanced from a total beginner to having built a bespoke system that underpins our project business processes based on several integrated apps. I’ve continued to develop my app building skills along with our site ever since.
ST: Have your skills and the apps you’ve built developed over time?
NG: Yes, my App building skills really developed as a result of building our sites. The apps, and therefore the build, can be as simple or complex as required. When I wanted to enhance features, I contacted the Softools team to work through an example, and then I was able to adapt and replicate similar functionality across our site. App building has been an iterative and agile process. There’s still more to learn and more functionality to exploit when the business needs arise.
ST: Aside from delivering the functionality you required, what impact has your app building had on your company?
NG: As the business has diversified, we’ve adapted our site to support projects in other business areas, without incurring additional costs or time delays that you might expect from an externally supported system. Most excitingly though, the ability to build apps has opened a new business stream for us, where we can offer business process consulting coupled with bespoke project management tools to customers.
ST: How has app building impacted you personally in your professional life?
NG: Personally, I feel very proud of what I’ve been able to build – I had an idea of what I wanted, and it’s so satisfying to have been able to create it and see it in use. From Reliance’s perspective, it’s a very visual representation of the level of rigour and professionalism that we work to as an organisation. We always take the opportunity to show it to investors, customers and suppliers – it differentiates us from the crowd and has certainly added value to our business.
ST: Do you have any tips for new or potentially new app builders?
NG: Get trained and get started - you’ll learn the most by doing it. There’s loads of guidance available from Softools online, and the technical team is quick to respond to specific queries. If you have a logical mind and like excel formulas, you’ll be able to create some great functionality. And if you have an idea beyond the current capability of the platform, feed it back – the platform is continually improving.
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