For most businesses, (located anywhere outside of the growing BRIC economies), 2011 has been tough. Closer to home we have seen the impact of the global financial crisis linger on, with pressure on employment, retail sales, GVA levels and property markets. In the Channel Islands we are in a much stronger position than many, with a lack of debt, strong reserves and lower taxes. But despite this, people and organisations have still felt the pinch and budgets, value for money, caution in the allocation of resources and spending have all been affected.
So what has a year dominated by this sort of economic climate meant for C5? Information Technology (IT), along with Human Resources (HR) and marketing budgets, are often the first to be cut during difficult times. Despite this, we have managed to profit in 2011, by making strategic changes to our offering and adapting to the recessionary environment.
We made the decision to expand our Business Intelligence team to five fulltime consultants, who work with clients to help them understand the value of their data and develop ways that it can work harder for their business. The projects we delivered in 2011 included; Building data warehouses to track client profitability and assets from multiple sources; Replacing Excel based systems to create self-service, licence free reporting for high net worth clients; Liquidity reporting data warehouse; Automated Anti Money Laundering reporting; Automated FSA and JFSC regulatory reporting.
We increased our Director Team to oversee and manage the growth in our staff and client workload, whilst at the same time dividing C5 into smaller teams to ensure we keep our focus on detail and specialist skills. Culturally, these changes helped us to deal with our significant expansion whilst shifting us back to the essential vision that C5 was originally founded on – smart people doing interesting work.
We have also made efforts to develop our local partnerships, with companies like Foreshore, 2e2, JT, Ascent, Lime Green Creative and others to find solutions and ways of working together that benefit us all. This now means that as we enter 2012 we are better able to strategically align client solutions with our partners. Since taking a shareholding, we have been working more closely with Island Analysis. Based in Guernsey, Island Analysis provides a unique database of information covering 85 islands around the World that identifies best practice that can be adopted elsewhere. During 2012 we will invest resources to help them implement an online survey program and better collate the wealth of information they have already gathered.
In 2011 we have been sharing best practice with our current and future clients at our Breakfast Briefings, which we run on both Jersey and Guernsey, and provide a chance for debate and development. Additionally, at an international level we have been attending and speaking at Microsoft architecture sessions and Windows and SharePoint events around the world.
Market trends have affected the type of work we have been doing and we have adapted to suit client needs; for example we have supplied experienced resources to organisations that need to cover critical staff who are required to complete projects, but cannot increase permanent headcount in this economic environment. This is a reality of the recession at the moment and by being flexible in the way that we work, we have been able to support and sustain businesses through periods of change.
C5 has also diversified in terms of location and markets this year. Our Guernsey based team has been doing amazingly well, with a new office, new people and forward thinking clients. Our team delivered some fantastic projects in Guernsey, including introducing a SharePoint-based Document Management and Business Process solution for Generali International which received extensive local publicity. In Guernsey we have big ambitions for 2012 and are working hard to recruit new people to add to our growing team.
Equally, we have significantly developed our working relationship with our partners in Malta. Whilst we are committed to actively nurturing local talent, we sometimes need additional experienced and highly skilled resources to meet our customer demands at short notice or when we are fully committed to existing projects. That is not always possible locally, so having access to extra resources from Malta has been extremely beneficial for us and our clients.
Our Jersey and Guernsey teams have also been travelling worldwide working for clients with merger and acquisitions projects that need IT consolidation support.
We have also had some projects that have proved more complicated and difficult than envisaged! For example a Data Migration project for a Jersey Company, moving them from a legacy system, has taught us a lot about the complexity of this sort of scenario especially in regard to working with issues that are invariably linked to legacy systems. Ultimately we are delivering good results but have also made innovative changes to how we will approach this sort of project in the future as well as developing new techniques to test and check data.
The new States Assembly website proved to be a challenging project but has resulted in C5 providing the States of Jersey with one of the most advanced government based search solutions in the world. Whilst this was an extremely complicated piece of work that was constantly evolving, the result has been a real success story with a huge amount of positive comments. We have used this experience to learn lessons about how we will manage the scoping and design processes for similar projects in the future. We do accept that we don’t get it right all the time, but at C5 we believe what defines us is how we learn lessons and change our behaviour.
We have worked hard to improve our community engagement this year, with numerous sponsorships and events, and a real focus on education. In 2011 C5 participated in Global Entrepreneurial Week, spoke at Highlands College, provided support for Careers Teachers in both Jersey and Guernsey, sponsored students, started a bursary for local students and connected with Universities.
One of our most enjoyable activities was in support of Jersey Careers’ Jobs Fair where we spent time on our stand talking to students and their parents about opportunities locally in IT. We continued to provide work experience for both local schools and Highlands College students, and were proud that our most recent graduate from the IT for Business Course at Highlands has become a key member of our team.
It has become clear to us that the best Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives are when business needs and community needs can be meaningfully aligned. By helping to develop skills and interest in Information Communications Technology (ICT), both the community and industry will benefit.
In summary, despite the recessionary environment, 2011 has been an extremely positive year for C5. We have seen good growth and have held our own against the competition. We have also taken on 23 new staff, and although we have had some leavers, overall we are finishing the year with a larger and stronger team.
So we now ask ourselves, what is next for C5 in 2012 and also for our industry? We are certainly growing as a sector and while this is encouraging, it does also mean that the focus on education and developing more of the right calibre of people is essential. And not only for us; securing the right IT resources will be essential in securing other business sectors who are considering relocating to the Channel Islands.
As a company, and as an industry, we will continue to support the growth of ICT in the Channel Islands and develop our role as thought leaders and contributors to the local economy. Great IT is the foundation and enabler for business and growth; if we can provide this and generate business, everyone benefits. On that note, C5’s aim for 2012 is to continue to have a positive effect on the Channel Islands’ ability to do good business.