Startup Stories: A tale of resiliency in helping UK Altnets scale at speed efficiently

Startup Stories

Tell us about your start up

Telco is our core sector, primarily fast growing Altnets, because they must scale their business as fast as possible, which means going through several phases of business transformation with the clock ticking… the Department of Culture Media and Sport noted “The sector needs to grow 3x over the next 4 years to meet government targets. A massive a challenge first hit by COVID then the current macro-economics.

Investment into the sector is available, but finance alone will not resolve two groups of issues that are currently preventing growth at the required level.

The first group of issues is outside the office and includes obtaining consent and physical access to premises from the property owners, which is proving to be a major practical difficulty for providers, or consent to provide the infrastructure, whether that’s digging trenches in roads, attaching wires to telegraph poles or Wayleave Agreements. Once the work is underway, there is a national shortage of skilled workers capable of building full fibre.

The second issue group is inside the office. Most Altnets have yet to modernise their back-office project operations with repeatable standardised processes that scales, to improve the efficiency of onboarding new resource and make the most of the talent already in place. Each Altnet has its own way of “making do”, with labour-intensive legacy software, such as spreadsheets, Gantt charts, PowerPoint TM, email and project delivery processes that vary by Project Manager that are counter-productive to the need to scale.

As Altnets race to scale in size and numbers, the cost per mile, or premises passed, increase, not decrease, through a lack of oversight, efficiency and a skills shortage at every level, resulting in a requirement for significant re-investment, or mergers and acquisitions, to stay in the game. In essence, the level of complexity increases, on every level. As new entrants join the fray, increased competition further drives down revenue, undermines business growth strategies, that then lead to missed targets.

We know this because we focus on the sector and have just conducted our own survey, contacting 100 of the fastest growing Altnets, with a good response across the sector, including some of the biggest players.

The key for Altnets to scale faster is to simplify the management of complex project delivery, particularly for multiple site deliveries, along with compliance and governance. Clearly there is a need for process standardization. To automate much of this work within a single, real-time platform is a challenging puzzle, combining the dark arts of project management, software design, business processes and digital transformation, all with good user experience. Then you have the work itself, as the number of parties and moving parts involved is significant. For those thinking of doing all of this inhouse, it can take years to get right. Most will not have the time, or worse, fail for any number of reasons.

Through working with industry professionals, we have developed EZPS, an easy-to-use turnkey platform that simplifies the complexity of project and portfolio management oversight. The platform is dedicated to helping Altnets meet the challenge of increasing project delivery efficiency, whilst driving cost reductions and resiliently scaling at speed.

What is your USP?

We own our IP which has made standardized implementation end-to-end project oversight possible. We focus specifically on the sector using our industry knowledge to continuously tune the platform, to meet any changing market conditions.

The platform manages the intricacies of different project types, including PIA, in a unique way. It plans, auto updates in real-time, predicts projects/portfolio status and costs every step of the way, with a single source of truth. To deliver a repeatable, homogenous experience, with high automation, voice assist and easy collaboration, irrespective of project type or size, the platform required a certain level of industry-codified knowledge and intelligence.

Our platform provides efficiency savings for all project team personnel and stakeholders, including customers and suppliers, if required. For example, each Project Managers working on one average size project can save 14 hours per week using the SME version of our service. A serious time saving for any growing or under-resourced organisation.

Ninety percent of User Onboarding is 30mins training, to run one project, or large multiple-site projects and programmes, it does not matter.  C-level Executives, even have their own voice assist via their mobile phone, for portfolio and business performance, a world first in project portfolio delivery.

Our platform provides efficiency savings for all project Teams and SME level customers purchasing the service off the web, and only pay for the number of users. Any additional new functions, modules, AI, business analytics or automation comes free of charge at those service levels.

Our purpose is to help every single customer unleash their full potential in order to achieve their definition of success, as quickly and efficiently as possible.

What is your relationship with the telecom sector?

We have a long-combined history in telecoms (and other industry sectors), working as independent business change consultants and contractor project managers with BT Global Services, Openreach, Verizon, Spiritel, Level3, Adapt, Vodafone, Touchbase, NextGenAccess and Cisco. We like a challenge, being problem solvers and solution providers.

How have you got to your current stage of development? (role of accelerators, partners etc)

Marketing and sales do not come naturally to us, although we are learning. Thirteen years ago, we pitched the platform concept to 50 companies, in different market sectors. 12 said if we built it, they would buy it. We thought great. We raised private investment to build a real-time core business process modelling engine, built the first platform then… no-one bought, for many reasons, from the financial crash, to not trusting their business data to be stored in the cloud. At the time, less than 1% of apps were B2B. Although we crashed and burned, we kept the platform alive… hosted, as we knew we had something, and then went back to our day jobs of consulting.

A couple of years ago, I was called out of the blue by an Altnet Executive we previously pitched to, asking if we still have the platform, as he couldn’t find anything comparable. At the time, I was two years into working for a global manufacturer doing business change from a nice Mayfair office and flying to challenging parts of the world. I like to finish what I started, so politely turn the Altnet down, saying if my co-founder says yes, then I will say yes.

Two years later, after we built a bespoke platform for our first Altnet, we quickly worked out a scalable industry standard turnkey platform called EZPS, which can be purchased off the web, at Team and SME level, or bespoke at the Enterprise level. We are self-financing and growing organically, with most of our finance re-invested into R&D, as we are constantly working on enhanced products and services, inside and outside the project world.

Why did you establish the business?

My core background is manufacturing, in various sectors. For me, back in 2007, when I first worked in Telecoms, I was shocked at the areas of waste and how it affected not only the profit margin, but also the stress on people at all levels of the business right to the top. My employer at the time were not the only ones operating this way.

My co-founder and I have worked together in telecoms over the years, and our experience has made it easy for us to see what the issues are, and how to overcome them using innovation.

Back then, we knew others had the same kind of issues. We worked out what needed to be done but could not find software that would do the job. Most project management software packages were manual planning tools, updated for an audience of one… the Project Manager, with no real-time view, or were finance tools following the money with bolt-on project planning and a serious time lag on project status issues.

Even now, most of our competitors have migrated and evolved these legacy shelfware systems to the cloud and thus have constraints that do not lend themselves well to managing complex projects and industry-specific requirements. They lack automation, are resource hungry and a challenge to scale, even when using API’s. For many newer platforms, some doing really well, but they are either heavyweight generalists, or too lightweight to deal with the requirements in the telecoms sector, such as Openreach A55s.

Who inspired you? Do you have a mentor?

My co-founder and I have been lucky to have worked for some interesting people and their companies. For me, I have worked for and directly reported to old and new school serial entrepreneurs. A key early mentor for me is 10 years with Richard Cyzer (contemporary friend of Maurice & Charles Saatchi), who taught me how to run end to end, a high volume multiple-site manufacturing operations from product design to delivery on the high street shelf for the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury, M&S etc. In return, I brought in innovation from other industries, and we grew the business from 43% to 75% of the UK market share in less than 5 years. Those fundamentals have allowed me to work in different industry sectors ever since. My co-founder is inspired by international internet marketing exponents such as Mark Joyner, John Lee, Vince Tan and Igor Kheifets and is currently.

What does the future hold for your business?

Our core and loyalty will always be the Telecoms industry, it got us going, is dynamic, challenging and fun to be in. We aim to be the project delivery platform service provider of choice for Altnets to deliver their business strategy to help the industry players meet their own targets and those targets set by Ofcom.

We have also come to the attention of organisations in a range of other industry sectors. One example is for the last year, we have been working at scale, with a multinational called Publicis and their group of companies (which includes Saatchi & Saatchi). By taking a consultative approach and providing Publicis with a responsive, bespoke solution that’s solving some unique challenges, we have and become an approved platform service provider in a very dynamic business environment.

We have our growth plan mapped out and aim to be in the infinite game, doing our part for UK industry.

To find out more about EZPS, meet them at this year’s Connected North in Manchester on 17-18 April where they will be exhibiting in the startup village.

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