Paxton Net2 Integration improvements coming up

With the arrival of the new football season and other stadium management challenges, we have a short window of dev time for major enhancements.

We will be using the new Paxton development and test kit we have purchased. This will speed the programming and testing cycles up enormously.

This is a mature integration. It has run at live high traffic staff check in locations for several years now. However, it needs to evolve with changing business and systems requirements. We have identified many areas for improvement.

We will be focussed on robustness, reliability, auto restart to heal problems caused by onsite systems maintenance, power failures, etc. Also, we are improving the alerts system telling us when something has gone wrong at a client site.

We have many new ideas including utilities to match up card data which is sometimes not the same in AXLR8 as in Paxton – a common problem we know happens in other stadium systems. So that will be a great step forward. A recent site visit identified 12 ideas that would make the system better for the end user both during the high pressure match day and also in pre- and post-match administration.

Thanks to our clients for their patience and diligent feedback and understanding.

Thanks also to our great partners like Computer Care, FSL and Paxton. Without your help and specialist expertise, this would have been tough. We really appreciate the open discussions and constant attention to detail and cooperative, problem solving approach.

Please read more on our specialist staffing website.

Business foundations

In recent article, we looked at what checklist items you should look for in a SaaS supplier for your business critical applications. We included security accreditations and a solid reliable support team and a long track record of client retention.

One of the most important factors now is financial stability of your critical suppliers. If your supplier goes bust, the outcome for your business is unpredictable. A key part of many crashes over the last two hundred years is the domino effect of good businesses being taken down by bad businesses.

Due to the pandemic, we have lived through challenging times. Like many historical downturns, it will be followed by more economic turbulence. This time it looks like the war in Ukraine will have many side effects. In previous crashes and recessions and macro economic financial upheavals, more businesses failed after the recession than on entry or during the down times. So now is the key time to check out your SaaS supplier.

At AXLR8, we did this market analysis recently. AXLR8 have a strong balance sheet and have never borrowed money. This careful financial approach has meant personal sacrifice but has left us financially much stronger than our competitors. Losses in the down times are covered by hard earned reserves. This is important because our clients rely upon us for their operational systems – now and in the future.

We recently benchmarked our balance sheet against competitors. Like us they must pay wages and keep servers running in the cloud. Both are expensive with unpredictable costs – especially for security enhancements to counter ever increasing threats. One way they may be saving money that is invisible in customer service, is to skimp on expensive security upgrades. This is the equivalent for your business, of an airline not bothering with maintenance and pre flight safety checks on their aircraft.

With a simple Companies House check, we discovered that we have been competing in most of our core markets with our own positive balance sheet but this is not the rule. There are companies with one employee who have been steadily drifting more and more negative for years. What will his clients do if his wife tells him to go and get a proper job? Worse, there are two companies with fantastic websites and a few good references who are £250k underwater and one has not published their accounts for two years! They should swallow their pride and merge or sell out because they are risking huge damage for their clients.

So, take five minutes to check out your SaaS supplier and assess the consequences of their failure. If you are about to buy a system, again, check their finances not just how nice their website and screens look.

Duty of Care: Business Travel Safety

Duty of Care: Business Travel Safety

As a supplier of lone worker applications we were thinking about our own commuting to and from AXLR8 and business travel in general which is growing now in the UK as people in commerce are mostly back in the office. The employer has to take due care of workers. The law also stipulates1 that the staff must carry some responsibility for their own safety.

Every Monday morning we have our regular sales and management meetings. Yesterday, we added in a tyre check.

Lessons learned

  • Know what your pressures are. This will be in the glove compartment, door frame of door edge or in the owners manual. Failing that, try online and at a professional main dealer
  • Set an alarm every week (Sunday morning?) with you tyre pressures on it and the car. So Mine says Hyundai 36F&B and Toyota 33F 32B (B is back wheels and F is front wheels)
  • If you have a foot pump use that in the convenience of your home but check it monthly against the garage with a professional pump for peace of mind.
  • If you use a garage or supermarket petrol station please do not hog the machine and hold up the queue whist you take your valve caps off. Unscrew the caps whilst you wait in the queue. Then you will be able to pump your tyres up in less time and use less change in the machine. Once filled, immediately move your car forward a few yards to let the next person into the machine area to pump their tyres whilst you replace your caps. The quicker the queue, the less likely someone who joined it with the best of intentions will give up.
  • It is better to get you hands dirty than to have a crash.

Don’t forget oil, windscreen awash liquid, radiator, etc., as well!

Stay safe. Prepare for all trips and build in time to pause and allow others out of turnings and not have to speed. Planning is everything. Distractions are dangerous. If you get in a car tired and cause a crash, nobody will congratulate you on your work ethic.

1 If you are an employer or employee Health and Safety law needs professional advice. However, if you want to read up and acquire general knowledge, google The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Health and Safety at Work regulations 1999.

ACF Direct Case Study

ACF DIRECT
Finance Solutions for Business

AXLR8 have worked tirelessly to develop a bespoke Proposal System, CRM and Quotation tool on our behalf. They have been extremely supportive.

Simon Rose
Managing Director

www.acfdirect.co.uk

ACF Direct have been using AXLR8’s finance system for 5 years and this case study demonstrates why.  

System choice

In 2016 ACF Direct’s system was retired from the marketplace, leaving them in the position of having to research other options. They knew what they liked with their old system and wanted to replicate this elsewhere; being the software authors, AXLR8 was able to offer this to them. Additionally, AXLR8’s finance system had extra features that reduced the cost of compliance and increased the quality and transparency of their information for audits.

AXLR8 are widely used in the financial services community.  Our systems are used for investor relationship management, KYC, money laundering checks and many other compliance requirements.

AXLR8 are renowned for keeping all customer details, files, documents, notes, and correspondence in one place, enabling easy profiling of contacts.  This saves your team time that they can spend with clients instead. 

ACF Direct were able to benefit from additional automation:

  • Trigaware(TM) alerts you to important dates such as  imminent expiry of contracts or DPA permission, etc.
  • ExchangeVault stores emails, skype and other calls with clients’ files so that you never have to add them manually.

Project challenges

ACF Direct’s main project challenges were that they needed:

  • CRM
  • To be able to process proposals quickly
  • Calculator
  • Ability to find new customers fast
  • To be able to produce reports
  • To be compliant within their industry with ease
  • To provide information for auditing purposes

Solution:

AXLR8 offered ACF Direct a cost-effective solution which addressed all their challenges in one go whilst giving them extra features that would benefit their business. Their main challenge was solved with AXLR8’s proposal management system as it processes proposals efficiently and with ease, including having the calculator they need for their day-to-day activities.

Benefits:

Extra features like the new AXLR8 portals made it easier for them to put more energy and be better informed in their client relationships; this helped them grow to where they are today.

AXLR8’s Mailing Manager enables them to send bulk marketing mailings to profiled prospects in seconds, so increasing their visibility in the marketplace, and ultimately bringing in new business.

AXLR8’s Trigaware system and ExchangeVault helped ACF Direct keep on top of their procedures to stay compliant within the finance industry.

Software as a Service: a checklist

Software as a service has revolutionised our lives and freed most of us from large up front development costs, expensive on-premise hardware and associated software and networks.

You just sign up and everything magically appears with your business data, pictures, documents. It is all backed up and safe. However, have you checked the provider is actually doing what they promised? AXLR8 have been in the SaaS business for over 2 decades and trust many suppliers but check everyone.

What questions should I ask an SaaS supplier?

Here are a few questions we suggest that you ask your SaaS supplier.

Business Stability

  1. Do you track their published accounts every year? Remember, the pandemic has tested all companies and many SaaS companies may be running on empty. More companies go out of business coming out of a recessionary period than going in to it!
  2. Are they debt free or do they have a negative balance sheet? If negative, is it getting worse year on year? Could the bank “pull the plug” tomorrow?
  3. Is the Supplier financially stable? Remember, if they miss payments to a lender, any of their key staff or any of their hosting and technology suppliers, they could disappear overnight and your data and system will probably be lost!
  4. Does the SaaS company have a portfolio of markets they work in so that a change in one market does not wipe them out overnight? Importantly, after the pandemic, are they already “running on empty”?
  5. How long have they been in business? Is their business growing or, if it has been through some recessions and recovered competently, all the better!
  6. Do they have many clients in their portfolio?
  7. Do they have an expert stable team or is there staff turnover? Worst of all, is it a one or two person company which could disappear with the health or motivation of one person?

My business critical data

  1. Do they answer their telephones in an emergency?
  2. Can I get my data from my SaaS supplier (free or for a reasonable small labour and materials fee)?
  3. Where can I read my contract for the service? If it was just something I clicked “OK” to when I signed up, then was there a clause to say they can change it at any time?
  4. Do I own my data entirely or do the supplier feel they own it?
  5. Does my supplier understand their responsibility as Data Processor and how it affects by liability under GDPR as the Data Controller?
  6. Who decides access rights for my staff? What happens when staff join or leave?
  7. If I am using the system free of charge, do the suppliers expect something back and if so, what?
  8. If I am paying, what if I miss a payment? Is there a small or large admin penalty? When does all my data get deleted? No supplier can store it indefinitely due to GDPR DP liabilities. If they do not delete my data, what are they doing with it?
  9. When can I give notice and what are the implications for recovering my data and any associated documents, mails, pictures, etc?
  10. Is the SaaS supplier compliant with cyber security standards? For example, can you find them on the IASME Cyber Essentials Plus compliant companies?
  11. Do your SaaS supplier have a reputable company for regular annual penetration testing to check security of the systems holding your (customer) data?
  12. What are their security policies?
  13. What are their privacy policies and can you find them on the Information Commissioner’s registration list?
  14. Can I talk to someone – a real human being – about the technical or commercial issues that arise?
  15. Can I customise and personalise the system and how does this affect my rights to upgrades?
  16. How often do they actually do back ups? Nightly, hourly, weekly? Are back ups hot? In other words, if my server goes down, does another one come up immediately? These different levels of disaster readiness come with very different price tickets. What level of resilience do I need?
  17. Can they scale with my business?
  18. Will they offer training for super users of the system?

Build vs Buy: should we just develop our own in-house system?

Before developing your own system with a software developer or an in-house developer, you should also be able answer the above questions.

You will be aware of the well known economics of software development:

If it costs 1 pounds to develop a system,

it costs 10 pounds to implement and

15 pounds a year to maintain it.

Outside developers bidding for your business conveniently forget that in their pitch!

On top of that, complying with basic security and GDPR is very costly and you would be paying for it on your own. A SaaS supplier can share those costs around hundreds or even thousands of users.

A reputable SaaS supplier can also bring specialist expertise and new modules from the accumulated experience of thousands of users to your business. They can concentrate on updating their platform, performance, bug fixes, encryption, security. Do not underestimate these expenses. Their helpdesk is always there. Your inhouse developer could be off sick or go on holiday – or leave the company just when you have a critical repair.

Security incident today

Thirty five client websites, including our own Staffing specialist website, have been affected by a DDOS attack this morning.

No business critical business applications are affected.

Email is not affected.

It should be resolved by the engineers at the datacentre soon. These problems are rare and this is the first in perhaps ten or more years.

Thanks for your patience. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need more information.

Contact Field Marketing – Success through talent

AXLR8 have now been supporting field marketing companies collecting data in store for 15 years.

Our clients have taught us so many things in that time.  Likewise, they are always learning and solving new problems to help their brands and other customers.

To celebrate we have created this video to explain how CFM, a growing leader, is challenging the top players in the retail merchandising and promotion fields.

It concentrates on two current challenges.

Building and developing the team

Clients need to attract the best talent in these competitive times for all recruiters.  They then need to build, train and deploy their teams on client projects.  CFM have the talent management team in place to achieve this using the AXLR8 ATS and to work with trusted specialist long-term business partners to supply staff where required.

Field Data Collection and Client Presentation

The value added by good field marketing and merchandising providers is the immediate, high volume, accurate data reliably collected in the field (e.g. sales and stock numbers, competitor pricing, before and after pictures during POS and merchandising projects)

Volume collection

Using their AXLR8 apps staff are booked on projects and specific store visits and collect data in high volumes in store.  The system has to handle thousands of data items every hour from hundreds of store visits on multiple projects.  App reliability and central database resilience is of paramount importance.  At the same time the questionnaires must be flexible so they are easy to create and easy to change midway through campaigns.

Customised client portals

Once the data starts to come in, the numbers, reports, pictures and other information has to be moderated and presented well to their clients on a secure portal

The system allows CFM to concentrate on client engagement staff relations and creative ideas as they know the admin is being handled by a reliable system that AXLR8 has customised to their needs.

This means they can focus on client specific needs. No wonder they are so successful.

Working Lunch with AXLR8: Public Sector

AXLR8 will be running a free series of training courses for the Public Sector covering the AXLR8 IRM (Information Request Manager) system for FOI, SAR, Reviews and Appeals and Complaints.

We hope you will find these workshops as useful as AXLR8’s commercial clients did in September’s very successful series for their industries.

The 12 sessions will run at 12:30 on Wednesdays from November 10th, 2021 to February 16th, 2022.

We run all our sessions over Zoom because of the quality of presentation and reliability. However, the feedback is that this is not possible for most public sector sites. Therefore, we will run it over MS Teams. Please be patient in the first couple of sessions whilst we find our feet using this as a webinar medium.

The agenda for the training sessions are as follows:

DayTitleAgendaAimed atDate
1Introduction – overview and definitionsWorkflow supported definitions list management of an IRUsers10th November
2Workflow KPIsDashboards, tracking IRs.Users17th November
3Logging a requestRequest creation, auto creation, adding notes, adding documentsUsers24th November 
4IRs and activities (tasks)Activities required to achieve the response to the IR.Users1st December
5Progress trackingThe calendar: Bank holidays, FOIs and SARs. Public and private notes and documents. Alerts, triggers and expediting weekend, working days and holidays. Users8th December
6Information request manager portalAccess rules, applicant blind, reports, documents and updating progress.Users15th December 
7Reviews and appealsReviews, appeals, timescales & audit. How to read audit trails, notes, history and mail attach. Users12th January 
8Public disclosure logPreparation and clean up, notes, documents, privacy. API for web presentation.SuperUsers19th January 
9Super user functions 1Data cleaning and retention, keeping your data clean, removing duplicates, DPIA and information asset register. SuperUsers26th January 
10Super user functions 2Drop down menus, lookups, labelsSuperUsers2nd February 
11Super user functions 3Report builderSuperUsers9th February
12Super user functions 4Creating new user accounts, granting and revoking access rights.SuperUsers16th February 

For more information on our Information Compliance Systems: http://www.requesttracker.co.uk/

AXLR8 Cyber Essentials

We are excited to announce that we have passed our assessment for the current Cyber Essentials again this year! In November 2021 we are returning to Penetration Testing to update findings from 2020 from an outside expert party. In December 2021 we will be audited for Cyber Essentials Plus.

We can highly recommend the detailed, professional prompt and practical approach of RightCue Assurance who led us through the process once again. Thanks!

With their help we are now preparing for Cyber Essentials + in the next two months.

#cybersecurity#datasecurity#GPDR#cyberessentials#completedproject#compliance#IASMEconsortium

Power cut today

There is a power problem in our area.

Telephones

The phones will still work. We have configured the RingCentral system to receive calls on selected mobiles. Client calls should be dealt with but we may be a little terse with incoming cold sales calls today.

Support Email

We will forward Support to a temporary mail box which will be monitored. So, you may receive an error message from our office server but the support email will get to the team. Some will be working at home.

Timecales

SSEN are working on it and will keep us updated. The local socials are going bonkers. Lights flickering occasionally everywhere.

Prevention

Hopefully, the problem will only last a few hours. Although we have large UPS storage, we will be looking for bigger reserve supplies for the office.