Meet the Octopus Blue Team

It feels like summer has arrived, and with it come a few new smiley faces to the Octopus Blue Team. Our small and expanding team brings a wealth of experience from across the UK and more recently from further across the globe too. We are happy to introduce three new team members of Octopus Blue and our not so new founder, Andy Bailey. Read on to meet Andy, Alex, Ian and Hannah and find out a little more about them.

Andy Bailey, Founder & CEO

Andy

Octopus Blue Founder Andy Bailey has operated in the accounting and taxation industry for 19 years, the latter 10 with accountancy software companies for market leading companies in the UK and Europe, as well as a start-up in the niche freelancer market. Bringing together an unrivalled knowledge of the accountancy market, a creative flair for problem solving and a ‘kaizen’ mentality of continuous improvement, Octopus Blue offers a unique perspective on the accounting software market.

Andy is a very proud dad to two children, Jon and Zoe with whom he spends as much time with as possible, along with his girlfriend and her daughter too. In the spare time that Andy does have, he enjoys photography, video games and sampling craft ales…occasionally all at the same time!

To connect with Andy on LinkedIn – click here

Alexandra O’Reilly, Operations Expert

 Alex

As Operations Expert in our head office in Penarth Alex is the behind the scenes organisational whizz. She has a wide range of responsibilities including HR, bookkeeping, marketing, social media and more, all of which keep her happily busy. Alex ensures the smooth running of the business making it a comfortable, happy environment for the Octopus Blue team. Previously employed at an Auction House and firm of Architects in similar roles, the software industry is relatively new to Alex, but she is thriving on change, and is excited to continue to help Octopus Blue grow.

Alex lives in Penarth, just a few minutes away from Cardiff. She’s a big fan of the seaside and being outdoors, therefore spends most weekends out and about with her daughter, Elizabeth. Running, shopping and reading are amongst other ways she keeps busy in her spare time.

To connect with Alex on LinkedIn – click here

Ian Hunt, Software Expert

Ian

A knowledgeable sales professional and consultant, with nineteen years’ experience in the provision of software, compliance tools and services. Ian is an enthusiastic people person, tenacious, motivated and always ensuring customers’ needs are the main priority. He has worked with many Corporate and Listed Companies, Public Sector and on the Accounting side his clients have ranged from Top 10 Firms to sole practitioners. Ian is a highly experienced and informed facilitator to any progressive organisation looking for solutions that work with and add value to their processes.

Ian lives on the edge of the Peak District National Park which is the perfect location for walking, rock climbing, cycling and other outdoor activities. Inevitably these always end in a country pub! He enjoys spending time with his family and children, photography; has an over-inflated opinion of his own DIY skills and would like to own a canal boat.

To connect with Ian on LinkedIn – click here

Hannah Naylor, Business Development Expert (Pre-sales)

Hannah

Hannah joined the team in May 2017 and is our first international recruit. She is responsible for contacting leads and arranging software review meetings. Hannah has a wealth of experience in pre-sales roles for BMW and others and currently works part-time around childcare.

Hannah lives in Cochrane, about half an hour from Calgary in Canada. She enjoys spending as much time as possible with husband Simon and their two young boys, Noah and Theo. Living so close to the mountains, they spend most of their spare time in the great outdoors exploring, walking, paddle boarding and looking out for grizzly bears!

Hannah has not yet joined the world of LinkedIn, we are hoping it won’t be long until she does!

And Finally…

Octopus Blue help your small business to optimise your processes and software, enabling you to operate in the most time efficient and cost effective way.

Octopus Blue are uniquely independent, whole of market, business software experts. Our experienced consultants will implement and configure your entire software stack, empowering you to laser focus on what you do best.

Octopus Blue. The business software experts.

To arrange a complimentary review of your software requirements, please get in touch or visit the Contact Us page on our website, fill in your details and one of the team will contact you to arrange.

Email: Alexandra.oreilly@octopusblueuk.com

Mobile: 07969 592408

 

Octopus Blue at Accountex

Octopus Blue made its debut at Accountex, the UK’s largest accountancy trade show, 10-11 May 2017.  Read more to find out about what we were exhibiting and to find out more about Andy Bailey’s talk.

Accountex 2017

Every May, the great and the good in the accountancy industry descend on London ExCel to learn about the latest developments, listen to thought leaders and get their hands on the newest technological innovations, earning valuable CPD points along the way.  There were two definite themes running through this year’s event; the mega trend of transforming accountants into trusted business advisors and the hot potato of Making Tax Digital (MTD).

There were dozens of talks on both topics and many great ideas discussed in the networking areas afterwards.  The accounting industry released a collective sigh of relief when the delay of MTD was announced my Phillip Hammond in his Sprint Budget.  Judging by the MTD software at Accountex this is just as well!  It was slightly disappointing that most vendors were talking about what they are going to provide for MTD compliance rather than actually showing it.

Octopus Blue

As you can imagine, much of my time this year was spent on the Octopus Blue stand, where I was joined by Operations Expert Alexandra O’Reilly and Software Expert Ian Hunt…a few days before he had officially started with us!

It was amazing to see so many visitors to the stand, eager to learn more about how we can help accountants and their clients pick the right software for their businesses.  I dreamed of 200 visitors, but we actually had well over 300!

It wasn’t just accountants and bookkeepers who came to visit.  A number of software companies came by to find out more; CitrusHR, Concur, Dod-dle, Opt Pensions, Panintelligence and many more…watch this space to find out more about each of them!

Blue Wine!

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We also had a prize draw for bottles of Pasion Blue Chardonnay both days.  The winners have been notifed and should be recieving them very soon.  I’m also pleased to annouce it tasted delicious!

Accounting Software – How Do I Choose the Best Solution for My Practice and My Clients?

Andy Bailey Octopus Blue Accountex 2017

I was delighted to be invited to talk on the 2020 ‘How to’ Theatre this year, even more so to see standing room only throughout.  An interested crowd weren’t even put off when the microphone decided it was ready for a snooze, thanks for your patience everyone!

You can view the slides and watch a recording of the talk here: Accounting Software – How Do I Choose the Best Solution for My Practice and My Clients?

Meeting Old Friends and Making New Ones

The accounting profession is very tight knit, but that’s nothing compared the accounting software industry!  At the exhibitor’s drinks party, it was wonderful to catch up with so many friends and former colleagues and meet many new ones too.

A big thank you to Zoe and team for putting on a great event!

Summary

I’ve exhibited and sold at Accountex and other trade shows as an employee many times, however, this was this was the first time for Octopus Blue.  It was amazing to see so many of you there and your enthusiasm for what we are doing.

Alex and Ian were amazing!  I’m a proud daddy Octopus and have awarded them both with Accountex Expert badges!  Roll on Accountex 2018, we can’t wait to see you again!

I can’t wait to continue the conversation with more of you over the coming weeks and help you to realise the efficiency of your business software.

To arrange your complimentary requirements call and report, please enter you contact details below.

Exact Partner Day

As an Exact reseller and implementation partner, Octopus Blue were invited to their partner day at the Belfry on 26 April 2017.  Here’s what we learned.

Eric van der Meijden

CEO, Exact

After a brief introduction from UK General Manager Gavin Fell, Eric took the stage and presented a video from Max Verstappen, the F1 sensation who Exact sponsor.

Max shares Exacts’ brand values, he is challenging existing parties who have become complacent.

Eric gave a brief history of Exact, who in the 1990’s were profitable, but not innovating and as a result, not growing.  Their aim is the be the number one cloud business provider in Europe.  They are increasing development in the head office in Delft, adopting a lean start-up mentality, focussing on Wholesale Distribution, Manufacturing, Professional services and the accountancy markets.

They offer the same solution in every country…unlike xxx 50 for example, he joked!

Eric anticipates that in two years the cloud business will overtake the on-premise Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution for revenue.  Currently 57% of sales are from their home market in the Netherlands, with 25% in the US and 18% in the rest of the world.

Like many software vendors and accountancy thought leaders, Eric emphasised the need for accountants to be Trusted Advisors and highlighted the dashboards, alerts and continuous monitoring features in Exact Online which support this.

The strategic direction for Exact is to become a digital platform with three main tenants: Connect, Finance, Share.  By offering short term finance data, connecting to new customers and accessing the sharing economy, Exact’s Massive Tech Development Platform (MTD) aims to address these needs.

Martijn Feeks

Ecosystem Director 

Martijn joined Exact 3.5 years ago as they needed an app centre – Martijn proposed the ecosystem.

His vision is that you have people around you helping your business so Exact needed an eco-system to help you access accountants, Value Added Resellers (VARs) and other professionals.

Martijn gave an anecdote of his first job, at the age of 16 switching hard drives.  Software was free then, as hardware generated the revenue.  As technology advanced and software moved to physical discs it was the installation that made money.  Now with cloud software it is the connectors and the APIs that release the value.   “APIs are going to change the world!”

Debbie Coles – Powell and Co – How Exact has transformed my life!

Debbie has a background in accountancy and banking (side note the last firm of Accountants Debbie worked with, Thorne Widgery in Hereford is where I started my accountancy career – small world!).  Powell and Co asked Debbie for some advice.  It became apparent they had issues with their strategy – where did they want to get to? 

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Powell’s build poultry sheds, which gave Debbie an induction of fire as she is vegetarian!  They build approx. 1 shed per week.

Some of the issues they faced were that the agricultural businesses are not used to tech.  They generally don’t use email or other technology advance and need to transform.

Powell’s have 55 people on the payroll and 30 gangs.  Debbie’s approach was:

  1. Observe what’s going on…it was chaos! They worked like multiple small business rather than one organisation and didn’t talk
  2. Customer journey…no one person knew what it was like

There were lots of spreadsheets.  No transparency.  Meetings with no agendas. One in particular lasted four hours with eight mangers and only agreed on new stationery!

There was a red ledger book that was the job records.  But financial data was in Sage. They charged for the initial installation, but maintenance was free.  In one example this was 15 years after installation.  Great customer service, but not sustainable.  Some work was not invoiced, or it was invoiced late.

Powell’s had had the same accountant for many years.  Debbie noted that anyone can do accounts.  As an accountant, how do you add value?  The previous accountant didn’t add value so now they have a new one.

On top of this Powell’s bought a steel business which they need to integrate.  They too suffered many of the same issues.

Their process was:

  • Enquiry
  • Planning
  • Production
  • Delivery
  • Construction

This is when they engaged Paul, and Exact.  They needed a cloud product as their server was about to fall over.

Paul Watson, Problem Solver took the mic to offer his perspective.  Not all the problems they were having were tech related.  He looked at Exact Manufacturing and Project Management.  Ideally, they would integrate both but that wasn’t a simple option, they had to customise.

Paul repeated the process review Debbie had done and went they live at the end of the VAT quarter with just financials. It would have ground the system to a halt to change everything at once.

As implementation and training were underway Paul started to hand over to internal staff, adding new features periodically.

The plan to implement by the end of 2016 didn’t’ happened, but progress has been strong.  There is more accountability and stock has been added in April 2017

Paul’s take aways 

  1. Add in bite sized chucks
  2. Set a realistic time frame
  3. Embed the process in what you do

DON’T QUIT!

It’s a long journey, but the team are more commercially aware and Paul is seen as a trusted advisor (not just the accountant) and is seen internally as an employee.

Jamie Smith

Customer Success Manager, Exact 

From on boarding, to training and customer success, Jaime and his team of 17 people in 6 countries offer support to Exact customers and partners.  Jamie talked us through the customer journey with training and site visits.  Jamie gave a demo of Exact Wholesale Distribution, showing off some of the applications strengths.

Partner Awards

UK General Manager, Exact

Gavin said that Exact are fantastic at celebrating success.  After the event the partners were free to play golf at the esteemed course, network, attend innovation meetings…or go home early!

He also announced the Partner awards which were presented by Martijn and Eric.

The App Partner of the year was Panintelligence who have consistently gone the extra mile to work with Exact, even attending the Hackathon at Exacts’ headquarters in Delft, the Netherlands.

Irish based Synergy Network was awarded the Rising Star Award, for James’s patient, thorough and focused approach.

Partner of the Year was presented to Ascarii Ltd.  After working with mainly SAP customers and losing a high proportion of medium sized deals which were not well suited, Stuart Wilson started to look at products which could service the SME sectors.  Great to work with offering dedicated resource, Exact felt Ascarii met the criteria to win this award.

Summary

The Exact Partner day was a great chance to learn more about best practices, future plans and to meet and learn from other partners.  As a former Exact Product Manager, it was also great for me personally to catch up with old friends.

To stay up to date with developments from Exact and the whole business software industry keep in touch with Octopus Blue.

Sage Summit 2017

Sage’s 2017 Summit was the largest it has ever hosted in the UK.  It was a great opportunity to learn more about their vision for the many products in the Sage suite and meet dozens of customers, partners and accountants.

Keynotes, Hosted by Alan Laing

Executive Vice President Partners & Alliances at Sage

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Alan opened the event and hosted the keynote sessions on both days.  Wednesday was aimed at partners and accountants, with customers also invited on the second day.

Some amazing stats were announced:

  • Sage is the largest tech company on the FTSE100 and the second largest in Europe, with over 3 million customers globally, 1 million of whom are using cloud products.
  • 53% of people in the UK are paid via Sage
  • £3 trillion worth of transactions are processed through Sage products each year
  • There are 21,500 Sage partners, all of whom Alan stated, “No ifs, not buts, we love our partners!”

Deborah Meaden

UK entrepreneur and TV Dragon

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First to speak was Deborah Meaden of Dragons Den.  She launched her first business straight from college aged nineteen and, much to Alan’s delight is a Sage customer.

Insights from her discussion with Alan included the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make when pitching for investment is to not think of the investor; what’s in it for them and why would they be the right fit for your business.  Deborah looks for someone willing to take risks, but not wild ones when looking at which business leaders to work with.  They must understand basic business concepts such as Profit and Loss reports and Cash flow.  They don’t have to always be right, but they do have to be willing to learn.

And finally, Deborah has no intention to follow fellow entrepreneur Donald Trump into politics!

Martha Lane Fox CBE

British businesswoman, philanthropist, and public servant

Co-founder of LastMinute.com in 1997 Martha Lane Fox recalled some of the challenges she faced when launching the company.  20 years ago, not only did she have to convince customers and investors of her product but also that the internet was not some passing fad and that yes, it is safe to input your credit card details!

The pace of change is increasing, it’s an exciting time.  Martha Lane Fox gave these three tips:

  1. Focus on the user.  The reason she loves the internet is that it allows people to make better decisions.  Great internet businesses think about their user’s needs.  For LastMinute.com, it was co-founder Brent searching every Friday for restaurants, hotels and flights for his weekend plans.  He was the perfect user for the application.  Online you can keep testing and refining.
  2. Build for scale.  Think of a global audience and build to that, not just your region or country.  Successful companies from Silicon Valley focus on their global audience (she is a board member of Twitter).
  3. Think of diversity.  Apple didn’t include anything in the launch of its health app for women, menstrual cycles and menopause data for example, as not a single member of its team were female. Half of their potential audience were alienated by this.  Think of the furthest away people first.  By building your product or service for them you will easily capture the early adopters.

Kriti Sharma

VP Bots and Artificial Intelligence at Sage

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Kriti, Sage ‘superstar’ who was listed in the Forbes 30 under 30 and inventor of Sages’ chat bot, Pegg came to the stage to talk about AI and the 4th industrial revolution Business Tech Trends 2017.

Why did she invent Pegg?  She is an admin-phobe “No one wants to do admin!”

There was a slick demo with Alexa (intelligent personal assistant developed by Amazon), with Kriti asking who owed money and what tasks she had and Pegg “Automagically” answering.  The following day a similar demo was run, this time with Pegg in robot form on stage rather than just a bot.

Nick Goode & Jennifer Warawa

EVP Product Management & EVP Product Marketing at Sage

2017-04-05 10.14.10

Next to the stage Nick and Jennifer updated the audience on Sage’s suite of products.

Sage 50 is the market leader in UK and Ireland.  Sage One has been on the market for 6 years and is now available in 14 countries, with simple inventory and bank feeds coming soon to strengthen their offering.  With compliance offerings and dashboards, Sage wants you to run your whole business from a single location.

At the other end of their cloud offering, X3 is an enterprise solution for Manufacturers and Distributors, which can be run from desktop, cloud or a hybrid solution.  Sage are launching payroll for X3 later this year.

Following their acquisition of HR application Fairsail and rebranding as Sage People, they have seen the transition in the business world from Personnel departments, to Human Resources and now People.  Expectations are changing from staff.

Sage People has grown 1000% in 3 years and has strong license renewal of 99%.  From the brief demo I saw on the show floor it looks like a great offering for time and people management, especially for business who don’t have their own intranet offering.

Sage Live is available in 8 countries and continuing to grow.  There was a great walkthrough whereby a customer requested a demo of a product via Chatter, the customer visit could be booked and an invoice created and annotated all from with Sage Live.  The customer could also sign an annotation to the document to authorise it.

The message from the product and marketing team was that they have delivered and will continue to deliver.  Sage have a commitment to innovation and are leading the technology revolution – the 4th industrial revolution.

Day 2

Alan opened the second day with a story of his family’s business, which made animal feed.  They had a great business with many loyal customers but didn’t adapt.  Alan’s Father thought more paper meant the business was doing well.  At that time spreadsheets were progress.

Your progress is at the heart of what sage does…the family business went bust.

“We at Sage live our customers…we call you business builders”

Politics

Alan quoted a statistic that 60% of businesses are unaware of political changes to make business better and claimed that Sage can open doors for you.  They host a forum for business builders and have met the Prime Minster in the UK and Taoiseach in Ireland to represent your needs.  Sage is talking to HMRC daily about the way we are moving to digital reporting.

Making Tax Digital is “…not as scary as the reports may suggest”.  If the government gets this right it could be a great opportunity. Sage believe digital tax will help you be more efficient

Sage are Committing to a free Making Tax Digital (MTD) service for the simplest business to file their taxes. However, how they will do this remains to be seen.  I asked on the show floor if this could be a Sage Online “lite” version, however the sage staff I spoke to were tight lipped!

Alan finished by saying nobody compares to Sage on compliance and that AI can be a source for good and if ethical, can be a game changer.

Sahar Hashemi OBE

Entrepreneur

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Sahar founded Coffee Republic in 1995 and is the author of two bestsellers on entrepreneurship.

She got the idea for Coffee Republic after suffering jet lag visiting her brother in New York and went looking for coffee. She was expecting rubbish, but found great coffee and wished for the same in London…light bulb moment!

Sahar was encouraged by her brother to bring the concept to the UK, but she wanted someone else to do it…for her to be a customer!  Her brother funded some research which involved her catching the circle line and getting off at every stop.  She couldn’t find good coffee anywhere! That was her market research.

Everyone said no to her…39 bank managers in fact, their thoughts seeming to be that Britain is a nation of tea drinkers.  Eventually, the 40th bank she saw, said yes!

The break-even point for the business was selling 700 drinks per day.  For the first six months, they were only selling 200.  As things improved they opened two, seven, 30, 100 stores, however they then lost start-up feeling and it was time to leave; a sad and stressful time.

They learned a big lesson.  The coffee market exploded, but they’d lost the start-up culture.  They should have kept it

Sahar’s advice was to act small however big you are.

  1. Go back to your customers
  2. Get out of the office / don’t get stuck in the paperwork
  3. Be clueless – it’s a big advantage. Immerse yourself totally.
  4. Experiment, don’t get stuck in perfection
  5. Give yourself licence to fail
  6. Be 100% yourself

Jamal Edwards

CEO SBTV, digital entrepreneur

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A Key theme is a changing world.  Jamal joined Alan on stage and talked about founding SBTV when he was 15, documenting the rise of new music.  He started off filming foxes as he was a big fan of Steve Irwin but soon realised that the Discovery Channel was already there!

He started filming his friends rapping and singing and came up with a platform for artists who couldn’t get mainstream attention, however, he didn’t know how to monetise social media.  YouTube turned him down as a partner three times but he persisted. The 4th time YouTube accepted SBTV.

Jamal worked at Topman to fund his lifestyle and left the YouTube money alone.  He knew he had to keep overcome many hurdles.  His parent’s and others didn’t take SBTV seriously and with no mentor, his inspiration was the closed doors he faced.  Later he was mentored by Nick Southgate, CEO of Shed Media Group.

When asked what the most difficult thing he has been asked to do so far, Jamal responded light-heartedly saying that it was when someone asked him to teach them to rap. His response was simple, put your mind to it and you can achieve it.

AI and the Future

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Kriti and Christoph Auer-Welsbach, IBM Watson Partner followed with a conversation about the future of AI.  They agreed it could be a paradigm shift – cloud and bots making things actionable.  By enabling AI, data connectivity can be at a massive scale.

One of the challenges the tech industry faces is how to avoid some of the human stereotypes.  Christoph noted that we are thought leaders and need to bring in diversity.  Currently, 90% of data scientists are male and mostly in the western world.

Aside from AI, Christoph is excited about conversational AI, the IoT need to be context aware and understand feelings.  Blockchain technology for a decentralised database was another area of interest.

Kriti asked Christoph about the elephant in the room: will AI take our jobs?

Christoph responded stating there have been lots of different studies suggesting that this happens in five years, 100 years or never.  It’s very hard as humans to anticipate the future.

Rt Honourable Matt Hancock

MP and Ex Cobol Programmer

Matt talked about the government’s ambition to be the world’s leading digital economy with cost reduction in storing data to almost zero being the biggest change since the printing press.

UK tech sector is currently worth £160bn. The government want every business to be a digital business. They are investing over 1bn to make HMRC the best digital service online.

Exhibitors

After the keynotes on both days there was an opportunity to network and meet the dozens of exhibitors who work around the Sage ecosystem – I’ve made lots of new connections and you’ll see some new packages appearing on the Octopus Blue website soon…watch this space!