Digital Transformation: Client Q&A with EcoSafety

App Development
Jun 18, 2024
5 minute read

We are delighted to introduce our new blog series, Digital Transformation: Client Q&A! In this article, we are pleased to present a Q&A session featuring Jim Shepherd, Managing Director of EcoSafety. This conversation will focus on the journey of digital transformation from a business owner’s perspective, and how a custom-built app has helped them to become innovators in their sector, as well as the impact it has had on business operations. Whether you're a tech enthusiast, a business leader, or simply curious about the digital transformation process, we hope this discussion will provide you with some valuable insights.

BD: Let's start with a bit of background about your company. Can you tell us about your business and your role in it?

JS: I'm MD of a safety consultancy that started back in 2006, EcoSafety. It grew from being myself providing services to a small team that specialised in advising on safety management systems, training and auditing. The client base is varied and some of our project work has taken us to some far flung corners of the world including Indonesia, Turkey, Iceland, Malta, Serbia and Bulgaria. We have UK clients we have worked closely with for well over 10 years in some of the most challenging sectors e.g. farming, social housing and manufacturing. Our mode of operation is different to most in our sector as we promote a cultural approach to aid engagement. Safety is all about people, how they behave and what they believe so if you can drive it from this perspective you are more likely to get their support and 'buy in'. Our world is full of rules and regulations and our job is to filter out what really matters to each individual client and distill it down into something understandable and achievable.

My role is no longer hands on, it's about checking and reviewing client needs and wants, ensuring that what we do remains relevant and valuable.

BD: What motivated you to start the digital transformation journey?

JS: Primarily feedback from clients and the lack of suitable software available on the market. There are many products on offer but almost all are too complex or overwhelming from the user perspective. Tech is used to offer all sorts of bells & whistles which is fine but unless the client actually needs or wants them they remain unused. Our clients were telling us what they wanted but this was not something we could provide.

BD: What were the initial steps you took to begin this journey, and sourcing the right development partner?

JS: Endless hours on Google looking at what was available, checking out the various App development companies and the work they had done / products they had created. We then contacted people who had actually employed their services to get accurate customer feedback. It doesn't actually matter what a glitzy website says, what really matters is whether what was created met the customer spec and the support you are given to get there.

BD: Can you summarise the key technologies or digital solutions you implemented?

JS: We created a simple risk assessment app that used icons as opposed to words wherever possible to improve visual literacy. They are really important documents but not the most exciting forms to read and comprehend. We turned the process of risk assessment from being a paperwork exercise into one that started with taking photos on your phone. The combination of icons and pictures changed the whole look, feel and attractiveness of the product.

The other major pain associated with risk assessment is updating and sign-off. This function was made incredibly simple, one click and you had automatically archived the previous version but now had a complete copy of this that could be easily updated. Simple and painless!

BD: How did your employees react to these changes? Were there any challenges in terms of adoption?

JS: This was difficult for all of our team, myself included. None of us are techies, although we use laptops and tablets daily we spend most of our time in safety boots or wellies. There was a whole new language to learn, the development and testing was unlike anything we had ever encountered before and the crux of the matter was the team just wanted a finished product. Although we wanted to have them deeply involved in every stage of the development process this was just not practical or possible. We structured it so that I became the lead within EcoSafety and then demonstrated the various elements to them, gleaning feedback. Understandably their adoption came nearer the end of the process when they could see the benefits displayed visually in front of them.

BD: What impact has digital transformation had on your business operations and performance?

JS: We are at the stage where the product is now being successfully used by clients and starting to make a return on the investment. The next big leap will come in a few months' time when we launch the website and offer the App online.

The greatest initial transformation was around the quality of the risk assessment produced and the improvement in communication but with the addition of a QR Code access function we are changing the way these are now accessed and used. For example, induction training and tool box talks can now be undertaken at the machine and employees can access the risk assessment instantly using any device.

BD: What advice would you give to other business owners considering digital transformation?

JS: It can be challenging, frustrating, not to mention expensive, but if you invest in the right partner that listens carefully to what you are aiming to achieve it can be revolutionary.

It takes time, significantly longer than we ever anticipated to get to this stage.

The technology, software and storage elements are constantly evolving / shifting and when this is not your core business you need to have the confidence and trust in your tech partner to not just support you but to have your best interests at heart.

Yes it is about tech, but it's more about the people who deliver the tech, who you work with and the relationships that sit behind the scenes.

BD: Finally, what are your future plans for continuing the digital evolution of your business?

JS: We are beavering away on User Guides, GDPR, licence agreements etc. that will sit on the website due for launch soon.

We have commissioned a few production updates over the last 6 months so the hope is we can now concentrate on the sales pipeline. Long term there are further safety topics that could also benefit from support via an App so these may soon be what we will focus on.


Thank you for reading - we hope this has been insightful! If you’re looking to start the conversation about your own custom software or app build, we’d love to hear from you.  

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