Advanced World 2021 – Software Powered Agility

My journey into the world of ERP is in its infancy and as every new recruit should, I relish the chance to devour information, knowledge and opinions on the industry that I find myself in for the first time. In early March I was invited to Advanced World 2021, where the theme of the conference was ‘software powered agility’. Considering the way we work has changed so dramatically over the course of the last 14 months, agility in business and software that supports it, has been paramount to the success of any business and their people and Advanced, is no exception. 

Advanced is one of the UK’s biggest software service providers and probably one you’ve never heard of. But if you’ve bought train or concert tickets or called the NHS’ 111 in the last year, then you’ve used software that Advanced has designed and implemented. Gordon Wilson, CEO of Advanced, took the helm five years ago with the commitment ‘to be the software vendor that makes a difference to millions of lives’.

To kick off the conference, Wilson spoke of the challenges businesses have faced over the last year, not only due to COVID-19 but also because of heightened concern for racial injustice and climate change. The importance of making ethical choices in business is of paramount importance for success and a consumer is more likely to partner with a business that meets these high standards. This awareness seems to have driven a rise in the importance of ESG in the business as well. But how this drive to “go green” affect innovation and progress in businesses like Advanced? 

According to guest speaker Chuka Umunna, Head of ESG at Edelman and board member of Advanced, there has been an explosion of interest in ESG. There has been a global shift towards how businesses operate in terms of sustainability and diversity in the workplace that has resulted in non-biased and holistic hiring practices among other initiatives. The expectations from consumers to “put your money where your mouth is” is high and the need to practice what you preach by ensuring ethical supply chains and hiring diversity is essential. 

But what about Advanced? Unwrap the beautifully packaged webinar with keynote speakers and an enormous number of online presentations by product owners on enhancements to existing products and the 12-month roadmap, the real gift was revealed – Advanced’s software that is changing the way we work and saving lives! The fact that Advanced developed an additional software platform in a matter of days for NHS 111 at the start of the pandemic is a monumental feat and speaks to their vision of adapting quickly to support the needs of their clients. For their healthcare clients, Advanced had to act quickly to change the way GPs and healthcare workers did see patients from face-to-face appointments to video consultations, for an example. Their solutions enabled care to be delivered to more than 40 million people in the UK, pre-COVID, and certainly millions more following the onslaught of the pandemic. 

During the three-day online conference, it was evident that the main purpose of the conference was to detail the planned enhancement roadmaps to their vast, existing product base. Over the next 12 months, upgrades to products from cloud marketplace to eFinancials have a strong focus on sustainability and enhanced UX. This isn’t groundbreaking stuff, but it was interesting and refreshing to see that Advanced’s focus is on sustainability and improved customer satisfaction, which they take very seriously. 

Two new products really stood out, though. They’re called Manage My Appointment and Operative On Way. These stand-alone components for part of the existing Customer My Way portal already implemented and used by a handful of early adopters. The demonstration of the app’s capabilities was aimed at Advanced’s housing clients, as well as any business that has operatives in the field, for example plumbers, electricians etc. It involves interactive technology that allows the customer to book their own appointment online, manage that appointment and give feedback through surveys at any point during the entire transactional process and not only once the transaction is complete. The surveys are workflow and content-specific, and their purpose is to gain feedback during the interaction and increase customer engagement.

Whilst it doesn’t sound that innovative, it has some great key features that are quite impressive, and it aims to provide tools to the customer that enables them to manage the entire service journey themselves.

Here’s an example of how it works: 

A tenant has a leaking tap and logs a call on the platform, detailing the problem at their house. They’ll be able to book an appointment with a plumber at a time that is convenient for them via the app or desktop platform. Confirmation of this appointment is then sent via SMS and/ or email and in the communication, there is a link to a tutorial (YouTube video or a link to the manufacturer’s website) aimed at assisting the tenant with possibly fixing the issue themselves! This customer guidance enables the customer to help themselves with the support of the software, and possibly results in one less call out. Early adopter feedback says that this could reduce appointments, increase satisfaction and reduce costs by possibly resulting in fewer call outs. 

Now here’s the real innovation. Operative On Way is a standalone solution that is very scalable and easily added to the existing platform. It uses GPS technology that tracks the contractor /operative en route, in real time, so that customers know exactly when their operative will be arriving at their home. The software takes into consideration traffic time as well, to give an exceptionally accurate time of arrival. This allows customers to really plan their day and ensures that their needs and expectations are met on time. 

Even though Advanced is not a typical ERP vendor, their ability to roll out software that directly affects people’s lives every day, that is effective and user friendly at the same time, is what makes Advanced the real star of the show here. Remove the frills of ESG and call it what it is: Advanced is a powerhouse software vendor in the UK that touches lives and saves the environment doing simply, exactly what they do. 

I for one am looking forward to attending the eighth Advanced World in person, in 2022.