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How North Group's journey to the cloud has improved business insight and budget control

Pure cloud software continues to rapidly replace outdated on-premise and hosted applications. Gartner Research Vice President Milind Govekar, has said that as soon as 2019, at least a third of the largest software vendors will have moved from cloud-first to cloud-only. But that still leaves many businesses at risk of being held back because familiarity makes it seem easier to put up with old software applications or spreadsheet files rather than investing in new cloud systems. We speak to North Group about their experience of ditching on-premise and moving to the cloud...

When asked to describe what life was like before his business started using cloud software, John Carroll doesn't mince his words. “The software was over complex, it wasn't integrable. It was written specifically for us and it cost us a bomb.”

North Group Consulting is a specialist infrastructure surveying company with offices in Brisbane, Gladstone, Gold Coast, Sunshine

Coast and Weipa in Australia. Their surveyors and town planners specialise in high-end, technology- based projects including roads and hospitals, using sophisticated satellite and LIDAR technologies and Mobile Laser Scanning techniques.

The high costs of on-premise technology

North Group were paying around $2,000 AUD per month for a large on-premise system to manage their accounts and job costing. This represented a large overhead for their business and wasn't returning the level of reporting they needed.

John likens accessing data with their previous on-premise technology to venturing into Harry Potter's Chamber of Secrets, having to get past the small number of gatekeepers who understood how it worked: “Certain people knew some of the things that it could do,” he explains. “It never really did some of the things that we wanted. It was painful. It took a lot of resources to do things and it took a lot of time to do stuff.”

Change was needed. The key to a brighter future for North Group was moving to cloud-based systems with the help of Robert King of Integration Kings.

Integration Kings recommended a package of cloud-based services including TidyWork to deal with job costing and management, Capsule CRM and Xero. North Group now operate on cloud-based software, saving about $1,000 AUD a month. And because they no longer need a server, that's a hard-cost saving of around $20,000 AUD every three years.

Immediate improvements using cloud-based services

North Group have been using Xero and TidyWork for 3 years now but John says improvements came online instantly: “It's given a lot of autonomy to our managers in how they set up, run and schedule their projects. TidyWork is a lot quicker, easier and simpler. Because of that, there are savings in costs and time. TidyWork has the flexibility to operate if you're 2 people, 20 people, 200 people or 2,000 people.”

John points to greater visibility of resources and costs, available to everyone throughout their business via easily accessible snapshots: “From a micro level, TidyWork allows us to look at staffing resources,” he explains: “It gives us the ability to search previous clients' information, to clone projects of similar things that we do, set up scheduling and basically have the ability to quickly get a picture of how that project's going. Some of our projects go for 6 months, or 12 months and we can jump in to see where the dollars are, how we're tracking against budget, all those sort of things.”

From hell to heaven

So, is John able to quantify the difference that moving to the cloud and TidyWork has made for North Group? “I haven't done an ROI at all because it's a no brainer,” he says. “There's no need for that. Using an analogy, we have gone from hell to heaven. That's the difference. We were in hell for a long time - 6 years or so. Just our maintenance costs for software that didn't work for us alone were horrendous.”

North Group is a growing business. They recently opened a new office on Australia's Gold Coast (the location for this year's Commonwealth Games). “That was done very simply,” says John. “We set it up in TidyWork and, all of a sudden, expenses for Gold Coast were going there and it just worked. It was simple. It was done. To commit to a new branch office and have the systems in place that can create a new office was done in 5 minutes. The devil would have wanted another 10,000 lives to have done that on the old system!”

Greater insight and budget control

North Group's business is about providing professional services, time and expertise. More than 40 staff are using TidyWork.

Being able to get an overview of staff resources and costs on live projects offers a valuable level of insight and control as John explains: “There's accommodation, travel, different elements and purchases in each area - so many things that need to be controlled. We can break down projects into smaller sections and that helps with budgeting - allocating hours to specific parts of the project rather than just having one big honey pot for everyone to put their hands in.”

He adds: “It assists the project management person working in the field with project management costing and times, which makes it really tidy to work with.”

Don't fear change

So what would he say to other businesses struggling with expensive legacy on-premise or hosted software who fear that changing to cloud-based systems would disrupt their business?

John's not a man to fear change, but recognises the way that his business has adapted to cloud software. He says: “We haven't had to change how we've operated. We've moderated how we operate to a better way, which we would have done anyway, but we haven't had to change.”

He particularly appreciates being able to have a close relationship with the Tidy product engineering and support team saying: “We can pick up the phone and talk to someone and actually work things through. We explain this is the way we operate, and your system does this. And they say that's fine - try doing this… and all of a sudden boom, another ray of sunshine.”

Published Date:

June 2, 2018

Read Time:

5 minutes


Michelle Nicol