Neil Everatt: Leading the way at Software Europe Neil Everatt: Leading the way at Software Europe

Neil Everatt: Leading the way at Software Europe
31 Dec 2014

Lincoln-based cloud technology and solution company, Software Europe, has a lot to celebrate this year as they commemorate their 25th anniversary. It was also the first company in the world to offer revolutionary mileage validation technology and is currently enjoying 47 per cent annual increases in revenue.

CEO Neil Everatt talks to Dawn Gay about their Expenses technology, working with the NHS and more

Please give readers a bit of background on how you came to be CEO at Software Europe...

I joined the company when it was just two years old and there were three employees at the time working out of the lounge here in Lincoln. After three years I left and went to work for an international company in sales and then I came back as marketing manager for Software Europe, but my heart was in sales, to be honest, so I left again.

I received an email in February 2008 from the CEO/founder which simply said: “I’m thinking of calling it a day, do you fancy it?” And it took me two seconds to realise that was exactly what I wanted to do.

I realise now that those leaving points proved really useful because, when I finally got invited back to be CEO by the founder, I had amassed all this experience and the global model and international sales side of things all clicked into place.

I couldn’t have planned it better, learning new things from different companies, and it gave me a good grounding in lots of areas of the business. When I joined the company in 2008 it was almost like a boutique business. People had been here for many years and it was very comfortable. I’m not suggesting we made it any less comfortable, but we are now a real full-time cloud technology solution company.

You have really brought the cutting edge to some big organisations like Northumberland Council and the NHS with Expenses. Tell us more...

Expenses is our flagship product and has really led the way. It started in the year 2000 before the internet was really big and one of our financial directors said: “Why am I getting pieces of paper with expense claims on them? Can’t we do something about that?” So, one of our colleagues thought about building something that would replace the paper form process.

Northumberland Council are making some fantastic savings already. They love the technology. We’ve got apps that connect to it, so users can take pictures of receipts and submit their claims ‘on the go’ and people who are driving can use the GPS functionality to record their journey steps.

How did you go about encouraging big public-run organisations to go paper free?

In 2009, we had two NHS Trusts using our Expenses technology and it was hard work. With the NHS you have to sell to and convince every single trust. I thought it was going to take forever, but we have taken on 154 NHS trusts in four or five years.

I know a lot of people criticise the NHS for being slow, but from our point of view they have adopted it really quickly. I think it’s because it’s such an easy process to replace when you have got bits of paper flying around the business.

It just takes someone to walk in and say: “Log in and put your claim in or use the app and it will save all the paper pushing.” They can’t help but embrace it. We do see slows-downs and lot of bureaucracy sometimes, but so far they have been pretty good to us.

Do you always use off the shelf products like Expenses, or are you able to adapt them to the way an organisation works?

Absolutely. Even the NHS has different versions for every single trust. We have a core product but our unique selling point, and what makes us different from everybody else, is configurability.

Behind the scenes our guys will go in and flick switches and configure systems so that the approvals process is different for every single client. A training claim can go to the training department and a claim over £1,000 can go to the CFO. These kinds of things can all be configured in our solutions so we can hide that complexity from the user.

Everybody is talking about cloud technology but underneath people are apprehensive about security. How does cloud support what you are doing?

People are now more aware of what cloud is and what they should be looking for in a provider. We have definitely seen a change in the last couple of years or so. Everything we do is delivered on the cloud.

Back in the year 2000 it wasn’t called cloud, it was ASP and since then became SaaS and it’s described as the method of delivering technology over the internet or delivering a solution over the internet.

We spend so much time and money making sure that we are secure. If there is one thing that keeps me awake at night, it is the fear of waking up and finding out that somebody has hacked our systems. You don’t want that to ever happen in your life. It’s a cultural thing - everybody in this company is engrained with security.

We are an ISO certified organisation and it’s our fourth year now and that is independently audited. Someone will come in, have a look at our systems and our procedures and make sure they are secure. You might argue that we are more secure than a lot of people’s IT departments.

Do you have any plans to develop cloud technology?

We have just acquired a product called ER Tracker. We have built two other products so I’m expecting a great big leap forward in the next few months. The biggest thing from a payroll point of view is that we are finalising our outsourcing model, so if a company wishes to outsource its entire expenses procedure and process we can do that for them.

We can process the claims here, get receipts sent to us here, have auditors here and have the HMRC checks all done here, so companies can focus on their core business. There is a lot going on with our cloud technologies. It’s an amazing delivery model when you add in mobile phones and the apps that enable people to do their jobs -that’s our mission.

It’s a big feat to be able to streamline a whole company’s HR system - are people taking orders for ER Tracker?

ER Tracker delivers a key part of the function for HR - it tracks an entire process. We launched it three or four months ago now and already have 24 companies that are interested in taking it to the next stage with us. I’m blown away by the interest and don’t believe that there’s anything out there like this.

Tell me a bit more about the community culture at Software Europe?

We go into local schools every quarter and talk to students aged 15 to 16 and say: “We are here as a software company and if you have the right skills come and talk to us.”

I work with some great people – that’s the only reason we are where we are today. They knuckle down and get on with it. My team of directors have all been here 14 years plus and have really embraced pushing technology forward.

When we ask our customers what they think about us, most of them will say: “They are great to do business with”.

Do you have a vision to expand internationally?

We are based in the UK but have a global footprint. Some large companies with international offices use our technology. One of the next phases of our growth is to place offices in key areas around the globe.

In the next 12 months we are going straight into Europe. We have contacts with people in the Netherlands already. I’d like to think that in the next 12 months, we will have moved our model into a global position.

But we are a proper British SME. We don’t outsource anything: everything is developed and tested here. I’m quite proud that we have built a proper British business that’s really functioning quite well.

 

 

Lincoln-based cloud technology and solution company, Software Europe, has a lot to celebrate this year as they commemorate their 25th anniversary. It was also the first company in the world to offer revolutionary mileage validation technology and is currently enjoying 47 per cent annual increases in revenue.

CEO Neil Everatt talks to Dawn Gay about their Expenses technology, working with the NHS and more

Please give readers a bit of background on how you came to be CEO at Software Europe...

I joined the company when it was just two years old and there were three employees at the time working out of the lounge here in Lincoln. After three years I left and went to work for an international company in sales and then I came back as marketing manager for Software Europe, but my heart was in sales, to be honest, so I left again.

I received an email in February 2008 from the CEO/founder which simply said: “I’m thinking of calling it a day, do you fancy it?” And it took me two seconds to realise that was exactly what I wanted to do.

I realise now that those leaving points proved really useful because, when I finally got invited back to be CEO by the founder, I had amassed all this experience and the global model and international sales side of things all clicked into place.

I couldn’t have planned it better, learning new things from different companies, and it gave me a good grounding in lots of areas of the business. When I joined the company in 2008 it was almost like a boutique business. People had been here for many years and it was very comfortable. I’m not suggesting we made it any less comfortable, but we are now a real full-time cloud technology solution company.

You have really brought the cutting edge to some big organisations like Northumberland Council and the NHS with Expenses. Tell us more...

Expenses is our flagship product and has really led the way. It started in the year 2000 before the internet was really big and one of our financial directors said: “Why am I getting pieces of paper with expense claims on them? Can’t we do something about that?” So, one of our colleagues thought about building something that would replace the paper form process.

Northumberland Council are making some fantastic savings already. They love the technology. We’ve got apps that connect to it, so users can take pictures of receipts and submit their claims ‘on the go’ and people who are driving can use the GPS functionality to record their journey steps.

How did you go about encouraging big public-run organisations to go paper free?

In 2009, we had two NHS Trusts using our Expenses technology and it was hard work. With the NHS you have to sell to and convince every single trust. I thought it was going to take forever, but we have taken on 154 NHS trusts in four or five years.

I know a lot of people criticise the NHS for being slow, but from our point of view they have adopted it really quickly. I think it’s because it’s such an easy process to replace when you have got bits of paper flying around the business.

It just takes someone to walk in and say: “Log in and put your claim in or use the app and it will save all the paper pushing.” They can’t help but embrace it. We do see slows-downs and lot of bureaucracy sometimes, but so far they have been pretty good to us.

Do you always use off the shelf products like Expenses, or are you able to adapt them to the way an organisation works?

Absolutely. Even the NHS has different versions for every single trust. We have a core product but our unique selling point, and what makes us different from everybody else, is configurability.

Behind the scenes our guys will go in and flick switches and configure systems so that the approvals process is different for every single client. A training claim can go to the training department and a claim over £1,000 can go to the CFO. These kinds of things can all be configured in our solutions so we can hide that complexity from the user.

Everybody is talking about cloud technology but underneath people are apprehensive about security. How does cloud support what you are doing?

People are now more aware of what cloud is and what they should be looking for in a provider. We have definitely seen a change in the last couple of years or so. Everything we do is delivered on the cloud.

Back in the year 2000 it wasn’t called cloud, it was ASP and since then became SaaS and it’s described as the method of delivering technology over the internet or delivering a solution over the internet.

We spend so much time and money making sure that we are secure. If there is one thing that keeps me awake at night, it is the fear of waking up and finding out that somebody has hacked our systems. You don’t want that to ever happen in your life. It’s a cultural thing - everybody in this company is engrained with security.

We are an ISO certified organisation and it’s our fourth year now and that is independently audited. Someone will come in, have a look at our systems and our procedures and make sure they are secure. You might argue that we are more secure than a lot of people’s IT departments.

Do you have any plans to develop cloud technology?

We have just acquired a product called ER Tracker. We have built two other products so I’m expecting a great big leap forward in the next few months. The biggest thing from a payroll point of view is that we are finalising our outsourcing model, so if a company wishes to outsource its entire expenses procedure and process we can do that for them.

We can process the claims here, get receipts sent to us here, have auditors here and have the HMRC checks all done here, so companies can focus on their core business. There is a lot going on with our cloud technologies. It’s an amazing delivery model when you add in mobile phones and the apps that enable people to do their jobs -that’s our mission.

It’s a big feat to be able to streamline a whole company’s HR system - are people taking orders for ER Tracker?

ER Tracker delivers a key part of the function for HR - it tracks an entire process. We launched it three or four months ago now and already have 24 companies that are interested in taking it to the next stage with us. I’m blown away by the interest and don’t believe that there’s anything out there like this.

Tell me a bit more about the community culture at Software Europe?

We go into local schools every quarter and talk to students aged 15 to 16 and say: “We are here as a software company and if you have the right skills come and talk to us.”

I work with some great people – that’s the only reason we are where we are today. They knuckle down and get on with it. My team of directors have all been here 14 years plus and have really embraced pushing technology forward.

When we ask our customers what they think about us, most of them will say: “They are great to do business with”.

Do you have a vision to expand internationally?

We are based in the UK but have a global footprint. Some large companies with international offices use our technology. One of the next phases of our growth is to place offices in key areas around the globe.

In the next 12 months we are going straight into Europe. We have contacts with people in the Netherlands already. I’d like to think that in the next 12 months, we will have moved our model into a global position.

But we are a proper British SME. We don’t outsource anything: everything is developed and tested here. I’m quite proud that we have built a proper British business that’s really functioning quite well.