For almost a quarter of a century now, the React Computer Partnership in Woodbridge, Suffolk, has acted as right-hand man for small to medium size companies in need of an IT department.
Specialising in the supply, installation and support of business IT systems, last summer the family behind it, the Pledgers, were anointed Family Business of the Year at the East of England FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards.
Often, when it comes to helping businesses improve how they work, the solutions are already at their fingertips.
Take Microsoft’s Office 365 package, for example. Around 80% of users access no more than 20% of its capability, so the potential for improvement there alone is huge, said director Francis Pledger. “Businesses can be paying their monthly rental for Office 365, but using just one or two applications.
“However, the Teams/Planner/Forms/One Note collection of applications can revolutionise the way a company works in terms of teamwork and project management.
“With a little bit of training, people can be up and running in no time. It’s a quick win using a package clients often already have, and that’s what we’re trying to get across – there can be some very simple solutions available.”
One client, a manufacturer of window blinds, approached React because he was frustrated by the inefficiency of relying on old-fashioned paperwork.
Francis said: “He was reliant on the paper forms his fitters filled in, paperwork that often didn’t reach him.
“So, using Office 365, we created a digital version of the form and put it on the fitters’ mobile phones. Now, they can do the job, take the required picture of the installation and send the completed form into the system at the touch of a button.”
Trouble-shooting began with simply listening to the client. “Whenever a client comes to us with a problem, we’ll sit down, discuss the pinch-points and then identify a solution.
“The chances are, rather than having to spend a lot of money on a one-off software purchase, the solution is probably there within Office 365.”
Conversation and a personal, tailored service have been the cornerstones of React since it was launched 24 years ago by Francis and brothers Richard and Alan. The operation runs all the more smoothly because their office manager also happens to be their sister, Penny.
There are eight members of staff in all, based in Woodbridge’s Deben Mill Business Centre.
While the firm actually has clients all over the UK, including Scotland and Wales, the majority are in East Anglia itself.
“Most of our clients are small to medium sized enterprises that perhaps aren’t big enough to have an IT manager, but they do need IT,” he said.
Far from simply focusing on the technical aspects, React takes a holistic approach, routinely carrying out a business analysis that elicits the bigger picture. The starting point is always ‘what affect are current practices having?’
Francis began his working life in industry, so he understands both sides of the equation.
“We’re not an organisation that takes money for a project and then simply moves on to the next customer,” said Francis.
“We have clients we have had since our first year of trading. People stay with us because we work to create a partnership.
“We say ‘we are your IT department’ and they know they can rely on us to be just that, whatever the problem or issue might be.
“We have skills at React that effectively become theirs.”