Boosting employee morale with tech

Our CEO James Smith talks to Business Cloud about revolutionising employee happiness while they revolutionise tech.

The original report was written by Katherine Lofthouse and can be found here.

Cardiff-based IT development and operations expert DevOpsGuys are on a mission to be a £100m turnover business within the next five years.

While this might sound like pie in the sky for a company that’s only been around for four years, CEO James Smith says their approach of going into companies and helping them get up to speed with technology is proving hugely popular.

DevOpsGuys counts government departments and blue chip businesses among its main clients – including household names like Admiral, BAE Systems, Waitrose and Travelodge.

However, Smith says the benefit of what they do goes far beyond any tech. “Employees say ‘I enjoy coming to work again’,” he explains. “It’s probably the most fulfilling element of my job. In one company they did a big employee satisfaction survey across several hundred staff who were involved in these new working practices and their satisfaction rates went from about 33 percent to well over 70 percent in 18 months.”

The DevOpsGuys’ mindset is to bring technology to businesses so it acts as a catalyst to do things they haven’t been able to do before.

“You’re giving the smart people inside the business a lot more autonomy to make decisions and get them empowered with their work,” says Smith. “It’s moving away from ‘command and control, you shall do this’ to ‘how are we going to solve this problem?’ It’s about simplifying processes in a lot of instances.”

Having gone from a team of two to over 85 in just four years themselves, Smith is keen to make sure that DevOpsGuys are creating an environment as positive for their own employees as the ones they create in other businesses.

“I have three kids under seven so it’s important to get a balance,” he says.

“My learning journey there has helped me distil that into the business. Our team start between eight and nine each day and by 5.30pm everyone’s gone – we really coach hard on the importance of a work- life balance, taking regular holidays and not burning out. It’s so important and such an issue in IT, it’s something we all really need to bring to the forefront of discussion.”

Smith, who describes himself as a ‘technologist by trade’, started his journey with Dell in 1998 before moving into the start-up world then co-founding DevOpsGuys in 2013 after seeing a gap in the market.

“They say in magic timing is everything. I think it’s the same in business,” he says.

“It’s been a growth trajectory from the moment we kicked off. Steve [Thair] and I put £500 capital into the business to kick it off and this year we’re on target for £10m so it’s quite exciting. It’s been a lot of fun in between.” This might already sound like a big win for a young company but the team’s plans don’t end there.

“We have plans to be a £100m business in the next five years,” says Smith.

“That’s the forecast but I’d love to exceed that – I don’t like to talk about it because it potentially sets a cap on what we do, but we’ll just keep working hard.

“The most important thing for me is demonstrating that this can be done in Wales and get the lessons we’re learning into the community. We want to give people confidence in incubators like Entrepreneurial Spark and show them the next steps in growing their business.”

However, this won’t always be an easy burden to shoulder and Smith admits that shaking things up can create friction with new clients. With this in mind, DevOpsGuys works hard to make this new approach to tech an easy pill for businesses to swallow.

“We put in the foundation of education and learning so people can understand why the changes are coming and where they fit into the process,” he says.

“It’s about engaging everyone from senior leadership to team level and quickly demonstrating that we will make a difference.”

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