Earlier this week, I had afternoon coffee in London with Andy Newsham and Alison Day, joint chief executives of York-based Clouds UK. This is the new name of what used to be a construction-oriented software-as-a-service business that I previously knew as e-constructionmanager.co.uk. The rebranding reflects the wider range of services now offered by the company, some of which now pose a challenge to providers offering construction collaboration solutions, while others are clearly aimed at owners/occupiers/operators of extensive property portfolios.
Andy and Alison gave me some historical background to the business. It developed out of a business, Eurosafe UK, focused on helping companies manage their compliance on asbestos management and health and safety issues, later expanding into other areas such as fire risk management. Clients’ compliance documentation relating to their property portfolio was stored in an online information portal, and this portal’s functionality was then expanded. Now any authorised member of a client’s professional team could interrogate the database and establish, for example, the test status of all lifts or escalators operated by the company. A suite of reports also allows clients to quickly review legal compliance issues with at-a-glance dashboard views giving high-level status and the ability to drill-down to the detail of every asset.
One of the first big clients to use the service was pub chain Punch Taverns, and the company’s client portfolio has since grown to include several High Street names (TK Maxx, phones4u, Woolworths, Comet, William Hill, Virgin Mobile) as well as property developers, NHS Trusts and hotel chains.
The range of services offered has also expanded beyond compliance. For Punch Taverns, for instance, Clouds UK has enabled the company to run their construction projects online. Punch’s new £7 million corporate HQ in Burton-on-Trent was planned, tendered and built using the Clouds UK platform to manage flows of information.
Away from the construction sector, Clouds UK’s solution portfolio now includes discrete products for the property lettings market and the insurance industry, as well as an ‘Ultimate Manager’ solution offering a single point solution to any organisation managing a diverse range of property assets. Pricing is competitive too. Basic services start from just £49 per month with no limit on the number of users and 3Gb storage (bronze package), Construction Manager starts at £69/month, while the Ultimate solution costs £249/month.
“So why haven’t I heard of you?” I asked. It seems that the company’s growth to date has largely been through word-of-mouth recommendation, but this may change. Rather than being solely reliant on its own sales efforts, Clouds UK is, I think, the first business in this field to be offering franchises in 120 areas of the UK. You could secure a franchise for £18,000 (or £23,000 for franchises covering parts of London, Manchester or Birmingham).
The new branding – complete with its cute guardian angel ‘Hector the Protector’ – gives an overall umbrella to the product range, and is also perhaps one of the most explicit statements that customers’ data is being managed “in the cloud”.