In their own words...
Read on below for the full transcript of the podcast.
Tech Central 0:00
This is Tech Central, your weekly tech podcast from Irelands techcentral.ie. The past few years have forced businesses to evaluate how they operate, and one of the key changes is digitizing. But how can companies embrace digitalization if they can't afford in house developers? Olivia Bushe is CEO of FlowForma, and she spoke to Niall Kitson about how her company is using a no code platform to make life easier for the construction sector.
Niall Kitson 0:31
Olivia, a lot of the success stories that we cover on the show tend to start with an idea. I guess not so much an idea in a basement but an idea certainly with a laptop and desk on somebody starting with a few lines of code and then jumping into it. And a couple of months or a couple of years later, there's a fantastic success story attached to it. Your journey has been quite different in that you've come towards things from kind of the marketing end of things. So what attracted you to working in marketing in the first place, but then segwaying into technology thereafter?
Olivia Bushe 1:09
Yeah, so my background is I've worked about 30 years and technology marketing, which is quite unique in itself. So I think at school, I was one of those maybe strange people. So my A levels are maths, chemistry, and art. So you know, scientific background, but creative in there. I think that's probably what drew me to marketing. I took a year, I went to Queen's University, and I took a year, my third year I studied at a college in the US. And I specialized in marketing during that year, and that was when I really realized this is what I want to do I really enjoy this. You know, I think it had the right mix of logic. You know, being methodical, especially with the digital stuff. It's very analytical, and that suited me but you've got the creative element in there as well. And, you know, I love drawing, painting and things like that. So I think it's just I found my niche and thought, yeah, this is what I want to do. And then I sought out a postgraduate marketing course after I graduated and I worked for a couple of years in the US, and I went out for a Northern Irish company to set up their US office. And that kind of went from there. And I've just moved from technology company to technology company. So for ECM companies for business process management companies for document management companies. So that's kind of how I got into marketing.
Niall Kitson 2:48
And now you're in the area of low or no code, application development, I guess, low and no code platforms could be described as an IT solution to an IT problem, specifically starting with the problem of the skills shortage. So for anyone not familiar with these platforms, we can just explain them from sort of base principles.
Olivia Bushe 3:13
Yeah, so FlowForma is a no code platform, which means that it's a product built from the ground up for the business user. So right from inception, I mean, when I was approached about FlowForma in around 2016, That's what caught my attention, because back then it was something very different in the market. I had come from the business process management background, where it took at least six months, possibly eighteen months to actually digitize your processes to start to see the return on them. And quite often, to be honest, a lot of those projects didn't work out the way the customer had initially envisioned. So when I was approached by FlowForma, I became quite excited. I could see how it was something quite different on the market. And I could see how it was a tool for somebody that is non-technical, which I would consider myself I'm not an IT developer. I don't code but I could digitize the processes. So the business owner can digitize your processes with FlowForma. So they're independent of IT. They're not dependent on them any longer. And the business owner very often is the person who knows the process best. So I suppose it's quite similar to marketing at one time. If you wanted to get anything done on your website, you have to go to the IT team. I'm that old. I remember those days. And you know, you went down to the IT department. You know, you needed it done ASAP but it was way down their list of priorities and used to get quite frustrated and then the content management systems came in, and now, you know, I would say 100% of marketing departments can make the changes on their website themselves, but they're not coders, they're not IT people, but the tools now that have enabled them to do it. And it's quite similar to that. Now you've now, the process owners, you know, HR can set up their own onboarding digital process, they don't need to ask the IT team to do it for them. You know, it also benefits companies that have small IT teams like very often IT teams will welcome a tool such as ours, because they will realize that it's gone to take the pressure off them, and other parts of the business can become more self-sufficient.
Niall Kitson 5:33
I think that's a point that we're seeing increasingly, especially when you take the likes of AI, entering the workplace, that it's all about taking sort of the mundane decisions out of the loop, if you will, to free up IT departments to do things that are of higher value, I suppose. No code platforms do the same thing only, in some cases, removing the need for an IT team support or an IT contractor specifically where that might represent a very large cost base for a small business.
Olivia Bushe 6:10
Yes, absolutely. And you know, we do say that more in some verticals than others. So construction would be a very good example of that, they usually have quite a small IT Team they don't want to be spending a large amount on maintaining their systems on a third party and services company, so they want to become self-sufficient. And we've seen good traction for our tool and construction. And I think that's one of the reasons why and also in today's climate, like anyone who's trying to hire out there, will know that it's almost impossible to hire IT People at the moment, and if you do get them, they're very expensive.
Niall Kitson 6:52
You mentioned there platforms appeal to the construction sector, which I guess, is a pretty interesting sector in that it's particularly project oriented. Have you found certain types of companies gravitating to your platform? You know, either contractors or, you know, short-term companies or indeed companies of long standing.
Olivia Bushe 7:16
Yeah, so we, we would find that it's a lot off, I would call the second tier construction companies. So the large enterprise companies, we do have some of those so Balfour Beatty, are a customer of ours and Bouygues in the UK, so we do have a few of the large enterprise customers, but we've probably appeal more to the next level line that can't afford the seven-figure some, you know, often enterprise software solution, you know, and probably, digitizing and Process Automation has almost seemed out of their reach because of the cost. And that's where we come in. So we you know, have come in an attractive price in the market in order to ally people that couldn't previously afford to digitize the NY comm. And so it's probably the second-tier level of construction companies that would gravitate towards us because it's an effective solution that they can afford.
Niall Kitson 8:22
And I suppose picking up on the word solution there because this is something that potentially has international appeal because it's a global skills shortage at the moment. And that's not going to get easier in the short term. So any solution that presents itself to that it's going to have international appeal. How have you found that in your own experience?
Olivia Bushe 8:43
Yeah, definitely has international appeal, we have the same amount of customers in the US as the UK. And it's been a completely remote sell. And, obviously, over the last two years with COVID it's had to be a remote sell but even from pre-COVID we sold remotely anyway and software as a service. It's an easy tool. So you know, people, it's something people will buy remotely from you. So, you know, we've definitely found we've got customers in Australia customers in Singapore. So it definitely is a global need there.
Niall Kitson 9:18
Looking towards the future, then what sort of applications have you seen on the platform that have made you think, actually, this is something that's going to become, you know, standard procedure down the line here, or here's a really novel way of doing something or here's something that you know, perhaps will end up falling by the wayside because it's been tried and didn't work in this environment. So might scale elsewhere?
Olivia Bushe 9:43
Yes, construction's a good example now for that as well, because they have processes that are repeatable and needed across all construction companies. So you know, materials requisition would be one, you know, that most construction companies need. So, you know, that's a repeatable process that you know is used across all construction companies and staff remobilization would be one because construction companies have a lot of people out on-site at different places, health, and safety, incident management, all those types of things that are repeatable across the construction industry and that's where we fit well because you know, you can share your templates once it's set up, you can share it across different sites. And so we're suited to that type of process automation very well.
Tech Central 10:43
So that was Olivia Bush from FlowForma chatting with Niall Kitson. That's it for our show for this week. Do remember you can get the lowdown on all things techy in Ireland without any updates daily newsletters and more with our website techcentral.ie. Of course, you can catch us online or Fridays with RTE radio and extra until next time, Have a great weekend.