We talked to Craig Morrall on how ACS has been developing business-changing, bespoke software solutions and he the following to say about it:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Craig Morrall: My family I are doing great, thanks. We’ve been very lucky so far and haven’t been directly impacted either health-wise or financially. And my brother and I founded ACS together, so I’m seeing him on a near-daily basis at work, albeit socially distanced.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded ACS.
Craig Morrall: From a fairly young age, I knew I wanted to work in software development and run my own business. I studied ‘Computer Science’ at Lancaster University, and receiving a first further cemented that I wanted to do this. After Uni, I actually started a Ph.D., but I knew my heart wasn’t in it near the end of the second year. I’d had enough of academia and craved more practical hands-on experience, so I left. I then worked for a couple of companies, developing bespoke software, before deciding to take the plunge and do what I’d always wanted to do – I set-up ACS with my brother Chris. This was in 2009, during the recession, and people thought we were mad. But we knew our skill set, and we had a passion for business, I’m pleased to say we thrived, and now we’re in even more challenging times, we’re still thriving. For us, it’s all been down to hard work and being lucky enough to realize our calling early on. I’d never have chosen a different path.
How does ACS innovate?
Craig Morrall: We develop bespoke software solutions that streamline business processes, saving company’s time, money, and resource. The innovation comes when we pioneer brand new, industry-leading solutions. We don’t like to simply update existing systems or replicate what’s already available in the market. We challenge our clients to think about what the absolute best solution would bring – rather than what they already know is possible. We then work to provide something with no compromise. This approach has led us, together with our clients, to produce pretty exciting software.
We also work with the Microsoft Power Platform. With its low / no-code approach, this whole platform is pretty innovative, and it’s providing lots of opportunities to businesses.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Craig Morrall: We’ve managed to win work during the pandemic, which has largely been down to our Microsoft Power BI (data analytics) service offering. Companies want process, performance, and benchmarking data more than ever. And they want to identify business and time waster. Many companies are turning to data analytics to see this, along with where there are opportunities and risks within their business, in case they need to pivot. So it’s been rewarding to have an offering that’s genuinely helping and can be set-up cost-effectively too.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Craig Morrall: We haven’t lost any team members, and we’ve kept all our clients, so we really do count ourselves lucky. Our team is small and loyal, so it would have been very hard to lose anyone. And similarly, we have a small number of close clients, so the lines between their business and ours are somewhat blurred.
In terms of lessons learned, we’ve had it commented for us that bespoke software is a very large investment for many companies and can be a decision that takes years. Early on, we spotted the opportunity to deliver something valuable, quicker, and more cost-effective during COVID. So we moved more into our Microsoft Power Platform and data analytics service offering. This has taught us that, as a business, we need to have some offerings that aren’t quite as huge an undertaking as completely bespoke software.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Craig Morrall: I’m into weight training and workout around four times a week, which really helps me reduce stress. Before the pandemic, I went to the gym, but I’ve now adapted my lounge at home. The wife isn’t too impressed, but hey! I’m relieving stress. I also play golf. This has been a particularly good hobby recently as I’ve been out in the fresh air.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Craig Morrall: There are many software development houses out there, and the number is likely to keep growing. We plan to stay ahead by keeping up-to-date with current trends in the tech world. If we can stay current and continually grow our team’s knowledge and skills, then I think with our can-do attitude and passion for pushing what’s possible, we’ll remain one of the stronger development companies.
Your final thoughts?
Craig Morrall: I just hope that 2021 is a better year for everyone. I know I have been one of the lucky ones in 2020, but it’s still been strange and, at times, scary. I hope we all carry some of the togetherness and support we’ve shown each other as people and businesses when all this is over.