We talked to David Johnston, founder of Applied Network Solutions, about library management software, and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
David Johnston: We feel reasonably well. You simply have to appreciate that your clients are shut and you can not do anything about it. You would get very frustrated trying to open doors that are totally closed.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Applied Network Solutions.
David Johnston: With a background in first writing software and then selling software, I have always been interested in innovation and how software can be used to automate boring tasks so people can lead more exciting lives. I was very lucky to come across the original author of ORACLE in Palo Alto, California and I really liked his database, so he taught me about it and I brought the first PC-based SQL databases to the UK.
How does Applied Network Solutions innovate?
David Johnston: You have to constantly listen to what your clients want and then think about how you can do what they want and perhaps go further. By this mechanism, you keep your existing clients and improve your products to attract new clients.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
David Johnston: The coronavirus has meant that the software team can no longer be huddled together helping each other out in one office as they would normally. Instead, they have to work at home and without clients for most of the tie, they have to work on independent R & D projects to develop new products. The coronavirus will no doubt enhance innovation because so much R & D is being undertaken.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
David Johnston: I could have made staff redundant, but that would have hurt the team. Software houses work in teams and the morale depends on all members of the team sharing common experiences, so making staff redundant would have been counterproductive.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
David Johnston: ANS are members of CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals, and are authors of this website, which helps you manage libraries i.e. people and items. So we already had a CRM solution by just using the people functionality of our library software – it is rather more powerful than CRM software.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
David Johnston: Yes. The initial £ 10000 grant was extremely useful because it helped me partially cover my office rent. You have to pay rent whether you are open or closed. We also took out a contingency CBIL loan in case we would be short on cash.
Your final thoughts?
David Johnston: Innovation requires people to accept the risk and to be given the environment to innovate. In the UK we are very risk-averse and put bureaucracy and red tape in the way of innovation – this is such a shame, but the UK still has some of the best innovators in the world despite this.
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