After 33 years of success trading, Porism joined Placecube at the end of 2022. Porism is a well-established, UK based, software development and consultancy company. It started trading in 1989 and has been managed by the founder, Mike Thacker, since then. Porism specialises in open data services and standards. Porism fits well within Placecube as both companies work primarily for the public sector, especially in local government.
Now, 1 year on, Mike Thacker, founder of Porism explores the reasons for that change, the challenges of bringing an SME into a bigger group and the opportunities that opened up in this blog post.
Why did Porism join Placecube?
Porism established ways of operating that worked nicely for a small company; it built up a good team of loyal staff members who can rely on one another, who are respected by clients and who have a longstanding deep understanding of their field. That dynamic works particularly well with a small team - Porism once grew close to 25 staff but found it operated more efficiently with 10 to 12 people. It also works with a small, stable, client-base. Clients appreciate dealing with a team that does not often change personnel and understands what’s important to them.
The inevitable march of time has meant that two key Porism staff members were approaching retirement age, myself included. Our clients needed to be assured of continuity whilst our staff needed stability and the opportunity to go on expanding their careers.
Placecube provided a great new home, as like Porism, it serves the public sector, mainly local government and is committed to 'doing the right thing' by its clients and team. It is also committed to the tenets of the Local Digital Declaration in terms of openness and to retain clients because they are well served, not from any product tie-ins.
How are things going?
Administratively combining the two companies has not been a big issue; both use Google Workspace, both manage jobs via Jira, both host applications in the cloud - primarily with Amazon Web Services. Porism has relied mainly on remote working since lockdown for COVID-19; Placecube has used remote working for much longer, so there has been no disruption to staff routines.
Porism’s pared down processes contrast with the rigour of Placecube who deal with a larger amount of sensitive and time-critical data. Bringing these approaches together provides an opportunity to assess what works best in terms of security and thoroughness without being overly burdensome.
We’ve only just begun
We started by assuring clients and staff that it’s very much business as usual before we moved on to realising the benefits offered by the new structure. The ‘business as usual’ part has gone well and we have a long period of working with the full team before anyone retires.
The benefits are coming into sight. Porism maintains the Local Government Association’s (LGA’s) LG Inform Plus API (Application Programming Interface) and data tool which give access to billions of metric values that pertain to areas in England. Placecube has seen the potential of the API and exposed more councils and other organisations to the merits of taking out a subscription with the LGA.
Placecube is looking at other means of bringing LG Inform Plus to the attention of its wide public sector client base. It’s early days, but there’s interest in running LG Inform Plus look-alikes in other sectors and other countries via Placecube agents.
Porism has a long-standing relationship with iStandUK helping get technical standards rolled out in the public sector. I have advocated implementation of the Open Referral UK standards widely in public and private sector organisations. Placecube is one of many such organisations as early adopters of the standard in their Open Place Directory. Now, with my encouragement, Placecube is connecting that directory to TPX Impact’s Scout service finder application. This cooperation puts into practice the modular approach of building public sector systems as advocated by the Local Digital Declaration to which so many English councils have signed-up.
Porism’s low cost quick and easy eCasework service is designed to let councillors manage their casework on a low budget. Inevitably whole councils and other organisations with casework management needs have approached Porism with requests for eCasework to do more. Some of these requests are reflected in product enhancements but many take the product beyond its deliberately simple design. The association with Placecube means that, where relevant, prospective users can be pointed to more fully functional case management products from elsewhere in the Placecube Group.
Many potential benefits have yet to be realised, but we’ve done the groundwork. Initially, the two technical teams worked largely independently, but following a surge to complete many jobs in April 2023, we’re now able to mix development teams, improve peer learning and better manage the peaks and troughs of work in different parts of the business.