16 March 2014

We all need something to aim at. We all need a point on the horizon to look towards, but however hard you dream of amazing destinations and I am a big advocator of using your imagination and dreaming big, everyone needs the fuel and appetite to reach these heady heights.

How did Steve Jobs create the largest company in the world?

Easy really, he did it in stages, but at every point he focussed on providing something so much better than anyone else dared. Long after he was walked off the premises at Apple the company he founded, Jobs went back to the drawing board. He went back to what he knew best.

Jobs found sanctuary in places where most people fear to tread. R and D. The uncertainty of product development and innovation is off putting for many business people, as it’s costly, difficult to justify and fraught with failure, yet without innovation are we really living?

Just like in nature where nothing stands still, you are either growing or dying, even a company growing at a vast rate of knots is going to run out of oxygen if they are not bringing in fresh ideas at every level.

Job’s reentry back in to Apple was made possible and more palatable using his latest innovations from his company, NEXT. And whilst it lacked the branding and finesse associated with Apple, it had all the hallmarks of the obsessive innovator.

The question is can Apple keep it up without Jobs?

It’s easy to forget the importance of innovation if you don’t make it a fundamental part of your DNA. I don’t know how we’d exist at UKFast without the gadgets we have created.

Innovation doesn’t just have to be focussed on your products. The most innovative companies use their R and D teams to simplify processes and make everyones life easier with in the business, customers and staff alike.

Get creative when kitting our your R and D department.

Get creative when kitting our your R and D department.

Our R and D is heavily weighted towards making our team function better and interact with our clients. Ultimately if we speed up the time it takes to resolve an issue or launch a server or answer a call, we have happier clients.

Everything for us is distilled down to simplification. Similar to Jobs, he was shrinking everything and cramming more in. Two things that are hard enough on their own, almost impossible together, yet he managed it.

Innovation is about belief that you can find another way, a better answer to a complex or taxing situation. Its one of my favourite departments, and somewhere I thrive as I love the creativity that comes with solving problems and speeding things up.

A few years ago, our industry was stopped in its tracks with the revitalisation of virtualisation when it was renamed CLOUD. The world went cloud crazy and what was a relatively old technology, got a new lease of life.

I have mixed emotions about cloud. Hailed by some as the answer to everything, it is most certainly not. In my opinion nothing beats the simplicity of a dedicated managed environment, yet you can’t hide from the benefits and cost savings of some types of Cloud. Ironically it’s the flexibility that turned the most heads, yet a few years later, flexibility has taken 3rd or 4th place for reliability and good old fashioned customer support. It turns out business owners value people over conceptualized improvemnets.

Ironically, people with a dedicated environment already had all the flexibility they needed. I remember when Sir Richard Branson went on Oprah and we hosted his server. I knew his server would be hammered, but with a little bit of tinkering we were able to ensure his solution stood up to the demands of millions of people all requesting pages at the same time.

A cloud would have been a great deal less flexible when it came to billing as you get charged for usage!

Guessing what’s coming next is always difficult especially in an industry as technical as the managed hosting sector. Yet this is part of the fun.

On Friday I saw what’s due for imminent release at UKFast and I was simply blown away.

Products that Global brands are charging licenses for that we can release to the market without cost are set to make a big splash. Our job at UKFast is to make everyone’s life easier not just when you are hosting websites, databases and email or app servers. I believe if we can help your accounts department save money or your sales team accelerate sales, surely this is benefit. If we can do this without impacting on your bottom line just through innovation and a little bit of thought, there is merit in that.

Now that we have built the cloud, it makes sense to introduce products that you can plug into and set up in an instant. So that’s precisely what we are doing.

UKFast R and D department with their own chill out area upstairs

UKFast R and D department with their own chill out area upstairs

If I look at how much UKFast has evolved in just the last 3 years, it’s safe to assume that we will be selling some very different services in another 3 years. If you are selling hosting and cloud and that is all you do, look out!

I am not sure what products we will release first, but when you consider we have built a telephone system to rival Ciscos, state of the art billing and accounts software, CRM apps and management tools which predict sales cycles, it’s certainly going to keep us busy over the next few years!

There is an argument you should stick to what you know, but life would be very dull if you stayed within your comfort zone.

There is no doubt in my mind I have been within my comfort zone over the past few years and that this office move and the new data centres are part of a wider plan to step up to the mark and play the game properly.

It all seems clear now. Innovation is the key to the future. Whatever you want to do, do it differently. Don’t copy. There is always a better way. Even if you don’t officially have a R and D team, even if you are a sole trader, get your thinking cap on and start imagining new, improved ways of making your customers feel special. You will get a great deal of enjoyment out of it and you never now, you might just strike gold.

Best of luck with it.



Back to Blog