The Business Magazine spoke with Caroline Atkinson, founding partner and managing director of the Reading-based enterprise software provider InCloud Solutions, about tech, business, and the many silver linings of running a cloud business.
InCloud Solutions are experts in ERP solutions and specifically SAP’s Business ByDesign, which it customises and implements for each of its clients, ambitious SMEs looking to grow. Co-founded in 2012 by partners Caroline Atkinson and Liz Matraves, InCloud Solutions is now a leading provider and knowledge base for Business ByDesign in the UK and was acquired this year by Sapphire Systems.
Caroline Atkinson’s journey to business by design
Atkinson has more than 25 years of experience in the technology industry: her professional journey started as a programmer at Siemens in the early 90s, continued at IBM and then at SAP, with a short stint at Oracle from where she found her way back to SAP and to enterprise resource planning, and then to InCloud Solutions in 2012.
Along the way, she became a tech enthusiast and enterprise planning expert, had four children and built a business from scratch.
“When I talk to customers about what I do, I always start with ‘What do you do?’. Only then I can explain how we can enable them to do that better, faster, more effectively: invoice quicker, make your products quicker, deliver your service more seamlessly. We’ve got manufacturing clients, professional services clients, media, financial services, pharmaceuticals and life sciences. The ERP software we deliver, Business ByDesign, enables companies that are poised to scale up to prepare and position themselves for growth, to grow very quickly.”
InCloud Solutions: Started in a recession, sold in a pandemic
Built on the entrepreneurial ambition the two founders started to harbour after the 2008 – 2009 recession, the business doubled every year since its inception. InCloud has over 55 Business ByDesign customers in the UK and Europe, with operations across the US, Australia, Africa, Japan and China – mostly small and medium-size enterprises.
In 2021, InCloud was purchased by tech group Sapphire Systems, a provider of digital operations platforms to over 1,000 mid-market and enterprise businesses worldwide. Headquartered in London, with offices located throughout the UK, USA, Latin America and Asia, Sapphire is a market-leading digital-operating technology partner.
“Last year, in the middle of lockdown, Sapphire Systems approached us, as they recognised the fact that we fit very well in their portfolio, we are known worldwide as one of the best partners for implementation and support. They started the acquisition in lockdown and that was completed in February this year. We are now part of Sapphire Systems but we still operate as InCloud,” said Atkinson.
The company takes pride in its inclusive workplace and is very focused on building a flexible, all embracing culture: treating everyone the same, being fair and correct to everybody and being open to appreciating who they are in their personal lives as well.
“We hired great people because we recognised early on that customer centricity depends on that. We have always had the kind of policies that have become mainstream in lockdown: we trusted people to work from home, we trusted people to work from all over the country, we trust our employees to be grown ups – we don’t need to check up on you. Our progressive, flexible way of working has now become the norm.
“Now we are encouraging teams to come in when they can or want to come in, a couple of days a week. Working remotely is great but you do need the occasional face to face, especially for young people who need to learn from the more experienced colleagues.”
“The scariest thing in building the business was when we realised we’re responsible for all of the people we employ, but then we realised we’re all responsible for each other. It’s a team thing, no one can do it individually, no one can sell and implement individually. The reason organisations survive and grow is that they are team centric. Once you understand that, it unlocks a different type of potential.”
From ERP to RPA
The business currently has £4 million annual turnover and employs a team of 33, and now that it is part of the Sapphire Group its future ambitions are limitless: “We will grow with the SAP apps, but also embrace the journey with Sapphire, which includes Robotic Process Automation (RPA) apps. Our clients are already on a digital platform, so it will be great to be able to help them extend and automate processes that are time consuming.
“Sapphire are very forward-looking and besides InCloud they have acquired several different companies which are experts in different specialisms, so altogether they are building an ecosystem that will respond to the needs of small or large companies, in the UK as well as globally.
“Sapphire have exciting plans and we are very much a part of that.”