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Synapse chief executive Brian Donnelly, back from eight years building his previous company in silicon Valley, explains: “There is a pachyderm in the parlor (UK translation—an elephant in the room), that everyone can see but no one wants to say anything about, for fear of looking silly.” He explains that for decades now a dysfunctional business cycle has been perpetuated that loses companies millions of pounds and countless man days of productivity every year – he intends making his contribution to stopping this from his HQ at the Innovation Birmingham Campus.

“It starts when management bring in a ‘big four’ consulting firm that tells them to overhaul some business process and make it more efficient—a fine goal,” says Brian. “Then it begins to go wobbly when the same management form a committee to go and look for off-the-shelf software to achieve this goal.” The problem is that this committee probably know nothing about the software on offer and have to wade through confusing pitches from vendors that obviously over-hype their offerings. eventually they select the best of a bad bunch and try and adapt their business processes to fit around this software, which only does perhaps 80 per cent of what they want it to do. “no surprise, the business users stop using the new system, it sits idle and they go back to cutting and pasting spreadsheets together— everyone loses,” says Brian.

The picture changed for Brian when he was brought in to a leading UK bank to meet three very hard pressed ladies who were running the resource planning – ensuring the right project managers were assigned to the right roles, in the right places in the country, at the right time. The key resource planner—Sharon Atherton, explained that she had 2,500 people sending hundreds of spreadsheets to them every day to a shared email inbox which they then cut and pasted together to get to one version of the truth. They had built their own master spreadsheet system of considerable complexity that glued everything together absolutely perfectly – except for the colossal labour needed to keep it up to date.

“The light bulb went on for me when I realised that Sharon had absolute mastery of the resourcing domain knowledge and her team had built all of this into a complex spreadsheet. “In other words, they knew what every column should be, what the allowable values were, the business rules, the lot. They knew, in short, everything a master programmer would need to build a perfect system and they had already built it – imperfectly – in spreadsheets”. By combining the work Sharon had done with a proper cloud ‘back end’ that would overcome the weaknesses of spreadsheets, synapse created a huge step forwards for business, removing the need for cumbersome software mistakes.

Brian applied for, and was successful in getting, a UK Government SMART R&D £250,000 award to commercialise the synapse solution for the problem described. This solution is currently supporting hundreds of concurrent users at a leading UK Bank and a leading Swedish retailer, both of whom had in-house built spreadsheet systems that synapse successfully industrialised.

Sharon Atherton, Resource senior analyst at a leading UK bank said: “Synapse is on track to deliver benefits of £2 million.”

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