Frequently asked questions

We've compiled some of our most frequently asked questions for you here. If you still have any questions though, drop us a line anytime and we'll get right back to you.

Q: Who are Openly?

A: Openly is a team of experienced software architects and engineers, and our mission is to transform workplace technology.

We founded the company in 2012 after seeing how the workplace was getting a raw deal compared with consumer tech. You can book a cab with one swipe of a phone screen - so why are you stuck using clumsy spreadsheets and clunky software at work? This old, inefficient tech is frustrating for staff and bad for business.

We knew we could use our expertise and experience to do something about it. Not by installing off-the-shelf software then leaving you to deal with it, but by creating bespoke digital platforms designed for - and with - each individual client.

Openly has grown fast. We now have offices in India as well as London, and we've created made-to-measure tech for companies and organisations including the BBC, Clarks and the NHS.

We believe new technology shouldn't make life difficult for your staff. Instead, it should enhance your unique identity - and empower your people to do the jobs they love. If you agree, call us for a chat.

Q: What kind of workplace software do you provide?

A: We don't provide a single pre-built piece of software. Instead, we build a tailor-made platform of digital tools that work together. Each element is carefully chosen and configured in close consultation with you and your staff.

What we include depends on what you need. We have access to technologies such as data analytics, process automation, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and cloud computing. All these technologies can bring enormous benefits to your business by speeding up workflows, making staff happier in their jobs and making behind-the-scenes tasks much more efficient.

As time goes on, we can tweak and update your platform to make it an even better fit. If you discover a certain element isn't quite working for you, or you'd like to try a new innovation, we'll make those changes. Your business never stops growing, and your software should grow with it.

To find out more about how we create perfect-fit software that empowers staff, read our global fashion brand case study.

Q: Why shouldn't we stick with spreadsheets? They work!

A: They work up to a point. Spreadsheets, like slide presentations and landline phones, feel familiar and "safe". They also feel cheap. But this dinosaur tech is dragging you down.

A spreadsheet is like a cheap Swiss army knife. You can do everything with it, but you can't do anything very well with it. Once you've filled in a few thousand cells, one or two of which contain really critical company data, you've got the potential for a big problem.

Like many old office tools, spreadsheets are very hard to collaborate on. They encourage staff to work in their own individual bubbles, ticking items off their solo to-do lists. Targets aren't met, and everyone blames everyone else.

Our client Clarks is a great example of a company that relied on spreadsheets but knew they were becoming a problem. We worked closely with them to end the spreadsheet culture that was impeding workflow and sales. To find out how, read our Clarks case study.

Q: How disruptive will Openly's new tech be?

A: We've all had jobs where our bosses and IT departments breezed in one day and said: "Good news, everyone! We've paid for this massive new software system and now you've got to learn how to use it." And everyone's hearts sank.

People are busy, they don't have time to learn a whole new system they never asked for and we never consulted on, so they soon go back to what they were using before. The shiny new system ends up as abandonware.

Openly will not lumber your staff with abandonware. We create your platform for and with you and your team. Your people are the most important part of our process.

We listen as much as we build. Before we do anything else, we sit down and listen to you and your team, so we understand what you need. We then introduce only the software we think will benefit your people, and work closely with them to help them get the best out of it.

Retaining your company's identity and empowering people to do the jobs they love is at the heart of what we do. It's never about change for change's sake.

Our work with a global fashion brand is a good example of this process - click here to read more.

Q: Will it create extra work for my IT staff?

A: We make sure there's no extra burden on IT. We run your operational tools as managed services, providing full support and maintenance.

That said, we do consult with IT to get their blessing and ensure the platform is safe and secure and ticks all the boxes IT would want to be ticked.

Q: How secure will my data be?

A: We take the security and privacy of your data very seriously. We use top-level end-to-end encryption to protect your data when it's stored in the cloud and when it’s being sent across our networks, and all our software follows industry-standard best practices for data and information security.

We'll also work with you to ensure your platform meets new data protection laws. From 25 May 2018, all companies will have to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) - an even tighter "right to be forgotten". Under the new rules, companies will have to completely delete any data they hold about an individual if that person requests it. Our software will help you protect your employees' and end users' data, confidently and completely.

Q: What happens to all our existing data?

A: We'll migrate all your data for you. We'll then make it much easier for your staff to update, access and analyse data - new and old. Nothing in your existing database goes to waste.

Q: How much will it cost?

A: Every platform we build is bespoke, so prices vary. What you pay will also depend on the level of ongoing managed service you choose. Get in touch for a 15-minute chat about your goals, and we'll give you an idea of how much it will cost.

'Bespoke' doesn't mean 'extortionate' when you buy from Openly. We pride ourselves on offering superb value for money. There are a few reasons why we can do this.

First, much of the digital infrastructure we build into our platforms is surprisingly affordable. Companies like Google and Amazon are racing to produce technology that smaller companies can easily buy into. Amazon's professional cloud solution, Amazon Web Services, is a good example. You can use it to communicate and collaborate in the workplace in ways you'd never have dreamt of a few years ago. We pass those innovations and savings onto you.

Coding software is also much cheaper and easier than it used to be. You can bypass the expensive design stage and come straight to us with a sketch or an idea, and we'll code it directly - then mould the software in direct response to your feedback.

Long-term investment is the other key factor in Openly's value for money. If there's a problem with your company's workflow, you may assume the answer is to hire and train more people. But a more cost-effective answer is to empower your existing staff with the right technology. Our software will boost efficiency, save cash and grow your business for years to come.

Q: Why shouldn't I just buy enterprise software off the shelf?

A: Buying off the shelf is quick, has a fixed price and gives you a sense of "right, that's done". But it's unlikely to deliver long-term efficiency savings. And it certainly won't be designed to fit the way you already work or evolve with your company.

Openly's software includes only the features you need and none of the features you don't. We use elements of all available technologies to create a custom-made solution, in close consultation with your and your staff. Then we evolve your software as your business grows. Off-the-shelf products can't do that.

Our work for a well-known luxury brand is a good example of this approach. Thanks to an inefficient workflow, the company wasn't able to get products online fast enough. Management knew technology could fix it, but no ready-made products were quite right.

What's more, all the off-the-shelf tech they looked at would involve changing the way they worked. They needed software that would work with their existing process, not against them - and that's what Openly built for them.

To find out more about our work for the luxury brand, read our case study.

Q: Do I have to write you a brief?

A: No. We can do that for you. All we need from you is a goal, or a problem you'd like to fix, and the opportunity to sit down and talk to your team.

If you're not even sure what the problem is, we can figure that out for you as well.

Then we work directly with the people who are going to use the software. Listening to your team is the most important stage of Openly's process. We'll visit you and let you talk. Our aim is to understand the problem, understand your company, and understand how your people work - and how they work together. From that, we can understand what kind of digital operation will make your teams more efficient and empowered.

The initial meeting will only take an hour of your time.

Then we go away and then draw up a plan, which turns into a prototype - which you can see and use in one week.

Q: What if we want to make changes?

A: You will want to make changes, before and after you adopt the new system - and that's great, because it's integral to the Openly process.

No-one knows exactly what they want from day one. Facebook today is not what Facebook was 10 years ago. That's not because Facebook didn't spend enough time and money on 'planning', it's because the platform has evolved to fit the way its users use it, and will continue to do so.

That's how we work at Openly. When you get the prototype, it'll trigger new ideas. When you adopt the new system, it'll trigger even more ideas. You'll discover new things you wish they could do with it. So we're always there to make changes that you'd never anticipated at the beginning.

Openly's CTO Rich Summers likens it to creating a sculpture. "You start with this big block of stone, and then you start chiseling away until it gets to something like the right shape. Then you ask: is this working for you? And then you refine it together."

Q: How much time will this take?

A: It takes between one and two weeks after that initial one-hour meeting to deliver the prototype. After that, we'll take between one and three months to build your platform.

During those few months, we'll need about four hours of your time every week so we can mould the software to fit your needs. We'll watch your team use the prototype, listen to their feedback and your comments, and then incorporate any changes required. A dedicated adviser will guide you through the whole process.

It doesn't end with delivery. We'll always be on hand to manage your software and help your team get the best out of it, and we'll never stop evolving it to be a better and better fit.

Q: Can Openly build me a website or app?

A: We don't build websites, but we do sometimes build one-off apps. What we do far more often is create a system of apps or API for a custom-made platform.

The API we built for Clarks will serve the company for many years to come. First, it will be the company's richest source of data about their products. If anyone in the business wants to check data on a product, they can do it by accessing one of our apps. They can even let other third-party suppliers build tools based on our API.

Ready to work together?

We're all ears

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Email us at: hello@openly.co