Long Eaton-based and well established video-conferencing company Questmark has created four new graduate-level jobs since receiving business development support from the University of Leicester.
Utilising the European part-funded Innovation Partnerships project, the company has received consultancy advice and mentoring from the Department of Computer Science as well as the help of a Leicester computing masters graduate to review, develop and migrate the company onto a new bespoke customer relationship management (CRM) system. As a direct result of being able to operate using one system (collecting all operational information in one place) through the new CRM, Questmark has seen improvements in their time-management, increased customer contact time, and generated more sales leads, as well as creating capacity in the business to generate and handle new business. The additional jobs created include a permanent position for the postgraduate computer science employee seconded to the project, Aristeidis Psyllos (27).
Managing Director Sam McMaster, who started the business in 1993, knew that for his business to grow, he would need a robust IT system to unify customer data and project process management.
“Customer satisfaction is our one critical success factor so to maintain this whilst scaling up the business was causing us some concern. I was also alarmed by the potentially high costs involved in migrating to a leaner process so finding help through the University of Leicester, and the Department of Computer Science in particular, has been quite amazing. We now have a CRM system which everyone, from service desk to installers, can access and like.”
The six-month secondment project with the University has been co-ordinated by Dr Stephan Reiff-Marganiec, senior lecturer in Computer Science who has been on hand to provide advice and guidance throughout.
He said, “Questmark really needed a customized system to support its business processes. We worked with Sam to put together a specific project brief and then helped him to recruit Aris from five possible University of Leicester candidates My involvement has been to provide guidance, advice and mentoring for Aris throughout the project on the various options available, key aspects to be considered and how to overcome technical challenges as the project progressed.
“I am delighted that one of our post graduates settled into the firm so well and has been offered a job on the basis of the quality of his work. As an academic team, being able to observe and address the issues facing a smaller company such as Questmark at critical points in their growth is very important and immensely rewarding. This creates a virtuous cycle of learning allowing us to inform our teaching and coursework – something we know the business community expects of Leicester graduates and postgraduates.”
Questmark has achieved year-on-year sales growth as the adoption of video-conferencing becomes more widespread. This is partly due to a reduction in the cost of the technology and a realisation by many organisations that time spent travelling to meetings is time wasted and environmentally unsustainable. Using video conferencing technology across 15 of its UK sites has already saved a national chartered surveying company over 300,000 miles (£120K at 40p per mile) and man-hours of travel.
It is this drive to find ways of reducing energy consumption and waste materials that underpins the University of Leicester Innovations Partnership project. As Questmark discovered, the scheme is designed to offer companies a flexible route to relevant and practical expertise and know-how from the University of Leicester.
Project director Anjuu Trevedi commented: “It is great to see how the University’s expertise can be applied to solving pressing issues in businesses. Working together we are enabling busy people to do their jobs well, run their businesses more environmentally efficiently and to stay ahead of the game. The potential for wealth creation and continued business growth leading to more new jobs by Questmark is quite evident now the company has its data management system up and running.”
Sam McMaster added: “We are in discussion with University of Leicester on putting in place other mechanisms to continue to work together to improve and develop our IT system as we move towards offering ‘video as a service’ and cloud-based conferencing facilities to make video conferencing an attractive alternative to face-to-face meetings. We have been delighted with their ability to understand how business works and to find the right solutions to meet our needs.”
Innovation Partnerships is a University of Leicester scheme, part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund, offering up to 100% funded support to SMEs in the East Midlands to tackle some of the major resource and environmental efficiency challenges of today such as reducing energy and materials consumption, using sustainable materials and energy sources to reduce their carbon footprint.
Photo: Aris Psyllos, postgraduate of University of Leicester now at Questmark in Long Eaton.