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Grapevine at 30 – Part 4: The Decade Ahead

Across the previous three articles in this series, the Grapevine team have reminisced about the company history to date. As we begin to look ahead, here are some additional reflections from colleagues on the past, present and future of the business, technology and communications.


Looking back as we move forward

Pete Boby: “There are 2 very simple lessons to take from the past. Firstly, we have always been so much more of a service driven organisation than just sales. Providing a first-class customer experience has always been a huge priority for us. It’s ingrained into all our staff. By having so many long-standing employees, this has given us continuity and clients love the fact that our Account Managers are not changing all the time.”

“Secondly it is so important to embrace change. The sector we work in changes very quickly, diversifying into IT and Fixed Telecom helped strengthen our offering and kept us ahead of the curve.”

“Looking forward, we aspire to continue with our current growth in offering multiple services to most of our clients, rather than just a single service, and for our clients to continue to value us as a company and say we are an easy company to do business with. To achieve this it’s important for us to remember the same basics that have come before – to listen to our clients, engage with them, be transparent and consistent, as we always have been across our service levels.”

James Spinks: “Agility is key. If we hadn’t moved out of retail when we did, we would not have survived. With margins being squeezed on mobile, if we had not diversified into supplying fixed telecoms and IT when we did then our business would not be growing. Fortunately, we were ahead of the curve on this convergence and our loyal client base have benefitted as we grow our portfolio of quality products and services. Quality recruitment is also key, with appointments always made with one eye on progression and longevity as well as integration with the core company culture we have developed.”

“Our priority is to continue offering not just a solution, but the best solution to each of our loyal clients. By offering best-of-breed solutions, our clients can continue to grow their businesses in the confidence that their infrastructure will support such growth.”

Edward Lewis: “Six years ago I went to meet a fledging Healthcare software provider based in a tiny, serviced office in Surrey. At the time I think there were 3 staff. We partnered with them during the development and deployment of their (now) award winning software and, during our relationship, they have grown to employing over 50 people. They approached networks directly too but decided to work with us due to our agility, flexibility, but also the knowledge that Grapevine were a safe pair of hands and once we were introduced to the customer, we could be relied upon to deliver. These attributes continue to set us apart from larger organisations.”

Nicky Vockins: “Grapevine has always been moving forward. I can still vaguely remember going to the shop in Bath before it opened, I think my parents were busy cleaning it! Since I started working for the company in 1999, based in the office above the shop on Weymouth high street, I’ve seen many changes, from the moves to Winfrith and Poole, the growth of the company to include fixed line and IT, to now where I’m mostly working remotely. The additional services we offer now have benefitted how our own team works, as much as our clients.”

Donna Fletcher: “We are all more than just a number at Grapevine. Back when I had my daughter I was supported as a new mum and with all the extras associated with children. Sports days, nativity plays, I never missed any of them.”



Finding optimism through the pandemic

Pete: “From a personal point of view I’m very proud of how the company has handled COVID 19 to date, both internally and externally. During the first lockdown in March 2020, I set myself a challenge of walking 10,000 steps (5 miles) every single day for a year. This evolved into a fundraising opportunity for Age UK, a charity that my wife Judith works for.”

James: “It has been nice to see positives come from the generally negative experience of the Coronavirus pandemic, with members of staff adding to the wider Grapevine family, through the birth of their new children during this time.”



Key advice for businesses going into 2022

Mark Newton: “The main 2 areas of advice I would give is firstly ‘stay current’. It is imperative that your systems run as efficiently and as quickly as possible. Customers want a seamless experience however they interact with you and technology is no doubt the backbone of that experience. Secondly ‘think security’, this is a constant threat when it comes to technology. Data theft, hacking, malware and a host of other threats are what keep IT professionals awake at night! It is imperative that technology security protection layers are in place to protect your business from the worst.”

Paul Fletcher: “‘Move this to the cloud’, ‘The cloud is the best place for your data’, ‘Cloud solutions offer the most flexibility’ – No doubt all your comms and IT suppliers are telling you the same, and yes, they’re correct. HOWEVER, the cloud will only ever be as good as your connectivity. If the ‘Cloud’ is the ‘Brain’ of your operation, then your connectivity is your ‘bloodstream’. Without clear reliable and quick connection will it be performing properly or at all? Connectivity is so key, without it nothing works. Isn’t it worth more to your business than two cups of coffee a day?”



Predictions for the future

James: “More services and even products are destined for the cloud, with Microsoft investing in cloud desktops and more solutions moving to a monthly subscription model.”

“The speed and latency benefits for 5G will pave the way for a more connected world, with IoT solutions becoming more prevalent in everyday life, from smart homes to automated vehicles and everything in between.”

Paul: “With regards to connectivity, it will become quicker, more available and, in turn, hopefully more reliable! With Openreach’s promise to rid the UK of the PSTN network by 2025, the availability of FTTP and SoGEA (FTTC speed services) are being ramped up. This will provide speeds up to 1GB. The removal of the voice element of the network should also need less upkeep and removing the troublesome maintenance windows in congested “Green cabs” which should hopefully mean less fault occurring. For enterprise level connectivity, Direct Internet Access (DIA) services should see more suppliers being able to offer 10GB services, leading to a more competitive marketplace, and allowing SME customers affordable access to services historically only available to large companies.”

“For voice, the digital revolution has been well underway for several years. Moving voice services to hosted/hybrid solutions has already provided customers greater flexibility with ways of working; the last 2 years have probably accelerated this process too. With the technology reaching UK homes over the next few years, expect to see the adoption rate of digital services really accelerate. Not much in comms is that exciting really, but this really could be as the UK finally moves away from Victorian era tech. Maybe the railways will follow suit one day!”

“Service driven requirements will also impact how companies look at their phone systems. To make the experience more productive for both parties, smart call routing features such as VIP numbering, smart call routes, more accurate automated systems traditionally only available in large, and often expensive, call centre solutions will really start to hit the mainstream Soho and SME markets. With these services being hosted and development now being easier to create and administer, the costs of these solutions have drastically dropped. Call data will also become increasingly important, when’s best to schedule staff breaks, is there a reason our competition open an hour earlier/close later, are we missing calls we have no idea about?”

“Unified communications (UC) is a term I’m sure many have heard bounded around over the last 24 months but the concept has never really boomed here in the UK as it has in the US. Combining the mobile and fixed elements of comms still has some resistance with the more rigid, traditional solutions still being preferred. However, with thanks to the likes of Amazon, we are fast becoming used to, and expectant of, an instant service. UC will provide these services, allowing users to be contactable wherever they are. This is also likely to see the demise of the traditional phone on desk. Most platforms will allow users to use an app on mobile/PC or a web URL sign in, also making that geographical presence redundant. This could be great news for the environment, as it will be another lump of plastic not being required to be made!”

Mark: “Hybrid working is here to stay following the last 18 months. People want the ability to work seamlessly from home or wherever they are and the growth in this will continue. New employees will also expect to have this flexibility. Technology will play a huge part in ensuring that organisations can ensure their workforce is connected, remain agile and adaptable in the changing world. The technologies utilised will undoubtedly be cloud based and will provide the security and flexibility required in the future.”

“Cloud technology will continue to grow with very few new technologies even being viable without it. Additionally, advances in artificial intelligence and automation will significantly improve efficiency and productivity at the expense of roles in areas such as data entry, customer service and manufacturing. Jobs that do not currently exist in technology will fill the void.”



Thank for you for reading this series of articles, compiled in celebration and recognition of our 30th anniversary.

Pete: “It is a wonderful achievement to celebrate our 30th anniversary. So much has changed during these three decades. A third of our current staff were not even born when we started back in 1991, yet we also have a third of our staff who have been with us for over 10 years. A huge thank you to all our loyal staff and also to our clients, many of which have been with us on our journey for several years. Here’s to the next 30!”

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