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Optimising IT: A year in Exeter

It’s been just over a year since Optimising IT officially opened their doors in Exeter.  Now on the cusp of their 3rd office move in 12 months due to growth in the area, we wanted to share our experience of being part of the wider Exeter Business Community and what is coming in the next 12 months.

Why did Optimising IT join the Exeter Chamber of Commerce?

Actually, this was a pretty straightforward decision as part of our wider engagement approach.  One of the great things about the Exeter Business Community is that it is what it says:  A business community.  Having watched the way the chamber has built it’s level of business engagement, the people on the board, the events, introductions, knowledge sharing and more, it made sense to get properly involved, and that is the key – you need to get involved.  For us it was the next natural step as we had been attending events for a while, and we thought no better way to get further embedded.

What was your first coffee in the city like?

We love coffee in the city!  One of the key features is the warm welcome, but it does also resonate that you see a lot of familiar faces from the business scene, but also new people every time.  It’s a brilliant forum to find out what is going on with everyone else, and work out where we can all share capabilities and knowledge for mutual benefit.  The coffee is also spot on as well!   We have hosted our coffee in the city along with fellow members Exeter City Football Club too, it’s a great way to share what you are all about and showcase how you can help.

So how does Thirsty Thursday differ?

Thirsty Thursday is an entirely different event.  Much more relaxed and informal, and typically at some great venues around the city.  I do remember one on Cathedral Green in the summer last year.  You do often get a different crowd to these events than you do at coffee in the city, as well as some of the same people too.  It’s a great way to relax and unwind towards the end of a busy week whilst catching up with contacts and making news ones.

What made you become a growth partner?

The great thing about the Chamber is that there are different membership options depending on where you are in your business journey.  As a business, we are unique in the wider region with our blend of technical capabilities, certifications, customer feedback and our approach to people and planet, as demonstrated by our BCorp™ certification, so being a chamber growth partner for Cyber and IT was an ideal fit, in keeping with our market presence.  For us, it is very much about growing the overall reach for the Chamber, and we have had some great conversations with businesses that have gone on to increase their membership levels.  Some of the benefits to us with knowledge sharing about the wider economy and business landscape have been highly valuable to us, in addition to the level of introduction and interaction with the Chamber Board and collaboration on events, like the Practical Cyber Sessions we ran last October.

Speaking of events, why did you get involved with EXiST?

One of the key benefits of being a Growth Partner is getting a dedicated member of the Chamber Board assigned to you.  Of benefit to us, our assigned director also took charge of the EXiST initiative, and suggested that getting involved with the next series of planned events alongside Microsoft as partners would be a good way of further enhancing our profile.  The EXiST initiative is a wide-ranging science and technology forum and showcase for the wider Exeter Area, and the first event on AI was over-subscribed.  We are also looking forward to the next event on Future Energy which is coming up soon.  Both events attract a different type and scale of audience, and being involved helps enable us to keep ‘front of mind’ and showcase different areas of our business.

What do you expect in the next year?

We are going to see the Chamber continue to grow in line with the wider economic region growth, and we’ll also see more cross-over with existing and future customers in the area, both in terms of membership and events & collaborations.  Being a Growth partner also enables us to put on bespoke events, workshops and opportunities for knowledge sharing amongst the members, so look out for more news on those soon!

Speaking of events – why did you work on the cyber workshops together with the chamber?

We focus on cyber as a business as it’s the number one business risk right now, yet most organisations don’t have a formal approach to managing that risk.  Everything from the basics, like Staff Awareness Training, which is part of the ICO accountability framework, to meeting the UK Government Cyber Essentials standard, which is the minimum cyber security controls all organisations should implement, get overlooked by many organisations, especially in the SME space.  Often organisations of all sizes and shapes implicitly accept risks they don’t know they have, or choose to explicitly accept them in the hope they won’t become issues.  There are often lots of reasons as to why, but mostly it’s down to three things:

  1. A perception that ‘it won’t happen to us’,
  2. ‘It’s never happened to us, so why spend the money now?’
  3. Or just simply down to a perceived lack of value, so putting the appropriate measures in place just look like a cost rather than a benefit

In reality, a regulatory fine, loss of reputation and the damage to operations in terms of lost revenue a cyber-attack or breach can have far outweigh the investment in appropriate security. 

And that really is the key statement – we talk about investment in appropriate security as a business benefit. 

 I am also prepping a timeline as well – which is pretty interesting in the space of 12 months!