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Sooraj Shah

Contributing Editor

Sooraj Shah is Contributing Editor of New Statesman Tech with a focus on C-level IT leader interviews. He is also a freelance technology journalist.

The global financial crisis prepared us for the pandemic, says Fordway CEO

Fordway began as a reseller business back in 1991, which focused on networking. As the company grew over the years, it started specialising in core data centre infrastructure technology, until the financial crisis hit in 2008.

“In 2009-10, pretty much all of our customers stopped spending money with us all at once, and we realised we needed to get into contractually recurring revenue – a managed services business, because that was fundamental to our customers’ operations where previously we were predominantly doing change and transformation projects which in some way shape or form are discretionary,” says Richard Blanford, chief executive of Fordway.

Blanford explains that the last crisis has made Fordway well-equipped for the pandemic.

“Now over 70 per cent of our revenues are contractually recurring revenues to support core IT and business operations for mid to large sized enterprises, mainly in the UK public sector,” he states.

In fact, Blanford says that business has increased in the last few months as several customers are key entities helping to respond to the pandemic, so they’re ramping up operations and require more capabilities.

The company has 80 clients in total, 20 of whom Fordway provides contracted managed cloud services. These clients include the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), UKAS, Buckingham NHS Trust and Brent Council.

‘Government has not been well looked after’

Many of Fordway’s clients include those in government that have a few hundred users that required managed services support.

“Historically they’ve not been well looked after by the major sort of household name service providers, because they were small bits of a large department and historically they were shoehorned into a contract with one of the main government departments but these departments had specific needs and as a smaller organisation they wouldn’t be looked very well after by the larger players,” he says.

The government’s procurement framework G-Cloud has helped Fordway to win a lot of this type of business.

“The smaller entities inside the public sector entities have the ability to effectively contract their own services with smaller organisations that are more suited to their size and scale, and can offer the flexibility and adaptability they need,” he says.

However, Blanford says that merely being on G-Cloud doesn’t guarantee success – he says that a key reason that Fordway has been able to attract customers is because it was one of the early suppliers onto the framework.

“So recently a lot of suppliers have got onto G-Cloud, but I think the figures show that 80 per cent of companies have never won a contract from it. Our first major G-Cloud win was in 2013-2014, so it gave us credibility, reference customers, a good customer base and also a very good understanding of how to use the framework effectively,” he states.

No redundancies – we’re recruiting

While many businesses are making redundancies, Fordway has gone the other way.

“We’ve actually been recruiting. We’ve added five new staff since March and we have three other roles open at the moment,” Blanford says.

The company is also using the opportunity of lockdown to work on internal changes including repackaging and repositioning its services and improving the way it provides them.

“Financially, we’re very stable as we’ve been around for a long time. We’ve never burned any money or taken anyone over. We don’t have any outside backers who can pull the plug so [the lockdown] gave us a bit of peace and quiet to get on with some really important internal work,” he says.