rule britannia

We seem to be in the age of national pride even though we’re in a long and deep recession and for some sectors in particular things aren’t looking so bright.

Okay we’ve just stuffed our chances of Euro 2012, but who didn’t see that coming? At least they made the agony last and at least Italy beat Germany, we can feel a little better about it all now.

Murray, at the point of writing seems to have a fair crack at the whip with Nadal going out at Wimbledon.

Even as someone in his youth wanted to get rid of the monarchy and declare independence for the North, I’m starting to think that maybe the Queen is an asset to the country and what remains of the Commonwealth and Colonies. It’s funny when the chips are down people start looking to the past in this country, maybe a British thing, but people seem to even be referring to World War II a lot at the moment with some degree of nostalgia for the blitz spirit.

I’ve been watching with some degree of interest, The House the 50s Built – Channel 4 it’s that great time in the country’s history where we had innovators – Frank Whittle’s Jet Engine leading to the development of the De Havilland Comet (the show didn’t mention the metal fatigue and the planes crashing… important developments came after for Materials Science to be fair!), we had plastics, Triumph motorbikes and fertilisers. Companies like ICI were at their peak. Rule Britannia indeed.

However, first mover advantage didn’t work out too well for us none of those companies now exist or if they do, they’re not in British ownership. All of our innovations that have been built through the desperation of war, the make do and mend spirit have been sold off, not economical to produce here anymore and the wealth has moved on. That isn’t to say the British people have changed. Despite now looking like a nation of shopkeepers and those who create some dubious financial services products, we still have a lot of men in sheds coming up with good ideas. Unfortunately, the mechanisms for support and help turning the ideas in the sheds into commercial realities has taken a tumble in the age of austerity.

James Dyson, frequently put up to evangelise about British manufacturing, is really talking a lot of rubbish. I’ve actually got a lot of respect for the chap – however, he like most others in his position outsourced to a low cost country such as Malaysia, what he actually does in the UK is design and engineering. What we’re actually very good at. Unfortunately, he’s had to disguise this as ‘UK manufacturing’ for political reasons, but there’s certainly no shame in saying exactly what he does. Anyone who can paint a hoover yellow and charge a couple of hundred percent more than the next leading brand needs a bit of respect. As does someone who did invent a hand dryer that does actually dry hands! For those who ever frequent ENERGUS in Cumbria, when I was a director, one of my suggestions was that we have the Air Blade driers there. Remember me next time you use them… hmm, perhaps not!

So where am I going with this, well I actually like Britain. I don’t think there’s any shame in saying that anymore, thanks to Queen Liz’s Jubilee year and more likely than not Kate and Will’s wedding last year. We have always been a nation of entrepreneurs and inventors – well before the American’s and the Japanese. Perhaps not as good in the gritty world of mass manufacturing and production as the Germans, but we come up with simple solutions to life’s difficult problems. Radar was British, the computer was British, the television was British, the postage stamp was British, the radio was British, the typewriter was British, the steam engine was British and the pencil was Cumbrian! The bloke who designed the iPhone is British too.

British designers and engineers are regarded as the best in the world, they need our support in order for us to have the next industrial revolution. We figured out how to clone sheep for some reason, we are great at all sorts of techy things. However, as sad as this is, we’re not so great at software engineering. I am very glad that the government has seen this and there has been all sorts of a back to basics approach looking back at the BBC Micro and the development of the new Raspberry Pi. By the way, designed in Britain, built in China! Also the ARM processors which are pretty much everywhere now, British… the company designs the chips then tells other people how to make them.

It’s always a nice surprise too when you find out a company that you automatically assume to be American turns out to be British. I have recently started working with a company called PrecisionPoint through Unleashed IT and one of our clients. The system takes financial and project data from Microsoft Dynamics NAV sat on a Microsoft SQL Server and copies it overnight into its own database so it can crunch away and create something that the Business Intelligence people call a cube. Cube’s provide a multidimensional view of looking at data, so in this case because it’s coming out of an ERP it’s a multidimensional view of your business. Their software is simplicity in itself – once upon a time you’d have to contract someone very expensive in to create these cube’s for you, what they’ve done is standardised as best they can, provide a managed service and charge you by the month. So if you don’t like it, or they don’t get it working for you, stop paying and move on.

They have of course been very British about this, it’s all built on standard Microsoft tools such as Excel, there’s no fancy third party reporting application, it’s all done in something you’ll be familiar. They have also integrated with Microsoft SharePoint Enterprise and developed their own web server tool to distribute reports around your business.

Very cool stuff. I’ve spent years writing reports with tools such as Crystal reports for people, I’ve dabbled with Jet reports and never managed to get to the ultimate aim of having end users being empowered to produce their own reports. It’s always been too complicated – you need a degree in computer science just to get started. I’ve also found that the Dynamics NAV partners often have a sole expert in whatever reporting tool they sell to often find that they move on and leave you in the lurch in terms of support.

I and Unleashed IT are very pleased to be working with PrecisionPoint, whilst it’s early days for our partnership, I am hopeful that the British-ness in us all at least means we can find some unique and cost effective solutions.