Modern businesses must have IT at their heart. For most, understanding how to leverage technology is key to getting a competitive advantage over their competitors; and earlier this year, even firms that had been slow to start their digital transformation saw the need to make the switch.
AND Digital was established in 2014, after founder Paramjit Uppal realised that there had to be a better way for companies to adopt new systems - especially considering the high failure rate of digital transformation plans. However, he also understood that people were just as important as technology.
"AND want to challenge the prevailing thinking on how businesses acquire, build and evolve their digital capabilities, helping them figure out new ways to grow a ‘people first' company with software and technology at its core," says Tina Howell, Cloud Practice Lead at AND Digital. "To do that, we blend our highly skilled tech talent with in-house teams to deliver better digital products faster today and, at the same time, increase our clients' long-term digital capabilities."
AND Digital is shortlisted in the Cloud Excellence Awards, for Cloud Development Platform of the Year. And development is at the company's heart: both of its clients and its own staff.
"AND is different from other tech companies I've worked at - it sees people as central to the challenge facing companies today, not just technology or digital products. We work hard to live that awareness ourselves, building a culture that has seen us widely recognised as a supportive, inclusive place to work.
"Obviously, this year the pandemic has brought new challenges to us as it has others - but it's our culture and commitment to people that has been crucial. As well as the creative thinking and initiative shown by our people in keeping teams engaged, and the awesome work of our Agile coaches to really make remote working as painless and productive as we know it can be, Paramjit has also been highly visible throughout with regular and honest updates that have really helped people understand our position and where we are in these turbulent times."
That is a culture that has fed through to the rest of AND. Howell herself, as well as helping to build out the company's cloud capabilities, also focuses on increasing diversity at her firm - from working as an advisory member of the Executive Board to personally helping women to advance their careers in IT. There's one story she says she's "particularly proud of":
"Last year I met a fantastic female engineer at a DevOps meetup in Manchester, but it was clear that she wasn't happy with aspects of her career. I worked with her over the year, encouraging her to speak on panels, helping build her confidence and understand that she could have the career she wants. It was amazing to see what a difference having belief in someone can make to their confidence, and I'm delighted to share that she's now joined AND as a cloud engineer, where she's making the big impact I knew she was entirely capable of. I believe success isn't just about your own personal achievements - it's about supporting the people around you and helping them to succeed too."
Recruitment like this has proved important for AND in recent years - growing from 50 ‘ANDis' in 2015 to more than 700 today, and the growth trajectory looks set to continue, despite the unforeseen challenges of 2020.
"We gained investment funding from BGF and with a strong client base, we project that in 2021 we will be over 1,000 ANDis strong. Pre-COVID, we were planning to open our first office in Europe; although those plans have been slightly delayed, we're on track to expand in Europe next year and we even have a couple of roles open in Amsterdam at the moment.
"Cloud has also had a great year at AND. For some time, cloud engineering has been a strong capability for us, but this year we've been further scaling our impact. We now hold partnerships across all three major cloud platform providers - Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services. This highlights our unwavering commitment to becoming multi-cloud experts, enabling us to offer clients the best possible cloud solutions and services across a wide range of industries and business challenges."
Expansion is part of AND's "Big Hairy Audacious Goal" - something it revisits every five years to guide growth. Howell explains, "Our first BHAG set us on the path to build a remarkable company - and our latest BHAG for 2020-2025 challenges us to make a remarkable impact globally. It's likely that 2021 will see us open six new offices in the UK and Europe."
The winners of the Cloud Excellence Awards will be announced later today. Howell says that events like these are "important…to showcase the innovation and progress we're making, particularly in cloud. Cloud is a highly technical area, and it is often seen as the ‘backend': the mysterious technical bit that makes so much possible - from fast, personalised customer experiences to operational resilience in the face of the unexpected (I'm looking at you, 2020). These awards really help elevate the importance of cloud engineering and communicate its importance to companies of every sector and scale."