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New technology is helping Cheshire based Boilercare 24/7 to smash it’s million pound revenue target by the end of 2017.

The company has rolled out BigChange’s Mobile Workforce and Job Management Platform across its plumbing operation and combines cloud based back-office CRM, job scheduling, a paperless mobile app for engineers and real-time tracking of vehicles.

Boilercare’s founder Alastair Barton was formerly a property developer and used to think that plumbers were his nemesis stating:

“Wherever I went, plumbers were my problem – they didn’t turn up, when it was cold they wouldn’t answer my phone, they disappeared for days on end and would just re-appear as if you hadn’t called them twenty times.” This led to a lightbulb moment in 2010 when Alastair saw an opportunity to deliver a superior service across Sandbach, Cheshire and South Manchester. Starting with a team of three in 2010, the plumbing business now has fourteen employees and aims to double in size over the next two years.

To realise its ambitious expansion plans, Boilercare deployed BigChange’s JobWatch system that allows back-office users to plan, manage, schedule and track work effectively including planned maintenance and urgent reactive work. In the back-office, the system is enabling planners to respond faster to customers and is intelligently allocating work orders based on real-time engineer availability, skills, live location and parts stock. This is significantly increasing productivity; minimising customer wait time and driving first time fix at competitive cost. The integrated CRM is also providing customers with a joined-up experience, thanks to automated job booking confirmations, service reminders, ETA updates on the day of service and electronic quotation and invoicing.

According to Boilercare’s founder Alastair, the new paperless technology is revolutionising the plumbing sector:

“Businesses like ours were previously overrun with paperwork; job-sheets, timesheets, sales invoices, purchase invoices and the rest. We literally had filing cabinets full of documents. Now everything is safely, securely and paperlessly backed up in the cloud and we can look back at anything on demand. The beauty of the BigChange system is that everything is in one place. Before you had to have a separate diary and jobs system, a tracking system, a CRM system and something for invoicing and quotes. You’d be crazy to work between all those separate pieces of kit. With BigChange everything is all in one place and its integrated, so we really have found Utopia.”

Boilercare’s team of Plumbers benefit from an easy to use Android mobile app. They start their day by completing an electronic timesheet and vehicle check, before instantly accessing job information. Integrated sat-nav with live traffic ensures the best route is taken and customers receive proactive updates by text and email. On arrival, the app allows team members to create instant quotes and guides them step by step through job-specific workflows. Users can search for parts and add them instantly to the job. Proof-of-service is instantly relayed to the back office and the system generates invoices, custom reports, Gas Safety certificates, legal documents and fully branded job-cards that are automatically shared via a customer’s booking portal or via email.

Alastair continued:

“The system has freed up my time to focus on growing the business, with the comfort factor that my team have a robust management system in place ensuring we are consistently delivering the kind of service that builds loyalty and customer recommendations. Ultimately I can enjoy a holiday with my family without worrying that the wheels are going to fall off the bus. It’s also enabling us to take on bigger projects – such as big multi-unit installations for some of the national housebuilders. That has put us in a different league,”

Martin Port, founder and CEO of BigChange said:

“It’s great to work with Alastair and the Boilercare team, we love working with such progressive businesses that are customer focused and really harness the benefits of our technology. Like for so many of our customers, the BigChange system is the catalyst for growth as it helps companies maintain quality and improve productivity.”

The Entrepreneur: Joseph Valente, ImpraGas A year on from winning The Apprentice, 27 year-old Valente has proved his business credentials with company turnover set to hit £3.8m. Read his story…

Founder: Joseph Valente

Company: ImpraGas

Website: https://impragas.co.uk/

Description in one line: The UK’s specialists in the installation of gas boilers.

Turnover: £2,100,000

12 month target: £3,800,000

Business growth

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • ImpraGas is a nationwide network of gas boiler & central heating installation specialists.
  • We offer an exclusive 10-year warranty and 10-year service plan with installation.
  • Our interest-free finance plans allow customers to have the installation with zero deposit.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

Winning The Apprentice and a £250,000 investment from billionaire business partner Lord Sugar by the age of 25. Coupled with achieving a multimillion pound turnover in just 5 years, expanding from one location in 2012 to now covering 11 counties across the South East.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

Each day I review the following, without fail:

  • Cash in the bank
  • Payments due out
  • Payments due in
  • Overall debtors
  • Current revenue sales for month
  • Operating margin
  • Overhead spend so far

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

For ImpraGas we are, and will always be, a UK national business only.

Describe your growth funding path:

Start-up capital for ImpraGas came in the form of a £15,000 personal loan and then we managed to grow organically for the next three years, reinvesting profits until our next round of funding came in the form of £250,000 from Lord Sugar.

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

We purchased a CRM system that has revolutionised the way our operations work. It’s called JobWatch by BigChange apps and runs our whole operation logistically, financially and the most beneficial part is it cuts all paper processes from the organisation.

The Samsung tablets that our engineers and surveyors use also means we can have instant quotations and safety forms as soon as the job is complete from anywhere in the country. This means we can replicate the model anywhere in the country which aids in our expansion plans to have ImpraGas installers nationwide within the next five years.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

In three years, we forecast a turnover in excess of £10m and believe we’ll be well on our way to covering the whole of England.

With the model as it stands, we can ensure that we’re offering the highest level of customer service to clients, nationally.

Growth challenges

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

Without doubt it was getting started in the first place. Taking that initial leap of faith and personally investing everything is a huge test of confidence.

After that, the challenge is expanding and maintaining the same level of customer service, care of our employees and constant sales – these are every day challenges but ones we relish and tackle head on.

What was your biggest business mistake?

Not starting earlier. I always knew I could do it but, without start-up capital, taking out a personal loan was a huge risk. Thankfully it’s one that has paid off.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

Paying tax – I’d rather be able to invest a portion of this money into providing more jobs and apprenticeships.

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

Not establishing robust systems and processes that are capable of withstanding expansion.

Some entrepreneurs are great at creating things but they don’t focus enough attention on scaling up and securing substainable growth.

How will your market look in three years?

Although they’ve been around for the past 10 years, renewable technologies such as solar panels, biomass and heat pumps have only recently started to be included in domestic housing.

I would expect renewables, as well as SmartHome technology, to be far more mainstream in domestic housing in three years time.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

“Don’t wait for opportunity, create it.” Nothing is ever going to fall in your lap. You have to be out there looking for it or creating it yourself.

Personal growth

Biggest luxury?

A weekend away once a month; every month.

Executive education or learn it on the job?

On the job!

What would make you a better leader?

A little more patience.

What one thing do you wish you’d known when you started?

That it’s okay to make mistakes in business as long as you learn from them.

One business app and one personal app you can’t do without:

For business it’s LinkedIn and for personal it’s Tinder.

BBC Apprentice Winner
Martin Port
Founder & CEO

Buy It Direct, one of the UK’s largest online retailers has rolled out BigChange’s JobWatch Mobile Workforce Management platform across its nationwide delivery fleet.

The Yorkshire based company whose brands include Laptops Direct and Appliances Direct delivers thousands of electrical appliances directly to consumers daily and manages end-to-end product fulfilment for national retailers including Debenhams.

BigChange’s three-in-one solution is delivering a paperless revolution for Buy it Direct and combines cloud-based delivery planning and scheduling, an Android mobile app for drivers and real-time tracking of the vehicle fleet. With fast efficient next day delivery being a key part of Buy It Direct’s offering, the company were looking for an integrated system that would deliver a truly seamless customer experience and chose BigChange after evaluating a number of competitive systems in the market.

Prior to adopting the JobWatch solution, Buy It Direct were reliant on a paper based system including paper based manifests and delivery notes that drivers were required to collect in the morning and return for processing and filing at the end of each day. Without real-time visibility of the operation, the contact centre were making multiple phone calls to drivers to check the status of deliveries.

The new solution is fully integrated with Buy it Direct’s routing software and the entire delivery process is automated on rugged Samsung tablets. At the start of each day, drivers start their timesheet and complete an electronic vehicle walkaround check, logging any defects that are automatically alerted to fleet managers. Drivers have instant access to their delivery manifest and the app navigates them efficiently from job to job, with the benefit of live Google traffic information.

Customers automatically receive a courtesy message by text message, giving them an accurate ETA for delivery. On arrival, items are scanned and verified using the JobWatch app and photos taken before, during and after each drop, providing robust proof of delivery and product condition. Custom worksheets guide the delivery team step by step through installation procedures. Additional photos are captured for installation of white goods (e.g. test washes and connection to water and waste pipes). Proof of delivery with signature is captured at the end of the process. This information is instantly relayed to the back office and customers immediately receive delivery confirmations by email.

Mick Eaton, Operations Manager for Buy It Direct said:

“The BigChange system means the delivery team and our customer contact centre are always in perfect sync. Our advisors are empowered to instantly answer any questions and have a real-time view of the operation. The robust proof of service is invaluable in dealing with customer queries and protects our drivers and the business from false damage claims or fraudulent activity.”

Buy It Direct have been able to optimise and streamline their delivery operation. The BigChange system has provided business intelligence into how long it takes to deliver specific types of products. Previously too much time was allocated to each drop, creating wasteful slack in the schedule. This new insight means that productivity has been increased with more drops taking place per vehicle per day. Capacity across the operation has been increased without the cost of additional drivers or vehicles.

The new technology has also assisted with management of the vehicle fleet, with the daily driver checks allowing robust management of defects. The live tracking system monitors and reports on driver behaviour, providing a motivational de-brief at the end of each day.

Mick Eaton added:

“Since we implemented the BigChange system, we’ve seen an improvement in fuel consumption, less vehicle wear and tear and the level of goods damaged in-transit has reduced significantly. Overall the BigChange system has been a revolution for our delivery operation and I would not hesitate to recommend it to other home delivery operators”

Martin Port, founder and CEO of BigChange said:

“We are proud to be adding such value for Buy It Direct and playing a key role in the rapid growth of their world class ecommerce operation. We look forward to being a key technology partner to the business as they continue to scale.”

BigChange powers ahead in the first half of 2017 and remains on track to achieve 100% sales growth with an annual turnover of over £7m. New orders in the period exceeded over £5m pushing our subscribers to over 15,000 across our customer base which is fast approaching 600 organisations.

New customers such as FSH Group, Sheffield City Council, London Borough of Bromley, Garic, High Access Maintenance, P&O Ferrymasters, Arrow Industrial Group, UpNorth Group, Blade Access & Platforms (UK & US), The NWH Group, Joda Freight, Jarvie Plant and many more, all joined the BigChange “Paperless Revolution”.

Our new customers operate in the following sectors: Catering, Hospitality & Event Hire, Construction, Public Sector, Plant Hire, Civil Engineering, Maintenance and Cleaning Services, Transport, Bus & Coach Travel, Electrical, Plumbing & Heating, Fire & Security, Facilities Management, HVAC, IT Networks, Printing, Glazing, Waste Management & Water Hygiene.

Awards & Progress

I’d like to reflect on some of our proud achievements in the first half of 2017:

  • KPMG Best British Mobile Start Up 2017– Runner Up
  • Northern Tech 100 League Table 2017 – 12th Fastest growing Tech Business
  • Real Business Future 50 – Ranked BigChange one of the most disruptive UK organisations in 2017
  • Institute of Directors Awards – Finalist in the SME Company category
  • BRAKE – The Road Safety Charity – 2017 Finalist in the Fleet Safety Product Award category

Upgrading your Vehicle Tracking System

Four years ago, I founded www.bigchange.com with a vision to harness the benefits of a powerful, feature rich 3-in-1 Mobile Workforce Management platform that would be within reach of businesses of any size. We have combined back office CRMJob Planning & Scheduling, a Rich Driver / Engineer Mobile App and Black Box Vehicle Tracking to help organisations go Paperless, making them more Efficient and Safer. As well as the UK, we have customers in Ireland, France, Spain, Finland, Norway, Australia and the USA.

I owe a huge thanks to our customers who have worked with us along the journey. They are the catalyst of our rapid growth and have helped us shape our system. JobWatch has transformed productivity and profitability for our customers and it is revolutionising the service experience for their own customers.

New Product Developments

During the period, we developed more applications and new features including an even richer CRM system with the ability to design templates for email campaigns, surveys, custom reports and financial documents. We have also added the Sales Opportunity Pipeline which has now been included along with CRM activity in our BigChange Analytics module.

Workflow and process automation, collaboration between your company and your sub-contractor community (Job Sharing) and an on-demand Job Booking App that our clients can deploy for their own customers. This will give every customer (no matter their size) the ability to have their own App in the iTunes or Google Play store for their customers to book, track and manage their work in real-time with secure payment options. These developments are part of our vision to allow organisations to become even slicker and more efficient whilst improving the quality of service.

Corporate and Social Responsibility

Corporate social responsibility, often abbreviated to “CSR,” is a business’ initiatives to assess and take responsibility for the company’s effects on environmental and social wellbeing. We support local charities and good causes that our customers support. We are keen to promote business within schools so we support Founders 4 Schools to inspire students and welcome young individuals to complete their work experience at our offices. We also support many good causes such as Danby Rovers (we are Shirt Sponsors) who play in the West Riding Ability Counts league set up for people with learning difficulties. We sponsor the Social Enterprise Street Lane Bakery, funding a delivery vehicle which is kitted out with BigChange technology helping them track deliveries to members of the local community. We support Transaid a charity that transforms’ lives through safe, available, and sustainable transport in Africa.

We are corporate sponsors of BRAKE, the Road Safety Charity as part of our ongoing commitment to the road safety cause. Additionally, we are a proud supporter of the British Israel Chamber of Commerce promoting business in the wider community as well as Connect Yorkshire, helping local businesses to grow by learning from Yorkshire’s most successful entrepreneurs. We also generate money for charities via referrals from our customers. For each successful recommendation, we donate £10 per unit to the charity of their choice on the customer’s first order.

I look forward to working even closer with you in the future.

All the best

Martin Port Signature
Martin Port
Founder & CEO

Martin Port, CEO at BigChange, explains how the latest mobile workforce management apps and systems can greatly enhance any organisation’s safety management.

This story was featured in Insider Magazine.

We all know that Health and Safety is a serious business. In fact recent tragic events have been a wake-up call to all of us. Managing risk and compliance is not just a matter of paying lip service but is an absolutely critical part of all business practices and processes. There can be a temptation to create separation between such an important subject and a company’s core activities. This isolationist approach has generated widespread negativity in attitudes towards health and safety professionals and their initiatives. Too often the claim is made that ‘the job gets done’ in spite of the efforts of health and safety personnel.

It is vital to have robust safety management systems in place that provide good evidence of compliance, and ensure that employees genuinely embrace a positive safety culture while following safety policies and procedures. However, it has long been problematic for organisations to provide employees with an up-to-date system that adequately addresses all risks and allows them to record any changes, communication briefings or incidents. It has also been difficult to evidence that a risk assessment has been viewed, and where necessary, amended to address relevant issues.

Where business operations are being carried out in the field and in remote locations, how do you ensure that health and safety processes are being followed and documented? The new Corporate Manslaughter and sentencing guidelines mean this must be a priority for all businesses. It is all too easy to prosecute after an accident if it can be proved that employees have not followed safety procedures.

Just as mobile technology has transformed the way we manage our consumer lifestyles, the latest mobile workforce apps not only provide a superior way to plan and schedule, but are embedding health and safety into the daily workflow of business, so that it absolutely becomes “business as usual”.

These new apps are enabling health and safety documents, permits and schematics to be uploaded when planning jobs and projects in the back office, whether they be part of a wide range of standard activities or are project specific. These can include cable plans, risk assessments, work instructions, safety briefings, work-permits, Risk Assessments and Method Statements (RAMS), COSHH assessments and step-by-step job guides. The challenge of collating, printing and successfully distributing such documents is met with a new-found ability to instantly send and share with the relevant parties. This means that employees can access, complete and evidence that all health and safety requirements have been met.

If a risk assessment has been drawn up for a task, all employees involved will use the mobile workforce app to confirm they have read and understood it, ensuring that the workplace is safe and all necessary controls are in place. Risk assessments can also be altered and re-briefed by team members. Systems record the exact time that documents are viewed and comments are made. This is integral to the general briefing of the task, not separate from it, and provides safety training and communication while sharing responsibility for safety with all employees.

This integrated way of working has enormous health and safety benefits. It gives employees the responsibility of evidencing that they have read relevant safety information, and enables them quickly and efficiently to report on the work that they have carried out in the field (along with any issues encountered). Workflows are mandated to ensure that checks, inspections, work and driving are carried out in the correct order and non-conformances can be raised and resolved. The work flow is halted if at any time there is non-compliance – alerting the office team and managers in real time and dynamically.

This connected way of working can also have a positive impact on a company’s insurance claims profile. Photo capture on smartphones or tablets promotes claims defendability by allowing photos to be taken, before, during and after work and attached to job cards (with all photos time and location stamped), reports and other documents. For example, an engineering team working with underground cables could attach photos of any cables that are identified as being not contained on drawings provided by the owner, or shallow cables and cables in concrete.

Some systems like BigChange also allow you to maintain up-to-date vehicle records (including trailers, plant equipment or other assets), detailing planned and unplanned services, defects and dates of maintenance activities such as MOTs. If any maintenance dates are exceeded, management receive proactive alerts, ensuring that issues are managed and resolved.

These systems record evidence of a proactive safety management system and servicing policy, helping to improve health and safety standards and protecting both employees and the organisation itself. The addition of integrated tracking of vehicles protects drivers by confirming time and attendance and monitoring lone workers during unsociable hours.

Where accidents occur elsewhere in the organisation, it’s critical that you are able to rapidly distribute updated briefings and safety messages to both office-based and mobile workers. When implementing a system, you should look for integrated alerting, with the ability to record the time and date at which the messages were read, signed and acknowledged.

It is also essential to take into account driver behaviour. According to Brake, the road safety charity, up to one in three road crashes involves a vehicle being driven for work. Every week, around 200 deaths and serious injuries involve someone at work. Indeed, for the majority of people, the most dangerous thing they do whilst at work is drive on the public highway. Recording and analysing driver behaviour can be used to proactively engage employees and to improve the quality and safety of driving by highlighting areas for improvement. In addition, when work is scheduled effectively, it minimises the risk that employee will be running late and so reduces the temptation for drivers to speed by. Poor routing and scheduling puts pressure on your workforce to meet deadlines that are unrealistic and could encourage the wrong behaviours.

In conclusion, the latest mobile workforce management apps and systems will greatly enhance any organisation’s safety management, by providing ready access to documentation, regular updates and instant communication between work teams. One of the greatest risks in any workplace is how instructions and requirements relating to safety procedures and risk assessments are communicated to employees. Organisations must adequately review and correct any issues, and communicate updates after accidents or changes in procedures. They must also have a reliable way of recording evidence that these health and safety procedures are being followed, and that such monitoring is taking place. Systems like our 3-in-1 JobWatch solution combine back-office planning and scheduling, a mobile app for field based workers and integrated tracking of vehicles and assets. It provides a simple and comprehensive solution to all such health and safety considerations, enabling the management of safety as well as promoting a positive employee attitude towards the subject. Mobile Workforce Management systems such as JobWatch involve all employees (and sub-contractors) in reviewing and acknowledging safety, as well as in making decisions where these are necessary.

Systems like this are affordable and easy to implement for businesses across all sizes and sectors. They are both easy to use and thorough, helping to protect both employees, managers and the general public – along with your company’s reputation and brand. The risk of workplace accidents is reduced, as is the potential for costly insurance claims, and so gives your company peace of mind that every effort is being made to maintain safety.

It seems likely that we are about to witness a sea-change on the issue of holding individual managers personally responsible for safety-related deaths and injuries. The Herald of Free Enterprise ferry disaster saw a first and faltering step down this path. After that, little seemed to change. But with criminal prosecutions having recently been announced over the Hillsborough tragedy, and public support for establishing accountability for the Grenfell Tower fire, it seems increasingly clear that we are entering an era where managers can expect to go to jail for failing to make use of readily-available technology which can address avoidable risks.

BigChange

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