"Breathing fresh energy into business"
St Agnes Boating is a family run business providing year round ferry services for the community of St Agnes on the Isles of Scilly, with its two boats, the Spirit of St Agnes and the Enterprise.
Owner John Peacock says: “Superfast broadband has allowed us to completely revolutionise the way we run the business. It has not only speeded up all our processes, more importantly, it has breathed fresh energy into the business, by allowing us to develop a new app which we believe is the first of its kind in Europe.”
A large proportion of the St Agnes Boating customers are business people, council staff, residents and other regular visitors. John has identified a way of streamlining the business by helping aggregate demand for his boat services. Now, if for example, somebody wants to charter a ferry service at a particular time, this will be publicised online, so that others know they have the opportunity of joining this trip. The bespoke system automatically recalculates the price for each passenger on the basis of the latest number of passengers, with the price for each individual decreasing as more passengers sign up to travel.
“This is completely innovative software” says John. “It is a cloud based booking system, so we are dependent on fast access, which is what superfast broadband has brought us.”
John adds: “Superfast broadband is also helping speed up our everyday processes, such as invoicing. As so many of our customers are regular clients, we issue invoices for many rather than tickets. For example, the council is invoiced at the end of each month. All our invoicing is now cloud based. This has had a dramatic impact on the amount of time it takes. Our invoicing paperwork used to take up about three hours a day. Now it takes around 20 minutes. Everyday procedures like downloading weather charts used to take some considerable time too, whereas now we can do this instantly. So the improvement in our productivity is breathtaking. That is freeing us up to get on with developing the business and taking it into the future.”
John adds: “Now that we have superfast broadband and so do a rapidly growing number of our customers on Scilly, we are planning to upgrade our website this year, so it is a fully responsive site that our customers can access and use easily from their own mobile devices.”
“Meanwhile, cloud based services are leading us to explore further uncharted waters” says John. “Every boat company has to carry out a wide range of safety measures. For example, every boat must always report how many people it has on board to someone on shore. Conventionally, this has been done by telling someone in the office onshore, or leaving the information in writing onshore. We are the first to have negotiated with the Maritime Coastguard Agency that we can supply the details to them electronically, via the cloud. We are now planning to roll this approach out to cover other safety reporting issues, moving all our documentation into the cloud. We will be the first domestic passenger ferry in the UK to do that. I can access the cloud whether it is from my iPad on the boat, or from one of our two offices.
“We believe this is a very marketable app, with global potential, which we are now exploring with the assistance of UKTI. Although large commercial ships use similar services, cloud based apps are not yet used by small boats in Europe. So the horizon looks very exciting indeed.”