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Shropshire leading IT specialist to speak at high-profile tech event

Alex Whittles at Tech SevernAlex Whittles has been confirmed as one of the headline speakers at a high-profile event next year.

Founder of Purple Frog Systems Ltd in Telford, which designs and manages cutting edge business intelligence solutions, will address more than 800 delegates at the 2019 TECHSevern Conference & Exhibition on September 24, at Theatre Severn in Shrewsbury.

Organised by Shropshire Council, the event will bring together some of the world’s leading academics, policy influencers and decision makers to discuss the future of housing, technology-enabled care, digi-health, education, construction and eco and green technology.

Alex works with clients around the world and travels globally for speaking engagements. He will demonstrate their innovations at the conference and will share his knowledge with local government and health officials, business professionals and those working in education and housing.

Alex, who was honoured with the prestigious Most Valuable Professional (MVP) accolade from Microsoft in 2015 for his exceptional technical expertise, said: “I am delighted to be attending this event to share my knowledge and expertise with such a diverse audience.

“Technology is continually advancing and it’s sometimes hard for local government organisations and businesses to keep up to speed. During this event I’ll be talking about machine learning and big data, and how this can influence decision making, cut costs and boost performance. Using platforms like Microsoft Azure, we can build artificial intelligence (AI) solutions that augment human capabilities to increase speed and efficiency so that companies can achieve more."

Alex will be joined by several other key speakers including Flora Samuel, Professor of Architecture in the Built Environment at the University of Reading, Jane Briginshaw, director of Design England, Helen Olsen Bedford, joint founder and publisher of UKAuthority and Steven Jones, director of Sector 39 Permaculture Design Academy.

The conference is designed to help businesses and local government organisations stay ahead of the game when it comes to emerging and current technology trends which are shaping their industries.

New jobs as big data machine learning company celebrates best-ever year

Purple Frog team Purple Frog team

Purple Frog is taking on new staff as it celebrates its best-ever year.

As a Telford-based big data specialist we have recruited three new members of staff to help it meet a bulging order book and develop a new global product.

Purple Frog, which is at the leading edge of developing and managing business intelligence solutions, has doubled in size this year as well as moving to new offices at Quantum House at Hadley Park East.

Managing director Alex Whittles said its expansion plans were based on a number of new business wins and soaring demand for its innovative services.

“We’re seeing a continued expansion in demand for cloud-based Business Intelligence (BI) solutions as well as growth in machine learning artificial intelligence projects as more companies adopt the technologies of Industry 4.0 using platforms such as Microsoft Azure,” he said.

“As a result we have doubled our size in the past 12 months and are excited about the prospects of future growth in the coming year.”

The company, which helps to make firms more efficient and effective through understanding and using their data, had recruited Business Intelligence developer Reiss McSporran, C# programme language developer Luke Mills and project manager Nick Tudor to strengthen its team, he said.

“We are currently working on an exciting new global product which we hope to launch in March and adding to our team means we are ideally placed to work on research and development of the project.”

The company’s move to Quantum House saw it quadruple its office space and coincided with the appointment of Lukasz Deba as a Business Intelligence developer and the establishment of a successful work experience programme with Newport’s Haberdashers' Adams School.

Its new business wins included running real-time data solutions for FTSE 250 listed companies.

Purple Frog was shortlisted for two Shropshire Chamber business awards this year, as best small business and best technology business.

Alex has been awarded the prestigious Most Valued Professional status by Microsoft, for his work with the Microsoft Data Platform, held by only 21 specialists in the UK. He is a regular speaker at events around the world and consults for some of the world's largest organisations.

Alex Whittles Microsoft MVP Award 2018

Purple Frog is very proud of Alex Whittles who has just been renewed as a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP). Alex is one of handful of Data Platform MVPs and this award recognises not only his subject matter expertise but his ongoing support and contributions to the community arranging events, speaking at conferences and mentoring others. #MVPBuzz

To find out more, visit the website: https://mvp.microsoft.com/

Frog Work Experience

Purple Frog work experienceFollowing on from the success of our June work experience placement from Haberdasher's Adams, we were delighted to welcome Samuel White in July from Telford College to do a one week placement with us.

Sam spent his time at Purple Frog building a proof of concept in PowerBI, extracting and manipulating data from client files and researching future digital platforms.

We wish him all the best for the future.

Purple Frog on the move after best-ever year

Purple Frog team new officePurple Frog has marked its most successful year to date with a move to new offices as it continues to grow.
Telford based big data specialist Purple Frog has quadrupled its office space through the move, which comes after it secured a number of new clients over the past 12 months.
The company, which is at the leading edge of developing and managing business intelligence solutions, has also taken on a new member of staff as part of the move to Quantum House at Hadley Park East.
Director Alex Whittles said the move was part of a strategic growth plan for the company, which helps to make firms more efficient and effective through understanding and using their data.
“We have just had our most successful year and felt that this was exactly the right time to recruit more people and move to larger premises,” he said.
“The move means we have quadrupled the size of our offices and we have a firm plan to scale up over the coming months which will see us grow still further.”
Alex said new recruit Lukasz Deba had joined the company as a business intelligence developer, working to support clients and develop new machine learning projects.
A new intern will be starting in September from De Montfort University and the company also enjoyed a successful work-placement with a student from Haberdashers' Adams school in Newport earlier this summer with another placement starting shortly.
He said Purple Frog had enjoyed a number of new business wins in the last 12 months including running real-time data solutions for FTSE 250 listed companies.
Purple Frog was shortlisted for two Shropshire Chamber business awards this year, as best small business and best technology business.
Managing director Alex Whittles has been awarded the prestigious Most Valued Professional status by Microsoft, for his work with the Microsoft Data Platform, held by only 21 specialists in the UK. Alex is a regular speaker at events around the world and consults for some of the world's largest organisations.

More Frogs join the FrogPlex!

Purple Frog work experienceJune has been a very busy month for us at the FrogPlex - Firstly Lukasz joined the team, to help work on our clients' business intelligence projects, and also to expand our Machine Learning and Advanced Analytics capability.

In his first month he's already been tackling projects in SSIS, Data Lake Analytics, building customer churn models in R, as well as providing support to our existing customers. A very warm welcome to the team Lukasz, delighted to have you join us!

Then Ryan joined us for two weeks work experience, from Haberdashers' Adams school in Newport, Shropshire. He's been doing some amazing work in Power BI, getting himself up to speed and producing a number of amazing production ready dashboards for our internal use. 

I think we may have found a future Purple Frog consultant in the making!

We've also just signed up another member of the team, to start in September - but more about them in a future article. We're filling up the new office quickly!

Shropshire Chamber Business Awards - Purple Frog are Finalists in two categories

Shropshire Chamber Business Awards - Purple FrogWe are delighted to announce that Purple Frog is a finalist in the Shropshire Chamber Business Awards, in both the ‘Best Technology Business’ as well as ‘Best Small Business’ categories.

Best Small Business

The photo (to the left) shows the judges from the Best Small Business category who were: Andrea Richardson from Wellmeadow, Nick Jones from Nick Jones Wealth Planning (award category sponsor) and Helen Stones from Barclays together with Purple Frog Directors: Hollie Whittles and Alex Whittles.

Best Technology Business

The judges for the Best Technology Enterprise and Innovation award were: Francesca Hutcheson from Dyke Yaxley, Grainne Walters from Lanyon Bowdler and Stuart Brown from the University of Wolverhampton (award category sponsor).

We’re keeping fingers crossed for the award ceremony and hope to bring home some silverware!

Shropshire Chamber Business Awards - Purple Frog Shropshire Chamber Business Awards - Purple Frog


Purple Frog have moved

We’ve had a busy few weeks at Purple Frog, moving into our shiny new offices. We’ve got a new member of the team joining us, Lukasz, and have plans to expand further later on in the year.

Purple Frog Systems

Our address for all future correspondence is: Purple Frog Systems Ltd, Quantum House, Hadley Park East, Telford, Shropshire, TF1 6QJ

Our phone number remains unchanged at 0845 643 64 63

Data expert techs to the skies in a Spitfire

Alex Whittles in a SpitfireOur top frog swapped the digital cloud for the real thing – by taking to the air in a WWII Spitfire to celebrate his birthday.

Qualified pilot Alex Whittles – who is more used to working in the online cloud as one of the country’s leading business intelligence and data consultants – flew the modified 1943 Mk9 craft while visiting the Imperial War Museum at Duxford in Cambridgeshire.
Alex, founder of Telford-based Purple Frog Systems, said the 30-minute flight had been the experience of a lifetime.

He said he had seen the Spitfire land as he approached Duxford in his own plane, and could not resist the chance to take the craft to the air himself.

“I went over to get a photograph of the Spitfire after it landed to find that they were selling flights in it,” said Alex.

“Without needing much arm twisting, I had a pre-flight safety briefing, got fitted out with a flying suit and strapped into the parachute. Then I went up for the flight.

“After a few minutes, I took the controls of the Spitfire, doing some basic manoeuvres and steep turns. It took some time to get used to the incredible sensitivity and the phenomenal power-to-weight ratio.

“The instructor then took over again and did an amazing victory roll, the Spitfire’s signature manoeuvre, before a low level flyby of Duxford airfield and then landing.

“I now have a 30 minute PUT (pilot under tuition) entry in my pilot’s log book for a Spitfire, along with a grin from ear to ear which will last for some time.”

Alex said the Spitfire was built at Castle Bromwich and flown by the South African Air Force before returning to the UK in 1945 with 253 Squadron.

It was found, restored and converted to a two seat trainer TR9 in 1984, and painted with its old 253 Squadron markings. It is now owned by Classic Wings, who use it for Spitfire flight experiences out of Duxford.

Shropshire IT leaders win global recognition

Alex Whittles MVPA Shropshire business with a global client base has been marked out as a leader in its field after two key staff were awarded a coveted industry status held by only 21 specialists in the UK.

Purple Frog Systems Ltd is at the leading edge of developing and managing business intelligence solutions, which help to make firms more efficient and effective through understanding and using their data.

The Telford-based company, which works with clients around the world, now boasts two specialists who have secured Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP) status for their work with the Microsoft Data Platform.

While it’s rare for industry players to have one MVP in their ranks, having two means the business is considered outstanding in the sector.

Company founder, Alex Whittles, first earned the MVP accolade in 2015 and has retained it since, while consultant, Paul Andrew, joined the MVP ranks in the latest round of awards from Microsoft in July 2017.

The pair are two of only 21 people in the UK who hold MVP status for their “Data Platform” specialism and just over three-and-a-half thousand throughout the world across all eighteen Microsoft disciplines.

Most Valued Professional status is awarded only to those with exceptional technical expertise who are working on the “bleeding edge”* of the technologies they specialise in and who are exemplary at sharing their knowledge with the wider industry.

Both Alex and Paul travel the world for speaking engagements, to demonstrate their innovations and share knowledge with peers, as well as running key conferences for their sector.

Alex said: “Being a Microsoft MVP does make you part of a pretty exclusive club and it’s a huge testament to Paul’s skill that he has been recognised as being so valuable to the industry,  and been invited to join these ranks.”

“Having two MVPs in one organisation is still very rare, but to do so in a business as small and agile as ours, and Shropshire-based rather than in a major metropolitan area, is something that we’re incredibly proud of.”

Purple Frog helps to transform businesses through bringing together all of their data, often from many sources, into a single data warehouse, and processing it so that critical information can be properly interpreted by business decision makers, often in real time, and acted on to increase the effectiveness of the organisation.

Paul explained: “What we are able to do opens the eyes of business leaders when they realise the wealth of information that we can put in front of them. All businesses generate lots of varied data, but it only becomes useful if you can turn that data into actionable intelligence and access it in timely and meaningful ways. That’s what we help them to do. Historically this has taken the form of management reports and dashboards, but these days we can also integrate Machine Learning in order to generate prediction models that are more advanced than ever before.”

Purple Frog Systems has a blue chip client base and has even worked with space agencies as part of its consulting role, though it is now looking to bring its skill set to bear for companies more locally.

Alex said: “What we do is at the cutting edge, but like any technology many of its applications are now becoming more mainstream and available to companies of all sizes, especially with cloud computing reducing the required investment costs significantly. To be able to visualise your business on a day-by-day basis and act on that intelligence provides a huge competitive edge, and I can’t think of any organisation that wouldn’t benefit from that. Being data driven is the new black, or purple, as we prefer.”

Unleashing business potential through data

Alex WhittlesThe world is driven by data. Every business process, transaction and interaction generates useful information, from how much it cost to carry out to how long it took and its ultimate value or expense to the organisation.

Being able to see that kind of data in a meaningful way, with it related to every other source of insight, takes a business a huge step closer to maximum efficiency and, therefore, enhanced profitability.

There's a problem though. Achieving that nirvana-like state rarely happens. Various pieces of information reach different people in a company at different times. Some information doesn't reach them at all because it's not collected – or it is but its value is not recognised or extracted.

This is not just an issue for the world's biggest, most complex businesses; it is a phenomenon that affects all, right down to the smallest micro firms.

It has actually always been true that many businesses have failed to collate and act on all of the information available to them. In a digital world, where everything can be measured (ultimately in zeros and ones!) it's almost criminal not to be making the most of that granular detail.

There have traditionally been two stumbling blocks to changing this state of affairs. The first was the incompatibility of the information itself. Paper-based systems mixed with the introduction of computer programmes, which were often focused only on one task and built using a database or code that couldn't talk to other crucial systems. This is still very much the case in many industries where special software has been built for a certain purpose, with no thought of it having to talk to other systems.

Even should a business recognise this and be willing to tackle the issues, the next blockage has been in the cost of the computing power needed to crunch all of those numbers. Before any work could be done on the data, it generally needed suitable hardware and licenses to be bought, installed and maintained – only for them to become outdated within a year or two. Having the tools to meaningfully relate the data was also a barrier.

Now though, the potential of on-demand processing power sitting in what has become colloquially known as 'the cloud' puts colossal resources at the hands of anyone who has the vision to harness them.

Every piece of data you can capture can be put to work – and it works best when you can put real-time information in front of the people capable of acting upon it.

Take a retail operation. It could be operating hundreds of stores, with thousands of stock lines, open up to seven-days-a-week. It's highly conceivable that the process of re-ordering stock which has gone low is a manual affair, relying on staff to keep lists and orders to be phoned or emailed through to head office. A busy manager might not get around to that as quickly as they would like, which has the potential to lose days in which the replacement stock is languishing in a warehouse, which in turn ripples down the supply chain to the manufacturer. Every minute a customer can't buy that product in the shop is a potential missed sale.

But let's be generous; the world has moved on and those shops may now have an electronic point-of-sale system which tracks and reports stock levels by SKU. Head office has up-to-date numbers and can act on that. However, that's not the whole story. The data might be interpreted differently if it's efficiently modelled and related to other critical data, such as individual store turnover, predictions based on historical seasonality data, national trends, even potentially internet memes which will have an impact demand...

All of that information comes from different places, but now we can gather it, properly relate each piece against the others and present it to management in graphical dashboards which give real-time views of what is actually happening in the business. This allows them to act in a rational, coherent and timely way that ultimately translates into efficiency and profit.

The same concepts can be applied anywhere. Throughput of parts, mechanical breakdowns of machines, staff rotas, inflows and outflows of cash, cost per customer acquisition. You name it, it can be measured, reported on and improved.

What is missing in many business sectors so far is the appreciation of the depth of data available and the fact that it can be pulled together and turned into one of the most valuable assets in any organisation. That is, as long as it's done properly; it is too easy to mistake the relationships in the data and be led down the wrong path, which is why specialists in managing the data are needed and the tools they use are built for the task.

This is likely to be the bottleneck to adoption of data-driven business models, at least in the short to medium term, because this is a specialism which will be in demand when the wider business community wakes up to the opportunity. It will pay to get started early.

The businesses who enjoy the most success in the months and years to come will be the ones who grasp the power and possibility of their data, now that the tools to use it are available and affordable, at whatever scale.