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Quite the COO

9th March 2017  by Gareth

Since joining Union Street Technologies as Chief Operating Officer in mid-2015, José Fernandez has played a pivotal role in raising the efficiencies and standards of operations at Union Street. Two years on, Fernandez has overseen a complete transformation of the company’s software development and support operations. In addition, Fernandez guided a full review and overhaul of Union Street’s data security procedures, ultimately gaining the company certification for the coveted ISO/IEC 27001 Information Security Management standard.

These changes have been implemented to speed delivery of new software enhancements for partners which in turn has provided an even better support service. Furthermore, it has ensured Union Street’s partners’ data is safe and secure.

Providing context for these achievements, Fernandez states, “When I joined Union Street the company was moving from strength to strength. Revenues and staff had increased by 20 percent year on year for the previous six years and the company had ambitious plans both for growth and the continued development of its software. Everything was going well, however, what the company needed was an improved and robust framework for upscaling operations effectively as plans became reality.”

To begin, Fernandez set his sights on software development, “Union Street’s developers are very talented, but their productivity was limited by a development process that was long, inflexible and overly dependent on precise requirement gathering at the outset of a project. The communications market is constantly changing as are the needs of our partners. This had to be reflected in our approach to developing solutions.”

Following a consultation process, Fernandez decided to restructure Union Street’s development process according to the Agile Development Methodology a framework for organising development work in a way that focuses on developing software quickly, iteratively and in collaboration with key stakeholders.

“Agile really transformed the way our dev team collaborated and went about delivering new projects”, explains Fernandez. “It was ideal for Union Street because it focuses development and testing into two week cycles known as ‘Sprints.’ At the end of each Sprint, progress can be evaluated internally and with partners. Adjustments and reprioritisation can occur as needed, keeping development on track and ensuring the final product is exactly what our partners want and need.

“The journey is by no means complete and like any good business process it’s constantly evolving, but we have made a remarkable amount of progress in a very short space of time.”

Next, Fernandez turned his attention to the company’s partner support operations. “As a company grows it will often be the support department that’s first to feel the strain. When you’re providing business critical software, support delivery to your partners has to be fast and efficient at all times.”

To ensure Union Street’s partner support operations could scale effortlessly without dislocation, Fernandez restructured the company’s support department according to best practice laid out by the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), a comprehensive, industry recognised set of best practices for developing and executing IT service management.

Fernandez continues, “ITIL has greatly improved efficiency in our support operations, particularly when analysing and prioritising support issues, identifying trends, speeding up resolution times and ensuring issues are always routed to the best person. It has also improved the process of communicating user feedback to our development team and, thanks to our Agile development process, they are able to respond rapidly to this information.”

With the restructuring of Union Street’s development and support operations underway, Fernandez began a comprehensive review of data security practices which ultimately led to Union Street’s certification for ISO/IEC 27001. “Over the past few years there have been a number of high profile data breaches all over the world. Protecting our partners’ data is of critical importance to us and we have an absolute desire to adopt best practice in this area. This led us to completely re-evaluate our approach to data security.

“We began building processes according to the ISO 27001 Information Security Management standard as it’s unquestionably the benchmark for standards in data security. In many cases, having ISO 27001 certification is a prerequisite for trading with enterprise level partners. Gaining BSI certification for ISO 27001 confirms Union Street has successfully implemented an end-to-end security framework that all partners can rely on to protect their data.”

Commenting on what the future holds, Fernandez says, “The changes we’ve made to development and support are already delivering considerable benefits, both to Union Street and to our partners. As new working practices become embedded into the company’s culture, these benefits will increase exponentially.

“We’re also working on new initiatives including a review of company culture with the goal of making Union Street one of the best companies to work for in the UK. This is a significant undertaking, but will help attract and retain the best people to drive forward Union Street’s next phase of growth.”

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