REPL Group’s restlessness to continuously outdo itself has helped the consultancy and technology company win contracts with some of the largest UK retailers and make forays into key international markets
Commenting on REPL Group’s win of a 2019 Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade, CEO Cerys Johnson remarks that the accolade is a validation that the company is punching above its weight as, despite its relatively small size, it serves some of the largest retailers in the UK and, increasingly, in other parts of the world. Following the interview Manufacturing Today Europe conducted with Cerys, however, we cannot help but think that even if the company still qualifies as a ‘small business’, its mentality, continuous progress, and quality of work, are of a world-class calibre.
In fact, the above statement can be easily underpinned by a couple of unambiguous facts and figures. Since its inception 11 years ago, REPL has achieved an impressive growth of 30 to 40 per cent in turnover year-on-year, while also increasing its headcount to some Group320 staff. In addition, not only has the company won a Queen’s Award, but also pretty much every other major business accolade in the UK. The consultancy and technology group, whose expertise lies in helping retailers to use technology to its best effect in the spheres of workforce management, supply chain, customer experience, and ERP, has also been on the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 league table for four years running and named as one of the ‘1000 Companies to Inspire Britain’ every year in the last three years. On top of that, REPL was also the recipient of a 2019 Real IT award for ‘Best Use of New Technology’ for a project it did in collaboration with BP. But more on that specific award later.
Now we give the word to Cerys herself who expounds the philosophy of the business and elaborates on the reasons for its ongoing success. “First and foremost, we are about driving value-adds. We have developed global capabilities to provide assistance to our clients on various business aspects, including initial strategy and business change assessment, all the way through to project management, execution, configuration, testing, and support.”
As a technology-centred business, REPL knows better than anyone else that, since the world of technology develops at a whirlwind pace, only a culture built around curiosity and desire for constant improvement and innovation can ensure that the company will remain relevant and successful in the long-term. “The three main elements of our philosophy also make up the motto of the company – ‘Innovate. Inspire. Deliver.’ The entrepreneurial spirit that is so characteristic of REPL helps us to achieve a very high level of engagement from our team, which is key to the environment we want to create and work in,” Cerys maintains.
“More than anything, we want to encourage collaborative behaviour and make sure that everyone is pulling in the same direction for the greater good of REPL,” she continues. “Transparency is another feature we want to see at work. We want people to talk about their mistakes and I fundamentally think that mistakes are a good thing, because they show that you are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and trying to learn and develop.”
Over the years, REPL has honed an approach in its customer relationships that involves the development of a tailored solution for each and every of its client’s projects. “I liken our role to that of a last mile deliverer where we provide value-adds to a piece of software. There are a lot of large ERP software vendors that have very capable and credible solutions and many of our customers make use of. Then, we come in to add flexibility to these solutions, in order to maximise the benefit that they can bring to the client. Inevitably, every business is unique and has a distinguished way of operation, so it is crucial that we respect that and supply our own solution in a way that works in harmony with the client’s characteristics and the core capability of the software programme,” Cerys explains.
“I would single out the project we collaborated on with BP for which we also won the Real IT award as a telling example of our approach. It highlights our test automation capabilities, as we worked with BP to develop an automation solution for card payments that previously was not available,” she introduces the nature of the project. “By doing this, we reduced the time and increased the quality of the test output massively. This is the first time that a robot has been used to automate testing and broke new ground for both REPL and BP. Normally, when you are testing payment cards, you need to physically enter a PIN code into the PIN pad, so we decided to invest in a robot that does that and runs the tests automatically.”
Instead of resting on its laurels, REPL is now looking to press on strengthening its relationship with BP, while continuing to work hard on a number of other projects. “We have this restlessness to continually improve, which drives us forward,” Cerys says. “We are constantly looking for opportunities to make things better and when doing this, we take on board the experience we have gathered and the lessons we have learned from our previous work to deliver even better products.”
REPL’s culture of pursing perfection extends well beyond the product development area. Just over a decade after its establishment, the business now operates offices on four continents, making it clear that it has aspirations to be a global company. Together with its headquarters in Henley-in-Arden, it runs another three offices in the UK, two branches in the US, two in Asia (Singapore and Tokyo), and its latest location in Cape Town.
Cerys discusses the company’s ambitious plans for growing these markets further: “Overall, I can see the company double in size in four years’ time. We will continue to grow at a good pace in the UK, while in the US, I am expecting us to treble in size. With regards to South Africa, the start we have had, was very positive and should we maintain a strong pipeline in the future, we definitely see ourselves delivering benefits to more customers in the whole of Africa. Last but not least, Japan is the market that is taking the longest to really take off, but we are confident that the big project we are entering with a global hospitality provider will help us make the breakthrough.
“Looking at the bigger picture, I cannot be prouder of the path we have walked so far. We are working with some of the world’s biggest retailers and expanding every year. If I was to go back to the Queen’s Award we won, it put us in the spotlight for what we do and how we do it, and the goal now is to remain under that spotlight and maintain our excellent reputation with our employees, suppliers, and customers for the years to come,” Cerys concludes.
Products: Digital solutions for ERP, workforce, supply chain, and customer experience management