Vanilla partners with Microsoft as Dynamics 365 Business Central reseller

Vanilla Solutions today announces that it has entered into a partner agreement with Microsoft to resell and implement its Dynamics 365 Business Central application suite.

The partnership is a result of an extensive assessment of the ERP market to determine product suitability for the small to medium size (SME) sector, an area where Vanilla sees huge growth in the coming years. Dynamics 365 Business Central is a hosted, subscription-based Software as a Service (SaaS) offering, allowing businesses to enjoy powerful functionality while avoiding most of the significant capital expenditure traditionally associated with ERP applications. The subscription model is hugely scalable and users of Dynamics 365 Business Central enjoy enterprise-class hosting and technical support regardless of the size of their business.

Said Jason Belcher, Director “We believe that the target audience for ERP systems is changing as the number of SMEs increase year on year. These companies will wish to focus on their core competencies and will not normally wish to invest in significant IT infrastructure, nor business systems support teams. Additionally, they will usually want to be able to easily flex user numbers and add new features to allow them to respond faster to trends and opportunities. Microsoft, not only with Dynamics 365, but also Office 365 is becoming the digital platform of choice to support the growth of these businesses.

The partnership is being supported by QBS Group who are assisting Vanilla in the development of its Dynamics 365 technical and consulting capabilities.

Will McIntee, UK Lead at QBS Group said “QBS is dedicated to helping partners in the Dynamics 365 arena: whether new or old. We are delighted to welcome Vanilla Solutions into the QBS community with their long, proven track record of delivering complex and innovative projects that offer fantastic return on investment to their clients. We at QBS see huge potential in Vanilla Solutions becoming one of the top Dynamics 365 partners in the UK.”

Said Andy Bell, Director “Our existing IFS practice has matured into an organisation that our customers trust to deliver their implementation services, developments and support. We felt it was the right time to take our capabilities and approach to a new market. Our project delivery approach is based on efficiency, clarity and simplicity and these values are of particular relevance in the SME market. In addition, we have a history of building long-term partnerships with our customers and we therefore believe that growing and evolving businesses will benefit greatly from the support and capabilities that we offer. I will retain responsibility for the IFS service line whilst Jason will take ownership of the emerging Dynamics 365 operation.”

Vanilla Summer Party 2018!

This weekend saw Clan Vanilla return to Camp Hill Estate in Bedale, North Yorkshire for our Family Summer Party.  This was our second year of glamping in the North and, amazingly, the second year with perfect weather!

After arriving for a buffet lunch and a bit of a catch up, we split into 5 teams (up from 3 the previous year!) and headed off for an afternoon of activities.  These included an off-road Segway challenge, an archery competition and a 30 foot climbing wall.  There was also a crashed plane rescue teamwork challenge, which was basically a thinly-disguised excuse to get wet, and an obstacle course where the challenge was to complete it while carrying a full pint of water – another excuse to get wet!  Everyone agreed that off-road Segways were the future of Vanilla transportation, especially for customers based in the middle of tufty fields.

Team 1 prepares for battle!

One of the best things about the Summer Party is the opportunity for people to bring partners and children together for some relaxation and fun and this year was no exception.  Rachel had arranged for the children to receive their own personalised Scunthorpe United shirts courtesy of our tie-up as back-of-shirt sponsors at the club, something we are going to extend into the next season.  This led to a great impromptu football match with ‘Scunthorpe United’ facing, umm, ‘Scunthorpe United’!!  Another highlight of the day was welcoming Vanilla’s youngest ever Summer Party guest, in the handsome person of Harry, Olivia’s baby son.  At 51 weeks old he wasn’t quite on board with the archery or climbing wall, but there’s always next year for those!

Right on target!

After the formal activities, we retired to our glamping site for food.  The site was beautifully kitted out and there were cosy Vanilla hoodies waiting for everyone.  A mobile fish and chip van arrived to feed us all and we settled into an evening of campfire songs, beer and general nonsense.  Round about this time, we learned that the team challenges had in fact been scored and that there was glory and prestige to bestow on the ‘winning’ team from earlier in the day.  Alas, two teams were tied for top place and so the result was decided by a keepie-uppie contest between Andrew Nicholls and Paul Trownson from the Grimsby technical group.  Paul won this by a narrow margin, securing victory for Team 3.

Team Vanilla with loved ones at Bedale 2018

From there, attentions turned to the serious matter of campfire refreshments with Janine’s rhubarb gin making an appearance again and Andy revealing that he’d brought his blender and lime squeezer from home to make everyone margheritas.  From there on nobody really knows what happened but there was apparently a full Yorkshire breakfast the next morning and some people even managed to be up in time for it.

A huge thank you to everyone who attended that day to spend quality time together an make some great memories. Special thanks also to Rachel for organising the whole thing down to the finest detail. We can’t wait to see what next year’s Summer Party will bring!

Management Team

New Vanilla Management Team in Place

ONE of the UK’s leading enterprise software specialists has appointed a new management team in preparation for further growth.

Vanilla Solutions recently announced record results, with turnover up by almost 50 per cent, and its directors are confident the recently completed restructure will lead to yet further success.

“We’ve appointed five new heads of department and we’re sure our new management team will take us to the next level,” explained Director Andy Bell.

“Three of the managers have been appointed from within, and two were external appointments. Now the team is in place, fellow director Jason Belcher and I will have more time to look at our strategy for further growth. The new team will report in to both of us,” he added.

Management Team

New management team. From left to right (front row) Claire Valentine, Paul Darwin, Mike Hollifield, Janine Procter (back row) Jason Belcher, Gordon McAlpine, Andy Bell.

The five new appointments are:

  • Gordon McAlpine (Head of Business Intelligence)
  • Mike Hollifield (Head of Technology)
  • Paul Darwin (Head of Consulting)
  • Claire Valentine (Head of Support)
  • Janine Proctor (Head of Delivery).

Andy explained: “Their main responsibility is to ensure we have the right resources with the right skillset available to support our customers. A top priority will be internal training and personal development plans, in line with our ISO 9001 annual review process.  However, the team will also be looking externally for emerging technologies and trends to ensure our wider team, and therefore our customers, are up to date with the latest software solutions and processes.”

Vanilla’s new structure has been shaped in part by Non-Executive Director Simon Ball, who has brought many years of experience in delivering excellence to the business software consulting market.  Since beginning to work with Vanilla in 2014, Simon has established more structure to its business planning and control processes, has helped to guide the company through the development of its own project delivery methodology and has laid the foundations for its ISO9001 and forthcoming ISO27001 accreditations.  He has also taken an important role in some of their large projects.  Now that a full-time management team is in place, Simon will be stepping back from his role to focus on new challenges outside of the business.

Vanilla Solutions has offices in Grimsby and Newcastle and is one of Europe’s leading providers of IFS applications-related services, offering consultancy, support and products to the wider ERP market. Clients include BAE, Babcock, Skanska and Largo Foods, and the company employs 27 people across the UK.

Earlier this month, the company reported turnover had increased to £3.5m in 2017 from £2.4m in 2016, with the key drivers of growth being expansion in the construction, engineering and offshore markets.

The company saw UK sales increase by 66 per cent in the period and was reported a 23 per cent uplift in sales in mainland Europe. Gross profit remained at the same level as 2016, and profit before tax was 34 per cent.

Vanilla Solutions beats the Yorkshire 3 Peaks

Team Vanilla have raised more than £9,000 for a multiple sclerosis charity after completing a gruelling marathon walk.

Twenty five walkers from enterprise software specialists Vanilla Solutions took on the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge – a 24-mile hike that involves climbing the tallest mountains of Yorkshire, Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough, in 12 hours. The total assent is more than 5,200ft.

“Most of us finished the Challenge, but it was tough,” explained organiser Paul Darwin, Head of Consulting at Vanilla Solutions, who have offices in Grimsby and Newcastle.

“We started at 6.30am in the morning and some of us finished just under ten hours later – although others were a bit quicker. There were numerous blisters, various bad knees and a lot of aching muscles, but the vast majority of us completed the challenge,” he added.

Paul chose the Multiple Sclerosis Society charity in memory of an aunt who suffered from the condition for 30 years.

“We had walkers from all over the country, Bristol to Newcastle and Scotland, Manchester to Hereford. It was a great effort and we even had two customers complete the walk with us,” Paul said. The walkers had a support team who stopped in two pre-arranged places on the route.

“It was good to see the support team just before the second peak and just before the last peak, and we all fuelled up with water and snack bars,” explained Paul.

“The weather was kind to us, although there was a bit of hail on Whernside, the second peak. The hardest part of the whole challenge was the last four miles. We’d completed Ingleborough and thought we were home and dry, but that last four miles to get to the finishing line just went on and on,” said Paul.

Vanilla Solutions matched the sum raised by the walkers and presented a cheque to the MS charity organisers.

Company director Jason Belcher said: “I was really proud of the team and it was great for us all to work toward such a worthwhile common goal. It was so satisfying to see so many people from across the business pull together and get to know one another better in quite trying circumstances.”

Vanilla Solutions have offices in Newcastle and Grimsby and is one of Europe’s leading providers of IFS applications-related services, offering consultancy, support and products to the wider ERP market.

Wolf Minerals chooses Vanilla Solutions for IFS support

Excellent response times, a huge knowledge base and a flexible way of working are just some of the reasons why one of the UK’s leading metal producers chose Vanilla Solutions for IFS support.

Wolf Minerals, based near Plymouth in Devon, have been working with the company for two years on an ‘on demand’ basis.

“The flexible nature of our working with Vanilla is important to us,” said Mike Wayda, from Wolf Minerals.

“We rely on Vanilla for help and support if and when we need it,” he added.

Wolf Minerals is an ASX and AIM listed specialty metals producer based at Drakelands, a major global tungsten mine ten kilometres from Plymouth.

The Drakelands Mine has one of the Western world’s largest tungsten and tin resources, and provides a secure supply of tungsten for a global customer base.

The tungsten produced by Wolf is critical to a range of industrial, mining and agricultural applications and key uses are in cemented carbides, steel alloys, metal products, lighting, drill bits and jewellery.

“Vanilla support us for all things IFS, specifically procurement, financials, HR and maintenance,” explained Mike.

“The support we have received from Vanilla has always been excellent. We always get quality, quick responses and solutions. Whatever problem we’ve faced, they get back to you rapidly, via a phone call, Skype or email.

“They’ve even been here on site to help us, and I know they’re going to be visiting here again soon – sometimes you need to do things face to face, in-person, and that’s not a problem with Vanilla.”

Mike had particular praise for Vanilla Solution’s Head of Support Claire Valentine: “We talk to a few people at Vanilla who’ve always been knowledgeable, helpful and really good to deal with, but Claire has been a huge help to me personally and the company,” he said.

“Vanilla know IFS inside out and the speed at which they work is impressive, but they’re also determined and tenacious and obviously communicate internally very well; they always know what someone else from the company has told us,” Mike added.

Another reason why Wolf Minerals continue to use Vanilla Solutions is that the support is UK-based: “That is a definite advantage – there are no issues about time zones, language or culture, it’s just easier,” Mike explained.

Various support options are available. As well as the on-demand service that Wolf uses, Vanilla Solutions offers a subscription-based option with a monthly fee.

“The customer can choose what works best for them. We aren’t precious and if a customer needs things to work a certain way, we’re always happy to accommodate them. Our excellent support analysts can also call on the expertise of our in-house consulting and technical teams if and when required,” explained Vanilla Solutions Director Andy Bell.

“Our services are set up to give customers a single point of contact for all functional and technical support issues with IFS Applications and the IFS Extended Server. Our Core Support service offers the essentials that you need to keep your business going for a low monthly fee. In addition, we have a range of Extended Support options,” he explained.

To talk to Vanilla Solutions about your options, call 0845 388 3936 or email info@vanillasolutions.com

The company was founded in 2009 by directors Jason Belcher and Andy Bell, both of whom had long careers working in IT, and with IFS Applications in particular.

Vanilla Solutions seeks to empower its customers, bringing knowledge, clarity and certainty to complex ERP and business change projects. Renowned for its jargon-free, no-nonsense approach, Vanilla has been successful in winning business in both the blue-chip and SME sectors.

Vanilla tastes success in Enterprise Software sector

ONE of the UK’s leading enterprise software specialists increased turnover by almost 50 per cent to announce record results for 2017.

Vanilla Solutions which specialises in IFS Applications consultancy and related technology platforms, reported that turnover increased by nearly 50 per cent in 2017 to £3.5m (£2.4m,2016) with the key drivers of growth being expansion in the construction, engineering and offshore markets.

The company saw UK sales increase by 66 per cent in the period and was pleased to report a 23 per cent uplift in sales in mainland Europe. Gross profit remained at the same level as 2016, and profit before tax was 34 per cent.

Jason Belcher, Director, said: “Vanilla Solutions has delivered outstanding financial results for the last seven years and continues to grow rapidly by providing our clients with knowledge, clarity and certainty to deliver their operational goals”

“We are delighted to report exceptionally strong growth figures in the UK and pleased that our business in Europe is now also accelerating. Our order book for 2018 is already starting out on the same trajectory and we are forecasting a modest growth as we consolidate our position with our chosen partners and within our key markets.”

2017 witnessed a number of key contract wins. Skanska, one of the world’s leading project development and construction groups, appointed Vanilla Solutions as systems integrator, for the rollout of IFS Applications. Vanilla will work alongside the Skanska team to deliver these solutions into the Highways Business throughout the UK.

EPS Water, an innovative provider of products and services to the water, wastewater and clean technology sectors, selected Vanilla Solutions’ Novacura Flow to improve processes and leverage mobile working.

Finally, ALE Heavylift, one of the largest heavy transportation and lifting contractors in the world, selected Vanilla Solutions’ market leading data analytics tool Qlik Sense to provide management information to all branch, regional and group teams across the globe.

Employee numbers rose by c. 30% during the period due to the recruitment of key management and professional posts. The company now employs nearly 30 full time staff and expects numbers to rise marginally in 2018 to support continued growth.

Jason added: “Recruitment was an important aspect of our business strategy in the last 12 months. We have continued to invest in high-tech talent, only recruiting people who are highly experienced and can deliver our trademark standards of performance, delivery and service.”

Vanilla is one of the leading providers of IFS Applications-related services in Europe and provides consultancy, support and products to the wider ERP market.

The company was founded in 2009 by directors Jason Belcher and Andy Bell, both of whom had long careers working in IT, and with IFS Applications in particular.

Vanilla seeks to empower its customers, bringing knowledge, clarity and certainty to complex ERP and business change projects. Renowned for its jargon-free, no-nonsense approach, Vanilla has been successful in winning business in both the blue-chip and SME sectors.

Clients include BAE Systems, Ultra Electronics, Babcock, Skanska UK & Largo Foods, and the company employs 27 people across the UK and their two offices.

Vanilla Charity Challenge 2018

A TEAM of IT experts have put on their walking boots to raise money for a multiple sclerosis charity.

Twenty five walkers from enterprise software specialists Vanilla Solutions have been in training for months in preparation for tackling the gruelling Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. The challenge is a 24-mile hike that involves climbing the tallest mountains of Yorkshire – Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough – in 12 hours. The total assent is more than 5,200ft.

“Training has been tough, but we know the Three Peaks are going to be difficult to conquer, so very necessary,” explained organiser Paul Darwin, Head of Consulting at Vanilla Solutions.

“A number of us completed half of the route the weekend we were hit by Beast from the East Two, and had to contend with snow, ice and gale force winds. It’s fair to say it was a shock to the system,” he added.

It was Paul who chose the Multiple Sclerosis Society charity: “MS is an awful condition that affected my aunt over a 30-year period until she died in 2014. The company has very generously said it will double whatever we raise, so there is plenty of incentive for us to complete the challenge and raise as much money for the charity as we can,” he said.

The Vanilla Solutions team will take on the walk on Saturday, April 28.

“We still have a few weeks left of training and we also have a weekly staff steps competition which is proving popular,” Paul said.

Vanilla Solutions has offices in Newcastle and Grimsby and is one of Europe’s leading providers of IFS applications-related services, offering consultancy, support and products to the wider ERP market.

Clients include BAE, Babcock, Skanska and Largo Foods, and the company employs 27 people across the UK.

 

If you would like to sponsor the Vanilla Solutions team, go to www.justgiving.com/teams/vanilla3peaks .

Vanilla have the solution for SMD

Vanilla is playing a key role in the expansion of the world’ s largest independent manufacturer of specialist subsea vehicles.

Tyneside-based Soil Machine Dynamics Ltd (SMD) provide remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and specialist trenching systems to sectors such as oil, gas, offshore wind, defence and telecoms.

Headquartered in the UK, SMD design and manufacture from their facilities in Wallsend and North Shields, with a sales and support office in Singapore and more recently a new design and manufacturing facility near Shanghai, China.

When SMD needed Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software to help run the new plant, they turned to Vanilla Solutions, ERP and IFS specialists, who have a Technology and Support Centre (TaSC) based in Hoults Yard, Newcastle.

Paolo Zaino, IFS Support Manager at SMD, said: “Vanilla have been helping us to set up an IFS ERP system which is the software the Shanghai plant will use to run their operations. This has involved setting up a new database for the China office and migrating data from our UK database to our new one.

“SMD Shanghai will initially employ around 40 employees but we expect this to grow as the China market matures.

“We’ve been working with Vanilla on the SMD Shanghai project since the beginning of 2017, so approximately a year, but have worked with Vanilla in a number of different areas for three or four years,” said Paolo.

“They were chosen because they could provide the range of skills that SMD were looking for in a consultancy to complete this task. The SMD Shanghai Project required robust project management, good technical expertise and also a comprehensive functional knowledge in order to successfully complete the project. Vanilla Solutions were enthusiastic about being involved from the start,” he explained.

“Vanilla Solutions work closely with their customers as a team, providing the understanding and flexibility that is required on a complex project of this nature,” he added.

Claire Valentine, Support Manager at Vanilla Solution’s TaSC, said: “Three of us have been working with SMD on the project and it’s getting busier now we’re nearing the go live date.

“SMD needed a comprehensive ERP solution to support its business processes and simplify its manufacturing processes and we’ve moved the Shanghai operation on to IFS. What we’re implementing will be an over-reaching solution incorporating asset and project management, business analytics, finance and HR as well as contract, document and work order management.

“We also have about 30 million records to migrate from one database to another, and then we need to detach the new database from the source, so there will be no communications between the two.

“We’ve been working with SMD for a while and their expansion has been impressive,” Claire added.

SMD’s new 7200m² facility will bring additional resources and focus to the company’s East Asian expansion plans.

Vanilla Solutions has offices in Newcastle and Grimsby and is one of the leading providers of IFS applications-related services in Europe and provides consultancy, support and products to the wider ERP market.

The Newcastle office is also the hub for Vanilla’s R&D activities and such has been the demand for the TaSC’s services, Vanilla has doubled its workforce from three to six – and is looking to recruit yet more to its team.

Clients include BAE Systems, Skanska and Largo Foods, and the company employs 27 people across the UK and their two offices.

Vanilla helps Lynemouth Power ahead

WHEN one of the region’s power stations was in need of IT support they turned to one of the UK’s leading enterprise software specialists – Vanilla Solutions.

Lynemouth Power Ltd, based on the Northumberland coast, is currently undergoing a conversion project, from coal to biomass generation. The conversion is due to be completed and the new power station commissioned this year.

The project, which includes a new facility at Port of Tyne, has had IT implications for the company which runs Lynemouth Power Station.

The company’s two-man IT team had been depleted when Applications Analyst Chris Wharton left to join Vanilla Solutions.

Lynemouth Power had looked around for the right level of IT support and several companies produced quotes for the work – but they chose Vanilla Solutions.

Vanilla had provided Lynemouth with urgent IT support and the level of service provided and the depth of knowledge, particularly around Lynemouth’s IFS applications, were factors in Lynemouth’s decision.

Chris had been at the power company for nearly five years and was jointly responsible for running its IT operations. He maintained and configured the company’s IFS application which provided Lynemouth with its maintenance scheduling, finance, procurement and HR functionalities and also helped with the implementation of Microsoft Sharepoint 2013.

“We’d previously worked with Vanilla, and obviously we knew Chris, so we spoke to Vanilla Solutions about contracting the team for a set number of hours and an agreement was reached,” said Dean Huddleston, IT Infrastructure Analyst at Lynemouth Power.

Because of the conversion project, it is a particularly busy time for Lynemouth, now owned by Czech-based energy company Energetický a průmyslový holding (EPH).

“Our business now also involves a new site at Port of Tyne so it is vital we have the IT support we need and Vanilla Solutions were working with us again within six weeks of Chris leaving. The IFS application is important to the smooth running of the company, so we have to get it right and knowing the Vanilla team is helping and supporting us is reassuring. They’ve also been working on Sharepoint with us too.

“The Vanilla team has been great to work with – obviously very knowledgeable with a deep understanding of IFS and ERP solutions, but also very flexible, responsive and friendly. It’s been a huge help to us that they knew the business and the project,” added Dean.

 

About Lynemouth Power Ltd:

Lynemouth Power Ltd runs Lynemouth Power Station, a 420 Megawatt power station situated on the Northumberland coast.  The station has generated electricity from coal since 1972. The plant was originally built, owned and operated by Alcan with the purpose of providing safe and secure energy for the production of aluminium at the adjacent Lynemouth Smelter.

The station is currently undergoing conversion from coal burn generation to biomass. On completion, the new power station will be able to generate up to 420 megawatts of low carbon electricity.  The company employs 146 people.

 

About Us:

Established in 2009 Vanilla Solutions is a no-nonsense, customer friendly systems integrator and consulting company offering a broad range of training, support, and technical services to users of modern ERP (Enterprise Resources Planning) and BI (Business Intelligence) applications. They are specialists in IFS Applications and also partners and resellers of the Qlik product suite, Nicelabel label management and automation products and Novacura’s innovative ‘Flow’ mobility and process execution platform.

Wishing you a Vanilla Christmas!

WHAT A NIGHT!

Thanks to all who attended our annual Christmas party, which this year was held at the prestigious Thorpe Park Hotel in Leeds on Saturday, December 2.

“I was really grateful so many employees and their partners took the time and trouble to attend our annual dinner and I sincerely hope they had as good a time as I did,” said Jason Belcher.

“Everyone works so hard to make Vanilla Solutions the company it is, so it’s right that we take the opportunity every now and again to celebrate our success and thank people properly for their contributions. But Andy and I also recognise that the commitment of our loyal team can keep them away from home for long hours – so it’s equally important that partners can celebrate with us. Our party is a way of saying thank you to them too,” he added.

Mike Hollifield is presented with his award by Andy Bell (right)

Four Vanilla employees in particular enjoyed a great night, having won categories in the company’s inaugural Vanilla Awards.

Senior consultant Paul Darwin raised a loud cheer when it was announced he’d scooped the Road Warrior Award for most miles travelled during the year, while project manager Kieran Garry walked away with the Most Valuable Employee award for achieving the most billable hours.

The next two awards went to one person – technical consultant Mike Hollifield. Not only did Leeds-based Mike win the Employees’ Employee of the Year, as voted by employees, but he also won Employee of the Year as voted by management.

“Winning the double was a fantastic achievement by Mike and richly deserved,” said Jason.

Last, but certainly not least, was the Best Newcomer of the Year award, which went to Lloyd Briggs who works in Vanilla’s new TaSC in Newcastle. Lloyd, a support analyst at the TaSC, only joined the company in July, but has made a great first impression.

Jane Powell talking about Hands Around the World

As well as announcing the awards, Andy also announced a donation of £5,000 to the Hands Around the World charity. Jane Powell, partner of Vanilla consultant James Powell, gave an introduction to the charity and its work. Hands Around the World supports 2,500 vulnerable children in seven different countries; ensuring they are clothed and fed, have a home and are receiving an education.

“The company is doing well so it’s great to be able to support such a worthy cause, particularly at this time of year,” explained Jason.

“It was a great night, the right way to celebrate a good year for us and for the Vanilla family to come together as one – we’d certainly annexed the dance floor by the end of the evening,” he added.