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Friday, December 2, 2022


    Countryside Umbrella PSL Q&A with SSC Services

    An Interview between Spencer Hill (Managing Director at SSC Services) and Ben Wardleworth (Business Development Director at Engage Technology Partners Limited)

    SSC Services is the trading name of S & S Consulting Services Ltd, a UK based Payroll Intermediary who is both Chartergate Affiliate member and FCSA Accredited. They have been included in a ‘Umbrella’ PSL project with the fastest growing housebuilder in the UK, Countryside Properties (UK) Plc. SSC Services have been working with the Agency PSL to form a ‘connected’ supply chain with the help of ENGAGE.

    Q: How did this all happen?

    A: It was Richard Walsh who contacted me to discuss the project he was leading for Countryside. He explained that they were looking to build a ‘best in breed’ solution and they had chosen their technology partner ENGAGE last year. Having successfully onboarded their Agency PSL, they were looking to create a PSL of ‘Umbrella’ companies in readiness for April 6th. Citing transparency, control and compliance as the three drivers, they were keen to push the boundaries of what this should look like in the UK. I was sceptical at first, as there was a commercial implication for us. However, it was so ‘light touch’ and made sense that SSC were being part of something quite unique, that it was an easy decision to support the initiative.

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    Q: What were your first thoughts on what Countryside Properties were asking you to do?

    A: We are an innovative company. Keen to evolve with changing trends and working more collaboratively. Our main focus is offering great service and 100% compliance, so although we needed to ensure it was viable to be part of the project, it was actually a ‘no brainer’ for us.

    Q: What was the process like?

    A: Following an initial consultation between Countryside and their Agency PSL, a shortlist was drafted, which we were invited onto. Following that, it was very similar to the process we usually go through for an Agency PSL. Due diligence was completed by Richard as the project lead, after which we were advised that we had been successful in completing this process and introduced to Ben Wardleworth (Business Development Director) at ENGAGE, who ran the project from the ENGAGE side of things.

    Thereafter, it was pretty straightforward. Ben was aligned with Countryside and kept us informed through the process. Ben arranged an initial webinar with me to discuss the initiative and the wider benefits of how we could work with ENGAGE, which was insightful, as I was not familiar with ENGAGE up to this point, nor was I aware of the significant benefits it claims it provides. We agreed the commercial terms with ENGAGE and provided our information to get the portal built and then the next session was training on the system – which was very easy in all honesty.

    We went live on Monday 15th March, so that we had enough time to do the ‘housekeeping’ on the system in readiness for April 6th. With an hour training session online with Ben and access to a ‘Playbook’ and ENGAGE’s online Knowledge Base, we were flying. It’s a simple and logical modern system that’s very intuitive.

    Q: What are the benefits as you see them?

    A: We loved the idea of being part of a whole supply chain. Approved as a supplier to the Agencies and the Hirer. That’s how it should be in our opinion. It’s a collaboration of all the supply chain that makes the best and most robust from a compliance perspective. It is obvious to see the benefits of being connected on one single platform, as all the relevant data is there to see (and audit). It’s also using one single set of data relative to the placement, worker, time and bill. Something that’s incredibly disjointed usually is made easy by ENGAGE.

    In addition to the data management that ENGAGE offers, the IR35 tooling that ENGAGE has built is simple, but very effective. It works as an additional layer of transparency that would not be available otherwise and it’s in ‘real time’, so issues can be addressed before they become problematic for any of the parties concerned.

    We are advised by ENGAGE that this is version 1 of the system and that there will be additional benefits arriving, as they further develop the platform. I’m really impressed so far, so looking forward to seeing what else is coming. I can see immediate impact from being more connected and cost savings of using the system in a wider capacity that just one customer.

    Q: What were the main benefits you saw with Engage and how quickly did you see them?

    A: There is a cost, but it’s not onerous and with something so exciting, it was an easy decision to trail the software. It’s a simple concept really and I’m surprised it’s not been done before now. Getting ‘all’ parties of a supply chain to use the same system makes sense. Especially when we are all using the same data.

    On first impressions, I think ENGAGE have done a very good job and I have already seen a significant benefit by being connected into the ENGAGE network on this first initiative with Countryside. Within the first week of going live, the commercial returns have significantly outweighed the transactional ‘pay as you go’ fee for ENGAGE.

    The onboarding with ENGAGE is an area I would like to explore more. They have a simple, but incredibly strong offering for worker Registration & Compliance that can be used for any business on the platform. I am keen to explore how this can provide a benefit to us longer term.

    Safe to say that I am very happy so far and look forward to working with ENGAGE.

    Q: So, what’s next for SSC?

    A: Well, there’s a lot happening right now, with the IR35 Reforms and Brexit seemingly being at the forefront of every businesses mind. There seems to be a divided view on what ‘good’ looks like and there are a lot of myths and mis information in the market as I see it.

    In the post Covid recovery period that we are embarking on, taking sound advice from experts in worker compliance is advisable. We are working closely with Agencies and Hirers to ensure that they are well informed and also clear on what measures are required to ensure they do not get caught out due to a lack of understanding, or poor processes.

    These are very challenging, but increasingly exciting times, with opportunities for businesses to carve a new way of working. My belief is that leaner, smarter, more agile businesses will prosper. Technology has a huge part to play in this. SSC Services are looking at other ways in which to innovate and deliver value to the Agency partners and the Hirers we service.

    Watch this space…..

    Q: Did it take long to ‘adopt’ the software in the business?

    Absolutely not. It’s simple. Just a process to adopt, but nothing onerous. We are using the minimum features on ENGAGE, so it remains ‘light touch’. I think as we explore more of how the system can benefit our business and the clients we service, there will be more to adopt. But, from initial experience, ENGAGE have definitely made something simple to use and adopt.

    Q: Engage state that it facilitates the ‘collaboration’ across the supply chain. Have you seen this?

    A: 100%. ENGAGE is true to it’s word. Ben explained the collaborative environment they create when business use ENGAGE and I have seen this almost immediately following the soft launch with Countryside.

    Countryside made it clear to all their suppliers that they were working together. They seem to have go this balance right with their Agencies and from our experience, they have continued to get this right with their Payroll Intermediaries too. Hat’s off to them. Being bold with clear messaging has definitely helped. It is clear that Countryside and ENGAGE have a strong partnership and clear vision of what they want to achieve. We are proud to be part of something innovative and fresh.

    If there was any advice you could offer anyone thinking about technology, what would it be?

    A: Technology is advancing rapidly; it can be confusing at times and what’s on the box is not always what’s in the box…. I think that choosing your digital systems should be based on the medium term. Lengthy contractual tie-ins and server-based software can be prescriptive and inflexible, which is only going to hamper your business longer term.

    Be as agile as your tech partner in your thinking and aligned with your client’s vision in this regard. Going on a journey together is really important to achieving great things – speak to Engage!

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