BCC IT skills and expertise helps John Francis cope with growth of their business over 15 years

Ensuring that you can use new technology to improve customer service is a challenge all businesses face. Knowing when it is best to replace a solution that is ageing, but still working, with a more up-to-date version with more features and benefits can be the difference between business success and failure. Without the experience and product knowledge to make this decision many businesses need to find an external partner they can rely on and trust to help them.

John Francis is a sales and lettings estate agency for residential and commercial property. They have 21 offices covering the whole of Swansea and West Wales and are backed by Countrywide the largest estate agency network in the UK.

John Francis uses the latest technology to offer the best service. Customers can search, view and register for properties and property updates from desktop or mobile devices ensuring that they can always gain access to the information they need when they need it.

Offering such a high level of customer service requires a strong and flexible technology platform as Steve Mason from BCC explained. “John Francis always needs to have the latest secure technology to ensure buyers and sellers can get fast access to new properties they regularly list. As they don’t have their own IT department they need to use external resources to ensure they are kept up-to-date with emerging technologies as well as ensuring that their existing IT estate is working at peak efficiency.”

Outsourced IT department

Fortunately, John Francis has partnered with BCC for over 15 years as Richard Emanuel, at John Francis described. “We trust BCC totally. They are our outsourced IT department and in all the years that we have known them they have never let us down.”

The initial engagement back in 2000 was to provide IT support, but the relationship has grown in parallel with the development of John Francis as Richard continued. “We now have 25 departments over South and West Wales, with more than 150 users. So, our needs are vastly different from what they were back in 2000 when we first approached BCC. They have been able to grow with us and enable us to implement the technology platform that allows us to keep one step ahead of our competition and offer a better service to our customers.”

BCC consultants have been on hand to provide their expertise over the years to enable John Francis to go through a number of technology refreshes. “This included hardware and software,” said Richard “From initial design and specification through to implementation, training and ongoing support. BCC provide us with the complete service.”

Hosted solutions

Equipment refresh is not the only way BCC have been able to help John Francis. As communications have improved across the UK, BCC have developed their services to include a range of hosted solutions that enable organisations to take advantage of the improved broadband network, as Steve Mason outlined. “We have invested heavily in our secure datacentre services. This allows us to offer a range of cost-effective and secure solutions that help companies like John Francis greatly reduce capital costs, whilst improving the reliability and performance of their IT platform.”

In John Francis’ case, they take advantage of a number of these hosted solutions as Richard described. “We use specialised estate agent software that all our employees need to access from our branches and also whilst they are out on site. In the past, access to this was slow and unreliable leading to frustration and reduced productivity.

“When we moved the software to be hosted at the BCC datacentre it immediately enabled all our devices to access it quicker and easier, getting rid of many of the problems we had previously encountered.”

In 2011 when a major Microsoft Exchange upgrade was due, BCC suggested moving to a hosted instance instead. “This has the advantage of John Francis not having to pay a large capital sum for a new server and also not having to worry about monitoring and maintaining it in their premises,” said Steve. “Now, for a fixed annual subscription they get permanently up-to-date access to email – a vital business tool for an organisation with 25 departments. All their email is now synched to their mobile devices so employees can access email wherever they are.”

As the old server was hosted in the Carmarthen Head Office, the move to a hosted solution has freed up bandwidth that email traffic previously took up, providing efficiencies elsewhere in the organisation.

Delivering and supporting a sophisticated technology platform

John Francis also benefit from a hosted backup solution. “We have more than 300GB of data across our locations that needs securing nightly,” said Bethan Edmund-Harper. “In the past we would have had to worry about disks and tapes and ensuring the backup occurred every night. Now, it all happens automatically and we don’t have any issues about it failing or being corrupt.”

Commenting on the relationship that John Francis has built with BCC over the years, Bethan concluded. “BCC are a true partner. The level of expertise, experience and product knowledge they bring is exactly what we need. We do not want to be IT experts, but we need a sophisticated technology platform that enables us to offer our customers the best service, and BCC provide that.

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“From advice on how we can best utilise new technologies through to designing, implementing and supporting our systems, they have been with us every step of the way. I feel confident that with them as our partner, that whatever challenges we will face with IT in the future, we will have nothing to worry about.”

Bethan Edmund-Harper

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