Apak Group, a Sopra Banking Software company, is celebrating its 40th birthday in 2019, and it's hard to believe that when Tony Papadopoullos and Alan Keep sat down at a kitchen table in Bristol in 1979 and wrote their first pieces of code, that 40 years on we'd be a global supplier of floorplan software to many of the leading names in auto and asset finance; and also by joining Sopra Banking Software, part of the wider Sopra Steria Group, we're now part of a global giant with more than 44,000 employees.
To celebrate our 40th birthday, we’re taking a look at what makes the company so special; what makes Apak what it is, and what it means to all the people who have been so valuable in contributing to the company’s success over the last 40 years.
Jodie Jewell, who has helped shape the company and held critical roles in the company’s growth over the last 20 years, shares her Apak journey and what the company means to her.
"I’ve experienced many highs and lows during my time at Apak, but I wouldn’t change it for a second".
"Striving to broaden my horizons and develop myself has always been my key focus throughout my career; I’ve always been looking for the next challenge and Apak have facilitated that entirely. Although many things have changed at Apak, such as the size of the organization and the volume of our clientele, I think that at our core, we’re still the same close-knit company.
My first role back in 1997 was testing and providing support to customers - the Helpdesk number was my direct line! I remember being told to learn the system quickly as I had to do a demo to a customer within the first week of joining, so I soon learned to think on my feet quickly!
In 2008 I left the company for a short period of time as I wanted to test my enhanced skill set in the wider world. During that time, I picked up a contracting role with Capita where I was tasked with building a pensions system from the ground up. However, I left Apak on great terms and kept in frequent contact with Tony Allen who regularly asked me to come back!
Those conversations with Tony turned into an opportunity for me to return to Apak in February 2009 as the Project Manager for Daimler Financial Services. However, my stipulation for returning was that we consolidated all the project management work and created a Project Management Office (PMO). So, part of my new remit was to run the Daimler project, but I also headed up the new PMO.
I was managing the pilot implementation for Daimler when we undertook a project to refine processes across all applications and consolidate all the work we were doing to come up with a standard project management approach.
Our principle became that our customers would get the same project management experience regardless of which product they were buying, or which project manager was on the account. From there, we tried to get more customers interested in our global “one size fits all” floorplan system that could run multiple countries; and when we began to get some traction from sales activity in the US, we established a need for people to be out on the ground in the States.
As a management team we discussed how we could approach that challenge, and it was agreed that as we had a global PMO, and we weren’t going to move development outside of the UK, what we really needed was a Project Manager to set up the organization in the US, so that everything flowed through effectively.
We were adamant we weren’t going to set up two different companies where people got two different experiences. It was critical that people had the same ‘Apak experience’ regardless if they were interacting with us in the States or the UK.
SI relocated to Alpharetta, Georgia with the challenge to set up the Apak organization in the US and get it to stabilization point. We initially anticipated that it would take around 18 months…. I would say that we finally stabilized at the five-year point but at that point, we were also growing rapidly. The organization was in place, but because of our growth, there were still challenges to overcome so 18 months soon became 7.5 years in Georgia!
It became apparent to me around two years ago that I had achieved all I could do within the role I’d been set. We had a successful functioning organization in place, and I was helping build relationships between the Heads of Function in the UK and our new team on the ground in the US, so at that point, it made sense for me to return to the UK.
I found it incredibly difficult to leave our amazing team behind in the US. I put a lot in over 7.5 years, having invested so much in that part of the business, and with the friendships I’d developed, it was very tough to leave! I’m proud that I left the US office as a very healthy operation which is now operating independently - it’s come a long way from running out of my lounge for the first nine months!
We now have a very successful business unit in the US, aligned with the corporate goals and objectives of Apak. The US team fully understand the vision and mission, and very much represent the Apak identity. Many other companies have attempted to ‘break America’ and failed, so I think what we were able to achieve in the US was incredibly impressive.
Since returning to the UK in July 2018 I’ve been working on the Integration Management System, quality management systems, and advising on some new project management pieces. Most recently, I’ve been working with our new parent company Sopra Banking Software to help start the integration process with them as an organization.
As Apak turns 40 this year, the most obvious transformation you can see is the growth and scale of the company. I think at our heart, we’ve retained our true ‘Apak-ness’ which is potentially our best quality.
One of the key things I’ve realized over the last couple of years also, is that we really are very good at what we do. I think we as a company have really started to understand that potential, and how we can utilize that.
For me, the fact that we’re all about relationships and working with customers as partners is what makes Apak such a great company to work for, and there are always a lot of opportunities for people like me who embrace that approach!”.
We’ll be interviewing current and former staff members throughout 2019 as part of our 40th birthday celebrations, look out for the next interview soon.
By Jodie Jewell at 8 Mar 2019, 09:25 AM