When it comes to contracts, the devil is in the detail, or so the old saying goes. But what about the vast, complicated agreements which are exchanged in multi-billion-pound digital transformation projects? They can be huge, often in excess of 2,000 pages long. It’s little wonder then, that many civil and corporate digital transformations often come in hugely over-budget through misunderstandings, communication problems and oversights.
It’s a problem that south Wales technology firm Athensys is aiming to resolve. The team, run by Kevin and Heather Butterworth (above), Ben Sissons and Sophie Newbould from TecMarina in Penarth, has developed software which intelligently analyses the minutiae of incredibly complex agreements between clients and companies. The company believes it has huge global potential, and has its sights set on international expansion.
While the company is in its early stages – it was established in April 2019 – it has its roots in a previous company chief executive Kevin Butterworth and CTO Ben Sissons founded when they were studying for their PHDs, BRM Fusion. Here, the ideas and underpinnings of what would later become Athensys would be developed. “We had a great product but couldn’t sell it without a consultancy wrap” says Kevin. The software was then nurtured in a dedicated professional services company founded by Kevin Butterworth, Danny Flack and Ben Sissons called Reachal.
The software was developed for defence contracts would later be adapted for wider procurement projects. “The software allowed for complete analysis of contracts quickly,” says Kevin. “Reachal became good at winning business. There are billions of pounds in digital transformation but organisations struggle to maintain contracts and communicate briefs to team. If you have a contract with 2,000 pages it’s difficult to get people to read it and apply it. Because of this, many digital transformation projects cost 45% over budget and deliver less than half of what they expect to get. Often it’s like ordering an aircraft carrier and getting a dinghy,” says Kevin. “Athensys was created to fix this problem – to fix procurement issues and do digital transformation projects without failing. The product has now matured enough that we can use this in the non-defence space, and non-specialists can now use it with training, which we provide."
The company has goals of one day having potentially hundreds of staff based across the world, but for now, it has a close-knit team made up largely of trusted contacts from previous roles. “We’ve been lucky with people and have a great supportive culture, nobody wants to work where they don’t want to be,” says Heather, who as well as being the company’s chief finance officer is a qualified GP who still practices medicine. “Our staff are our most valuable asset. They bring friends and contacts into the business who are high-quality individuals and want to work with us too.” The company also counts Sophie Newbould, a complex contracts lawyer who’s worked on technology, competition and government procurement, as one of its founders and chief commercial officer. To develop the business further, Athensys joined the ESTnet this year. “We joined ESTnet for the networking ability – to be able to share ideas with likeminded companies,” says Kevin.
Kevin believes that being in Wales does hold certain lifestyle advantages, as well as its straight-talking working culture. “There’s a really good reason to live and work in Wales,” he says. “From Cardiff you can hop in a car and be in the countryside,” he says. “And one of the big advantages of being in Wales is we’re open and honest, and always call a spade a spade.”