FoCul is exceptionally competent in both Engineering and software development. FoCul works closely with clients to understand their needs and share best practises in order to build solutions that will impress like no other. FoCul has extensive experience in the process and utility sectors and also with Engineering and Operations consultancies aligned with those sectors.
FoCul was founded in 2000 by Sean Cull ( CEng ), an Engineer in the chemical sector, who was frustrated that the sharing of knowledge and tasks was so inefficient despite everyone’s best efforts. Over the last 20 years FoCul has worked with many Engineering and Operations teams to provide software that allows better ways of working using easily deployed web solutions.
For the first 10 years we developed many bespoke Lotus Notes solutions. From 2010 our focus has been on developing an impressive suite of integrated web based solutions has taken the best features from our bespoke projects and made them highly configurable. This approach has allowed us to deliver solutions in a particularly robust and cost effective way since each customer has the same software but with different configurations. This way every customer gest the benefits of new enhancements and fixes while we get an economy of scale.
Our software is what is known as “Software as a Service ( SaaS )”. This means that you rent the software by the month and we are responsible for all aspects of its operations and support. This works really well as it is in both our interests and your interest that the software continues to deliver business benefits into the future. This SaaS approach also makes it very easy to get new systems up and running in a quick and cost effective manner.
We have a relatively small number of customers but we see our relationship with each customer as a Win – Win partnership. We typically take on 1 – 2 SaaS customers per year and it has been a long time since we lost an established SaaS customer. We are small ( a technical team of 5 ) but we run the business very conservatively and we firmly believe that our size makes us particularly responsive to customer needs in term of both response times and actually understanding what it is that our customers need.
FoCul takes pride in ensuring clients are satisfied with our solutions in the long-term. We achieve this by exceptional customer service and ensuring we provide solutions that continue to be both effective and efficient as your needs change
Our company mission statement is :
To create a financially sustainable business where we enjoy working and where our customers see us as partners in a win-win relationship.
Why customers like us
We have a particular knack for getting to the nub of a problem and finding the best practical solution. We often receive feedback that we are particularly good at understanding clients needs. We invest time up front ensuring scope is fit for purpose which pays dividends as the project proceeds.
We understand the importance of regular communication and engaging with key users so they become experts and feel comfortable in asking us anything. We stay involved for the life of the software and don’t just walk away after deployment like so many software organisations.
Having come from industry we understand the importance of Good Value and of the need for a sensible Cost Benefit Analysis of projects to ensure that effort is put into the right place. We will work with you in partnership to provide the most cost effective solution and we prefer to work on a fixed price or on subscription basis so that is clear where the responsibility for costs lie, FoCul was founded by an Engineer from industry after all.
We are motivated to build long term relationships with our software clients. Our average SaaS customer relationship is over 7 years ( with a mode of 4 years ), this is over 7 years of providing a continuous service.
What Agile Means to Us
We are well regarded as being a flexible provider – our focus is on providing software that is right for you, even if that means making changes late in development.
At the requirements and specification stage our detail of the solutions we are recommending can be difficult to grasp and it is only when we can deliver you working software that you can gain a fuller understanding of how the solution will work for you.
We therefore aim to deliver chunks of working software (‘epics’) as quickly as possible, in weeks rather than months, so that you can have confidence in our solution as it evolves. We communicate and measure progress against delivery of ‘epics’; this provides a high level overview of how the solution is progressing.
Each epic is split into a number of smaller ‘issues’for development activity. It is normal for new issues to be raised (by anyone!) against epics as the development activity progresses. Critical within our agile processes is having a client sponsor who can separate ‘desirable’ from ‘essential’ functionality. To deliver your solution on time we must be experts at ‘maximising the amount of work not done’. We retain your ‘ideas’ for future versions of your solution should you want to extend functionality later.
Our 7 Step Project Process
1. Information Gathering
Although we have extensive knowledge of manufacturing, operational and engineering environments our first task must be to understand the background, business objectives and user preferences. We totally understand that getting best value out of any system is dependent on user engagement.
We have a particular knack for getting to the nub of a problem and finding the best practical solution. We will spend time at the beginning of the project to ensure the scope is fit for purpose. Investing that time upfront will pay dividends as the project proceeds.
It is important that the scope meets customer and user requires. Before taking the first step in developing the system we will work with you to ensure you are happy with our proposal. For more complex projects this can often include a proof-of-concept. We will discuss project stage and cost breaks, timing, delivery and testing protocols. We will explore agile approaches with you and discuss the “Project triangle”.
4. Development & Testing
As with all stages the development stage will be carefully project managed. This will be to customer preferences. Face to face, Skype, telephone, email communication will be used as and when needed. You will be kept informed of progress to the level that is important to you at each stage. We fully understand that during the development stage things happen and the scope may have to be tweaked. We will take these tweaks in our stride.
We will be on site and on hand during the commissioning stage. We will commission the system with you so you know the system we are leaving you with. Any last minute adjustments will be made. User training and user manuals will be provided.
We never deploy and then just walk away. We are here to support you as the system becomes an integrated part of your business and to work with you to ensure the system remains used and useful throughout its lifetime.
Often our customers realise there is further potential that can be gained from our solutions after the intial implementation. We are always willing to enhance the solution based on your feedback. We want to ensure maximum value is obtained from your investment and that users continue to be engaged in the long term.
Meet the team
We are a small but very capable team based in the UK. We have been leveraging the latest technology since 2000 to work primarily from our home offices. We have grown quite a bit over the last few years and would love to hear from anyone who thinks that they might fit in well. More diversity would also be good for us.
Sean Cull (CEng)
Managing Director and Lead Consultant
An Engineering, Manufacturing and Management Engineering graduate from UMIST, Sean worked for 8 years within the chemical industry in Asset Management, Contractor Management and Work Execution.
Sean wrote his first Lotus Notes database ( the ICI Critical Machines Incident Database ) in 1994 and realised very quickly how I.T. could be successfully used to better manage business processes.
Continuing to specialise in the delivery of I.T. systems, Sean founded FoCul in 2000 and was appointed as an IBM Champion in 2012.
Sean enjoys has always enjoyed outdoor activities and particularly enjoys building, flying ( and crashing ) model aircraft, usually from the top of Cumbrian mountains.
A Mathematics graduate, Andrew has been developing software solutions for the last 20 years. Primarily working with companies in the chemical and steel making industries, he has significant experience delivering applications to manage business processes on platforms from HCL ( previously IBM ) Lotus Notes through to modern web frameworks and Java.
Andrew works with various web technologies but has a particular soft spot for the HCL ( previously IBM ) XPages framework.
When he’s not writing code, Andrew enjoys performing with the Marske Brass Band and being soundly beaten on the golf course by his teenage son.
Delivery and Innovation Lead
An Industrial chemistry graduate, Martin has built a 25 career in the IT sector initially as a Senior Technical Trainer specialising in Database Development and the Lotus Notes systems before moving into consultancy and software design. He has previously held senior positions responsible for software delivery at both Active Intranet plc and Italik Ltd.
Martin has built up a wealth of experience and knowledge in system design, software development, infrastructure and delivery working with many household names including Bradford & Bingley, Cussons, Corus, HBOS, Help-Link (now Homeserve) and Yorkshire Water amongst others.
In his spare time Martin is an enthusiastic church bell ringer holding the position of Ringing Master at Ripon Cathedral. He also enjoys long distance running and has completed a number of Marathons.
David had 20 years experience in the Papermaking Industry, his first experience of computers was with early CAD systems in the building of papermills.
David then moved to the I.T department where he maintained the CAD systems and was introduced to FORTRAN.
From there David became a specialist in CAD support and training for 4 years and was introduced to Lotus Notes.
David then spent 9 years as a Lotus Notes trainer and consultant before becoming a developer for 4 years and joining FoCul in 2013.
David enjoys travelling, both abroad and at home. He often goes camping, caravanning and hill walking with his family.
David enjoys reading (he is an avid Science Fiction fan) and films (again mostly Science Fiction).
Paul is an experienced IT Consultant and a proud HCL Ambassador for 2023, 2021 and 2020. He has worked in a variety of roles and at a range of companies, from large multi-national corporations such as HSBC Bank and Deutsche Bank, to household names such as the John Lewis Partnership and Aviva Insurance, as well as smaller and lesser known organisations such as the National Institute for Cardiovascular Outcomes Research.
With over 20 years’ experience of HCL Notes/Domino, Paul has had the opportunity to focus on many of its key aspects, from development and administration, to integration and migrations. More recently, he has been involved with other cloud collaborative tools such as Microsoft 365 (formerly O365) and Google Workspace (formerly G Suite).
Paul is a keen advocate of web technologies, and especially client-side development frameworks such as Angular, which he has been actively using for over 6 years.
Paul is also an avid supporter of Notes/Domino user groups and actively assists them where he can. He has also occasionally spoken at several of these events about such diverse technologies as Progressive Web Apps (PWA’s), GraphQL and End-to-End (E2E) testing.
Paul is passionate about ongoing learning and enjoys discovering and researching new and emerging technologies. In addition, he has also participated in several technical accreditation schemes, as well as a few non-technical accreditations, such as PRINCE2 (Foundation) in Project Management, and ITIL (Foundation) in IT Service Management.
When not working, Paul enjoys an occasional beer, as well as practicing home brewing and tinkering with Raspberry Pi’s.