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Background

Established in Inverness in 2004 by Carole MacKintosh, Highland Counselling Services Ltd, trading as Scottish Counselling Services, has grown from a small local service provider into a market leading organisation covering the Scottish mainland and islands with adults, children and young people as their client groups.  Scottish Counselling Services provides a confidential counselling service to both the private and public sector for a wide range of life-affecting issues.

 

Challenge

Looking to the future sustainability of the business, the lack of suitable software that could handle the varying requirements of the business had reached a critical point. Although Scottish Counselling Services had undertaken their own research, they had been unable to identify a software package that could meet the needs of their individual team members.  Scottish Counselling Services (SCS) wanted to work in collaboration with an academic with Computing Science expertise to develop a system which would more accurately meet their needs.
 

Solution

Interface was able to successfully match SCS with Dr Bruce Scharlau of the University of Aberdeen’s School of Computing Science.  Dr Scharlau had founded ‘The Software Factory’, an initiative created specifically for industry to realise their ambitions through work with the University to deliver software solutions.

Scottish Counselling Services worked with Dr Scharlau to develop a new system which would enable business growth whilst taking account of secure data storage of records, and efficient work-flow processes. No such system previously existed, so the project output was instrumental in enabling the business to move forward, refining its service offering, thereby securing future sustainability.

The project was funded by a Scottish Funding Council (SFC) Standard Innovation Voucher.

 

Benefits

The new online system moved the staff from working with paper forms, a telephone, and managing staff and appointments via a spreadsheet to an online prototype, saving a day per week in admin work. This was all set up within the web application with encrypted records and minimal risks to privacy. The system has proven invaluable to the company.

We are now using our software and I am really enjoying having a focused system that we are all connected to. I am constantly delighted with the feedback from our team and how easy they all seem to be finding it. It has been such a good project for us all.  Carole MacKintosh, Managing Director

Follow-On Activity

After such a successful initial collaboration, Scottish Counselling Services and the University of Aberdeen continued their collaboration with work to further develop and advance the software in preparation for commercialisation; enabling it to be offered under a subscription service that could be offered to other counselling providers, introducing a new income stream for the organisation.  This application will also enable SCS to improve efficiencies within the business, and thus spend more time on business development, generating additional income in a cost-efficient manner.

This work was part funded by an SFC Advanced Innovation Voucher.

This has been an amazing and challenging project but one that I am really proud to have been a part of.  I feel excited about future developments and opportunities that I know will evolve because of what has been produced.  Carole MacKintosh, Managing Director

Building on the previous collaborations, an internship was then created to consolidate the ‘lite offering’ of a Session On Demand platform designed to aid secondary and primary schools in Scotland in offering counselling to all of their pupils.  This project used the same student from the University of Aberdeen who was involved in the initial collaboration and was funded by an SFC Student Placement Innovation Voucher.

My experience of the project has been extremely positive.  The prospect of being part of a team developing a web application from the beginning felt daunting, however the team were supportive and patient throughout.  I felt out of my comfort zone many times as I was working in an area that I had no previous experience in, however, we managed to work out what was needed by organically processing and checking out what worked, what didn’t work and what need amending.  It came together from actively listening to each other but mostly from the expertise and guidance of the development team.  This was an experience I enjoyed and feel that what we have achieved will have a positive impact on our service users and organisations.

The additional commercial benefits include being able to demonstrate our innovation and credibility as an organisation to potential clients.  This I feel has opened many doors and also created many more opportunities.  It has also helped expand my own thinking on how to create additional opportunities.  Carole MacKintosh, Managing Director

Carole MacKintosh

"I met with Carol-Ann at Interface with the germ of an idea and from that initial meeting I have been consistently impressed and supported throughout our whole project and beyond.  I cannot speak highly enough about Carol-Ann/Interface, their processes and how client-centred they are in their approach to working.  In terms of impact for our business this has been invaluable and I would encourage anyone to take that first step and make contact.  Thank you Carol-Ann, it really has been transformative working with you."

Carole MacKintosh, Managing Director, Scottish Counselling Services
Dr Bruce Scharlau

"It was wonderful to help someone who had been looking for a solution to her software challenges, and to see this grow from something for her business to something which could be a business in its’ own right. I normally only see applications go from a glimmer in someone’s eye, to a prototype. Working with Carole has meant seeing it grow through various stages, all the while working with a highly competent software developer, who I’ve also been able to see grow in his abilities."

Bruce Scharlau, Senior Lecturer, The School of Natural and Computing Sciences, The University of Aberdeen

Additional activity

Scottish Counselling Services also worked with both the University of Edinburgh Business School and the University of Strathclyde on various student-based projects to aid in the growth and development of their business.