Focussing on our digital capability mission in challenging times

Last year, we started thinking harder about how we achieve our company’s mission: building people’s confidence online. We believe the internet is and can still be a force for good, which connects people, promotes learning and understanding, and holds the powerful to account. But it often doesn’t feel like that.

We want to help people talk online with honesty, optimism and personality. We want to challenge the news-centric view of digital in corporate communication: that good social media activity is a tidy subset of the press release. Digital is broader than this: it is a great leveller, and the new form of the human voice. It is about the personality of an organisation, how people talk to each other and their stakeholders, and how services get delivered.

Since we started out 10 years ago, Helpful has been a company of two distinct services – build and support of client websites; and doing training and simulations to grow digital communication skills. It’s meant we’ve been involved with an incredible range and diversity of clients and work, from COBRA meetings to climate crisis, electoral maps to influencer maps, GDPR to crisis PR. While there are crossovers and everyone in the team generally enjoys their work, covering such a broad field as a small team drains our ability to really focus on our products or our clients as much as we would like.

So, a few months ago, I decided to focus Helpful on digital skills and capability building, and move away from client website development. I want us to invest more time and developer effort in our world-class products like Digital Action Plan and Social Simulator, and step up the services around them which help organisations communicate better online.

Happily, it turns out there is a great option available for our managed support clients. Ever since being one of dxw’s early clients in 2009 when I was in government, I’ve appreciated dxw’s values, business ethics and technical chops. So, from next month, dxw will be the new home for our clients’ sites – and indeed, for some of our team who will be moving across to join dxw’s expanded WordPress business unit led by Alex Jackson.

Anthony, Matty, Serena and Calum have delivered some amazing projects between them. More fundamentally, they’ve moved our development and support process forward massively in its sophistication from Helpful’s early years. It will be sad for me and the remaining Helpful team to say goodbye. At the same time, we’re also saying goodbye to our awesome Project Director Katie, who’s off to the seaside as part of her new life in Dorset.

Though we’ve been planning this since long before the coronavirus appeared, it’s clear that there are tough times ahead for any small business. I think that’s all the more reason to be focussed on what we do and why. I’m looking forward to seeing what Helpful can do in the next 10 years to build the digital capability we need to talk to each other better.