Introducing Xoserve which, despite being a significant Solihull employer, is arguably one of the town’s best-kept secrets.
There’s every chance you’ve never heard of the New Road business or, if you have, know what it actually does.
Yet everyone with gas supplied to their property, be it domestic or business, benefits from Xoserve’s existence every day.
Simply put, Xoserve is THE UK gas industry’s data management company. Or its ‘heartbeat’, as Chief Executive Chris Murray MBE puts it.
Xoserve plays a key part in ensuring customers can choose who supplies their gas.
Xoserve is also an extremely popular place to work, evidenced by the fact it has made the prestigious ‘Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For’ list four years in a row.
The company manages a definitive database of EVERY UK property that receives gas – around 22 million meter points in total.
Called UK Link, it also stores details of every gas delivery pipe, meter and supplier, which is vital in enabling the market to work.
Records of countrywide meter reads are kept in Solihull, enabling the switching of suppliers and the charging of suppliers for use of the gas pipeline network.
Xoserve also manages the multi-billion-pound invoicing process of gas transporters utilising the underground maze-like network of pipes.
The current delivery of a major IT project for the gas industry has seen the company’s workforce almost double to around 360 permanent staff in just four years.
“Xoserve is a significant employer in Solihull and most local people probably know someone who works here,” said the company’s Communications Manager, Debbie Whittingham.
“But how many people know what Xoserve does, especially those with no links to the town, is probably another matter.
“We’re effectively a one-stop shop of services to the gas industry we sit at the heart of.
“Although we provide a ‘M Number Call Centre', the data we store is provided by the gas suppliers and transporters. We have little direct contact with consumers, which is probably the main reason why our role isn’t that widely known.
“We’ve been compared to what BACS does for banks. Nobody outside the financial world really deals with BACS, but services like direct debits wouldn’t happen without them.
“In a similar way, we ‘oil the wheels’ of this essential industry.”
Xoserve operates essentially as a ‘cooperative’ serving all of its business customers’ needs.
Its current focus is its ‘UK Link Programme’ – transferring what was the biggest database in Europe when created in 1996 onto a 21st century platform.
The multi-million pound project is targeted to conclude in 2017 and will enable Xoserve to meet the expected demand growth generated by the roll-out of smart meters.
“UK Link is central to everything we do,” added Debbie.
“The database predates Google. Being 20 years old, it’s being upgraded to meet new demands with new technology.
“Working with Ofgem and the big energy suppliers, it’s the biggest project of its kind globally.”
Despite the undoubted pressures associated with the UK Link Programme, Xoserve remains one of the country’s favourite employers.
It was placed 75th in this year’s ‘Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For’ list and will be hoping to rank for a fifth year running in next February’s awards.
The company used employee feedback from the Sunday Times entry process to make the move from its old Homer Road office to its new Lansdowne Gate base in June go as smoothly as possible.
Staff were at the centre of the discussion about the look and feel of the new HQ and photographs taken by an employee were utilised to design wallpaper in parts of the office.
“Being recognised as one of the country’s top employers is something we’re really proud of at Xoserve,” added Debbie.
“Our results showed outstanding levels of engagement, which can only be of benefit to all our stakeholders.
“Xoserve has grown dramatically in recent years and we were bursting at the seams at Homer Road.
“We set up an employee engagement group and used the issues we had at the old building to create a much-improved working environment within our new offices.
“We worked through all the comments from the Sunday Times survey, good and bad, to find solutions for frustrations people had.
“We’ve now got a very modern, open plan design, but we also have break-out spaces and study pods to enable staff to work in smaller groups or in private when required.”
With its stable Solihull roots, Xoserve looks set to go from strength to strength.
“When we surveyed staff about the office move, our employees were screaming out that we stayed in Solihull,” added Debbie.
“It was a massive thing for them and the company was delighted to maintain the levels of employee satisfaction we achieved by staying in Solihull.
“Solihull is a fantastic place to be and being centrally-located helps us support the local community and schools.
“We run a host of charitable initiatives and encourage employees to do volunteer work. This is reflected in the fact ‘Giving Something Back’ ranks as one of our highest scoring categories in the Sunday Times survey.”