Business colleagues working in team

A Small External Enterprise Development Team is Cheaper than Your Own

Business colleagues working in team

Time is money in the application development business. We have to get to market sooner so someone else does not gazump us, and pip us at the post. We increase the likelihood of this with every delay. Moreover, the longer your in-house team takes to get you through the swamp, the higher the project cost to you.

Of course, in theory this should not be the case. Why bring in a team from outside, and pay more to support their corporate structure? Even going for a contract micro team ought not to make financial sense, because we have to fund their mark-up and their profit taking. Our common sense tells us that this is crazy. But, hold that thought for a minute. What would you say if a small external enterprise development team was actually cheaper? To achieve that, they would have to work faster too.

The costs of an Enterprise Internal Development Team

Even if you were able to keep your own team fully occupied – which is unlikely in the long term – having your own digital talent pool works out expensive when you factor in the total cost. Your difficulties begin with the hiring process, especially if you do not fully understand the project topic, and have to subcontract the hiring task.

If you decide to attempt this yourself, your learning curve could push out the project completion date. Whichever way you decide to go, you are up for paying advertising, orientation training, technical upskilling, travel expenses, and salaries all of which are going to rob your time. Moreover, a wrong recruitment decision would cost three times the new employee’s annual salary, and there is no sign of that changing.

But that is not all, not all by far. If want your in-house team to keep their work files in the office, then you are going to have to buy them laptops, plus extra screens so they can keep track of what they are doing. Those laptops are going to need desks, and those employees, chairs to sit in. Plus, you are going to need expensive workspace with good security for your team’s base.

If we really wanted to lay it on, we would add software / cloud costs, telephony, internet access, and ongoing technical training to the growing pile. We did a quick scan on PayScale. The median salary of a computer programmer in Ireland is €38,000 per year and that is just the beginning. If you need a program manager for your computer software, their salary will be almost double that at €65,000 annually.

Advantages of R&D outsourcing

The case for a small externally sourced enterprise development team revolves around the opportunity cost – or loss to put in bluntly – of hiring your own specialist staff for projects. If you own a smaller business with up to 100 people, you are going to have to find work for idle digital fingers, after you roll out your in-house enterprise project. If you do not, you head down the road towards owning a dysfunctional team lacking a core, shared objective to drive them forward.

Compared to this potential extravagance, hiring a small external enterprise development team on an as-needed basis makes far more sense. Using a good service provider as a ‘convenience store’ drives enterprise development costs down through the floor, relative to having your own permanent team. Moreover, the major savings that arise are in your hands and free to deploy as opportunities arise. A successful business is quick and nimble, with cash flow on tap for R & D.

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Operational Reviews

IT OPERATIONAL REVIEWS DEFINED
An IT operational review is an in-depth and objective review of an entire organisation or a specific segment of that organisation. It can be used to identify and address existing concerns within your company such as communication issues between departments, problems with customer relations, operating procedures, lack of profitability issues, and other factors that affect the stability of the business.
Operational reviews allow the organisation members to evaluate how well they are performing, given that they perform appropriately according to the procedures set by them, allocating their resources properly, and performing such tasks within time frame set and using cost-effective measures. More importantly, it also shows your company how well it is prepared to meet future challenges.
Simply put, the goals of an operational review are to increase revenue, improve market share, and reduce cost.

THE BENEFITS OF AN IT OPERATIONAL REVIEW
The main objective of IT operational reviews is to help organisations like yours learn how to deal with and address issues, instead of simply reacting to the challenges brought about by growth and change.
In such review, the information provided is practical from both a financial and operational perspective. Using these data, the management can then come up with recommendations, which are not only realistic, but more importantly, can help the organisation achieve its goals. The review recognises the extent to which your internal controls actually work, and enables you to identify and understand your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats

To be more specific, let’s list down the ways wherein an effective operational review can contribute to the success of the organisation.

The review process can:
– assess compliance within your own organisational objectives, policies and procedures;
– evaluate specific company operations independently and objectively;
– give an impartial assessment regarding the effectiveness of an organisation’s control systems;
– identify the appropriate standards for quantifying achievement of organisational objectives;
– evaluate the reliability and value of the company’s management data and reports;
– pinpoint problem areas and their underlying causes;
– give rise to opportunities that may increase profit, augment revenue, and reduce costs without sacrificing the quality of the product or service.
Thus, each operational review conducted is unique, and can be holistic or specific to the activities of one department.

Our Operational Efficiencies cover the entire spectrum:

  • What to buy
  • Optimising what you’ve already bought e.g. underutilised servers, duplicate processes, poorly managed bandwidths
  • Making your team comfortable with the changes
  • Instilling Best Practices

UNCOVER WAYS TO DRIVE YOUR PROFITS UP, THROUGH OPERATIONAL REVIEWS

More Operational Review Blogs

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Man holding a CFL energy saving lamp

The Rights of Individuals Under The General Data Protection Regulation

Man holding a CFL energy saving lamp

The General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR is a European Union law reinforcing the rights of citizens concerning the confidentiality of their information, and confirming that they own it. We thought it would be interesting to examine the GDPR effective 25 May 2018 from an Irish citizen’s perspective. This article is a summary of information on the Data Protection Commissioner’s website, but as viewed through a businessperson’s lens.

How the Office Defines Data Protection

The Office believes that organisations receiving personal details have a duty to keep them private and safe. This applies inter alia to information that individuals supply to government, financial institutions, insurance companies, medical providers, telecoms services, and lenders. It also applies to information provided when they open accounts.

This information may be on paper, on computers, or in video, voice, or photographic records. The true owners of this information, the individuals have a right:

  • To make sure that it is factually correct
  • To the assurance that it is shared responsibly
  • That all with access only use it for stated purposes

Any organisation requesting personal information must state who they are, what the information is for, why they need to have it, and to whom else they may provide it.

Consumer Rights to Access Their Personal Information

Private persons have a right under the GDPR to a copy of all their information held or processed by a business. The regulation refers to such businesses as ‘data controllers’ as opposed to owners, which is interesting. They have to provide both paper and digital data, and ‘related information’.

Data controller fees for this are discretionary within limits. The request may be denied under certain circumstances. The data controller may release information about children to parents and guardians, only if it considers a minor too young to understand its significance. Other third parties such as attorneys must prove they have consent.

Consumer Rights to Port Their Data to Different Services

Since the personal information belongs to the individual, they have a right not only to access it, but also to copy or move it from one digital environment to another. The GDPR requires this be ‘in a safe way, without hindrance to usability’. An application could be a banking client that wants to upload their transaction history to a third party price comparison website.

However, the right to data portability only applies to data originally provided by the consumer. Moreover, an automated method must be available for porting. Data controllers must release the information in an open format, and may not charge for the porting service.

Consumer Rights to Complain About Personal Data Abuse

Individuals have a right under the General Data Protection Regulation to have their information rectified if they discover errors. This right extends to an assurance that third parties know about the changes – and who these third party entities are. Data controllers must respond within one month. If they decline the request, they must inform the complainant of their right to further remedial action.

If a data controller refuses to release personal information to the owner, or to correct errors, then the Data Protection Office has legal power to enforce the consumer’s rights. The complainant must make full disclosure of the history of their complaint, and the steps they have taken themselves to attempt to set things right.

Further Advice on Getting Things Ready for 25 May 2018

The General Data Protection Regulation has the full force of law from 25 May 2018 onward, and supersedes all applicable Irish laws, regulations, and policies from that date. We recommend incorporating rights of data owners who are also your customers into your immediate plans. We doubt that forgetting to do so will cut much sway with the Data Commissioner. Remember, you have one month to respond to consumer requests, and only one more month to close things out subject to the matter being complex.

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Finding the Best Structure for Your Enterprise Development Team

Startup business team on meeting in modern bright office interior brainstorming, working on computer

An enterprise development team is a small group of dedicated specialists. They may focus on a new business project such as an IoT solution. Members of microteams cooperate with ideas while functioning semi-independently. These self-managing specialists are scarce in the job market. Thus, they are a relatively expensive resource and we must optimise their role.

Organisation Size and Enterprise Development Team Structure

Organisation structure depends on the size of the business and the industry in which it functions. An enterprise development team for a micro business may be a few freelancers burning candles at both ends. While a large corporate may have a herd of full-timers with their own building. Most IoT solutions are born out of the efforts of microteams.

In this regard, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg blazed the trail with Microsoft and Facebook. They were both college students at the time, and both abandoned their business studies to follow their dreams. There is a strong case for liberating developers from top-down structures, and keeping management and initiative at arm’s length.

The Case for Separating Microteams from the Organisation

Microsoft Corporation went on to become a massive corporate, with 114,000 employees, and its founder Bill Gates arguably one of the richest people in the world. Yet even it admits there are limitations to size. In Chapter 2 of its Visual Studio 6.0 program it says,

“Today’s component-based enterprise applications are different from traditional business applications in many ways. To build them successfully, you need not only new programming tools and architectures, but also new development and project management strategies.”

Microsoft goes on to confirm that traditional, top-down structures are inappropriate for component-based systems such as IoT solutions. We have moved on from “monolithic, self-contained, standalone systems,” it says, “where these worked relatively well.”

Microsoft’s model for enterprise development teams envisages individual members dedicated to one or more specific roles as follows:

  • Product Manager – owns the vision statement and communicates progress
  • Program Manager – owns the application specification and coordinates
  • Developer – delivers a functional, fully-complying solution to specification
  • Quality Assurer – verifies that the design complies with the specification
  • User Educator – develops and publishes online and printed documentation
  • Logistics Planner – ensures smooth rollout and deployment of the solution

Three Broad Structures for Microteams working on IoT Solutions

The organisation structure of an enterprise development team should also mirror the size of the business, and the industry in which it functions. While a large one may manage small microteams of employee specialists successfully, it will have to ring-fence them to preserve them from bureaucratic influence. A medium-size organisation may call in a ‘big six’ consultancy on a project basis. However, an independently sourced micro-team is the solution for a small business with say up to 100 employees.

The Case for Freelancing Individuals versus Functional Microteams

While it may be doable to source a virtual enterprise development team on a contracting portal, a fair amount of management input may be necessary before they weld into a well-oiled team. Remember, members of a micro-team must cooperate with ideas while functioning semi-independently. The spirit of cooperation takes time to incubate, and then grow.

This is the argument, briefly, for outsourcing your IoT project, and bringing in a professional, fully integrated micro-team to do the job quickly, and effectively. We can lay on whatever combination you require of project managers, program managers, developers, quality assurers, user educators, and logistic planners. We will manage the micro-team, the process, and the success of the project on your behalf while you get on running your business, which is what you do best.

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2015 – What’s ahead for UK Business?

light bulb

According to reports just in, the global environment industry is down. Less money is available for what some CEO’s still see as grudge expenditure, and many U.S. agencies are seeking soft budget cuts. The UK is proving to be an exception following the announcement of ESOS, and EcoVaro does not expect the May elections will have much impact in this regard.

ESOS calls for mandatory energy assessments in companies above a certain size, and requires specific proposals to cut consumption. There is no indication of compulsory follow-through, although it is clear the Environment Agency hopes rising electricity prices and the prospect of monetary savings will do the trick.

It is an open question whether the Tory government would have interfered with commerce to this extent, were it not for the European directive that enforced it. The overall goal is to cut EU energy consumption across the board by 20% by 2020. Energy consultants are rubbing their hands in glee. EcoVaro’s response is to provide cloud-based software.

We will be interested to see how many UK companies make the first deadline of 5 December 2015, in the light of reports that half the 9,000 firms affected appear not to even know that ESOS exists. Some will no doubt pay last-minute lip service. Those with an eye on their own sustainability will grasp the Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme with both hands.

The initial ESOS deadline was always going to be a challenge. Some big corporates have stolen a march albeit egged on by green stakeholders. The next challenge comes in June 2015 with the implementation of the European Union’s ‘Waste Catalogue’ of hazardous substances, and rules for their disposal. We hope a new ISO 14001 will arrive soon and pull the loose threads together.

The introduction of carbon trading late this year brings further opportunities to increase profits through wise stewardship. Auditable metrics are essential for this.

EcoVaro can assist by processing your raw data. We provide this service on a virtual cloud. In return, you can get advice on optimising the quality of your graphs for presentations. 

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Article 8 of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive – Orientation

Solar energy panel and trees

Following in-depth discussion of the UK’s ESOS response, we decided to backtrack to the source, especially since every EU member is facing similar challenges. The core purpose of the directive is to place a pair of obligations on member states. These are

  1. To promote the availability of energy audits among final customers in all sectors, and;
  2. To ensure that enterprises that are not SMEs carry out energy audits at least every four years.

Given the ability for business to look twice at every piece of legislation it considers unproductive, the Brussels legislators took care to define what constitutes an enterprise larger than an SME.

Definition of a Large Undertaking

A large undertaking meets one or both of the following conditions:

  1. It employs 250 or more people
  2. Its annual turnover is more than €50 million and its balance sheet total exceeds €43 million

Rules for Energy Audits

If accredited / qualified in-house specialists are unavailable then independent experts should supervise audits. The talent shortage seems common to many EU businesses. In hindsight, the Union could have ramped up slower, especially since the first compliance date of 5 December 2015 does not leave much swing room.

ecoVaro doubts there was a viable alternative, given the urgent imperative to beat back the scourge of carbon that is threatening the viability of our planet. The legislators must have been of a similar mind when laying down the guidelines. Witness for example the requirement that penalties be ‘effective, proportionate and dissuasive’.

In order to be compliant, an energy audit must

  1. Be based on twelve months of verifiable data that is
    • over a continuous period beginning no more than 24 months before the beginning of the energy audit, and;
    • identifies energy saving opportunities including paths to their achievement
  2. Analyse the participant’s energy consumption and energy efficiency
  3. Have not been used as the basis for an energy audit in a previous compliance period

Measurement of current status and progress tracing are at the core of energy saving and good governance generally. EcoVaro has a powerhouse of software tools available on the cloud to help project teams save time and money.

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Symbion Pharmacy Services’ Definition of Responsibility

Test tubes in clinic, pharmacy and medical research laboratory with male scientist using pipette

A ‘symbion’ is an organism in a symbiotic (i.e. mutually beneficial) relationship with another one. In the case of Australia’s giant Symbion Pharmacy Services, this means supplying and delivering over-counter Chemmart medicines to more than 3,000 hospital and retail pharmacies, while remaining mindful of its carbon footprint.

In 1999, the company with the tagline ‘life matters’ and a desire to be seen as ‘a good corporate citizen’ decided it was time to measure exactly what it was pumping out from 12 facilities and over 200 vehicles. This was a voluntary decision as even now there is still no carbon emissions law in Australia (although no doubt being a ‘first mover’ will put the company in a competitive position when this inevitably comes).

Symbion decided to install emission detection devices and connect these to a central monitoring system with the intention of managing what these measured. There were two stages to this process. First, Symbion determined its reporting requirements based on one of its larger warehouses. Following that, it established a carbon footprint for each of its wholly owned and managed facilities. This put it in a position to:

  • Analyse total emissions down to a level of detail where it understood the contribution of each source
  • Use big data management tools to identify carbon hotspots for priority remedial action
  • Inform the affected workforce, explain the monitoring system and keep them in the loop
  • Separately manage energy abatement programs such as lighting and delivery routes

The program also had productivity spin-offs in that it focused management attention on the processes behind the emissions that were ripe for material and system improvements. It also provided marketing leverage. Symbion’s customers are in the wellness business, ahead of the curve when it comes to how emissions contribute to chronic illness, and aware of the cost of this in terms of human capital.

EcoVaro could help you manage your throughputs by analysing your data on our cloud-based system. This includes trending your metrics, comparing them to your industry seasonal average, and providing you with a business-like view of how well you are doing.

Our service reduces your reliance on (and the cost of) third party audits, and simplifies the reporting process to your controlling authority. It simply makes more sense to contract your software out this way, and only pay for it when you need it.

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ESOS Guide for UK Manufacturers Available

Peopl with lightbulb icon

The Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF) is the UK’s largest sectoral structure. Its goal is to promote the interests of manufacturing, engineering and technology-based businesses in order to enhance their competitiveness.

EEF has positioned itself in London and Brussels in order to be in a position to lobby at EU and Westminster level. Part of its role is helping its members adapt to change and capitalise on it. When it discovered that a third of UK manufacturers must comply with ESOS (and 49% had not even heard of it) EEF decided it was time to publish a handbook for its members.

According to EEF’s head of climate and environment policy Gareth Stace, ‘For the many manufacturers that have already taken significant steps to improve energy efficiency, ESOS can be viewed as a ‘stock taking exercise’, ensuring that momentum is maintained and new measures are highlighted and taken when possible’.

He goes on to add that others that have not begun the process should view it as an ‘impetus’ to go head down and find the most cost-effective ways to slash energy costs. Ecovaro adds that they would also have the opportunity to reduce carbon emissions almost as a by-product.

Firms with more than 250 employees, over £50 million revenue or both must comply with ESOS across all UK sectors. In simplest terms, they must have conducted an energy audit by 5th December 2015, and logged their energy saving plan with the Environmental Agency that is Britain’s sustainability watchdog.

The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DEEC) that oversees it believes that large UK businesses are wasting £2.8 billion a year on electricity they do not need. Clearly it makes sense to focus on larger targets; however EcoVaro believes those halfway to the threshold should voluntarily comply if cutting their energy bills by 25% sounds appealing.

We are able to assist with interpreting their energy audits. These are often a matter of installing sub-meters at distribution points, and reading these for a few representative months to establish a trend. Meters are inexpensive compared to electricity costs, and maintenance teams can install them during maintenance shutdowns.

Ecovaro helps these firms process the data into manageable summaries using cloud-based technology. This is on a pay-when-used basis, and hence considerably cheaper than acquiring the software, or appointing a consultant.

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UK Government Updates ESOS Guidelines

Thermostat, Home Energy Saving

Britain’s Environment Agency has produced an update to the ESOS guidelines previously published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Fortunately for businesses much of it has remained the same. Hence it is only necessary to highlight the changes here.

  1. Participants in joint ventures without a clear majority must assess themselves individually against criteria for participation, and run their own ESOS programs if they comply.
  2. If a party supplying energy to assets held in trust qualifies for ESOS then these assets must be included in its program.
  3. Total energy consumption applies only to assets held on both the 31 December 2014 and 5 December 2015 peg points. This is relevant to the construction industry where sites may exchange hands between the two dates. The definition of ‘held’ includes borrowed, leased, rented and used.
  4. Energy consumption while travelling by plane or ship is only relevant if either (or both) start and end-points are in the UK. Foreign travel may be voluntarily included at company discretion. The guidelines are silent regarding double counting when travelling to fellow EU states.
  5. The choice of sites to sample is at the discretion of the company and lead assessor. The findings of these audits must be applied across the board, and ‘robust explanations’ provided in the evidence pack for selection of specific sites. This is a departure from traditional emphasis on random.

The Environment Agency has provided the following checklist of what to keep in the evidence pack

  1. Contact details of participating and responsible undertakings
  2. Details of directors or equivalents who reviewed the assessment
  3. Written confirmation of this by these persons
  4. Contact details of lead assessor and the register they appear on
  5. Written confirmation by the assessor they signed the ESOS off
  6. Calculation of total energy consumption
  7. List of identified areas of significant consumption
  8. Details of audits and methodologies used
  9. Details of energy saving opportunities identified
  10. Details of methods used to address these opportunities / certificates
  11. Contracts covering aggregation or release of group members
  12. If less than twelve months of data used why this was so
  13. Justification for using this lesser time frame
  14. Reasons for including unverifiable data in assessments
  15. Methodology used for arriving at estimates applied
  16. If applicable, why the lead assessor overlooked a consumption profile

Check out: Ecovaro – energy data analytics specialist 

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Will UK Retailers Skim the Cream with ESOS?

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The British Retail Consortium (BRC) was quick out on the starting blocks with an ambitious plan to cut energy costs by 25% in 5 years. Their ‘25-in-5’ initiative is chasing a target of £4.4 billion savings during the duration. Part of this program involves ’cutting a path through a complex and inaccessible policy landscape’. BRC believes this drawback is making its members think twice about making energy efficiency investments.

The UK’s sprawling network of grocers, department stores and malls is the nation’s second most hungry energy customer, having spent £3.3 billion on it in 2013 when it accounted for almost 20% of carbon released. If you think that sounds bad, it purchased double that amount in 2005. However the consortium believes there is still more to come.

It bases this assumption on the push effect of UK energy rates increasing by a quarter during the duration of the project. ‘So it makes sense to be investing in energy efficiency rather than paying bills,’ Andrew Bolitho (property, energy, and transport policy adviser) told Business Green. The numbers mentioned exclude third party transport and distribution networks not under the British Retail Consortium umbrella.

The ‘complex and inaccessible policy landscape’ is the reflection of UK legislators not tidying up as they go along. BRC cites a ‘vast number of policies … spreading confusion, undermining investment and making it harder to raise capital’. The prime culprits are Britain’s CRC Energy Efficient Scheme (previously Carbon Reduction Commitment) which publishes league tables and ESOS. Andrew Bolitho believes this duality is driving confused investors away.

The British Retail Consortium is at pains to point out that this is not about watering things down, but making it simpler for participating companies to report on energy matters at a single point. It will soon go live with its own information hub providing information for retailers wishing to measure consumption at critical points, assemble the bigger picture and implement best practice.

Ecovaro agrees with Andrew Bolitho that lowering energy demand and cutting carbon is not just about technology. We can do much in terms of changing attitudes and providing refresher training and this does not have to cost that much. Studies have shown repeatedly that there is huge benefit in inviting employees to cross over to our side. In fact, they may already be on board to an extent that may surprise.

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