Meet The Team – Nick Downton, Technical Architect

August 11, 2016

We took some time out of Nick’s busy schedule to find out what it is exactly a technical architect does. As you will quickly learn, Nick’s technical expertise is second to none, which is why he plays such a crucial role in our work with Panasonic. The technology giant signed up with us to help them undergo a digital transformation and it’s Nick’s job to the design the systems to make it happen.

He highlights the Panasonic Specification Database as a system he is particularly proud to have helped create. It’s easy to see why: it gives Panasonic the ability to manage the workflow of their product data from the factories up, giving the marketing team streams of insight to apply as they see fit. Quite the upgrade from the Excel-led system they relied on previously.

We’ll let Nick explain exactly what else the system offers Panasonic…

How have you come to arrive at Proctor + Stevenson?

I’ve been developing for 16 years. I did quite a bit at high school – just playing around with stuff – then I did a computer science degree in Cardiff. After that, I started work at a brand new marketing agency – I was the first developer in that company. While I was there, we grew that up to a team of around 20, pulling in some big multinational clients and sports personalities. It was a really interesting and challenging job because we had to learn as we went along. That was around 8 years ago, before I moved to Proctor + Stevenson. I found myself at Proctors after moving down to Bristol with aspirations to work on bigger systems and to do more interesting things – it was obvious Proctors were tackling some big problems in marketing and they had a bigger team as well, which was attractive to me.

Give us an insight into your day-to-day role…

I work 80% on the Panasonic contract. On our systems that we develop, I’ll be responsible for designing the technical side of that, down to the code level, but also how all the processes work in those systems.

A good example is the Panasonic Specification Database (PSD – a bespoke product information management system we built for them – which manages the workflow of their product data all the way from the factories in Japan through to their partners and end user website. It basically streamlines the workflow, getting that information to their marketing people. Before they were just doing everything with ExCel spreadsheets, sending them via email, but now they’ve got this full workflow, which brought together their R&D departments, their factories and their marketing people, allowing them to push out accurate product data within hours, rather than within weeks or months.

What projects have you enjoyed working on the most?

The PSD has probably been the best project to work on. We’ve had to take requirements from stakeholders from a wide range of countries and job roles – the system has to work for both the R&D team and the marketing people – and we also have this solution connected to other vendors’ systems, so we work quite closely with a development team in Japan, who connect to that via an API. We have a really good relationship with some of Panasonic’s other vendors, too. I’ve just returned from two weeks in Japan, overseeing the rollout of a new version of their partner portal, which connects to the PSD.

What technology has made the biggest difference to you?

There’s a system we use here called New Relic – they’ve got an impressive marketing strategy. It basically starts with something all developers like and that’s a free T-shirt – they just send you that for signing up – but once they’ve got your email address, they’ve got a very good automated marketing campaign, which guides you through the process of setting up the system, finding the bits of the system that you wouldn’t ordinarily click, in a very easy-to-understand way. It’s all geared towards the actual people who are going to use it, not the decision makers. They really let the developers do the selling for them.

We evaluated that system a while ago and we’ve ended up rolling it out to all of our clients, and we’ve also pushed it into Panasonic.

What do you think makes Proctors unique?

The thing I like about Proctors is that we don’t just do content management systems. Quite often, marketing can be just about having a website and putting some information on there – not really doing anything, just expecting people to come and buy the product. But, working with our clients, they’re often really interested in what we can technology-wise. For me, that’s taught me as a developer, there can be interesting challenges in marketing.

What makes P+S different in your eyes?

We don’t just do content managements systems. We’ve got a really talented team of developers who are doing pretty complicated integrations and bespoke functionality. We think we find that when a client is able to embrace that idea of using technology they get much better results; they get more feedback about what their clients are looking for. That’s what our department is all about – technical solutions that can give you better visibility.

What do you do in your spare time?

I’ve got a little sailing dinghy, which I race at weekends. Quite a few of us in the development team ride bikes, so we try to do that together occasionally. And a few of us play in an orchestra together – I play the viola. It’s nice to get away from the screen every once in a while.