Small Business

What To Do If Your Office Space Feels Dark

Is Your Office Space to Dark?

If your office space is currently dark, gloomy, cold and cramped, it really could be unfit for business in every sense of the word.

After all, offices normally serve two different purposes. They’re where you and your workers carry out your daily business, calling clients, completing paperwork, holding meetings and making important decisions, among other vital everyday activities.

They are also often the place where you meet new and existing clients, discuss potential business deals and renew old ones, interview new members of staff and speak to business partners.

So your office is much more than just a building in which you happen to do your work. You and your workers spend the majority of the working day there, several days a week. It’s important, therefore, that it is truly fit for purpose.

The Effect on Your Workers

Numerous studies over the years have shown that employees are much more productive when their working space is bright, clean and comfortable. Working in buildings where the lighting is inadequate or where the temperature is too hot or too cold and the furniture is old and uncomfortable can have a detrimental effect on their health.

Your employees are far more likely to take time off sick if their working conditions are not ideal. Unhealthy working conditions lead to unhealthy workers, and even if your office is not unhealthy but just undesirable to work in, you may find you have a higher turnover of staff than should normally be expected.

Whatever your mode of business, all of your staff should be able to communicate effectively without having to overcome obstacles, move around their office with ease, sit comfortably at their desks and work in a light, bright and pleasing environment at all times.

No one wants to work in an office they feel uncomfortable in, even if they enjoy the work itself. If your chair keeps tilting backwards, your desk is not big enough to contain all your work, you have to keep your scarf on in the winter months because it’s so cold or you can’t see properly because the lighting is inadequate, you’ll soon be looking for another job.

The Effect on Your Clients

Bringing potential business clients into a dirty, overcrowded and gloomy office could be more than just embarrassing. Your office really is the first impression a client will get of your firm – and we all know that first impressions count.

Clients who see your office as something to avoid may well not want to come back again. And it’s no exaggeration to say it could put clients off doing business with you – if your office doesn’t look professional, clients may think you’re not either.

If you find yourself arranging business meetings in the local restaurant or bar instead of your own office space, it could be time to get something done before it leads to loss of business and, ultimately, profit.

How an Office Fit-Out Could Change Everything

An office refurbishment will do nothing but good for both your workers and clients and, consequently, your business.

Office refurbishment can encompass a whole host of changes, from modernising your existing office space with new fixtures and fittings to creating purpose-built offices or break-out spaces or simply refreshing the décor to installing complete heating and ventilation systems.

And if you can’t afford a complete refurbishment, even small changes such as decorating, getting new furniture and fitting new flooring could make a big difference. Making even minor changes will show your workers that you care about the environment they work in and could lead to greater productivity.

Call the Experts

And there’s no need to go it alone. Experts in office refurbishment – such as those at – will be able to help you every step of the way.

Get the professionals in and they will help you come up with the perfect design to fit your needs and your budget. They will work with you and the space you already have to determine the best way to modernise your office without breaking the bank.

Using the latest computer technology, they will help you design a brand new office which will be the envy of all your competitors.

Whether you just want new furniture, feel the need to create bigger meeting rooms or have an innovative idea to incorporate the latest technology into your office space, the refurbishment experts will be able to offer sensible advice and pass on the wealth of their experience.

And even if you’re planning a major fit-out, the refurbishment can usually be carried out while you remain in the office – a good refurbishment firm should be able to work around you and your workers so you don’t have to move out.

Small Business

The Promise Of The Paperless Office

Despite promises of the paperless office having been around for 30 years or more, we’re still wedded to the idea of putting things on paper. The problem is that printing needs within any business tend to grow organically. Printers are purchased to meet specific departmental needs, and there’s a lack of overall vision and control.

Of course, this also means that printing costs can spiral out of control. Having to source and stock different types of consumables, maintenance costs as well as energy use from printing will contribute to a drain on your budget. Often businesses don’t realise how much their printing is costing them and how much time the IT team spends administering and attending to printers.

By managing and controlling your printing resources centrally, it’s possible to streamline their operation and make significant savings, often around 30 percent, but how do you go about it?

Getting Started

The first step to implementing Managed Print Services from the experts at Xeretec is to conduct an audit of your existing print arrangements. This involves installing software that will monitor all of your printing over a defined period of time. You also need to take account of copiers and multifunction devices, as well as any printing jobs that you regularly contract out, such as producing publicity material for trade shows. Based on the results of a detailed analysis of all of these things, the supplier can come up with a solution based on the actual needs of your business.

This may allow you to reduce the numbers of printers and copiers you have installed, allowing you to make immediate savings by using the remaining machines you have more effectively.

At the core of managed print services is 24-hour remote monitoring of all your printers and copiers. This means problems can be spotted early and consumables can be ordered in a timely manner, removing the need to carry out these tasks internally and meaning there’s no need to carry large stocks of ink and toner.

There are other advantages to a monitored and managed system too. Technical issues can often be solved remotely rather than needing the attention of a technician. If someone does need to attend a site, remote analysis of the problem beforehand will enable then to know what parts and tools are needed to put things right, thus leading to a quicker fix and getting you up and running again as fast as possible.

You may think that switching to a managed print service will be expensive because it would involve replacing all of your existing equipment with new machines. However, in many cases it’s possible to use software to manage your existing printers and copiers, so there is no need for additional hardware expenditure. This is true even if you have older equipment and regardless of which brand the existing machines are.

Business Requirements

Businesses don’t stand still, and as your business develops scalability is an important factor in your IT systems. Managed print software allows you to spot changing patterns of usage as the business grows as well as seasonal variations. You have the flexibility to track usage by site, department or even down to individual user level if required, so you can respond to changing patterns of demand before they lead to problems and bottlenecks.

One of the big advantages of a managed service is that it can help you reduce waste. You can cut down on paper use as well as that of ink and toner by ensuring that prints are only produced when they’re really needed. You can stop unauthorised use of printers and copiers for personal tasks too. You can also save on the amount of energy used. Overall this leads to a reduction in your environmental footprint, helping you meet your green targets.

Switching to a managed print service will also mean better responsiveness to your business requirements. Increasingly, companies are turning to the use of mobile devices, and a centrally managed print network allows smartphones and tablets to print just as easily as desktop and laptop PCs. It also means that mobile and home workers can still have access to central printing resources.

With GDPR on the horizon, businesses need to ensure that they’re taking care of their personal data. A managed print service helps to control who is allowed to print what. It also ensures you have an audit trail and history of copy usage. This is useful from a security point of view and also allows you to pinpoint which parts of the business are doing the most printing.

Small Business

Recruiting sales people can be a difficult task

Recruiting sales people can be a difficult task – or rather the difficulty is in recruiting sales people who actually deliver consistently and stick with the job. Whether the role is direct sales, key account management, field sales, business development, internal or international or online, these disparate functions have a common performance requirement: to deliver revenue.

Unlike other areas of an organisation, the sales specialisation is one of the more difficult to assess from the recruitment process itself, and non-delivery is a common and expensive occurrence when it comes down to actual performance.

Why the Performance Deficit?

The trouble is that you need the sales team to look the part and talk the talk – that is their job and why you want them. Sales people are good at it. That’s what they do. And they apply their polished and persuasive skill set to the new job application process with just as much, if not more, enthusiasm, energy and dedication as they do to hitting their targets.

Sales people are expected to be good negotiators, appreciate the value of their worth and create an impression of confidence and professionalism – almost without thinking, they court their audience, whether it is the personnel department or the customer.

Graduate sales candidates further complicate the equation with a sense of self-worth, idealism and naivete of youth mixed with little or no experience under the belt. Training across the board addresses much of the support required, but sometimes sales people have an ineffable belief in their own methods, which may not fit the business culture.

Of course, the seasoned HR professional is fully aware of this, and the screening process is thorough and designed to weed out potential non-performers. There are obvious alarm bells, such as job hopping, psychometric tests, various analyses to highlight potential issues, but none of these substitute for actually doing the job.

Specialist Sales Agency Partners

However, when it comes down to it, it is often not until several months into the job that the cracks may show in the performance or poor integration into the new environment. By the time the situation is clear, it is generally after several months of expensive payroll and benefits, not to mention the expiry of the traditional guaranty period for agency fees. There is a further cost to the company in terms of wasted training and resources, followed by yet another agency fee to pay to start all over again.

Developing a good close ongoing relationship with a recruitment firm that can get to understand the business and requirements will help, so it may be a good idea to invest time in finding a recruitment partner that has a more detailed insight into this area of recruitment. They will be able to head off known offenders, so your time is not wasted, and act as another pair of eyes and ears to help check the fit of the individuals.

Specialisation is the key here, so look for expertise in recruitment of sales people and an understanding of the nature of the characteristics required, such as Metamorphose specialist sales recruitment. Perhaps consider a more sustained agreement package for the partner agency to engage on a longer-term basis in the successful tenure of the sales candidate.

Sales Team Progression

Another difficult area is progression for sales people. It is not in the nature of driven high performers to sit still and enjoy doing the same thing year in, year out. The utopia for sales would be for consistent and continually increasing sales with healthy margins – for its sales people to sell lots of products or services. Albeit greatly oversimplified, the more that is sold, the bigger the bonuses and earnings and the better for the firm. Progression is a difficult thing to manage because there is disparity between continued motivation to sell more and more versus continually performing the same function.

The characteristics that make a successful, dedicated, target-beating sales person do not necessarily make good motivational sales managers. The best sales people are highly focused, driven and single-minded, whereas management needs a completely different skill set to handle a team of strong-minded individuals and get the best out of the individuals. Another challenge in itself.

However, the key is to maximise the success of the fledgling sales person as a consistent on-target performer and to minimise expensive underperformance. Strong, appropriate screening procedures, effective induction and training and a strong specialist ally in your sales recruitment agency partner are good tools for the job. Hopefully, this will engender more consistent delivery and traction in the sales team so that they can focus on talking the talk.

Small Business

Legal practice management software

Legal practice management software can often be either the best thing or worst thing to happen to a law firm. The best sort of practice management software is one which partners and associates hope would be composed of a central management system and database that is easy to use, automatically syncs new clients and cases and robustly ensures that all billable time is accounted for and that billing and accounting issues are dealt with swiftly and in accordance with accounting rules. And it will also ensure that clients pay their bills on time.

You will find that there are some very good practice management software packages out there. The key is to choose one that will tick all of your law firm’s particular boxes. Here we set out five key issues to consider when choosing a new legal practice management system.

1) Security

The ability to assure clients that their confidentiality is respected is key. It is therefore essential that any practice management software system is secure. There has been a recent increase in the number of systems which offer cloud-based storage. This can be great, as a key benefit of such storage systems is that they are flexible in terms of the amount of storage and can reflect your current needs. However, you must be assured that the security measures employed by the software are up to scratch.

2) Risk Management

Running a law firm successfully is a complicated business. Not only are there the clients to care for, but various rules and regulations must be observed. Law firms must ensure that they are compliant with necessary anti-money-laundering legislation, SRA accounts rules, HMRC, LAA and Lexcel guidelines. Whilst most law firms are prudent and appoint professionals within their firm to keep an eye on these issues, there are practice management systems out there today, such as, which will undertake duplicate checks to ensure that accountancy rules are complied with and have built-in features to remind staff of their obligations to comply with other regulators. Some practice management systems now also have installed user prompts that will be activated when inaccurate time entries are recorded – an essential aspect when the same practice management system also generates bills with automated calculations.

3) Ease of Use

Not everyone in a law firm is a fee earner, but those who fulfil HR, IT and accountancy functions also need to have access to the practice management system. For this reason, it can be invaluable to choose a system which is easily personalised for individualised access and role-related information. Look out for those software packages that enable you to design role-based work flows, which will guide each member of staff through their own projects on their own terms rather than being stuck with a rigid work flow that was designed by somebody outside of the firm who has little idea how the internal processes actually work.

4) Flexible Working

In today’s 24-hour working world, there is an increased increased demand from staff to be able to work flexibly. This can range from being able to work from home to working restricted or extended hours. When a single centralised database is based on cloud storage, staff can log in from a secure online connection from any location. Whilst this has clear benefits for flexible working, it also ensures that those firms with multiple locations and staff who are often out of the office at meetings or at court can work wherever they are.

In addition to ensuring that staff can work in ways that suit their individual needs, allowing staff to log in and carry out their work in accordance with their own schedule can enhance output and efficiency. Key to fee-earner roles is the fact that they may be able to record their billable hours when they are actually doing the work. Capturing a great deal more of the work that is carried out than traditionally has been possible. Choosing practice management software that can be accessed from any location may ensure that you capture your solicitors’ chargeable tasks whilst they work or post activities.

5) System Support

When you have a firm that has evolved to reflect modern working practices, there may be times when a solitary person is working in the middle of the night. If there is a technical problem at that time, it is essential that expert technical support is available to ensure that that the employee’s work is not wasted and that their time is not disregarded. For this reason, we would advise that you look for a practice management software system that is reinforced with uninterrupted expert technical support easily accessed by any member of staff.

Small Business

Ever Thought About Position Sensors

Most people probably won’t ever think about position sensors – they just aren’t a flashy component likely to grab headlines any time soon. Despite that, position sensors are used in a huge number of areas that people encounter every day.

From construction to almost all transportation methods, incredibly specialised medical tools and almost every combustion engine, position sensors are absolutely core to everyday operation.

Position Sensors Keep Buildings Standing

Anyone who owns a property knows that the ground shifts, potentially leading to subsidence and eventually collapse. For buildings near coastlines or riverbanks, erosion leads to similar concerns. To keep tabs on these, and more, position sensors are used.

In areas where ground movement or erosion are concerns, position sensors are used to monitor the shift, allowing corrective action to be taken before damage is done. The sensors, such as LVDTs, are anchored to a fixed point on known solid ground or to the building on the land as well as to a series of points in the ground, allowing the movement of the ground to be monitored remotely for even the smallest shift.

Position sensors are used to great effect when stabilising structures against the sea floor, as movement is nearly constant. For this there are specialised submersible displacement sensors which remain accurate when entirely flooded with water.

Position Sensors Keep Vehicles Safe

Whenever you drive a car or travel by boat or by plane, you rely on a multitude of position sensors, many of which are detailed on These sensors keep control elements moving and measured, make sure the brakes are working properly and even keep the engines running.

To start with, many modern vehicles use fly-by-wire systems, where the controls are not directly connected with the control surfaces. Instead, the input of the pilot is converted to an electric impulse, which is then translated to mechanical force on the control surface, such as a ship’s rudder or the flaps on an aircraft.

These systems use position sensors at each end – one set of sensors on the pilot’s controls translating their movements into impulses to control the craft, and another set on the control surfaces sending information back to the pilot in the form of dashboard information.

While few cars use fly-by-wire systems, most hydraulic systems and braking systems include LVDTs. In the hydraulic systems such as brake lines and steering, the LVDT communicates with the car’s computer system to ensure the correct amount of pressure is being applied. In braking systems, the brake calipers are monitored by LVDTs to ensure the correct amount of braking pressure is applied, especially in cases where the brakes are not directly activated by the driver, such as anti-lock braking systems and the separate brakes on a trailer.

On high-performance vehicles, LVDTs will also measure the position of the throttle valve, communicating with the onboard computer to provide telemetry data, allowing for smooth start-up and an extremely responsive throttle.

LVDTs in Medicine

While most applications covered so far have been fairly heavy-duty industrial applications, position sensors also have a place in extremely delicate surgical instruments.

Special-purpose contactless LVDTs crafted on a nearly microscopic scale have an important role in brain surgery, where the difference between success and catastrophic failure is a tiny fraction of a centimetre.

LVDTs play an important part in all small-scale surgical procedures due to their incredible precision and capacity for miniaturisation.

The reason why position sensors are used in so many different ways where mechanical or higher-tech solutions may well be viable is due to their flexibility, as demonstrated by their being used in industrial applications, such as the hydraulics systems on construction equipment as well as extremely precise medical implementations.

Position sensors can be produced to withstand being submerged indefinitely, even in liquids other than water. Purpose-built position sensors can operate either flooded with the liquid or when liquid tight, as well as being produced from a multitude of materials if corrosion is a concern.

Depending on their construction, position sensors can also be produced to withstand extreme temperatures, with even the medically applied sensors being capable of operation between -25 C and 65 C – far outside the range where anyone would hope to perform surgery.

Position sensors are not glamorous, and they aren’t what you think of when you consider the systems they are involved in. They do, however, enable those systems to operate properly. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to accurately measure ground slippage or erosion, our hydraulic systems would be imprecise and the brakes on our cars would be erratic. They may not be glamorous, but they are important and they are everywhere.

Small Business

Director disqualification is governed by the Company Director Disqualification Act 1986

Director disqualification is governed by the Company Director Disqualification Act 1986 (CDDA). Although there are a number of potential reasons for a company director to face disqualification, the most common relates to insolvency. However, it is worth noting that new additional grounds, included in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 (SBEEA), mean that it is also now possible to face disqualification: (1) if an individual is convicted of a company-related offence in a foreign jurisdiction; and (2) where an individual issued instructions to a director that led to that director being disqualified. Clearly, this represents a significant broadening of the reach of director disqualification legislation.

Disqualifications: An Upward Trend

In the financial year 2013-2014, there were 1208 director disqualifications, with the average length of disqualification being 6.2 years. This is not to say that finding oneself the director of an insolvent company is an automatic shortcut to disqualification. Over a period of five years, only one in 20 directors of companies that went into administration, insolvency or receivership were subsequently disqualified from acting as a director. Despite this apparently reassuring statistic, director disqualifications do appear to be on an upward trend. Figures covering the first quarter of 2016 show that 390 directors were disqualified, which is an increase of 56% on the same period in 2015. The effect of the SBEEA is likely to exacerbate this trend.

Disqualifications: Reasons for the Rise

This upward trend is likely to be due, at least in part, to new reporting rules that came into force in April 2016 that place director conduct under much closer scrutiny than previously. Of greater interest is why this closer scrutiny was deemed necessary.

Disqualifications: The Process

Under the April 2016 reporting rules, office holders (i.e. the official receiver, a liquidator, an administrator or a receiver) now have a duty to provide a report on the conduct of every director of an insolvent company, if that insolvency started on or after 6 April 2016. The report, known as a D report, must be submitted to the Insolvency Office’s Disqualification Unit. It is then the Insolvency Service’s job to investigate the director’s conduct and to determine if disqualification is in the public interest. If the Insolvency Service decides to pursue disqualification, it is obliged to give a minimum of ten days’ notice of its intention to the affected director. There are then two ways in which the disqualification can take effect. The first is through a court order, and the second is via the director offering a disqualification undertaking. Both routes have the same result: an individual is disqualified for between two and 15 years. Sometimes it is possible to avert this outcome by seeking the professional services of experts, such as

Disqualifications: The Effects

To be on the receiving end of a disqualification order is a serious matter. As well as prohibiting that person from being a director, it also bars them from promoting, forming or managing a company in any capacity. This is designed to prevent puppet directorships, in which a disqualified director carries on running the company by “pulling the strings” of an individual who has been appointed in their stead. It is a criminal offence to act as a director while a disqualification order is in effect. To do so also risks the individual concerned being held personally liable for any or all of the company’s debts. In certain, very limited, circumstances it is permissible to apply to the court for permission to act as a director while disqualified. Whether or not permission is granted is at the court’s discretion.

Disqualifications: Determining Unfitness Amendments to the CDDA now express what constitutes unfit conduct in far more general terms. The court must now assess, and take into consideration, an individual’s responsibility for a company’s failure. This includes the effect of that individual’s conduct on any loss or harm suffered by or to the company. Any breach of fiduciary duty may result in the director facing a Civil Compensation Order. The amount is at the discretion of the court. Any director facing court-ordered disqualification or who offers a disqualification undertaking is now potentially liable for a Civil Compensation Order. The wish to avoid this may make directors even keener to avoid disqualification.

Disqualifications – How to Avoid Them

With the new legislative changes and the promise of yet more to come, this is a complicated area and one that is difficult to navigate without specialist advice. However, prudent directors will take action at a much earlier stage. Carrying out duties responsibly and honestly while also having due regard for the interests of creditors is essential. It is often worthwhile to seek professional advice on the proper performance of directors’ duties. It is certainly worth doing for any director facing disqualification investigations, considering making voluntary disqualification undertakings or wishing to defend disqualification proceedings.

Small Business

Choosing the right cables is very important

Whether you’re planning a new workplace, upgrading the cabling in an existing business or setting up a home office network, choosing the right cable is vital. It can make a huge difference to data speeds and therefore to business efficiency. But how is Cat6 different from Cat5? And when would you use fibre optic? Let’s look at the answers to some of these questions.

Note that if your business is suffering from slow internet speeds, for example, faster “Cat” cables will help. But if your equipment or internet connection isn’t capable of transferring data at the faster speeds, you won’t get the benefit of the better cables.

Cat5 and Cat5e

You may well have an installation that is running on Category 5 cable, known as “Cat5”. If you don’t know, you can find out quite easily by looking on the cable – the type of cable will be written on it.

Cat5 was the previous cabling standard, and it may still be adequate for your needs. However, as commercial applications get more data-hungry, it may not be able to cope. You may need video-conferencing or data streaming and may find that these are not achievable using your existing cable infrastructure.

Most cabling in buildings is Cat5e, a standard that has been in use since the turn of the twenty-first century. There’s been a lot of change since then in the way we use data – in particular, the use of cloud computing, which involves the ability to send and receive information rapidly from virtualised applications.

Cat5e cables are copper with four twisted pairs and a bandwidth of 100MHz. The cable reduces interference from other signals and noise. Within Cat5e cables, there are many different kinds. Some are ruggedised for use outdoors or suitable for being buried in the ground. Most are suitable for Gigabit Ethernet installations or high-speed LANS.

Cat6 and Cat6a

Cat6 can handle a bandwidth of 200 MHz. You’ll need Cat6 if you plan on using Voice Over Internet applications such as VOIP phone systems, door entry cameras or Power Over Ethernet (POE) devices. These are devices that take their power from the Ethernet LAN data cables they are connected to. They don’t need power cables, which can simplify the installation when desk space is limited or a high number of cables are in use.

Cat6 cabling is also less liable to signal noise and transmits data more quickly. Gigabit Ethernet networks need to transmit data at 200MHz+, so Cat6 has become a standard for use in these installations. A 100-metre length of Cat6 cable can transfer data at 1000 megabits per second. The cables also have less crosstalk with other nearby cables, so the data arrives without transmission errors.

Cat6 is proving particularly popular for conference rooms and training rooms, where media may need be transmitted or received. In fact, it looks as though Cat6 is pushing out HDMI and becoming the de facto transmission standard for audio-visual information.

If you need transmission frequency that is twice that of Cat6, then Cat6a can deliver 500 MHz. Wireless communications and video streaming both require this kind of performance.

Cat7, Cat7a and Cat8

It won’t come as a surprise that these cables deliver lower crosstalk and higher speeds. These are the most recent products. Most company applications and home office networks aren’t going to need the kinds of speed and capacity they offer – yet. However, the story of cabling is of more and more demand for speed and bandwidth, so if you’re investing for the future, you may feel it’s worth doing some future-proofing and over-engineering a little.

How Are the “Cat” Types Different from Fibre Optic?

A good cable supplier such as will stock a range of fibre optic cable alongside “Cat” copper cables. This is because many businesses that have found capacity constraints using Cat6 are not looking at Cat7 and Cat8 cables. Instead, they are switching to fibre optic for some parts of their wiring. They may use fibre optic to join together different parts of their network – perhaps on different floors of a building.

Because fibre optic uses light instead of electricity to transmit signals, it’s very resistant to crosstalk and interference. The cable can also be used over much longer distances without the need to amplify the signal. Even at 10Gb per second, fibre optic signals are much cleaner than those sent by electrical cables.

However, fibre optic cables and other equipment, such as network interface cards, are more expensive than traditional copper cables. So a business needs to do a cost-benefit analysis to weigh up the increased speed, cleaner data and longer cable runs of fibre optic against the cheapness and established technology of the “Cat” cables.

Small Business

Changes in the way we navigate around the world

Over the past two decades, changes in the way we navigate our world have been drastic, as has the way we perceive ourselves within our local environment. No longer do we think in terms of where we are on a map but where features on the map are in relation to us. Thanks to the sat nav and GPS, we’ve now become a static blue dot in the centre of our personal universe, while virtual cities and countrysides rotate and move past us as we travel.

Mike Duggan, who studies Cultural Geography at Royal Holloway, looks at how digital mapping has altered the way we experience ordinary places and navigation, and in particular, urban environments. He explains that the digital maps available right in our pockets ‘smooth out’ complex urban environments into simple, easy-to-understand graphics in whichever context we need. For example, digital maps can give you your location in terms of distances from food outlets, entertainment or places of historic interest – the list goes on.

A World-Wide Personalised Pocket Map

Now that digital maps are cheap and widely available, we have a greater command over the environment we navigate. We can call up our location on a map on our phones just about anywhere within seconds, complete with information on which direction we’re facing. With the aid of Google Street View, we can even take the virtual journey beforehand and familiarise ourselves with landmarks along the way. Maps have become interactive – for example, there are now cycling street map apps that allow users to add cycle-friendly information about various locations ranging from bicycle security to recommended routes. Map using communities are encouraged to contribute local knowledge to help their fellow users get the best from their maps.

Professional Map Production

Traditional map makers, like Ordnance Survey, are at the forefront of digital mapping, with their content of their apps constantly updated, free from the constraints of paper maps going out of date. But digital mapping isn’t just for the individual wanting to get from A to B with the help of a mobile app, and static maps are still essential in various industries. For example, digital map providers like allow the layers and flexibility needed for specific maps to be produced in line with requirements for processes such as planning applications, site valuation, risk management and transport and routing.

Power and Control

In the past, maps were more often considered symbols of power than tools for navigation. Tom Harper, who is the curator of antiquarian mapping at the British Library, explains how maps of the sixteenth century were little more than ornaments – hung in the manors and palaces of rulers and lords to represent the extent of the power they exerted. Common folk of the day would never have seen a map, nor have any knowledge of the land beyond a few miles of their local environment.

As maps and atlases came into more widespread use in the 18th and 19th centuries, they imposed a physical sense of scale on the user in terms of distance, and the user needed to pinpoint their position on the map by means of co-ordinates. Digital mapping, however, has returned that sense of control over the land we travel, and more.

Most of us who drive will be familiar with using sat navs, planning a route in advance and interacting with live traffic updates, giving the chance to avoid long queues. Journey length is expressed in terms of time as well as miles or kilometres, and drivers given the opportunity of adding two miles to their planned route if it’s going to cut ten minutes from the journey time are most likely going take that option. The saying that knowledge is power is as true in navigation as it is in any other context. A live map helps you make informed decisions and gives you the power over the environment you’re navigating, allowing you to take control.

More and more, we’re living among empty outlines of our world seen through the tiny window of our mobile devices, animated and simplified, raising concerns that future generations will forget to stop and take in the wonders of our cities and countryside. But the continual generation of up-to-date maps that can be accessed digitally has helped smooth the processes that development, planning and construction industries need to go through in order to see their projects through to completion. Not only that, digital maps visualise data for environmental risk assessments to help monitor and protect the environment we live in and travel through every day.