BBD, an international software solutions company that solves real-world problems with innovative solutions and modern technology stacks, talks doing business in Cape Town and beyond. From company milestones to sharing business advice to startups entering the space, read our full Q&A with BBD Executive, Charlene Cooke, here:

Please explain BBD’s product and services in a nutshell.

BBD is a South African grown custom software solutions company founded in 1984. With extensive experience across various sectors and a wide array of technologies, BBD’s core services encompass digital enablement, software engineering and solutions support, which includes cloud engineering, data science, product design and managed services.

What is BBD’s unique selling proposition?

Over the past 40-odd years, BBD has built a reputation for hiring the best talent and collaborating with client teams to deliver exceptional value through software. As the company has grown, this unwavering commitment to quality and continuous innovation has ensured clients get the full benefit from software that meets their unique environment.

How do you measure success in your business?

As technologists, we measure success as having working software that meets client requirements in the production environment. As a solution provider, we measure success on the relationships we have with our clients. As a people-focussed business, we measure success on the state of our people because we wouldn’t be where we are without them. But at the end of the day, having weathered every storm to come our way, we see our ability to continue to grow as a key indication of our success.

Why was Cape Town chosen as a location for BBD’s operations?

After making a strategic move to purchase an existing business in Cape Town, BBD felt a strong sense of synergy with the people and the creative spirit embedded in this city. As it made sense for our growing client base and operations at the time, we decided to open our Cape Town hub officially. Since then the hub has flourished. We are lucky to have a group of strong women leading the charge in Cape Town who have onboarded a team of talented, young engineers who are driving hard to create value for clients while shaping the community around them for the better.

What made you choose to start a company in this industry?

Our three founders (who we’re named after – little fact!) saw a gap in the market at the time for a custom software development company which brought incredible passion, skills and a unique perspective into the market. They set up shop in one of their garages and quickly built a company that still embodies those original values alongside a ubiquitous culture that sets BBD apart. From those three original founders, BBD now sits with over 1200 highly talented employees.

What is BBD’s competitive advantage and how does it differentiate itself from its competitors?

BBD’s competitive advantage really lies in the people we employ and the value we deliver to clients. By hiring the best we’re able to develop and deploy the best solutions for each unique client landscape. This, alongside our incredible depth and width of experience and technical know-how means that BBD is a top provider of software solutions for scale-ups, start-ups and large enterprises alike. This is not to mention our innovative approach to each problem or challenge and our dedication to partnering with our clients and their teams to ensure effective, reliable and sustainable solutions.

What are BBD’s biggest challenges and how are they being addressed?

Throughout the global tech space, and especially with the growing fervour for remote work, talent is in incredibly high demand. Engineers and IT professionals have their pick of the litter when it comes to finding the right company to work for. To counter this, and in line with our own growth strategy, BBD has opened hubs in the UK, Netherlands, Portugal and India alongside the three hubs we have in South Africa. We’re now able to employ the best talent no matter where they sit, deploying them into distributed teams on challenging projects for clients around the globe. This, coupled with our reputation, tech stacks, project variety and culture has meant we’re able to continue to thrive despite the challenges in the industry.

What advice would you give to other businesses facing similar challenges?

Paint a picture for where you see your company growing in the middle to long term, and then experiment and think creatively on how you can make that your reality.

Often what works for one company won’t work for the next. Success in facing challenges lies in constantly evolving while staying true to your roots and above all, putting your people first.

What is the company’s approach to innovation and how does it stay ahead of the curve?

We like to say that innovation pumps through the heart of BBD. In our space, we have to move with the pace of technology and so it’s always been vital to our success that we ensure that our people embrace this. A large part of our innovation lies in constantly learning and upskilling at all levels across the business while creating a healthy environment where people can explore what they’ve learnt, play with new technologies, and creatively and collectively solve problems.

What is the BBD’s strategy for growth and expansion?

Our current growth strategy is to expand further into Europe, building a stronger presence in the market that showcases African innovation as well as the value passion can deliver.

What is the company’s approach to sustainability and corporate social responsibility?

BBD has always taken our social responsibility seriously. We approach this on various fronts including running very successful Grad and Bursar Programmes to ensure we’re giving the next generations ample opportunity to succeed; sponsoring various free tertiary education organisations such as WeThinkCode_ and Umuzi; donating our time and expertise to programmes that work with underprivileged school students to improve their foundational knowledge and exposure to technology; donating to various charities; founding computer labs in rural and underprivileged schools; and working with the tech community in South Africa to grow it’s reach and impact.

On the sustainability front, BBD is socially conscious and committed to building a better community, environment and economy. As such, we put our money where our mouth is and take a strong stance on ESG (Enviornment, Social and Governance). For example, within the Environmental pillar we have reduced our carbon energy consumption and footprint, consumable usage and waste – recycling and reusing wherever possible. As mentioned above for the Social pillar, we have ensured we are bettering the communities around us while creating an environment for our people that fosters inclusion, diversity, equity and wellbeing. And in terms of Governance, we practice fair and equitable hiring practices, and have created a culture that supports and encourages open discussion and innovation. Creating a positive impact across these various fronts means that we’re aiding not only our people and the community around us, but the industry and the South African economy.

What are BBD’s biggest achievements to date?

  • First and foremost is our track record. We have built partnerships with clients that have, in numerous cases, lasted for over 30 years.
  • In recognition of our cloud solutions, BBD was awarded the 2021 AWS Social Impact Partner of the Year and 2022 AWS Partner of the Year awards for the Sub-Saharan Africa region.
  • We have consistently been awarded the highest accolade in the Deloitte Best Company Survey – highlighting the strength of our business, people and leadership.
  • As the development partner, BBD worked closely with a client creating a game-changing application for the telecommunications sector. The project ended up winning the Best Mobile App in Africa award or three consecutive years.
  • Opening hubs on 3 continents and in 5 countries has been a massive milestone for the company.

What are the company’s plans for the next 5 years?

In the next five years, BBD plans to continue our growth trajectory at home here in South Africa as well as in our operations in Europe specifically. This extends not only to our client relationships and employee count, but also to the positive impact we can make in bridging the digital divide and ensuring exposure to technology becomes ubiquitous in schools throughout the country.

Watch: BBD – Your software development partner

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