Newly-appointed NZ CEO of Intergen, Simon Bright, talks about the company’s move away from traditional services to Cloud-based services, its investment in Australia and the ways in which the firm has changed its sales strategy to address disparate decision-making processes and deliver on business-based outcomes in organisations.
Q: Can you provide some perspective on the firm’s focus and growth in the last couple of years?
Simon Bright: We have been pretty clear in terms of what our strategy has been over the last three years. We very much continue to grow our NZ business from a scale perspective and ensure that we are in a position to support offshore businesses. We have been pushing very strongly into the Australian market. We have opened three offices there now - Sydney, Melbourne and Perth - and those offices are growing. We have around 65 people in Australia now. That's been effectively our investment arm of the business.
We have an office based in Seattle which is to support the work that we do directly for Microsoft Corporation. Microsoft Corporation has become our largest clients by a reasonable margin now. That effectively drives some of the innovation that we are able to bring back to NZ and Australia. We use that business to understand the direction of Microsoft, understand what it takes to work with new technologies that are coming through and bring those learnings back to our team here in NZ and Australia.
Looking back it has very much been growth by physical location. But we have grown by capability as well. We have stretched our arms to be able to operate in what might be considered the infrastructure space. We think that has been 100 per cent enabled by the fact that cloud has changed what infrastructure is. We have no desire to get into touching hardware or touching cables that connect those things. From an infrastructure perspective we are now able to play in platform management and desktop management. Through Cloud enabled services, using System Center and Windows Intune, we have been able to play a big role in managing environments for clients.
That effectively gives us an end-to-end offering which is fully supported by both public and private Cloud offerings.
If we look at people and revenue perspective, about 22 per cent comes from the South Island in NZ and the remainder from the North Island. We do 45 per cent of our national revenue from the public sector. Around 55 per cent comes from retail, financial services and manufacturing verticals.
We have around 350 people in NZ and we are looking to add to that base. We are currently actively looking the market. There are open roles on our website and we are running a bounty process to attract people to the business. We have a high demand for our services and we are keen to grow the business this year.
Q: What kind of business solutions have you seen gaining the most traction in the last couple of years?Read more: Mature datacentre footprint still has room for innovation: Veeam
SB: One of the things that we find quite interesting with our customers now - and it has really been happening for the last couple of years - is a demand for faster time to value. The way that it tends to play out in our business is that we tend to be in a situation where we are offering a continuous evolution type service. That falls back to being able to deliver those sessions through the Cloud.
From an apps perspective we have seen strong business over the last 18 months in developing and deploying cohesion solutions, like the enterprise content management (ECM) solution for AoG (All of Government). We secured a place on the panel to provide ECM services to AoG. That is a Microsoft platform-based solution that allows us to deliver that fully through the cloud. Therefore we can really offer up that end-to-end service of providing application elements as well. That is a bit of Sharepoint, some records managment software - which is a solution called RecordPoint - to deliver a collaboration and document records management solution for those government agencies. That is a growth area for us.
In terms of other things mobility space is very interesting at the moment. We are doing a lot of work cross platform. Most people would regard Intergen as a pure Microsoft services provider, but when it comes to effective enterprise mobility we do need to play across technologies, need to be able to deliver a solution that plays as well as on an IPad as it does on a Windows device. And that's where we have spent a lot of our time over the last 12 months. We have done a lot of work for clients in NZ effectively enabling their businesses to be mobile.
We have been doing a lot of work for the large services companies basically allowing them to change the way in which their field workforce effectively have conversations with their customers and bringing a whole bunch of efficiencies through that process.
The other one is around public sector and public security within NZ.
Q: What are the trends that you foresee for the near future?
SB: We see mobility continuing as a trend because of the proliferation of devices in the market and ways in which people want to work and interact. It is truly interesting to take the view around what this means. This doesn't necessarily mean delivering a line of business apps to a mobile device. It is effectively enabling and improving a mobile workforce and in the Microsoft world it can be through Access, Office 365 for mobile devices, right through to delivering mobile versions of Microsoft business apps such as ERP and CRM solutions.
We very much see that continuing.
One other thing that has been interesting for us to observe is this whole trend towards the decision makers being spread throughout an organisation. A whole lot of the conversations we are having are with marketing, CMO type roles, as opposed to the traditional CIO roles. This is about the world focussing on the customer experience and wanting the customer to be highly engaged with the businesses.
That has been good for us. We have recently signed a partnership agreement with Sitecore. We are taking that solution to market with respect to not only re-enabling but also enabling the customer experience. That fits very nicely with our whole focus around the retail sector as well.Read more: Virtual license portability added to Barracuda security products
We are focused on leveraging what we have done in the last 12 months and taking forward a focus on enablement through the cloud of those particular sectors like public sector, agriculture and retail.
Q: The decision-making process becoming more disparate at the client end - does that lengthen your sales cycle or make it more difficult? What changes have you made to adapt?
SB: There are two parts to the way our sales processes and approach has had to change. One is who the buyer is specifically. The second thing is what they are buying.
The whole area of mobility is an interesting one to give you an example. What we are finding is that clients want to see value in the solution much earlier. However, they also see this as a continuous evolution of the solution, so our engagement model is quite different now. It is about forming a long-term relationship with the client to deliver almost chunked up value through a longer period of time, but where the client is able to consume the solution at a much earlier point in their lifecycle.
That in itself means you are selling something different, and therefore the conversation you are having with those clients is different. Since we are able to step in in a smaller way, we actually think it is decreasing the sales time.
As for the consultative sell, we often think about it being design led and customer experience focused as opposed to being necessarily strategy led. In most cases what we are seeing are organisations wanting to stretch their tech arm to be much closer to the customer and in doing that. Once they understand what the business use case it is a simple case of identifying what is the way in which it would function with our clients and how we can enable them.
We are lucky to have a very strong UX and CX team. Often we will leave those projects with that team. You go through that classic design wire framing before we even look to the technology because the technology is becoming a lot simpler. The concept of responsive design, working across any device, all of those things are almost out of the box enabled, which means that really the focus for us is how it can deliver value to the client.
Q: You said you are looking to hire in NZ. Do you have issues in finding or attracting the right talent?
SB: That is a continuing challenge for any IT services company. We are in a market that is constrained by capacity, and we are not seeing enough people come out of university with the right set of skills to really change that in the next 12 or 24 months.
It does require us often to look overseas for good people. We are currently undertaking graduate recruitment processes. We are looking at around 25 graduates to come in at the latter part of this year or next year. But we really need to bolster the numbers in the meantime. If we go by historical patterns, we would expect that as close to 50 per cent of new people will come from offshore.Read more: NZ student team wins Innovation prize at Microsoft Imagine Cup
Our aim is to grow the business in excess of 20 per cent this fiscal year, which means we need to add somewhere around 70 or 80 people. Historically, we would expect around 40 people to come from NZ and 40 to come from overseas.
Q: Do you see similar trends in Australia to what you have described in New Zealand?
SB: They definitely are similar. We have high hopes for Australian business over in this fiscal year. One of the distinct advantages that Australia has generally over NZ is the availability of onshore data centres. Microsoft will launch its Azure datacentre in Melbourne and Sydney in the next six months, which means that we will see a significant increase in the opportunities that exist around the cloud in Australia, and we do think that it will offload to NZ. Certainly, the Australian market will benefit from those.
Historically, we have focused around more traditional application deployment into the retail and professional services sectors in Australia. We see that expanding into delivering more Cloud-based solutions in those sectors and also assisting the public sector around that space.
We have done quite a bit more work around the professional services sector. I don't necessarily mean legal firms, but anywhere where you have got organisations delivering a service. That might even be mining construction or mining support services. We are not a strong provider to the resource sector but we are a strong provider to the organisations that supply services to the resource sector.
We have also done a lot of work around manufacturing and retail in Austarlia as well.
In Australia we have invested heavily in building a very strong sales team. The majority of the team is in Sydney, with good-sized teams across Melbourne and Perth.
We have front ended the business with the sales team. We are expecting to see a significant increase in our wins over there and we will continue to add consulting capability as those wins come through.
Q: How are your partnerships likely to grow or change in the next few years?
SB: Actually we don't see a big change in the models that we have put in place. We are very clear around focus areas for next 24 months. We talked about mobility, enterprise collaboration and enterprise ECM, Web presence and online engagement, what we probably didn't cover off is business insight and big data, but those areas are our key focus areas. We have spent the last 12 months building out some good partnerships in those spaces already.
I spoke about RecordPoint and Sitecore. They are critical partners as we take those solutions forward.
The area that we see ourselves expanding our partnerships around would be cloud infrastructure.
We would look at NZ firms. And if they were options then we would take a call. But we would probably expect them to be global based businesses. Typically what we are talking about is adding onto our ability to deliver Cloud solutions, and Cloud solutions are often about scale. Those scale partners tend to come from offshore before they become NZ-based.
Q: What do you see as the strategic roadmap and challenges for the firm? As newly appointed CEO, what are your short-term and long-term goals for the organisation?
SB: Our roadmap would be cadence in delivery of Cloud solutions and keep up with the pace of our clients as they make their moves. We have put a lot of work into that over the last 18 months, but we really see that the momentum is starting to increase. Our key challenges are making sure that we have the right capability and capacity in the business.
It is also about making sure that we have got the right engagement models. We see the continuous engagement model becoming the way of the future, and that is nicely aligned with the fact that clients will consume software rather than buy software. We believe that they will consume our service on a continuous basis rather than an upfront basis.
We have to focus on making sure that the engagement models are well-aligned to that.
In the short-term my goals are around getting our go-to-market offerings well and clearly understood by the market. This would include an understanding of our Cloud and service capabilities. We are putting a lot of effort into getting those messages out, making sure those messages are well packaged, and making sure that we make an impact on those very quickly.
From a medium to long term perspective, that is a hard question because we know we work in a changing market. For us there is transitioning the business from being one of the strongest busiensses in NZ to being one of the strongest providers around continuous services and making sure that we are engaged with clients on that basis.
That is a very easy thing to say but it is a big transition for any IT services company. The language that you will see from us over the next 12 months will be quite different.