Mick Bell has been working in IT and living in New Zealand long enough to make credible observations about how well technology gets matched to business here.
“I think there’s been a weakness for a number of years around organisational management and business improvment,” says Bell, who has been in New Zealand for 18 years. “It’s all about getting business improvement through processes and technologies. We’re not so good at it as we should be in New Zealand.”
Bell says this is the idea behind X4 Consulting, which officially opened for business in March. The company was set up to provide expertise in business analysis, eneterprise architecture, business process improvement, and organisational change management.
“There’s a bit of a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude around change. There’s yes we have to put new technology in but we forget that we have to worry about the people that are using the technology,” Bell says. “How do we communicate change, and how do we train them and lift the processes they use with a new technology and make sure they’re appropriate? There’s a casualness about the business side of the change rather than the technology.”
X4 Consulting has been doing business since last November, operating under the Intergen brand over its first few months. Intergen has taken a 50 percent stake in X4, and is integral to the consulting firm’s expansion plans.
“We have 12 people currently and we’re going to grow to 40 in three years in Wellington and 40 in Auckland and 40 in Sydney in five years,” Bell says. The companies will “cross pollinate” as much as possible, he adds, with X4 using Intergen’s presence in Sydney and Perth as their “beach-head” in Australia.
"Having a business consulting capability that complements the services Intergen provides has been on our roadmap for some time," says Simon Bright, Intergen's COO. "Mick has a strong track record in operating at board and CEO level delivering outcome-focused projects, and in having X4 Consulting as Intergen’s consulting arm, this allows us to bridge the gap between technology solutions and business benefits." “We’ll piggy-back on their projects until we have a critical mass in that maket,” Bell says.
Bell says he knew the team at Intergen for years before partnering in the consulting business.
“They got excited about the vision and the opportunuity to fund us and use that to complement our services,” he says. “The synergy was obvious. They are known for their technology capability, but technology is only part of the equation.”
This is where New Zealand companies and their IT partners get it right, says Bell.
“We’re pretty good about putting the technology in,” he says. “But the reason projects fail in my experience usually isn’t around the technology but around the clients’ requirements. They’re not defined, understood or even proved in the first instance.”
Among the initial 12 staff are Kirsten McLay, a returning expat coming off a six year stint with IBM in the United Kingdom, where she was a senior managing consultant-business architect. Boris Guskee will head up X4’s enterprise architecture practice, with Edward Abrahamson leading business process improvement, and Gary Edgerton leading the organisational change management side, all of whom have years of experience in their fields.
Bell says any IT professional considering going out on their own as a consultant or reseller has some basic things to think about first.
“I think if you’re starting a business, you really have to understand what’s available, and how you can utilise your networks and realtionships, but also surround yourself with talent,” Bell says. “No matter how good you are, the sort of collective power of multiple brains is better than one.”