After years of working primarily in the government sector, consulting firm Infocentrik is starting to expand to the corporate side.
Chris Ewers, co-founder of Infocentrik, which provides consulting and implementation around the HP TRIM electronic document and record management solution, says that’s where the opportunity is taking the firm.
“We can see benefits in the e-discovery methodology, paricularly now that there’s a lot of new technology in enterprise search and policy governance,” says Ewers.
Ewers and his business partner Peter Haar started the company out of their homes in 2005, after bringing the product to the New Zealand market on behalf of their one-time employer, Gen-i.
Infocentrik today employs eight staff, disseminating an enthusiasm for the document management niche that Ewers says was intended to set his company apart from the competition from the very start.
“When Peter and I both worked at Gen-i in the content management space, we could see an opening in the market,” says Ewers. “Certainly in our area there wasn’t quite the attention to customer service we thought there should have been.”
At the time, TRIM was owned by Australia-based Tower, which was acquired by Hewlett-Packard in 2008. Ewers had already been working in the IT sector for at least a decade — first with Wang, then with Gen-i — where he and Haar started talking about setting up their own shop.
“We had a deal of knowledge around the TRIM, which was a big product for Gen-i at the time,” says Ewers. “We stepped out on our own, and for the first ten months, it was tough.”
Ewers says it was “tricky” at first to develop a distinctive business, and without stepping on the toes of their former employers’ territory.
By 2007, Infocentrik moved out of the garage and into an office in Lower Hutt, and hired its first employee. A year later, Ewers says, when HP bought the EDRMs providers, Gen-i was no longer selling that solution. Infocentrik was able to build a clientele, doing council submissions, LIMS processing and providing business solutions for managing records in the private sector. The difficult part was developing new business relationships, but according to Ewers, it was their approach to customer satisfaction that helped the business to grow.
“I guess the main thing was that we have a real passion for electronic documents, records management solutions. And we weren’t thinking of a point solution for a problem but overall solutions for business problems,” Ewers says.
Ewers attributes the company’s growth from “strength to strength” on establishing a delivery methodology that is adapted to meet the needs of each customer.
“It’s not possible in the information management world to apply a standard template although they have similar processes, they have different paths to lead them to the outcome,” Ewers says.
It also helps to have a staff of accredited TRIM consultants, he adds.
Ewers says other IT professionals considering a leap into independent consulting are best served by starting with what they know.
“It’s probably one of the most practical ways to go because you’re starting with that base of knowledge,” he says. “But also, if you have a passion and a real enthusiasm in whatever you’re doing, that will drive you to continue with your vision.”
In addition to TRIM, Infocentrik partners with EzeScan, which dovetails with the TRIM technology, and the paper-to-electronic aspect of information management.
“Coming from an area of strength and knowledge around a product and how it’s used obviously makes the road a little smoother,” says Ewers. “We’ve hit bumps along the way. But you have to stay focused on what your goal is at the end of it all and for us it was to improve the standard of information management generally not doing it just through the technology, but looking at processes and how they are used and having the knoweldege is beneficial.”
It’s also important to keep your fingers on the pulse of your part of the market. Infocentrik is looking at how All-of-Government contracts will effect their business, and Haar and Ewers, as the co-founders, are constantly seeking ways to expand into other verticals.
“We are making slow inroads into markets outside of councils,” he says. “It’s inevitable that syndicated procurement models that are starting to come up now will make this area more competitive. I guess the challenge for us and other SMBs is how they present what they have in one market to new markets.
“This comes down to a challenge all businesses face, balancing revenue-growth from existing customers with developing new revenue streams. This is part of the reason Infocentrik added EzeScan to its partner relationships: it matched a market need with existing proficiency.
“It’s really about looking for products that fit a line-of-business, particularly if there is a demand for it,” Ewers says. “But develop it not just as a product, but a solution to real business problems.”