Certus Solutions is synonymous with the IBM product suite, but there is far more to the company than just this association. Founded by Greg Woolley, the IT consulting and project management company has been operating since 1999. In 2004 he led the completion of a management buy-out involving the sale of Datec Group shares in Certus to senior managers.
“To fully exploit the expanding hosted vertical opportunities both in New Zealand and Asia, the business required a significant capital base. The MBO was the most appropriate way of achieving this,” he says.
General manager Edward McDonald has been with Certus for two years, saying he was attracted to the company because of its small size.
“A lot of people do consulting and in New Zealand I think people are niche players, so they will pick a particular technology because of the size of the market.
“What we have done is become accredited to offer all the IBM products, but we’re also a petite size of about 45 employees. The only other company that offers the complete IBM product suite is Gen-i, but they are the opposite of boutique. We like to think that we provide that coverage and that skill level, though with all the benefits of a smaller organisation.”
McDonald says being small is useful in IT because it’s a quickly changing market. Though he admits that sometimes the company has to get customers over the mindset of its size.
“When we get that objection we have Greg Woolley, who is the majority shareholder, say he can make this [the project] work. We deploy a solution and then we have a service level agreement, but we also teach them how to deal with problems so they feel confident.”
Because of this, he says Certus Solutions recruits at the high-end of the market.
“It wouldn’t be a very good value-proposition to have 45 entry-level people. Our people end up going into roles and becoming technical leads or senior developers. And it has worked really well for us having that benchmark.”
This has been rewarded with the company earning a highly-commended award at the 2007 IBM Business Partner awards for its IBM Lotus Domino case management system, which was deployed by the Department of Building and Housing.
“That type of project is what we like to take on. The big trends right now are the Public Records Act and Kiwisaver integration. Those two big trends are either offered by large government organisations or financial institutions and that tends to be our target market.
“We tend to become a centre of excellence for a particular customer and build a practice around solving any problems they have.”
Certus Solutions is also a Sun Microsystems partner.
“Because of the Kiwisaver project, we ended up becoming integrators for Sun. It made us a better added-value consulting company, by knowing how both platforms work and how they work together,” says McDonald.
As Woolly explains, “while Certus will remain a specialist in IBM solutions, it is essential that we offer a broad range of solutions for our growing number of clients in New Zealand and internationally.”
The company recently became a reseller of Google Enterprise search and has been appointed the first authorised reseller and integration partner in New Zealand for Google Enterprise geospatial solutions – a range of applications that include enterprise versions of Google Earth and Google Maps.
Woolley says there are significant benefits to be accrued by companies who can integrate these two technologies within their wider ICT infrastructure.
“Google Enterprise search and Google Enterprise geospatial solutions are powerful Web 2.0 technologies, which are helping companies transition their systems from isolated information silos into interlinked computing platforms. GIS solutions in particular are becoming an essential part of the way business is undertaken.”
Woolley adds the real value-add for organisations is the ability to take these general purpose technologies and create industry-specific applications, allowing them to leverage information that exists within the other databases the organisation maintains.
Certus Solutions has a flat management structure that Woolley says is important.
“We need to know what is happening at the coalface. You have a responsibility, because we’ve sat in front of the customer and said this will work so we have to deliver.”