Focusing on the core basics is a vital part of ongoing success as businesses work to return to a new normal following major pandemic-prompted disruptions, but that approach shouldn’t come at the expense of movement, according to Total Utilities strategy and innovation director David Spratt.
“A wise entrepreneur once told me: ‘Beware of stagnation. Remember — if you are standing still in business you are dead. You just don’t know it yet.’ Post pandemic we would all do well to keep that in mind,” Spratt told Reseller News.
For Spratt, running away from stagnation sometimes means ruthlessly killing ‘sacred cows’ and instead becoming adept at finding and selecting new products and services from the thousands available worldwide — this is especially true for companies like Total Utilities, which thinks of itself as a consumer of world class services.
From Spratt’s perspective, being able to kill ‘sacred cows’ will be a key attribute for successful tech providers, post-pandemic.
“This is easy to say,” Spratt said. “But when killing a sacred cow means offering cheaper, more effective and often lower margin services than the ones your business already provides, then vested interest can be a stubborn internal competitor and barrier to change.”
But, returning to Spratt’s comments about stagnation, it is clear that movement will be an important factor going forward for many businesses as they adapt to life beyond the pandemic.
Certainly, Total Utilities has not stood still over the years. Established in 1999, Total Utilities has grown to be one of the country’s leading energy, telecommunications, IT and waste procurement companies, negotiating over $500 million worth of contracts each year for several thousand business and government clients.
In 2015, the company extended the reach of its analytics capability when it became one of the country’s first cloud cost and consumption analytics firms utilising the Cloudyn cloud analytics platform which, in 2017, was acquired by Microsoft and re-engineered to become Azure Cost Manager.
Today, Total Utilities provides cloud infrastructure, security and workplace baselining, business case development, consumption and cost analytics for medium to large companies and government organisations across New Zealand, in addition to its popular procurement services.
Fostering focus in a time of change
And things remain far from standing still for Spratt and team, with market demands still in flux and Total Utilities, like most technology partners in recent months, working to adapt to emerging needs.
Indeed, the company’s ability to identify and inform its customers' decisions concerning cost and consumption improvements by using data analytics has come into sharp focus, with demand for its built-in skill-set steadily rising during and following the Alert Level 4 lockdown measures in New Zealand.
What this has meant for the company is that it has found itself redoubling its ongoing efforts to create and deploy scalable, automated, monitoring and analytics services that can be delivered at a low cost while still delivering high, measurable benefits to clients.
“Our technology priority remains to benchmark all our services and platforms against ‘world class’ – hence the decisions we have made to almost never own or operate any IT ourselves but instead to select and consume the very best tools available locally and globally,” Spratt said.
Like all companies impacted by the pandemic, Total Utilities has also been forced to pay close attention to managing costs and engaging effectively with its customers to support their efforts to do the same.
While some things have required a fresh focus, some remain largely the same, with the core tenets of the company’s broader technology and business strategy continuing to remain relevant and acting as a driving force for the company, despite the disruptions.
These include a focus on selecting and using world class tools for monitoring and data analytics; designing services for automation and delivery at scale; providing world class services at a “staggeringly low price”; and always acting in clients’ interests.
“The only exception for us is the bleeding edge,” Spratt said. “Areas like AI [artificial intelligence], machine learning, robotics process automation and IoT [Internet of Things] have required that we experiment with these to test their effectiveness and stability.
“While in some cases we have been able to simply consume a world class solution from the likes of Microsoft, Amazon, or Google, in other cases we have utilised focused software development to drive innovation.
“This, combined with the use of micro services, helps us to gain understanding of emerging technology and to then leverage our learnings quickly when the global market delivers 'world class' services to us. By staying ahead of the curve, we are, hopefully, well placed to create ongoing additional value for ourselves and our clients,” he added.
Making the most of the current climate
Tapping into cloud solutions and emerging technology might just be one of the best ways to go as IT providers navigate shifting needs within the market, with Spratt suggesting that we may still be seeing the very beginning of organisations making the move to a virtual office scenario.
“If the supply chain challenges faced by laptop, storage and server hardware manufacturers is anything to go by it appears customers are still wrestling with the challenge of the virtual enterprise,” Spratt said.
“Expect demand for cloud based services and end point hardware to continue to be fierce for quite some time to come.
“Virtual enterprises are a huge opportunity for customers to cut costs, save time and deliver efficiency. Who hasn’t enjoyed the lack of traffic jams and the time this has freed up?,” he added.
While there are big pockets of unequivocal opportunities for IT providers, it seems almost a foregone conclusion by now that overall market spending will decline. As such, the Total Utilities team is closely evaluating the economy and what the future holds in terms of revenues, profits and growth.
“As a result, we are watching every investment we make, whether that is in people, processes, promotions or technologies,” Spratt said. “If this is the case for a strong, well-funded company like ours then we expect most other companies to have a similar perspective.”
Unsurprisingly, then, ongoing prosperity comes down to the basics, according to Spratt, who suggests that if an organisation offers great value and service while being able to communicate their value proposition effectively, there is every chance they will succeed.
Also, giving some love to existing customers can’t hurt.
“It’s a cliché but it is true, it costs five times as much to win a new customer as it does to please and keep an existing one,’” Spratt said. “Any business not loving their existing customers to pieces right now is totally missing the fact that their competitors are waiting just around the corner for the opportunity to step into their hard-earned place.
“The word ‘partner’ is overused. It does not mean someone just buying your stuff off you. It actually involves a relationship where each party’s success is built on the others.
It’s like marriage. The longer it goes on the closer the ties are both economic and emotional. If we understand that level of customer intimacy and mutual benefit in business we will always be successful,” he said.
Reseller News Advance is a centralised editorial resource designed to help partners access forward-looking content as the New Zealand market attempts to reposition for growth.