Perhaps it’s the kind of clients Company-X works with, perhaps it’s the mix of solutions it provides, but despite major market disruptions, the Hamilton-based software specialist is expecting to see spend accelerate as clients look for new ways to engage with customers.
Founded in 2012 by software specialists David Hallett and Jeremy Hughes, Company-X immediately started picking up contracts with New Zealand government departments and a Silicon Valley multinational.
With a focus on augmented and virtual reality, user interface and user experience design, software development and support, the company has since grown to nearly 60 New Zealand-based software specialists.
It is hard to escape the distinct impression that the company’s unique mix of technology offerings and skills has positioned it supremely well during the disruptions resulting from the pandemic and has set it up to forge a path ahead post-pandemic, whenever ‘normal’ returns to the local and international market.
While it is in no doubt that some markets in the company’s remit have faced disruption, Hallett, Hughes and team expect to see customer spending actually accelerate in the coming months, despite the massive impact that measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 have had on the market — or perhaps because of it.
“There definitely seems to be a focus from our customers on improving their digital strategy,” Hughes told Reseller News. “It seems that lockdown gave the CEOs and CFOs the time to review and opportunity in their business for digital improvement and digital engagement, so we are definitely seeing more of a focus on that business digitisation strategy.”
“The other thing is that it did focus a number of businesses on their ability to serve their customers overseas remotely, and our virtual reality, augmented reality solutions clearly have a role to play in allowing businesses to do quite technical hands-on support to customers and staff remote overseas,” he added.
Hallett, meanwhile, said that Company-X was seeing signs of acceleration as a lot of companies are now appreciating the immediate and ongoing benefits they receive from digital platforms and digital transformations.
Moreover, organisations are looking at ensuring robustness in their digital programmes and are also, in many cases, working to further facilitate and enable a working from home culture.
“As companies are going to want to do more online and in the cloud, we expect to see an increase in spending to facilitate these changes,” Hallett said.
Clearly, Company-X’s business resonates well with these market needs, given the company’s deep experience in the area of remote working, providing cloud-based working solutions, integrations and further building out those tool-sets.
“We have been ahead of the game in these areas for some time even before the pandemic, so we feel comfortable with the advantage that gives us in terms of retaining our clients,” Hallett said. “I think if anyone is going to be successful in that space, those are the skills that are going to be key to success.”
According to Hughes, the company has generally seen more clients pursuing remote solutions and, over the past 10 years, just about everybody has developed their basic business system.
However, Hughes maintained, customers are now seeing the wisdom of a focus on completing that digitisation from end to end, recognising that there are a lot of gains to be had from integrating and interfacing their disparate systems so they can gain the real advantages throughout the enterprise.
“That is going to be an area of growth and real business benefits,” Hughes said.
A specialist angle
Company-X’s specialist nature was exemplified when it was named asthe first Australasian reseller of RealWear head-mounted tablets. The deal boosted Company-X's capabilities in AR/VR following its buyout of augmented and virtual reality specialist Pepper Creative.
RealWear's lightweight headset has a narrow boom arm with a micro-display that appears as though the worker is viewing a 7-inch tablet screen. The screen can be positioned just below line of sight, so the user can easily glance at it and all inputs are voice-activated for completely hands-free use.
RealWear manufactures the HMT-1s head-mounted tablet as well as the HMT-1Z1. Both are designed to maintain situational awareness while improving productivity.
This one partnership and technology offering alone has seen Company-X meet some of the specific customer needs that are emerging in the market as a result of COVID-19.
“Through our partnership with RealWear to supply and develop software systems for the HMT range, Company-X is enabling clients to provide experts with on-demand and remote support using hands-free voice-activated head-mounted tablet computers,” Hallett said.
"The global COVID-19 pandemic caused clients to come to Company-X and ask for head-mounted tablet computers for deployment in their businesses to support workers in the field.
"Company-X became the first Australasian reseller of RealWear head-mounted tablets in 2019 because of some really exciting productivity opportunities. Even more so now with the global COVID-19 pandemic, that has been a huge catalyst,” he added.
Indeed, one Company-X client has used the RealWear head-mounted tablets to facilitate its international engineering machinery export activities in the United States.
“Although the US was sufficiently open for the client’s business to receive the essential equipment they supplied, they would normally send technicians over to set it up on arrival,” Hallett said.
“Instead, they sent RealWear head-mounted tablets over to the United States and have an expert here in New Zealand using software and a web browser to see what the person in the United States is seeing on the other end.
“The New Zealand technicians are using Microsoft Teams to communicate with their state-side counterparts,” he added. “Voila! Your system is now working, which is really cool.”
Pockets of potential
Although Company-X claims a significant export footprint and is seeing increased demand from some quarters, the fact that the company’s overseas clients are in a varying range of statuses with COVID-19 cannot be ignored.
“I don’t think there’s a clear picture of how COVID-19 is managed to where everybody is back to as close as business as usual,” Hughes said. “It’s the uncertainty that we all have and the challenge will be maintaining business flexibility to be able to respond to whatever eventuates.”
From Hallett’s perspective, the uncertainty is a challenge, as it will affect the decisions of clients, especially in the areas of planning and budgeting.
But with uncertainty comes the opportunities emerging from customers having unplanned thinking time to prioritise the effective digitisation of their businesses as they find those parts of their business that can benefit from the last mile of “inspiration and digitisation,” as Hughes puts it.
“They can also capitalise on their staff’s appetite for embracing new [technology],” Hallett said. “With the cultural blip in terms of everything being new and different and changeable, there’s the realisation that it’s not a bad opportunity to introduce additional changes or to move to new systems.”
Hallett also noted that the opportunity can now be taken to make use of new technologies because people’s resistance to change has been lowered, with vast numbers of people now used to connecting via video conferencing and remote calling while working from home and using online systems.
“Because of that, I think there’s a good opportunity now when people are already adopting lots of new systems and adapting to change that to bring any other things in. Now is a good time to do it as they are already in that mindset,” Hallett said.
While those opportunities abound in the market, Company-X’s key business priorities right now revolve around client retention, customer service, and building new client relationships.
At the same time, in terms of technology priorities, Company-X is very much aligned with emerging technologies and open technologies, along with the skills and expertise in those areas.
“This supports our focus on growing our RealWear and virtual reality business as well,” Hallet said. “We’ve got a strong growth strategy so we will still be pursuing this aggressively, both domestically and internationally.
“Obviously, we will be watching the world, in terms of how global events play out for our international growth strategy, but still, be leveraging our growing reputation overseas to further develop our business,” he added.
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.