In March, Auckland-based technology provider SAS IT embarked on a transformation and growth programme aimed at shifting the business from an on-premises infrastructure-focused managed service provider into a digital transformation leader.
This move, which comes with a five-year time frame, was driven by an awareness and understanding by the company of the shifting customer needs in the market — in this case, the desire for partnership, insight and innovation from technology suppliers instead of a more traditional break/fix feed and water infrastructure services-type supplier.
Despite the new plan, the company remains aligned to the same strategy it did before the COVID-19 hit, but the pandemic has focused the business and brought its efforts forward somewhat — a reflection of the efforts among those in the broader industry landscape to adapt to a rapidly changing market.
Systems Advisory Services Limited (SAS IT) opened its doors in 1974. Founded by former IBM talent Doug Brooker, the company began life with a focus on software development, specifically on bureau-based processing and developing systems and apps using IBM System/38s.
As technology evolved, so did its offering. Over time, the company has established itself as a leading managed services provider (MSP) in Australasia.
Today, SAS IT claims to be IBM's most highly skilled IBMi A/NZ Business Partner, with over half of the company possessing in-depth skill on IBMi.
Now, as the company takes stock of its current position and prepares itself for life beyond the pandemic, it is putting in place a number of business priorities. These include a plan to implement a customer listening programme in an effort to proactively improve its service delivery to existing customers.
It also plans to launch an innovative new private cloud offering, giving SAS IT customers access to total control over their IT infrastructure, with the flexibility of cloud access and the cost certainty of dealing with an experienced infrastructure partner.
Meanwhile, the company is also launching its new innovation garage, a programme that engages its customers’ business and technology functions with SAS IT’s consulting team and puts them to work analysing business problems, understanding the return of solving them and architecting solutions using best-of-breed tech.
At the same time, SAS IT plans to relaunch its company website and develop its customer communications to focus on our promise of “become tomorrow’s digital leader,” in the words of SAS IT CEO Matt Roberts.
According to Roberts, the company’s technology-related priorities over the next several months include a continued focus on delivering infrastructure such as private cloud, hybrid cloud and public cloud, along with managed services.
This is in addition to a focus on at least a few other areas, including IBM Cloud Pak, Red Hat OpenShift, OpenStack and Ansible capability.
These focus areas are likely to tie nicely into the technology areas where Roberts and team see customers ramping up demand. These include things that enable flexible working, a move away from the office and into the cloud, along with a “huge” focus on mobility and usability.
Other customers trends, according to Roberts, have seen technology spend deployed at a workstation level, which has also brought security requirements to the fore.
No doubt, these areas of interest among customers are at least partly or wholly a response to challenges presented by the ongoing disruptions caused by the pandemic, such as reducing costs and rapid transformations into more flexible, leaner businesses.
Responding to the challenges
As always, with challenges come opportunities and Roberts sees the scope for organisations to respond quickly to the challenges facing their customers, in a low-risk, quick and non-disruptive way.
SAS IT itself has responded to some of the challenges and opportunities with the so-called SAS IT ‘innovation garage’, which is designed to help customers ideate and problem solve in an agile and rapid way.
Moreover, customers are exploring additional feature sets within their existing stack rather than looking at disruptive stuff. At the same time, however, people want to stick with what they know and what they are confident with, according to Roberts.
While the market is facing challenges Roberts remains bullish about customer spend in the coming months, but with some qualifications.
“From October — always dependent on COVID-19 — if the NZ market has confidence, spending will accelerate,” Roberts told Reseller News. “Travel and expenses have been put on hold and this’ll put focus on business improvement projects.
“Companies that have huge transformational projects on hold will begin to restart these . [And] companies that have saved money during COVID-19 will start reinvesting in BAU [business as usual],” he said.
With potential spend on the horizon, Roberts suggested that partners will likely need to demonstrate some key attributes if they want to tap into their fair share of those budgets.
From Roberts’ perspective, Flexibility — the ability to adapt to rapid changes in the environment, both operating and technology — will be an important factor in the coming months.
Additionally, a deep customer understanding, being able to empathise with customers’ problems and deliver solutions that add value, will play a big role in the success of partners over the next several months.
At the same time, confidence in supply, in delivery capability, and in the ability to compete in a cost-conscious environment will also likely be an attribute of success partners in the medium-term.
With the evident opportunities in the market for partners poised to take advantage of them, Roberts is putting customer acquisition in his sights while also keeping existing customers in mind.
“As the technology buyer shifts from IT to line-of-business, we need to develop new ways to engage with existing customers, so we view this as an acquisition of a new relationship within existing accounts,” Roberts said.
“It’s equally important that we speak the language of line-of business and back it with strong technology capability — this is what the market demands,” 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.