Enlighten Designs settles in with specialisation
- 08 September, 2020 05:00
Damon Kelly (Enlighten Designs)
Microsoft partner Enlighten Designs is taking note of where its top specialisations lie and how it can leverage those strengths to help its customers weather COVID-19 and emerge from the pandemic when things return to a kind of normal.
“Our first and foremost business priority is to support our clients through their response to COVID-19,” founder and CEO Damon Kelly told Reseller News. “The way we have been approaching this is to really consider where our specialisations can help.
“It is through thinking about what we are good at that we have been able to package up offerings and take them en masse out to our clients to support them through this challenging time,” he added.
A core method of supporting the company’s own innovation as it does this is through its continued transformation internally into a practice-based model.
According to Kelly, the company has found that, in addition to supporting high levels of specialisation, it enables its practices to have a strong focus on innovation investment and bringing new offerings and solutions to market.
At the same time, Enlighten Designs’ technology priorities over the next six to nine months will see the company take a customer experience (CX)/user experience (UX)-first approach before focusing on technology alone, as it works to continue delivering its services to a market in need as it works to navigate a landscape disrupted by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Clients need quantifiable results and, no matter what technology they use, our data and analytics team provides the tools to understand their data and communicate these results using data storytelling and visualisation,” Kelly said.
Indeed, according to Kelly, investing in digital channels at present is paramount. As such, Enlighten Designs is focusing on digital experience platforms such as Sitecore to help clients get closer to their own customers and increase revenues through personalisation, lead scoring and customer relationship management (CRM) integration.
“Organisations always need to focus on lowering costs – now more than ever.” Kelly said. “We help organisations take advantage of the rise of citizen development and low code solutions via training programs in Microsoft Power Platform products such as Microsoft Power Apps, Power Automate and Power Virtual Agents.”
Moreover, Enlighten Designs is seeing a strong international draw for its skills in the area of artificial intelligence (AI), with the company set to continue focusing on leveraging various Microsoft Cognitive services such as machine learning, Azure Search and Video Indexer whilst developing reusable AI models for its clients.
Building on a pedigree
Kicking off roughly 21 years ago in a caravan out the back of Kelly’s family home, Enlighten Designs started out primarily as a web development agency. The company started winning awards early on and, over time, found that organisations increasingly came to the company for its software experience and knowledge of Microsoft technology.
The company has always built websites but, as it has become more important for organisations to digitally transform, Enlighten Designs moved from just building websites with content management systems into digital experience platforms like Sitecore, becoming a Gold Sitecore Partner in 2018.
“Our early move into data and AI solutions really kicked off our international expansion,” Kelly said. “We found we were not only punching above our weight but were doing world-first innovation with both Power BI and AI.
“We now have a large collection of the most downloaded Power BI custom visuals globally, some of which have been shown to Bill Gates. We have also developed the most viewed Power BI report in the world with Microsoft for covering the European elections with Politico,” he added.
Today, Enlighten Designs creates digital experiences for its client’s customers and employees across web, mobile apps, custom development, data, AI and digital workspaces. At the same time, its Digital Response team focuses on providing ongoing application support.
Not only does the company develop websites with a focus on user experiences, it also helps organisations to use their website as a platform to get closer to their customers through personalisation, lead scoring and CRM integration.
Enlighten Designs’ modern workplaces team focuses on Microsoft SharePoint, Power Apps, and Microsoft Teams. In July, the company was named 2020 Microsoft New Zealand partner of the year for demonstrating excellence in innovation and implementation of customer solutions based on Microsoft technology.
It should come as little surprise then, given Enlighten Designs heritage and area of expertise, that its overarching strategy has not really changed in the wake of the disruptions caused by measures aimed at minimising the spread of COVID-19.
Indeed, COVID-19 reinforced the company’s organisational strategy. However, the industries in the market that are buying the company’s services have changed, which has required a change in focus.
Raising a repeatable offering
For Kelly, having repeatable offers was always important for Enlighten Designs, but the pandemic has created the need to be able to get a COVID-specific offering out to its clients and to be able to scale them quickly.
“Power Platform had previously been a consistent topic with CIOs, however the need to reduce costs accelerated those conversations,” Kelly said. “The same can be said with clients and their digital channels, with accelerated need for both lower costs and increased revenue through a focus on ecommerce and digital experience.”
This approach comes as customers develop a strong focus on web development and digital marketing automation. At the same time, there has been a large rise in the use of AI chat bots to help support self-service and call centres, according to Kelly.
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Unsurprisingly, Kelly and team have also seen a lot more adoption of Microsoft Teams to streamline productivity, with so many organisations using it as their main way of communicating with employees, partners and their own clients.
At least a few of these changes are down to the changes in spending patterns across the market as a result of COVID-19, changes that Kelly believes reflect a divergence in how clients react to the pandemic.
“Some clients will bunker down while others look to capitalise on the changes and take advantage of the opportunities in the market that now exist,” Kelly said. “It will not be even, but we believe overall investment in technology will increase, especially where automation can offset operational expenses.
“We are witnessing an increase in investment into digital experiences and digital marketing to help increase revenues. We believe that customer spending will reduce in areas where value cannot be demonstrated, understood and realised in a timeframe that justifies investment,” he said.
For many organisations, the changes in spending patterns are down to immediate concerns. Companies need to deal first and foremost with the impacts of COVID-19, with the security and sustainability of their business top of mind.
Beyond these considerations, however, are several other matters affecting the spend trend, including the speed needed to listen and respond to the rapid change in markets, along with uncertainty, a distributed workforce and changing expectations from employees.
“Now, the world is used to remote virtual delivery, and everyone is being challenged, from international organisations coming into their markets, there is an increased need for all organisations to accelerate their digital transformation,” Kelly said.
Rapid change, new needs
Broadly, the rapid change in how organisations and workforces work together, many remotely, has increased the acceleration of digital globalisation.
From Kelly’s perspective, everything is evolving, including emergent technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality and chatbots, and even more mainstream digital channels like websites.
“Websites for example are now digital experience platforms, incorporating advanced capabilities like lead scoring, personalisation, and nurture marketing,” Kelly said.
And these accelerated digital changes are resulting in an understandable shift in buying habits among customers of partners.
“Satya Nadella expressed it well when he said that we have had two years of digital transformation in two months. With a world that is more virtual there is a big move from wanting suppliers that are local to suppliers that are best in class,” Kelly said.
On the upside, digital transformation and international expansion are more accessible than ever, according to Kelly.
“The way New Zealand dealt with COVID-19 has made our country’s brand strong,” Kelly said. “This gives New Zealand businesses an amazing export story to leverage.”
Despite the potential for new opportunities, Kelly and Co. are looking after their existing clients and working to ensure they are successful amid the disruptions, especially if they are going through challenging times. But that doesn’t mean that the company isn't eyeing new clients.
Although some customers are continuing to invest, or ramping up investment, other organisations have needed to focus on other priorities. With this in mind, it has been important for the company to add more clients into the mix and look at complementary markets.
“If you want to scale your impact and get good repeatability you need additional clients,” Kelly said. “Plus, all client engagements are opportunities to gain insights and apply these insights back to the rest of our clients.”
Regardless of whether the company is chasing a new client or servicing an existing one, there is no doubt that the company, along with most of its fellow channel players in the market, is approaching the market in an environment of instability and fear.
This means that, no matter what an organisation is offering its customers, the demonstration of leadership has become essential, while the traditional promise of what a tech provider can offer has deepend somewhat.
“Successful tech providers will be those that can both support and provide leadership to organisations through this change,” Kelly said. “But pandemic or not, the basics still hold — helping clients understand and see changes in their customer’s needs, supplying fit for purpose solutions, and the ability to reach your customers.
“Clients that are successfully navigating the COVID-19 environment are going to be extremely focused on dependable results. I feel that providers who can consistently create value for their clients will be the most successful.
“To do that, providers will need to be specialists, have consistent frameworks, and take a leadership role to ensure their clients get the outcomes they are after,” he added.
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