With one eye on the boardrooms of Australia, Artis Group has evolved with the customer in mind.
“During the past six years, we’ve built our business based on what a CIO wants,” Artis Group, managing director, Chris Greatrex, said.
“We started out in a small office in Sydney with one development contract and realised that we needed to build our capabilities quickly.”
Fast forward to 2016 and Artis has presence across five cities, with an expanded applications-based portfolio built around the Microsoft and SAP stacks.
“It hasn’t been without challenges to arrive at this position in the market,” he acknowledged. “But we now have the depth and breadth of products to compete within the end-user space.”
Speaking as a well-travelled and seasoned IT veteran, Greatrex categorises customer success through the ability of a partner to satisfy three overriding CIO concerns - credibility, credentials and coverage.
“First and foremost, they want credibility and credentials,” he explained. “Whether that be certifications, case studies, vendor or industry awards and recognition, they all add up to provide increased credibility.”
In deploying technologies into Toyota Financial Services, The Weather Channel and the NSW State Government, Artis is no stranger to the top end of town, having also provided services for the Fair Work Ombudsman, the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital and the Professional Standards Councils.
Serving up primarily Microsoft Office 365 and SAP Business ByDesign solutions, the company is one of the leading providers of services to NSW Government, operating as a Microsoft Gold Partner and the largest SAP partner on both sides of the Tasman.
“Today, there’s a greater desire to see where you already have runs on the board, and to know how you’re tracking as a business,” he added.
But for Greatrex, runs must by made both home and away, with organisations chasing country-wide technology providers for national deployments.
As the world’s sixth largest country, and one of the most disparate, Australia presents many a challenge for the one - or even two - state reseller, with customers seeking national alliances and partnerships.
“Having coverage is key,” he added. “We play predominantly within the enterprise and government space and they need to see that coverage. It’s crucial to have local people on the ground and while we like to say it’s no longer a requirement in Australia, it’s still an important part of the sales process.”
In between co-founding Artis in 2005 and returning as managing director in 2011, Greatrex worked in the US establishing both NY Metro, and US Federal Government businesses, which incorporated different attitudes to cross-country travel.
“As long as we fixed the problem the customer didn’t care which state they came from,” he said. “It was never hidden but there’s no requirement to see travels details or where a technician or support member is based, it’s just not a big deal.”
In Australia however, organisations continue to display reservation when engaging with partners out of state, with the nation still valuing the local touch when transacting deals.
“Buyers are still unsure of people flying in from different states to do business,” Greatrex said.
To combat such reservations however, Greatrex has expanded his team to bolster Artis’ national coverage, with 11 dedicated sales members operating across five cities nationwide - spanning Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney.
“Lots of partners say they are national but we have a genuine footprint,” he explained. “I spent a lot of my early days recruiting personnel across the country to ensure we could provide a localised service to the customer, whether that be in Melbourne or Brisbane.”
Since selling the company’s hardware business to The Missing Link in 2011, Artis has executed on its geographic expansion plans, entering Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne, while also establishing an Adelaide-based through the acquisition of services firm Tapestry in 2014.
“There’s an advantage to being based in state,” he added. “Our staff on the ground know the dynamics of the market, the challenges of the customer and how to win business. It’s a difficult to gain traction otherwise.”
With Artis’ geographic expansion confirmed, Greatrex continues to develop the company’s internal sales operations, viewed a critical part of delivering increased value to the customer.
“The skills required for an infrastructure salesperson compared to an application salesperson differs,” he acknowledged.
“The application space is complex and requires a deeper understanding of work flows and integration. It’s a more sophisticated sale in that sense and because of this, requires a different sales force.”
Since selling its infrastructure services team to network integrator, The Missing Link, acquired 16 Artis staff, with the company restructuring is sales team to better reflect its refreshed focus within the applications market.
Today, the company has bolstered its capabilities across application deployment, data analytics, customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, collaboration and cloud.
“We’ve built a new sales team because knowing one product, or one aspect of a solution is not enough today,” he said. “We offer an end-to-end solution and customers have to see this, otherwise they will look elsewhere.
“When we sit down with a customer they want everything ticked off in one meeting, and if we’re not having conversations about particular solutions that we should be, then someone else will be and they’ll be eating into our space.”
As explained by Greatrex, Artis offers customers choice by partnering with leading global vendors, which also include AWS, SaaSPlaza, Concur, RecordPoint, AdxStudio, Aptean, AvePoint, ClickDimensions, Nintex, and ActiveDocs.
“We go to market providing a whole suite of capabilities to avoiding competing for wallet share, and it’s proved to be a successful method for us,” he added.
Founded as a technology start-up advisor to midsize and enterprise companies, Artis now works with ASX-listed organisations, State and Federal Government, providing business software and services to customers Australia-wide and overseas.
Honing skills in design, development, management, integration and support of critical business applications, under Greatrex’s direction, the Sydney-based company has forged a reputation for replacing outdated hardware and software systems with flexible new solution sets.
Spanning banking, finance, insurance, health, media, education and agri-business, it’s level of differentiation is based on its ability to provide customers with 24/7 support capability.
“CIOs are demanding genuine 24/7 support and not many partners offer this,” Greatrex added. “We build an application and deliver it to the customer but also maintain and manage it should they require it.
“We sign support agreements and take over old applications with a view to modernising it over time, subject to budget constraints, and offering the round-the-clock support is a deal breaker for us.”
Through incorporating an always-on type approach to serving the customer, the company now works with the Government of Thailand, providing application support for its superannuation system.
“This is huge validation of our work,” Greatrex said. “It’s not often work in Asia is moved offshore to Australia but we provide assurance that if something goes work, we will get it fixed. CIOs will always need this assurance.”
Such assurance, which Artis has spent six years creating, will forever act as the key marker between winning or losing in the eyes of a CIO.
This article originally appeared in the September issue of ARN magazine - to subscribe, please click here