Nestled in the ACT suburb of Fyshwick is IT services and support business, Cool Chilli.
The company began operating in 1999, when co-founder, Andrew Smith, made the switch from contracting jobs within the government sector, to running his own business. His brother, Matt, also spent a few years within the business.
After gaining more traction in the market, the company moved out of its home-based office into a leased space, highlighting the strong growth achieved since inception.
The provider predominantly services small-to-medium sized businesses from 10 - 150 seats, with the majority of main customers consisting of licensed clubs, which can be particularly technology heavy considering they run gaming management and point of sale systems.
Some of Cool Chilli’s other clients include a concrete mixing plant and a security monitoring firm, while also handling projects for hotels as well as the Catholic education sector, mainly dealing with communications.
In response to changing market trends, the services provider has adopted a cloud-centric focus, with the business selling the first licenses in the ACT region of Microsoft BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) before transitioning customers over to Office 365.
“We’re moving up the stack still, moving away from hardware and into cloud usage, dealing less with on-premise applications,” Smith said. “You need to understand how customers exchange information, rather than worry about the systems they’re working on.
“Data retention and back-up is still an important aspect, along with helping customers automate and make use of technology.”
As Cool Chilli began dabbling in ConnectWise service automation software, Smith came across the HTG peer group, which is an international consulting, coaching and peer organisation focused on personal, leadership and business transformation.
The knowledge that Smith garnered from the group has proven invaluable, through gaining an industry-wide understanding of the technology trends taking shape in other markets.
“The peer group program provides a good insight into what managed service providers are experiencing and provides a good comparison of other geographies and regional areas,” Smith added.
“It has also given us some really good insight into what to expect in the market and helped us to embrace new trends. Currently, all of our customers are on office 365 and we’re looking at other solutions to leverage that.”
Some of the main challenges of being Canberra-based is the assumption that there is good internet connectivity everywhere, but that varies on location, and the costs associated with high-speed connectivity is quite high in comparison to metro areas, Smith said.
“We can’t really switch too many customers over the cloud, because they can’t really get to it all the time,” Smith added. “Some of our larger clients trade 24 hours, which introduces some interesting issues such as minimal amounts of system downtime.
“We’ve got customers in the Canberra region and areas such Yass, Cooma and Goulburn, as well as the South Coast of NSW. In some areas, communications haven’t caught up yet and that’s a bit of challenge to keep ahead of. Customers in Goulburn have NBN activity and if you drive 20 mins to Queanbeyan, they’re FTTB.”
One particular area that Cool Chilli will be focusing on this year is the mandatory data breach law, and providing customer education, enforcing good practices and disciplines.
“I think we’re well placed to do that because we’re not running at a large scale and it’s appropriate for some of our clients such as licensed pubs, which retain a lot of confidential customer information, membership lists, transactions and personal records,” he added.
“There’s been a fair amount of education around what it involves from a service delivery and a legal perspective.”