Sticking to the core business fundamentals and taking a good look at internal operations are a couple of focus areas for Somerville Group as it navigates the current business climate.
“We’ve focused on our core and what we’ve done through COVID-19 is spend a lot of time looking internally at all the ugly and broken bits of the business because we’ve now got a bit of resources available. We’ve spent a lot of time operationally, starting to do things that we’ve been talking about for some time,” managing director Craig Somerville said.
Some of the operational enhancements Somerville Group has made involve rolling out a new e-commerce platform, payroll system, going live with a HR people and culture platform, migrating its PSA platform from an on-prem to a cloud version, and adopting a new marketing application.
In regards to adopting a new e-commerce platform, Somerville said it was in recognition of changes among its customers, buyers and level of technical expertise in the market. The platform is live in two different formats - one is catalogue based, specific to the customer, and the other is an operational platform, which is currently in testing mode to ensure it provides a ‘good experience’.
“Being able to execute electronically on an e-commerce platform is not a new model of business for us, it’s a supplemental business to what we do and it is empowering a customer to transact with us how they want to and in their time frame,” he said. “It’s no different to the way we roll a quote out or a proposal to a customer. As the technology changes, so do the purchasing platforms and the methodologies, and we have to be mindful, watch and morph with the industry.”
In terms of doing business in a deflated market, Somerville said the company was focusing on the fundamentals, efficiencies and customer experience.
“For all of us, automation and efficiencies are a huge part of our future. If we’re not dabbling in it, then we won’t exist in a few years time,” he said.
“We’re doing the automation changes, but also during tough times, battening down and making sure we’re as efficient as can be. When times are good, we get bloated as businesses, and it’s been a good opportunity to look at improving the business ground-up.”
Even though revenues have taken a hit around discretionary product spending, Somerville said the company's annuity business remained strong.
“We’ve still got a strong pipeline in that space, and we’ve got a couple of deals on the table which are game changers for us. There’s a mix of good and bad, there’s certainly opportunities still out there, and it's time for us to take every piece of that opportunity and make the best of it,” he said.
While there is a lot of ‘parked’ business, Somerville said there was a lot of activity happening with companies looking to make operational and transformational improvements.
“I look at the range of customers we have, and how effectively most of them transitioned to remote working environments, they kept in business and kept serving their customers,” he said. “There were certainly challenges, but I was surprised at how well organisations transitioned into that side of the business and reason behind that - hybrid infrastructure has been a big enabler in that space.”
Vendor relationships, such as Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Aruba, also play an important factor, particularly as companies seek to grab on to the next best opportunity in adding value for their customers.
“The first thing I want from our vendors is great products and platforms that we can add value to and take to the customer. For us, this is now about how we can take customers to the next generation with the services they need,” Somerville said. “Our relationships with our vendors are as important as ever, and their value proposition.”
As Aruba released its new artificial intelligence (AI)-powered Edge Services Platform (ESP), Somerville said it fundamentally changes the way it offers services to customers.
“The AI functionality, unified architecture and intelligent security, allows us to extend and create heightened appeal for our managed services capabilities. With masses of data to manage, we’re seeking highly automated and centralised management of networks,” Somerville said.
“A customer has an operation they’re trying to make as efficient as they can to deliver the best outcome they can. Our job is to deliver tech to do that, it hasn’t changed. The world is getting faster, more technology is getting complex, when you look at the ESP platform, the orchestrations and AI on top of it, is starting to get exciting.”
Additionally, Aruba South Pacific director Pat Devlin said it was reliant on its key partners, as they have an ability to move faster than a vendor and experiment in a way that vendors can’t -- using Somerville’s e-commerce platform as an example.
“We love helping to empower our partners, because we both benefit from that,” Devlin said.
When it comes to helping partners navigate the current business climate, Aruba has suspended financial targets so partners can keep their current medallion levels, offered financial support for companies that operational type projects so they can suspend payments for while, along with offering freebies to partners in affected industries such as helping the healthcare sector build ‘pop-up’ networks.
“We’ve also brought on a whole heap of training online as well - the whole opportunity with training and suspension of financial targets, means there’s an opportunity for people to build depth,” Devlin said. “Our job as a vendor is to grow a business like Somerville, which in turns grows our footprint in the market. The faster they grow, the faster we grow.”
ARN Advance is a centralised editorial resource designed to help partners access forward-looking content as the Australian market attempts to reposition for growth.