Comunet in COVID: 'We had phone calls and emails asking for help'

Comunet in COVID: 'We had phone calls and emails asking for help'

The CEO of Adelaide-based consultancy and AWS partner Comunet talks rushed migrations, the channel amid vendor marketplaces and why it doesn't have a sales team.

Adelaide (SA capital)

Adelaide (SA capital)

Credit: Dreamstime

If, pre-COVID-19 of course, you were to go and visit Comunet’s office in central Adelaide, you might notice something unusual about its staff make-up. 

As an Amazon Web Services (AWS) partner, it naturally has the usual band of software developers, designers and data intelligence developers. 

However, unlike many other IT service providers, Comunet remains an anomaly in that it has a complete absence of any sales team. 

This, according to CEO Alexei Fey, isn’t due to any lapse in the hiring process, but a strategic decision that, he believes, has kept its customers loyal during the past nine months. 

“It’s about driving more accountability and direct contact with our clients,” he explained. “We don't have anyone separate with sales targets or sales numbers or a sales mentality. So our consulting or our business analysts if they made a client, new or existing, and they are helping them build a scope, they're accountable for delivering. 

“It’s important because we don't get that frustration of engineers versus presales that you see in a lot of markets.” 

Customer loyalty, and more crucially their recommendations, is what Fey believes has driven Comunet’s  significant upsurge in business during the pandemic. That and the consultancy firm’s capabilities in cloud migration, including both AWS and Microsoft Azure.  

 “We've seen a change in customer expectations on delivery. And there's been a lot of clients and customers around who have probably accepted mediocrity from smaller providers or traditional providers,” Fey said.  

“And when COVID hit our existing clients, they needed a lot more help in stepping up to modern work practices, dealing with Microsoft, workplace, and cloud migration. 

“What we then saw was a huge influx of new business from people that we weren't talking to. Even though we don’t have a sales team, we just had phone calls and emails saying: ‘Can you help?’. That has helped keep business strong.” 

Comunet was founded in 1995 as a networking and communications integrator, with a particular focus on converting Microsoft and Linux installations. 

However, since the appointment of erstwhile CEO Mark Odgen in 2015, the company has undergone a period of business model transformation, taking a cloud-first approach. 

But as Fey sees it now, this strategy is starting to become outdated and, despite COVID’s huge acceleration in demand for cloud services, Comunet is already looking beyond that to the year ahead. 

Anticipating that vendor marketplaces, which are utilised by AWS and Microsoft, among other vendors, will eventually phase out much of the partner role, Comunet is now diversifying its offering into some unorthodox routes beyond traditional cloud services.  

These include professional advice and consultancy, diligence and procurement, while also becoming a “cloud voice” for unified communications-as-a-service in the wake of the pandemic.  

“We already had on our strategic plan that the decline of infrastructure and services are coming. And the rise of software-as-a-service or marketplaces from vendors is appearing,” he said.  

“When that client then wants to do something interesting or innovative, or work with data or start to deal with their disparity of data, they'll come and talk to us because we've got to trust a relationship as opposed to selling them something they don't really need, or they could have got for a better price.  

One example of this diversification is the development team to create Comunet’s own solutions, with data lake consumption eyed as opportunities for “interesting work”.  

Looking forward into 2021, Fey anticipates remedial work will be on the table for customers who have either rushed or been rushed into the cloud amid the coronavirus pandemic.  In particular, hurried projects have created security risks for scores of customers. 

“It's getting a lot easier for consumers to procure services,” he said. “But it doesn't mean they're any better at using them. If anything, they're getting worse at it. They're introducing more security holes and we're seeing more and more breaches.” 

 “A lot of our time is spent educating, configuring, securing and dealing with what that looks like in a new, modern, flexible work environment for our clients. And I think that'll just grow, I think we're still in the early stages of what post-pandemic normal looks like, which is a much more flexible, fluid environment for most businesses.” 

He added: “In six-to-12 months, I think we'll see more and more businesses realising that the migration to cloud services, whether it's software-as-a-service or infrastructure, is becoming important in their business.   

“For us, it means we, as a whole industry, has to get better at becoming known as the knowledge experts. Thankfully that has now made these cloud conversations easy when we want to talk to them about how to deal with security and making those practices work.” 

ARN Advance is a centralised editorial resource designed to help partners access forward-looking content as the Australian market attempts to reposition for growth.

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