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Lanrex - Business first, technology second

With 2018 now underway, Jodie Korber explains how Lanrex is placing technology second in the pursuit of customer value
Jodie Korber - Managing director, Lanrex (Image: Christine Wong)

Jodie Korber - Managing director, Lanrex (Image: Christine Wong)

Picture the scene. Line cards and product brochures scattered on the table, agitated sales leaders circulating like vultures and an out of touch engineer stumbling through slide 46 of 83.

Painful for C-level executive attendees, but even more damaging for the messenger.

Such a scene stands as a rule rather than the exception however, as customers across Australia continue to be suffocated with speeds, feeds and irrelevance.

Yet old habits die hard in the channel, with technology providers still favouring out-dated approaches in the hunt for happy customers.

“We don’t do technology solutions,” explained Jodie Korber, managing director of Lanrex. “We do business solutions backed by technology and that’s what makes all the difference.”

A simple switch at surface level perhaps, but in delving deeper, this represents a fundamental shift in how the Sydney-based managed service provider (MSP) goes to market.

“We’re committed to connecting businesses with the technology they need to drive process automation and transform business functions,” Korber added. “We’ve evolved from being technology obsessed to business obsessed.

“It was a logical and natural transition as new technologies dramatically changed how we deliver and mange solutions for customers.”

Technology in isolation is cold and unaccommodating, enlightened only by the context of business.

Driven by outcomes, customers today are ambivalent about technology to the point that such responsibility now sits with the MSP, as buyers disconnect from comparing apples and oranges.

Irrespective of whether the flashing light is red, blue or green, end-user priorities now lie elsewhere.

Triggered by the rise of as-a-service models, Korber said platforms and systems can now be switched on (or switched off) in “moments rather than weeks or months”.

As a result, IT budgets are no longer consumed with merely keeping the lights on, and the features embedded within each product.

“We’ve evolved our services and consulting methods to help our customers firstly develop a technology strategy which aligns with their business strategy, and follow this with an implementation and management framework,” Korber added.

“This starts with our four-stage business diagnostic, where we help our customers to better understand where technology can be connected to their business strategy.

“Once this is clear we develop a digital transformation plan that’s right for their business. We’ve developed our digital transformation framework which enables our customers to embrace an organisational mind-set turning their intentions into action.”

The framework starts with business strategy, establishing a customer’s key future objectives before examining employee engagement levels.

After completing phases one and two, Lanrex then performs a total technology audit, identifying best practice methods alongside maximising existing assets to deliver improved performance.

Finally, the MSP leverages data to outline optimum technology systems, assets and operations, through the final procedure of best practice benchmarking. Collectively, this four-point plan serves as a key blueprint for customers.

“Technology is an enabler of business strategy, for each strategy mentioned there is an associated opportunity to leverage technology to achieve the business outcome,” Korber said.

“However, it’s important not to focus on a single business application or business transaction process. It’s crucial to improve the entire gamut of technology, process and people to achieve a competitive edge.”

Digital transformation

The framework reflects a changing of the guard within the IT department, as CIOs morph into executive leaders, and new line of business buyers emerge across the organisation.

“Investing in talent will be sitting on most priority lists,” Korber said.

In drawing on almost 20 years of experience consulting small and mid-sized businesses, Korber — who re-joined Lanrex in 2009 — advised that business growth and customer retention remain key investment priorities in 2018.

“But how it’s tackled differs,” Korber cautioned. “Some focus on digital marketing strategies, for others it’s about expanding into new markets or the higher maturity customers are leveraging technology to solve customer problems.

“Generally, customers are not looking for growth at the detriment to their bottom line, so they’re investing in optimising the way they operate.”

Irrespective of core priorities however, leaders remain aligned in the quest to create a digital business, with executive roles widening as initiatives move from pilot phases into mainstream adoption.

“For our customers, it’s all about their digital transformation journey, and there are many technologies implemented to deliver their overall business strategy,” Korber added.

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In looking through the lens of digital transformation, Korber said customers are focused on leveraging cloud, alongside business intelligence, data visualisation and collaborative communications.

“As the platforms mature so do the type and way we’re solving customer problems,” Korber explained. “We’re finding much of the existing infrastructure needs to be left behind.

“Customers want to make bold moves into cloud by building the new alongside the old and only taking the data they need across.”

With innovation now engrained into the mindsets of every forward- thinking business owner or leader, the market is moving beyond the early adoption phase.

But such activity presents challenges for customers, creating opportunities for MSPs to add value in new ways.

“Businesses will face many different challenges as they move through their digital transformation journey,” Korber observed. “Such as, learning how to innovate and change the business within their current operational demands.

“There will always been competing requirements and often the critical projects are assigned to key managers. They are then expected to do both their day job and the project — it’s not surprising the new initiatives don’t get off the ground.

“Businesses who are successful invest in innovation — it’s not a side project. Developing a company culture that thrives with change is crucial."

Outlook

As leaders charge towards a digital world, MSPs must move at pace and with skill to ensure customers maximise the potential of new transformation strategies.

The channel is now dictated by innovation, placing pressure on partners to carve out specialities and build out capabilities.

Frantically racing to the finish line can often spark an education overload however, with providers desperate to display knowledge as consultants jockey for position.

“Knowledge is a good thing however MSPs tend to know too much,” Korber said. “Wisdom can be shattered by too much information.

“Great scholars, for instance, tend to be great in very narrow disciplines. "MSPs generally like to be experts in everything for everyone but they need to review what they’re really good at and focus on that.”

Centred around digital transformation, Lanrex — which is housed in North Ryde — provides expertise across a select group of technologies, including cloud and infrastructure, security and integration, as well as business continuity and recovery.

“Technology is changing at increasing speed, with the emergence of ecosystems and platforms that deliver a whole new level of value,” Korber added. “MSPs need to keep up to speed with technology change and shift how they do business to deliver continued value to their customers.”

With 2018 already underway, Korber is spearheading a push into helping businesses transition functions to the cloud, through the implementation of Microsoft offerings across business and data analytics.

“We’re continuing to capitalise on the cloud opportunity as the platforms continue to mature,” Korber said. “As our customers modernise we’ll be building solutions for customers using services like cognitive, bots, virtual assistants and artificial intelligence.

“Key marketing opportunities include modernising workplaces and implementing collaborative communications, while also leveraging Microsoft business applications, data analytics and cyber security.”

Specific to cyber security, Lanrex continues to build out in-house expertise capable of responding to the rise in high-profile breaches, which in turn has kick-started a new round of end-user investments.

“Customers whose industry dictate some form of compliance are much further ahead,” Korber said. “But implementing information security shouldn’t be left solely for the IT team.

“Security isn’t just about implementing technology controls, you need to have the right top down strategy, policies, procedures (which are tested) and regular staff training.

“MSPs need to have their own security compliance standards which can be modified based on each customer’s preference.

“Further expanding our security practice is a key priority as cyber threats and business risk increase.”

Rounding off the key priorities for the next 12 months, Korber said Lanrex is committed to expanding strategic partnerships in the market, enabling the business to leverage core strengths while providing end- to-end solutions for customers.

“Delivering premium technical support and training remains the most valuable service our vendors can provide,” Korber outlined. “Especially third-level technical support, given when an MSP needs an issue to be escalated it is unlikely to be resolved by a level one technician.”

Furthermore, sales enablement remains an important engagement for the channel, yet as Korber acknowledged, vendors are currently lagging in terms go-to-market selling strategies.

“Vendors approach sales in an entirely different way to an MSP,” Korber said. “We’re selling a business outcome while generally they’re selling a product which is only one component of the overall solution.”