Timing is everything: How we’re evolving our business model

Just over 20 years ago, the World Wide Web as we know it was just emerging. The dotcom bubble had yet to burst; Yahoo and eBay were barely a year old, and Google was just a twinkle in the eye of Page and Brin.

An early site we developed for Castrol

It was into this climate that CompanyNet was born. When we were founded in 1996, there were immediately lots of exciting new business opportunities to service – particularly building websites and portals, often based on Microsoft technologies.

Bespoke software development was the name of the game, and we enjoyed the challenges and satisfaction of coding custom systems.

Platform-based development

Ten years later, inspired by a Microsoft Partner Conference, the business articulated a bold new strategic direction – platform-based development. Custom code was becoming relatively expensive to build and maintain, and new options were becoming available to customers, challenging the established business model. Platform-based development would become the basis of our future success.

We settled on the Microsoft technology platforms: SharePoint, Dynamics and SQL – all based around on-premise infrastructure. Our goal was to continue delivering exceptional software solutions to customers, but the mantra was now configuration rather than customisation.

Again, over the next decade, this approach proved hugely successful, attracting new customers while we grew our team. We delivered many successful solutions based on the Microsoft technology stack, securing world-class technical competencies from Microsoft along the way.

Heading to the cloud

Around 2014-2015, as we approached our third decade in business, a new technology platform was gaining momentum. Under their new CEO, Satya Nadella, Microsoft had strategically refocused on cloud computing with Office 365.

At CompanyNet, we studied this move carefully, bearing in mind the needs of our enterprise customers in particular. We learned still more by moving our own business systems from on-premise to cloud solutions. Cloud projects for customers began to land as Office 365 licence sales exploded.

But, behind the license sales, actual user adoption of these cloud technologies was low. Office 365 is an incredibly capable platform, but that scale and diversity of functionality can be overwhelming. Time and again, we encountered customers who were failing to fully exploit Office 365, failing to wrangle the huge feature set to serve their needs, and, as a result, not getting the value they were expecting.

With that simple realisation, we began our transition to a new business model: CompanyNet as a cloud solutions provider, designing user-focused solutions that would help customers drive the most value out of their transition to Office 365, Dynamics 365 and Azure.

A cutting-edge Kira SharePoint intranet

We saw customers who’d invested in an Office 365 rich in features and functionality, only to find a disappointing and off-putting user experience. Where users had expected to enjoy greater productivity and a more satisfying interface, they were instead getting lost in the multitude of capabilities and options.

Equally, many customers couldn’t understand where best to start with Office 365; was there more value in migrating an on-premise Exchange email system onto Office 365, or in driving a documents and records management capability from SharePoint online, or maximising enterprise search capabilities with Delve, or driving end-user engagement practices with an enterprise social tool like Yammer..?

Creating a path towards digital transformation

Since we became attuned to this customer pain point, we’ve invested in research and development, creating user-centric products for Office 365 that make the overall experience more compelling, productive and satisfying. Building on our long experience of building intranets and digital workplaces, we created Kira, an enterprise scale Intranet solution; Kira Workplace, a modern, collaborative, task-driven digital workplace, and ProvEn, a service for automating SharePoint site provisioning.

Each year, these products, aligned and embedded with Office 365, get better and better, as Office 365 itself gets better and better. They are the catalyst for driving successful user adoption of Office 365 across our customer base; and, with it, increasing added value, productivity, efficiency and effectiveness.

In parallel, we’ve also been developing new consulting services: Office 365 strategy and roadmap planning and Office 365 augmentation services. Through education, knowledge transfer, advice and guidance, these services maximise value from your Office 365 license purchase. By targeting our team’s rich knowledge and experience to each specific business’s needs, we are helping our customers create a managed path towards digital transformation.

These are the new products and services that form the basis of our third-generation business model as CompanyNet settles into our third successful decade of trading. We are starting to see many customers across the commercial and public sectors begin to ask for exactly these kinds of products and services, which is something we’re very excited to see – and which validates the strategy we’ve been pursuing. It feels like, once again, CompanyNet has effectively anticipated our customers’ next move.

Already though, we’re looking three to five years down the line and thinking: what’s next?

If you’re on the journey towards digital transformation, we can help. Find out more about our Office 365 augmentation and roadmap services.

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