In this ongoing series of articles we profile some of South Africa’s most modern and progressive SMEs and reflect upon their secrets to success. The companies we feature are drawn from a diverse range of industries across the country. But they all have one thing in common: the use of technology in smart, unique and original ways to make for smarter business strategies.
Why Technology needs Creativity
Today we sit down with Gavin Burgess and Geraldene Parmassar from Technology Partners and ask them what makes their company tick and how they lay the foundations for success.
TLDR: The Technology Partners strategy for success: Diversification; Empathy; Applied Creativity and Differentiation.
Technology Partners is a managed services provider that designs and builds solutions for technological business processes. Just a few of their myriad competencies are systems analysis and design; cyber security and training and CRM solutions.
Yet this abundant technological prowess barely scratches the surface of what makes them the embodiment of a successful and progressive South African tech-driven SME. How do Technology Partners stand out from the crowd and carve a singular niche in the sector?
1. Many Baskets for Many Eggs
MD Gavin Burgess attributes the success of the company to four deceptively simple principles. The first is a hard-won lesson from the pandemic. ‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,’ he cautions. ‘It’s critical for a service-provider to have a diverse customer base. Shocks in one sector can be absorbed by stability in others.’
2. Empathise with Your Customer
The second may appear self-evident, but it’s one that is often all too easily overlooked. ‘A key to success for any business I’ve been in is to work hard to understand the business – and business sector – my customer is in,’ says Burgess. ‘It’s not just about being able to supply the requisite technology, but understanding each full customer journey with our company.’
In this regard, Burgess cites the company’s many customers in the legal space. ‘Over the years we’ve excelled in understanding legal jargon,’ he notes. ‘Concepts such as “application” and “service” mean very different things to a lawyer and a software developer. So to avoid speaking at cross-purposes, it is critical for us to speak the language of our customers.’
3. Integrate Creativity with Technology
Another pillar upon which the Technology Partners’ success is built speaks to the company’s innate desire to embrace the original and unconventional. ‘What makes us stand out as a company is that we have a really strong creative team and a very strong technical team with the two working hand in hand,’ says Burgess.
‘In the B2B space, businesses are tired of the IT guy sitting across the table saying “you need to upgrade your server”. They don’t want to hear that. What they do want to hear is: “This is how we can add value to your business model. This is how we can add value to your customers.” And with a strong creative team, we can come up with something in the form of a universal experience and solution.’
4. Be Different
Burgess is unequivocal on this point. ‘It is essential to have a differentiator,’ he emphasises. ‘Even though we are an IT company, there is a product that only we offer and, when it’s required, we are the people that get called.’
He is referring to the company’s deep involvement in the remarkable Event Greening Forum. Using data tracking, Technology Partners realised that a full 33% of corporate gifts at conferences in South Africa go discarded or unused. Not only is this problematic in terms of carbon footprint, but it also represents a missed opportunity for the South African arts and crafts community to shine on the international stage.
Enter Sustainability Villages, an initiative originally by the Event Greening Forum that is now used at conferences and exhibitions nationwide. To cut a long story short, conference delegates can now spend cashless gift vouchers buying homegrown art and craft instead of receiving the usual promotional material (notebooks, pens, water bottles etc). Such is the enthusiasm shown by foreign delegates for local fare, credit card facilities are required to meet excess demand. The cashless vouchers work using a simple but secure QR code so the sustainability vendors themselves only need to bring their cellphones to transact.
How does this represent differentiation? The cashless trading platform and accompanying voucher system used by many Sustainability Villages is the intellectual property of Technology Partners. So, whenever a conference or event wants to practice sustainable gifting and is in need of a feature-rich and audit compliant system, it is the IP of Technology Partners that helps bring these environmental and socio-economic visions to fruition.
A Winning Formula
If there is a theme to be gleaned here, it is that of ‘diversification’. Don’t put yourself in a silo; be good at many things; have many customers from many backgrounds; don’t let technology stunt creativity; expand the scope of your vision; build bridges across as many rivers as you can and, above all, think big and think broad.
According to the World Economic Forum, some of the top skills required to thrive in the 4th Industrial Revolution are complex problem solving; critical thinking; creativity and coordinating with others. Technology Partners amply demonstrate that putting this theory into practice can deliver handsome rewards.
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