Application performance, Borne, and consolidations… it’s been such a busy quarter for Vapour boss Tim Mercer, he could probably get through an A-Z of musings! But here are his highlights from the last three months…
Well, it’s the quarter when the world usually slows to a different pace because of the summer holidays, but with face-to-face contact resuming and the final Covid restrictions being lifted, there’s been a different energy in the business environment over the last three months.
We’ve had more ‘real life’ interaction with customers, and each other, since the start of July, and our charity golf day provided a fantastic opportunity to get together in a different setting, and catch up while raising a few pounds for Borne - £6385 to be precise!
I headed to Technology Live earlier this week too, and was pleased to see such a buzz about the place. Because of course, as CEO of a tech firm, I welcome the use of applications and platforms to help us do business, but you still can’t beat in-person dialogue, for certain types of interaction, such as this.
I sat on a panel which debated the topic of collaboration and diversification - two themes which have been core to Vapour’s evolution over the years.
There are different trains of thought on this topic, of course, which goes some way to explaining the sheer amount of ongoing M&A activity in the space right now. I don’t think this will slow any time soon, either. Many organisations are encountering challenges because they haven’t ‘kept up’, so their customer base alone presents an attractive opportunity for other firms. There are also pioneering innovators who are extremely hot right now, and the value of some of the deals being done reflects just how critical their engineering is to the future of workplace tech.
In terms of tech capabilities, generally, we’re seeing an increasing amount of interest at board level, surrounding what cloud products and services can now do. Where senior decision makers maybe wouldn’t have given tech procurement such a great degree of thought previously - beyond the size of the investment perhaps - they now want to be far more involved in the conversation. I think this reflects the fact that perceptions have changed, and people realise just how much of an enabler tech is (not to mention just how catastrophic a security flaw could be if remote working put sensitive data at risk, for instance!)
The customer experience (CX) is dominating strategic agendas - particularly in crowded industries - and the benefits that tech can leverage, could prove a key differential in this respect, for many businesses.
In terms of the tech that’s proving hot for Vapour, of course we’re still providing services like circuits and helping customers with some simple backup needs. But demand is also growing for solutions such as TeamsLink, which better leverages the communications capabilities of Microsoft users; SD-WAN which gives network control back to IT teams regardless of employee location; and application performance management which helps show organisations the true root cause of their bandwidth issues.
Such technologies - and the findings that often emerge from the projects that these solutions influence - aren’t just driving ICT related change. They’re being used to overhaul how entire business processes are managed - even how organisations are run. This is the power of the cloud, and it’s great to see minds being opened up on a broader scale, as to the role it plays in company resilience, as well as connectedness and compliance.
There’s a definite shift in the market towards true cloud players who understand this narrative - who come at a problem with a desire to fix it, not simply push a specific piece of kit. There’s an apparent desire to consolidate the number of suppliers that businesses rely on too - a trend which will no doubt continue, especially when the providers can grow to feel like an extension of organisations’ own teams.
In terms of the team dynamic within organisations, this quarter has continued to prove an interesting one. I spoke to Prolific North recently - about what I’ve learnt throughout my career, not just the last 18 months - and one of the points we explored was the level of understanding in the workplace.
I think, as a society, we have become more open and empathic towards other people, especially regarding mental health and wellbeing. I think sadly it was secondary for many businesses previously - with some organisations merely paying lip service to it. Now, ignorance or carelessness on the subject will not be tolerated, which is important.
I elaborated on the fact that employees generally have more of a voice too - they’re no longer comfortable with being dictated to. This should make organisations better, more authentic employers, who live and die by their values, rather than simply posting them on their website because they sound good.
The challenge is to establish an approach that suits all - and values that ring true to those concerned - as people are individuals and no two companies are the same. There cannot be a linear top down or bottom-up approach either - the respect must be shared in all directions.
Let’s see what the next quarter brings…
Vapour’s CEO Tim Mercer will take to the stage later this month, as he heads to Technology Live in London.
The one-day channel partner event will see providers from the cloud, MPS, voice, SaaS, storage, UC, security, and AI worlds – among others – gather to discuss emerging tech and opportunities.
And Tim has been invited to the Business Design Centre as a panellist on the ‘Making a Success of Diversification’ debate.
As the Technology Live programme highlights, technology convergence, changing customer requirements, and competitive pressures, have all made diversification possible and desirable, but what is the best approach?
This is exactly what the speakers will explore on the day (28 September).
Tim will therefore share his personal opinions and experiences from the helm of Vapour, as the discussion unfolds.
Elaborating on the session topic, he said: “As a business, we’ve been very open about the role of channel collaboration, as our company’s journey has unfolded. There’s usually very little value in being a ‘jack of all trades’, but when the expertise of true specialists comes together, the result is often a very powerful solution for the customer.”
“There are challenges with this approach of course, not least sourcing best of breed partners who will commit to the same standards as you,” he added. “As we’ve diversified Vapour’s offering over the years, we’ve therefore thought carefully about who we partner with and when, and we’ve evolved many of our own capabilities too, to deliver end-to-end support and plug any market gaps that may otherwise leave a customer exposed.
“This has naturally made us more resilient as a business too – if we’d stuck with the delivery of cloud voice, networks and storage alone, for instance, we wouldn’t be having half the conversations we’re currently having with progressive organisations keen to futureproof themselves in the evolving world of hybrid working. Technology is an enabler after all, but it is up to providers to showcase what it’s really capable of.”
Technology Live is free to attend but pre-registration is advised: https://technologylive.co.uk/register