Interview with Neil Maude of Arena Group
“Suddenly they were talking about the insights they were getting into their systems, their processes and their business, and that was a main factor in us becoming a partner that they wanted to work with.
That was a key moment for me and the sales cycle of this significant contract, which proceeded to signature and sale almost immediately. That was the light switch moment. The customer started to talk about what this meant to their business and what the future looks like, which was a very defining conversation.”
What role does solution selling of Panintelligence Analytics and Reporting Dashboards play in your business?
There are two areas of our business – Copy and Print and our Managed Print Service, and then there’s the Software side of the business with our Electronic Document Management solution, mstore.
The software side is well-established, therefore we’re quite far down the line with solution sales because we’ve always talked to our customers about their business problems and then identified a solution to solve them.
10 years ago, we would have looked at a customer’s problem and decided how we could create new software to solve that problem. But as we’ve started to work with larger organisations with bigger and more complex problems and more demanding timescales, we’ve realised we can’t do everything ourselves.
Accessing expertise and having flexible solutions to add to our own solution portfolio are useful, and that’s where products like Panintelligence come in.
We may be able to solve 80% of the problem, but there’s another 20% that we can’t solve, but a complementary product can, and that becomes the whole solution for the customer. As far as the customer is concerned, they’re buying a whole solution to their problem, not a product.
What was the driving force behind partnering with Panintelligence?
As our document management solution evolved into full-blown workflow automation, to manage some very complex business processes with lots of touch points with other systems, our customers needed to easily see the current state of their business.
Our customers could manage their processes, but they required a top-down visibility of huge volumes of transactions happening concurrently. And this needs to be simple to access.
Our moment of realisation happened during a tendering process with a logistics customer, who challenged us to show innovation that would make us stand out against our competitors. We delivered a dashboard over the solution prototype and the data we were collecting, and it was incredibly well received by the customer.
Suddenly they were talking about the insights they were getting into their systems, their processes and their business, and that was a main factor in us becoming a partner that they wanted to work with.
That was a key moment for me and the sales cycle of this significant contract, which proceeded to signature and sale almost immediately. That was the light switch moment. The customer started to talk about what this meant to their business and what the future looks like, which was a very defining conversation.
Which of your customers’ challenges were you trying to solve?
At the time we were tendering, this customer was collecting a lot of performance data and was spending a lot of time and resource processing this data. And by the time they had crunched the numbers and shown the senior management team, that data was out of date, so they weren’t able to make decisions on real-time data.
This customer works in chilled food logistics. Chilled foods have a very short shelf-life so real-time data is critical to their business.
Our solution manages all the proof of delivery documentation and this information is key to the suppliers and manufacturers of those goods. Our customer is responsible for the goods in their care, and therefore understanding problems as quickly as possible is very important. The whole purpose of the system is communication, so our customer can resolve issues and provide a quality service to their customers.
Our customer now has an up to date view of what proportion of these key documents are getting to the right place within agreed timeframes, which is critical to meeting their agreed service levels and customer expectations.
When operating a just-in-time supply chain for foodstuffs with short shelf-lives, the implications of delays – even delays in access to information – are significant and they always need visibility of what’s happening at any given time.
What’s your vision for the business?
The vision for the business is to scale out what we are currently doing. We’ve been delivering Windows-based solutions and desktop-based software, but our vision is to move towards a cloud web-based delivery model following our migration to a web application.
That transformation quickens our ability to deliver a prototype and a production solution for a customer. Each solution is tailored to the customer and tailoring has previously meant delivering bespoke software; in the future this will be much more configuration-driven.
Our solution is 90% out of the box, and 10% is specific tailoring for that customer, but that 10% can take time. The challenge is, like any software business, we are resource constrained.
Our old mode of delivery required the customer’s IT Team; in the future it will be much easier to configure a solution and deliver it in the cloud.
The Panintelligence HTML5 web application fits in nicely with this. Our customers want to be using data on any device, whether that be desktop, tablet or mobile, so being able to deliver a solution in a cloud environment is important to us.
I can imagine that, in the future, we will be delivering the majority of our solutions via a cloud provision and a Panintelligence instance will sit alongside that.
What does a good partner look like?
When we’re partnering, there’s got to be a good face to the organisation, that’s a given. We’re a people-centric business and we need great relationships with the people we’re working with.
Then we need to ensure a commercial fit, and our model is sometimes extremely flexible. We need to be open about whether a solution is too expensive for our customers and have that conversation up front, so we can agree the right pricing model for the customer.
Integrating this product with our technology stack is also critical. It should feel seamless and be easy to maintain for our customers. We are really delighted with the Panintelligence HTML5 version; it fits neatly and it’s going to evolve into having hooks and web-services that we can work with alongside our solution.
Any solution we deliver should be easy to configure so our professional services team can quickly deliver an initial prototype within the sales process. That’s a real bonus, because as a sales strategy, we need to understand the customer’s problem, then be able show the customer a credible solution.
We have a very skilled technical team, but they are time-pressured. Panintelligence is easy to configure, so we can quickly deliver a prototype, which helps us win more business.
Ideally, we’d like to deliver something in real-time in front of the customer. We’re currently not quite up to the 10-minute challenge that Panintelligence offers in being able to connect to data almost instantly, but we’ll get there.
However, as it’s so easy to configure, it gives us great confidence when we’re in front of our customers. We can take on board their requirements and generate a solution quickly. That gives sales and pre-sales staff confidence, which mirrors our own confidence in taking a product like Panintelligence to market.