One of the most important things a business can do is experiment and innovate to answer the demands of their industry. Whilst companies that choose the ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’ tactic, may reduce the threat of failure, they risk falling behind from their competitors. Technology exposes new markets, merchandise and methods, that will put you ahead of the game. As such, embracing new technology is the key to success, but why? We spoke with Sukh Ryatt, managing director of intranet service provider, Oak, about the importance of growing your business with technology.
Tell us a bit about your company?
We launched Orchid Software in 1994, when the concept of a company intranet system was relatively new. Back then, we really shook up the industry with our vision to create a one-stop-shop solution that did everything a business needed, from sharing news, managing documents and policies, booking leave, creating electronic forms, CRM and more.
We became one of the leading providers of intranet systems in the UK and gained an impressive client list of ‘blue chip’ corporations. As technology developed, we came to realise that we were going to have to evolve to grow ahead of our competitors.
Why did you choose to reinvent the original Orchidnet software?
Technology never stands still, it is constantly developing and this was becoming increasingly noticeable in our industry. Our original solution, while hugely successful, was based on old technology that made it costly to implement and maintain, meaning it was only really affordable to the largest of organisations. It also became clear that smaller organisations were also crying out for a solution like this, as they have the same issues as larger ones, but simply couldn’t afford enterprise solutions.
We re-imagined the intranet solution, using everything we’d learned over the previous 20 years, working with our amazing clients. We took advantage of new technology and modern ways of working, to make something spectacular.
Though it was a huge risk to invest so much time and money into a totally new model, we were facing tough competition from industry giants, and we knew it was time to embrace the new technology. We’re really proud of what we created; a brand new intranet solution we call Oak.
What makes Oak different?
The basic concept of Oak is similar to Orchidnet. It is a simple, easy to use solution allowing businesses to communicate, collaborate, manage processes and share ideas, all delivered in a ‘one stop shop’ solution. The key difference is that Oak is in the cloud; it’s a fully integrated ‘SaaS’ (software as a service) solution, which really changes what it can do for our customers, as well as our organisation. For our customers, there is no need for special hardware, software installation, or excessive storage costs; they simply sign up to the service and can start using it straight away, from anywhere in the world.
As it’s cloud based, when we update Oak with new functionality, everyone benefits, increasing the ROI for our customers all the time. Oak works on all devices, from IPhone to desktop – a nod to the modern, flexible approach to work.
What did you aim to achieve with the launch of Oak?
Though we already had our ‘foot in the door’ with the Orchidnet concept, there were some key learnings, from our existing customers, that we were keen to implement into Oak. The aim was to produce an enterprise grade solution that was applicable to all organisations, large or small. The software needed to be affordable, simple to use and quick to implement. Old fashioned intranet systems could take over three months to deploy and required additional hardware, software and consultancy, which made the solution unaffordable for smaller companies. Without these restrictions, Oak is affordable to any size organisation, and it’s absolutely possible to go live in a matter of days, with customers seeing the benefit of the solution instantly. For us, Oak removes all the barriers we had to rapidly scale the business and as it is cloud-based, we aspired to launch the software globally.
How has Oak improved the business, so far?
The market potential for Oak is massive, since its launch in 2016, the solution has continued to exceed our expectations. Not only have we seen a huge influx in our annual turnover, we have secured a grant from the North East Regional Let’s Grow Fund and have managed our cash-flow, despite the challenges of maintaining and growing the business. Our team in Newcastle has grown by 61%, expanding from a team of 21 to 37 full time employees. Despite this rapid growth, we have retained and strengthened our company culture, through the appointment of a knowledgeable board and Executive Management team.
What advice would you give to business owners looking to embrace new technology?
Unfortunately, innovation is not as simple as identifying the new technology and adopting it. You will need to think about the problems you want to solve and the barriers you need to overcome. Having a strategic plan, which incorporates space for innovation, will help you to consider the benefits and draw-backs of implementing a significant change. Use your learnings from your existing customers and experiences to fuel growth and development. Be sure to set targets and outline your expectations, but don’t overlook the small wins – celebrating these can help keep morale high, especially when times are tough. Falling behind with technology can be detrimental to business, but with the passion and desire to learn and experiment, you can create something amazing!