If a week is a long time in politics, 16 years in technology must represent an eternity, a never- ending cycle of change, disruption and reinvention.
“I have lost count of how many times we have had to transform our business,” said Maria Padisetti, speaking as CEO of Digital Armour.
The Sydney-based business was founded in 2002, during a year when Friendster dominated the social media scene with an enviable base of three million users; Blockbuster Video declined to acquire a fledging subscription business by the name of Netflix and Napster filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
On the flip side however, Australia’s software darling was born in the form of Atlassian and most notably, the Linkedin.com domain was created.
Fast forward 5844 days, 834 weeks, 191 months and 16 years to 2018, and Digital Armour is still thriving, adopting a chameleon type mentality when dealing with constant waves of technological advancement.
“We are constantly evolving and changing the way we do things,” Padisetti added. “We are training and retraining our teams and have stayed nimble and innovative to serve our customers and ensure that they get the best possible advice.
“We have created new business units and practices and have expanded our teams to four countries to get the skill sets we need in this crazy fast-paced industry.”
With a knack for serving small to medium sized markets across the country, Digital Armour is defined by IT services and driven by high rates of customer retention.
Creating a unique market offering in the process, the specialist provider has maintained relevance as trends came and went, fads faded and big bets failed to pay off — such is the fickle nature of technology.
“As with any business it's about creating happy customers and being innovative in your approach,” explained Padisetti, who founded the business with husband, Mani.
“We have been in business for over a decade now and have learnt to be agile and nimble. We are finding that we must move a lot faster than we did over five years ago. Things change almost every other week.”
Leveraging an electrical engineer background, Padisetti has spearheaded a managed services provider (MSP) that now controls more than 5,000 endpoints, serving customers from 20 staff to over 2,500.
“Given we are a services organisation, we have worked over the years to create a Digital Armour (DA) way of delivering services,” Padisetti said. “Constant innovation, a fantastic team and happy customers are key. And we have all three of those and a lot of heart in our business, which I believe is quite unique.”
But while heart represents an attractive proposition to customers, especially those accustomed to sub-standard services, Padisetti acknowledged that passion alone is not enough to grab both the mindshare and wallet-share of the end-user.
Hence a technological skill set that spans cloud, infrastructure, data and internet, telephony, business intelligence and software development — wrapped up in managed services.
Specific to cloud, the provider has developed expertise in migration deployments which include infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS), backed up by Office 365 expertise and hosted capabilities.
Within the Microsoft suite, Digital Armour is also delving deeper in Power BI, leveraging business analytics tools to analyse customer data and deliver real-time insights.
As well as Dynamics 365 offerings, the business also continues to build out dedicated Salesforce services, covering consulting, implementation, integration and support functions.
Such expertise is endorsed by a certification list which includes Microsoft, Cisco and Telstra capabilities, as well as HP, Lenovo, Symantec and Alcatel Lucent Enterprise.
But Digital Armour’s strongest asset arguably lies in software development, through the delivery of custom built software solutions across multiple technology stacks.
Through an open standards approach, the development arm of the business partners with a long list of emerging vendors, such as Liferay, Alfresco, Magento, ForgeRock, Talend, MongoDB, Cloudera Hadoop, MuleSoft, Acquia Drupal and Ephesoft.
“We have built a fair bit of intellectual property [IP] that is unique,” Padisetti said. “This along with our list of happy customers sets us apart.”
Happy customers however, are hard to come by. Attracting a technology buyer is one thing, but providing a service that is unparalleled is unquestionably difficult in a market hell-bent on initiating a price war.
While cost will forever be an important factor in any purchasing decision, MSPs can ill afford to solely compete on the dollar in 2018, as organisations demand more from technology and the ecosystem of providers within it.
“Based on our experience of what customers perceive as value, in the technology area it is ensuring that the customer gets the right technology solution that solves their most pressing problems at an affordable price tag,” Padisetti said.
As outlined by EDGE Research — spanning partners, customers and vendors across Australia and New Zealand (A/NZ) — cloud migration ranks as the leading investment priority for end-users in 2018, with over 50 per cent of local workloads still located on-premise.
Irrespective of size or stature, the market has a mandate for moving applications to the skies. Yet such an approach remains saturated in complexity and challenges, as customers remain hindered by a lack expertise and experience.
Step forward the MSP, capable of plugging a problematic and widening gap for end-users across Australia.
“Customers continue to transition to the cloud,” Padisetti observed. “Some are moving workloads from one platform to another and others are leveraging hybrid models.”
Alongside further maturity of the local cloud market, security and digital transformation will also take centre stage as the leading investment priorities for organisations in the year ahead.
Digital Armour is already working with customers and industries seeking assistance and guidance ahead of and beyond the 22 February, when the Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) scheme comes into effect.
The notification laws impose mandatory investigation and notification requirements on most businesses with an annual turnover greater than $3 million.
Alongside NDB is the European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements, which also stand to impact Australian businesses from 25 May.
At that time, local organisations of any size may need to comply with the GDPR if they have an establishment in the EU, if they offer goods and services in the EU, or if they monitor the behaviours of individuals in the EU.
In the lead-up to the commencement of the GDPR requirements, businesses have been advised to confirm whether they are covered by the GDPR, and if so, take steps to implement any necessary changes to ensure compliance.
“We will be working closely with several organisations and industries to ensure that they are protected and ready for these deadlines that are fast approaching,” Padisetti said.
In examining the wider market landscape across Australia, Padisetti also noted the increased levels of “tougher” competition at play, leading to “margins shrinking” and a desire to actively pursue automation and digital transformation strategies during the next 12 months.
“Automation is another area that we plan to capitalise on,” Padisetti added. “I truly believe that this will reshape the way we do business and the workforce.
“With more and more businesses looking at digital transformation, this will increase spending on automation and have organisations looking at reengineering their processes to get smarter and quicker.”
In the channel however, Padisetti said many providers are still “resisting the cloud”, while also failing to build out capabilities across emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and automation.
“Cloud, along with artificial intelligence and automation will have a significant impact on the sector,” Padisetti cautioned. “Automation has the potential of replacing certain IT roles but as a provider we could also see this as an opportunity to decrease the pressure of the skills shortage.
“One thing I know for sure is that as an industry we need to up-skill and retrain constantly."
Furthermore, Padisetti said attracting and retaining the right talent will remain a constant barrier to adopt innovation, as businesses fight to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive landscape.
“Prioritising and knowing what technologies and projects will make the biggest difference to the success of the business given the above challenges will be crucial,” Padisetti added. “I think the key is getting the right advice and expertise to minimise mistakes and significantly improve the speed to market.”
As a result, the success of Digital Armour will be judged across three core areas in the 12 months ahead.
“Firstly, we will grow the business as rapidly as we have done over the last three years,” Padisetti said. “We have had massive growth and we are keen to keep that pace going.
“Secondly, attract exceptional talent who are as passionate as we are to serve our customers. We also must be quick enough to change our business as technology changes rapidly and be open to collaboration. This I believe is the key to succeeding.
“And thirdly, we will continue to work to make a difference in our customers’ organisations and keep collecting those case studies of happy customers.”
This article originally appeared in the February issue of ARN Magazine.