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Unification: when four companies become one

I am back after a short break. Apologies for the silent period, but I’ve had a huge unification project on my hands. It has now completed and I want to tell you all about it!

When Paul Wander and I decided in 2007 to embark on our journey into the world of PHP and open source in 2007, we never expected to be 200 people strong in 2016.

Along the way, we brought together four companies, all providing different but complementary services for our customers. Inviqa (PHP applications), Session (Magento ecommerce), iKos (Drupal CMS), and SensioLabs UK (Symfony) were all using open-source technology to help enterprises develop web applications and IT systems to drive business growth.

Over the years, The Inviqa Group has grown to become one of the largest independent software development companies in the UK and Germany. Our intention was always to become a technical powerhouse and we have achieved that goal.

One of the things we have noticed in the last couple of years is that our customer’s technical challenges have become their top priority. They are bombarded with new terminology and must face disruptive new entrants to their markets like Uber, Airbnb, and other high-growth start-ups.

A recent KPMG report for CEOs described their main challenges:

  • 72% are struggling to keep up with new technologies

  • 86% are concerned about the loyalty of their customers

  • 69% are concerned about their competitors’ ability to take business away

  • 74% are concerned about new entrants disrupting their business model

 

The report also makes recommendations to CEOs:

'To be a market leader, you need to deliver highly differentiated solutions to solve the needs of you customers. Today, more than ever, these solutions require bringing together multiple players working together in an ecosystem to deliver to customer needs'.

'The main effect new entrants have had on all companies is how they connect with customers. As a result, companies from all industries need to stay competitive by upgrading their connectivity with customers'.

If you observe how companies are transforming in the face of these new challenges and how they have redefined themselves, you’ll see some amazing comments from CEOs:

FedEx: 'We are a technology company within a logistics company'.

Domino’s Pizza: 'We are a technology company that happens to be selling pizzas'.

Kodak: 'We have emerged as a technology company serving imaging for business markets'.

McLaren: 'Technology drives everything we do'.

If you continue with this strand of thought, you actually come to the conclusion that in today’s world:

  • Fashion stores don’t just sell clothes

  • Bed retailers don’t just sell beds

  • Snack companies don’t just sell food

  • Charities don’t just raise funds

  • The media doesn’t just publish content

  • A bookmaker doesn’t just take bets

 

If you follow that train of thought, you quickly realise that every business is a technology business, regardless of their core offering. Technology helps brands to differentiate, to stand out in busy marketplaces with fickle customers. But as much as every business needs to be a technology business, they don’t always have the skills to become one.

As well as a lack of in-house skills, many companies are finding that they are at constant risk of falling behind their competitors and the demands of their customers. They don’t just need the skills, they need people who can help them keep ahead of customer trends and of emerging technology. Without making that shift to become a technology-led company, they risk being left behind.

Consider this:

Did the taxi industry ever think that an Uber could exist…and have such an impact?

Did the hotel industry ever believe that an Airbnb could be so successful and disruptive?

Did encyclopedia creators ever see Wikipedia coming? And totally destroying them?

Over many discussions with prospects and existing customers, it became evident:

The Inviqa Group’s customers needed a partner alongside them that was willing and bold enough to take on the impossible – when they needed it. They wanted a single partner, not multiple suppliers, that could offer them the skills, the strategy, and the technology to keep them ahead of their rivals and in pace with their customers.

So our conclusion to all this was to unify our four companies to create a multi-discipline technology partner capable of solving their biggest challenges. They would only need to deal with one company and one brand, but would benefit from multiple complimentary services all delivered by the same team.

This was a big decision, and not one we made lightly. In the excitement of the rebrand we knew we needed to stay focused and continue building on the core competencies of our company: our talent and our technology expertise.

We reorganised the company by its strengths and formed three practices that would represent our specialisms: ecommerce, content management, and digital innovation. Many of our clients need a mix of these specialisms and so, to better support their decisions and technology strategy, we created a new consultancy practice.

In order to move up the food chain we knew we needed to complement our strong technical team with more domain expertise and subject matter experts. Over the last few months, we’ve hired a few consultants who are capable at engaging with our customers at boardroom level. They understand our clients’ goals, strategy, and business challenges. And they come up with ideas, options, and solutions that ultimately improve businesses.

The feedback we have received from the market since the unification has been terrific. Customers, partners, and suppliers all agree with the thinking, the messages, and our ability to help them at a much more strategic level. Since the unification I have met a few other CEOs who have said that they too are going through similar consolidations in pursuit of the same thing: better customer engagement.

Unifying four companies into one isn’t easy, and I will continue to blog about the actual process with all its challenges – and believe me, there have been many. People, regulations, legal, processes, communications, internal systems, branding, PR, and more have all had to be carefully considered and planned. The unification project turned out much bigger than we anticipated, with many lessons along the way.

Stay tuned for the full story.