Giacom CEO Mike Wardell on the distributor’s cloud vision

Boasting to be the UK’s fastest-growing reseller-only cloud services provider, Giacom has an impressive roster of vendors on the books, including Microsoft, Acronis and Bitdefender.

With a promise to “support you throughout your journey”, the distributor has a strong focus on putting its customers first. Having won a number of awards in 2019, launching its own product, and seeing its revenue grow over 40% year-on-year, PCR caught up with Giacom’s CEO, Mike Wardell, to find out more about the distributor’s recent successes and its plans for 2020 and beyond.

How was 2019 for Giacom and what were some of your biggest successes?

2019 was a pretty good year for Giacom. From a top-line point of view, we grew to £35
million in revenue, which was over 40% year- on-year growth, and we reached half a million end-users. This was underpinned with continual strong customer acquisition and increased product adoption from our customers.

We also launched our own product, which we haven’t done for a number of years as we’ve been trying to find the right vendors and partners to fill the product gap, rather than necessarily building them ourselves. Last year, we identified some gaps in the market which is why we developed a Cloud Server and a Cloud Network Drive product, which effectively helps customers move from a physical infrastructure to the cloud more easily. This was a big step for us and is something we’re still excited about progressing with over the next 12 months and beyond.
Another success of ours was picking up a fair number of awards, such as being named a ‘National Winner’ in the 2019 European Business Awards, one of the world’s largest business competitions, as well as winning ‘Fastest Growing Tech Business of the Year’ at the 2019 Hull Tech Awards.

The market for cloud services appears to be growing rapidly. What are some of the challenges Giacom faces in terms of competitors and gaining market share?

Firstly, the fact that it’s growing fairly rapidly is clearly helpful because if the market is growing, this, in turn, means we will continue to grow without having to change too much. Most of the challenges we face are internal as opposed to external – it’s about recruiting the right people and investing in their development.

As the market is growing so quickly, it’s creating huge opportunities and demand for everyone, so therefore we need more people across all areas of the business. One of our challenges is recruitment, especially when there is a skill-shortage and many businesses are having the same challenges.

You can argue that our market share has grown, but fundamentally, in order to change that market share in the future, it’s all about the service you offer your customers. As long as we continue to provide a strong service with the right products and added-value.

Giacom claims to be the UK’s fastest-growing reseller-only cloud service provider. A very enticing statement for many businesses to hear. Can you talk us through some of the benefits resellers will see by working with you over your competitors?

We see ourselves as different from our competitors. Our vision is to help our customers to become the most efficient and effective IT companies in the UK.

We’re not just coming at it from a product or service point of view, but instead a holistic and full business perspective.

Anything we can do to help our customers be better, more effective or efficient, we’ll try to do. This means when a customer contacts us, we need to be there to help them in whatever it is; whether it’s an issue, opportunity or a solution – we aspire to provide high-class service.

From a product point of view, we need to make sure we’ve got the right product on the shelf that helps them fix a problem for their customers.

We also need to make sure we’re providing the right content, collateral, training and insight to help them educate their customers to ensure the solution fits the business. As for the platform, we need to make sure we optimise the ordering and provisioning process.

We make it simple for our customers to partner with us. We don’t ask for minimum commitments, there is no minimum contract length, so our customers can cancel at any point, we have an easy sign-up process, and it’s easy to get assistance from the right person as we are a tight knit team all in on office.

The fact that we have our own platform means that we can be very agile to our customer demands. If there is an issue with a customer, we have a quick and direct level of communication, so we don’t have to go through many complicated tiers of support.

Despite the concept of cloud computing and storage being around for some time, there are still a number of businesses that are wary or unsure of how to utilise it properly. What advice would you give to those looking to use a cloud service for the first time?

There remains a large number of customers that haven’t adopted the cloud, but the world is changing and many people are transforming from ownership models to subscription-based models. It’s less likely for people to own CDs or DVDs, instead, they utilise subscription services such as Netflix and Spotify, which is becoming more relevant to the consumer’s lifestyle habits.

However, some people are still used to owning or physically seeing something for their money. But for me, the benefits of putting things in the cloud far outweigh that ownership view.

From a security aspect, if you have a physical server, there is an immediate physical security risk from the hard disk failing to other damage that could be incurred. Cybersecurity is also a consideration, if you manage your own server, you have to deal with an increasing number of complex threats and attacks. If you put information in the cloud, your small business will be increasingly protected.

The cloud is more resilient as you can store your information in multiple locations – so that if one location fails, it will be backed up elsewhere. Additionally, the price is a lot more accessible now, making it more affordable to more people. The cloud is gaining more and more flexibility components as time has gone on, so there is no better time than now to make this change.

What innovations have you seen in the cloud computing space in recent years?

Cloud computing has been around for a while and in recent years the volume of software and applications being created has accelerated. We therefore have to work hard to understand that market in order to pick the right products to help our customers.

Related to that, when these products originally became available, they tended to only be accessible for enterprise customers, the cost was prohibitive and consultants were needed. Now, the applications are available for the masses and there are a lot of small business-focused solutions without the need for a high cost implementation.

What do you think will be the next big innovation in this space?

I’m not sure what or whether there will be a big innovation. We’ll see improvements in existing technology including in performance and additional features. If you look back on cloud computing over the years, it’s difficult to pinpoint a specific point of innovation, as it’s developed steadily.

I believe we’ll start to see more use of artificial intelligence within applications to see them reach their full potential. We’ve started to see it in chat-bots and many security products, but I think this will become more available in everything we use.

What does Giacom have planned for the year ahead and beyond?

Helping our customers and making them more effective and efficient is the anchor point of everything we do.

Through our platform, our aim is to reduce or remove friction from any ordering processes; we want our customers to be able to order straight from their system without having to double key, reducing the potential for errors and manual reconciliation work. We are also planning to provide additional analytics and insight to our customers through the platform.

We’re looking at launching some more security and IP products over the next 12 months by understanding the demand from our customers.

Another aspiration we have is to enhance and continue our customer service. To achieve this, we need to ensure we listen to our customers and make sure we react to what we’re hearing.

From a financial point of view, we want to hit close to £50 million in revenues and reach 1 million customer licenses. Overall, everything we do is directly linked to helping our customers be the best they can be.

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