Columbus, an international consultancy, delivers Microsoft-based solutions in three key industries: manufacturing, food and retail. Their success has been impressive. Over the last year Columbus has experienced 28% growth in revenue, 29% growth EBITDA (a measure of operating performance) and 20% growth in service revenue. Their future is poised for yet more growth and profitability. What is the major factor driving their success? Digital Transformation.
“We have just announced the best results in the company’s history for the third year in a row,” states Mary Hunter, Managing Director Columbus UK and Global Sponsor for Customer Success “with the fastest growth area around the Internet of Things.”
The transformation of Columbus from an IT reseller to a global consultancy started over four years ago when the changing global economy inspired their Columbus15 strategy and helped spawn a very innovative approach to their business.
In Mary’s words, “The value prop we provide to customers is that we are centered around digital leadership, mitigation around risk and guidance of our customer. We want our customers to be with us for life; so we offer lifetime support and services. We’re always thinking about our customers and our customers’ customer.”
Every year Columbus delivers 1.2 million hours of consultancy service based on Microsoft Technology. According to Mary, “a lot of the business conversations that we have start on the topic of ERP. The customer thinks that is all they need. Then we bring them on the journey of the changes in technology, IoT, the importance of embracing technology, analytics and BI. With current existing ERP customers, many think they just need support. We are now having larger conversations with them to see how they can improve their business and we are offering more technology solutions in the cloud to support them.
The inherent value of embracing the digital economy results in data-driven insights that benefit not only Columbus, but also their customers. Because of this data-driven knowledge, rooted in their unique approach, Columbus delivers innovative solutions faster and in a more cost effective way taking “best practices” to an ever higher level.
Columbus helps customers digitally transform their business and improve the value of their ERP investment through the implementation of social cloud, mobile, and analytical solutions. By using templated best practice processes through their business process management tool integrated with Microsoft Lifecycle Services (LCS), Columbus mitigates the inherent risks of implementing and upgrading ERP solutions. This is digital leadership with transformational ERP in action.
Part of their process includes an advisory board comprised of employees who are industry experts in their own right. The team meets regularly to share information about products, processes and trends – essentially “crowd sharing” industry knowledge. The industry knowledge becomes a solution and then is formalized into a blueprint. Columbus then integrates a mix of IP and Microsoft technology via Columbus’ RapidValue and SureStep+ methodologies. RapidValue is a business-process modeling solution based on industry best practices and Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. SureStep+ is an implementation methodology based on Microsoft SureStep and enhanced by learnings from over 8,000 of Columbus projects. This winning combination helps Columbus deliver innovative solutions more efficiently.
Mary states, “The customer reaps the benefits from best-in-class solutions and lower risk because it is mitigated by repeatable processes. The sum of many organizations gives clearer view of direction. Customers tend to take 80% of their solutions from best practices. It’s less risky because they are using tried and tested ways of working.”
Columbus encourages the importance of embracing different technologies and provoking customer insights by sharing the information they’ve gained through events they host in the community. For example, they work closely with Aston Business School in the UK where they hold service workshops on market awareness.
When Columbus started holding these events about a year ago, they didn’t know what to expect. They were looking at the long term value of educating potential future customers on technology and the changing global economy.
According to Mary, “Overall, we’ve had a very positive reaction. What’s happened is that every event has become a touch point, one of many touch points that has turned attendees into customers. Some attendee’s thought we would be giving a hard sell; they love that we were not trying to sell but educate and guide. It’s win-win!”
The success of Columbus15 has paved the way for Columbus2020, their next five-year plan that will ensure Columbus stays profitable, compliant, competitive and relevant.
Digital Transformation has had a very powerful impact on the valuation of Columbus. Growth and profits have increased. Their share price at an all-time high. What shareholder can complain about that?