Building a new organisation from scratch requires imagination, foresight and unrelenting hard work – all of which have gone into Axiz Advanced Technologies.
When Jacques Malherbe was tasked with setting up Axiz Advanced Technologies he brought in an old colleague, Andrew Moodley, as his right-hand man.
The two have worked together at other companies in the past, are in tune with one another’s strengths and weaknesses and complement one another in many respects.
“Jacques and I worked together in the past,” says Moodley. “We both ended up at Axiz and worked together to build Advanced Technologies.” Early adoption of technology and investing in capability has been one of the key foundation blocks of our design process in building our business.
Partnering with the right vendors is key to the organisation’s success, and this is one of the areas that Moodley excels in.
“Together we scan where the market is going and from there identify the technologies that we need to get on board to compliment or enhance our offering to the market. From there we actively pursue or enable activities to acquire this competence into the business.
But beyond this, Moodley has been instrumental in driving Axiz digital transformation strategy.
“I have always been tasked with building new businesses, and acting on emerging trends outside of the normal vendor portfolio,” Moodley explains. “This involves taking trends like cloud and Internet of Things (IoT), identifying and building capability and then making them relevant to the channel, which will help the channel to be more relevant to their customers.
“So my job has been very much to evangelise new trends, and evangelise relevance.”
Every organisation in the world has heard about digitalisation and the need for digital transformation, with IT technology the catalyst for making it happen. But the IT channel itself has been remarkably slow to transform itself.
“When we talk about transformation in the channel, it has to be about adopting new ways of thinking,” Moodley says. “It is about how we enable a bimodal business model for ourselves and our partners.”
Our work over the last few years has been to build Advanced Technologies as the Mode Two business for Axiz.
“We have been building new capacity to make the company a digital business. This included employing people with new backgrounds and skills rather than people from the traditional channel.”
But transforming Axiz into a digital organisation is only half the job. If the channel does not transform too, the exercise will be pointless.
“So my full-time job is digital transformation of our organisation , which at the same time implies working together with the channel on transformation,” Moodley says. “And we are confident that we can do both.”
A few resellers have taken the plunge and are working with Axiz to go on the digitalisation journey. “Those who want to go all-in, we want to commit resources to,” Moodley says.
Axiz Cloud Platform
A critical component of our digital journey revolves around a full self-service digital platform in the form of the AxizCloud Platform.
Moodley believes the platform, which delivers cloud services, Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities as well as ordering, provisioning and billing, coupled with a full ecommerce engine is the best in region.
Axiz is so serious about being a fully digital organisation that is has invested in a software development company.
“They are our own developers, so it’s our own IP,” Moodley points out.
The portal goes beyond selling and serving Office 365 licences.
“Yes, we have got public services like O365, but we are also building customised portals for resellers, aligning the workflow engine to their business processes and integrating their own services or vendors into the platform.
“So we are not just selling products, we are building capacity.”
The platform will serve vendors’ cloud programmes, but Axiz is also building its own capabilities, and encouraging independent software vendors (ISVs) to add their own services to the platform and make them available to the channel as well.
But we are also adding value by building our own services as we see a demand in the channel, or a gap in our portfolio.”
An example is in the area of IoT, where Advanced Technologies has the skills and technology to bring industrial machines into the network in a relevant and useful way.
“We understand how to bring digital technology and business activities together to impact society and people positively,” Moodley says. “That’s what we intend by digital transformation. We have to understand present and envision how we execute to build the digital future for our businesses we desire.”
It’s not hard to see why digital transformation can be scary for some people, but Moodley says the results are worth the journey.
“What we are telling resellers is that we can take the noise away from the business. If we can remove a layer of noise, they can become that much more efficient and won’t have to utilise quality resources on mundane or repetitive tasks.”
Committed to Digital Transformation
“We are making a significant statement: we are all-in and committed to digital transformation.”
Moodley describes Axiz as channel scientists. “As distributors we understanding building the channel; so we are taking that channel capability and digitalising it.”
This makes Axiz the distribution partner of choice for resellers and vendors, Moodley says.
“We are not thinking just about products and warehousing. We are talking about true channel transformation and developing the capabilities that we all need to succeed.”
It is this capability that is key to Axiz’s message. “We are looking for people who are not from our traditional channel to answer questions we haven’t asked as yet. And we are all learning as we go along.
“Importantly, we are not in the business of selling a portal, but are rather enabling capability.”
On a group level, Axiz’s parent company Alviva Technologies is keen on investing in IP (Intellectual Property) rich businesses, and Axiz is doing just that.
“Building IP is important for our channel transformation strategy,” Moodley says. “Our value-add is that I’m not just selling something, but taking products and services and doing something with it that makes it more relevant for the customer and the business landscape.”
IoT is an example, where Axiz is putting together an ecosystem of partners who can work together to provide a solution.
“The reseller doesn’t have to do the hard work of evaluating suppliers and then integrating their products and processes into their businesses. There are just too many for the time we have available . That is what we are good at – it’s the capability we have used to build our own business over the last 27 years.”
Partnering in the digital world
Axiz works with upwards of 4000 resellers, and aims to eventually engage with all of them via the Axiz Cloud Platform.
“As we add new vendors and services to the platform we will become more relevant to more and different partners,” Moodley explains.
However, resellers might be wary of switching to cloud-based services, afraid that the distributor or even the vendor could cut the reseller out of the equation completely and service the end user customer directly.
“Yes, a cloud platform could potentially be used to service the end user,” Moodley admits. “And the biggest danger in the ecosystem we have built is that resellers may think we would do that and that is our intent.
“But I’m telling partners that you have to trust Axiz. We are a channel-led organisation and have always been one. Its fundamental. The channel is our lifeblood, where our capabilities are and where our success remains.
“That trust is important. The resellers who partner with us go all-in and trust us work together with them on unlocking new business opportunities.
“Our integrity talks for us in this. People are prepared to go all-in with us, and we will go all-in with them. We are on this journey together.
“This is what the gig economy is all about and together we will make magic.”
Moodley and his team are advocates of design thinking, and use this methodology in developing their business capabilities.
Design thinking for us is all about developing for outcomes, and being agile enough to adapt as requirements change.
“Because we have our own development team, we can define the functionality that our customers want and then commit to doing it. Speed is a strategic advantage and agility is just as important.
“When we slow down it must be to a blur.”
The platform is relatively new, and is being tested by resellers now and with a few full production products and services available. But it is by no means the end of the journey. Moodley has committed to adding new features and functionality on a regular basis.
“Our planning schedule is to launch new product or service on the platform every six weeks (or less).”
Importantly, the AxizCloud platform is not only about cloud services but more about cloud thinking. “If you are on our digital platform you should have a new service that you can participate in every six weeks.
“We have to evolve with the market or we risk being left behind. There are so many moving parts in this business that the market is moving faster than you think.
“So we have to force ourselves to evolve quickly, and have put a gun to our heads with the commitment to a new feature every six weeks.
“We want to be able to fail fast, but also to succeed fast.”
So far, the platform has been well received. “We haven’t had a partner firing us yet,” says Moodley.
For partners and vendors, the platform will usher in a lot of changes, he adds.
“How people interact with us will change.
“We will be digital-first with some vendors where the technology warrants a digital first engagement.
“But not every vendor can be treated the same way. This is why agility is important.”
Design thinking argues that the market reaction to a product or service can only be gauged once it goes live. “The market realises that a new product isn’t going to be perfect. If some functionality doesn’t work I will fix it, and do so quickly. If it doesn’t exist, I will develop it, quickly. If some requirement is unique we will build it, quickly”
Into Africa – and beyond
As Axiz expands its footprint in Africa, it is important that the AxizCloud platform is relevant across the continent.
“With digitalisation, the geographical boundaries are moving,” Moodley says. “The channel needs to become more competitive and effective as competition across the industry increases by organisations we never competed with before.”
Coupled with that partners want to be able to operate in different currencies, invoice customers in any geography, and and maintain service levels across a multitude of technologies.
“It’s too easy to reduce the distributor’s role to quote, order, deliver the box – we say it’s really a journey. With design thinking, we strive to understand the customer journey and where we may inject relevance and enable true value”