Brendan met up in Wellington with Sean and Tony from i-lign Software, and talked about putting bad guys behind bars, rebranding, and building positive ecosystems.
Hi guys, thanks for the coffee! Let’s just start at the beginning and tell us a little bit about i-lign and what you do?
It’s an interesting time for us at the moment because we are in the middle of a rebranding process and soon we’ll change our product name from i-lign to Legend. We want everybody to become legendary in business and create a workspace that is fun to go to and where people can do great things.
If you have a good look at companies and organisations, you’ll see a lot of negativity, many silos, and a lack of transparency. We see it as our job to help companies to obliterate those silos and to create an environment that is transparent and authentic. We basically lift up an organisation and connect people, their work, their thinking, their ideas and stories, and put all of that in one place. The result is:
An organisation that is completely connected,
Everybody in the organisation can see at any time what’s happening, and
It becomes clear how people fit into it.
That’s what we do.
That sounds like a pretty ambitious mission.
Oh it is. In many ways. We try to disrupt convention, and help people think in different ways about projects or their business. And that means taking on some major challenges within organisations. Fixing those issues requires a massive mindshift. That’s a challenge because generally organisations don’t deal very well with change or management technology. Not because they are afraid of change, but more because they don’t understand the consequences of that change.
In order for your clients to change, do they just need your software or will you also help them through some form of consultancy?
Our product is really intuitive in terms of how you use it, but alongside that we offer either consultancy ourselves, or work with companies who are willing to provide these services in collaboration with us.
To achieve the results we are aiming for, it is critical that organisations become aware of the fact that transforming doesn’t unnecessarily disrupt, but instead strengthens their business. That is a process, a journey, and the consulting will assist companies in this process and help them to create a different mindset.
Did you always have the urge to change the world for the better, or was it a coincidence you ended up in this business?
That’s a bit of a funny story because I started as a police officer, saving kittens, catching bad guys, you know. So in a way I have always been trying to make the lives of people better I guess. (Laughing)
But I was also the head of an ambitious project called INCIS(Integrated National Crime Information System). It has an interesting reputation in New Zealand, although not necessarily an accurate one. But to cut a long story short, that project basically finished my career in Police. So I decided to have a look around and see whether there were any tools available that could have helped me to manage this job better. As you might know, INCIS was a mega project, with a budget of over 100 million dollars, multiple agencies, over multiple countries, and involving hundreds of people. But I didn’t find anything suitable. So I saw this huge gap and decided to give it a go and see what would happen.
And what happened?
Well, it has been a long, but exciting ride. It took us a couple of years before we got our first client on board and we’ve gone through many iterations. Then we started working with Callaghan Innovation and got some R&D funding. At that point we really started to look at organisations from a completely different angle and see what we could do. Over the last 5 years we have been really busy rebuilding and improving, and now we are at a stage where we can do some really interesting things. But yeah, it has been an amazing 20 year journey.
I saw this huge gap and decided to give it a go and see what would happen"
If you look back at that 20 year journey, is there anything you have learned that sticks out for you? That you would like to share?
There are many learnings, but if I would have known at the start that organisations have such a resistance to innovation and change, I probably would have thought it over a little longer. And then I would have started anyway... (laughing) But seriously, the main thing that I have learned is that you have to sell your offering to the Chief Executive. For an organisation to really change, you need top-down support, otherwise it won’t work.
Another thing I’ve discovered is that the world can be a pretty negative place at times. To tackle this, we need to find people and organisations that have a positive mindset, who really want to give it a crack to make the world a better place. We want to be part of that positive ecosystem.
Making the world and the workplace a better place through Business Management Software? Is that what you would call it?
People have the tendency to put what we do into little boxes. That’s how our brains work and I guess you could label us as a Business Management Software or Enterprise Software Business. But we don’t see ourselves that way. We don’t want to be labelled at all because what we sell is so much more than just Business Management or Enterprise software. We sell an experience that includes providing people with their own personal storyboards and making it possible for them to communicate and connect through blogs, share ideas, all sorts of things. It is all about collaboration and creating better, more positive workplaces. According to Gallup around 85% of employees are disengaged from their work and that’s terrible, so why not do something about it?!
That makes sense. So if you had to pitch i-lign (or Legend) to SiteHost, to improve our workspace, how would you do that?
Most organisations are pretty disconnected and forced to work in silos. Or work in silos simply because that’s what they’ve always done. We help companies to take away those silos and to reconnect. And as a result, companies can rethink their way of working. So with SiteHost, I would like to have a conversation about connection and investigating how well connected you are. Not just now, but also into the future. What will happen when you guys grow? Will your levels of connection grow seamlessly with you? That level of connection is not just about your team, but also the connection with your customers, your partners, with us. That’s the conversation we would like to have with you and see how we can help you to have better, more fruitful conversations with others. And become a more successful company as a result.
You mentioned you don’t sell Business Management software or a CRM. Can you explain how your product is different from products like Salesforce or HubSpot?
Most products are point solutions that deal with a defined problem, but not necessarily with a big organisational need. We talk to organisations about actual needs; real problems, human issues, and how we, with our product and expertise, can help them to solve those issues. We won’t only look at the current situation of an organisation, but also where they would they like to go, and how can we help them to get there? So we are not one element or another; we look at the whole organisation. And that is what makes us different from those companies or products.
Is there a certain type of company that would benefit most from your product and your approach? In other words, do you have an ideal customer?
Our ideal client would be a medium to large organisation with the need to scale and lots of things going on. Often that’ll be things they can’t actually see and that need to be brought to the surface. They’ll have an Executive team that wants to be the best they can be and are willing to try things out, to explore. And they’ll be willing to do that with their people, not at the cost of their people.
We already spoke briefly about partners, but how important are business partners for the kind of work that you do?
We currently work together with Grant Thornton, one of the largest consultancy companies in the world and that works brilliantly because they have a different kind of expertise. Our ideal is to be part of an ecosystem of companies that all speak the same language, have the same mindset and values, and can complement each other in a way that one plus one becomes three. An ecosystem that will make it possible to respond to any question, challenge or request at any time, anywhere in the world. That’s what we want to achieve.
Are there any trends in the industry we should keep an eye on?
That’s an interesting one because everybody seems to be talking about Artificial Intelligence and Big Data these days. But to me, those are not the trends to be looking at. I’m not saying they’re not interesting, but there is another set of trends, around how organisations actually work and how people work within those organisations, that is really interesting. And how technology can help to improve the way organisations and their people work.
Later this year the Drucker management conference will be held again in Vienna, and to me that’s really worth watching. A hot topic last year was how organisations lose their humanitarian feel because of technology. This year it will be more about ecosystems. How to build ecosystems, not just within a business, but also across partners and customers and how these ecosystems can help organisations function better. And I think those are the trends we should look at. Those are the ones that really matter.
A little about SiteHost… You have been a customer for a few years now so how has your experience been so far? And what actually made you choose for SiteHost?
We have used a number of providers over the years and we weren’t always satisfied with the levels of service and we had to do a lot of troubleshooting ourselves. So we looked around and SiteHost really seemed the best in terms of cost-effectiveness and scalability. So we decided to give it a go. And we haven’t been disappointed. You guys are by far the best we’ve worked with. When you say something, you do it. And you always deliver to very high standards.
Would you say some of that comes down to a proper level of communication?
Oh yes, you guys are amazingly responsive. You are always there for us when we need you. There is a really nice message on your website that says something like, “Not sure it’s an emergency? Just give us a call.” And that says it all for us. You’re not threatening, you are friendly, take us seriously and listen to our suggestions.
The quality of your engineers is great and we speak the same language, but maybe even more important, as we said before, is that you are willing to listen. It is a collaborative approach really, we are learning together. We see you more as a partner than a provider.
If you had to pick one thing that SiteHost made you solve, what would that be?
There are lots of things you’ve helped us solve, but if I have to mention one thing, it is that you provide us with peace of mind. And that’s critical to us. The things that keep us awake at night have absolutely nothing to do with SiteHost.
That’s fantastic! Is there anything else you’d like to add to that? Or am I asking a bit much now?
No, not at all. I think it has been a really great experience. I mean, we are going through a time with a lot of challenges and it is nice to know that one part of our business is ticking along nicely. And that we have a global expansion plan that we can have conversations about with you guys to make that happen and make that a success. So we should really stretch our thinking about how we could collaborate together into the international markets and build that positive ecosystem.
When you approached us for this conversation, we were really happy to do so because after our recent upgrade that went so smoothly, you deserve a big thank you! Your service is first class. Keep it up.