With Ashley Hamer, Chief Innovation Officer, Stratas
Ashely Hamer is Chief Innovation Officer at digital transformation specialists Stratas. Since 2010, Stratas has been helping organisations improve their processes and workflows through automation. Using its Data Forge platform, it analyses and documents existing processes before designing and implementing new workflows, taking into account the impact of changes on an organisation’s employees and working practices and, wherever possible, integrating and leveraging a client’s existing technology investments. In addition to its consultancy services, Stratas provides a range of solutions for automating information workflows, including document capture/automation and information management, with particular expertise in finance automation and digital mailroom implementations. Here, Ashley Hamer gives his view from the channel.
Technology Reseller (TR): How’s business? Better or worse than 12 months ago? And how confident are you about the future?
Ashley Hamer (AH): It’s an exciting time at Stratas: we continue to grow in many areas and our Professional Services team, our Sales team and our Operations team have all added new talent as demand for our services has increased.
That said, we don’t underestimate the challenges that our existing and prospective clients face in these challenging financial times. Increased costs in most business areas, including utilities, stock and labour, demand that organisations drive efficiencies across their business. Stratas supports businesses in these aims, using our Data Forge platform, so we are cautiously optimistic about the future.
TR: In what areas are you experiencing strongest demand?
AH: Clients and prospects we talk to are prioritising the transformation of business areas with the highest levels of manual activity. This is often where there is a need to use physical or digital documents containing key data and intelligence that need to be keyed into various systems to become useful.
We have seen a surge in demand from Finance Operations due to outdated manual processes and this has become a core focus for Stratas, delivering process change though solutions that eliminate manual tasks and add value to operational workflows.
Additionally, we are now being asked ‘how can you help us target, understand and improve other processes in our business?’. This has created momentum around the process transformation platform BusinessOptix that we both use and facilitate for our customers.
TR: What recent wins are you most proud of?
AH: I’m not at liberty to name names, but our engagement and pilot with one of the big 4 consulting firms over the last few months has been a real high. Together, we have been able to build something that adds real value, for them and us.
Equally thrilling for me has been growing demand from one of our purchase- to-pay (P2P) technology partners to deliver implementations due to an influx of sales. That’s a great reflection on our people, their skills and their customer focus. As a board, we are hugely grateful to the excellent team we have and very proud of the service levels they deliver time and time again.
TR: Where is business proving most difficult?
AH: Finding highly skilled and experienced people that fit our culture is becoming more and more difficult. As we grow, recruitment remains a permanent agenda item.
TR: How have you changed/are you changing business operations to exploit new opportunities?
AH: It’s not only our clients who face ever increasing costs; they affect us all. During Covid, we kept all our staff onboard and used the pandemic as an opportunity to review and refine our customer and back- office processes. This work delivered some new ways of working supported by new technology which has made us more efficient and improved the customer experience. We are now reviewing the results and repeating the exercise to identify areas where we can do even better.
TR: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the industry today?
AH: The go-to-market strategies of our technology partners are a mix of direct and indirect. However, we are seeing more direct capability being built, which always causes concern for the channel. It’s vital to ensure all our relationships deliver mutual value, as this is key to sustaining relationships that thrive rather than just survive.
TR: Could vendors and distributors do more to help you overcome these challenges? And if so, what?
AH: Having open and honest conversations is key, so everyone understands what the relationship needs to deliver, what is expected of us and vice versa. Growth is important for us all, and the channel can be a very efficient way to deliver on this objective. The best mutually beneficial relationships are those with the highest levels of dialogue and engagement. It sounds simple, but it’s key.
TR: If you could change one aspect of your job, what would it be and why?
AH: I love what I do, so that is a difficult one to answer. Because of hybrid working, more meetings these days are virtual, and I like to meet people and build relationships, so if I had to make one change it would be to have more face-to-face engagements and fewer virtual meetings. That would be a positive change for me.