Axiologik SME Member Spotlight interview with techUK

Axiologik Director and Co-founder, Rob Stanger caught up with techUK to explain how the company has successfully delivered real-world acceleration and large scale.

Who are Axiologik?

We are proven business, technology and delivery leaders with track records in turning around and delivering some of the world’s largest and most challenging digital transformation programmes.

Having met in 2007 turning around one of the UK’s largest ever IT programmes, all three founders went on to hold senior leadership roles in FTSE100 and global IT services companies and have led some of the world's largest agile digital transformations. We have delivered in environments where mistakes have consequences and have systematically and consistently, brought troubled situations back from the brink.

We specialise in bringing real world, tangible improvements to struggling change environments through pragmatic leadership and pioneering, professional excellence. We’re experts in cutting edge delivery techniques, but it’s our proven ability to drive the bigger picture and our track record that sets us apart.

We also bring real-world acceleration to large scale digital transformations. As experts in agile frameworks, Continuous Delivery & DevOps, we recognise that acceleration comes from alignment, principles, strong governance and leadership and not from textbooks, shiny tools and 'promise-everything' methods.

Every member of our team has “real world” experience having successfully delivered major change programmes for some of the UK’s largest organisations. We’re not consultants dealing in abstract theory and recommendations that can’t be implemented, we believe in real-world, pragmatic advice, backed up by experience. We don’t believe in beating about the bush and political half-truths – we value absolute honesty and doing the right thing. Whilst we respect intent, we think outcomes matter more.

Throughout our careers, we have helped organisations get struggling IT programmes back on track. Whilst the business context changes and approaches mature, the root causes for failure remain the same. We formed Axiologik in 2016 because we believed our industry deserved better and that right first time should be the norm, not the exception.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

We’ve won consulting engagements for some of the UK’s highest profile clients against large, prestigious consulting firms. We’re really proud of that and even as a start-up, we managed to get ourselves considered alongside such prestigious names in the first place and really, really proud that clients chose us. For us, it gives us confidence that what we’re providing is a valuable service and something that the marketplace is looking for. Many of these programmes are of national importance and touch our daily lives. Furthermore, we have been retained by these clients upon completion of the original engagements to help further their digital transformation agendas. We think this speaks volumes about what we consider to be our most important deliverables – tangible outcomes.

We’ve defined new operating models for IT/Delivery organisations in excess of 800 people and made their agile delivery aspirations a reality. We’ve brought transparency and visibility as to the performance of major programmes and departments to help our clients really understand what is holding them back, as well as being clear on what they are doing really well.

At heart though, we’re delivery and transformation people – i.e. what gets us out of bed in the morning is the ability to drive a project, programme or business improvement. What makes us different is our track record of delivering those results in particularly difficult or challenging environments, again and again and again. This means that clients can take confidence that our advice is pragmatic, practical and achievable as opposed to theoretical and divorced from reality, which can be the case with some advisory firms. We’re also incredible value for money when considering the benefit we bring!

What's the biggest challenge you've faced as a tech SME?

Making people aware we exist! We’re absolutely delighted that so much of our work to date has come from our existing network and personal recommendations. We take real pride in the fact that clients that know us have actively sought us out and recommended us whole heartedly to members of their professional network. We believe there is no greater compliment than being recommended by an existing, or former, client.

However, in what is a fairly congested market place it’s often difficult to make our message heard, and to help prospective clients become aware of what differentiates us from others. This is one of the primary reasons we joined techUK. That, and the ability to learn from other members. We believe in our people and our collective capability, but we’ve been doing this long enough to know that there is always room for improvement. We’ve worked in partnership with a few other organisations that hold similar viewpoints to ourselves and have found these partnerships to be incredibly valuable in terms of knowledge and experience sharing. Learning from what others have done well, or even not so well, and getting external feedback on what we believe works has allowed us to evolve our approach to helping our clients.

We’d love to meet our fellow members of techUK and discuss the value we can bring to clients and fellow members alike.

You've now been running for 3.5 years, since your founding in September 2016. What advice would you give to yourself now if you were just starting out?

Be brave - but don’t overextend. It’s a rarity that business plans and projections survive the first contact and you need to be prepared for the eventualities, either positive or negative. Also, make sure you have good advice available to you – there are lots of people who will help you now with a view to building long-term relationships with you as you grow. Spend time finding them and make sure they’re prepared to tell you what you need to know, not what you want to hear.

Relationships are super-important – so much of our initial business came from people we’d known from our previous lives. Similarly, old friends helped us get our business off the ground at the start. The people you know now may make the difference for you in the future. Treat everyone that way, not just the people you believe are influential today.

We should have taken more risk – we focused on getting each of the founders billable straight away to ensure we could pay the bills. Whilst prudent, this constrained our ability to market and grow the business. In hindsight, we didn’t need everyone billable, all of the time. Everything is always easier in hindsight, however.

We should have tested our positioning earlier – we started out by asking clients to hand over the running of their major transformation programmes to us straight away because that’s where we excel. However, clients were initially more interested in our advice and helping them solve specific business issues.

Whilst it makes perfect sense that clients would want to try us out with something smaller and lower risk before making bigger decisions, we just didn’t see that to begin with and projected our view of the world. We managed in the early days because we knew our clients from past lives and they already understood what they wanted from us. In reality, we should have done more market testing and done it a lot earlier.

You don’t need a grandiose business plan when just starting out – you can spend all your time modelling revenues, gross margins and order books, but the reality isn’t going to conform to your spreadsheet. Having a business plan provides focus, but it’s more important to identify the 2-3 things that are going to make a difference and go after those as hard as you can. A business plan is only valuable once you understand what the market wants from you and where you think you can fit in.

Have faith – There were times when we didn’t know where our next engagement would come from and this created anxiety and at times also led to self-doubt. In reality, we were just impatient. We thought going 4 weeks without a new lead or engagement was too slow. We know now though that explaining to a prospect what we do and persuading them to work with us instead of an established big four consultancy takes time. You need to understand the challenges they face in realising their strategic objectives, and be able to explain (and sometimes demonstrate) how the situation can be improved in both the short and long-term. One of our current top 3 engagements came from a year-long part time engagement providing external assurance. Sometimes you have to go slow to grow fast!

It’s way more fun however – running your own business is a peculiar mix of exhilarating highs, waking up in the middle of the night with worry, and crashing lows. We wouldn’t change it for the world though, clients love what we do and we have become “sticky” as clients want to retain us, this can be a challenge in itself but what a nice problem to have!

If you would like to hear more about Axiologik, please contact Dom.Carter@Axiologik.com or on 07789 211111.

View our SME Member Spotlight insight on techUK's website here.

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