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Europe & Middle East Outlook

BIS Group
Econocom
Europe technology
Benelux
Holland technology
Netherland technology
IT
advanced technology
audio visual
AV
software as a service

BIS / ECONOCOM

A magical fit

BIS and Econocom can look forward to a future of sustainable growth as they look to offer the most advanced technologies, via a unique user focused model, to as large a demographic of customers as possible

Writer: Matthew Staff

Project Manager: Jamie Sutherland

Following an Econocom acquisition of the Company in May, 2017, BIS has begun to lay the foundations for a concerted pioneering of a technology-driven business model that has so far been unseen on a continental - or indeed global - scale.

Combining BIS’ technical engineering expertise, Benelux reputation, and extensive audio-visual (AV) experience with Econocom’s financial engineering expertise, global stature and innovative technological outlook; the culmination has found a never-explored before niche which is set to bring ultimate usability to the user.

Addressing not just AV technology implementation but each solution’s integration into the wider office or building environment, the Econocom|BIS amalgamation negates the need for ongoing technological replacements for customers and instead takes the responsibility off each user’s shoulders through an ‘as a service’ model.

But while, for the industry, this is a novel concept, for each of the two protagonists, it represents a complete matching of ideologies and outlooks.

BIS CEO, Jean Pierre Overbeek introduces: “BIS (Business Information Systems) was founded in 1983 and over the years has shifted to being a multimedia system-integrating company. In recent years especially, we have migrated ourselves to become a knowledge partner involved in all aspects of AV in Benelux; optimising our wholly in-house approach to become innovators in everything we do.

“It’s a fantastic industry to work in as it’s so dynamic and fast, and we are seen as the biggest and best in the region at keeping ahead of all trends and knowledge; even before the exciting Econocom acquisition which took place last May.”

Econocom CEO, Yann Toutant picks up: “As such, BIS was an ideal addition to the Econocom portfolio. There was a synergy, and we were in discussions for two years in harmonising our rationale prior to the acquisition’s completion.

“Specialising in leading technology for 40 years, we have established ourselves in 19 countries by managing the ownership of IT solutions of our customers like a car lease company would do for company cars. Around 10,000 devices are out on contract every single day so we are a massive player in the market, but there is something significant about the Dutch market in particular that fits in with both ours and BIS’ specialties.”

As a service

The technology industry is so fast moving that devices, services and solutions can become outdated and even obsolete in less than three years, making the purchase of numerous devices an unappealing proposition to businesses. Giving customers more flexible usability is therefore a hugely attractive option for such entities, especially in a region that continues to drive a vast portion of these technological innovations, such as Benelux.

Toutant continues: “Customers don’t want to lease or buy; they want to use! So our ‘as a service’ model involves us keeping ownership of the technology while continuously delivering services, maintenance, updates and support; to make sure every aspect of responsibility is taken away from the customer.

“In the Netherlands, they still use the buy model as part of a maintenance contract, but not in an ‘as a service’ model and this is what we can now offer alongside with BIS. We offer AV solutions, as a service.”

The key word to address is ‘collaboration’. Collaboration not just between Econocom and BIS but with each and every customer to make sure that device usage is consistent, suitable, standardised and in-keeping with each entity’s needs and office environment.

“In the Netherlands, businesses lease their office building, employees drive a leased company car, and they use software and data functions for monthly fees. So why not offer a service which allows them to  focus on their own core businesses rather than technologies which are constantly changing?” Overbeek asks. “What we want to do is combine the technical engineering expertise we have in-house at BIS with the financial engineering expertise within Econocom, and what we have done over the first six-seven months since the acquisition is build an organisation which enables customers to benefit from those two competencies.”

Taking ownership

Consequently, the past half-year has comprised a conjoining and manifesting of teams across BIS and Econocom geared towards serving more than 5,500 customers with the best possible expertise and business model to address the circular economy and the notion of ownership.

“Who takes ownership of a device once the technology leaves the manufacturing plant? We do! It’s all of the technologies, all of the assistance, and maintenance, and education, and tools. But none of the responsibility for the customer,” Toutant affirms.

As Overbeek adds, it focuses on the concept of providing experiences rather than products, and it goes beyond just the device’s consideration too.

“We can essentially deploy an entire meeting room or building to complement an AV solution or suite; and we do approximately 5,000 installations a year, all varying in scale and applications,” he explains. “Our interior design team design the rooms and provides the end users with a picture, not just of their new AV assortment, but of their entire environment.

“This is a completely different approach in our industry. On the business side, we do everything in-house and with our additional ‘as a service’ model, we remain the owner of it all - asset management, tech lifecycle, servicing and maintenance etc - making the user feel entirely comfortable at all times.”

And this naturally synergises with Econocom’s long-held belief of how this customer-provider relationship should work. It’s long been the international heavyweight’s differentiator and is now BIS’ as well. 

The model is a differentiator for two reasons: one, it fills a gap that neither manufacturer nor supplier is able to fulfil in the traditional value chain. And two, it is occurring in one of the most technologically forward thinking regions in the world, therefore keeping the business and  its customers wholly ahead of the curve.

Toutant says: “Customers don’t want to buy, they want to use. But traditional distributors and suppliers are stuck between manufacturers who just want to empty their stock as soon as possible and customers who don’t necessarily want to buy devices. So they end up with lots of goods on their balance sheets, which is a huge risk.

“Our ownership management approach carries the same risk but we mitigate it with the service we provide. And we provide it to a customer base worth focusing on. You should always keep an eye on what’s going on in Holland, technologically, as it’ll usually be what is going to happen in Europe and the rest of the world thereafter.”

Homogenous solutions

As a facilitator of this innovation, BIS’ vision is directly correlated to what the market needs. The Company was acquired by Econocom less than a year ago, and after a few months they collaborated in combined offerings. A plethora of Dutch organisations are already exploring the ‘as a service’ solution for its AV assortment; interest surpassing what either Overbeek or Toutant could have imagined prior to the acquisition.

Areas of healthcare, retail, education, logistics, corporate and even governmental bodies are among the most familiar customer demographics, but the emphasis is always on being opportunity and application driven, rather than market driven. If the demand is there, then it’s on BIS’ shoulders to formulate the most bespoke and tailored AV solution, regardless of sector.

“We’re not just dealing with different technologies but are dealing with different requirements and different applications from different sectors for these technologies,” Overbeek adds. “As a starting point though, we have identified seven core markets and for those seven sectors we have the solutions - both technological and financial - to cater appropriately.”

These solutions inevitably incorporate the most contemporary of technologies and software, but also strive to adhere to the most pressing of industry trends.

Cybersecurity, efficiency, sustainability and cost-effectiveness are just a select few of these trends but once again, the core focus is on embedding the end service into each customer’s overall work environment.

Overbeek continues: “We enable customers with an overall roadmap and a tech refresh solution over multiple years, and we believe in offering homogeneous solutions so that users become familiar with their entire suite.”

Toutant affirms: It’s ‘plug and play’, not ‘plug and pray’. It’s matching a technology to an environment in order to activate a business. That’s why we don’t talk about one room or one fragmented technology offering. We talk about the whole infrastructure dedicated to technology in the company.”

A magical fit

The in-house starting point has been pivotal in facilitating BIS’ initial outreach to the market since last May, and indeed its former business model prior to the acquisition as well. And embedded within that successful model is a commitment to human resources which has been recognised in these early months via the hiring of a new and experienced HR professional.

An inevitable increase in employee numbers will occur in the months to come, and just as it is important to inform and educate customers, it is equally significant to keep each new member of staff in line with the wider organisation’s ethos.

“We take risks with our model so we need the right people within the Company to lessen those risks. We offer solutions as a service and take responsibility for the whole solution starting with a screen installation but then also even looking after the content that will be displayed on the screen. This again increases our risk ratio and customer satisfaction levels, but when carried out well, it also increases the value of the whole offering,” Toutant details.

Exceeding expectations is a strategic objective of the Company’s efforts and customer-focused remit; even incorporating training and usage adoption plans for the bigger projects as part of the service.

“After sales is every bit as important as the initial sale within the ‘as a service’ approach,” Overbeek elaborates, “and we foresee the combination of everything revolutionising the industry”.

He continues: “As passionate entrepreneurs we like to surprise our ecosystem with our as-a-service solutions. The industry might be hi-tech but the route to market and the B2B concept is quite traditional. If you look at Netflix or Uber etc, everything is going back to ‘pay as a service’ and with IT being the fourth utility, we don’t see why technology can’t be offered in the same way too.”

Always having the right service at the right time is the overriding benefit from such a methodology, showcasing innovation and flexibility in the business model as well as in the devices themselves.

Toutant concludes: “The Econocom umbrella is only going to spread wider in the future, but this particular acquisition was - if I was to summarise - a magical fit.

“Technology only becomes interesting when it provides the service, experience and emotion you expect it to provide. With Econocom and BIS together, we are able to bring customers that magical combination of digital finance and digital technology, with us taking full responsibility for everything else.”