Giacom – From Dial-up to the Cloud
Giacom is a company with its roots in the dial-up age of the internet, but it is also laying the road to its future.
Giacom operates a cloud marketplace, an online platform that allows its users to access essential technological tools such as Microsoft Teams, Office 365, and security software, all the essentials small-to-medium businesses need.
“We enable the channel, such as service providers, MSPs and ITCs to deliver the right software to their customers,” explains Mike Wardell, CEO of Giacom.
Giacom was founded as a dial-up internet service provider in 1999, 24 years ago. Of course, very soon the company had to adapt to a rapidly transforming market.
“Obviously if you are a dial-up company today, you are not in business,” Wardell points out. “We then went through a number of changes, becoming an email provider until 2016. I joined at around that time, as the subscription economy was coming to the forefront of consumer life, through services such as Netflix and Spotify. At the same time, cloud products were becoming more accessible to smaller businesses, where previously you would need a consultant to deploy them.”
The circumstances created a perfect market niche for Giacom to take advantage of. While the company did not have the depth of resources to compete with large technology vendors, it had a platform and a strong customer base. By partnering with the best software vendors, Giacom’s Cloudmarket made it easy for its customers to get access to the best products and services available.
“We help businesses move from physical servers to the cloud, focused on bringing world-class vendors to small businesses,” Wardell says.
An Evolving Offering
This evolution would prove to be emblematic of Giacom’s journey. In a sector as fast-moving as the information technology market, it is not enough to have just one competitive edge.
“We are SMB focused, that’s where our business is centred,” Wardell says. “We do not compete with our customers because we are channel only and provide the widest breadth of cloud products.”
The latest stage of that evolution is that Giacom has become part of a wider group.
“We have had a number of private equity investors, then in 2020 sold the business to, Daisy Group. Then we demerged into a new business bringing together billing, connectivity and cloud solutions to the channel,” Wardell recalls.
The Group consists of Digital Wholesale Solutions (DWS) Union Steet and Giacom.
“It gives us a wider partner base of around 6,000 partners, a wider portfolio, larger scale and new investment,” says Wardell. “Now that we are part of a bigger business, we are the only provider who brings together cloud, connectivity, mobile and billing solutions.”
Although Giacom is part of a big business, it remains partner-centric, putting its customers at the centre of everything they do and ensuring it keeps the personable approach it has become known for.
“I speak to our partners every day, as do the rest of the executive team,” Wardell says. “In addition, we proactively ask partners to contact us if they need any help, we can afford to do this because our sales and operational teams provide such excellent support it is rarely required.”
New Ways of Working
Over the last few years cloud computing has gone from a niche concern to an integral part of everyone’s working life, thanks to Covid. Even for Giacom, the change has meant some adjustments.
“We had to look at how to manage teams remotely, and how to manage customers,” says Wardell. “That was a big challenge. Like many businesses, even after lockdown, we had to learn how to manage a hybrid workforce.”
Making this adjustment at the same time as the company was changing business models meant a ground-up transformation of the company, and not for the first time.
“Changing business models from being a software vendor required different people, different forms of organisation, but we changed our model and doubled our revenue in the same period,” Wardell says.
Once again, Giacom’s evolution is reflecting a sea change in the marketplace.
“The attitude to technology has changed a lot, particularly towards cloud services,” Wardell says. “In the first three to six months of Covid everything stopped, but six months through it you see a big uptick as everyone realises they have to adapt.”
That process of adaptation is still ongoing, and as Wardell points out, it is a change that is about people as much as technology.
“Where we are focused is being sensitive to people’s needs. As time has gone on, people changed their lifestyles in terms of what they do in and around working hours,” Wardell says. “They need more flexibility.”
As the company is adopting a new culture, it is growing, bringing in people who have never known the old culture.
“We have gone from just over 100 people to 800 people,” Wardell says. “You need a way of working with that wider group. We are still treading carefully, opening new offices that are more welcoming, and encouraging people to come in.”
It is a learning curve that has equipped Giacom well to assist businesses on the same journey.
“Our partners and customers are IT businesses. They are at the forefront of this, using our technology and finding an innovative way for their customers to use it,” Wardell says. “They have better solutions day-to-day. What we are doing is selling the technology, helping them understand the benefits of one solution versus another.”
But while Giacom has built up a wealth of knowledge and experience, it is also unencumbered by the baggage of old habits in a way that many of its competitors are not.
“other businesses offer cloud services alongside legacy products with channel selling and direct selling all at once. It is a mixed bag that can potentially be a bit confusing about what the right proposition is,” Wardell says. “We don’t have that legacy base; we can just promote new and relevant solutions.”
But throughout those solutions, the core priorities remain the same.
“It is not the platform or the product, but the people and the focus on how we can help our customers that is important,” Wardell says. “Our ethos is that if we help our customers, they will be better businesses, and then we can grow our businesses together. It’s a proper reason to get out of bed. We have numerous examples of businesses growing with our help.”
The company had a turnover in the single-digit millions back in 2016, and since its most recent transformation has grown to over £100 million in cloud revenue, with a group spend of over £350 million, with £500 million as the businesses’ next target.
“Our short-term focus is to bring all the businesses together more closely,” Wardell says. “We want to provide one service to our partners rather than multiple brands. Then we plan to expand our portfolio with the aim of spreading that proposition to different territories.”