With 2000+ employees, 50 worldwide locations, and more than $1 billion in an annual revenue, Diversified is a technology solutions provider delivering innovations in digital media, collaborative technology, broadcasting, electronic security and OTT solutions to a global clientele. rAVe Europe’s Bob Snyder chats with Michael Parker, director, strategic accounts EMEA at Diversified in London. Parker has 17 years in the AV and UC markets.
Michael, we’ve heard Diversified created an integrated solution ecosystem to enable a safer and more efficient return to work. Can you tell us the story behind how Diversified entered this market segment — and what’s on offer?
Diversified services many vertical markets globally, yet a huge amount of what we do relates to workplace technology solutions.
Many of our customers see us as their strategic technology partner for all of their sites globally. Most of them now face the same challenge: “How do we safely re-open our facilities to employees and guests alike, whilst providing full confidence in using those spaces?”
One positive from the pandemic is many technology vendors worked hard not just by making their existing offering relevant to our new normal — but by really innovating and by making giant leaps forward.
From room and desk booking systems that now consider social distancing (ensuring office workers won’t book a space too close to one another) to outputting data for operational teams to know when to sanitise workspaces so they become bookable again.
My favourite innovation, if I had to pick one, would be from the team at Teleportivity. Diversified had already embedded their QR code and NFC technology into our global service offering. Now Teleportivity has developed technology to offer virtual reception screens where the receptionist or appointed user can take the video call from the reception display onto their own mobile device. There’s no need download software or app, so a remote receptionist can guide the guest for a really personal experience. That’s really exciting tech in my opinion — over and above the safety aspect it was designed for — and any building or company using technology like that would stick with me regardless of the outcome of the meeting itself!
Many organizations want to “box shift” the obvious products for a safe return to work. What Diversified created — and we spent a lot of time and money on it — is an entire ecosystem of third-party products that can interoperate together to provide a full solution with actionable intelligence for our clients.
Often these include solutions many of our customers already have — such as digital signage or space booking systems — so it’s about helping clients leverage their existing investment whilst providing new and more impactful output from those systems.
For example, if signage screens already exist, why not tie them to a sensor giving live information? This is another favourite of mine: based on the need for social distancing, we can add the ability to reduce occupancy levels for lifts or washrooms etc.
So often we speak to organisations who have policy in place, but no way of monitoring or policing outcomes. As a visitor or employee, I can see a sign on a door that states no more than four people in a washroom. That seems all well and good until you realize you must enter the space to count people in the space! A simple sensor solution can give a stop/go (red/green) notification outside the space, using existing or new signage.
The speed with which our workplace safety ecosystem is growing and maturing is wonderful — from temperature screening and building access or AI solutions for capturing live usage of spaces (and then sharing that data with operational teams to make sure those spaces are serviced based on actual demand).
For example, many of our customers spend huge amounts of money on cleaning and sanitizing their facilities top to bottom, regularly. We can now help them see exactly where and when they need to service the spaces based on heatmap information making them more effective and saving money at the same time.
Can you pick one product that best shows your commitment to the category?
Temperature-checking kiosks are a big investment so far and it is because we took a very early interest in an existing product and then chose to control the experience (and react to changing global conditions) by developing and deploying our own software.
Temperature-checking solutions make up a small part of the overall ecosystem but we have invested over $6 million on just this element so far.
When new rules came to fruition around the world for face coverings to be worn, we were very quickly able to amend our software to monitor and report this new user requirement — and push out the update via free firmware to our customers.
There have been many improvements and feature set enhancements so far. We are making a large investment in the whole ecosystem because we believe whilst the pandemic will be over at some point, it has changed our behaviours pertaining to the workplace — the investments we continue to make now are relevant for the future.
A hand sanitiser station with inbuilt signage screen might now be displaying COVID-19 related information, but there is no reason why it can’t be displaying something informative (or fun) in the future — it is just digital real estate after all.
Previously your business in EMEA was mainly in meeting rooms?
Yes, that’s true, the vast majority of our EMEA business was focused around workplace technology. Lots of meeting rooms but also all the other areas where audio visual technology resides in the modern workplace.
As the company grows, we are developing many of the areas where the business has already demonstrated success in other regions. Broadcast has grown rapidly in EMEA in the last few years and there are other vertical markets where we’re already leveraging our global pool of expertise, too.
What is unique about Diversified EMEA is where the revenue comes from. The business has always operated with the MO of customer focus as opposed to the next project. We provide a genuine single partner proposition to our customers understanding that their challenge is not always about the technology but sometimes about logistics or keeping their own business on track with their own standards.
Lots of partners can often mean a customer is being pulled in lots of directions. Our message is simple, we understand what our customers want, why they want it and how much they are prepared to pay for it. Once you have those points covered, a multi-country rollout can move ahead far more quickly because the customer doesn’t need to educate multiple partners about their ways of working — they have a partner already in tune. As a result, about 80% of our revenue through the UK EMEA office comes from projects outside of the UK.
How has the pandemic affected business?
Great question and given my last statement about where our business comes from, you’d think the impact would have been catastrophic, but it hasn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, completing projects often feels like bashing a square peg through a round hole at the moment. The teams have worked incredibly hard to appear to our customers as graceful as a swan gliding across the water whilst often the swan’s legs under the water must paddle really hard to get to where it wants to go.
With lockdowns and travel restrictions it has been hard to travel the full team usually on a given international project, but Diversified enjoy a wonderful global partner network based on mature relationships — and by leveraging those relationships (and great leadership from within the business) we have been able to successfully complete projects.
Crucially, we continue to win new projects. We haven’t been impervious to the challenges of the pandemic — far from it. But we remain positive about the future and have even managed to expand some of the teams within our business during what is a very testing time for our industry.
How will Brexit impact your business?
Fortunately, our Brexit planning was completed before the pandemic hit. As we grow around the world, we often open a business entity in a particular country so that we can transact in local currency with our local — even if we do not have bricks-and-mortar or teams of people. Europe is no different and Diversified operates entities in Ireland and the Netherlands so we can transact quickly and cleanly when required.
Honestly, from a business growth perspective I have not had any conversations with customers where a significant concern has been raised about how we might service them properly in the future. It remains to be seen how travel might become more difficult, but we will work around it in the same way we have this pandemic.
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