Integr8 IT seeks to position itself for public-sector workflow

South Africa’s largest privately owned information and communication technology (ICT) company, Integr8 IT, is positioning itself to take advantage of the significant amount of public-sector ICT requirements on the horizon.

The company has grown organically since its start-up in 2001, and Integr8 group joint CEO Rob Sussman says the company has identified the substantial opportunity in the government tender arena, and is poised to become “the next blue-eyed boy” of the sector.

“From a delivery angle, the company is exceptionally strong, so, at the moment, we are structuring our company to be the next ICT giant of the public sector,” Sussman tells Engineering News.

He adds that the company could either maintain its position as the largest unlisted ICT company in Africa, through acquisitions, or it could take a “step to the listed side of the spectrum”.

The group is already involved in substantial government contracts.

“The private sector has high service expectations and tight margins – and we have proven ourselves in that space. “If we can take those service levels and margins into the public space, I think the impact will be massive,” asserts Sussman.

Integr8 has been in discussions with some of the leading empowerment com- panies in South Africa since the second half of 2008.

Owing to the distressed global finan- cial markets, banks are under pressure, exercising caution, and much of the funding previously available to these entities has dried up in 2009. Opportunities for empowerment businesses to get involved in the ICT landscape are scarcer.

“We are going to pick and choose the right kind of partner,” states Sussman.

He explains that the company has zero debt, and, as an annuity-based business, does not need the cash, and thus will not rush into any decisions, but rather focus on association with the right people.

“2003 would have been a nice time to take the company to the main board, but not in these times. “We have the financial clout, the turnover, the profitability, so we are lined up well, but, again, our political alignment is what we are focusing on, to take our services to the public sector,” affirms Sussman.

Integr8 has some 450 employees in what it calls a ‘flat structure’, and prides itself on the company’s ability to attract and retain the right skills in the industry. Sussman says the company has been an acquisition target, but the leadership has resisted selling the company as it has solid ambitions to continue growing.

Into Africa
In fact, the company is spreading its reach further into Africa, with the establishment of a further ten Integr8 offices on the continent.

The office in Botswana has already opened, and inroads are being made into Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana, Tanzania and other African countries.

“We are looking at using Africa as our base to go to the global markets. When we go into other regions north of South Africa, we always go in with partners, because IT language is the same globally, but you [have to take into account] cul- tural differences. Our success in other markets is testament to that,” comments Sussman.

The international offices would be fully fitted with everything needed to become an Integr8 group office, with local equity partners, including knowledge transfer, innovation and infrastructure.

Innovation
“We are doing things in Africa that global companies haven’t even thought of,” says Sussman of the group’s affinity for innovation, which is getting attention from major global companies.

“We know there is a massive gap in the global market for a hosted compliance tool around email. We are the first company to build that using a Microsoft platform. “Microsoft has given us the certification that our product, Preserv8, is the first globally approved hosted email archive, retention, continuity and compliance service,” Sussman enthuses.

Preserv8 is a service, hosted on the Internet, that intercepts, monitors, indexes, archives and checks compliance of emails, which companies can use for insurance and monitoring purposes.

The tool has only recently been made available on the market, and Dimension Data’s Internet Solutions is providing the service under the brand Preserv8 IS.

Also on the innovation front, Integr8 IT recently completed an electronic payment mechanism called WiWall8, which is currently undergoing pilot testing, and could do away with the need to produce credit cards to make payments. This tool essentially “marries your exis- ting bank account to your cellular phone number”, explains Sussman.

He says the differentiator for the product is that no new bank account needs to be set up, and the technology uses an existing bank account, and links it to existing pay points.

The company’s FaxM8 fax-to-email service is another innovation, launched in May 2007, aimed at improving efficiencies of office communications.

The service is licensed with Telkom, and faxes sent to an 086 number in South Africa pass through a fax server at the Integr8 IT nerve centre in Johannesburg, where they are converted to an image file (.tiff), and routed to the client of the 086 number holder.

As the company grows, establishes offices offshore, and becomes more involved in the public sector, Sussman emphasises, the aim is to stay young and quick, and up to speed on the innovation edge.

“We realise the challenges and know that we have to adapt our footprint to cater for those things. “We won’t become a big lethargic corporate dinosaur,” reiterates Sussman.
Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu