Play the King Episode 10: In this episode we interview Van Murray, Vice President Service Delivery and Commerce Operations at AppSmart. Van shares his insights on the cloud revolution and the democratization of technology, service, and support! Learn how the AppSmart platform is being utilized as a fulcrum to empower over 6,000 + Technology Advisors.
Powering business success with smart technology
AppSmart is the #1 marketplace to find, buy and manage all business technology services including connectivity, wireless, software, infrastructure, energy, managed services, and devices. Thousands of organizations of all sizes and in all sectors, including retail, healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing, banking, education and more, trust AppSmart and their network of Technology Advisors to help them make smarter technology decisions. AppSmart sells services exclusively through our vast network of vendor-agnostic AppSmart Technology Advisors.
Podcast Sponsored by OMI "We Make CRM Work!"
This podcast is sponsored by OMI the company that makes CRM work! We're speaking with Van Murray vice president of service delivery and commerce operations at AppSmart.Van Murray:
My name is Van Murray. I'm vice president of commerce operations and service delivery here at AppSmart. And I'm responsible for our commerce platform, our marketplace, which services our technology advisors, as well as in customers and our ISV's and providers. I'm also responsible for our SaaS and IaaS business, which, is comprised primarily of our providers like Google, Microsoft DocuSign, but hundreds of others, which we sell on our marketplace platform.Play the King:
So how did you get to where you are today? How did it start? And give me the main beats in that story!Van Murray:
AppSmart today is a compilation of many companies that we have gone through several M&A and a projects, but also partnerships along the way. But my background is in it. I grew up in information technology and also have been a part of a number of startups and started several businesses. And the short version is, about 10 years ago, was in I T o perations actually running information technology for a private equity firm, which we have offices globally. That was back in the days of client server technology. I'll call it legacy connectivity, internet services. And we did, a lot of really, really big projects, sp ent a lot of money and did things the right way in terms of security and continuity and backup and disaster recovery and all the things that you really sh ould b e doing. But we launched vi rtualized n etworks and unified communication services for voice, and basically aggregated the whole technology stack. I looked back and really just saw that to be not possible or even sustainable for most businesses. And so it really thought there had to be a better way, which led to what is now AppSmart, a company that really was focused around moving your productivity solutions. So think email, calendar, mobile, moving that to the cloud and getting it off of the legacy hardware, client server solutions, and basically operationalizing our teams. So helping businesses eliminate their capital expenses on hardware and managing, as well as having a reliable, secure solution. And that was done on the backs of Microsoft and Google and was essentially out taking down the exchange servers of the world, which led to the need to address the rest of the stack. So everything from connectivity, all the way through to devices, including all the SaaS and infrastructure and services that you need in between. So we built a platform to deliver that service and run the business, essentially inventory of who has what at any given time and allowing customers to manage their services and procure from one place. And that platform then led us to our home with AppDirect, which is our organization is made up of one company, two brands, AppDirect and AppSmart. And we are together working to deliver our services from all our providers and help give the customer the best experience for all of their technology needs is primarily all of your business technology in one place, think a marketplace for all of the, all of those technology products and services has been sort of the evolution of our sales channel.Play the King:
So let's talk about how you guys work with agent-based companies. I understand there's a product called Smart Support tthat's been pretty important for you guys!Van Murray:
There has been, I'll say the evolution and the new name of that product. We have several products around our Smart Support offerings, but they're really, if y ou think about our customer, the technology a dvisor, which is an independent seller of technology, o r we have over almost 6,000 of these technology a dvisors in the U S today, and they have relationships with their customers and have sold technology to them over the years. And these end customers range from anywhere from small businesses, all the way up to large enterprise. So end customer consumer of, of the technology that we sell through our technology a dvisor agent network could reach e ssentially any size business and all of these solutions can be quite complex. Some are simpler than others, b ut generally they all require some level of service and support in order to consume them. And that's what we're really trying to simplify and automate as part of our platform. And one of those components on the service side is Smart Support, which is our support offering. It's an end to end offering for both our, our technology advisors, as well as our end customers that provides them support. They need tier one, tier two, up to tier three and escalations even up to the provider or the provider, if something's critically broken. And when we offer that as part of our, our service by, by default, it's part of our platform, and you can then upgrade to various levels, including our Smart Support premium product, which is a comprehensive product that allows you to essentially get all of your technology. It support from one place. This applies to any business who typically the smaller mid-sized businesses. They don't have an it department, so we can serve as that and providing them that it help desk. And then including enterprise and larger companies who have established it departments, we can supplement them as well. And so we have both in our, in our portfolio.Play the King:
So it sounds like you guys have a pretty wide range of size of companies. You guys work with just, have different needs. What are some ways that you can measure the impact you're having on the organizations you work with?Van Murray:
So I think in terms of the way we measure, I guess, our success with our technology advisers and our customers it's, I mean, fundamentally our advisors, our agents are they're out selling. And so we are measuring your actual sales metrics, but we, we primarily talk in terms of GMV gross merchandise value. And we were looking for top line revenue sold our advisors, measure their businesses in that way, because they're earning a commission on those sales, in terms of our end customers, the consumers of the technology success, we measure in a lot of ways, you have things around C-SAT and NPS, which we of course measure. And so that, that drives a lot of our success in terms of how we operate our business. But customers can also measure their success in a number of ways, thinking about capital versus operational expense for technology. It's the way that you account for those as a business can really matter and not to mention how much cash you have to spend as an expense on your technology, but most forward-thinking businesses, especially those that are successful today. And a lot of digital transformation are thinking in terms of productivity gains, which are harder to measure, but, you know, when, when your employees and your teams can effectively communicate, it takes less time to do what's normally an arduous task or take even days or weeks to complete. And, but you can solve that with a, with a SaaS product potentially, or an integrated set of SaaS solutions when you're able to procure and manage that all in one place, as well as having integrations with those products, those can create, you know, big, big wins within businesses.Play the King:
And so just sort of jumping from there to how your agents and the partner channel leaders that you guys work with, what do they need to be doing to, to really leverage your services? What are they, how can they best incorporate what you guys offer to impact their business?Van Murray:
I'll put in a day, in the life of a technology advisor, you're working with, you know, with your customers to deliver the best solutions. And that could be i n, in terms of cost savings or expense management all the way through to some of these productivity gains and digital transformation services. And so these, these conversations can be difficult. We, we, you know, we believe that our a dvisors need a single source for all of t heir, their technology, they're going to be able to sell, but giving them resources to also t hen sell is important. And so, you know, our platform is built around the a dvisor to give them the, these tools. These are tools like for example, connectivity, service, location tools. So we call our service locator. So the ability to easily find all of the options available for a particular customer in terms of their connectivity needs based on their location. So providing tools like that, as well as our smart marketer tool, which allows our technology a dvisors to build automated marketing campaigns, digital marketing campaigns, I'll have content and collateral available on h and. All of these things are gains for, for their business, versus having to, try to reach out to many providers or have multiple tool sets that are, that are not connected and integrated to the platform that they use. And so I think that's k ind o f how I think about the technology a dviser.Play the King:
It strikes me that one way to maybe describe what you guys offer to your clients is the ability to stay on the cutting edge of the technology that can help them with their businesses without investing, really deeply in any individual of these, of these sectors. So I wonder if you could take that sort of premise and talk about what's next for the industry as a whole for AppSmart. What do you see down the road around the corner?Van Murray:
I've done a few talks over the years, and it's hard tothink about even, five or 10 years out, even though I think you can see sort what's happening. I believe today, we're in the middle of digital revolution, if you will. Everyone should be doing some, some form of digital transformation. At this point, they should be consuming some type of cloud service and some modern technology, services at this point versus where we started. When I started 10 years ago, it was hard to find someone who was running Google apps, which has now evolved from, you know, to G suite, and now Google workspace, you know, these tools have evolved and you expect to see them now, in end customers. So I think, u h, thinking about digital transformation and then really what we're trying to do at AppSmart, which is, we service our, our technology, merchants, and these merchants come in various forms and sizes, and they all focus on various parts of the technology stack. Our goal is to then service these merchants and ultimately give them the ability to sell to their customers. And so democratizing what's available in the market is a big part of what we're trying to do in the platform. So the future of AppSmart would include, deeper integrations where we're siloed solutions could then could be integrated into and talk to one another. So we want to be able to offer tools that allow easy connections of data and between applications. So think, cloud to cloud search, as the most basic use case you bought multiple cloud storage solutions. Well, how do y ou, know what's where, right within your organization, how do you know who's talking to who you think about t hen giving someone an experience to see all of those connections? And so that's, that's a pretty complex topic. I could spend a lot of time on that, but, I believe the future where things are more connected and integrated. And then also thinking about some of the more complex solutions that are part of your everyday life, but, you know, just think password management andhow do you know what password goes to, what solution and how do you know that your, your organization is secure? Those are all very, very complex problems that businesses tackle every day. We want to democratize that and make these standard sets of tools that are all secure and usable and an easy way through our platform available to all customers with upgrade paths, to potential solutions that may deepen that experience as well. Right? So, so those are a couple of examples where I think the future is, and I think the general market itself, there's still a lot of opportunity for any sort of ISV to launch a new, a new solution. And there's a lot of legacy solutions available. For example, software available specific to, you know, a plumber, a plumbing company, or a real estate agency. There's, there's a large number of opportunities. And I think the number of SaaS solutions are going to drastically increase over the coming years. And obviously that makes it even more difficult to know what's available and what's the best fit for your business. So again, back to maybe the future of AppSmart, the idea that, you have some easy way to make a decision a nd give our technology a dvisors t he ability to be the best, the best a dvisor they can be for their customersPlay the King:
Van, I wonder if I can get you to dig in just a little bit more on what I might call the intersection between the tech and the business opportunity is you guys see it!Van Murray:
You know, collectively we've raised around$460 million dollars since our inception, both those of our primary organizations were founded in 2009. So roughly the last 10 years. So it's, I won't say it's a, it's been a big bang. It has been based on investments for growth, and this is a growth market. And naturally, as you think about industries, and again, back to like the revolution that we're in the digital revolution, but other industries that have done this, even thinking back to the industrial revolution aggregating, what sort of a different stack, if you will, you know, it doesn't make a lot of sense to have, have these things distributed. There needs to be an easy way or a way to simplify what's inherently quite complex. So that's why I think there's a huge opportunity for, for where we are today, but obviously also in the channel, a similar thing is happening and to think about, you know, this distributed network of technology agents and advisers, there's a need there to come together. So that's the way I think about the market.Play the King:
Right? So, you know, Van I'd love to, to sort of wind us down here, give us a sense of some of your, your main partners. I know OMI in their Salesforce and Microsoft CRM expertise are pretty crucial for you guys. Let's just take me through that. Maybe tell people where they can, can learn more about AppSmart to get involved and get started with you guy!Van Murray:
Obviously you can visit us www.appsmart.com and depending on who you are and what you are interested in in terms of meaning, if you're an agent or an advisor, looking to sell or have solutions to sell to your customers, you can sign up with us there. You can also find an advisor, or if you're an end customer, we only sell through the channel. So we can help you find an advisor to help. If you're an end customer, that's looking to consume our services or purchase products from us. We have our providers themselves, which are ISV's or product providers think of like a Google or Microsoft, but also service provider, like OMI who delivers services against the products that we sell. For example, Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365 and others, where, if you need implementation services or support services around those products, you can also sign up with us as a product o r service provider at AppSmart as well. If you want to get into our marketplace!