Micro Strategies: Delivering innovative technology solutions that drive business results
Ongoing demands for value-driven data continue to transform businesses at a rapid pace. Founder and CEO of Micro Strategies, Anthony Bongiovanni, discusses how the business continues to drive exceptional client experiences across the US
The demand for information technology (IT) services across the US continues to show no sign of stopping. Revolutionizing the way in which businesses and consumers connect and deliver essential products and services, US spending is projected to reach $158bn by 2020, a staggering increase from $141bn just three years ago.
Relocating its corporate headquarters as a result of its impressive growth, Micro Strategies has supported clients for over 35 years. Situated in Parsippany, New Jersey, the business has continually transformed its services to cater towards ever-changing client demands.
“I started Micro Strategies to write custom software for businesses. In the early 1980s, businesses didn't have computers, but personal computers (PCs) had started to come out, such as the IBM PC,” explains Anthony Bongiovanni, Founder and CEO of Micro Strategies.
“We would write small applications, such as accounting or inventory control systems to enable customers to gain efficiency within their organizations and become more profitable and responsive. However, as our client needs began to outgrow what we could provide, we became an IBM business partner. This gave us additional resources to support customers to utilize technology for their own business benefit. IBM has been a great partner and with their strong technology portfolio, we've had the ability to grow our business by a factor of 20 over 15 years.”
As digitization becomes increasingly embraced across the corporate sphere, technology leaders and businesses remain keen to look at how to utilize technology to drive business growth and become more relevant to its target customers. Targeting customers in the mid-market, Micro Strategies now delivers the capabilities to those businesses which need additional support to implement essential digital tools.
“There's so many different ways to use technology to gain a competitive advantage. That's one of the things we focus on. Over the past five years, this has really changed our business and how we go to market dramatically. Additionally, as business requirements and IT workloads continue to grow while IT budgets and staffing levels don’t, it becomes increasingly more difficult for customers to have the range and depth of experience to architect, implement and maintain the right IT solutions. That is where Micro Strategies can really help,” he adds.
Working with customers to successfully mine, manage and monetize informational assets available within their organizations, Micro Strategies delivers solutions to unlock value from corporate data that businesses continually collect and store. Supporting the management, protection and utilization of this data, Micro Strategies has therefore adopted five essential practices to deliver exceptional business benefit to their customers.
In addition to platform, cloud and security practices, Micro Strategies also provides exceptional Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and big data and analytics services, enabling businesses to become increasingly responsive to customer demands.
“We help customers turn their data into information, for example, identifying purchasing behaviors and trends, or more efficiently managing their inventory, etc. Things which make us unique are the broadness of our practice areas and our skill sets that allow us to build the vision for our customers, implement the solution and manage the technology. Since we started 35 years ago, we have always been very deep in technical skill,” reflects Bongiovanni.
However, the company’s managed services business has become essential to its success. Instead of selling products, Micro Strategies has sustained its approach to provide exceptional solutions, taking its intellectual property and some of the best of its partners’ solutions and products, and then tying them together to give customers unique ways to utilize their data and derive incomparable value.
“It gives us the ability to say to a customer, ‘Here’s a way that you could apply technology that'll help you drive your business.’ We work with our customers to create that vision and then architect and build the solution.’ One of the first things a customer will say is, ‘That's great, but how am I going to do that when my people don't necessarily know this particular product or set of products?’”
“This is another area where we provide tremendous value. Not only can we create the vision and build the solution, we can do the implementation and continue to manage the solution for the customer afterwards. Customers don't have to be saddled with concerns of how to get the people and skills in house. That's one of the offerings that makes us truly unique.”
A further fast-growing service at Micro Strategies is its robust security practices. Helping customers protect and manage their environments against ongoing cyber threats, it delivers solutions which grow and evolve alongside its customers.
“Cloud environments are changing how people implement technology dramatically,” observes Bongiovanni.
“Cloud makes sense for environments that need to consume high amounts of processing power and/or capacity for short periods of time. It makes sense when you don't have to build an environment and data center and keep it up and running when you're only going to use it six weeks out of the year or two weeks every quarter. It also suits when a company's resources are not centralized.
“With the Internet of Things (IoT), we have also gained the ability to sift through voluminous amounts of data that technology generates to get to the information that can drive business forward. Being able to get to data that is real information and valuable in really driving a lot of change in our business. There's no limit to the imagination in terms of what you could build.”
Promoting innovation and collaboration
Throughout Micro Strategies’ subsequent growth and ongoing focus to guarantee an extraordinary customer experience, Bongiovanni is all too aware of the danger that such growth can bring to the business.
Housing a deep understanding of the significance of collaboration in order to encourage innovation across all avenues, Micro Strategies has sought to keep its teams close. Situated within Boston (Massachusetts), Malvern (Pennsylvania), Parsippany (New Jersey) and New York City, the business remains a strong regional partner by retaining its technical skill within a four-hour radius.
“The magic that happens when people are collaborating together in a room as opposed to over a wire is incredible,” Bongiovanni adds eagerly.
Investing significantly in upskilling its employees – from its technical teams to its sales executives, the company has developed an array of educational curriculums to keep their employees at the top of the ever-changing technology landscape, all whilst helping customers build their ultimate vision.
“If customers are focused on ECM, for example, we want employees to be informed, more so than just simply selling a product, but helping customers to see how they can derive business benefit out of the solutions that we create. We're very focused on education in order to show the value of Micro Strategies to businesses,” adds Bongiovanni
“With the constant change of technology, we continue to focus on staying current and relevant. Re-educating our teams in terms of how to work with business leaders as opposed to IT leaders is one of the challenges we've been working very hard to overcome.
“Our innovation centers are critical to the continuous technical development of our teams. It helps to keep my teams very sharp and skilled up in their particular areas and allows them to architect and test many creative solutions to our customer’s business problems and opportunities.
“There's many different ways to approach a problem or an opportunity with technology, lots of ways to put it together and it’s very hard to do it unless you have the tools available to put it together, test it, see how it works. I don't know how partners like myself can do this without having innovation centers,” he continues.
“The ability for teams to go in and build a solution inside the lab environment is huge. It provides a much higher-quality solution and a much greater benefit to the client than building solutions without that capability.”
Providing a real benefit to customers who appreciate the technology offerings Micro Strategies delivers is something Bongiovanni finds increasingly fulfilling. Additionally, offering a home for all team members to flourish and develop their careers, as well as develop strong relationships with vendors, have all been key to its success.
Against rampant competition the business remains one of the strongest providers on the east coast. With the long-term aim to hone what the company does and further cement its presence in the region, Bongiovanni is always looking at how to take the business to the next level.
“Our focus is to always be excellent at everything we do. Sometimes, as an entrepreneur, I open the aperture a little too much,” he admits candidly.
“Over the past five years, I've really focused on what's really critical and what makes the most sense. I try to resist those entrepreneur feelings to jump into other areas to ensure we don't dilute all the good things we're doing today.
“I'm less concerned about revenue and more focused on providing real business value to our customers, delivering great opportunity to our staff members and strong benefits to our partners.”
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.