He has spent almost two decades building a leading business in an ever-changing industry, but Crayon Group’s Co-Founder and CEO, Rune Syversen, knows that the secret to its success lies in sticking to the same strategy as it did on day one.
“We are a consulting company that sells software as a by-product,” he explains from the company’s Oslo headquarters. “The customer comes first, and that has been the mantra since our inception.” As he says himself, if you ask any company in the IT space if their strategy is the same as 18 years ago, most would say no.
“But for us, it’s exactly the same. Even though we have become bigger, smarter and more profitable, the recipe is still the same,” Rune explains. It’s hardly a secret that happy customers tend to buy more.
“That has been our story. We have a fantastic retention rate because we are always leading with a quality service that puts their interests first.”
We have to make crayon the best place for people in our industry to work.
A career IT and telecoms professional, Rune spent the early years of his career in Sweden with Telenor. At a time when the Norwegian telco giant was divesting in IT, a chance conversation with a colleague was the catalyst for a meeting with Jens Rugseth and the creation of Crayon together in 2002.
“We saw the opportunity to actually add services to the transactional business,” he explains, adding that at the time that basically involved selling Microsoft as the main vendor.
Today, the company has grown to become one of the leading players in technology and digital transformation such as software asset management. Services include consulting, software and cloud economics, managed and subscription services and training events.
From its Nordic roots, it now has 55 offices around the world, a staff of 1,600, and counts Facebook, Amazon, Adobe and Microsoft among its strategic partners.
The company is working with many partners in over five Artificial Intelligence Centers of Excellence – collaborations so successful that Crayon was awarded the 2019 Microsoft AI and Machine Learning Partner of the Year.
In Q1 2020 alone, results were up a record-breaking 59% on the year before – and the momentum is showing no sign of slowing. “The world is consolidating,” Rune says. With the opportunity, however, comes challenges.
“We have a good platform to take part in that consolidation, but we need to stay relevant by investing in the right technology,” he continues. What is the right technology? Self-service solutions and automation of customer experience, he responds.
“You’d think the IT industry would always be a step ahead, but here we are, one of the last to the party,” he laughs, adding that the travel industry was digitised almost a quarter of a century ago.
“It’s only coming to our industry now and the way we’re engaging with customers is becoming more digitised, self-serving and API-driven,” he says.
“This requires us to shift our thinking to ensure we have the platform capabilities within Crayon to be able to manage this in a scalable way.” He is confident of continued success if one crucial aspect is maintained.
“We have to make Crayon the best place for people in our industry to work,” he says. But more than the salary and other financial incentives, the answer lies in being able to expand their minds.
“Most of our people are very committed to self-learning; reading, digesting and investing time and effort to learn about technology and how the world is changing,” he continues. “So we’re a nerdy type of business, and that’s something we’re proud of.”
Crayon is also, he explains, predictable, a quality he believes sets it apart from others. “We know what we do and are aligned on the strategy from tip to toe. If you are a manager at Crayon, you are actually a problem solver, not a complicator for the business. It’s key.”
And there’s its longstanding strategy of putting the customer first. Combined, the formula may seem simple. “But it’s easy to forget where you come from and what kind of values you want to bring into the market as you grow,” he acknowledges.
Which is why there is ongoing investment in maintaining the company’s core culture – “the key values, or what we prefer to call our superpowers,” Rune says, as this company from the north takes its leading place in a consolidated global market.
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