We talked to Chris Ibberson of 3merge about digital process automation, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Chris Ibberson: Personally, the pandemic has been challenging like most families and individuals are finding. Being isolated from friends, family, and “normal” activities is difficult and has come with its share of struggles, including impacting my children’s schooling, my wife’s career as a stylist and more. That said, we are fortunate and grateful to be safe and healthy through these times. Professionally, the pandemic has proved challenging but also has accentuated some of our services – and we’ve been able to amplify the impact we have on our clients’ businesses which has been positive. I do consulting as a fractional CTO for a number of SMBs, and guidance through concepts like remote work enablement, cloud-based systems for remote access, self-service applications and automation principles for dealing with a smaller workforce, have all been “hot topics”. As an agency, our focus since inception has been on digital process automation and helping companies use technology to replace paper-based and manual processes, enable self-service, online commerce, data visibility and removal of siloes through consolidated or integrated systems and more. In 2019, we began engineering our own platform, Q3, which was designed as an accelerator for these types of projects allowing us to move faster and more efficiently for our clients – which ended up serving us well in 2020 as companies needed to move faster than ever before.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded 3merge.
Chris Ibberson: I have been involved in sales and marketing, specifically in technology and digital transformation, for my entire career. I started as a freelance digital marketing consultant in 2006/2007 and worked in corporate sales for a few years at companies like Canon and TELUS. At the latter, I began developing an interest in advanced principles in telecommunications, virtualization and telematics and began working with a friend to build my first company which was a technology services company focused on the SMB space. We offered services such as managed IT services, business telecommunication services, fleet telematics and asset tracking solutions, desktop and server virtualization and hosting and more. Most services were focused on digital transformation, helping companies leverage new technologies to save costs, operate more efficiently, and scale. My role was mainly focused on sales, marketing and consulting. In 2013, I started working on web application development projects with a small group, and over the next 12-18 months, we started doing more web development for businesses looking to build their online presence or to sell online. Having started in digital marketing, and largely leveraging it to grow my own businesses, I started building out a digital marketing arm, and in 2014, we re-branded as a web design and digital marketing agency. We started off still focused on the SMB space, eventually scaling to over 500+ clients ranging from SMBs to non-profits, Fortune 500 and national organizations. As our clients’ needs became more complex, and our capabilities grew, we found ourselves back endeavouring into more complex web applications, portals, custom e-commerce solutions and ultimately decided to sell the agency in 2018. After exiting the agency business, my brother and I founded 3merge with a specific focus on web application development and specialization in digital process automation and digital transformation consulting. We’ve developed solutions and consulted companies ranging from SMBs to Fortune 1000 companies and are continuing to evolve our platform and consulting offerings in 2021.
How does 3merge innovate?
Chris Ibberson: We are actively innovating on our Q3 platform to enable us to continue to partner with clients cost-effectively and to move at speeds needed in the current climate. We are constantly evolving our processes and our consulting services to ensure we’re always focused on impact and value and not just acting as a development partner. We continuously invest in ongoing learning and development and build strategic partnerships that help us deliver more value to our clients. This includes specialized consultants, SaaS and COTS providers that we integrate with or refer to/from for fitting requirements, and we apply our experience and innovation in new consulting programs, workshops and iterating on our platform as mentioned.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Chris Ibberson: Our services, especially in areas like self-service portals, web applications for remote work enablement and collaboration, and consulting, are “accentuated” from the pandemic as companies look to maintain and grow their business with smaller teams, distributed teams, or tighter budgets. Our company operated as a remote team from inception and through 2019, we secured our lease in early 2020, so the “shock” of being thrown back into remote work in the spring wasn’t a major adjustment. While we prefer to collaborate and interface with our team in our office, our team members normally mix in-office and at home days regularly, and we’ve been able to continue operating efficiently through the pandemic. The pandemic has caused uncertainty in some of our clients and prospects businesses which has slowed sales cycles and in cases affected budgets, but due to the high impact of our work, and the critical nature of some of our services, we continue to be busy working on new and ongoing projects.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Chris Ibberson: We have had to slow down certain initiatives, pause some, and ensure we’re scrutinizing budget allocations as the pandemic has generally impacted the economy, our clients, and us, at varying times and levels. We have had to adjust some processes and adopt new tools but overall have adapted well throughout the pandemic.
What specific tools, software and management skills are helping you navigate the crisis?
Chris Ibberson: We have been using Google Workspace since we started the business, and as we’ve grown, and increased remote working, we’ve found new ways of using it and embraced more elements of its offering. Slack has been instrumental in team communication and helping us collaborate remotely. We moved our telecommunications to Dialpad last year, which has also been a tremendous unified communication offering, and most client meetings have moved to UberConference which our team has enjoyed using.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Chris Ibberson: We have a few different types of competitors as our services cross over a few areas. In terms of web application development, there are many “dev shops”, but as we’re focused on specific areas and heavy in our consulting offering, we’re more closely compared with other boutique firms focused on process automation and digital transformation consulting such as Spiria, Praxent, MyPlanet, Architech, and several other similar companies. We have some competitors in other markets that are focused in similar spaces but that we sometimes communicate with to share ideas and remain friendly with, such as Vokke.
Your final thoughts?
Chris Ibberson: We’re excited to continue to help our clients operate more efficiently, improve their service and turnaround times and leverage technology to accomplish their organizational goals and overcome challenges. This year, our goal is to expand our team as we continue to partner with more clients and to direct some resources more heavily into our Q3 platform.