Introducing Columbus: an expert in digital business applications

Managing director Mary Hunter reveals the secrets to the firm’s success and outlines her vision for a prosperous future

Lindsay James
Lindsay James
By Lindsay James on 01 August 2019
Introducing Columbus: an expert in digital business applications

This article was originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of The Record. Subscribe for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox. 

A global IT services and consulting corporation with more than 2,000 employees serving customers worldwide, Columbus has strategically grown its portfolio in recent years, enabling fast expansion across target markets. 

“Customer experience is at the heart of all we do today,” explains Hunter. “We are leveraging our solutions to enable our customers to successfully transform their businesses in an agile manner. The landscape is ever-changing with new, disruptive technology and new emerging competition challenging the status quo. That’s why we’ve created global teams focussed on new cloud technologies, data driven insights and artificial intelligence (AI) so that we can learn faster and share knowledge globally, ultimately supporting our customers in a more efficient and more cost-effective way.” 

The firm has also brought a number of new solutions to market, including its e-commerce solution delivered via the Microsoft Azure cloud as a co-sell motion and fully integrated with Microsoft Dynamics 365. “The solution significantly reduces the time and effort required to set up and manage an e-commerce platform and allows customers to search for stock, place orders via a PC, tablet or smartphone whilst accessing correct product and pricing data in real time, based on individual contractual agreements,” Hunter says.

A recent implementation of this by multichannel florist Interflora illustrates the strength of the solution. Interflora improved its customer experience by adding new functionality to its front-end web presence. As a result, over 50% of its orders are now processed online.

A new end-to-end intelligent field service solution also complements Columbus’s portfolio. “Our field service offering introduces greater operational visibility by connecting the entire service supply chain to deliver a personalised, customer-focused experience and reduce operational costs. This includes seamless integration between Dynamics 365 for field service and internet of things (IoT) sensor reporting, predictive maintenance and advanced business intelligence, enabling customers to make real-time, data-driven decisions,” explains Hunter. “Completing the field service scenario is Dynamics 365 Remote Assist, the mixed reality heads-up display technology delivered via Microsoft HoloLens devices.”

Hunter believes that the firm’s success is directly linked to its industry expertise. “We’ve been operating for over 25 years now, focusing on food manufacturing, discrete manufacturing and the retail distribution sectors. These industries are in our DNA,” she says. “What’s more, 75% of our consultants have an industry background, therefore we have an inherent understanding of our customers’ pains, challenges and language, which means that we are often considered ‘one of the tribe’. We come armed with knowledge and experience all wrapped in pre-configured industry focussed processes and reporting packs. This is why, time and again, we are chosen to support businesses on their digital transformation journeys.” 

A people-centric strategy is at the heart of everything the firm does. “We have worked incredibly hard to evolve a culture and environment that drives the continuous development of our people to enable high innovation and customer success,” Hunter says. 

Recognising that providing customers with a memorable and personalised experience is key to ensuring long term customer relationships, Columbus works hand-in-hand with customers to reshape their digital strategies and customer interactions at each step to create strong, innovative and customer-centric organisations for long term success. “With our focused industry domain expertise, our consultants can add real business value,” Hunter explains. “They actively monitor market trends and use data-driven insights to help our customers be agile and remain competitive in their markets. We help them to find, uncover and exploit insights that may not otherwise be possible, enabling better business decision making.” 

Columbus’s relationship with Microsoft is also a big part of its success story. “We have a strong and collaborative partnership with our Microsoft counterparts; our teams work very well together at all levels which enables us to add even more business value and give only the best service to our customers,” Hunter explains. “Combined, we can maximise benefits and exceed the expectations that are anticipated from investments in the Microsoft portfolio of products. As Microsoft Inner Circle and Gold Partners, we engage with the Microsoft marketing, sales, accounts teams and leadership. This ensures that our go to market strategy and values are in-line with Microsoft and that our co-sell motions have the right level of engagement across multiple workflows.” 

Not one to rest on its laurels, Columbus’s aims and aspirations for the future are far-reaching. “It is our goal to have the most satisfied ­forward-thinking, growth-enabled customers in our target industries which means that we too must continue to evolve, develop and invest in latest technologies and service offerings to fit our customers’ needs and help them to grow in this fast-changing digital economy,” Hunter says. “We will continue to invest in the development of our people to ensure that they have the latest technical skills and industry know-how to guide our customers. We are also deeply committed to supporting the next generation, including our successful global graduate scheme and strong presence in schools through learning platforms and workshops.

“To achieve our goals, we have built ambitious progression plans for ourselves and our customers and we will execute them with a relentless winning mindset.” 

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