Enlighten Designs is one of New Zealand’s largest website design, systems design and software development companies, which has been providing innovative technology solutions to businesses to support them during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Founded in 1998 in the back of a caravan, Enlighten Designs has gone from strength to strength, with a slew of accolades including being named Microsoft’s NZ Partner of the Year 2020 and recently announcing a new trans-Tasman partnership with Australia’s leading digital services provider, Arq Group to bolster their offerings.
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We spoke with the founder and CEO of Enlighten Designs, Damon Kelly, about emerging technology trends due to the impact of Covid-19 and top tips for small businesses working from home.
How do you think Covid-19 has impacted the technology sector and emphasised the power of changing the world for the better?
Covid-19 has impacted the technology sector by pushing the world into either remote or a hybrid of remote work. With all meetings virtually enabled by default, more people will have the flexibility to attend from wherever they need to be. This is going to give humanity far better work life balance and the opportunity to spend more time with family. This change is just one example of how the way we work has transformed in such a short timeframe.
A great example is the rapid progression of technology to bring people virtual events. Be it something as simple as online video conferences to cutting edge events such as Burning Man embracing virtual reality in platforms such as altSpace. Events like this were previously cut off to those who couldn’t afford to purchase a ticket and fly overseas, however this year it’s free and accessible.
What advice would you have for small businesses who are shifting to remote or alternative ways of working permanently?
Remote work is great because you can have far more flexibility and it’s easier to focus so you’re more productive. However, teamwork requires learning both new tools and approaches. The first one – which is key – is that you are interfacing with people through a computer screen or phone, so it becomes harder to understand their intent.
A mic and good lighting for your remote working set-up goes a long way to helping overcome the challenges of virtual mediums. It is important that people can hear you well and see your expressions. The most significant change is a behavioural one and you may need to keep reminding your team through your transition.
One of the best tricks we started doing was to always have screen sharing on with a live document of key actions from the meeting. Having this visible in a meeting helps get everyone on the same page.
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When it comes to implementing technology into small business – what are some common mistakes business owners can avoid?
Technology is amazing but do not start with it. First get clear with the outcome that you want to achieve. We do a lot of work with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and it is an incredible technology that can transform businesses; however, it is not always the right answer. Sometimes people may want an AI solution when all they need is some automation to achieve their desired outcomes.
Covid-19 is causing many businesses to digitally transform their products and services. When you are transforming your company as a business owner don’t just tell your internal IT team or your IT service provider what you want and walk away. It is vital to have regular check-ins to see progress and ensure what is being built is going to achieve your vision.
Another common mistake is putting in a technology solution and then forgetting about it. You need to ensure there is good support for the solution you are putting in. You want an approach that stays secure, up to date, and remains fit for purpose. Software as a Service products are great for this as it’s baked into the offering. When you’re getting a company to develop a custom solution ensure that either your IT team can support it or a support agreement is included with the solution.
What technology tools might be most useful for businesses shifting to remote or alternative ways of working?
The first recommendation would be to leverage the cloud. We have these huge global vendors pumping millions of dollars of investment into innovation. They have created a platform that allows you to build solutions at low cost with immense scalability.
Tools like Microsoft Teams are great as they give you video conferencing, chat, file sharing and document collaboration in a single platform.
We have always done workshops with our clients and in the old world we would travel to them with lots of post-it-notes and collaborate. Now with tools like Mural we have a digital workspace for visual communication that everyone can interact on at the same time. The best thing is when the workshop is over, everything is documented by default.
In times of crisis, leadership becomes more important than ever. What do you think makes a good leader during these challenging times?
A good leader during these challenging times needs to be empathetic and open to new ideas, have the courage to be decisive, be a great communicator, and most importantly be resilient.
Being empathetic is critical because you must understand what everyone is going through so you can respond appropriately. You also need to be open to new ideas as you can’t hide from the problems and hope they go away. You need to look at what the opportunities are that have been created from the crisis and how they can be used to overcome any challenges.
Once you understand the various roads you can take, the opportunities and the outcomes, you then need to select the appropriate response and act. This takes real courage as often there is not much time to know if your course of action is going to be right – but in a crisis you need to respond quickly and then see what works.
Communication with your team and stakeholders is paramount. People need to know why you are doing what you are doing and how that will impact them.
The trait of a great crisis leader is resiliency. In a crisis, not everything is going to go your way. It’s also likely that you’re going to end up making some decisions that not everyone is going to like in order to get your organisation through the crisis.
You provide services across the world – and you even have an office in Portland, USA. What advice do you have for NZ businesses wanting to reach international markets?
First up – do not think just locally but globally and build for the world. When you build for the world you get scale, which benefits New Zealand because it makes it so much easier to scale your impact.
Once you are thinking globally then reach out to amazing organisations like New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and Export NZ to get help and support. I have been really blown away by the support and capabilities that we have in New Zealand to help reach international markets.
Covid-19 has meant that everyone now largely interacts with businesses digitally, so it’s important to have a great web presence. Think about your digital channels and how you can use them to reach the world.