David Wilson, Founder and Managing Director at Stratas Business Solutions speaks to PrintIT Reseller about the company’s first five years in business and its plans for 2018 and beyond
Wilson set up the company in 2013 with former colleague Ashley Hamer. “Ashley and I had worked together since 2004 for companies looking to make a paradigm shift into how documents flow around a business. We saw the potential in creating a business focusing on the information contained in a document as opposed to the document itself, and that led us to starting Stratas five years ago,” he explained.
Wilson lives in Huddersfield and Hamer in Alton. The duo started off working from home and grew the business as it grew the customer base, before opening its main office in Milton Keynes. “We service customers nationwide, our largest customer is the British Heart Foundation who have over 800 sites across the UK,” Wilson explained, adding: “We won the account two months into trading in partnership with Toshiba. Because we were a new business, Toshiba got behind us and have been instrumental is supporting us in winning big contracts from the outset. With their support, we were able to go after the same size organisations we had been dealing with previously.”
Wilson points out that Stratas is not a print reseller. “But we are the perfect strategic partner for a dealer who is looking to increase the scope of services they offer their base. We worked with one reseller who started talking to their customers about information and business process and we have already helped them sell an accounts payable solution to one of their largest clients, who only saw them as ‘the copier company’ and now we are talking to the same customer about their document management strategy. So we’d love to work with the channel to help sell more services to their customers and move them away from transactional print deals.”
He added: “We are all about digital transformation, helping businesses get rid of paper-based manual processes and start to automate them. So our relationship with Toshiba has very much been around when we required hardware as part of the solutions, they are our de facto partner.”
People, process and technology
Wilson continued: “Stratas is focused on people, process and technology. It’s about helping customers look at where the paper and the manual processes lie within the business, then through automation, we help create digital workflows which route business critical information quickly and efficiently, making customers more productive and competitive.”
On the hardware side Stratas is also a Canon solutions house and a Xerox alliance partner. “We are also an Objectif Lune platinum partner, the UK premier partner for Palette and we have a strategic partnership with MitieConnect,” Wilson said. “We bring all our partners’ technology together under our platform – Data Forge which essentially combines the people, process and technology to deploy solutions which are faster, more intuitive, accurate and feature-rich than any standalone technology or manual process.”
When Stratas automates a specific process, it deploys a software robot which targets and improves a specific transactional or clerical business process, removing human interaction and automating repetitive tasks. “We call this a FlowBot and we have one for every business process, so if we were automating the accounts payable process for example we’d be using what we call an AP FlowBot and that brings together a number of different technologies to capture documents to extract information and to route them moving around the business.”
All of the company’s technology partners come together under the Data Forge platform. “We provide customers with a single pane view of how they can automate business processes across all areas of the business through one strategic partner under one platform,” Wilson said, adding: “We give them that utopic state – whereas previously they may have had a number of different technologies and service providers all doing different links in the chain, they can now bring that together under us. Or if they haven’t yet begun that journey, they know that they can work with us to look at say the AP process and from there we can move to hybrid mail, digital mail, accounts receivable, document management or GDPR compliance – all of the areas associated with information.”
He continued: “Print falls under that as well because print is an important part of disseminating information around internally or out to customers. How do you take data within an ERP to create it into a document so that people can action that document, take that information and put it back into an ERP?”
Free the humans
Wilson says machines work with data people work with paper. “So we look to try to close that loop by getting the machines talking to each other and getting all the different systems working together, trying to stem the flow of paper, the interaction of people having to touch lots of pieces of paper and shuffle them around – our strapline for the FlowBots is free the humans!”
He continued: “It’s very much about allowing people to get back on with value-based tasks and not be stuck doing manual processes which if we automate them can allow people to get on with delivering more value for their business.”
Wilson argues that ultimately Stratas helps its customers become more effective. “We’re able to increase their bottom line, to help them become more efficient and do more with the resources they have at their disposal, do more with the funds that they have available to them because they’re able to free up more people to do value-based tasks instead of back-office clerical admin tasks,” he said.
Looking to the future
Stratas now has a 15-strong team of people in the business doing project management/professional services and has just appointed a new marketing manager. The company has doubled the size of the business year on year since it first started.
“We have a strategic relationship with The Arena Group, the reason we do what we do with 15 people is because Arena is our engine house. This has enabled us to be customer and solution focussed, we haven’t had to build a business with finance, HR, logistics and a call centre, we’ve just literally stood on Arena’s shoulders and it has been instrumental to our success,” Wilson said.
“This year is all about focusing on what we’ve developed over the past five years,” he continued. “We are just working on a significant rebrand – which will take Data Forge and FlowBots to the market in a big way.”
Wilson says that its strategic relationship with Mitie is pivotal this year as it will be launching a large hybrid mail solution and digital mail solution in partnership with them. “From a Palette point of view, being their premier partner in the UK we’re going to be looking to bring more alliance partners on board. In effect we are Palette in the UK and they expect us very much to grow the purchase to pay automation and to bring on board alliance partners to resell those services,” he said.
“This year for us is very much about bringing Data Forge to the market as a platform, in the past we’ve done all these things, but we kind of suffered from not wanting to create a commoditised product. People said it’s great but we don’t understand it, so we took a step back. We need to give things names, wrappers and boxes, so that people go right – Stratas, Data Forge, FlowBot – digital transformation and know that’s everything from accounts payable to content management and anything in between – anything to do with information, they’re the guys to go to,” Wilson explained.
He added: “We need to now take that consolidated message to the market this year. And that’s why we’re rebranding. We’ve got some great relationships with Objectif Lune, Palette and M-Files, we’ve got the strategic partnership with Mitie and we wrap all of that together under Data Forge. We’re now ready to really show what we’ve been doing for the past five years.
“So really 2018 is our coming of age, we’ve found our feet and gone through the start-up phase. We have been very lucky, as we won some large contracts during that time. We’ve taken Stratas from inception through to reality, made some mistakes along the way and found some fantastic strategic partners. We have a great team and we now know who we are and where we can add value, so we can really dress it up properly and start to talk about it,” Wilson said in conclusion.