Turbocharging Collaboration to Better Serve Enterprise Clients in Slovakia and Europe
When I founded K_CORP in 2002, I had five euros in my pocket and was still in school, but I had big dreams. The “K” is for my surname, Košalko, and for Košice, the Slovak city where I was attending technical university. At the time, the internet was changing everything. An IT revolution was in progress, and I wanted to be part of it.
started small, but I always had an eye on expansion. I wanted to bring cutting-edge IT to Slovakia, with the ultimate goal of serving all of Europe. We continue to move in that direction. At the moment, K_CORP employs 50 people in three offices, and we serve 100 businesses. These companies span multiple industries and vary in size from 10 employees to thousands.
Collaborating with Mid-Size Businesses
Our customers have one thing in common: they lack sufficient internal IT resources to manage their infrastructure. Sometimes, we lend a hand to their in-house IT teams, but in most cases, we are their IT team. Our favorite type of client is a mid-size company with a clearly defined vision of how to use technology to achieve their business goals, but who needs a partner to help them choose and maintain the right tools.
I enjoy working with customers this size. My people engage in discussions with senior executives and other key decision-makers to outline and implement IT strategies and solutions. To do this, we have to stay in constant communication, and that requires collaborative tools that speed up the process.
K_CORP has clients all over Slovakia. The experts at our main office often collaborate with their colleagues at our Bratislava and Poprad branches to architect solutions for these companies. Their work can involve a lot of travel between these offices, and to and from customer sites. To this end, we maintain a fleet of 25 cars at considerable expense. However, traveling all over the country isn’t always the most cost- and time-effective way of doing business.
Frustration with Our Collaborative Tools
Over the years, we’ve tried many collaborative tools but weren’t impressed with what we found. One worked well for internal communications, for example, but we couldn’t use it to communicate with customers. Another was great for screen sharing but had poor call quality. And most of them had issues getting hardware and software to work together.
To accommodate our needs, to interface with remote customer sites, and to address the technical limitations of various collaborative platforms, we ended up using several tools at once. Internal and external users were not only confused but uncomfortable using competing solutions.
You didn’t know for sure whether or not the party at the other end could receive your call using the same platform you were using. You booked a conference room, but the camera and the speakerphone were disconnected, or you didn’t have a screen-sharing app on your computer.
As a result, many of our meetings were not on time and some didn’t happen at all.
One Solution, One Vendor
Rather than continue to use products from several vendors, we needed to find a comprehensive solution that did everything we needed it to do. I wanted everyone at K_CORP on the same page and I wanted to standardize our communication—but I needed more than consistency. I was looking for a product that was as easy to use as walking into a conference room and sitting down for a face-to-face meeting.
The problem with most video conferencing and remote collaboration tools is that they get in the way of what they’re trying to do. They are hard to set up and use, have poor audio and video quality, and lack sufficient screen- and file-sharing features. Under these circumstances, the medium itself—not the meeting—becomes the message.
We looked at solutions from various vendors, but only one offered the right combination of hardware, software, and ease of use. stood out because it actually got out of the way and allowed us to meet and collaborate.
A Slow Rollout
Although I was confident we’d found the right solution, I decided to go slowly when it came to deployment. Cisco offers a range of hardware and software under the Webex umbrella, and I wanted to find the right mix of products to match our collaborative needs. It’s no secret that the best solution is worthless if it doesn’t match your workflow or your company culture, and I needed to see what worked best for us.
Cisco made it easy to explore our options. Their Program allowed us to sample a range of products and to rightsize a solution that connected our three offices and our clients. We started the trial at Spišská Nová Ves in September 2019. By December, we had rolled out Webex at all our offices.
Right away, I understood that Webex worked. I quickly stopped evaluating the solution itself and started to focus on how we could use it. Could we hold hour-long meetings with multiple participants at multiple locations? Did everyone feel like we were all in the same room? Fortunately, Webex met and exceeded all expectations. It didn’t take long for our teams—who had found previous technologies cumbersome—embraced the idea of virtual meetings.
Webex Is Easier for Our Customers
Webex combines intuitive hardware and software in a single vendor solution that streamlines our internal meetings. But it also allows us to meet our clients on their terms.
If a customer in Bratislava needs to talk to a network engineer at our Spišská Nová Ves headquarters, we can text or email a link. Within a few seconds, they can connect to Webex on whatever device they’re using. There's no need to download drivers or an app, and they don’t have to set up a Cisco account. It’s all done on a secure connection over the web.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was sometimes faster to get in a car and drive to another city than to get a video conference configured and working. With Webex, those days are over, and we are saving thousands of euros each year in vehicle maintenance and fuel expenses.
One of my favorite Webex tools is the desktop and mobile app. It allows people who have other commitments or who are only necessary for part of the conversation to join a meeting for five or ten minutes, without having to be in the conference room physically.
Webex also allows us to explore a broader talent pool. In the past, we were limited to hiring engineers who could work at one of our three locations. Now, we are free to employ people wherever they are, including in the cities and towns where our clients are located. These new hires can work remotely with us or onsite with our clients, extending our reach and fueling our plans for expansion. We give them Webex as part of their compensation, and it has proven to be an excellent investment.
Cisco Webex also helps us weather the COVID-19 pandemic. Having fully deployed the solution in December of last year, we were ready when the need for social distancing emerged. Not only can my team members work from home, but we can also meet with customers and manage their IT assets remotely, reducing onsite visits to an absolute minimum.
We are also recommending Webex to our clients during the pandemic. Remote learning is going to become more prevalent going forward, and we have been in conversations with schools about the potential to adopt the platform. Webex is an excellent solution because students can access the platform on any device with a browser. This flexibility means fewer headaches for school IT administrators, and increased access for students who may have limited computing resources at home.
Bringing Customers into the Picture
Webex sells itself. We use it in customer meetings, and the quality is evident. When potential buyers experience clear audio and video, watch the camera tracking speakers in the room, and see the ’s touch features in action, they want to know more.
We are also using Webex to loop Cisco experts into our sales and support calls. Recently, we recommended to a customer who was looking to secure their wireless network. We made a compelling case and then invited a Meraki engineer from Cisco’s London office to explain its benefits during a Webex session.
By connecting customers directly to Cisco during and after a sale, we are adding value and building trust. Our clients recognize that K_CORP is their first port of call, but if our team needs backup, we can quickly reach someone at Cisco. That enhances our credibility.
The Future of Collaboration
K_CORP deployed Webex last year, but that already feels like a lifetime ago. It put us ahead of the curve and enabled us to keep our staff employed, while maintaining our normal service levels.
People will be working remotely for the duration of this crisis, and the trend will continue after we go back to normal. This pandemic has forced companies around the world to rethink the way they do business, and we are witnessing a workplace revolution. I expect extended, augmented, and virtual reality products to emerge as vital collaborative tools. I also see a promising future for Webex as companies shift to hybrid employment models that combine telepresence and onsite work.
Like everyone else, we have adapted to these difficult times. Webex gave us the tools to innovate, to thrive, and to prepare for the opportunities of our post-COVID world. I am eager to share this tool—and our expertise—with our customers, so that they can do the same.