Sharing the CEO chair

Seeing rapid growth in demand for its services and a desire to maximise its opportunities, Presence of IT has followed in SAP’s footsteps by embracing a co-CEO model. David Brookes and Shane Grobler tell Freya Purnell what’s behind the move.

Human capital management solution specialist Presence of IT (PoIT) saw the writing on the wall for the changes coming as a result of the explosion of cloud.

This involved not only investing in technology and infrastructure to be able to drive cloud projects effectively, but also taking a new look at the consulting model to adopt a different approach to servicing its clients.

“The older models of a one-to-one relationship weren’t necessarily going to work going forward in a cloud environment,” says PoIT c-CEO David Brookes (left). “There are completely different delivery and sales models in the digital age. That’s a big difference in consulting these days. It doesn’t mean we remove the personality from the transaction, but we appreciate the digital age means we actually have to work harder and have a great touch for our clients.”

Brookes brought in former SAP ANZ COO Shane Grobler (left) two years ago as director, business transformation and strategy, and credits Grobler with making important changes to the business that would enable it to grow strongly without sacrificing delivery.

“Shane has introduced some amazing Presence of IT-specific client engagement models, rather than the pure software sales model, which provides a solution outcomes. We have closed over 70 net new clients in a 12-month period, and we are adding 15 to 20 new clients a quarter, so it’s phenomenal growth,” Brookes says.

Fundamental to PoIT’s approach is specialisation, and understanding that in a new, challenging environment, clients want to streamline their focus on doing business well.

“What we do is almost outside-in. We are providing clients with a one-stop-shop, low-risk, high skill set, so that they can rely on us as an organisation to deliver them everything from compliance to innovation to future direction,” Brookes says. “We spend a lot of time making sure we become specialists in that, so that clients can be specialists in what they do, and as a partnership for them, it becomes quite significant.”

With the company experiencing such fast growth, the decision was made to appoint Grobler co-CEO alongside Brookes, with each taking responsibility for different areas: Grobler will be responsible for sales, marketing, business development and business operations, while Brookes will spearhead service delivery and support.

“Our customers and staff expect us to be more hands-on and by dividing the function, we can have a lot more focus and get a lot more done,” Brookes says.

It’s an arrangement that will allow both to leverage their individual skill sets while ensuring customer experience is maximised. And according to Grobler, it continues PoIT’s specialist ethos.

“We’re both specialists in our own fields – Dave in delivery, services and support, and me having come from primarily sales, marketing and operations. I think that brings a whole lot of internal stakeholder satisfaction, because I think we get a lot more done that way rather than trying to be generalists,” Grobler says.

Brookes and Grobler also hope that the co-CEO model will help the company take advantage of revenue growth opportunities in Asia and North America, following further investment in execution capability and new talent across these regions.

“In Asia and North America, we are finding a huge amount of opportunities where clients want to get a global view of their employees. We have a lot of US-based organisations wanting to put HR systems in place to get a global view of their employees,” Brookes says. “Many of the US deals we have been doing are global rollouts of 20-plus countries, where they can get consistency around compliance but also visualisation of employees by being able to leverage cloud.”

Grobler says with the APJ region growing steadily, South East Asia is expected to be a strong performer.

“We have certain customers there and a lot of the growth we have experienced has come out of that. I think we are well-positioned in how we have started to go to market in those areas,” he says.

Into the future, there is more innovation to come from PoIT, particularly on the client side, according to Brookes.

“This will enable them to get some advice and engagement in terms of how labour management is going to change for some organisations, and how they can keep getting great talent, particularly in a changing world.”


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