Despite serving some of the verticals most badly hit by the pandemic, this Month’s Oxygen IT Solutions Provider of the Month, Wanstor, is enjoying a prolonged double-digit growth spurt.
Francesca Lukes, who took over as CEO in 2021, talks us through how she is drawing on her management consulting background to reshape the £20m-revenue London-based MSP, and how big investments made in 2023 are set to “pay off” in 2024.
Hi Francesca. You had a management consulting background before you became Wanstor CEO. Does that give you a unique perspective when it comes to running an MSP?
My consulting background was in digital product management & innovation which meant I spent a lot of time thinking about customer experience, questioning assumptions, and balancing priorities across customer and business needs. Within Wanstor, the culture and ethos I’ve brought is to focus on the business outcomes for our customers, rather than being purely technology-led. Accenture certainly provided me a solid grounding in business dynamics and strategy as well.
Why does Wanstor have a laser focus on select vertical markets, including hospitality and non-profit?
Firstly, our customers don’t look to us to deploy technology, they look to us to help them to drive business outcomes. The business and industry context is critical.
Another key reason is actually culture. Our service desk is split into three key teams – professional services (this includes legal firms, financial services & real estate), not for profit (including education, housing associations and charities) and retail, leisure & hospitality. Each group of customers operates differently, from the way they want to contact us, to what they value. Retail & hospitality, for example, care most about speed of resolution as every minute an incident occurs could mean revenue walking out the door, whereas for the not for profit sector there is a big focus on care and patience with end users who may be less technology savvy.
Lastly, each sector leads in some areas and lags in others – working across the three enables us to bring the best cross-sector experience to our customers.
What’s been your highlight of 2023?
One that stands out is our recent award from the Service Desk Institute for the Trusted Partner of the Year award. We were finalists for two other categories too but what makes this one stand out is that it was a special recognition award announced on the night due to the passion with which one of our customers advocated for the role we played in their recent digital transformation.
Wanstor registered double-digit growth in revenues and profits in its fiscal 2022. How did your fiscal 2023 pan out?
2023 has been a big investment year for Wanstor. We built upon our success in FY22 and doubled down on investing in the quality and efficiency of our services. Examples of this are our implementation of ServiceNow as our new ITSM toolset, investment in building up new capabilities, and the launch of our Service Centre of Excellence – a team dedicated to maximising service quality across all our customers. We’re working hard on automating components of our service delivery and operations so our teams can level up in the way they work with our clients. Financially we saw double-digit revenue growth again but have reinvested the profits into these areas for FY23, with the goal that we will start seeing that pay back in the coming years.
What would success look like for Wanstor in 2024?
2023 was about investing for growth, and 2024 is where we want to start seeing that pay off and deliver for our customers. We have a very big focus on execution against our strategy and measuring the performance. Another core component is our service mix – over this year we want to be delivering more data & development projects with our customers, continuing to grow our security capability, and of course see some exciting AI projects.
You count Microsoft as a key partner. How would you assess demand for Copilot and other Microsoft AI technologies in the verticals you serve?
We’re seeing a lot of pent up demand for Copilot and AI as a whole – frustratingly this has been put on hold until March for the majority of our customers due to the release delay from Microsoft, however this gives time to gear the businesses up to make the most of the capability when it’s ready and ensure their estate is ready. There is still work to be done to validate the assumptions regarding business case and use cases for different roles. We expect that our customers will turn the features on for certain key roles and measure the impact before rolling it out more broadly.
When it comes to how your customers select their IT suppliers and IT solutions, where does sustainability now rank in the pecking order?
We are starting to see sustainability enter into more conversations, but not nearly high enough on the pecking order of actual decision making to be honest. My perception is that there is still a lot of ambiguity and greenwashing which makes it hard to differentiate and make the right decisions. The other major factor is that whilst trading conditions are tough, commercial factors are more important and our customers are prioritising services that will help them drive efficiency and profit within their organisations rather than those that drive sustainability outcome – these aren’t mutually exclusive though!
Is there anything else you feel Wanstor does differently from other MSPs?
Proactivity is what sets us apart. It was our founding principle, is the name of our proprietary & pillar methodology (Proactives), and continues to be a core value that we bring to everything we do. Proactivity is all about pre-empting and predicting things that may become opportunities or issues in the future and taking the initiative to address them today.
Name an industry trend that’s not being talked about enough…
In all the hype about AI, the less sexy but exceptionally important conversation needs to be about data governance. People having access to information they shouldn’t have becomes a much bigger issue once it’s a data feed for AI.