"Direct takes over our IT, we get the tools and the time to fully focus on our core business"
Paul Dehaen Distribution NV has been active as a distributor for almost twenty years. The company sells products to discount retailers throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The headquarters/distribution centre in Ghislenghien (Hainaut) is the hub of these activities. In recent years, a series of own stores have been added at a rapid pace. Paul Dehaen already has eight points of sale in Belgium, NET stores, but plans to further expand his own retail activities in the coming years.
For IT infrastructure and support, the company has entered into a partnership with Direct, explains CEO Jean-Philippe Habran. “We are a growing company. We are broadening our activities, including with the stores, and we already have more than 80 employees. But we remain an SME. We are not specialized in IT. Larger companies may be able to manage their IT themselves, for us having our own IT department would be an expensive choice with little added value for our own operations. Moreover, IT talent is hard to find today.”
“That’s why we decided to work with a professional partner like Direct. This gives us the tools and the time to fully focus on our core business. We don’t have to worry about IT ourselves, we can focus on our core business.”
Proactive and reactive, tight planning and flexibility
Jean-Philippe first of all counts on Direct to keep the operations running smoothly at Paul Dehaen Distibution. “The architecture has to be in order, the speed of the systems has to be right, the backups have to be in order. These basic things seem logical, but in reality it requires a lot of effort behind the scenes. How many companies only discover that they don’t have decent backups when it’s too late? We don’t want to risk that. Direct ensures that our ERP systems run on their infrastructure, and guarantees that our employees have all the tools to work (together) efficiently.”
“The stores were a new challenge. Just think of the POS systems. When we open a store, everything has to be lightning fast: we do that in just two to three weeks. This ensures that many partners are working at the same time on a limited surface. This requires the necessary preparation, with good planning and a smooth flow. But it also requires flexibility, because everyone knows that during a renovation there is always an unexpected kink in the cable. We therefore ask Direct to take both a proactive approach and a reactive approach. That cooperation works very well. We have short, direct lines of communication and problems are tackled decisively.”
Cybersecurity is challenge number one
Direct is a strategic partner for Paul Dehaen Distribution. “Our IT infrastructure needs to keep up with our growth, but we also expect our IT partner to anticipate future challenges. When it comes to technological innovation, today I’m thinking mainly of cybersecurity. I think that’s challenge number one for SMEs like ours. Recent cases prove that a cyberattack can have a huge impact on your finances and your reputation.”
“We also regularly have to deal with attack attempts. Cybercrime is evolving so fast that we need a partner who is aware of the latest technological developments. A partner who can avoid and stop attacks, and who in a worst case scenario can repair the damage as quickly as possible. You can’t possibly do that yourself as an SME today, I already feel a lot more at ease in the knowledge that Direct watches over that for us.”
“It’s not just about the technological part. A phishing email is quickly opened. Sometimes employees hire more from experts. If Direct explains how they can recognize phishing emails, this has an important sensitizing effect. It’s a wake-up call. For that kind of advice or training, we want to work even more closely together in the future.”
Smooth communication and relationship of trust
When choosing an external IT partner, three things are important to Jean-Philippe. “Of course the price has to be right, every company wants value for money. In addition, we also look at references, recommendations from companies in similar sectors and domains are still the most reliable source of information. Finally, from the outset, we have also chosen not to work with too large a company. IT is still about people, about communication. We want to build a relationship with our IT partner, mutual trust must be able to grow. We shouldn’t sit together every week or even every month. But it is important that we know who we can turn to if we have a problem, or if we need a sounding board.”
Direct wants to further strengthen these personal relationships with the VCIO’s, the Virtual Chief Information Officers. These can offer added value for companies such as Paul Dehaen Distribution or NET stores, without their own IT department. They go beyond the operational part. They delve into the company to recognize and understand the business needs, and think strategically about how IT can provide added value.
“An excellent initiative”, says Jean-Philippe. “IT is everywhere in an enterprise, it is crucial to support your growth. We are not specialists ourselves, our core business lies elsewhere. All ideas to have these core activities supported even better by our IT infrastructure are very welcome.”