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The Most Important Factor to Bring Information Management to Market — A Customer-Centric Mindset: A Conversation with M-Files Partner GeONE

They like to do things differently at GeONE. Standing out in the crowd, they like to call it. This particular approach has led to GeONE being crowned EMEA Partner of the Year at the M-Files Channel Partner Conference in Dublin last spring. But it hasn’t been a straightforward journey.

I recently sat with GeONE founder Bastiaan Brefeld to discuss what has led to the success of GeONE in bringing intelligent information management to the Dutch market. Brefeld waxed on their approach and the customer-focused mindset that underpins that approach.

One way GeONE is standing out is with interesting content. Bastiaan and his marketing team recently published a video where the GeONE vision comes to life in a humorous and inspiring way. It’s a vision with a strong call to action.

(Dutch language with English subtitles.)

“We like doing things that make us stand out among the crowd,” says Brefeld, one of GeONE’s founders.

“It’s also one of the main reasons why we started with M-Files. From the outset, we believed in the product, the technology and the approach that M-Files took. It requires perseverance, focus, and a dedication to diagnosing and solving the problems of the market.”

Going Places with M-Files

A few years ago, Brefeld wondered what was required to become a Partner of the Year.

“I really wanted to take our partnership with M-Files to the next level. The answer was multi-faceted. We invested heavily in educating people, deepened our knowledge of the underlying technology and gained insights into specific markets.

“This enabled us to approach businesses and organizations in targeted market segments with relevant questions and solutions. The people on the other side of the desk realize immediately that you understand their pain points and daily challenges around information management.

“An in-depth knowledge and an understanding of a specific sector means you can offer solutions that will genuinely help customers achieve their objectives. Information management plays a crucial role in the success of every organization but there are so many choices to make. Often customers can’t see the forest for the trees. That’s how you can make a difference.”

Portfolio Replacement

About five years ago, Brefeld decided to replace a large segment of his technology portfolio and focus entirely on M-Files.

“In my opinion, you can only achieve the right focus when you are not distracted by other matters. As a result, we removed a significant portion of our portfolio — and one where we had invested considerable resources, including people.

“These are important decisions that you can only make if you truly believe in your vision and where you want to go as a business. When I explained this to our shareholders, a few eyebrows were raised. Luckily, I was able to convince them, and they gave me their full support. This led to the first fully featured Dutch website about M-Files.”

Shared Vision

As a result of those decisions, the entire organization had to change.

“It was important that everyone understood the vision and shared the same approach. From our technical consultants to our marketing department, everyone at GeONE knows that we stand for knowledge, quality and expertise.

“As a result, our customers experienced that shared approach. They hear a consistent message from everyone in our organization about how objectives can be reached, the role of information management and how M-Files forms a key part of the solution. This vision, however, is not set in stone. Things are constantly changing. There are new technologies. New opportunities are emerging. With the right vision, you can move alongside those developments.

“The solution is not necessarily the implementation of M-Files. The solution is to use information management to gain control of all mission-critical information and consequently optimize corporate results. We believe that software should not be the guiding principle, but rather the customer’s business objectives and results should be.

“With this vision, we solve new information management challenges time and time again. We also ensure that our strategies, applications and techniques are carefully documented. This means other customers can benefit from past experience.”

Strategy Lab

This knowledge and expertise are preserved and monitored in the GeONE Strategy Lab, says Brefeld.

“Our Strategy Lab is built especially for our customers and lets them take advantage of all the experience that we’ve gained. At the same time, it is a forum where customers can share new possibilities that certain techniques can offer, on a non-committal basis. That way, we answer questions that customers have not yet asked.”

Brefeld adds that he likes to let the customer speak about their own experience before issuing advice.

“Let the customer tell you where the pain is instead of immediately telling the customer about all the solutions that you can offer. The knowledge about the customer, his market and his challenges gives him confidence in your expertise and ensures that you become a trusted advisor.

“We like to position ourselves as experts in their market. We spend a lot of time and resources in making sure we truly understand a specific industry. It’s important to keep in mind that the real challenges in an organization may be below the surface and may require more investigation to get to the root of the problem. You should already know where the real pain is in the industry before you meet the customer so that you can enter into the discussion on equal footing.”

No Quick Fix but Genuine Resolutions

Brefeld strongly believes that creating lasting solutions to their customers’ problems is their main priority.

“We don’t want our customers to come to us after a few years and say that the same problems are happening again. By diagnosing the problem accurately and working closely with the employees that will be using the systems, you can really achieve structural results.

“Compare it to a medical practitioner. When a patient arrives complaining about a headache, chances are, he may have already researched the problem. In effect, the patient guides the doctor in a certain direction. ‘A prescription for some painkillers should do the job doctor.’ If you go along with that, the pharmacy gets another sale and the customer seems happy. The headache may disappear for a while. But if you have not investigated the cause, chances are that the symptom, the headache, will return again over time.

“The same goes for the value that we like to create for the customers. First, find out where the pain is coming from, but don’t immediately jump to conclusions. The customer may already have researched the subject and may have a preference for certain information management systems.

“You need to continue to investigate the pain points. What causes them? Who actually suffers the consequences? How big is the problem? What role does (the lack of) intelligent information management play in the problem? Just continue to poke. Why and when are you getting headaches? Eventually this will result in a clear problem statement and probable causes can be identified. Only then are both parties ready for action.”

Our Expertise Sets Us Apart

As Brefeld mentioned, to achieve that level of knowledge and expertise you have to fully commit to the objective.

“It’s about providing solutions that are future-proof and will stand the test of time. It’s not about selling an off-the-shelf software package. Insert the CD and off you go. Or the modern version, download the software and click on the .exe file.

“The saying ‘No pain, no gain’ certainly applies in this context as well. It’s about technically complex applications that you don’t just shake out of your sleeve. But precisely that technical complexity and the extent of the problems that organizations struggle with is what we like. In this, we see great challenges — to dare, to believe and to do. That is our philosophy with which we are able to tackle the market and stand out from the crowd.

“Once you have convinced customers that you have the knowledge and expertise and you have earned their trust, the opportunities are endless. That’s the real reason for our success with M-Files. You have to accept that it will require dedication and an allocation of resources, but eventually, believe me, it’s about the engine, not the body work. It is about reliability, stability and continuity. That body work may change from time to time, but the engine should be strong."