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IT Design, the history

BY Herald - October 2013

A Port Elizabeth IT entrepreneur has invested huge effort and research into developing software that enables his clients to update their websites at three clicks of a button.

At a time, in 2008, when many companies were downsizing or holding onto their staff by the skin on their teeth, Riaan Miles was doing what real entrepreneurs do. He was taking a calculated risk in developing a unique website product that would make his clients lives easier. “IT Design was delivering a level of service to customers that meant we were getting 40 requests at the beginning of each month for updates to their website. Most updates could take up to two hours each using conventional technnology,” says Miles,managing member.

“I knew that there was a niche where we could fit in. The growth of emerging technologies pointed to this, the installation of the Seacom cable, Blackberry was coming soon with their BIS, and bandwidth prices would be tumbling with the looming Soccer World Cup. Many of our clients at the time, like farmers, have very basic computer skills. The question was; how do we make it easy and fast for them to update their website as easily as entering data on word processing software?”

“I worked 16 hour days for nine months,” notes Miles. His eyes take on a distant look, recallingthe gamble, sacrifice and late nights. He put everything on the line.Realising that he could not handle the ever growing work load alone, Miles roped in a former IT student of his, Kobus Etsebeth. “I needed his skills set,” explains Miles. The pair spent hundreds of hours on the internet. Etsebeth was rewarded for his efforts with a partnership at the innovative company.

Fate favoured the IT professionals’dogged determination. “I was bankrupt the month that we sold Webpro to four clients later that same month,” Miles confides. “I didn’t know how I was going to pay the bills.” The enthusiastic response shown by initial clients for Webpro signified the turning point for IT Design.
The market has been receptive to the ease of use of the content management system. IT Design’s client base has grown by leaps and bounds. “IT Design has over 350 clients using Webpro,” says Miles, with a happy grin. This includes national and international clients and range from one man businesses to established corporates like Welfit Oddy, Superspar, and the Legacy Group. ‘It is passion that drives me to create products where wants and needs meet each other,” notes Miles. “I want to see my clients grow and enjoy an enduring relationship with them.”

Miles has come a long way since starting his business in 1999. He admits to ‘spending eight years in a desert,’ professionally speaking. On leaving Telkom he did what any self-respecting IT professional with limited choices would do - count his losses and make the best of a bad situation. “I did PC upgrades, networking and repairs. But by 2008, the PC industry went to nothing. I was not prepared to do what many PC suppliers were doing; installing software that was not licensed.” Standing by his principles meant lost revenue, but was also the spur that changed the focus of the entrepreneur from everyday offering to innovation. In the space of three years turnover has grown sixfold.

Essentially Webpro allows its owners to manage all the content on their website. Miles gives a quick tutorial on the simplicity of adding data to his website solution. In the space of seconds he adds content about a music event, adds a music video off YouTube and a contact form. The innovation is in the simplicity of adding content in real time with three clicks of a button. Frustrated at observing that many websites have a contact email address that does not notify users that their enquiry has been received, IT Design created an email confirmation response. Other innovative offerings by IT design include online ordering and enabling the public to add events to an organisation’s calendar online.

Their staff complement stands at eight people. “We maintain service levels by writing in-house applications that automates many of our processes,” says Miles. “Our company is here to ask people to pay us a reasonable price for an excellent product.” Such is the interactive nature and search engine indexability of IT Design’s web design and features that some of their clients have scooped orders within five days of their website going live.

The next step for IT Design is to promote Version 3 of Webpro on a world-wide scale. Patenting their software’s source code is also on the cards for 2012. An international development firm was asked the cost of developing a similar product to gauge current investment cost. The company quoted in excess of R 100 000 for a similar product. In a volatile industry it makes good business sense to stay ahead with development and the way web applications interact with the internet. With this philosphy in mind, the code that IT Design developed for Webpro aligns with requirements set by the major search engines. This alignment ensures good search engine rankings for their client’s websites. It also means that IT Design continuously updates their software to re- align with new search algorithms and add more features to their product.

The company’s latest innovation is called Collaborate. “It is aimed at entrepreneurs, small businesses and groups who need software solutions to manage their contacts and leads,” explains Miles. “Customisable fields, integrated sms and email ability sets it apart from other contact management solutions.” Other unique aspects include adding information under contacts such as GPS location coordinates, birthdays with automatic messaging, skype information and social media links, bringing the software on the cutting edge of technology, yet accessible to the man on the street.

Riaan Miles laughs when asked whether he is planning to learn Russian anytime soon. He has the dynamism of Mark Shuttleworth. Up to now, IT Designs has chosen to keep a relatively low-key profile. One senses that the best is yet to come from this visionary IT Company with its roots in Nelson Mandela Bay.

 October 18, 2013
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