INNOVATION FIRST

Panama 2018 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Raphael Evans, General Manager of Smartbytes, on its expansion plans, rebranding, and focus on certifications.

Raphael Evans
BIOGRAPHY
Raphael Evans is the General Manager of Smartbytes, Panama’s leading IT solutions company, whose mission is to help corporations achieve their full technological potential through innovative business solutions. Evans believes that technology should be a way of life, instead of a specific goal. He knows from experience that, if used wisely, technology will improve the way we live, learn, and work. He has also been a successful franchisee for one the largest franchise chains in the world and an investor in several start-up ventures. He graduated in 2010 from Florida International University with a master’s in business administration.

Smartbytes has been leading the sector for 15 years. How was 2017 for the company?

2017 was challenging because the economy slowed down, and many of our clients were not investing at the pace we expected. The entire IT industry in Panama was going through the same situation. Companies were holding back their IT investments. In order to reach our goals, we redefined our strategy to allocate more resources for cybersecurity. Despite the aforementioned economic situation, every company faces the need to protect itself from cyber-attacks. This shift in our strategy's roadmap yielded remarkable results and will be part of our core business from now on.

Smartbytes has customers from various sectors and countries. What are your expansion plans?

We are looking for opportunities in Central America, and we have been working in Peru and Chile as well. However, instead of entering these countries to compete, we want to enter and collaborate. Our plan is to settle down through strategic partnerships. In Costa Rica, Peru, and Chile, we have already identified companies that we want to collaborate with in order to maximize our efforts and speed up results. The trend is no longer competition but cooperation. Competition is fine; but when we collaborate, we achieve much more. This is already deployed. Our team is ready and focused.

How has the company's rebranding process, which it initiated in 2017, progressing?

It started in 2014 as we wanted to give our brand a story that could resonate with our audience. That is how our current brand colors and logo were born. It was highly praised by our clients and business partners. We teamed up with Muchagana, a brilliant creative agency, and when it was finished we took it a little further and completely changed our company culture. Work-life integration is fundamental for us now, including allowing people to disconnect and enjoy their families.

What is your business focus for the coming years?

Smartbytes thrives on innovation. Cybersecurity, MSP, data management, mobile app development, and cloud computing are five areas where we predict a promising future, therefore, focusing our efforts. These are all part of the internet of things. Any company who fails to embrace digital transformation will perish. Our job is to help them regardless of their size or business activity. A few years ago, we were the first company in Panama to offer hardware as a service, also known as HaaS. It was a breakthrough. Now, four years later the entire industry is adopting these models.

Smartbytes has the most Gold Microsoft competencies in the country and is the most awarded company from HPE due to its quality and innovation. What does this mean for Smartbytes?

It means everything for us. Working with brands such as HPE, F5, Manage Engine, Fortinet, Dell, or Microsoft requires a great deal of expertise, and the only way to demonstrate that is through nonstop education and certifications. Without the highest certifications and skill level, we do not have the knowledge required to represent them. It means we cannot truly assure our clients that we are fit to provide the right solutions for them. Having the highest certifications titles in HPE and Microsoft means a great deal to us.

What are your goals, ambitions, and priorities for 2018?

Our main priority will never change. These are our employees and clients. It has been like that since day one. As far as goals for 2018, we will increase our MSP sales and our portfolio of cybersecurity solutions and will keep investing heavily in our employees' education. Additionally, we recently signed a partnership agreement with Dell that will strengthen our presence in the SME market, adding tons of value to our clients. Dell EMC is our latest business partnership and will allow us to offer a more diversified portfolio of cloud computing and virtualization options.