In this interview, Alex Melen, Co-founder and CEO of SmartSites, discusses the importance of automation and data-driven decisions
TDE: Thank you so much for taking our questions! Tell us a little about your business and its history?
Alex Melen: SmartSites is a full service digital agency helping small businesses with website design and digital marketing. I started the company with my younger brother at the start of 2011. Since then we’ve grown to over 85 employees in 6 offices worldwide.
TDE: What are your thoughts on the current pace of digital transformation in your industry? Do you feel overwhelmed with the prospect of introducing technology solutions to manage & streamline parts of your business?
Alex Melen: The digital space is very interesting in the way it is always growing at a rapid pace. Fortunately, that has helped our business as more and more clients need help traversing the digital landscape. We typically become the trusted digital partner to help them succeed in the ever-changing digital world.
TDE: What is the one technology trend within your industry that cannot be ignored?
Alex Melen: In a macro-scale, the big trend over the last few years has been based on the importance of digital and the bigger role it plays in our lives. People no longer pull out the yellow pages or call their uncle to find a trusted service provider. Instead, they turn to the internet, getting access to an unprecedented amount of information about service providers, their reviews and more.
On a micro-level, mobile continues to be the big technology that keeps driving change in both, our lives and how we interact with the world around us.
Leaky pipe? Car check engine light? Hungry for dinner? Our first reaction is to whip out our cell phones.
TDE: What has been the most significant technology integration/implementation so far, at your organization? Why? (could have impacted your employee efficiency, customer satisfaction, profit margins etc.)
Alex Melen: Pursuing data aggregation and automation has been the most significant technological implementation in our company. We have become a much more efficient company by automating both menial tasks and those that would have never been possible with just manual labor. Additionally, with the amounts of data in the digital space, we have been able to source and combine data and generate meaningful insights for both ourselves and our clients.
TDE: Do you have a dedicated in-house IT team? What are some of the challenges your IT team and employees faced before, during and after bringing in this solution? How did you resolve them?
Alex Melen: Being a digital agency, our entire company is more or less an IT team. We have in-house capabilities in both the development services we sell as well as our own IT, computer systems and more.
TDE: What’s the internal technology challenge your organization aims to resolve in the immediate future? (could be internal workflow/workforce automation or having internal operations such as CRM, HR, Inventory powered by front end mobile apps)
Alex Melen: Our near-term challenge is to continue the implementation of automation and to polish our internal processes. By automating many tasks, it frees up our employees to spend their time on more value-driven tasks and making decisions from data instead of spending all day gathering it.
TDE: From an external viewpoint are you considering using mobility solutions/mobile apps to promote/sell your products online, or to promote/sell your products to your dealers and allow them to order online?
Alex Melen: Although we don’t use mobile apps to promote or sell our products, we spend a big bulk of our advertising budget on digital media (Google Ads, etc..), often focusing on mobile devices or traffic.
TDE: How do you keep yourself updated? What are some of the websites or magazines or apps that you subscribe to or read regularly?
Alex Melen: I keep myself updated by reading a variety of sources. Instead of relying on a single media source, I use a combination of Google News (personalized/aggregated news) as well as LinkedIn updates from people in my network.
TDE: What’s your favorite social network – Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter?
Alex Melen: My favorites are Twitter and LinkedIn. Those are also the platforms I tend to get the most engagement on and where I spend most of my time. However, on a personal level, I do still enjoy Facebook and Instagram. They are great platforms, as long as you realize that the time spent on them is recreational in nature and not really for learning.