I recently caught up with Monochrome for a chat with Adrian Munn (Sales & Marketing Director) and Niklas Richardson (Technical Director) to find out more about them and what they have been up to….
So what do you do at Monochrome?
Adrian: We are a web agency specialising in application design/development and web design/development. We are a traditional web services company incorporating managed services for our customers. For the past 4 years we have been focused on rich and immersive content and new technologies that engage our users and customers. I am Sales & Marketing Director which means I go out and sell. I engage with the customer and talk about the long-term growth potential for their current environment and discuss new opportunities to utilise the new technologies available. I show customers how they could get the most from the web and how the new technologies will help them to engage with their end-users and customers. I guess you could call me an evangelist!
Nik: I’m the Technical Director here at Monochrome. I have been in the web industry since 1997 so I have seen a lot of technologies come and go. My primary focus here is to investigate these new technologies… see how they fit into the projects that we build… and decide whether they are relevant or not. However, with all new technologies we have to be careful that we don’t just use them because they are new but use them because they are relevant and will provide either a better end user experience or a better development environment, or both. As well as investigating these new technologies I also strive to become an expert in them so that I can guide my own team to build better solutions using best practices.
So what are Monochrome known for in this marketplace?
Adrian: We see ourselves as the market leader in Rich Interactive (RI) and immersive content. We call ourselves a “big little company”. We are not frightened to take on challenges and big business. We are interested in the long-term evaluation of technology to assess what is right for the customer today but also what is future-proof whilst taking advantage of new technology.
So what are you talking to Microsoft about?
Adrian: The relationships we have in the RI space and the community relationships we build with people in the industry have enabled us to get involved and given us exposure to what Microsoft is doing in this area. The RI space that Microsoft is now advocating and putting research into, complements our background of existing RI technology. It has allowed us to engage early on working with the Microsoft solution and the community they are building. Monochrome are excited at the challenges that RI offers to the marketplace and how working closely with Microsoft can assist building apps. We can see how this offers us streaming technology, delivery of RI experience and fast delivery that gives us benefits when using the Silverlight and Expressions toolset to build apps with real ongoing value. Some of our projects involve streaming media and Microsoft has a solution that is ideal for delivering to our customers.
Nik, you recently attended Mix07 – why?
Nik: Microsoft are one of the best software companies in the world no matter what anyone says. I’m not a Microsoft preacher but if you look at the company in the cold light of day and look at what they create – if they chose to play in the RI space you know that they will create something interesting and special. Therefore Mix was all about understanding this compelling alterative. I think they are on the right tracks. I’m going to definitely hang around to see what happens. And if there is opportunity to give feedback – then great! This is what we did with Flex when that came out. Microsoft create cool stuff – Surface, Xbox, Zune. It’s not always brand new ideas but they do know how to do cool stuff!
So what was it about?
Nik: Everyone was “super excited”! This was a Microsoft I had not seen before and it was really interesting. With the Silverlight technology they have a compelling offering but I was interested to understand more about where it is going. I’m not sure what I was expecting. You think of Microsoft as very “Corporate” and the perception is that perhaps they don’t see the fun side of this market as they are such a large company. But Mix07 was really refreshing – and I’m not just talking about all the alcohol consumed! It was my first experience of a Microsoft conference and it was much more than them just trying to be funky. I came away with so much info, I was amazed at how much guidance they give. They help you to sell their products. It’s not the Partners’ responsibility to work out how they sell their products. They help you to understand that.
So what is your “top tip” for Agencies looking at this area?
Nik: I would say:
1. Keep an open mind
2. Remember it’s a new product
3. Watch the roadmap and where it is going
4. Engage & communicate
Be mindful of the fact that this is not just a “now” solution, or a 6 month or 9 month solution – you have to look at where this will be in 18 months time. This could really leapfrog Flex when you consider Microsoft’s resource and experience of building Enterprise solutions. Remember the ability for Microsoft to evolve and change the environment to come up with something new. They have created a Zune, they have changed mobile technology. Every time you might think Microsoft is washed-up, they evolve and change based on the future and the need. They want to hear from their partners. This company (Microsoft) has been here since the start of the computer revolution, they are a huge part of the software industry, you can’t ignore that fact.
Adrian, you recently attended Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC07) in Denver – now why did you go and what was that all about?
Adrian: After Nik came back from Mix07, I think we started to take Microsoft seriously. Because of the relationship we had built with Microsoft, we were given the opportunity to go to WPC07. I was sceptical at first but I ended up being shocked by the way Microsoft was engaged with RI at the highest level. I heard Steve Ballmer & Kevin Turner talking about Silverlight in their keynote speeches. This was great to see how seriously they are taking this investment. Initially I had mixed views but they consistently demonstrated how well they engage with the Business Partners. After a poor experience with other suppliers, it was great to see how Microsoft work WITH their partners. There was opportunity to have Q&A with Steve Ballmer which showed real openness. Web Agencies were in a minority this year but this will change. It was an great opportunity to meet a lot of people, other Partners and Microsoft USA.
What next for Monochrome?
Nik: Microsoft roll out of RI apps in a number of different sectors.
Adrian: There is an opportunity to build communities around this. We want to take advantage of Microsoft education and support to build our capability in RI. We will be looking at future opportunities to build web apps in RI and play a part in the changing market.
Guests for dinner (dead or alive) – who would they be?
Adrian: Einstein, JFK, Jimmy Hendricks
Nik: Douglas Copeland, Richard Branson, Neil Armstrong, Lewis Hamilton
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