One team, two markets
CodeHQ is a great example of a business that has continued to evolve and adapt through the pandemic, not allowing border restrictions to hinder growth or opportunity. It has been almost 30 years since Peter Vile and Mitchell Pham launched Augen Software Group, with the goal of helping Kiwi businesses grow through outsourcing their software […]
CodeHQ is a great example of a business that has continued to evolve and adapt through the pandemic, not allowing border restrictions to hinder growth or opportunity.
It has been almost 30 years since Peter Vile and Mitchell Pham launched Augen Software Group, with the goal of helping Kiwi businesses grow through outsourcing their software needs.
A lot of software code has flowed through their developers’ fingers during those years to meet the changing demands of both their customers and the market.
Now in 2021 a rebrand to CodeHQ reflects the value the company brings to clients, focusing on their needs, and the unique voice it has in the market.
“It’s a brand that helps businesses make software, not excuses,” says Peter.
With the pandemic sparking a rise of digitalisation, it’s never been more important to support customers in their growth and development, he explains. “This includes a profound focus on overcoming New Zealand’s IT skills shortage.
“We have always had a tight IT labour market, but the border closures have pushed the industry to the brink and stumped the growth of many businesses, including Kiwi exporters who now rely on digital capabilities more than ever.
“At CodeHQ we’ve long been focused on resolving this challenge through connecting businesses with experienced offshore developers from our team in both New Zealand and Vietnam, using our ‘one team across two markets’ model.”
A software development team that straddles New Zealand and Vietnam may sound unusual, but it reflects the strong connection Mitchell Pham has with his country of birth.
Mitchell is a former Vietnamese refugee who came to New Zealand when just 12 years old. In 2018 he was the first ethnic migrant/refugee to receive the Kea World Class New Zealander Award, for his contribution to the New Zealand technology sector and New Zealand-Asia relations.
He knows all about forging connections across borders, which is one reason why CodeHQ’s ‘one team, two markets’ model works so well, he says, particularly during the pandemic.
“Vietnam’s management of the pandemic has been a global exemplar, which has been fantastic for our team and clients,” says Mitchell. “However, Vietnam isn’t immune and has faced a few lockdowns, just like New Zealand. Luckily for us, we long ago adopted an operating model and technology infrastructure which enables our team across both countries to work remotely on a regular basis anyway. In fact, during New Zealand’s first Level-4 lockdown, our entire team switched to full WFH overnight and productivity has never been higher.”
Mitchell admits they miss their team’s ability to physically visit and spend time socially with one another across the two countries. “We have always enjoyed cross-country exchanges where our team members stay with their overseas colleagues. As soon as the border reopens, this is something we are absolutely going to continue with.”
Positives and negatives
Covid-19 and the resulting border closures have severely limited people’s movement and created an environment where skilled IT developers are in even higher demand than before.
However, there have been some significant positives for CodeHQ.
“One positive over the past 18 months has been that the pandemic has created an environment where businesses are now seeking further software development,” explains Peter. “This has provided us with a unique opportunity to build new connections with more businesses while strengthening relationships with our loyal customers.
“The pandemic has also shaped our own internal transformation as a business and provided us with the driver to rebrand – to better reflect who we are, what we do and how well we do it.”
An initial negative aspect of the pandemic was how it challenged the business’s traditional networking-based sales and marketing approach. “In the absence of face-to-face opportunities, we faced the first significant challenge to our growth strategy in decades,” says Peter.
“Working closely with our advisory board, we decided to invest in our brand and outbound sales and marketing activities. We made some significant investments including appointing a new chief revenue officer, Ben Rose, and we are very pleased with how things are going.”
Managing a company that operates across borders and different cultures can be a challenge.
Mitchell says the key is to think about your employee value proposition equally in all markets, as your staff engagement matters wherever they are.
“Often we see businesses investing in the ‘head office’ staff, with others almost regarded as second-class citizens. We don’t think that’s ethically right and nor does it make commercial sense.”
Genuinely understanding the nuances of each culture in your business is also crucial because without this, you may miss out on the hidden talents, skills and value of your team members, he adds. “We work hard on creating an environment where our ‘Codies’ can contribute all of their value, irrespective of where they’re from.”
Mitchell, who regards himself as ‘born in Vietnam, made in New Zealand’, says winning the World Class New Zealander Award was not only “hugely meaningful” to him – it has also helped raise his profile and created relationship opportunities for CodeHQ in both countries.
“Going forward, as we focus on the next stage of our business’s evolution, I’m taking on a more strategic role as brand ambassador to help deliver our new message and direct attention to our CodeHQ proposition.”
As for New Zealand’s export opportunity in Southeast Asia and Vietnam, much of it is dependent on that digitalisation. “In 2020, Covid forced the world to ‘go digital’ overnight. Asia accelerated digital growth rather than the transformation of their economies, simply because their many highly-scalable tech and digital platforms were already in place pre-pandemic. Those countries just maximised the opportunity when Covid-19 came along.
“Vietnam is no exception. However, in contrast, New Zealand only started its mass digital transformation in 2020. Many Kiwi businesses still have much catching up to do.”
For the above reasons, Mitchell says the biggest opportunity is to engage digitally with customers in Asia. “To do that, Kiwi businesses must rapidly build or fast-track digital capabilities to reach new customers and compete with the rest of the world. And they must therefore scale their development teams.
“This is where CodeHQ can help – we can scale on demand.”