Specialising in ERP and subscription management products, Bluefort has grown into a major local IT player that’s contributing to Malta’s success in the global digital sector. The company is currently in the process of expanding its operations in the UK, while growing its international partner base to better service businesses all over the world.
A future in software development was on the cards early for Bluefort CEO Edward Borg Grech.
“When I was a boy of eight, I remember being with my grandfather and coding on an Atari machine. That was the real foundation of my career!” he recalls with a fond chuckle. “Then, back in the 90s, I saw the potential of what could be achieved with technology. I became a developer and, eventually, my path crossed with business management software.”
The real seeds for Bluefort were arguably sown when Edward took on a job as a solutions architect in the Netherlands, with a company specialising in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. Here, he steadily realised that there was huge demand for experts within the ERP space, but there was a glaring shortage in talent. In 2014, following his return to Malta, he set up his own company in partnership with his brother-in-law, which began servicing businesses keen to outsource their ERP system support requirements.
ERP systems provide businesses with one integrated platform to manage various aspects of their operations, from their financials and inventory to retail, eCommerce, and more. “The ERP product is vast, so it requires a very wide skill set. That’s why companies need to have premium consultants who know the business and technical aspects inside and out, and can bridge the gap,” he says.
Two years after setting up shop, the company officially rebranded as Bluefort and the business has pivoted to reflect ongoing changes within the global IT landscape. Following the rise of cloud systems and increasing competition in ERP outsourcing providers in Eastern European markets, Bluefort began developing its own IP – a subscription management solution for enterprise customers – alongside selling specialised IT servicing offerings to the global market.
The transition has been a definite boon to the company’s success. In the past few years alone, Edward and his team closed their first multi-million euro deal, achieved coveted Microsoft Gold-Certified partner status, and have successfully expanded the company into the UK.
As the business has evolved, so has Edward’s role as CEO. “When we set up the company, I was more hands-on. I then shifted towards the managerial side and, more recently, my main focus has been strategy: which areas we should specialise in, monitoring the ongoing business, and mapping out our long-term objectives.”
A self-proclaimed ‘goal-oriented’ person, Edward’s typical week finds him dedicating time to all aspects of the business. “I like to plan my agenda upfront as much as possible so that I can dedicate time to keeping up-to-date with the market, our competitors, and our customer base. I also manage an eye- level relationship with our contacts at Microsoft in both the Malta-Cyprus-Greece region and in the UK.”
To help him maintain a balance, Edward says he has come to rely on having a talented team around him, which has now grown to be over 30-people strong. “I like to give my team the power to make their own decisions. I support them. I enable them. But I don’t like to interfere with how they carry out their jobs. We build trust and they have the freedom to work autonomously.”
As a CEO who takes an active role in the recruitment process, Edward is particularly proud to have built a company with a family-like culture, a factor that played a vital role in how Bluefort rode the wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Even before the pandemic, we never had a strict requirement for everyone to be in the office every day. So, remote working wasn’t a big problem for us. However, after a couple of months of everyone continuously working from home, fatigue set in and we found many of our team were missing that face-to-face human connection, which was affecting their well-being and productivity.
“Thankfully, we were already sorted on the technological side of things. So, we found ways to use our technology to create a stronger, more united team with online team-building sessions, workshops, games, and company events that gave everyone an opportunity to touch base and connect. We found these sessions helped keep morale up in the face of all the uncertainty that was in the air.”
Operations aside, the pandemic has, all in all, been good for business. Following a challenging period towards the start of the pandemic when many businesses dependent on Bluefort slashed budgets and projects were downscaled, the company quickly recovered by developing a strategy with a more far-reaching vision.
Key to this strategy was a shift to assisting brick-and-mortar businesses around the world bring their customer and operational platforms onto the cloud following lockdown restrictions. There was an additional spike in businesses looking to automate their services so as not to limit their growth potential.
“Demand for our type of consulting and services exploded towards the end of last year, not just locally and in the UK, but everywhere. There’s a huge shortage of consultants in our industry, which has helped Bluefort grow significantly,” he explains.
Another major global event which has serendipitously worked in Bluefort’s favour has been Brexit. With many European nationals moving out of the country due to uncertainty, the UK market is experiencing a shortfall in IT human resources. “More and more UK businesses are looking towards automation and ERP systems, which have become more of a requirement than ever before. This has meant that what we deliver at Bluefort has become even more precious.”
With opportunities abounding in every direction, the biggest challenge for Bluefort – and more specifically for Edward as CEO – has been finding the right pace for the company to grow at. “You can’t go too fast because you’ll trip over yourself, but you can’t go too slow either. The world is full of opportunities, so it’s a challenge to choose the right ones at the right time,” he says.
Going forward, Edward is hoping to build a more solid position for Bluefort in the UK and is currently looking to grow the team there. Once they have cornered the UK, there’ll be potential to explore expansion within other international markets.
Edward feels this year is set to be an exciting period of growth for Bluefort: “We have factored new technologies into our roadmap. We’ll be rolling out hyper automation products and other innovative solutions in the coming months. We have also been on-boarding more partners in different regions to help us meet demand for our services and products.”
However, as rewarding as Bluefort’s steady rise has been, Edward remains primarily motivated to satisfy the company’s end-users. “I’m always eager to talk to our customers and partners to see how they’re benefitting from our products and services. This helps us find ways to innovate and improve on our core offerings,” he adds.
This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2022 – an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders.
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