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News Plus 24 May 2022 - 3 min read

‘Brands are over large transformation projects’: Inlight Network gunning for agency groups and consultants touting onshore digital sprint collective

By Brendan Coyne - Editor

It is a race: Big transformation projects risk being outdated by the time they are delivered, sprints required, says Inlight CEO, Patrick Carne. Pic: IPGGutenbergUKLtd

Melbourne-based Inlight has corralled a group of independent digital, data, research and content agencies in a bid to fill a void left by slow moving consultants that risk delivering digital and business process transformation that is outdated by the time it arrives. Now the Inlight Network is jointly pitching, and hopes to prove a swifter, more viable alternative.

What you need to know:

  • Melbourne-based digital services agency Inlight has organised a group of digital, data, research and content agencies to form an independent network bidding for jobs at the top end of town.
  • The Inlight Network consists of Melbourne-based Optimising for SEO; WhyHive for data science and analytics; Starburst for brand research and insights; Context for content strategy and copywriting; and Sydney-based Stck for service design and tech enablement; Just After Midnight for dev ops and after hours support and maintenance. 
  • Inlight co-founder and CEO Patrick Carne says two years of unwieldy transformation has left brands seeking agility and speed.

There have been some enormous transformation projects implemented by large consulting firms. These can offer a lot of value. The problem is everything's moving so quickly that by the time you come out of that transformation, the world's moved on and things have gone stale.

Patrick Carne, co-founder & CEO, Inlight

Melbourne-based Inlight is backing a network of independents able to deliver digital projects in sprints to win over brands hesitant to engage consultants in unwieldy transformation projects that are outdated by the time they are eventually delivered.

Founder Patrick Carne is back at the helm as CEO, having sold spin-out software services company Lighthouse.io to rejoin the company he founded with Inlight CTO Tony Milne in 2008. Now the former Deloitte analyst aims to apply start-up agility to the firm and sees major opportunity in overhauling brands’ internal business processes and linking them to external customer experience, going head-to-head with larger consultants and agency groups – but moving faster, and keeping the work onshore.

Linking process and service design, faster

Inlight sees “a big gap in the market to look at how digital and web technologies are used to help businesses modernise legacy internal processes” and join up “internal customer” overhauls with external customer experience.

But Carne thinks transformation has become a dirty word, synonymous with delay, whereas businesses require rapid response units in a fluid economic environment.

In the last couple of years, “there have been some enormous transformation projects implemented by large consulting firms. These can offer a lot of value. The problem is everything's moving so quickly that by the time you come out of that transformation, the world's moved on and things have gone stale – whether that’s your customers or your internal users”, said Carne.

“I think there's definitely an appetite to take more tangible, agile steps, make changes quickly rather than handing over a huge transformation document and not knowing where to start with that.”

Coalition of the willing

Where Inlight’s team of 45 requires broader capability, the firm will lean on a network of independent agencies formalised under outgoing CEO Mark Oliver and co-developed by Partner Services Manager Tom Webster.  The collective has begun jointly pitching for business and hopes to announce the first win next month.

The Inlight Network consists of Melbourne-based Optimising for SEO; WhyHive for data science and analytics; Starburst for brand research and insights; Context for content strategy and copywriting; and Sydney-based Stck for service design and tech enablement; Just After Midnight for dev ops and after hours support and maintenance. Sydney-based Chello is also aligned with the group, though not yet a formal member.

The network would like to add a cyber security specialist to its ranks, though otherwise the next step is to “stabilise”, said Webster and build confidence through proof of collective work.

“A lot of agencies unofficially have these kind of relationships, so we’re not reinventing the wheel,” said Webster. “But we think formalising it gives us strength, and shows we are serious.”

Collective learning

Inlight has been working with Optimising for brands like Nando’s and Accolade Wines, and the collective refers work to each other. Whereas the aim is to provide a “single channel” and point of contact, Webster said brands can choose to have a direct relationship with each specialist.

“We want to be really transparent – here is our partner, here is where they are based, you can pick up the phone to them – because so many people have been burnt by offshoring work and white labelling.”

The collective has had to hone how to collectively complete lengthy RFPs, but has already tackled some of the biggest, recently for a tier one retailer, which ultimately “got pulled” before going to market. “But the feedback we received was that we were basically in the box seat,” said Webster. “So I think there is appetite for a collection of specialists [versus a single large consultancy or holdco].”

Carne and Webster suggest the upshot of the last two years is a swing back to “human-centric” service from brands that undercooked CX in a race to digitally transform at a technical level.

“Basically, making sure there is a personality. In some categories the experience still feels very cold,” said Webster. “So I think there will be a bit of a correction to how we improve that part of the experience.”

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