When Levi Strauss Co. patented blue jeans in 1873, they disrupted an industry—and continued to do so, generation after generation. How? Denim wasn’t a new fabric. Pants certainly weren’t the hot new thing. But Levis transformed the face of work and casual apparel forever by fulfilling an existing and widespread need for function, reliability, and accessibility.
Rick Nelson, CEO of Roseville-based IT consulting firm Direct Technology, ascribes to a similar school of thought: “We’re like blue jeans—always in style, durable, time-tested, relevant. It’s about tech for the people, not just for the stock market.” And that focus on the human side of tech, he believes, is the key to Direct Technology’s success. Founded in 1996, the company specializes in business intelligence, software development, and managed services for public and private entities, and tailors their expertise and experienced staff to suit a host of client needs. In addition to investing in growing IT trends such as the Internet of Things and NextGen 911, Direct Technology focuses on positioning its existing products and services in a way that effectively addresses tech issues in government and the private sector.
It’s unusual for a tech firm to eschew superlatives that paint their services and products as the latest and greatest in the field. But being the face of “blue-jeans” IT hasn’t stopped Direct Technology from being disruptive and innovative. Instead, it’s shaped the business’s values, project approach, and goals—and it’s working extremely well.
Balancing Large-Scale Expansion with Small-Business Values
Over the last ten years, Direct Technology has grown from 12 employees to over 600, serving Fortune 500 clients all over the world. In addition to their Roseville headquarters, the company boasts a thriving second campus in the Seattle area. Direct Technology’s SaaS products and teams of IT professionals are actively deployed in 30 U.S. states, including over 70 utilities and 40% of all public safety access points, and will expand to Canada next year. In addition, the company has recently added several businesses to its portfolio, including Averro and 110 Consulting. That’s a lot of growth in a few years. But Direct Technology’s leadership is committed to retaining the small-business values that accelerated their early successes. For example, the company leaders encourage autonomy, well-roundedness, and entrepreneurialism in their employees. They also focus strongly on relationships, consistently seeking new partnerships and investment opportunities, no matter how unusual (how many tech businesses boast a winery and a gourmet popcorn chain as sister companies?). Finally, a core value that Direct Technology cites is agility—being able to adjust and respond quickly to new trends or projects—which is often lost as companies get bigger.
Balancing Forward-Thinking and Back-to-Basics Mentalities
Make no mistake: Just because Direct Technology prioritizes speaking plainly and cutting through complexity over pretension and pizzazz, that doesn’t mean the leadership is stuck in the past. “What’s made us so successful,” Nelson says, “is thinking about the reasons that businesses adopt technology, as well as the improved services that can be provided to people and communities when those technologies are used effectively.” Direct Technology strategically balances innovation with customization. Their products are disruptive—the award-winning Emergency Call Tracking System (ECaTS) was the first ever SaaS-based MIS system to enter the 911 industry, for example—and they specialize in building solutions from scratch.
But, fundamentally, Direct Technology is out to solve complex business problems, not create new ones. Their goal isn’t to reinvent the wheel (or, perhaps more aptly, invent something that replaces wheels entirely). Rather, the company focuses on customizing existing technologies and tools to create modern, functional, far-reaching results for their clients—and they do it expertly. A forward-thinking mentality allows for agility in the marketplace. A back-to-basics mentality encourages consistently strong, reliable results on every project. Marrying the two, unsurprisingly, has led Direct Technology to great success.
Balancing Private-Sector Experience and Public-Sector Needs
For Direct Technology, 2016 has been a groundbreaking year in terms of gaining traction with government clients. Says Nelson: “Hiring Davood Ghods [former Chief of the Office of Technology Services for the State of California] has gained us a deeper understanding of how the public sector thinks about automation, BI, and other services that we provide. That’s going to allow us to serve their needs more effectively than ever before.” Currently, roadmaps for local and state entities demonstrate a need for cybersecurity, business intelligence and data analytics, and Agile development. Direct Technology plans to leverage 20 years of private-sector IT consulting experience to launch digital transformations for more and more public entities over the next few years—relying on that blue-jeans approach that has gotten the company to its current position.
Already a presence in over half the country, Direct Technology anticipates even greater growth in the coming year, as well as deeper penetration into public-sector and cybersecurity consulting. With tried-and-true methods, expert staff, and a commitment to excellent, user-friendly products and services, the future of “blue-jeans” IT looks extremely bright.