Innovation, passion and drive – the story of iCore
The timing couldn’t have been worse when Mikael Boquist, Thomas Madsen, and Håkan Holm founded iCore Solutions in January 2001. The dot-com bubble had burst, and the economy and trust in IT consultants were at an all-time low. But from the ashes of the dot-com crash rose a strong and innovative company, which in less than two years had attracted clients like Assa Abloy, Kinnarps, ICA and KG Knutsson.
– 2001 was not a good year, sales were low. But we were up-and-comers and had new ideas, together with a unique integration platform. We went all in, head first, says Mikael Boquist, CEO of iCore Solutions.
During the 90s, Mikael worked with Thomas Madsen and Håkan Holm at IT-company Strålfors. They had a passion for digital solutions and integration, and together they decided to create their own business. On the first of January 2001, they founded iCore Solutions. But the dot-com crash had made customers weary of IT-consultants:
– Before the crash it was considered cool to hire IT consultants. Integration platforms were confusing to work with and it required a lot of work to implement new changes and systems. We brought something new to the table – automated processes and a platform which handled the integrations.
Fixing broken e-commerce projects
At the start of the millennium, everyone wanted their own e-commerce solution. iCore found companies with failed e-commerce projects and helped them create smart processes. Mikael, Thomas and Håkan didn’t bring any clients from Strålfors, but they did have a good reputation and an extensive network. In 2002, a year after the company was founded, things took off. In a couple of months, the co-founders signed major customers like Kinnarps, ICA and KG Knutsson.
– Automation was the big thing, and the IT systems had to be able to communicate to create an efficient infrastructure.
Assa Abloy was another big company that wanted to grow and needed help.
– They had a vision to grow by acquisition but did not want to force acquired companies to use the same ERP. With an integration platform, they could instead continue using their ERP of choice.
– So, they hired us, and together with our partner Cybercom we integrated their systems. Today, all the companies in the Assa Abloy group are connected to this integration platform, we’re talking about more than a hundred ERPs. And this is a solution originally designed more than 15 years ago! I like to believe that our platform has contributed to their success and allowed them to grow from 12 to 75 billion SEK in annual turnover.
Data infrastructure – a long-term investment
Helping its customers create an integration framework which can handle the demands of the future is an important goal for iCore. The solution needs to be easy to modify and perform updates on.
– When we started in 2001, we based our solution on the technology that was available at the time – and today, 17 years later these integrations still work just as well with new systems and integrations connected to them.
The stability, says Mikael, is sometimes a “disadvantage” of the iCore product.
– It’s like a black box and when everything works well you don’t even notice it. Our customers almost forget that it exists.
Adapting to a global market
iCore has been profitable since the start and grown by 10-20 percent annually without external funding. Not even the financial crisis in 2008 had a big impact on the company.
Today, iCore has a turnover of 58 MSEK and employs more than 50 integration designers, developers and project managers. The business model hasn’t changed much since 2001 – the main difference lies in the technology. The on-premise solution has been complemented with cloud-based solutions and nowadays monthly subscription is the business model for product usage. iCore offers a product platform combined with process and implementation support.
– Today’s customers are more demanding and many of them are now actors on a global market, which puts pressure on building a structure that enables change. At the same time the customers want their own integration setup – adapted to their IT landscape. We must be very adaptable, and work closely with each customer.
Bridging the knowledge gap
The system integration market is growing, but only one in ten companies work professionally with business integration platforms.
– There is still a big knowledge gap, but we are approaching a paradigm shift. Within a couple of years, it won’t be a question of whether you need an integration platform or not – it will be what platform you choose and how it is managed and structured.
– Much like the shift from fax to e-mail at the end of the nineties, the integration market will see a similar expansion. The system integration market today is twice the size of the ERP-market.
Mikael and iCore have their sights set on the future. Today the company has offices in Gothenburg, Stockholm and London. The goal is to expand on the international market, and Mikael doesn’t fear a new dot-com crash or financial crisis.
– We have always been restless and want to make a bigger difference for our customers. Today iCore has installations in over 30 countries, and more are planned. We are still diving in “head first”, without fear, says Mikael Boquist.