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Configura's growth brings global partners together for spring meeting

Configura’s spring Partner Meeting held March 19 at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, centered on the rapid spread of the company’s space-planning software CET Designer as an industry standard.

Bringing together more than 100 manufacturers, software developers and others involved in making and marketing CET Designer, the gathering offered opportunity for partners to hear directly from Configura leadership about company and product updates and future plans – as well as for partners to present on a variety of topics, share their feedback, collaborate and network.

“It’s all about working together,” Configura CEO Johan Lyreborn said. “We’re on a highway at a very fast speed, so it’s important to have these meetings and talk about challenges and opportunities.”

Twice a year, Configura hosts such a gathering. The spring meeting is held in Grand Rapids where Configura has a major office presence. Concurrent with the meeting, Configura holds a Developer Conference. The fall Partner Meeting is held in conjunction with Configura’s annual CET Designer User and Developer Conference.

Configura’s expansion model is based on its “Partner Community,” which consists of Application Partners (manufacturers that have invested in their own CET Designer Extensions) and Implementation Partners (external software development companies, user-experience designers, software adoption specialists, trainers and marketers – each of which has specialized understanding of CET Designer and Extensions).

The model has helped Configura to achieve significant growth in the past year. At the Partner Meeting, Lyreborn reported that income for the company was up 17 percent, licenses up 18 percent and staffing up 15 percent.

He noted that CET Designer and its various Extensions are now used by more than 12,000 designers, specifiers and salespeople across the globe. The company projects 13,000 users by the end of 2019.

“Growth for me is security. The enemy is stagnation,” Lyreborn said.

He announced ambitious plans to recruit at least 200 new employees by year 2023 for Configura’s offices around the globe. In addition to the Grand Rapids office, Configura has two locations in Sweden (headquarters is in Linköping), a new office in Germany, and offices in China and Malaysia.

“As we grow as a global company, it’s more important than ever to be local to the customers we serve,” Lyreborn said.

Last fall, the privately held Configura announced that the Norwegian company Vind became a long-term co-owner, joining shareholders Johan Lyreborn, Göran Rydqvist and Sune Rydqvist (the three founders of Configura), and Johan Bengtsson and Niels Madsen.

The funding from Vind will help to accelerate Configura’s CET platform.

“We had been looking for the right investor who shares our vision and beliefs and is ready to stay onboard for the long-term,” Lyreborn said. “In addition to long-term security, Vind’s investment as a co-owner will help us with more R&D and speed to market, and intensify our sales as we grow the Configura Community.”

Partners have helped CET Designer become the industry standard

With Configura Application Partners now including nearly all of the major office furniture manufacturers – Steelcase, Haworth, Herman Miller, OFS, Knoll, Allsteel and many more – CET Designer has become the industry-standard software used in the contract furniture industry.

Office furniture manufacturer AIS, based in Leominster, Massachusetts, is a newer Application Partner currently working on an Extension, which is planned to launch later this year.

“More and more dealer-designers today are relying on CET Designer for their specification process, and AIS understands this. We’re continuing strides forward to ensure all aspects of working with AIS are as easy as possible for our dealer-partners,” said Keith Driesenga, CET implementation / project manager for AIS. “Soon, with CET Designer, our dealer-designers will be able to create nearly everything they need – drawings, renderings, bills of materials, installation documents and more – accurately, and in a fraction of the time.”

Configura also has ramped up its efforts to expand into other industries with configurable products, including the material handling and kitchen and bath furnishings industries. In 2018, more than a dozen manufacturer Extensions were launched in Configura’s online Marketplace to serve the three industries – bringing the total to over 100 available Extensions.

In addition, there are now 15 Configura Implementation Partners. One of those Implementation Partners is Philadelphia-based RSC, a full-service provider of content within the contract furniture industry.

“We’ve been a CET Designer user for many years and have witnessed first-hand the importance of this tool and have seen the extreme growth of Configura over that time. The opportunity to create Extensions on behalf of manufacturers is a natural migration of our business model,” said Erik Rothbard, RSC’s vice president of sales and marketing. “We appreciate that Configura is a forward-thinking company, always looking for input from internal and external resources on how to better their program while keeping the end-user in mind.”

Grand Rapids-based Open Systems Technologies (OST) signed on as a Configura Implementation Partner two years ago.

“We believe there is untapped growth potential in the market and want to be there to help lead and partner in order to take advantage of it,” said John Vancil, OST’s director of enterprise services.

In just one example, OST’s application development team has partnered with its configuration services team to bring a “Dev Ops” approach to a client whose solution is built on the CET platform. OST also helped Herman Miller to produce its CET Designer Extension.

Although the initial Implementation Partners were mainly software-development companies, other specialists have signed on to help Application Partners with the various phases of designing, launching and marketing a CET Designer Extension at the manufacturer and dealer levels.

New Implementation Partner Kari Anderson, a digital user-experience expert and owner of UX & Kari based in Minneapolis, presented at the Partner Meeting on how applying UX-based design thinking before software development gets underway can save a lot of money.

“Every dollar invested up front in UX returns $10 to $100,” she said.

But UX doesn’t stop when software development begins.

“UX is iterative throughout the entire process of making and marketing a CET Designer Extension,” Anderson said.

Kaylie Tucker, owner of Seattle-based Konvergent Solutions, became a Configura Implementation Partner after working nearly 20 years as a dealer-designer and directly with manufacturers. Today, she specializes in helping manufacturers who are developing CET Designer Extensions to create great user experiences; she also helps designers – the end users of the software – to transition into using CET Designer.

“The underlying theme of my career has been CET Designer. I’ve seen where manufacturers and designers can struggle, so I give them strategies and tools for how be successful with the program, such as providing reusable files and other items needed to make the transition of using new software a smooth one,” she said at the Partner Meeting.

Other Implementation Partners provide such services as dealer adoption and sales strategies, hands-on CET Designer user training, and marketing and public relations services for promoting Extension launches.

“When I look at the services that we offer – both directly through Configura and indirectly through our partners – it’s huge,” said Terese Acou, Configura’s vice president of production. “Configura now has over 60 partners in total in our network. Fourteen of our Application Partners (manufacturers) have engaged with our Implementation Partners. These numbers are only going to grow as the network expands and more partners get to know each other.”

It’s all about the user

One of Configura’s newer Implementation Partners is Alexandra Tseffos, who worked in training at Configura for a number of years and then in business development and design at two large dealerships in the Midwest, as well as for national commercial real estate firm CBRE. She formed Silent T Consulting several years ago to help dealerships with the adoption of CET Designer.

Because of Tseffos’ relationships with Configura as well as her dealer experience, she was tapped to help facilitate the work of a new advisory group dubbed the Furniture Five that formed to discuss creating standards across Extensions. Consisting of representatives from Steelcase, Haworth, Herman Miller, Knoll and OFS, the group first met in November to discuss best practices for creating a consistent user experience.

“The feedback from the group was CET Designer is an incredible platform but some of the differences among the various manufacturer Extensions can hold a designer back from easily adopting the program,” Tseffos said.

Each manufacturer’s Extension tends to have unique nuances, icons and even naming conventions. Because CET Designer has become an industry tool, a typical user now might be using 10 manufacturers’ Extensions and possibly more.

“Creating a consistent user experience with key features in Extensions is an important consideration,” Tseffos said.

At the Partner Meeting, Configura held two breakout sessions with Furniture Five members and other interested partners to discuss standardization of several specific features.

“We’ve had many manufacturers come forward and show interest in the group. We need to look at how Configura or the Furniture Five can channel this excitement to bring everyone together for the betterment of the end user, the designer,” Tseffos said.

Configura Vice President of Global Customer Experience Tracy Lanning noted that similar advisory groups could be created for the material handling and kitchen and bath industries that Configura and its partners serve.

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