When ICT meets creativity

When ICT meets creativity

Uwe Schönfeld, left, and Ray de Bono, the brains behind Dmax, the Maltese company that matches IT and creativity.

Uwe Schönfeld, left, and Ray de Bono, the brains behind Dmax, the Maltese company that matches IT and creativity.

Dmax, the local creative IT solutions and branding company has just celebrated its fifth anniversary. It is the brainchild of Ray de Bono, the group’s chief executive officer, who saw the potential of combining creativity with ICT after working in Germany and partnering with Uwe Schönfeld, a German with a strong background in IT and finance.

This partnership led to the launch of Dmax in January 2006, which since then has focused on local and international IT and branding solutions that have a strong element of creativity.

The company develops dynamic web content (in specialised markets like insurance, banking, finance, health services, retail and ICT) ready for accessibility via multiple platforms, not just PCs. It is also experienced in planning and managing social media and search engine optimisation (SEO) services.

“Sixty per cent of what we produce is already exported,” Mr de Bono explained to i-Tech from his office, while showing off one of their latest creations, a glossy business magazine focused on West Africa, which Dmax publishes in London every month.

“Contrary to the misconceived popular perception, it is web content (dynamic data like text, or images), not its design that carries the greatest impetus on SEO.”

One of the most interesting solutions delivered by Dmax in these last years is a state-of-the-art reverse-logistics IT solution developed for a leading German recycling company. This system tracks down the origin of every component of each item that is recycled, and this meant the company had to study the German environmental laws, which are some of the most stringent in the EU. On the branding side, the Dmax portfolio includes monthly international magazines, creation of annual reports and publishing services. The company is also branching into new spheres of branding and has already been involved in numerous identity creation projects for German, Maltese and UK business hailing from healthcare, scientific, ICT and the banking and finance sectors.

The local portfolio includes the branding and launch of Microsoft Windows XP and Vista in Malta and the myPotential scheme for education in ICT. International accounts include equity firm Spuetz AG, the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, and Aon, among others.

However Mr de Bono can draw important comparisons between foreign and local contractors. “In Malta, companies want to pay peanuts for top-rated work. We can’t keep on charging third-world rates here,” he lamented.

Dmax has a staff of eight people but relies on outsourcing, which involves another 25 IT specialist developers.

“We took the strategic decision to outsource because IT skills are always in evolution with the need of constant and expensive, re-training which eats into the budget which could otherwise be dedicated to research and development,” said Mr de Bono.

Uwe Schönfeld, who holds a 40 per cent shareholding in the company, is quite happy with the successful partnership that married his skills with those of Mr de Bono.

“Dmax already had its fair share of IT exposure, mainly through web development and GUI (graphical user interface) design. You can say that ICT solutions constitute the fulcrum of our company services nowadays.  The fact that Dmax originated from a branding services background added a creative touch to our services approach. You can say we married my knowledge and experience to Ray de Bono’s drive, and the end result is a selection of solutions that are well packaged, internationally tested and commercially successful.”

Mr Schönfeld makes a very interesting assessment of the Maltese potential for creativity but expresses concerns about the educational system.

“The interesting combination of Latin/Mediterranean altogether with the strong British influences have brought to the Maltese what I would call ‘a disciplined’ creativity, and by discipline I don’t mean restrained but ‘organised’ and ‘structured’. You have strong entrepreneurial spirit and that makes doing business here easier. As a frequent visitor to Malta over the past 10 years I noted a marked shift in style not only on printed but also online media. This is very positive, and places Malta at the centre of European creativity potentials.

“My only concern as an employer in the field is that the local education system may not yet be completely geared up towards meeting industry requirements. More often than not, potential recruits are way too detached from what the industry expects in terms of training and often lack knowledge of even the most basic marketing or branding notions, whilst their portfolio of school design or art projects are somewhat poor and detached from any business link. I am not sure if this is their fault as students or the fault of their instructors.”

Indeed, in some instances our firm has had to employ foreigners as no Maltese people with the requested skills and experience were available.

Dmax is aware that the present and future of IT is very much based on mobile and wireless communication, something which Mr Schönfeld is also passionate about.

“We have a host of online solutions already, including intelligent e-mail marketing software geared to reach people via email on PC, Macs and various smart phone platforms.

“Leading companies such as FinanceMalta, RMF, MIB, Fino, Coca-Cola, Audi, Palazzo Parisio, Thomas Smith, Sprakasse Bank and Miller Group, among others, are already using Dmaxepaper.com - our corporate email marketing solution.

“This software allows businesses to conduct e-marketing campaigns themselves with detailed statistical insight on each and every one of their recipients’ readership, without the need to spend any money on 3rd part costs. This is proving to be an innovative and cost-effective solution to companies seeking to invest more of their marketing budgets through the new world of smarter, audited online media, particularly email.”

“Dmax can also provide interactive apps for Android, Windows phones, iPhones and BlackBerry platforms, and together with our partners we are continuously researching ways in how to combine our solutions online, using social media and broader web applications.”

While the future looks bright for the small Maltese company, its CEO wants everybody to remain with their feet on the ground.

“We don’t want to grow fast but we want to grow strong,” concluded Mr de Bono.


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