Giant software reseller Software Spectrum established its Asia-Pacific operation in Australia in April 1996 with the acquisition of the Essentially Solutions Group. The then Essentially Solutions managing director David Colvin became managing director of the new Australian subsidiary and is now managing director of Software Spectrum Asia-Pacific. The desktop software specialist is now looking to the channel to expand its operations further by partnering and acquisition. It reflects a trend in the channel of strategic partnerships, not only with selected vendors and distributors, but also with other independent specialist resellers. Colvin spoke with ARN's Tom Allen about the current and future plans for Australia's biggest software reseller.
ARN: Can you briefly describe the structure of Software Spectrum?
Colvin: Sydney is the operations centre for the Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan where Software Spectrum is represented by joint venture Uchida Spectrum).
The centre includes a multilingual, multi-currency facility providing customer support and service right across the Asia-Pacific region, as well as general administration and financial control functions.
Because all three global centres are linked, Software Spectrum can manage a customer's software asset on a global basis, we know what they have purchased and how much they have paid. They can be managed irrespective of where they are in the world through these operations centres.
What are the main areas of business?
There are three core areas of business. They are software asset management and procurement, consulting services, and the technology support centre. We do a lot of application development around the needs of customers to achieve customised solutions, such as packages on the Domino platform, but Software Spectrum is not a software package developer. We are working with a number of IBM business partners - and we are looking for more - that have specific packages with which we can jointly go to market and implement applications into a customer site. Similarly, there are more applications being developed on Microsoft Outlook. Outlook, as a platform, is now becoming more recognised, and we're finding a lot more opportunities in it for us and other Microsoft solution providers to develop applications.
Is software asset management code for high-end sales?
Software asset management and procurement is a sales service, which is mostly transacted through software licensing agreements, and we have a great degree of expertise and systems to ensure customers have the most effective way to purchase and manage their software. Typical of the vendors are Microsoft, IBM and Lotus and other second and third-tier software vendors. We are one of a few select organisations to have a global alliance with IBM, which translates to an Asia-Pacific alliance, which enables us to work very closely with them on flexible licensing contracts. We are also currently Microsoft's largest reseller worldwide, with a strong local relationship in Australia and the region.
How important is consulting services to Software Spectrum?
The second core business area is the Consulting Services Practice (CSP). In the region we have practices located in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Wellington, Singapore and we are about to establish a site in Hong Kong. In each of these sites, we have consultants working on issues such as infrastructure, application development or total cost of ownership studies. The fastest area of growth in the consulting business is application development around SMS (Systems Management Server), Outlook and Domino. There is a strong demand for management of overall systems management. How applications are packaged and delivered to the desktop is a very important practice, and is something clients need to control in a more efficient manner. We are also working in the e-business space where clients want to deliver and receive information to and from business partners, customers and suppliers. In relation to TCO, we have developed a methodology on top of Gartner's Enterprise tool where we can measure the direct and indirect costs of the components of an organisation's software infrastructure compared to industry benchmarks. We can then make recommendations on how the organisation can be more efficient or even lower their costs.
You also provide outsourced software support don't you?
The third core business segment is the technology support centre, a telephone-based help desk facility. Much of this is work outsourced to us by publishers, wishing to provide support to corporations, and includes desktop product support to advanced support for NT or Lotus Notes or many of the Back Office type infrastructure products. We support customers with 50 PCs through to global customers with 50,000 PCs. One of the unique features of our Sydney-based support centre in this marketplace is that it is multilingual - support is provided in English, Cantonese and Mandarin with Korean soon to be added. The service is provided from when New Zealand opens at 6.30am AEST through to when Hong Kong closes at 8.30pm AEST. This is anticipated to soon become a 24-hour facility.
How do you organise and manage your customer base?
We have an outbound sales team that works with the various consulting sites, but is generally focused on the 1000 plus PC clients. The telephone-based group is generally focused on the 100 to 1000 PC customer.
As a large software reseller, what do you wish to say to ARN readers?
We are focused on desktop software and technology relating to it including consulting and support. We are not in the hardware or hardware infrastructure space, and we would like to partner with companies that have expertise in vertical markets in which they have developed specialised applications, the implementation of which we can support. It's something we have been far more active with in ourselves, looking for partners to work with.
There are partners we are working with now that a year ago we would have been far less open to, concentrating on our core activities and products. This has been customer driven and opportunity driven, and as we have successes with individual partners, it clearly opens the doors to further opportunities as we understand the areas where we can work together to our mutual benefit.