With the restructure of Com Tech now fact, many resellers are questioning exactly what the role of the new company will be.
A number of resellers contacted by Australian Reseller News expressed concern that Com Tech will act as both a distributor and integrator, and thus a competitor, while at the same time dropping its value added distribution service to resellers.
Com Tech managing director David Shein says he understands that many resellers will be unhappy with the changes, but feels there was no other option for Com Tech. "I've spoken to quite a lot of our resellers, and I can honestly say that on the whole 90 per cent of the resellers understand why we've done what we had to do.
"I'm not saying that everybody is ecstatic with what we've done. They see us as potentially being a competitor, but they certainly see this as being something the business had to do," he said.
One point of concern for resellers has been the amount of knowledge of end-user accounts Com Tech has gained, as a result of being introduced to those users by resellers. Shein believes that this should not be a concern for resellers. "I don't believe that because we have a knowledge of an account that we can just expect to walk into that account. In a lot of those accounts, and in a lot of those relationships that resellers have, we've enhanced their opportunity to win those relationships." Shein says that as Com Tech will only integrate networks and not concern itself with PCs and peripheral devices, there will be plenty of room for Com Tech to work with other resellers.
Com Tech non-executive chairman Bob Mansfield agrees. "From my point of view there's as much new opportunity out there as there is going back and backtracking on what we've already done. I think the only way we can handle it is to be very, very sensitive to the fact that we'd like to continue doing business with as many resellers as possible. And there's a lot of new business opportunity out there," he said.
Reaction from the reseller channel has been mixed, with most resellers contacted by ARN taking a "wait and see" position. According to Lyle Potgieter, director at Melbourne-based network integrator CNI, some positives have come from the changes. "Basically, this move will validate systems integrators in Australia, because for many years now there have been companies in the channel who haven't invested in technical support and infrastructure, and those companies will now pay the price," he said.
Potgieter is not concerned about the level of knowledge Com Tech holds regarding CNI's clients. "They do have that knowledge, and I think a lot of that knowledge was provided to them in commercial confidence, even though it was not typically in contract. Now, I think that a lot of people are going to be disappointed or disillusioned if their confidence is betrayed. Whether it is or not is a question of ethics for Com Tech.
"An end-user now needs to make an assessment of who really has the skills, and I think in a way Com Tech propped up some of their companies that didn't have skills and hadn't made the investment. Now the customer's going to where there are skills and where there aren't skills. In terms of pricing we probably will be better off, but certainly in terms of the market I believe the people who are true integrators will win out."
Executive director at Adelaide-based reseller C&PA Gary Thompson feels any charge of unethical conduct against Com Tech would be extremely difficult to prove. He feels it's up to the resellers to make sure their business is secure. "It will come back to the reseller to make sure that their actual relationship with their customer is between the reseller and customer, rather than between the third party that you might have brought in for assistance."
Potgieter's main concern is that most resellers were allowed to trade right up until the announcement in the belief that Com Tech was continuing as a distributor.
"I think the whole channel would have preferred to have been advised that there was a change coming, rather than have it presented as a matter of fact, because people have taken them into their confidence for some considerable time."