With a chronic skill shortage in the industry and resellers scratching their heads for ways to outfox the competition, when it comes to sealing the next tender, one company is emerging as a useful ally. Richard Noone talks to a more focused Drake and gets the low-down on a potential windfall for resellers.
As resellers look to bolster the services side of their businesses to offset declining margins, after-sales support, help desks and other value-adds have become the accepted norm. But one relatively untapped market by resellers is bringing to the table end-user, worker-level training.
With nearly all enterprise management reserving funds for staff training, Drake could be the answer to getting a share of this pie the next time you roll out a solution.
Drake Training, a division of worldwide recruiting force Drake International, is signalling its intention to become the brand name in training. The company has just revamped its Australian operations assigning a new general manager, appointing a number of regional managers and announcing a number of programs.
"We've got a whole new focus on technical training," said recent appointee, NSW state manager Patricia Westcott. "Drake's always had a great name in the industry for desktop training and now with the high-end technical training as well, we've got programs which cover the whole range of IT training."
Offering engineering training for Microsoft, Novell and Lotus, Drake is hoping to work closely with resellers to build its own customer base as well as providing a key selling point for resellers looking to go to market with a legitimate end-to-end solution. "The great thing for resellers is they can go to a potential customer and say we'll sell you the hardware, configure the software, network it all together, offer after-sales support and not only that but we can bring in someone to train all your staff on how to use it," said Westcott.
After 15 years in the IT industry, with stints at IBM and Telstra, Drake's new general manager, Nick Antonopoulos, has been around long enough to learn that "technology is only as good as the people who know how to use it".
"The key point for resellers is convincing customers that to get the return on their investment they have to have staff, not just IT managers, which can use the technology," he said.
"We're looking to form strategic alliances with key resellers. This way customers get the benefit of the training while resellers are able to provide a total solution by reselling Drake training for a margin."
"We'd like to be the partner of choice - so the reseller can use us as a value-add in a tender," said Westcott. This is a practice that has been taken advantage of by vendors such as Oracle and Compaq on direct deals in the past and one Westcott would like resellers to pick up as well.
Drake recently secured just under $100,000 worth of training when Compaq brought in the company on a deal done with the Department of Defence to roll out a number of Windows 3.1 upgrades. Unable to provide the desktop training itself, yet being a requirement of the tender, Drake was the answer - and Compaq walked away with an easily made percentage.
"But the thing with training is that it's an ongoing process, which constantly needs to be updated on a regular basis. So specific deals are good but long-term payoffs are the real benefit," said Westcott.
Weary of the recruitment division of Drake and the transient nature of IT employment, Antonopoulos stresses the need for an individual's training. "The industry is crying out for serious technology skills. Microsoft, Lotus and Novell technicians are in demand with the biggest demand being for Microsoft because of the sheer marketshare. This kind of training is an important way to improve your own personal value as an IT professional."
To give an idea of how extensive the skills shortage in Australia is, Antonopoulos said it's affecting the number of qualified trainers available. It has got to the point where he's considering using "skilled-up" high school computer studies teachers.
"Customers are looking for systems to take them into the future, and resellers are skilling up to meet the needs of installing LAN and WAN solutions."
As a result, Drake has recently announced a financing package (ARN June 23) geared towards resellers looking to move into high-end LAN and WAN consulting services, hoping to supplement revenues from their traditional low-margin hardware and software business, claims Antonopoulos.
The financing package enables customers to pay in instalments for their MSCE training up to three months after the completion of the course.
In a dynamic industry, Westcott feels it's important for Drake to be flexible in its approach to the services it can offer. She said Drake will even go so far as to act as a "broker" passing on business through to partners as on a "reciprocal style agreement" as Drake becomes aware of client's needs.
So the message Drake's Antonopoulos and Westcott are sending out to the channel is don't let training be the forgotten side of your next IT deal.
Established in Australia in 1984
Extensive geographic coverage with 25 offices across Australia, encompassing every capital city and many regional centresDrake offers a comprehensive range of technical and desktop trainingTechnicalMicrosoft Certified Systems Engineer (options for extra courses)Certified Novell Engineer (options for extra courses)Certified Lotus Professional (options for extra courses)DesktopUser courses in Windows 97/98, the Internet, e-mail, Excel, Word, PowerPoint and a number of widely used enterprise software packagesReseller and further information: Drake Training Melbourne Head Office (03) 9245 0444