IN THE HOT SEAT: Scanning for channel growth

IN THE HOT SEAT: Scanning for channel growth

Tell us a little bit about your background

Derek Austin (DA): I grew up in Brisbane and went to university up there. I tossed up between computer science and psychology and ended up doing a psychology degree. I went away and did a postgraduate computer science diploma and became a techie essentially.

I have done some start-ups in fairly bleeding edge technologies, such as mobile data, and worked with Lernout & Hauspie, which was subsequently acquired by ScanSoft.

Last year I worked with ScanSoft's retail channels, and in December I accepted the job looking after corporate business.

What does this job entail?

DA: Things like volume licensing, OEM relation­ships and building a VAR channel.

How is your channel structured?

DA: We have two main product categories. The first is imaging products for document capture and management. This includes titles like OmniPage, PaperPort and most recently, PDF Converter. On the speech recognition side, we have the Dragon Naturally Speaking products.

For the imaging area, we have a standard retail distribution which goes through Fuji Xerox, Scholastic New Media and Alloys. We also have a lot of manufacturers, such as Canon and Konica Minolta, bundling our document management products.

For professional speech solutions we work with a Melbourne company called Speech Perfect. They did the original collection of speech for the Australian version and have made a large number of local vocabularies, which increases the recognition accuracy.

We also have some technology we license in the form of software development kits.

18 months ago, ScanSoft appointed Channel Managers to look after its resellers. How is this relationship progressing?

DA: They are still providing technical support group services and customer services. They are focused on retail outlets like OfficeWorks and Dick Smith. My role is more on the volume corporate sales and inquiries.

What initiatives are you working on?

DA: We need to spread the word about what people can do with our products. The combination of faster technologies and inexpensive hard disks means it's feasible to do high resolution scans of documents, store them and do things with them on the computer, much more than it was even just a few years ago. We've also got multifunction printers spreading, which means everyone now has access to a scanner.

How will you approach the market?

DA: We are now working on some materials to get this message out. Beyond that, my work now is to get a similar message across to VARs. We're participating in Microsoft roadshows, showing people how to use the software and how it can be incorporated into their solutions.

What types of partners are you looking for?

DA: There are the obvious ones who look after real estate agents, tax accounts, financial advisers - all who handle documents intensively. But rather than focusing on industries, it's more appropriate for us to focus on those individual organisations that see the need for our software.

So will you recruit more integrators?

DA: Traditional integrators who put all the solutions together are a good possibility as well as people who are doing infrastructure development and see an opportunity. The other side is the traditional office machine supplier. Printers and faxes have become commodity based, so a lot of those people are faced with the challenge of moving towards a solutions approach.

Have you got any other incentives planned?

DA: We have a basic reseller program where people can sign up to get evaluation copies of the software and show it to customers. PDF is certainly a promotional-centric area and we're addressing this with cheaper pricing and offerings. For our enterprise solutions, it's a case of developing relationships and providing training.

What are some of the challenges you face getting your products adopted by the market?

DA: The challenge at the moment is getting the message out. There is also the challenge of how to educate people on integrating Dragon with their normal way of working on a PC. There is a learning curve associated with using it.

What are your aims for the next 12 months?

DA: We'd like to get a lot more multi-seat license sales. Now I am involved with the document management area I would like to see a renaissance there as well. I'm also working with OEM relationships in Australia to revitalise those. Traditionally we've negotiated those licenses in the US and shipped the boxes. We want to help the channel partners of the OEM guys take advantage of the newest technologies that aren't in the software boxes.

What would you do if you weren't with ScanSoft?

DA: I was a good bass guitarist in my youth, so I could find a pub band. It is hard with travelling though - you can never make it to rehearsals.

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