IN THE HOT SEAT: A blueprint for the future

IN THE HOT SEAT: A blueprint for the future

If she wasn't in the networking game she may well have been an architect, but for NetComm's general manager of channels, Jennene McKinnon, drafting successful plans are all in a day's work.

What's your background?

Jennene McKinnon (JM): I've been in IT for 15 years. On the end-user side with IT procurement and on the sales side with direct and channel roles. Prior to joining NetComm in October I was at Ingram Micro and before that at a consultancy called SwellStreet. The Ingram experience really allowed me to gain an understanding of how a broad-based distributor ticks, whereas the consultancy taught me about the importance of being able to execute.

Why did you join NetComm?

JM: I've always been interested in networking and the convergence trend is really changing this market. You used to have to buy four separate products now you get them all in one box. Change itself also happens more quickly. All of NetComm's R&D and support is done in-house. The company's responsiveness and ability to manage change was attractive.

What does your role involve?

JM: It's about managing our channel to continue existing business and achieve new growth. Growth is a primary consideration for every business and we are trying to achieve that through making a lot of enhancements to older products as well as releasing new ones. ADSL2 is a source of some of the newer products and our enhanced switching range is an example of our older ones. We are actually planning to launch a new support program for resellers to encourage them to look at those enhanced products.

How is NetComm's channel set up?

JM: We have Ingram Micro, ITW and TodayTech who give us broad-based reach - especially into regional Australia. We added LAN Systems in February to give us a switching vertical specialisation. We also recently added HiTech Distribution, which gives us geographic reach specifically into SA. Under that we have a few thousand resellers and mass merchants like Dick Smith Electronics, Officeworks and Harvey Norman. We also have ISP partners who have their own install base and see services like VoIP as a complementary offering. We also have an alliance partner in MyNetPhone to help us with the provisioning side of VoIP. We plan on working with more of those sorts of partners in the months ahead.

Are there any particular benefits or disadvantages with that model?

JM: We have a CRM specialist team to manage communications with the channel and a partner program so there are no difficulties there. We have set up the channel so we can concentrate on the branding and the resellers. On the plus side, having that model combined with efficiencies around our in-house R&D and support means we can keep margins up.

What's new at NetComm?

JM: We are working with the channel to do a lot with VoIP for SMEs and SMBs. Those businesses are really looking at efficiencies and we believe we can offer them up to 40 per cent off outgoing costs. We range from 250 seats right down to consumer. With broadband adoption growing, consumer is a big opportunity and we are doing a lot around out-of-the-box VoIP for that market. We plan to offer VoIP for enterprise later.

What are your goals for the year ahead?

JM: I really want to grow our share around ADSL2, VoIP and switches. We have also been tweaking the way we engage with our resellers - trying to focus on them as partners as well as customers, so we'd like to keep that up.

What are the current trends in this market?

JM: We're already doing ADSL2 but it is up to the telcos - particularly Telstra - as to when it really takes off. Streaming video is the major driver for it. Whether it's conferencing for the business market or downloading a movie in 30 minutes for the digital home, it's all using heavy bandwidth and it makes ADSL2 attractive. Wireless is still strong but is becoming commodified. There have been stories that wireless hotspots have died but there are still deployments - they are just more selective. The number of notebooks sold with wireless capability suggests there is pent-up demand there.

If you weren't in the channel where would you be?

JM: I think I'd be an architect. I enjoy design and looking at buildings. There is something very satisfying about starting something from scratch and seeing it get completed.

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