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So where to from here?

So where to from here?

While the end of a financial year is typically a time for reflection, it is also a period where companies are forming new strategies. In a dynamic industry like IT, there are always fresh challenges and opportunities to be addressed.

The year ahead will see many resellers looking to build more software expertise into their business which, in turn, will give them greater scope for service provision.

Expanded service offerings and software sales, especially around CRM and ERP, will be where Leading Solutions looks to drive its business in the new financial year. Its NSW manager, Roy Pater, said it already had pre-sales and engineering staff ready to go, while the merger with BCA IT was now behind it. The main goal of its new strategy is to build deeper relationships with its current client base.

Triforce managing director, Abbas Aly, will also look to make his business less reliant on hardware and establish vertical expertise.

"We want to grow our sales force and the number of vendors we can take to customers," he said. "We have traditionally focused on hardware, and have not played much in the software space, but we are working with Microsoft to change the way we go to market in certain verticals."

Accounting firms are one vertical market Triforce intends to target with a message based around risk, disaster recovery and offering alternative software to Quicken or MYOB.

Getting into software-as-a-service
CRM specialist, Snapdagon Consulting, plans to investigate how to get on the software-as-a-service bandwagon. Director, Guy Riddle, said the model was particularly attractive in an Australian market so heavily populated with branch offices and local subsidiaries of multinational companies.

"CRM was one of the first critical applications to be delivered as a service," he said. "As a services company, we need to look at our business model and address that because some organisations would rather host solutions externally than have them on their premises.

"They might not be able to get the capital expenditure approved for an in-house solution and would rather pay a monthly fee. We need to embrace that rather than dismiss it."

One challenge for Snapdragon, Riddle said, would be ammortising its services over a period of time instead of having them paid for upfront. As a company that didn't own a datacentre, the move to a software-as-a-service model would also mean reselling through a hosting partner.

"We would still be able to add value because we take the vanilla Microsoft CRM product and localise it with features like Australian states and local telephone formatting," he said.

Express Data thinks it is already in a good position to take advantage of the move to software-as-a-service. General manager of sales, Mal Shaw, said its main focus would be continued innovation around annuity and renewable maintenance.

Plenty more in store
The establishment of a storage business is priority number one in the new financial year for Distribution Central.

"Existing players are not servicing the [storage] market properly either because they are just price players or because it is too complicated," CEO, Scott Frew, said. "Gartner has released a new quadrant called cluster storage that will be much easier for the general reseller market to deal with than NAS and SAN technologies."

Dicker Data also has its mind on storage, in a matter of speaking, with a much larger warehouse due to open in July that will boost capacity by 50 per cent. Sales manager, Chris Price, also had plans to hunt additional resellers and offer them a more personal touch.

"Getting stock in and out will be so much easier once the new warehouse opens so we will be able to do a lot more business with the same staff," he said. "That will enable us to be more aggressive.

"We also need to focus on our BDM team because there are lots of potential customers out there we don't touch. Most distributors wait for resellers to come to them but I want to do an analysis of suburbs, find out who is not buying through us and go after them. That's hard work but it will be rewarding in the long term. While other distributors push resellers to a website, we will be trying to talk to them."

Stay focused on core strengths
Ingram Micro will continue to diversify its business by exploring consumer electronics and security opportunities, according to product and marketing manager, Matt Sanderson. In the past year it has launched two divisions focused on solutions and point-of-sale equipment. Despite looking to increase its number of specialisations, Sanderson said it would maintain investment levels in its core business.

Staying focused on key strengths will also be a recipe for success among leading integrators and Allcom technical director, Andrew Leigh, said this meant they were increasingly willing to work with each other. The ongoing skills shortage was accentuating the trend.

"People call us or vice versa to fi ll a short-term skills gap rather than going through headhunters," he said. "Working with somebody you know gives you a high degree of comfort in comparison to using a recruitment company that just wants to put a bum on the seat regardless of whether it's a good fit.

"Touchbase is a classic example because they don't play where we do so it's a smart way to address staffing issues. We can have an open conversation and tell them we need a storage engineer for four weeks and are willing to pay $150 an hour. Behaviour like that is driving an amount of our business at the moment."

Allcom will look to push solutions into specific vertical markets in FY08 but Leigh is keeping his cards close to his chest for now.

The future is green
Fujitsu plans to play the green card and focus heavily on linking profitability and sustainability to the environment. The manufacturing division of the company has started making products with two biodegradable plastics - one with a tough finish used for notebook casings that is derived from corn; the other from oil, which offers a more rubbery feel. It will also introduce sustainable procurement.

"It's pretty important. If a state government is able to buy biodegradable product it will be a big influence on the decision," CEO, Rod Vawdrey, said.


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