About a month ago, I used this column to warn of difficult times ahead and suggested that companies already under pressure would find the going particularly tough.
For the second time in just a couple of weeks, those words are ringing true as news of Commander’s collapse follows hot on the heels of Optima’s demise.
For what was until recently this country’s largest reseller to fall into receivership so soon after the biggest local PC manufacturer hit the wall is terrible news.
These are worrying times indeed for the local industry.
That’s not to say Commander’s fall from grace was any more surprising than Optima’s; as listed entities, both have endured the added pain of dying a very public death. But it’s another blow the industry didn’t need that will serve as a timely reminder to many of their own mortality.
There’s sure to be a lot of finger-pointing and mud-slinging in the weeks ahead as people try to work out how a company that not long ago was pulling in annual revenues approaching $1 billion could fall so far at such a frenetic pace.
The acquisition of Volante will be a starting point for many. Large-scale mergers are difficult at the best of times and, in the local industry at least, the Frankenstein’s monster that was Commander/Volante will be remembered as one of the worst executions we’ve seen. There are plenty of people on both sides of the fence with an axe to grind because the two organisations had huge cultural differences and management never really managed to pull them together in any meaningful way.
Then there’s Ipex, another leading local PC manufacturer that was acquired by Volante and then became the unwanted stepchild when the IT services firm was bought out by Commander.
Despite desperate attempts to offload it, which ARN understands nearly came to fruition on a couple of occasions with Acer and Lenovo, Ipex is now part of the Commander wreckage and looks destined for the graveyard alongside its old adversary, Optima.
With IT&T job ads falling in June and July, it will be a difficult time for the many hundreds of people that are now unemployed as a result of Commander’s collapse. Some are undoubtedly suffering the mortgage stress that we read about in the papers every day and losing their jobs was just about the last thing they needed right now.
At least the Sydney call centre workers that Commander was offering jobs in Adelaide won’t have to consider relocating now – not that many (if any) of them seriously were. Hopefully, many of the company’s employees will quickly find their way back into the job market and help alleviate skills shortage concerns for other integrators and IT services companies. And no doubt some of these competitors will pick up some juicy contracts.
For the superstitious among you, it’s often said that bad news comes in threes. It remains to be seen who will be the next major Australian IT company to fall over.