Stick to your guns

Stick to your guns

Express Data has just announced a new partnership with Sun Microsystems and brought on-board more staff, while others in the market look to consolidate and slash jobs. Managing director, Ross Cochrane, spoke with ARN about the necessity of solid business plans and the role of distribution.

What is your outlook for 2009; are we in unchartered waters?

The term I am using is “uncertain” – it is difficult to look at the future with any certainty. Traditionally, Australia has followed the rest of the world in the technology game and the technology comes out of the US. A lot of people say we are influenced by the US and this is even more so in the technology game because whatever the vendors do – cut back on expenditure, R&D, people or whatever – it flows through. With what we are seeing in the US and Europe as the two biggest markets, we think that it will be quite a tough time. But having said that, there is always opportunity. The overall market might be uncertain, but it is about what you do within that environment to get the best outcome you can achieve. At this stage, what I can say is that we set our plans for our financial year around July last year and to date, we have reviewed them but haven’t made changes.

Are you going to make any changes throughout the year?

We tend to review things quarterly. Based on our most recent review in December, we are saying, ‘no’, we still think our plan is valid and we want to stick with that plan. While there might be things that are uncertain, with what we are seeing right now, day-to-day, we are performing as expected.

With all the negativity in these times, do you find people lose focus on the things they should be doing?

I think you need to have a very clear plan on what it is you are all about and you need to structure your organisation. Mike Porter, a management guru, talks about leadership being more around making sure you don’t get dragged off course than actually coming up with ideas about what you should do, because there will always be a customer or a sales person, or some opportunity that comes up. Quite often people are tempted, especially when the market is uncertain, to go and chase it. They forget they thought about all those things, put a plan in place, resourced it, and put money behind it, and all of a sudden get dragged off course. So, part of leadership is about saying we have a plan and are going to stick to that plan. We are only going to change the things that we do when we decide that plan is no longer valid. We [as ED] set our plan and still think it is appropriate.

What role do you see distribution playing in the market and will that change this year?

If you really think about why vendors and publishers use channels, it’s because it is a very cost-effective go-to-market strategy. Otherwise, they would all sell direct. There are parts of the market where vendors find it is viable to sell direct because the returns and the size of deals make it viable. But there are other parts of the market they don’t see as viable and they use a channel as the go-to-market model. It is well-publicised that many of the vendors have tightened things up with either cost-cutting programs, head count reductions, or whatever. My view is that is an opportunity for the channel to step up and fill that role. My expectation is as a percentage of the business that vendors do, the channel will grow. They might decline overall, but there is an opportunity for channel players to take part of a vendor’s overall go-to-market by doing more for the vendor. We don’t see our role as fulfilment and I don’t think any channel that is sitting there waiting for orders to come in and then send stuff out isn’t going to find it really difficult. You have to get out there and help the vendors promote their technologies and help the customers come up with solutions. This is especially true in a tough time – no one wants to buy another bit of tin. They want to buy an outcome.

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