Software licensing and networking will be key in Corporate Express’ mid-market solutions arsenal going forward, according to its IT division manager.
Six months into his new position, Ahmed Latif said he was hiring additional staff and building out in its enterprise solutions business to expand its IT footprint. Latif took over the IT division job after the abrupt departure of Marcus Heron in April.
Although the company’s global major shareholder, Staples, lacks an IT focus, Latif claimed he had been given free rein to increase its IT headcount with sales, engineering and technical resources. Next on the agenda was to grow its presence and deepen relationships with mid-market and enterprise customers in the 500-1500 seat space, he said.
He said customers often perceived Corporate Express as a volume player and were surprised at its value-added solutions portfolio, along with its datacentre capabilities.
“We looked at our value proposition, which has served us well over the last few years, and we knew that we needed to add a lot to it,” Latif told ARN during a meeting. “We’re not going to take out eye off the volume ball, as that’s how Corporate Express became the machine it is today, but enterprise solutions is a big area.
“We all know the mid-market is a big opportunity and there’s untapped potential there. With the touch we have overall, our engagement with the mid-market is going to be a lot easier.”
The departure of significant mid-market and enterprise player, Commander, along with several smaller players in the last 18 months, also opened up new opportunity and had given Corporate Express the ability to recruit skilled employees, Latif said.
Among those new technology areas Corporate Express is investing into are networking and software licensing.
“We have seen that business [networking] grow without any focus on it and we’ve had record sales. The focus is we grow both from a sales, technology and engineering side,” Latif said.
Broadening relationships with tier-one vendors was also critical to its plans going forward, he said.
Corporate Express’ vendor line-up includes HP, IBM, Microsoft, Symantec and EMC.
While it had been a challenging 12 months, Latif claimed Corporate Express was having smarter conversations with customers as they looked to improve productivity and costs to ride out the economic downturn.
“Customers want smarter and easier ways to do things. The overall volume has softened, but the benefit that we have is that when people want to start cost-cutting, they want to consolidate their partners and we’ve already got all that office supplies business with them,” he said. “There will be some announcements coming out and from those, the market will recognise what an opportunity there is with us.”
Corporate Express’ majority shareholder, Corporate Express International, was acquired by US-based office supplies company, Staples, in July 2008.