Back to the future

Back to the future

When network integrator Future Technologies was placed under administration earlier this year it took many people in the industry by surprise. Future Tech had a reputation as being a strong, solid company, and so the appointment of an administrator by Compaq left many people wondering whether it would become a raiding target for its competitors.

But according to new general manager Kit Craig, Future Tech has emerged from its turmoil with its strength undiminished, and is now positioning itself to grow under the wings of its new owner, the Sen Group.

"When the management team from the Sen Group started to go through the books, what they discovered was that this is really a very good company that has the potential to be very profitable," said Craig. "But it had run into a number of problems in loss of direction, and it had had a number of management changes. But fundamentally it was a very sound company, and it fitted the Sen Group model of a number of smaller entities, each focused on a particular target market or target segment."

That role is to continue providing network integration services and support to companies in the 50 to 1,500 employee bracket. Craig says this and other factors will prevent it from competing with its Sen Group sibling, Senteq. "Eighty-five per cent of our customers are in the Sydney CBD. Most of Senteq's customers are outside Sydney. Senteq tends to deal with quite large organisations, like Qantas. We tend to deal with the next size down. So, whilst there is some overlap there, we really deal with customers from about 50 employees up to about 1,500 employees. Senteq deals with about 500 up to 2,500."

In fact, Craig says the two companies can at times be complementary, with the option to swap skilled personnel when required. "I've got two engineers who are working for them at the moment, because we have much better Unix skills than they do. On the other hand we don't have any Banyan skills."

Craig believes there is room for substantial growth in Future Technologies' selected market space. "I believe we can double our business within the next two to three years without fundamentally changing what we do.

"There's a large amount of organic growth in the marketplace, and there's an awful lot of organisations in that 50Ð1,500 area that we aren't in yet. In fact there are an awful lot of organisations within the Sydney CBD we're not in yet. Then there are a number of our larger customers where we have certain elements of those customers that we aren't the supplier to, so there's a lot of room for us to expand."

The team that will take Future Technologies forward is a relatively fresh one. Although Craig says Future Tech lost few staff during the administration period, he now presides over what he describes as a fundamentally strong but inexperienced management team, with the longest-serving manager having only held their position since March.

Business, not technology

"So there's this very strong team spirit, with these people who really understand the way a company works, who are almost the natural leaders who have come up through the organisation. Whilst it's a challenge to have a new management team, it's a very strong thing that they really have the interest of the people and the team at heart."

Craig has appointed a sales manager, filling a position left vacant for two years. "As the general manager my job is to manage the business, not to manage the individual salesmen."

Indeed, Craig says he was bought into the company as a business manager, not as a technician or salesman.

And it is business that Future Tech will be talking, rather than technology. "There has been in the industry as a whole a real technology for technology's sake focus. The industry's clearly been guilty of this ever since computers lived in the glasshouse. What we're doing here is focusing on the business issues that the technology addresses.

"And what technology managers now have to put up with is business managers sticking their oar in, while they try and get a strategy going. And really the business strategy and the IT strategy must be aligned now." To assist in this area Future Tech has been running a series of seminars aimed at CEOs to educate them about the business benefits of new technologies.

Craig has a favourite metaphor for describing an organisation's networking needs - that of a standard product distribution network. "What we are in is the information logistics game. There is a warehouse in most enterprises - that is their legacy system - and they've got to put in a road and rail network to get it out to their depots. And what we're in is building that infrastructure, and making it work efficiently."

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