IBM change of guard gives hope to resellers

IBM change of guard gives hope to resellers

Resellers are hoping IBM New Zealand's change at the top will herald a higher profile and significant improvements to the way it operates.

Laptop vendors say service has simply not been good enough and other players are unimpressed by the approach of running the New Zealand operation from Australia.

Ken Symington, an Australian, has been appointed general manager of IBM New Zealand. He replaces Gowan Pickering, who becomes general manager of the company's New Zealand-based ICMS (integrated customer management system).

ICMS is IBM's customer care and billing software development organisation which targets telecommunications companies.

Both Mike Harrison, the managing director of Portables Plus, and Mike Barber, the director of Christchurch-based Laptops and Lasers, say their direct dealings with IBM are minimal because of the vendor's service and support structure.

They say laptop owners are busy people and when they bring a machine in for repairs they want it fixed right away. However, with IBM's service and support operation in Wellington, machines from other areas must be sent there for repairs. Barber says this process takes a week and is "just not acceptable".

He also says IBM has delivery problems and never ceases to disappoint in the way it operates.

"Recently we ordered a 380D Thinkpad, one of its bread and butter machines. Delivery took about two months. Any machine you order from it is rarely in stock. I don't think I've ever had something delivered overnight," Barber said.

Slow turnaround time

Harrison says he would like to be able to cater more for IBM and claims Portables Plus is the largest mover of laptops in the country.

"IBM needs to improve its PR and the service it can provide to our customers. We need fast turnaround and quality service from it so we can give the same to our customers," he said.

John Tolchard, Computerland's national marketing and franchise manager, says he would like to see a more hands-on approach from Symington in the day-to-day running of IBM's PC business.

"If he wants to continue with the current model then there'll be no change for us. But if he wants to have a more hands on approach, we would see that as a positive," Tolchard said.

The challenge ahead

The managing director of Axon Computer-time, Matt Kenealy, says the challenge for IBM is to have a team in New Zealand which is capable of representing all the company's products and services.

Kenealy says IBM moved parts of its operation to Sydney in an attempt to get economies of scale.

"I think in some areas it managed that successfully and in other areas it hasn't managed that yet. I think IBM does have some difficulty integrating its offerings to resellers through the one point of contact, because when you actually dig down behind it there's a lot of expertise and there are a lot of excellent products. But sometimes that's not all that apparent from the outside," he said.

Kenealy says a higher profile for IBM's New Zealand operation would be beneficial for both resellers and IBM customers.

On the distribution side, one IBM product manager, Callum Eade, says he would also like to see a more hands-on approach from IBM New Zealand's new boss.

"Because it has moved a lot of its structural co-ordination offshore to Sydney, I think it's really important that we get a hands-on perspective in New Zealand.

"From what I've heard that's exactly what's happening," Eade said.

He says there have been positive product developments at IBM already this year.

But Eade says the vendor's gravitation to Sydney has not necessarily been a good thing.

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