First State plays global hand as Syntegra

First State plays global hand as Syntegra

First State Computing let the world know it means business this week, declaring it intends to take full advantage of its British Telecom (BT) parentage by renaming itself Syntegra.

This means yet another local system integration "brand" has disappeared and it's not likely to be the last, with local Syntegra managing director Rick Greengrass stating categorically to ARN that he was on the lookout for suitable Australian acquisition targets.

The rebranding reflected the fact that Syntegra had now expanded beyond the traditional First State Computer business, Greengrass said.

Beginning life as the privatised IT services division of the NSW State Government, First State's customers were almost entirely NSW Government departments. Acquired by BT four years ago, the integrator has since successfully diversified its business, having particular success in the credit union market, Greengrass added.

However, up until now, it has been somewhat "bolted onto the side" of Syntegra, which is BT's $1 billion worldwide systems integration arm.

"This will make it very clear that we are part of a global organisation," he said. That parentage gives Syntegra an enormous advantage, as it is now able to take advantage of BT's enormous buying power as well as drawing on Syntegra's worldwide resources, which include more than 4300 people around the world, he said.

Greengrass predicts that being global is only going to become more important and that the integration business will follow the trend of other industries where three or four very large players dominate the industry and everyone else exists as boutique and niche players.

"As part of BT, it is our mission to be one of those very big players but to also provide the kind of service you get from the boutique players."

Right on

"There will continue to be consolidation and we will absolutely be on the lookout for acquisition opportunities with the right businesses, the right cultures and the right skillsets," he added.

"We're looking for a highly skilled organisation that is delivering an increasing amount of value add to the customer and has a significant skills base."

Government business now represents only 50 per cent of the business, whereas it used to represent 95 per cent, Greengrass said. What's more it is now deriving nearly 30 per cent of its business from outside NSW.

Syntegra is also shifting its business from being focused purely on outsourcing to more traditional systems integration projects.

Reflecting its BT link, the integrator will focus on those projects which are communications based. He said the company has four areas of expertise:

Helping customers develop new roots to market through customer relationship systems, call centres and e-commerce projects.

Reducing the amount of time it takes customers to bring products to market. For example, it has virtually co-located engineers working on a car design together from different parts of the world.

Providing flexible open infrastructures which means customers don't have to rip out all their computing systems if they have a change in management philosophy.

Providing systems for communities of interest by linking smaller players who may not have the resources to build systems individually so they can trade and communicate together via EDI or extranets.

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