TrackITOnline's Phil Lancaster, talks about running a niche distribution company and its future plans.
It’s been almost a year now since you set up the software distributor TrackITOnline. Where is the business at today since it was first started?
Phil Lancaster: Far further forward than we hoped for and expected. The revenue is also certainly better than we would have hoped. The key thing is that in the last three months we have reached the point where we’re finding that we’re being pursued by vendors instead of having to look for them. A pretty big scoop for us was getting a distribution deal with a tier-1 vendor like Hitachi Data Systems, which was actually the first arrangement in the world where a software only distributor was appointed. We also have some really good quality vendors in our line-up, so we’re seeing some positive growth overall for the company.
What are some of the benefits of running a niche distribution company?
PL: We all enjoy working with vendors that have products that are relatively new in the market, commonly less than five years old. We get to be part of that growth and everyone involved in the business enjoys that. We are also often involved in the early adoption phase of certain technologies, which everyone involved in the business looks forward to.
What some of the key challenges with running a niche distributor like TrackITOnline?
PL: The number one issue is that you are extremely vulnerable to your vendors being acquired. If you pick a good quality product with a good purpose in its niche, then someone comes along and buys it. For example, we had Akorri which was just getting off the ground, but then it got bought out. The other challenge is that sometimes if you have been successful, the vendors see the market growing and begin to look for ways to expand their distribution, which could lead to a competitive situation between distributors. Fortunately, most of our vendors are exclusive.
What are some of your plans for the next 12 months for TrackITOnline?
PL: We’ve had a fair number of new vendors come aboard in the last few months, so the next few months will probably have a lot less of that and a lot more of supporting the growth of our existing vendors. We’ll also be focusing a lot on establishing specific channels for each of the vendors. We have a very solid portfolio now, but many of our vendors are still in the early entry phase of the Australian market, so we need to make sure we’re spending proper time to focus on enabling those vendors further.
Regarding the virtualisation market, what do you see as some of the latest trends happening in that space right now?
PL: We’re finally seeing a lot more people showing responsiveness that we’ve been talking about for a long time about how to manage a virtualised environment. There’s also a lot more awareness about the need to manage the environment. Most companies now have quite a lot of virtualisation and large companies have an increasing amount of virtualisation. One of the things that they’re all struggling with is how to ensure that their resources are being allocated correctly and they don’t just build a virtual platform without thinking about its lifecycle. That’s why I think lifecycle management is going to become more important as the market grows.
How are you guiding your resellers down this path?
PL: What we have primarily talked to our resellers about is how to differentiate themselves from the competition, because most of them have the same product logos and accreditations from partners. So we’re seeing more and more resellers looking for niche products that they know extremely well that they can go in and use as a lever to establish a relationship with a customer. That’s the primary area that we operate in and our vendors are able show their clients that they can do things smarter.