The Minister for Defence, Dr Brendan Nelson, last week announced the final selection of the Defence Preferred Computer Systems Panel - a list of suppliers from which the government department will procure the majority of its future IT hardware needs.
The department advertised a request for tender process in 2000, negotiating with applicants through the first half of this year. According to ASI Solutions director Maree Lowe, just about every IT supplier in the country applied for inclusion in the preferred list of suppliers for one of the largest IT purchasers in Australia. The final list was cut to 15 suppliers, covering the categories of printers, desktop computers, network devices, portable computers and servers.
While over two-thirds of the panellists are vendors, the Defence Department has ensured that Australian SMEs (or channel partners) will be involved in each contract. Each prime contractor (or vendor) is obligated under the terms of the agreement to engage subcontractors (services companies and resellers). "Defence has a long history of seeking Australian industry involvement in its purchasing activities. Australian industry involvement was an important consideration in the evaluation of the tender responses," a Defence spokesperson said.
"The Defence Department has always been supportive of Australian companies," said Lowe. "They were one of the first national contracts we got and that commitment should be highlighted."
While many of the panellists have long-established relationships with Defence, the new panel sees the introduction of Acer and Dell to the lucrative contracts. While Dell could not yet make its plans public, Acer's national government and education sales manager, Mike Cefai, said all Acer orders made by Defence will be placed directly with Acer's appointed channel partners. Acer's national defence subcontractors are CSC, Fujitsu and Powerlan, and Cefai has appointed a Defence-specific channel partner in each State (including Histar Invotek in Victoria, BES is Queensland, and Dataflex and Computerquest in the ACT).
This commitment to channel partners is mirrored by most of the existing vendors on the panel. Lexmark's manager of government business, Tom Wharton, said the printer vendor has always had a group of select partners that support its Defence business -- generally those channel partners that can fulfil orders on a nation-wide basis.
"Every lead is referred back to the channel," said David Finn, managing director of panellist Kyocera Mita Australia. "We keep all our focus on the reseller because they have many skills that complement hardware sales like networking skills and software support. If you don't help the channel, then in the long term it doesn't help our industry."
While excited to be again selected to gain access to the lucrative government business, Total Peripherals general manager Jullie Jeal said the "standing offer" doesn't guarantee a panellist the business. "If Defence decides it needs to go outside the list for a particular project, such as needing a lot of machines all at once, they still can," she said. "But in the general day-to-day running of the business, they will use us, and we should be trying to make sure we are capable of fulfilling what ever they need."
Defence Preferred Computer Systems Panelists:
* Acer Computer Australia (desktop, portables and servers)* ASI Solutions (desktop)* Compaq Computer Australia (desktop, portables and servers)* Dell Computer (portables and servers)* Enterasys Networks (network devices)* Fuji Xerox Australia (printers)* Hewlett-Packard Australia (portables, servers and printers)* Ipex (desktop, portables and servers)* Kyocera Mita Australia (printers)* Lexmark Australia (printers)* Nortel Networks Australia (network devices)* Optima Computer Technology (desktop)* Protech Australasia (desktops)* Toshiba Australia (portables)* Total Peripherals (desktop, portables and servers).