2001: Service becomes king

2001: Service becomes king

The enterprise market is poised for a dynamic year in 2001 with vendors touting "killer" applications and terabyte strength storage, with mobile dreams on one hand and the constant buzz of e-everything on the other.

Without obvious flags like the GST or Y2K, it's a little hard to predict what might be the big external market factors. But one thing is for sure. With the way the Australian drachma is going at the moment, an industry so reliant on the almighty US dollar for pricing, payment and valuations is going to feel the pinch.

In a slow market, service is king. With this in mind, 2001 will more than likely be about consulting-style services designed to convince a customer that a certain technology will increase their company's bottom line somewhere down the track, so long as the business processes are in place.

Andrew Sutherland, co-founder of WA integrator Office Solutions, follows a simple philosophy: "Any time is a good time to make money".

Office Solutions saw the writing on the wall a few years ago, claims Sutherland, and transformed itself from an 80 per cent product sales company (20 per cent services) to an 80 per cent services company. As a result, Sutherland is confident that, regardless of a weak dollar, slow economy or whatever else 2001 may throw at the IT industry, resellers can make money if they want to.

Sutherland has weathered the introduction of direct online threats like Gateway and Dell. He's seen the dot-com epidemic explode into nothing and he's not fussed that most companies aren't migrating to new systems or planning major infrastructure rollouts. Why? Because at the end of the day Sutherland believes these companies are still going to need some form of attention, to keep what they have got "up and running".

Daniel Wise, country manager of iMediation Australia and New Zealand, sees the big challenge facing companies next year will be in "monetising" their corporate Web sites. With corporates pumping so much money into e-enabling their business around the Internet, the time has come for companies to start generating revenues from these sites, says Wise.iMediation develops software to maximise a manufacturer's channel strategy and, in terms of the channel, the issue for resellers is identifying the "value-add" they can wrap around product sales claims Wise.

Everyone has been jumping up and down in the past 18 months about becoming services focussed rather than box focussed. But few have gone further than the odd help-desk number or training day. 2001 will see the expansion of completely new concepts in terms of what the channel can provide.

Although it is inevitable, the market will see a consolidation in the distribution ranks, a vendor shakeup in some areas and more diverse partnering - the message seems to be that 2001 will see a return to basic business fundamentals; risk versus return, profit and loss.

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