IN THE HOT SEAT: Utility Utopia

IN THE HOT SEAT: Utility Utopia

Bruce Lakin enjoys playing competitive squash, racing his yacht and spending time with the family. For the rest of the time, he heads up the local operations of one of the world’s biggest software vendors.

Prior to your recent appointment as managing director at Veritas Australia, you spent three months as its channel manager. What were your objectives and did you make any headway?

Bruce Lakin (BL): The channel accounted for 90 per cent of our business in the past financial year so it is very important to Veritas. Before I joined the company, the way we engaged the channel and responded to sales opportunities was very inconsistent. We have been redeveloping that model and putting structures in place that give more channel principles a personal relationship with me or the sales leaders of Veritas. Personal relationships drive business — it’s about letting our partners know what we’re trying to do.

Veritas recently conducted a distribution review. What were the reasons behind it?

BL: It was about building relationships that add to their business and drive ours. The level of support was important to us because our products are complex so we need distributors that can help second tier resellers to understand those products and take them to customers.

Now that you are managing director, what is your vision for the company?

BL: Our mission is to become a leading software provider in enabling utility computing — providing IT capability within the enterprise infrastructure that gives access as and when the business user needs it in a simple deployment model. It’s a simple thing to say but very complex and sophisticated to create. It’s all about thinking of storage as a utility, telling customers what it means for their business and talking to partners as we put the puzzle together.

Veritas has been taking its Enterprise Data Protection (EDP) road show around the country recently. What’s the main message?

BL: The program is a backdrop to the move into utility computing that allowed us to brief customers and partners on the way we want to do business in the future. We talked about our solution stack from Backup Exec or NetBackup, through desktop and laptop options, Data Lifecycle Manager and the overall umbrella we call CommandCentral.

As the world of IT gets increasingly complex, how important and difficult is it to balance competition with cooperation?

BL: At Veritas we pride ourselves on being heterogeneous in that we can work with any platform or hardware. We have strategic partnerships with IBM, HP, Dell, Hitachi, and Sun that often sees those companies using our technology in their products. EMC is a partner of ours but their Legato is a competitor product; IBM is a major customer of ours but they’ve got Tivoli competing against our products. Sometimes we talk to these companies about technology and know that what we say will go back with them but we are happy to do that. It’s the customer’s choice — we put our best foot forward and, hopefully, it’s the best solution.

How does the Australian IT market compare to overseas?

BL: This is a relatively small market and, with the passage of time, many of the same faces find themselves cooperating with and competing against each other in a pretty friendly manner because there are so many overlaps. I did some work in the US for a while and there’s more mobility because people travel from coast to coast and back as they build their careers. There’s also more separation of regions because the market is much bigger, so you don’t get the same geographical or industry closeness.

How do you see the market now in comparison to the halcyon days that preceded the dotcom crash?

BL: It’s a lot more fragmented and mature now, partly because customers have become more sophisticated. The proliferation of PCs has made everybody more computer literate but it’s been an enormous learning curve for the working community that we have coped with on the job. Y2K was a great learning experience for the market at large. There was a lot of soul searching to make sure everybody survived but, from a business point of view, they spent all this money and when they looked at the return from that they came up thinking they weren’t quite getting the payback they should. Business leaders are now really rigorous in inspecting proposals and returns on investment gained from IT projects. Saying something is the right thing to do is no longer enough — customers are more concerned with what the outcomes will be.

When you talk about fragmentation, how has that changed the way the market works?

BL: Solutions have become more complex and more attention is paid to best of breed suppliers. As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one vendor left in the marketplace doing end-to-end solutions and that’s IBM. Unisys used to be able to do that when I was there and Digital was another one. Putting IBM aside, you now have to think of different suppliers for a network, the client side, an operating platform, storage and servers — that’s a big shift if you used to get all your IT needs fulfilled by one company.

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