Finding a niche

ARN: How was your company started?

Gibbons: Autodata was established in 1987, predominantly in the used equipment market. In 1993 we became a first-tier Digital national reseller. Effectively we remained a systems integrator until we brought on the networking in 1996, which involved traditional data networking products and services. We've won Network Reseller of the Year for Digital from 1996 through to 1999.

What products and services does your company offer?

Outside of the traditional systems integration business, which we've maintained, the networking has probably been one of the highest growth areas. Last year we decided to enhance our network integration capabilities with an increased sales focus and adding more engineering support. Now we have sales and engineering people from voice as well as data backgrounds. We have also restructured the company to reflect this specialist capability by creating a Network Group, which has a special focus on convergent technologies. This includes voice over IP, IP telephony, voice over frame and application layer switching. With the convergence technologies we've established relationships with the key vendors of voice over IP and IP telephony solutions. This includes the new breed of bandwidth operators in the deregulated Telecoms market, which makes it very marketable to us as resellers of bandwidth-related services.

Who are your clients and what are their specific requirements?

Top 1000 organisations have always been our target. When we brought on the networking side, we expanded our offerings to that market. A lot of our customers are looking for alternatives in telecommunications services - they're also looking to bring together voice and data into a single management entity. That's where the voice and data integration comes into play. Customer relationship is the key to success, which has always been the case, and that's more true than ever today.

How do you differentiate yourself from the competition?

There are not too many convergent players in the market who really understand what converged means, and how to articulate the business benefits of convergent technology to customers. The customers need a reliable delivery method based not only on the reseller's skills, but also on the support of the manufacturers.

What is your vision for the future?

From a networking perspective we will see a lot more growth. I believe the proportion of systems integration versus network integration will change dramatically. Network integration will probably grow threefold over the next couple of years. Also, to really manage the environment and keep ahead, we're always changing and moulding ourselves to the new technologies as they come about, modeling ourselves against the customers' requirements. There's no point in going for technology for technology's sake - we've got to keep our customers' needs in mind.

What areas of technology are you keeping an eye on?

Really, we're at the tip of voice and data integration. I see it becoming more and more tightly integrated with the applications being supplied for e-commerce. So you're going to get a tight fit between the integration of the network to the CRM environment. You have to actu-ally tie them together at the end of the day in order to satisfy the end users' requirements.

How has the business environment for network integrators changed?

I think network integrators are finding it difficult to bring together the skills and resources under one umbrella to the end user.

What I think you'll see, is not necessarily acquisition, but a lot more teaming between specialists. For example, the companies that do CRM, networking and telephony, can bring an integrated solution to the customer.profileAutodata SolutionsHead office: SydneyEstablished: 1987Staff: 18Turnover: $12 million annuallyGrowth: 10 per cent per annumServices: Network integration, voice/data convergence, server systems integration, storage area networking.

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