Dialling into channel services

IPL Communication’s Paul Scanlan is transitioning the distributor to a more services-oriented strategy. He spoke to ARN about family, helping partners through rationalisation and travelling the world.

What was your first job?

My first job was selling newspapers when I was about 12; it did wonders for my maths.

How did you end up in the IT industry?

It was by mistake. I left uni and thought I'd like to be a banker because everyone seemed to be earning money in the finance industry. I ended up doing all the leasing and finance for Canon's computer division. My financing career wasn't really reaping a lot of financial rewards, so I was offered a job in Canon selling accounting systems to accountants and that was my first IT role.

How did you progress to where you are today?

From Canon I went into office equipment and did that for a lot of years. That was what introduced me to distribution. When I left Ingram Micro, I looked around at what I wanted to do and decided I wanted to stay in distribution, so when an opportunity came up through Stead Denton [IPL Group managing director], I took it.

What do you like about your current job?

The variety and the speed. The speed of engagement is just fantastic in the channel, and it's that constant engagement and the challenges involved that's the thrill of the kill for me. I have spent time with vendors and found it a lot slower - lead times are a lot longer and I didn't enjoy it as much as a result.

What is the biggest achievement of your career?

I think nowadays just surviving in business is an achievement. The world and technology is going that fast that to be able to keep up with it and stay on top of the game is a pretty big achievement.

But I'd have to say my kids who are 17 and 18 now are my achievement. I think raising kids is just the most fantastic and rewarding thing you can ever do. It's heartbreaking at times but it's also satisfying, particularly if they achieve in something, be it academics or sport.

What do you dislike most about the IT industry?

People that can't sell value and then resort to price, which destroys everyone's margin. The moment people get into trouble they resort to price and try and screw the deal up for the next guy and I hate that.

What will be the next big thing in the industry?

I think it will be IP-based telephony. Now that telephony is going fully onto the LAN it opens up a whole new world, not just in convergence, but in seamlessly tying it into all sorts of other applications. This opens up hosting and other opportunities, which is why at IPL we're moving into services. We still see a strong role in distribution going forward, but we believe in five years' time the services division will become a dominant part of IPL, as some channel partners don't have the resources to be able to take up everything the industry has to offer.

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What's the main focus for IPL this year?

We probably have two. One is to build up new vendors in that IP space and the other is to build up the services division. We believe that without the services division a number of our partners cannot move into new technologies that are emerging. We think there is going to be a rationalisation in the industry and a number of people will drop out, as was the case with IT many years ago. Part of our role is to carry our 200-odd partners with us.

Where do you hope to get your services division over the next 12 months?

I think we've got to clearly define what the services product we offer to the market is. I think we'll just focus this year on our current product sets, making sure we do it right and making sure it's profitable for our channel partners.

What do you do when you're not at work?

I'm a sports nut and rugby tragic. My wife hates winter because I'm glued to any rugby game that's going on, which includes everything from the under-14s to test rugby.

Other than rugby, what sports do you enjoy?

I think swimming is quite exciting and becoming quite a spectator sport. I enjoy tennis and any of those sorts of action sports such as athletics, triathlons, and surf lifesaving - anything that involves endurance, power and speed.

Do you like gadgets?

I do actually. I'm a practical person and not very good with gadgets but I like them. I use a PDA, my kids have notebooks and we're all into the Xbox and gaming.

What are some of your favourite toys at the moment?

I'd have to say the Sony Playstation 3. I think the way things are going PCs are going to blend into the television and the whole lot will be a permanent part of our life - in one way or another - and I can visualise myself playing games against my grandkids eventually.

What did you want to be when you were younger?

I wanted to be an air force pilot flying F1-11s but that didn't materialise. At the time the air force was inflexible in that they don't offer careers like they do now. I used to travel a lot and I got into jobs where there was a lot of travel involved, but that's as far as I went.

Where have you travelled to?

It's more a matter of where I haven't been. I've been through a lot of Europe, through large parts of the US, a little bit of Canada, South America, and chunks of Asia - particularly the eastern part of Asia. Some of the countries I haven't been to yet that I'd like to visit include China and Russia.

What is your biggest ambition?

To be close to my kids as they grow to be adults and have kids themselves. I think the most tragic thing is when the kids leave home and you lose touch with them. Family is very important to me, so if I can manage that I'll be pretty happy.