Simms’ long-awaited transition to Express Online in New Zealand is slated for the second week of July when the distributor’s new website goes live.
Operating under the shorthand ‘Exol’, the new website will serve as an intermediate online presence until the distie’s parent company, Express Data, finalises a group-wide upgrade later this year.
The Exol website will allow resellers to check stock live, but will not be fully “transactional” until September or October, according to Paul Johnston, New Zealand country manager and managing director.
“We’ve had a few interesting moments with the transition into the new business, but we have a timeline now as far as branding, the new office, and moving our warehouse to the Express Data facility, and getting the ERP system up,” says Johnston. “Simms will stop altogether and things like email and the web will link back so there’s no loss of communication. The plan is at the moment to have it all complete by second week of July.”
The transition has taken longer than first anticipated. The distie waited for its counterpart in Australia to go through the rebrand first and ‘iron out’ the process. That operation experienced a week when it was unable to ship products in time, Johnston says.
The transition here has been complicated by the relative size of the operations, with a 20-employee, $35 million company buying a $200 million organisation at a staff of 80.
“So that whole integration was taking a larger business and integrating with a smaller business and there’s a massively different dynamic to work through there,” he says.
Still, the merging and rebranding is not essentially changing the way the distributor brings its products to market in New Zealand. The distributor represents a small number of vendors, including Dell and Motion. But one in particular, Huawei, competes with Cisco, distributed by its sister-company Express Data.
Johnston says when it comes to these brands, it will be business as usual.
“I won’t respect anyone’s turf and they won’t respect mine,” Johnston says. “If you go in like that, you won’t be doing right by your vendors or your partners. If anyone there said, ‘these guys are going after this deal, so we won’t do it,’ that would be exactly the wrong thing to do.”
“My expectation is they will continue to do a fantastic job for Cisco, which they are doing already and that they will be very aggressive, as they should be. We have to take exactly the same view.”
Johnston says the distie is a little behind where it thought it would be in bringing new Huawei products to the market because “processes needed to be established and that took a little bit longer than we’d like”.
There has also been some trickle down effect from the controversy earlier this year over carrier-grade Huawei hardware in the UFB rollout, which Simms does not distribute.
“We had two channel partners that said, ‘look, let’s just wait until things die down a little bit because some of our customers are in critical areas’,” says Johnston. “We went, ‘fine, no problem’.”
Johnston points out that equipment from other companies, including Cisco, but also HP and Juniper are made in China, as well, and that Huawei sells carrier grade equipment to major telecoms around the world. In the end the publicity has raised Huawei’s profile in New Zealand.
“It’s prompted people to ask questions,” says Johnston. “And at least now people know how to pronounce the name.”