Microsoft has come under fire from one of its local training providers, who fears a discount war following the New Zealand entry of one of the vendor’s Australian-based certified trainers.
Ace Training managing director Tony Skelton has criticised Microsoft for giving Australia's Excom Education the go-ahead to set up locally.
Microsoft learning solutions Gold partner Excom Education officially launched its Auckland premises late last month, with Skelton questioning the value of adding another competitor to local incumbents Ace and Auldhouse.
“We [Ace] fail to see how Microsoft can justify the commercial decision to justify another CPLS [Certified Partner for Learning Solutions] into this market. The question is why were there only two here, and the answer is that this is as much as the market can stand.”
Skelton says if Excom Education begins targeting Ace’s corporate customers, and offers the same services and competencies, discounting of services may ensue.
“If we enter into a discount war between the three of us, that’s an issue I’ll be putting on the table to Microsoft with serious concerns. That to me is not what anybody should be doing in this particular market.”
Skelton claims Microsoft’s decision to allow Excom’s entry was “seriously flawed”, because the incumbent CPLSs are already providing good service to customers.
Excom Education’s Melbourne-based alliance manager Paul Athanasakos says it has established a successful formula overseas, and wants to grow the New Zealand training market by setting up here.
“We will be under a compete scenario with the existing incumbents in New Zealand,” he says. “We’re not there to put them out of business or anything, we just want to grow the pie there.”
Athanasakos says Excom’s Express IT programme, which includes Microsoft technology and guarantees to place graduates in entry-level IT roles such as helpdesk and administration, will be a good fit for the New Zealand market and a point of difference. He claims the company has achieved a 100 percent placement rate in the six years the programme has been run in Australia.
Microsoft partner group manager Nick Fletcher, says Express IT was a key factor in Microsoft’s favourable assessment of the business plan Excom submitted for the local market.
“We think having Excom in the market is good for New Zealand customers and partners. [They] have grown very strongly in Australia and expanded into Singapore and the key programme that has driven their growth and their success has been their Express IT programme. It’s aimed at first time entrants in the industry and those looking to change careers.
“When we assessed Excom, we had this gap in the market and that was one of the reasons we felt their entry would make sense.”
He says although there are recommended prices for Microsoft training, the vendor doesn’t get involved with prices its training channel sets. However, he says he doesn’t expect to see aggressive discounting and “I wouldn’t want to see it”.
Fletcher says Excom Education will expand the choices available to partners and customers.
“We wouldn’t have assessed them to come in if we didn’t feel the offerings they have would grow the market and cater to new, not yet served segments.”
Auldhouse general manager Melanie Hobcraft says her company has been offering entry-level ICT training for a number of years in conjunction with its owner Telecom and fellow group member Gen-i.
However, it did not formally launch its Ignition programme, which targets those who want to enter the industry and offers graduates the chance to be interviewed for a role by Telecom or Gen-i, until May.
But, this was after Microsoft assessed Excom’s business plan, Fletcher says.
Ace and another trainer, Ames IT Academy, also offer entry-level training, Hobcraft says. Ames marketing director Brian Osborne says as a Microsoft partner, Ames covers the entry level and higher end of the market.
Auldhouse’s customer base will remain loyal, Hobcraft says. “Auldhouse has been in business for 21 years and we are a New Zealand business. I think there is a lot of loyalty from our partners and customers. Our business is about people and relationships and New Zealanders like to do business with someone with a proven track record.”
Microsoft has no current plans to recruit other certified trainers in New Zealand, Fletcher says, but if a new submission was made it would be considered on individual merit.