Inhouse: Datasouth looks west for growth

Inhouse: Datasouth looks west for growth

Christchurch-based Datasouth, which employs 50 people, sees itself as a technology partner ‘substantial enough to undertake any technology engagement’.

Since managing director Gavin Bennett launched the firm in 1993, the systems integrator and consultancy has expanded to include ‘virtual’ offices in Auckland and Wellington.

These days Bennett is based in Sydney, where for four years he has secured some high-profile clients including Tourism Australia and Allco Finance.

However, as general manager Craig Gerken explains, Datasouth’s ‘bread and butter’ is integration work based around the Microsoft platform.

A Microsoft gold partner, it has also diversified into software and consultancy services and focuses on business intelligence, software development, network infrastructure and total system design and support.

Datasouth has a software development team of eight, with .Net being a popular skill, and it specialises in the design and deployment of Microsoft Windows Sharepoint Services and Office Sharepoint Server, says Gerken.

In addition, the company does a lot of work with Microsoft SQL Server, primarily around data warehousing and reporting services and has capabilities around Biztalk integration, he says. “It’s a focus of ours. We are finding many opportunities as we take our clients from the networking layer to the application layer.”

With competencies in advanced infrastructure solutions, networking infrastructure, information worker solutions and licensing, Datasouth’s Microsoft gold status separates it from the competition, Gerken says.

“We see opportunities around Microsoft Sharepoint as a real driver of business in top organisations – improved collaboration, improved retrieval of information, the ability for work teams to interact with each other and the ability to increase productivity with other Microsoft platforms.

Business intelligence is now a key focus for Datasouth, says Gerken.

“Our clients traditionally have taken time to correlate information from a number of places, but they don’t have time to analyse it. Microsoft BI platforms provide a solution to speed the process up, allowing clients that seek info to provide meaningful data to the business.”

BI customers include PGC Wrightson and the seed research centre at Lincoln University.

Strong partnerships exist with leading vendors, including HP, while Datasouth is a Citrix solutions advisor, says Gerken.

He adds the company partners with other local players such as Olympic Software on some opportunities, since it deploys Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

“We don’t do ERP, but we do CRM. However, it makes sense for us to work with them around selection and deployment of ERP solutions.”

In 2002 Datasouth acquired specialist accounting and service industry software company Synergy Business Solutions.

The following year it launched Datasouth Corporate Services, a risk and compliance issues consultancy that focuses primarily on the Australian market and at organisations with more than 200 seats.

“We found in Australia that many organisations weren’t served very well by their local providers. This provided an opportunity for us to go in and find their pain points and see how we could address them,” says Gerken.

Fortunately, Australians care more about Datasouth’s capability than it being Kiwi.

Australia currently provides 10 percent of the company’s business, helped by Australia’s high rates and New Zealand’s lower costs, says Gerken.

“It’s a matter of matching their rates. We don’t believe in undercutting, we believe in providing service. It’s about validating yourself.”

Although engineers are flown across the Tasman when needed, many Australian jobs are performed remotely, which means the cost for doing business there is pretty low, Gerken says. “Flights are cheap and numerous from Christchurch. We are able to charge out a much higher rate than we do in New Zealand and we use the favourable exchange rate.”

Membership of the trans Tasman Business Circle has helped facilitate relationships. As well, client references drum up trade in both countries.

Datasouth also communicates brand awareness to existing clients and partners.

“Our focus is to be a trusted advisor to clients. Our philosophy is to understand their business requirements, their pain points and then recommend technology solutions to their requirements,” Gerken says.

Datasouth reports a buoyant local market offering much opportunity. But IT firms struggling to gain sufficient staff affects quality of service, says Gerken.

“Traditional respected suppliers are failing to deliver. We are using a number of strategies to recruit and retain staff, so we continue to be at the forefront of service delivery.

“It’s a balance of packages, culture, the team environment and buying into the goals of the organisation.”

Last year was a good year and would have been better, had the company being able to secure certain resources to help it win extra business, says Gerken.

This year promises to be an improvement, with Datasouth moving to larger premises.

“We have a number of larger deals in the pipeline – Sharepoint Server deployments, BI projects and infrastructure upgrades.”

Customers are also becoming aware of concepts such as unified communications and virtualisation and are defining their requirements around them, says Gerken.

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