Ian Poole has long been an Australian channel luminary. Starting out in IT as an engineer in 1976 at AWA, which saw him working at now-defunct Nortel Canada, he has also seen management stints at Honeywell and Alcatel Lucent, where he rose to head seven divisions in Australia. Looking to go it alone, he bought out one of the divisions 50/50 with UXC and renamed it Integ. He headed this for nine years boosting its revenue to $75 million a year and employing 170 people.In 2012 he merged XSI and Getronics with Integ to form the colossus, UXC Connect, which over the past 12 months grew 25 per cent and now has a turnover of $227 million. Poole has also attended the St Vincent De Paul's executive sleep out for four years running, and regularly works with the homeless to improve their lives.
He sat down with ARN to discuss the company’s ongoing growth, and his plans through 2015.
Allan Swann (AS): What made you merge all these businesses to create UXC Connect? It seemed like a very timely move in hindsight…
Ian Poole (IP): We could see things happening quickly. Especially the smaller reseller organisations; with the advent of cloud and consumerisation, you needed to have a far broader offering around the services side.
The reselling component, that is software and hardware, was becoming more difficult. So we merged all those companies together, and then I became CEO of UXC Connect.
The whole process took two and a half years, but its done now. These mergers don’t happen overnight, its taken a while – and there have been so many changes in the market and challenges associated with that.
If we had kept those three companies, XSI which was a storage company, Integ, which was a networks company, and Getronics, which was a managed services company – we would be nowhere near the power that we are now.
Brewing them all together was key.
AS: So what are the key challenges in the marketplace, and how did you get your business to adapt?
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IP: There are several things that are driving the big changes in the market. With the IoT and Big Data, there’s more and more data out there, and people want to be able to do more with the information. There are some really big market drivers for that because network capacity is now a big issue – which is right up our alley.
It varies from sector to sector, but public- especially government - are still refreshing infrastructure. But it’s the same as any organisation – you aren’t refreshing infrastructure for the sake of refreshing infrastructure – it’s got to be outcome based.
Customers want to manage more and more data, whether that’s remotely, or whether they need to upgrade their wired or wireless networks.
The second major issue is the consumption model. More and more organisations are coming to us and are wanting to look at pay as they use, rather than major capex builds and support.
The third thing that’s happening as a result of Cloud moving down the stack is what is the customer’s journey to the Cloud? What should they put in the public Cloud, and what shall they put in the private Cloud, what is hybrid, and how can I make it all secure?
What kind of skills do you need? What can you do for me? What applications can I move to the Cloud? It’s a big consultant piece for us. Again, that’s right up our alley.
The other big mover for us is around mobility. Enterprise mobility is just getting stronger and stronger. They want more mobile devices, and access to their data on mobile.
That too is outcome based, so more and more customers want to work with us on a consultancy basis.
AS: BYOD and mobile seems to have gone off the boil in the industry as a priority, hasn’t Cloud solved a lot of that?
IP: What we see with a lot of organisations is that they move from on-premise into the Cloud, and they will go through a number of stages relating to virtualisation. So they’ll virtualise their servers, virtualise their desktops, and once you’ve virtualised your desktop, you really open the world for mobility. So that’s an opportunity.
AS: So what have been some of your key wins in 2014 that have led to UXC’s ongoing growth?
IP: We’ve had some big wins in health, education, government and utilities – probably our big four areas of focus at the moment. We won five pretty significant managed services contracts last year.
Firstly, Melbourne Water, which is a big managed service client for us. We did everything from manage the datacentre, the network, and the end user compute. We have a significant number of people onsite there managing it all, and a service desk. That was a big win for us, around $20 million.
The second big win was the managed services around Aviva Energy (formerly shell), the third one we did was Virgin Airlines Australia, where we run their service desk. The next one was Hudson, so a managed service desk there too.
Another big one for us was Fletcher Construction in New Zealand. We’re going to be building on that one too, it started out as just a service desk offering.
They’re all managed services. Our business has a large managed services component and that works very well with our infrastructure components.
In terms of our significant infrastructure builds, we picked up two hospitals, one was Lady Cilento hospital in Brisbane, the other was Gold Coast University Hospital.
AS: So what will be UXC Connect’s key focus for 2015? More of the same?
IP: We are seeing more and more opportunities in managed services. We are also going to be involved in service management, which is something we’re about to launch.
It’s a slightly different model to managed services. Whereas managed services is going in there and managing a component of a clients business, service management is providing a service management overlay to a lot of the outsourcing organisations. It’s the inbetween for a lot of organisations that are providing services to a client, and running the SLAs, and the IT framework back to the client. Its going to be a high grade area for us.
So the focus remains, building outcomes for our clients, our managed services offerings and the link between managed services and providing the infrastructure build for clients.
AS: What do you think will be the key themes for the industry as a whole across 2015?
IP:There will potentially be some major consolidation in the vendor side. A lot of them now overlap in certain areas, so there may be some serious M&A.
In Australia around services provisioning there will be certainly be greater amounts of consumption models, more as a service – consumerisation is going to be bigger. No ones going to spend a lot on capex anymore.
Finally, its about that journey to the Cloud – when you’re in there managing a client you can also manage them as an organisation and help direct them where to go here.
AS: You mentioned consolidation in 2015 – is that something UXC Connect is going to be looking at too? Do you have your eyes on any acquisitions?
IP: In our view, and you know UXC Connect is quite an acquisitive organisation to say the least, in our business we’re always looking at acquisitions that can assist our go-to-market.
Purchasing a customer base is less important these days, its more about producing outcomes and looking at solution provisioning for the future. Basically, if building something organically doesn’t work for us, then we’ll always look for an acquisition to fill that hole.
AS: Last words?
IP: We’re in the middle of a very exciting time. There’s huge opportunities out there. Firstly, you have to be aware of what your customers are doing and what they want, and secondly you have to be able and willing to drive change in your business.