Stories by Lee Davis

The trickle down effect

Remember the Trickle-Down Effect? Well, this writer lives on a bit of hilly land up in the Winterless North and has recently seen the Trickle-Down Effect in action, or maybe we should say ‘inaction’. There is a spring high up on the land and it produces a nice flow of water all year round. However, although the spring-fed pond at the top of the hill remains full, in the summer months the flow that feeds a little brook that runs down the hill and feeds two of the lower paddocks tends to dry up on its way down the hill.

Cloud clearing for resellers

As the computer business becomes a more a commoditised place and margins on hardware continue to slide downhill, Reseller News asks if some of the industry players are showing signs of abandoning procurement in favour of selling cloud services. We spoke to three resellers who have all made changes in the way they offer services and procurement and get their future view on the reseller world.

Ousting the incumbent

If by chance one day you look at your sales chart with your hands behind your back teetering on your heels and toes alternatively and you wonder where that spike came from as you notice a sharp upward curve in your sales levels and realise it corresponds with when you happen to have secured a large contract then we could easily blame that sales spike on the large contract, thus eventually you can call this upward curve in you sales figures an ‘income bent’. This type of sales pitch (excuse the pun) is likely to have come from the ousting of an incumbent, something that many resellers believe is a difficult, if not impossible, thing to achieve and yet it happens all the time. Let’s just look at history. The incumbent or sitting contractor or favoured supplier or the big chief’s cousin will eventually become fat lazy and is pretty much prone to slip up. One day they will nose dive so deeply in their own trough of swill that they may never surface again and hence forth the gig is up for grabs. One particular expert in charge of dishing out contracts down Wellington way was said to be offended by a contactor’s inability to take him out for a coffee just to say thanks for the jobs. Sometimes it’s that fickle. And if we go deeper back into history we can see examples of this happening throughout man’s existence. The Romans once had quite a hold the contract to supply roads, peace, tyranny, and homo erotic porn in the form of gladiator battles but they lost that when they discovered there was little else to discover. And of course anyone can look back into the realms of history and see countless examples of empires crushed and broken and power houses fallen by the wayside only to make a path for the new guy. We only have to look at last year’s Arab Spring to confirm this historical inevitability that the mighty will eventually fall flat on their faces. And look how fast the United States of America is becoming a nation containing and extraordinary amount of poor people who live on the streets. The USA is losing its grip on the top place. However, in our small domain down here in the ankle of the world and our very own government contract landscape we can see a few recent examples of the incumbents being ousted. The suppliers of those lovely contracts have surely seen their sales charts display and Income Bent, in the wrong direction no doubt. The Tela scheme is one such example. Telecom Rentals won that one, replacing the incumbent. Dimension Data have managed to oust some incumbents as easily as Luke Skywalker popped off the restraining bolt from R2D2. The Dimension Data crew of tenderers has had a run of success with wins at the IRD, the MoH and the NZ Police. So we can gather hope from the fact that ousting the incumbent is not as hard as may seem. All you need is a really big spoon to get under those limpets and give it one hell of a shove and a flip.

When public interest is not so public

The Public Interest is a funny old thing. What’s interesting to the public, namely the shape, size and subsequent world ranking of Kim Kardashian’s gluteus maximus, is not necessarily a thing that influences the general public’s interests, either from a financial benefit or loss, from a health and safety point of view, or a law and order point of view. Therefore if it’s interesting to the public, it may still not be in the public interest. Although it could be argued that Mrs Kardashian’s shape may have an overall beneficial effect on men’s mental health ever since she got voted best derrière in the world and her picture appeared on news websites that aren’t blocked by your company’s administrator. Therefore we must argue that things that do form a portion of the public’s interests are things that the government spends its money on because the government gets its money from us because we pay tax and that is a direct concern to our financial interests. We, as taxpayers, need to know not only what the big G is spending its cash on but how much they are paying for those pretty things that they have decided are necessary to run our glorious country. However the big G often hides behind four words: Commercial and in Confidence. If it’s commercial it means it has something to do with commerce, ie the business of transacting, and if it’s in confidence it means the deal has been supplied on the basis that no one else is to know the details other than the entities directly involved in the deal. Commercial in Confidence has replaced Classified, Private, or Secret because those words all denote some form of conspiracy whereas Commercial in Confidence is relying on our faith in capitalism in the sense that we must let business have its chance to make a buck and therefore be allowed to keep things in the closet. But since the government is rapidly farming out all of its services and procurement to private enterprises, how much more of our tax money will come under the umbrella of private information that hence becomes commercially sensitive and moves away from legitimate government expenditure that has to accounted for publically? For example, the IRD put out a tender last year for thin clients. The tender was long and complicated and split into two parts - the supply of the thin clients and the refurbishing of older PCs on the desks of many IRD offices around the country. The winners were Gen-i and Dimension Data. Gen-i got the refurbishment of the PCs while Dimension Data won the deal to supply a shed load of thin clients. The thin client specification called for was very detailed and could be narrowed down to just a few models. So the thing that really would have made the difference was the price of supply. However, that information remains commercially sensitive because despite a request lodged under the Official Information Act by this columnist to see the details of the contract, the Tax Department has deemed that information to be Commercial In Confidence, in other words, classified, secret, private. It seems that how our government spends our money is really not in the public interest after all.

Featherstone disconnected

Well-known industry veteran Rodney Featherstone has left Connect NZ and says he is now working for a company called Zone Global. Featherstone had been with Connect NZ for ten years before leaving the company in January this year. He was national sales manager of the IT division of Connect NZ.

Good Salesmanship is no secret says Mike Dennehy CEO of Vision Software

Vision Software is Australasia’s largest developer of commercial property management and corporate real estate software with offices in Mount Maunganui and Auckland and a total of 21 staff. Mike Dennehy bought shares in Vision in 1995 and took it from a two-man operation to its current size, while building and selling two divisions of the business – Residential Property Management and Veterinary Management. The number one sales tip seems to be to “know your product or service very well”. What’s your experience with your products? You need to understand what your products do and are capable of. At Vision I’ve been involved in the development of all our products from the beginning and have learned a lot about the corporate real estate industry along the way.

Maclean passes the parcel

Maclean Computing is passing on its smaller customers to Belton IT in a move that both companies say is a positive step forward. Belton will be taking care of about 40 SMBs that are Maclean clients. CEO of Maclean Computing, Chris Maclean says it was time to move towards a laser-like focus on where the company wanted to go even though it involves losing customers in tough times.

ShoreTel expands NZ distribution network

ShoreTel is opening up its distribution channels in New Zealand meaning iDivo will no longer be the sole distributor of the unified communication range of products. The company has just signed a distribution agreement with Express Data in Australia and New Zealand. George Atrash, ShoreTel’s Asia-Pacific vice president says that "while Express Data is not ‘active’ with ShoreTel for the NZ market today, our plan is to start working on on-boarding new channels with Express Data in the future, meaning iDivio would no longer be sole distributor. “We are working to strengthen and build with some key longer-standing channel partners who have really helped solidify ShoreTel as a major competitor in the NZ market. Further to this, focus is being placed on a handful of newer partners that will assist in broadening our reach into different market segments,” he adds. According to Atrash, “iDivio have been on-board with ShoreTel for approximately two years and is currently handling 100 percent of all ShoreTel distribution in NZ”. “The recent addition on Express Data in Australia will soon see us work to expand this relationship into NZ, focussing on building with a different breed of channel partner – one with a rich data background as opposed to voice.” The APAC VP says market awareness is key for the company. “The unique value proposition ShoreTel has to offer with regards to the simplicity and low total cost of ownership of our solution sets, means that in two out of three opportunities where we get a seat at the table, we manage to win the business. Our growth will come from ensuring our message is heard loud and clear, that there is another choice and the benefits from implementing ShoreTel are huge on all levels. Strengthening and diversifying our channel is key in order to touch all vertical markets, along with some focussed core marketing initiatives,” he says. The VP believes that the two tier distribution model will give the company the ability to work with channel partners to “evangelise ShoreTel’s differentiating market advantage”. “Logistics and distribution is a specialised game; and, while there are many distributors, true value added distributors can make the world of difference to a vendor and its partners.” ShoreTel recently bought the hosted service provider M5 in the US. The company announced the signing of a definitive agreement to acquire unified communications vendor M5 Networks this month.

The fire next time

An old photographer friend of mine once tried to explain that not every model is photogenic, or looks as good in a photograph as she does in real life. When casting models for photo shoots it was often very hard to tell how the shots would turn out based only on how attractive the model appeared in real life. This conversation took place at the base of a certain chromium plated vertical pole that had been deliberately attached to both floor and ceiling and served no structural or plumbing related objective. It was something about bone structure and poise versus how the light falls over the contours of the model’s face and the subtle shadows that bone structure creates. In summary he explained "No matter how beautiful a woman is, if she doesn’t stop very well she will never make it as a model". The same can be said about certain government departments when it comes to New Zealand’s annual stopping time, the festive season of holidays, when the country grinds to a halt for several weeks. A certain government department under fire (oh please excuse the inexcusable pun) is the Fire Department. The NZ Fire Services issued an ROI on November 11 last year for a new Financial Management Information System and an Asset Management Information System on GETS. Responses to the ROI were due on December 2 with a promise that evaluation would be completed by December 16. Tenderers were to be notified by December 20, so that everybody could go away to the bach in the Coromandel and wear jandels for the next two weeks safe in the knowledge that they had won a new deal to help New Zealand fight the fires that a million holiday makers were about start with slightly woozy barbecue management skills. With holiday season pressure building up some entrants of the race asked for more time to get the response in. The Fire Service responded negatively, and poured water on this smoky request. “The completed response is to be delivered in a sealed envelope by noon on the closing date, or be in the hands of a courier before noon on the closing date—consignment note/number details are to be emailed to the NZFS before noon on the closing date” Emphasis is from the Fire Service. Respondents who got their tenders in on time were notified with the following: “This email is to confirm that NZFS have received your response to the above tender and to give you an update on the timetable that we are working towards. There has been a tremendous response to the ROI which closed on Friday 2 December 2011 for both the FMIS and AMIS systems. The evaluation team has started to evaluate the responses but this process is likely to take somewhat longer that what was initially anticipated in the ROI. Some key members of the evaluation panel are currently unavailable until after the Christmas period, so internal group evaluations will now not take place until mid January - February 2012. A decision on the short list will not be made before this is completed and a recommendation made and signed off by NZFS Senior Management. With this in mind, I will not be in a position to contact you all before 28 February 2012. Please accept my apologies for the delay, but it is important that NZFS follow due process with complex tenders of this type. Please do not contact me, I will be in contact with all organisations that responded to the tender with any updates but not before 28 February 2012.In the meantime I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas.” In other words, as they used to say in the army, hurry up and wait, because the Fire Service clearly doesn’t stop very well.

A little helicopter diplomacy

The written word is one of mankind’s most useful tools. It conveys ideas from person to person and place to place much more effectively than word of mouth. Imagine if the instructions to fly a helicopter were passed on verbally. Sooner or later someone’s going to forget which way to pull the cyclic and you’ve backed into the hanger. So we can see that English has its uses and we use it all the time in our proposals to try in a desperate attempt to win over the reader in the most convincing way possible. And if that means making them ill by twisting their brains around like they’ve just taken a hit of Amyl Nitrate then so be it. The more we can confuse our dear readers the more they will think we know what we’re talking about. At least when they don’t know what they are talking about. The worst thing we can do is leave them with the impression that our job is easy and that it can be explained in a few short easy to read sentences that make perfect sense and are understood by all and sundry. Madness. Don’t give the game away. We’re selling a complicated solution filled with intricacies and nuances that the normal man in the street has no idea of. Computer solutions are a nightmare of trip ups and gobbledegook with explanations that can only be deciphered by highly qualified engineers of the finest calibre. If you start using plain English to explain what you can achieve all your customer will do is wonder why the thing they want is so simple yet cost a fortune. Let me try to explain my the above facetiouness by simile. A helicopter has four controls: the throttle to control engine speed, giving the craft life; the collective to alter the pitch angle of the blades to control the amount of thrust; the cyclic to controld the direction of the thrust; and the torque to change the rear tail rotor’s speed and thrust in relation to the main body, changing where the craft points. Sounds confusing. Until you realise we're just talking about moving up, down, right and left. Which bring me to the Ministry of Education’s response to a November 25 column regarding Unified Software and a laptop-for-teacher's programme. Unified was meant to supply software and web portal, but went into voluntary liquidation.

Kicking the tyres

Last week I thought about buying a new car. So I put an ad in the Car Dealer Weekly addressed to all the car dealers in the country and asked them what they have on offer.