Playing to your strengths

Playing to your strengths

Westcon Group is confident its focus on core technologies such as collaboration, security, storage and networking will help it ride out the economic storm. General manager, Wendy O’Keeffe, caught up with ARN to discuss the state of the market and the distributor’s position in 2009.

What’s your outlook for 2009?

Our attitude is to keep on trucking on. Our expectation and outlook – we start our financial year at the end of March – is for growth. I don’t think we will achieve double-digit growth, but it’ll be single-digit growth and all 17 vendors we represent are expecting to grow in 2009. A lot of that’s to do with the fact that the environment we play into, and our core practices – networking, convergence, security, collaboration, video and storage – are all key areas people want to adopt from a technological perspective. They see there’s an opportunity to change their business process, get some costs reductions and model their business. So we have a good outlook, although I admit we haven’t seen the downturn yet.

So the downturn wasn’t reflected in the last quarter of 2008?

No, we had an outstanding December – our figures were 20 per cent up year-on-year. We knew we were going to have some growth, but had no expectations it’d be so high. January is on track with our forecasts, and February is on track in terms of pipeline.

We think some of the business we’re doing is based on projects that have been in play for a long time during 2008 – where the project has been scoped and implemented. A lot of that type of work is happening in calendar Q1.

Many industry representatives report projects are being deferred as customers re-evaluate and cut costs. Do you expect projects to be cut this year?

I think there will be some of that and we have seen bits of it, but not at an enterprise level. We’ve seen decisions being deferred more at an SMB level [50-200 person businesses]. We actually see ourselves as an SMB customer, as we have 140 people in Australia and run the datacentre for Asia, and some of the investments we planned this year will be reviewed. There will be some projects at an enterprise level that will certainly be debated. But my view is that Australia is quite visionary in applying technology to get better business processes and efficiencies and take costs out of business. That’s why I think we may not see as much of a hit.

In 2007/2008, we invested in business process enhancement around virtualisation and transactional management of process. This has included applications, new hardware, making sure our WAN infrastructure is strong and optimised, and I think a lot of businesses will continue to do that. Therefore the core technologies Westcon specialises in are the areas people will be spending money. I wouldn’t want to be in PCs and notebooks today as that’s the easiest thing to cut. That’s coming out of maintenance budgets, as opposed to project budgets.

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