Datacom's new Australian boss on striking a balance between agnostic and specialised

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This article appeared in the November 2016 issue of CRN magazine.

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Datacom's new Australian boss on striking a balance between agnostic and specialised

Known as a Kiwi success story, formidable trans-Tasman IT company Datacom expects to hit a milestone next year when its Australian revenues overtake New Zealand’s. That’s no small fry; the company turned over NZ$1.058 billion (A$995 million) in 2016.

In June, the company quietly promoted Greg Davidson from chief executive of Datacom Systems New Zealand to lead the systems business across both sides of the Tasman. 

Speaking to CRN, Davidson says one of the company’s guiding principles is to “talk about what you’ve done, not what you’ve won”. Over the past year, Datacom has been busy.

The company opened its third Victorian office in South Melbourne in April, adding 100 new staff to its payroll. It announced a 2017 plan to build a $22 million IT hub at a South Australian TAFE campus and was shortlisted onto the WA government’s GovNext IT procurement program. 

In August, Datacom unveiled its new national network, connecting nine data centres via tier-1 carriers, giving customers access to scalable cloud capacity across Datacom’s infrastructure as well as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and VMware vCloud Air.

Top-tier partnerships

Part of Datacom’s competitive edge is its broad list of top vendor partners, says Davidson. This rich partnership portfolio helped Datacom achieve another highlight of 2016, with its Australian business once again being named a CRN MVP

The CRN MVP program is the only initiative that recognises IT providers based on their aggregate partner status across multiple leading vendors. A channel partner can only earn a place as a CRN MVP if it can prove it has some of the highest levels of accreditations in the country. Datacom holds 11 eligible partner levels in the MVP program.

These vendors include everyone from long-term partner Microsoft to Amazon Web Services. In 2015, Datacom became the first Australian company to receive the AWS Managed Service accreditation, one of fewer than 20 handed out worldwide at the time.

The company treads a fine line between being a specialist in vendor technologies, while also being independent of any one vendor. “Working with our partners is a critical part of what we do,” says Davidson. “We’re a service provider and we’re an agnostic one. That doesn’t always wash perfectly with our partners… but our goal is to be able to independently do what is best for our customers.

Qualifying for the top tier in a vendor’s program can be exhaustive and expensive process. Partner accreditation requirements vary widely from vendor to vendor, Davidson says. But in addition to the titles being very attractive to customers, who in some cases will name top accreditations as prerequisites in their selection criteria, Davidson says partner programs encourage a very intrinsic element of an IT professional’s resume.

“Their programs are important in ensuring that we continue to create an environment where our staff can learn new skills, and that goes far wider, I think, than vendor accreditations. There’s a whole series of other professional skills it takes to make a well-rounded IT professional beyond, ‘Are you competent with technology?’.”

Davidson says vendor programs are beginning to recognise a shift in the way customer organisations consume technology. 

“We’ve always been, particularly to the big software firms, a strong influencer of purchase way beyond anything that we actually do the licensing for. And that unusual relationship has been recognised. The pivot into things like the Microsoft CSP program, which is to do with rewarding influence, fits very comfortably with us because we’re used to being an independent advisor regardless of whether we get the licensing business.

“It’s going to challenge the traditional ‘low margin but limited advice’ resell model massively, but the service companies are going to find it easier to step into that space.” 

Pictured: Greg Davidson (Datacom)

MVP Eligible Vendors 

Cisco Gold 
Citrix Platinum 
Dell Premier 
HPE Platinum 
HP Inc Platinum 
IBM Premier
Lenovo Diamond
Microsoft Gold
Symantec Gold 
VMware Premier 
NetApp Gold 

Other  vendors

AWS managed services partner 
EMC Silver 
Intel Security Associate 
Oracle Gold

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