Profile: From backyard to big gun

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This article appeared in the Issue 173, 30 May 2005 issue of CRN magazine.

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Profile: From backyard to big gun
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Optima’s point of differentiation when selling to government is its ability to tailor-make machines for the customer and offer services around them. “Recently I talked to one state department CIO.

His point of view is that he would like to support a local company but what’s more important is the value of service you can provide to the department,” Ung says. Optima has been able to communicate well with state government departments and lobbies CIOs of each department to explain clearly the services Optima can provide, he says.

“We explain to the department how we can save them money. They will go for the most cost-effective solution for the department. Being competitive, being local, we should be able to turn around and provide more efficient service than the multinationals because they are not building here.”

Optima runs an image download system that enables it to tailor-make an individual image for each machine – something that multinationals cannot necessarily do, he says. It also uses an SAP back-end system like many government departments who can place their orders online.

The company’s services however, are quickly moving beyond PC manufacture and customisation.

Optima will move strongly into the managed services business next financial year, Ung says. He has employed a new general manager of customer service -- Alf Santomingo. “His role will be to develop managed services products and offer to customers,” he says.

A forthcoming contract with a 5000- seat state government department -- which Ung declined to name -- would see the company provide a managed service to the customer. This would involve Optima providing desktop, server and notebook deployment services, procurement, rental arrangements through a finance company and helpdesk support. “We expect to sign [the contract] in the next couple of weeks,” he says.

The department felt that Optima could provide this managed services one-stop shop, Ung says. “We will have more focus this year on [providing] managed services for other government departments as well,” he says.

There are about 30 NSW Government departments of which only three of four are buying from Optima at this stage.

“We believe that there’s a huge opportunity for us to lobby the departments and explain the service that we can offer for them. We are investing in resources to address that business,” he says. “Our focus will be in NSW first, but we will expand that to Federal [business] moving forward,” he says.

Market difficulties

When the market was in a depression, resellers were impacted. “I guess the reseller always tries to differentiate themselves, but at the end of the day, I think that IT resellers need to always be ready to adapt new technology earlier and service the customer with those technologies. That’s the winning strategy for every reseller,” he says.

While Optima has been successful with regional resellers, it is also looking to work better with metropolitan resellers. Its dealings with metropolitan resellers dropped off during the late 1990s due to increasing competition, sales tax issues and a general market squeeze in city areas. “We have put up a strategy to help them to create demand from consumers and bring the traffic into their shop. That is something that we’re working on to help resellers promote our products,” he says.

In the regional areas, Optima issues catalogues detailing its product line. “We might consider putting more third-party products in our catalogue for more product reach. That will give value to the reseller,” he says.

These days, the supplier is facing more competition than ever before. “You always have competition. Compared to the old days, absolutely, you didn’t need to do anything. They [customers] came to you. Today you have to offer them products, differentiate and bring traffic to them [the reseller]. Business is getting tougher and tougher. The ones that survived have got to be more innovative and more competitive,” he says.

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