Meet Datacom Systems' new Australian boss

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Meet Datacom Systems' new Australian boss
Greg Davidson, Datacom

The new Australia and New Zealand leader of Datacom Systems has told CRN how he plans to stamp his mark on the IT solutions giant on both sides of the Tasman.

New Zealand chief executive Greg Davidson was promoted to ANZ chief executive earlier this year, following almost 20 years with the company.

Davidson began working for Datacom in 1997, when the company boasted a headcount of 600. He has watched it grow to a 4900-person company operating in multiple countries today.

Speaking to CRN at the company’s Sydney base of operations, Davidson explained how the Kiwi company could go toe-to-toe with global outsourcers like IBM, Fujitsu, or Unisys. In 2015, Datacom won a $242 million deal with the Australian Department of Health, a contract that had been held by IBM for 15 years.

He said Datacom's strengths included its approach to service and the ability to "work a bit differently".

"If you're going to differentiate from the globals, one of primary ways you’ll do that is service, ease of doing business, ability to turn around decision-making quickly and willingness to act for the long term," he said.

"We're privately held, and so we’re able to work on a long time horizon, and really ensure that its not about the next quarterly but about meaningful long-term customer relationships. In the services world you’re really as good as the last pieces of work you’ve done."

Evidence of this can be seen in some of Datacom's long-term customers. 

"We have a customer in New Zealand, Fletcher Building, with which the relationship started in 1968. When people ask how a corporate relationship can last that long my answer – almost universally – is, everytime they'd come to us and said they wanted to do something different, we'd take the old contract, rip it up and say, 'where do you want to go now?'," Davidson said.

"That kind of general go-to attituide is quite critical. I think the other thing that has enabled us to continue to make progress is a willingness to reinvent. Without question, the single greatest challenge as we've gotten bigger has been how do we ensure that agility and willingness remains when you get to a bigger scale."

Nearly two decades

Davidson's career with Datacom began in New Zealand in 1997. He joined the company with software development skills and an interest in web commerce, and helped build the company's internet business.

“I really wanted to work somewhere local, and have that ability to talk to the leaders, interact with them personally, be given an opportunity I could grow with mattered a lot to me," he said.

In 2007 Davidson was appointed chief executive of Datacom Systems New Zealand.

Davidson said that as Datacom grew – deal by deal, location by location – consistency was king.

“Ensuring that we, in each location, have a consistent set of themes and way of operating, and that we deliver service consistently to our customers is really starting to matter, particularly for the ones who span the locations we work in,” he said.

“We’re starting to look at how we’re performing in the IT outsourcing market, how we’re performing in the infrastructure-as-a-service market, how we’re performing in software development, and what is our customer value in those particular markets as well as geographically in being local.

“We’ve changed how we do some of our planning processes, we are looking at establishing more support and much more measurement of what we do in order to ensure that consistency and in order to ensure that when we win a new piece of work in each location, we’ve got the capability to execute against that customer preference."

Leadership changes

Davidson's appointment came after a series of changes as Datacom sought to pin down a candidate to lead its systems business unit.

In 2014 the company scoured the globe for an Australian chief executive and hired IBM veteran Theresa Eyssens in August the same year. But six months later Eyssens left the role and her responsibilities reverted to Datacom Group chief executive Jonathan Ladd and other regional directors.

Fast-forward to June 2016, Davidson crossed the Tasman and got to work developing a strategy to make the most of Australia and New Zealand combined, jumping off from two angles.

“The first thing was we kicked off a program to deeply interview some of our long-standing customers to get feedback on their perceptions of us,” Davidson said.

“We applied that at both locations to look for common themes. And we’re actually going to institutionalise that as the Voice of the Customer program. If you want to know what you should be one of the great places to start is to go ask those who buy your services from you.

“The second thing was looking at the business we were running a little bit differently.”

Datacom Australia’s offering spans many disciplines of IT. The company was among CRN’s 2016 MVPs with a significant number of top partner levels across multiple global IT vendors.

The company's revenue surpassed NZ$1 billion for FY2016. Australian revenues are expected to surpass those of the New Zealand business for the first time in FY2017.

The company recently opened a new office in Brisbane, has been shortlised for the WA government's IT panel, and has announced plans to build a $22 million IT hub in South Australia

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