Three years ago, I joined a distributor after a long career working for large system integrators and telecommunications providers.
Having held a number of senior management roles covering professional services, ICT outsourcing, large enterprise sales, strategy and architecture, I needed a change of scenery — to do something different, but still stay connected to technology and innovation.
A few weeks into my new role with Westcon-Comstor, I was hit by the “what have I done” thought.
What did I know about “pick, pack and ship”?
All I knew about distribution was about being on the receiving end — when equipment turned up at the right time, at the right place, in as few boxes as possible, and pre-configured for a fast start.
But I quickly learned about the value of a distributor as the “middleman” in the Vendor-Reseller relationship. There were things I never knew were part of the value chain and that I had taken for granted in the past:
Getting equipment across the ocean on time — and in full
Handling freight, taxes and currencies
Aggregating and delivering multiple parts, from multiple boxes and locations, across the globe, so that they could arrive on a client’s doorstep in a single box
Serving as an end-to-end commercial trading entity for vendor partners
But why would a pick, pack and ship business want a guy like me on the payroll, what value could I provide in their commercial chain?
The answer is a complex one, and it all rests in the newest revolution in computing: the Cloud!
Delivering Value in the Cloud
As the world around us changes, there will still be a need for distributors to manage hardware and software, but there’s a percentage of the overall business that is shifting to the Cloud. To remain relevant as a distributor, we have to adapt and reinvent our value proposition so that we can participate in the new world of the Cloud via what we now term “Digital Distribution".
Westcon-Comstor has, therefore, undertaken a significant company transformation over the last two years. In the past, we acquired various regional distributors in order to expand our global footprint. Now, all of Westcon-Comstor’s latest acquisitions have been based on the procurement of intellectual property.
Westcon-Comstor’s acquisition of Afina in Spain and Verecloud in the USA, among others, has given us ownership of a number of software platforms, software patents, all the intellectual property related to these developments, as well as their development teams.
These development teams now form a complete business unit within Westcon-Comstor, with development centres working 24/7 all across the globe. Through these steps, Westcon-Comstor has become a software development company that creates applications to support their Cloud and Services business.
In the “old world”, Westcon-Comstor delivered value to our vendors via superior logistics, financial management and staging centres; and this gave us the right to retain margin through the transaction process. But these older services provide little value in the world of digital distribution.
Westcon-Comstor’s future value, the value that will give the right to retain a small margin in the digital distribution world, is now based on the value that our software development teams create in our Cloud and Services platforms.
The reinvention of Westcon-Comstor and the cutting-edge innovation that we are now creating in these new teams and platforms will earn us the right to digitally distribute and operate the new breed of Cloud Services. The value in these platforms and services will become the primary attraction for both vendors and resellers to transact with Westcon-Comstor.
But why is this so exciting to a guy like me?
It’s because there’s nobody to follow, no blueprint, no proven recipe; we’re out in front, leading the way. It’s a difficult place to be. Many times an innovative organisation spends more in time and money to get it right, and a “first follower” gets there faster and with less trouble, less cost and more success.
But in the world of Cloud, the model is changing, and first-mover advantage is the key to success and longevity.
It’s imperative for an organisation like Westcon-Comstor to have management, development and sales teams who have the “mental horsepower” and the bravery to systematically reinvent and transform a global business.
I continue to use the analogy that we’re “re-painting the plane while it’s still in the air”; and that’s why ICT distribution is one of the most exciting industries to be a part of right now.
VP Cloud and Services, APAC at Westcon-Comstor