What are your plans for 2013?
Last year our investment in information management (IM) was significant. We are in a hesitant market and the question is, do we invest to open up broader opportunities? In 2013 we have to see a return from that IM investment and it is looking very promising. We have a pipeline of opportunities. Another area that has emerged for us is mobile. We are working with enterprise businesses as we tackle changes in managing devices.
This could be smartphones, tablets or other kinds of device. A good area is the mobile device management (MDM) challenge and the options therein. We would like to build a set of services that deliver what businesses need in terms of device management because a lot of them are not going to be able to manage it themselves. We have put in place a team for IM and our mobile team has grown from two to six people.
We think businesses ultimately will run and manage their own app stores – if it works for consumers, why can it not work for enterprises? We are bullish about these areas as growth potential. The past year has been a flat year – we are in the middle of it and the emphasis on investment will move to a profitability focus. What is currently focused on headline growth and top-line turnover will be focused on profitability next year. We will not be overambitious. If we establish capability around big data, do some mobile and return a consistent level of profitability, I will be happy.
The market is hard at the moment. The second half of last year was characterised by the cost of everything increasing. The amount of work you have to do to progress and push a solution deal or services proposal is larger than last year. The hesitancy of customers shows that businesses are expecting more from the people who deliver their IT, and they want to understand it properly in terms of how it relates to their business.
We have to be able to engage customers and understand their business better so as to market to them in terms that make sense to them.
Are there any trends you see emerging this year?
For us, last year corporate businesses were internally using all this social stuff. Although it is not our market, I think it is really compelling. Social media has happened. I think it will happen internally in business, but it did not happen last year.
There is still real potential and real opportunity. It will be about pulling things together, rather than just a box solution. We would like a social element to our business and I am confident that it will grow this year. Everything to do with social, IM and enterprise mobility is a good place to be. I feel really quite positive about that.
How do you see the UK economy panning out?
As businesspeople we cannot think negatively about it. I’m a bit hesitant; my ratio of positive to negative is about 70/30. Look at places like Tech City – all that is really important. As to how much we can do, in this industry we embrace change and we have that mentality, but how do we try to harness that alongside business for which change is a real worry and concern?
We should be asking questions like how does IT do a better job of enabling? I think we could be doing more to help ourselves rather than focusing on the bad. When I think of last year, after the Olympics we came back in September and we saw a real increase in pipelines for services and projects, although not necessarily for software transitions. A positive mindset does reflect better. We pick that up from our customers when they are doing things.
From October onwards I expect business to pick up around services and deployment. However, I feel much more bullish now than I did this time last year. We are in planning mode. We have to think positive thoughts. I feel that the footprints we build in broader market areas such as information management and mobile really do make us feel that there is momentum there and we are not stuck in the same hard market. I feel quite positive about it going forward.
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