When BT announced recently that it was merging three of its most prominent channel units – dabs, Business Direct and Engage IT – many in the channel may have noticed that one name was missing from the reseller roster.
BT acquired VARs SkyNet and TNS about five years ago, merging them to create Cisco-focused channel player BT iNet. Since then the network integrator has quietly built itself to a 320-seat organisation, while evolving its technical and sales skills to keep up with Cisco's ever-changing portfolio. And it remains an autonomous unit of the carrier's operations.
ChannelWeb caught up with Neil Pemberton (pictured), managing director of BT iNet, to discuss what the VAR has planned for next year and how it is adapting to the recent changes within Cisco.
Could you tell us a bit about iNet's background and what you do?
I have been involved in the business for 16 years. SkyNet was a purely Cisco-focused systems integrator, and TNS was 80 per cent Cisco. The strategy in BT acquiring it was to build a Cisco centre of excellence, wrapping [the technology] up in support services and professional services, and building a solution predominantly around Cisco.
Why focus so completely on Cisco?
We made a choice in the mid 90s to follow Cisco. The exclusivity we give Cisco really differentiates us as a partner if we are bidding on a piece of business. It helps us to be as expert as we know we are.
How else do you differentiate from other systems integrators?
Our success is built on three things. One is the focus on a single vendor. Second, we have very much verticalised our business over the years – we do not have a one-size-fits-all approach. The third thing is, we have always been right on the bleeding edge of the technology.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of being owned by BT?
BT made the acquisition because it recognised the skills we had. But it recognises that it may have diluted that if we had been absorbed into BT. But we do still have the BT brand – that brings a lot of comfort to the customers.
What are your priorities for the coming year?
Our priorities will be to make further inroads in the Cisco UCS piece. We have had some good early success. It takes time [for people] to realise that Cisco is playing in that marketplace and realising the benefits of what that can bring. We see that ramping up; we see it as a huge opportunity.
[We are also] building on taking the journey to unified collaboration. A lot of customers have swapped out their traditional PBX stuff for IP voice. But a lot of those have not made the same journey into collaboration. A lot of people have [already] invested in some of the infrastructure.
Is UCS predominantly a mid-market play?
I certainly would not say it is restricted to a mid-market play. A lot of the big enterprises will end up adopting it.
What do you make of Cisco's recent structural changes?
Cisco is going back to its core business – going back to the bread and butter – renewing focus on what made it, and us, successful for a long time. By its own admission, it diluted and went into a few areas that were not its core business. We are backing the market leader in Cisco. It has been proven over the last 15 or 16 years.
Have you any plans to diversify your vendor portfolio?
Suffice to say, I see no reason at all [why we should]. Cisco has had a little blip, but it has reshaped itself, refocused, and it only proves it has good awareness of what it needs to do. As one of its premium partners, we are right behind it.
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