"It's a completely new Compaq." So says Paul Brandling, the eight-year Q veteran anointed to replace the controversial, elusive, long-serving and now gone Ian Penman as the managing director of Compaq South Pacific.
Speaking to ARN for the first time since stepping up to the plate a few weeks ago, Brandling was the bearer of some strong third-quarter results for the company, which is desperately trying to shed its image as merely a vendor of PCs.
The public perception, or branding, of Compaq was a soapbox Brandling's predecessor climbed on regularly in his last months at the helm. Penman's replacement appears determined to carry on evangelising.
Brandling said he has no doubts the internal integration challenge of getting all staff to understand the "big picture" of Compaq as a services and solutions company has been "done and busted".
However, he agreed the image held externally by Compaq's enterprise customer community as being more than just a PC company needs more focus. A multimedia advertising campaign kicked off across Australia in recent weeks, he said.
"Personally, I think we have done a poor job of our branding," Brandling said. "We squeaked like a mouse when we should have been roaring like a lion."
The good news for the channel is that Compaq's new local head says he knows you well and understands your tribulations. Brandling said he had been working in the channel side of Compaq's business for the last eight years. This, he claims, gives him a firm grasp of the business and competitive issues facing channel partners as well as the importance of partnering to deliver complete solutions.
"The philosophy I want to drive is that we can't go it alone," Brandling said. "We need an inclusive [channel] program to map out what value is being added and how we can best utilise that value to mutual benefit."
Brandling conceded there are still major challenges for Compaq in its channel structure, branding perception and maintaining growth of PC sales. He did see these as being surmountable though.
"Our opportunity and challenge is in some way the same thing," he said "And that is anticipating what is going to happen in the market in the future so we can be proactive rather than reactive."
"Compaq's vision is Everything the Internet'. Today, that means all the things we understand about [the Net's] personal uses. In the future, when we see broadband and wireless come together, we are then into the pervasive information era and that creates a whole range of potentially different dynamics and new business methodologies."
"We want to understand and anticipate those changes and work with our partners to make sure we are well positioned with solutions ahead of the pack and not chasing it."
Brandling also said channel partners are facing the same challenges and opportunities as vendors and that those who can differentiate, adapt and focus will shine while anybody who wants to sit on a box-shifting model "cannot survive".
"It comes down to the same principle and that is understanding what their real core competencies are and where they can add value, not only today, but in the way they shape their business for tomorrow," he said.
Brandling said there are two key elements to this. "One is the ability of all organisations to partner and the other is the ability to be really crisp about what they want their business to be good at in the value proposition equation. That is their opportunity and their challenge."
While he wouldn't go as far as to say there is definitely further consolidation in the offing for Compaq's distribution, partner and reseller channels, Brandling did say the industry is at yet another turning point in history. Keeping track of the maze is all about being able to adapt, focus and partner, he said.
"At different points in the last seven or eight years, the question of the channel's future has come up," he said. "I would go back to principles here and say there is a very strong role for the channel participating in a much bigger pie in the future.
"The exact shape of that is yet to be determined. It continues to evolve very quickly."