IBM’s new PC exec seeks “white space” in customer set

Ayman Antoun has been the director of IBM Canada’s PC division for only a week, but he has already formulated a short-term and long-term plan to accelerate revenue growth in the much-maligned PC market.

According to Antoun, who left his post as IBM’s director of sales for Netfinity in the Americas, all his strategies fit into one quarter. His plan will focus heavily on tier-two resellers, building the beyond the box revenue opportunities in software and services and targeting what Antoun calls the “white space” or customers who are currently not doing business with IBM. Antoun recently replaced Andre Turgeon, who has moved up to become an advisor to IBM Canada president Ed Kilroy.

On his second day as PC director, Antoun was working with IBM Canada’s seven distributors on ways to make dealing with IBM more attractive and easier for resellers who focus on small business and very small business, he said.

“I have to re-engage with my tier-two business partners. Again, I don’t want to sound critical but we should have and could have done a much better job working with our tier two business partners,” Antoun said.

“We have not reached out successfully for them in the past for a number of reasons. We have made this a key part of our short-term strategy,” he added.

Antoun also believes there are between 14,000 to 15,000 customers in Canada that have not bought from IBM. If IBM were successful in capturing this white space opportunity it would put the PC division back on top.

“That is a big chunk in the market-place today that I am not doing business with,” Antoun said.

However, Antoun knows the market hasn’t rebounded. The Canadian PC market suffered its first-ever year-over-year decline in the second quarter of 2001, according to IDC Canada research.

“We are encouraged about the IDC results, despite what is going on in the industry we had a solid first half. But, one thing that was not too clear from the data is that while the volume is there, most of the vendors are struggling with the revenue side because of the price pressures in the business. We are all selling the volume but the revenue is not has high,” Antoun said.

One of the problems, the IDC report found, was something called “good enough” computing, where users find older systems are powerful enough to meet their needs making upgrading unnecessary.

Antoun agrees with the IDC report, saying there is a portion of IBM’s customer base that are reverting to “good enough computing” because of economics.

“The fact that the market shrunk in that regard, if you analyze it by segment, there are some that are growing. So go after revenue streams that you are not successful in today. As the industry slows down, in general, by going after a space that you have not grown in, that will help you sustain your growth,” Antoun said.

He added that, IBM must clearly define a value proposition for these customers.

“It is on us to show them why what they have will not allow them to capture new opportunities for their respective business.”

Antoun also wants to develop a new theme for IBM Canada’s PC division called Get More Success with IBM. Antoun said, this theme will give people more freedom with the company’s wireless capabilities; more peace of mind with its Web security solutions, more simplicity for small to medium-sized business that will enable them to transition from current technology to future technology; and more technology choices for different types of users.

“We will look at you from the kind of user you are. If you are this type of user we (will tailor) an offering for you,” he said.

More on IBM Canada’s PC director in the Sept. 14th edition of Computer Dealer News

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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