In search of 3Com Canada

After a series of major cutbacks at 3Com Canada, the company faces the challenge of winning back the enterprise market and improving local support, sources say.

Two years ago 3Com Canada went from being one of the most ubiquitous vendors

in the market — with then president Nick Tidd making regular appearances in the media and industry events — to an organization whose Canadian Web site offers little more than directions to the office locations.

“Marketing support is down dramatically from two to three years ago when 3Com was more prominent at Canadian trade shows and channel events,” a source close to 3Com said.

The source also said key people left in Canada believe there’s an opportunity to better compete with rival vendor Cisco. “Fighting the 800-pound gorilla is tough compared to (Cisco’s) marketing clout and spend,” the source said.

Asked if 3Com has cut back its marketing budget, Tidd, now vice-president of North American channel sales and compliance, said: “I’m kind of stunned that people would still feel that way.”

Ray Gonsalves, director of product marketing at Tech Data Canada, said while 3Com continues to invest in the distributor’s marketing initiatives such as training, it is a less prominent event sponsor than before.

“We see (3Com) less in sponsorship-type activities,” said Gonsalves. “(3Com) is present there, but at a different level. It’s really more the sponsorship levels as opposed to not being present at all.”

But competing broadline distributor Ingram Micro Canada also said it hasn’t seen a decline in 3Com’s participation in its programs. 3Com, for example, is currently taking part in Ingram’s program whereby a vendor commits to work with the distributor on an annual basis in a set number of programs.

“We’ve seen 3Com step up to do some things outside of the standard programs they do with us,” said Anthony Francescucci, senior director of product marketing at Ingram Micro Canada.

3Com has participated in vendor fairs in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary and will be involved with a Voice over-IP program this coming fall, added Francescucci.

At the time of the layoffs last year — which saw ex-country manager Bruce Comeau laid off less than six months after his appointment — 3Com issued a statement that said the company would maintain a presence here with “specialists” to support distributors and resellers. In the last five months, 3Com has added an additional five channel reps in Canada. It has also launched a channel program that offers partners direct market development funds.

“We have invested in product-specific rebate programs whereby we’re working with partners to offset their investments primarily around security and voice,” said Tidd.

3Com will also be rolling out a major branding initiative that will include advertising in mainstream business and print publications, Tidd added.

A Toronto-based reseller said he hasn’t seen any significant changes in terms of support since last year.

“As long as there’s enough support for you to get your job done and keep your customers happy, sometimes it’s better not to have too many people up here,” said Patrick Power, managing partner, sales and marketing, at OAM Computer Group. “(3Com) is a channel company. Everything they do goes through the channel.”

Power, however, added he’s concerned about the state of 3Com’s enterprise business, given that its strength on the voice side remains its MBX product line, which caters to small and medium-sized businesses.

To attract more enterprise-level customers, 3Com has been integrating security features into its switches. 3Com is also banking on new security products from companies like TippingPoint, which it bought for $430 million last December, to get it back into the enterprise market.

Ronald Gruia, enterprise communications program leader at research firm Frost & Sullivan Canada Inc., said 3Com was an early leader in IP PBX technologies but eventually reached a plateau.

“(3Com) didn’t have any way to attack the enterprise market,” said Gruia. “Scaling a product down from a technical standpoint is easier than scaling up.”


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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