Westcon-Comstor: Creating productivity from mobility

Bringing technology solutions to end users

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Westcon-Comstor Southern Africa is a part of the WestconGroup, which was founded in 1985 as a value-added technology distributor of category-leading solutions in the areas of security, collaboration, networking, data centre and the cloud.

“The Westcon-Comstor group has teams in 70 countries who work exclusively through our reseller partners to bring technology solutions to end users via our distribution model. In effect, then, we are a core component of the technology supply chain through which customers can access leading technology brand names, regardless of their location,” explains CEO Paul Conradie.

Westcon-Comstor has global offices on six continents and customers in more than 100 countries, and they are all supported by more than 22 logistics and staging facilities. The parent company is headquartered in Tarrytown, New York in the United States and posts US$4.35-billion in revenues.

“Our vendor relationships are established and, frankly, quite impressive,” says Conradie.  “Our local portfolio in Southern Africa includes in excess of 56 vendors representing the areas of cloud, data centre, networking, security, unified communications and collaboration, mobility, consumer and services solutions.”

The company offers multiple networking solutions and products, spanning everything from enterprise-class Cisco solutions to home WiFi solutions via partners such as Ruckus. Conradie explains that networking is by no means the only facet of the business.

“Our Cloud Solutions business practice, for example, is especially significant. Not only does it provide cloud technologies and solutions, including the full range of Microsoft and Adobe technologies, but it also acts as a business enablement partner for reseller clients who are looking to expand their business to include the delivery of cloud offerings to what is a fast-growing market.”

The Westcon-Comstor services offerings are underpinned by four pillars - deploy, manage, support and design.

“Within this context, deploy refers to the professional services and post-sales services we offer our partners; manage to the health checks, post-sales support, and training academy access we give them; support to the vendor-attached services, backup stock, and service support we provide; and, finally, design to the access we give partners to pre-sales skills that help them design IT systems for their clients. Additionally, we offer backup stock facilities, managed services and the use of our own training facilities,” says Conradie.

The Mobility Solutions practice provides mobile computing solutions for field workers, supply chain, transport, manufacturing and even retail environments. The Security Practice in turn offers both data / network as well as physical security solutions to help customers protect their data assets, enterprise systems, and their physical premises.

On the Unified Communications and Collaboration front, Westcon-Comstor provides a series of WiFi offerings, communications solutions, video conferencing offerings, uninterrupted power supply products and even computing components.

“Locally we also have a Consumer Solutions portfolio, which is unique to our region. This team assists technology retail customers to secure software solutions like Microsoft, hardware accessories, gaming consoles and games (Xbox), along with a myriad other retail- and SOHO-centric technologies,” says Conradie.

“If you look at our complete range of products and solutions, you can reasonably describe us as a one-stop shop for a customer’s computing needs. Whether that’s an enterprise customer, a small- to medium-sized business, home office or even the consumer.”

Conradie explains that all of these offerings are in turn supported by their services division which, through its training academy, pre- and post-sales support and technical teams, is able to act as an extension of customers’ own teams while also transferring to those customers the knowledge they need to successfully deliver the technologies themselves.

“Our customers are resellers, which is to say that our model is indirect, so we never approach the end-user directly. Currently, our customer base includes some of the biggest technology systems integrators, the majority of known retail IT outlets, smaller service providers, and technology integrators,’ he says.

“Our customers are more partners than customers – and we refer to them as such – and they are deemed to be some of the best in their fields. They work hard to acquire the mandatory certifications needed to provide many of the technology solutions we offer.”

Westcon-Comstor support their reseller partners extensively and completely, with support programs that range from services to training and all the way through to marketing. In instances where a partner does not have the internal resources to support a project, the company can provide them with these resources to act as an extension of their own teams.

“Our staging facilities will help prebuild and test equipment and with setting up solutions before ‘shipping’ them off to a client. We also offer back-up stock facilities as well as a host of logistics support facilities,” explains Conradie.

“It’s all about partnership. If a partner has the appetite for growth and they turn to us for help – we will do whatever we can to facilitate this growth. Ultimately, our success as a business comes as a direct result of our partners’ success, so it is incumbent upon us to ensure that they thrive and grow. It is our stated vision to be a ‘value-added’ distributor. Now, I fully appreciate that ‘value-added’ is an over-used term in our industry, but it’s a vision we don’t merely pay lip service to.”

What separates Westcon-Comstor from others in their field is their passion for technology and product expertise. Conradie explains that merely putting product on their shelves and picking it off for customers as they need it is not a business that they can be passionate about.

“If we did that then we might as well limit ourselves to warehouse locations, set retail hours and provide our customers with shopping carts,” he says. “We don’t just want to put the technology in customers’ hands, we are committed to ensuring they get the right technology, understand it and are able to use it in such a manner as to extract the most use and value possible from that technology.

“Our passion lies in securing, growing and fostering partnerships with the world’s leading IT vendors. This includes finding - and, in some instances, even unearthing - and then supporting new technologies we believe will have an impact on the way in which we see business working in the future. We’re driven by the need to stay ahead of technology trends and to make absolutely certain to keep our resellers abreast of these trends, so that they in turn can stay one step ahead of their competitors.”

In terms of the company’s future goals, there will be a focus on expansion and new technological opportunities. As there is a lot of movement by local resellers who want to expand into Africa, Westcon-Comstor aim to work towards having the infrastructure on the ground in order to effectively service and support their customers’ expansion on the continent.

“In IT we are continually on the cusp of innovation. That’s an exciting place to be and it’s an exciting industry, but it’s also a tough industry. To succeed you must partner with the right vendors, recruit the right partners and work relentlessly to deliver on your promises,” explains Conradie.

“IT is also an exceptionally competitive industry, so at no point can you ever rest on your laurels nor work only within your box. You must constantly innovate and move quickly. It is for this reason that I believe we are in an enviable position as Westcon-Comstor, because we have the support of the global WestconGroup, a parent company that is constantly aiming to do just that and ensuring that it filters down very quickly to all of its operations.”

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