Harris hits the Feds

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Coles-Myer-owned reseller Harris Technology (HT) has initiated a multi-million dollar national expansion plan, starting with a new Canberra office, in a move aimed at attackng the dominance of its fiercest competitor, Dell Computer.

Over the next six months, the Canberra office - which opened last week - will employ up to 20 staff and target the Federal Government market, an area where Harris has had limited success.

David Foster, managing director at Harris Technology, said the Canberra office is a spearhead to get more share of the Federal Government's IT spending.

Previously, former HT boss Ron Harris indicated that the company would hit this market 12 months ago, on the back of work it was doing with the Optus Marketsite and corProcure (now owned by Australia Post) e-marketplaces, which have somewhat fizzled out since then.

Today, around 30 percent of Harris' national business is being generated by corporate and government sales. Harris has picked up small pieces of business with the Department of Defence and the Attorney-General's Department. Corporate and government sales could equate to around 50 percent of Harris' business over the next 12 months. Harris picked up ex-CSC staffer Peter Campbell for the Canberra office earlier this month.

'What we're aiming to get is a larger share of their wallets. I'd like all of it,' Campbell said. Foster claimed that Harris is already taking business away from Dell at the State, but not yet Federal, Government level.

"The focus is getting there and having the people on the ground. We've done a lot of pre-sales work [in Canberra]. We've done a lot of canvassing and we've got a lot of departments who will start ordering off us once we're physically there. We've got a lot to offer our vendor partners and they've indicated they wish to work with us."

Foster claimed Harris' model is 'better than Dell' mainly because supply lines are smoother and the company is Australian.

"Because of the financial strength of this company we carry reasonable stock levels and for our major customers, we buffer stock. Our [stock] turnarounds are very quick compared to Dell and we take out some of the pain of dealing with companies like IBM and HP," he said.

The Canberra office is selling a range of services including engineering support, SOE loads and disaster recovery services to Federal Government departments. The office is also the hub of Harris' own disaster recovery operation.

Phase one of Harris' national rollout was a business centre in Brisbane early last year. A Perth office is planned for mid-June followed by Adelaide, Tasmania and the Northern Territory during the next financial year.

"Outside that we'll have some other regional gap filling [centres] because small business likes to use the business centres," Foster said.

A Parramatta centre will also open in early July to attack more State Government deals. Harris will not chase outsourcing or managed services-type business, Foster said. It will, however, use its e-procurement infrastructure as a catalyst to woo government departments.

The company customised its original Commerce One interface to hook up to Mincom's AXIS product. "This enabled us to go out in any format we liked and we're finding more engagement with our corporate customers and we're talking to government customers," Foster said. "E-procurement is the biggest thing we've got to offer Federal Government. Our back-end systems are fully B2B compliant," he said. Currently NRMA uses Harris' e-procurement infrastructure for product orders.

Foster claimed that the Federal Government has not had 'solid value propositions' from local suppliers. "I think it's a lot of local suppliers' fault because you just can't stand back there and say you're a local supplier and expect to get business. Only the ones that work hard at it do very well," he said.

By the time the expansion is over, Harris would have hired up to 100 additional staff in the new centres, Foster said.

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