With Cliff Fox, Group COO of pure technology group
The pure technology group (PTG) is a leading provider of ICT services and solutions to SMEs, corporates and the public sector, operating from two locations in Leeds and Wakefield.
PTG has grown from a standing start to a £27.8 million business in 11 years and is part-way through a strategic plan to grow further through a combination of organic growth and acquisitions. It bought Servatech Ltd a couple of years ago and is now looking to extend its geographic reach by acquiring businesses in Lancashire and London.
It has a diverse IT portfolio with a strong emphasis on cloud services and traditional IT provision, supplemented with innovation in new technologies like Internet of Things and augmented and virtual reality.
Technology Reseller (TR): How’s business? Better or worse than 12 months ago? And how confident are you about the future?
Cliff Fox (CF): Business is brilliant; we’ve just recorded our largest year of organic growth in Group history, a significant uplift from last year (see page 16). In terms of the future, it looks very bright. We’re in the third year of our three-year strategy and are exceeding expectations. Despite Brexit and economic uncertainty, our commercial performance is very buoyant.
TR: In what areas are you experiencing strongest demand?
CF: Services is definitely an area that has increased considerably over the last 12 months – particularly certain strands within our purecloud portfolio. The strongest growth is in Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), customising the cloud to specific customer requirements with a vendor-agnostic approach and a great deal of skill.
TR: Where is business proving most difficult?
CF: We’re committed to innovation and we’ve been working hard for the last 6 to 8 months on pureVR (augmented and virtual reality) and pureIoT (Internet of Things). New tech is always hard, especially when it involves cutting-edge products or services that aren’t yet mainstream or productised. IoT has probably been the most challenging in terms of discovering how component devices and services fit together, or not. And it’s more complex as you’re working with a plethora of partners.
We are, however, committed to launching pureVR next month (November 2018) and pureIoT in 2019.
TR: How have you changed/are you changing business operations to exploit new opportunities?
CF: One theme within our strategy is ‘develop’, and in 2016 we created a big programme of change under that banner. I’m pleased to say that a couple of years on it is largely complete, but you can never stand still – you continually have to seek improvement, which we do.
TR: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing channel businesses today?
CF: Our biggest asset is also our biggest challenge – people. The UK’s IT skills shortage is a fact, and we work hard to attract, retain and develop our people, as they are absolutely vital to our success.
TR: Could vendors and distributors do more to help you overcome key business challenges? And, if so, what?
CF: Always, but they have limitations. Traditionally distributors operate on high volume with conservative margins, so they can’t do everything an individual partner may want. We recognise that, so one of the areas we’ve developed in the last 18 months is our channel vendor management. That’s really about communication and recognising mutual limitations to maximise relationships.
TR: Are customers becoming more demanding, and, if so, in what ways?
CF: I think there’s more choice, so from a customer perspective that’s good. Then again, with people doing a lot of the same sort of thing, it can be hard for customers to recognise best value. Customers have always been demanding and rightly so.
TR: If you could change one aspect of your job, what would it be and why?
CF: That’s a difficult one. I guess we all want utopia, but if there’s one thing I’d really wish for, it would be to have more people like the ones I’m privileged to work alongside right now.