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HOME FEATURES › INTERVIEW: Jim Kent, CEO at Datapoint

INTERVIEW: Jim Kent, CEO at Datapoint

by Stuart Wilson, Wednesday 30 September 2009

Jim Kent is ready to make his mark as the newly installed CEO at business communications systems integrator Datapoint. With a wealth of IT services experience on his CV, Kent is ready to take a fresh approach to the provision of complex communications systems and call centre technologies. It promises to be a period of change for Datapoint as Kent settles into his new role. Channel EMEA caught up with Kent to find out more.

Prior to joining Datapoint, Kent was formerly chief executive of Vistorm and VP services for HP in the UK & Ireland. While at HP, Kent led the merger of HP and Compaq’s services business in the UK & Ireland. During his time at Vistorm, Kent helped the company carve out a reputation as a profitable services outfit specialized in information assurance and security. Vistorm was snapped up by services giant EDS in 2008.

Kent reckons that Datapoint is already in a strong position. “Datapoint has a fantastic reputation and has been in the market for some 40 years,” he said. “I first came across Datapoint in the late 1970s. There are a lot of talented services professionals within the organisation, but there is a lot of heavy lifting to be done. It’s an innovative and energetic team and my early work here has convinced me that there is a big opportunity.”

Unsurprisingly, services is one area where Kent reckons that Datapoint can sharpen its skills and strengthen its business. The company plans to offer a greater services-led communications systems integration portfolio and more than double services revenues and profitability within the next three years. 240-strong Datapoint is currently pulling in US$20m of services revenues on annual sales of approximately US$100m.

Kent expands on his services vision: “We want to double the services revenues and yes, predictive revenue is important. I believe that the comms sector can learn a lot from the IT sector in the domain of managed services. We will expand managed services and look at pay per user models. All designed to minimise client risk and maximise predictability. We can build on our platform as a support provider.”

“The second area is professional services provision – and not just from a design and build perspective. There is a lot that can be done around the implementation of new apps. These can be simple apps, not necessarily the complex unified stuff,” he added

“It’s no secret that the IT and comms channel and delivery models are becoming more similar. What hasn’t kept pace is the services capability on the comms side. In some respects, the comms sector has been slow to respond to customer needs,” continued Kent.

Cherishing partners

Datapoint’s relationships with vendor partners remain as important as ever. Kent is keen to strengthen relationships with Datapoint’s existing partners but is realistic enough to see the need for vendors and end-users to maintain some form of direct contact.

“We cherish our relationships with vendors,” said Kent. “But we also understand that clients want and need multi-vendor technologies and solutions. We have to integrate those different technologies in front of the customer. We plan to build customer-centric integration services and will give customers the opportunity to load and test apps before going live.”

“Vendors swing in and out of contact with the clients and end users. It’s not a vendor issue; it’s a service provider and integrator issue. There will always be some direct interaction in the vendor’s relationship with an end-user,” he explained.

“Our relationship with Avaya is long-standing and they are a huge part of our portfolio – as are Aspect and Genesys. As we move forward with Avaya we see the whole Nortel migration sector as a potential growth area for Datapoint. It’s not just about those three vendors for us; you have to look at the glue that holds it all together as well. All the application layers too,” Kent continued.

At the same time as Kent’s appointment, Datapoint also added Richard Wingfield as CFO. The two new recruits replaced Vim Vithaldas and Paul Lewis with immediate effect. Despite the inevitable uncertainty associated with a senior management overhaul, Kent reckons that Datapoint remains in good shape.

“The business has fared quite well under adverse conditions,” he said. “I have been given a mandate to expand the service revenues of the company and what comes with that is an enhancement of the skill sets within Datapoint. “

Kent is clear on both the challenges and opportunities facing Datapoint. “We want to cherish the relationships with existing vendors, keep them abreast of the changes occurring within Datapoint and show them that we are a strong partner,” he said.

“We will also look to expand the Datapoint integration centre and come up with a solutions set for customers that will launch in 2010 – a solutions portfolio and industry specific technologies. We want to get our business model in shape and fit for purpose with a new go to market focus in the enterprise integration space,” Kent added.

“Service business models, by their nature, evolve. We will cut people some slack on the implementation timeframes but by summer 2010 Datapoint will be a very different organisation to the one we see today,” promised Kent.

Datapoint is backed by Alchemy Investments, a major UK private equity investor led by managing partner Jon Moulton. According to Kent, Alchemy remains fully committed to the ongoing development of Datapoint.

“I’m sure there have been discussions about a potential exit strategy at some point, but I have a three to five year programme of work and change to undertake,” he concluded.


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