John Lewis culls managers to focus on online

axeJohn Lewis has become the latest company to wield the axe, announcing that it will be slashing 325 department manager jobs in a bid to focus more on its online growth.

The company, which was hailed by the government as a model of “responsible capitalism” for the whole economy, has made the decision to chop these jobs as it moves to focus on it its online offerings.

It has set up its Retail Revolution’ plan in a bid to ensure it stays ahead of the game and doesn’t end up in the same black administration hole as some of its competitors.

However, this won’t be any consolation to the staff who are set to lose their jobs, in the biggest cut made by the retailer since 2009 when it culled 700 call staff jobs.

Each John Lewis has about 10 department store managers looking after sections such as womenswear, beauty or furnishings. In a bid to cut costs John Lewis is planning to replace these with one or two more senior managers in 28 of its 40 stores.

They have given those in question a month to put their views and proposals forward as to why they should remain at the company before a  90-day constitution in March.

Last month the company hinted that online was where it wanted to be, appointing Mark Lewis as online director. It said at the time it hoped that Mark, who had previously been CEO at Collect+ and spent six years at eBay in roles including UK managing director and European marketplaces director, would continue the growth and development of its online business.

Ingram Micro posts “record” Q4 financials

IMIngram Micro announced a record quarterly financial for the last months of 2012, driven by its acquisition of BrightPoint and Aptec.

However, it was also this move that cost it money, with the company claiming that restructuring costs as a result of the purchase led a loss in profitability.

For the fourth quarter of 2012 the distie reported worldwide sales of $11.38 billion, a 14 percent rise from the $9.95 billion in the fourth quarter last year.

It said the recently completed acquisitions of BrightPoint and Aptec Holdings had helped contribute approximately $1 billion and $75 million, respectively, to the quarter’s revenues.

Worldwide gross profit also hit an all-time quarterly record of $661.2 million compared with $554.3 million in the same period of 2011.

However, the distie’s operational bottom line wasn’t as positive with the books showing that operating profit dropped by 4.7 percent  to $167.9 million.

The company said that this figure was as a result of it gobbling up BrightPoint and Aptec and the $8.6 million in restructuring and other acquisition-related costs.

However, this hasn’t caused the company concern with it predicting worldwide consolidated revenue growth in the low teens, for 2013, which includes the contribution of BrightPoint.

And analysts are also on the same track. Today the company was upgraded by Needham & Company from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating.

Avnet and TE Connectivity celebrate silver anniversary

lovebirdsThis Valentine’s, Avnet Electronics Marketing and TE Connectivity are today celebrating their silver anniversary.

The pair have announced they have been going steady for the past 25 years, where they have shown each other “commitment”, while TE described its other half as a “great partner”.

Over the past quarter of a decade, the duo claim to have helped many of their OEM customers, providing them with connectivity products paired with a distribution service

Ed Smith, president, Avnet Electronics Marketing Americas praised its partner, claiming that with its commitment to innovation, TE had “changed the way the world thinks about connectivity”.

He added that the industry had moved on from wanting just a single connector to a  “connectivity solution”, which would change the way they worked and Avnet’s partnership with TE meant that they could provide this.

TE was equally complimentary to its longterm partner, gushing how it couldn’t wait to spend more years together.

To celebrate, the pair have made charitable donation to the FIRST Robotics Competition. FIRST Robotics is a non-profit organisation, led by American innovator Dean Kamen, which seeks to inspire children and young adults to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and maths.

Raise your glasses.

Phoenix raises Manheim from ashes to cloud

mythical_phoenixUK hosting, cloud, business continuity and managed IT services outfit Phoenix has signed a multi-million pound deal to give automotive specialist Manheim’s IT systems a make-over.

Manheim is one of the world’s largest automotive firms and spends a fortune on IT for its business-to-business products and services.
Phoenix is going to consolidate Manheim’s IT infrastructure, multi-site hosting, backup and replication, management, monitoring and remote and onsite support for its European operations.

In addition Phoenix will provide deskside support, hardware support and warranty management as part of an on-going service.

Under the plan, a dedicated virtual platform will consolidate servers and services at a number of sites throughout the UK into the Phoenix data centre environment.

Jeremy Lewis, CIO from Manheim, said Phoenix had been used as a hosting partner since 1999.
He said that rather than continue with a disjointed approach using multiple sites and providers, Manheim thought it would be better to refreshing its IT environment and transferring it to the Phoenix data centre.

Lewis claimed that the one stop shop cloud approach would be the most cost-effective and efficient route. Since the project has been switched on, the company has found it a lot easier to manage.
Manheim said that the project allowed for 11 of its desktop support staff to transfer to Phoenix.

Nick Dean, Managed Services & Hosting Director at Phoenix said there were lots of companies like Manheim, which were outsourcing their IT infrastructure.

“It provides them with a cost-effective, secure and reliable platform, allowing total freedom while reducing complexity and risk. It allows customers to concentrate on what they do best, leaving us to do what we do best,” he said.

Taiwanese server makers take on traditional OEMs

server-racksThe server market has been dominated by the same players for years, but times are changing and Taiwanese outfits are aggressively entering the lucrative market.

Talking to EEtimes, Quanta cloud computing group general manager Mike Yang pointed out that Taiwanese companies are ramping up production of servers, switches and storage systems. The trend threatens to undermine the position of traditional OEMs.

“Traditional OEMs no longer have the advantage, we do,” said Yang. “The business model is changing and it provides us a very good opportunity.”

It could be said that Quanta entered the server market by accident. Five years ago it landed a sizeable contract from Facebook, which prompted the company to rethink its approach to the server market. Yang said the deal had a big impact on Quanta and it was quite surprising, as the company usually only provided precuts to OEMs.

But Facebook is not alone and Big Data is showing a lot of interest in Taiwan. Google and Microsoft also realised they could easily tap Taiwanese companies to build custom designed server suited for their needs. Two years after the Facebook deal, Korea Telecom also approached Quanta to build server racks.

“We asked them why they came to us, and they said they heard we were doing business with several of the biggest data centers in the world,” Yang said.

It did not take Quanta long to realise that it could cut out the middleman and sell its gear directly. Last year Quanta officially created its data centre group and it is pursuing the market more proactively. However, the company is playing both sides and it is still building servers for OEMs like  Dell and HP.

Quanta is not alone and one of its chief rivals is Wistron, a former arm of Acer that makes PCs for OEMs. Wistron is now getting orders for racks and last year it launched a spinoff called WiWynn to handle the data centre business and prevent possible conflicts of interest with OEM clients.

UK government’s building software plans stuffed up

urinalsResellers of Building Information Management (BIM) software packages say that the UK government is stuffing up the introduction of such software in the industry, by failing to make sure that the software is compatible.

When the government announced in May last year that BIM software would be made mandatory on all public sector building projects, resellers of the software started to rub their paws eagerly.

However, it turned out that the issue of compatibility in BIM software packages is delaying its wider use in the building services sector.

H&V news  quoted BIM reseller Mintronics’ John Minto, saying that the government’s BIM plans were “largely failing”.

NG Bailey Engineering principal mechanical engineering manager Will Pitt and Interserve Engineering Services head of business development Edward Halford have agreed that while  BIM was set to transform the design and delivery of buildings, the software was being scuppered by inter-operability problems.

Halford said that BIM software was sufficiently developed to allow multi-disciplinary co-ordination at early stages but the transfer of BIM information into a format suitable for manufacture and beyond is still tricky.

Some design and detailing required by the government cannot currently be handled by many of the BIM systems being used by architects and consultants.

Halford’s company recognised how some SMEs can struggle with BIM integration, due to cost, time and resource considerations, but some of it was to do with the lack of compatibility across various software packages, as well as the non-availability of supply chain components appear to be holding a number of small and medium-sized enterprises back.

He wanted more standardisation of software packages, improved compatibility, and better integrated technical libraries from manufacturers and suppliers.

To make matters worse, the use of level 2 BIM will become mandatory within public sector projects by 2016, before many have got the hang of level 1.

Insurance companies don’t know who their customers are

insuranceResellers trying to peddle insurance along with hardware packages might find themselves in hot water because the insurance industry has a problem identifying its customers.

Analyst outfit Ovum said that insurance companies are badly informed when it comes to working out who their customers are as the whole industry is getting turned on its head by new technology.

New research from the analysts highlights how the insurance sector is trying to adapt to new models of commerce and some are falling behind.

An Ovum spokesperson said that insurance is moving from a model where one-to-many messaging works, particularly in mass media, to a framework where consumers are gaining more power in the business transaction.

This means that insurance companies are designing packages which do not meet the needs of consumers and if they are being sold as part of a reseller, or warranty package, then it will the IT company that gets hit by the backlash.

Ovum believes that until insurers understand who the customer is, they will be unable to shape, deliver, and strengthen the experience each customer expects. It thinks that insurers, and those who are peddling it, must ensure that marketing is tailored to each individual customer as closely as possible.

Barry Rabkin, principal analyst, Insurance Technology warned that the insurance industry was headed towards a competitive myopia.

He said that customer experiences were becoming the basis of competition in the insurance industry and companies need to encompass customer needs, expectations, and satisfaction into their customer experience management (CEM) strategy.

Bad experiences were also more likely to be communicated thanks to the spread of mobile technology and users who are more informed and interconnected people who are seeking advice from each other.

If a reseller does not closely monitor their insurance packages to make sure they are what their customers think they are getting, it could be their brand that suffers. Customers are more likely to blame the company they bought the package from, before they moan about the insurance.

Resellers have to offer more personalised insurance packages rather than hoping that one size will fit all.

Insurers and the companies that repackage their products must quickly weave in the importance of customer experience into the company strategy at each touch point in order to succeed or fail to meet their expectations, Rabkin said.

Aussies are bush-ranging the European SEO market

ned kellyAfter Europe thought it had effectively transported them, it appears that the Australians have found a gap in the Search Engine Optimisation market in the EU and are coming back.

Nu Studio, which is based Perth, has made moves to expand his company into Ireland and it will be pushing into the UK market next.

But Founder Steve Deane said that he had no intention of going to Europe himself and would run the business using resellers on the ground.

It is not that difficult to run SEO businesses in the cloud and the outfit is setting up reseller arrangements in Ireland and the UK. Work is sent back to the team in Perth. While that only gives them four hours of business, thanks to time zone issues there is plenty of time to make important phone calls and sort out any issues, he said.

He admits that the Irish economic climate the greatest at the moment and is not hitting the headlines for any good reason, but the small business and start-up market is still pretty strong. It is that particular market which is of interest to his company.

Since Search Engine Optimisation is one of the most cost effective marketing options for start-ups it is an obvious choice for business owners, Deane said.

One of the things he is trying to establish is an operation which gets repeat business. At the moment the SEO industry is plagued by those who have a churn and burn attitude towards clients, he added.

Republic to join highstreet heaven in the sky?

onesie1Teens may have to look for their onesies elsewhere with news that Republic is teetering on the brink of administration.

The Leeds-based clothing chain, which caters for the youf market, is expected to call in Ernst & Young to deal with the administration, which could see around 1,000 jobs at risk and 120 empty stores.

It is thought that the company, which was bought by private equity firm TPG in 2010 for around £300 million, is struggling amidst competition from H&M and Primark, which offer clothes at cheaper prices.

It also hasn’t had the best few months. In January it admitted its profits had fallen 86 percent to £3.7 million, while in November TPG was forced to plough in a further £20 million.

Just last week its chairman Andy Bond quit as the company brought in KPMG to help it offload some of its stores.

If the rumours are true, then the retailer would join Jessops, HMV and Blockbuster in the great highstreet heaven in the sky

Copy machines pose unlikely security threat

copycatEvery office has them and although paperless offices are the new black, copy machines will probably be around for years to come. However, thousands of old copies stored on hard drives will also stick around.

Most copy machines built in the last decade have a hard drive and can store thousands of documents scanned, copied or emailed using the machine. Some hard drives are big enough to store 60,000 to 100,000 pages of data, so these benevolent dinosaurs are in fact massive security threats lurking in the corner, next to the water cooler.

Mobiles fell in 2012

mobyGlobal mobile phone sales declined in 2012 as a result of the economic climate and intense market competition Gartner has said.

In its latest report the analyst company said that 2012 mobile phone sales hit 1.75 billion units, a decline of 1.7 percent from 2011. And it was smartphones that bolstered this number with the fourth quarter of last year marking a record sale rate of 207.7 million units, up 38.3 percent from the same period last year.

The last time the worldwide mobile phone market declined was in 2009 and this year’s dismal results were as a result of tough economic conditions, shifting consumer preferences and intense market competition weakened the worldwide mobile phone market this year, the company said.

It added that feature phones were neglected with a 19.3 percent decline in 2012. And there was bad news for this sector with the company predicting that 2013 would continue to see a decline.

Smartphones were given a better future with the company claiming that sales of these would be close to one billion units in 2013, while overall mobile phone sales were estimated to reach 1.9 billion units.

And this market also bought in the bucks for manufacturers with Apple and Samsung both seeing their market shares in this sector rise. However, it was Samsung who had the last laugh ending up in first place for overall mobile and smartphone sales in 2012. Gartner said this was as a result of the company’s ability to build products based on broad needs.

But Samsung was warned that there could be trouble ahead with Gartner’s crystal ball predicting that competition would intensify in 2013 as players such as Sony and Nokia improved.

Huawei also had a good fourth quarter, helping it to take on third position for the first time  in the smartphone sales race. The company sold 27.2 million smartphones, up 73.8 percent from 2011, while its Ascend D2 and Mate models were tipped to drive further sales for 2013.

Nokia’s handset sales improved from a good response to its Asha mobile phones and the launch of the latest Lumia Windows Phone 8 models.

However, this wasn’t enough to stop Nokia to lose further market share, totalling 18 percent, the lowest it has ever been. In 2012, Nokia reached 39.3 million smartphone sales worldwide, down 53.6 percent from 2011.