Siemens' telephony arm starts anew

The Australian enterprise telephony division of global technology giant Siemens AG is hoping for a fresh start as it tries to put a troubled past behind it. The division -- now rebadged as Siemens Enterprise Networks Australia (SENA) -- has followed in the October 2006 footsteps of its global parent Siemens Enterprise Communications (SEC) and over the past few months become a separate legal entity from the rest of Siemens' operation Down Under.

The Australian enterprise telephony division of global technology giant Siemens AG is hoping for a fresh start as it tries to put a troubled past behind it.

The division -- now rebadged as Siemens Enterprise Networks Australia (SENA) -- has followed in the October 2006 footsteps of its global parent Siemens Enterprise Communications (SEC) and over the past few months become a separate legal entity from the rest of Siemens' operation Down Under.

Speaking with reporters in Sydney today, SENA's new Australian general Mario Vecchio -- who joined the company in October last year in the wake of the global separation -- acknowledged his group had had a troubled past in Australia.

He said SEC was the second-largest enterprise telephony vendor in Europe, and number three globally. However, in Australia the company is currently languishing with just 5 percent market share behind competitors such as NEC, Ericsson, Nortel and Cisco. This was despite Siemens historically having what Vecchio described as a large install base of Australian enterprise telephony customers.

To address these problems, SENA has recently moved from a direct sales model to a distribution model, appointing IPL Communications as its distributor to small and medium enterprises, and strengthening an existing relationship with telco and integrator Commander for the high-level corporate and government market.

In the process, SENA has cut its local headcount down from 24 staff to just 10, although Vecchio claimed all of those departing had been re-allocated to jobs with the company's partners, or the larger Siemens AG organisation.

Commander has bulked up its sales and support staff focused on Siemens work, and taken third-level support responsibilities back from SEC's global workforce. Commander has done level one and two support work for SENA since early this decade.

With the moves under his belt, Vecchio said all of his remaining staff were completely focused on customers. The company now has a local goal of hitting 15 percent market share within the next two years.

Vecchio said SENA had a number of large customers who were local divisions of large multinationals (particularly European companies), as well as strengths in the health and education verticals.

View from a partner
One executive who also provided a view this morning of SENA's recent Australian history was Commander's group general manager of its Enterprise division, Steve Evans.

"As Mario said, they're number two in Europe and number three worldwide. Here in Australia their market share was very restricted, because we didn't have access to all of the same products that were available worldwide," Evans told reporters.

"So we were stuck almost in a technology void from a Siemens perspective."

"As a result of the lack of technology roadmap, we didn't promote Siemens as aggressively as we should have, and Siemens didn't promote themselves as aggressively as they should have; therefore, there was a lack of mindshare," the Commander executive said. "There were organisations going out to market for a PABX solution, or a telephony integrated call centre solution, that probably wouldn't have had Commander, nor Siemens, in the top three of a tender."

Evans added the previous multi-tiered support structure -- where Commander escalated level three support problems to Siemens' locally, in the UK or at the global company headquarters in Germany -- had got in the way of the need to provide timely support to customers.

The executive said there had been "an acute shortage" of technical resources to provide pre- and post-sales support to Siemens products.

Despite all of this, Evans said Commander's relationship with Siemens was still "very successful" because of the German vendor's large and committed install base, and the fact that a lot of international companies have standardised on Siemens kit.

Looking to the future, Evans said Commander now had a roadmap for SEC's entire range, and could extend the life of a lot of hardware currently being used by Australian customers. The integrator now had a much closer level of contact with Siemen's global laboratories in Germany.

Because Commander has now taken on third-level support for SEC products, Evans said his group could now solve most problems in-country, without the need to escalate support internationally.

And SEC's new technologies -- such as call centre, VoIP and presence solutions -- could now start to flow into Australia in a bigger way.

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