In our first interview with John Whitty since his appointment as CEO 18-months ago at reseller Solar Communications we look at the changes he has implemented in terms of company direction, strategy and structure.
Comms Business Magazine (CBM): What was top of the to do list when you walked through the door at Solar and how has that task progressed?
John Whitty (JW): The job at hand was to transform the business from being a PBX reseller making one-off sales in to a modern managed service operation fit to compete in today’s market. PBX sales were going very well but they did not represent the future for the business and so
I have built a new team and structure capable of delivering on that vision.
A key appointment has been Sean Lowry who joined us from GCI as CTO. Sean has defined our IT strategy and completely changed out our back-office systems so that today I can say that from quote to billing, and everything in between in the supply cycle, is now managed and measured by ConnectWise, the professional services business automation application favoured by technical firms.
Solar has also become more acquisitive to achieve its goals and to illustrate the power of our business automation system following our acquisition of Denwa on 15 December 2016 we had completed the entire company integration process by 31 January 2017.
Further hires were Andrew Marshall as CFO from Azzurri, Sales Director Will Kennedy from InterCity and Operations Director Paul Caesar from GCI. This means that today Solar has the right team in place to deliver our objectives and grow the business.
CBM: How has your product portfolio changed as a result?
JW: Providers of cloud based applications and managed services can best differentiate their offering through service and maintenance excellence and we have chosen our vendors on the basis that their products integrate and work with each other.
Solar has therefore re-calibrated its Service Desk by adopting the ITIL standard and gained the ISO/IEC 20000 accreditation which lays out a specification for a service management system (SMS). This ensures we meet our SLAs and align with our ConnectWise business automation system to provide trend analysis reporting.
Our three key suppliers are TalkTalk for SIP and connectivity and for UCaaS solutions we are working with ShoreTel and Mitel.
In addition, and following our acquisition of RDC in June 2016, we have entered the more disruptive SD-WAN market where we are working with Gartner Magic Quadrant vendor Silver-Peak and have become a Gold Partner for Pure Storage, the US based enterprise flash storage supplier with both cloud and on-site solutions.
The net result has been an increase in the size of the deals we are winning and an increase in the size of the customers we are gaining.
CBM: How has this impacted the composition of your sales team and what further changes will we see this year?
JW: We knew that these changes would challenge the way our services were be provided and as part of the company transformation we had to recruit experienced managed services sales people.
In April this year we revealed a new ‘Disruptive Technical Team’ dedicated to technologies that are set to transform the way organisations communicate.
Jason Evans, who joined the business following last year’s acquisition of RDC, has been appointed Director of Disruptive Technology and he will oversee a dedicated team of seven within the organisation, as well as the extended capabilities of the rest of the business.
The team is tasked with helping adoption of leading edge disruptive tech within the UK business mid-market where we have some 2000 existing customers. Our SD-WAN solution offers ‘better than private line’ security over internet bandwidth whilst delivering a more agile and resilient cost effective connectivity.
Looking ahead, Solar has been developing applications on Skype and will announce in June a unique enterprise voice breakout set of features for use on existing user PBX systems.
I first took the M4 to Chippenham to visit Solar many years ago and found there a highly capable and successful PBX system reseller keen to expand in to the mid-market arena. Outside of the US the company has remained ShoreTel’s largest partner by some margin and the vendors’ entrance in to the cloud based solutions market has been timely for the UK reseller. Mitel had been added to their portfolio following Solar’s acquisition of Armstrong Communications. Coming right up to date, John Whitty clearly has a vision for the future of Solar and is already well down the road to realising his goals.