Earlier this month, Toshiba revealed its FY16 strategy for the European business PC market, announcing a strong commitment to the market with a particular focus on supporting the mid-size and corporate space. At a time when many are forecasting difficult times within the business PC market, Toshiba’s confidence and ambitions for growth are refreshing to see.
We caught up with Neil Bramley, B2B PC Business Unit Director at Toshiba Europe, to discuss the company’s plans in more-depth, as well as where he sees the main opportunities for vendors and their partners as they look to thrive in today’s competitive market and expand into wider ICT areas such as IoT and the cloud.
ITPP: Toshiba recently announced its FY16 strategy for the European business PC market. Can you explain what objectives this underlines and how Toshiba plans to meet them?
NB: Our announcement lays out our end-user, partner and product strategies, which are all designed to underline Toshiba’s long-term commitment to the European business PC market.
We have full confidence in the market, and expect to achieve double digit growth in the mid-size and corporate sectors in FY16 by continuing our focus on these areas while driving high levels of engagement and support for our partners and customers.
Our increased focus on end-user engagement will be fundamentally important, and so three-quarters of our sales teams in Europe are now dedicated to this. We also launched a pan-European call centre last year as a way of further facilitating this two-way, more direct communication. These conversations are helping us to understand the emerging challenges that businesses are facing. Such insights are helping to inform our research and development, which is entirely in-house and are in turn helping to create compelling new business opportunities for our channel partners.
Beyond the mid-size and corporate sector, we’re also continuing to invest and support our well-established presence within government, higher education and the wider public sector such as health, while also expanding the geographic remit our European division which now encompasses the Middle East and Africa. We’re confident that through a combination of these strategies and our industry-leading product range, we can achieve our ambitions for the financial year.
ITPP: Can you give an overview of the progress Toshiba made in FY15 to get to the point it is now at – what building blocks did the company put in place to prepare for 2016?
NB: Our strategy last year was about refocusing and ensuring we put ourselves in the best possible position to thrive within what is an ultra-competitive industry. An important strategic point was our decision to shift our primary focus towards the mid-market, corporate and government space – around which our future plans are centred.
We’re confident that we are in an extremely strong position to support the evolving demands of today’s business environments, offering a dedicated range of innovative solutions to our customers. We took a deliberate step to forge closer relationships with end-users, which has enabled us to truly understand their business IT needs and build these insights into our own product development even further. For example, as a part of this, we have taken our entire design and manufacturing process in-house even down to our own BIOS, with complete control in this area enabling us to provide unrivalled functionality and removing any risk of third-party interference for enhanced security.
ITPP: You have spoken about getting closer to your customers but, as a channel-only vendor, how do you plan to this without isolating your partners, and still support their own business growth?
NB: We have always been a channel-centric business and our commitment to our partners remains as strong as ever. Increasing our levels of direct engagement with end-users is a focus which is intended to benefit our partners too because we now have an even deeper understanding of businesses’ requirements across a wide range of sectors. This enables us to introduce both solutions and initiatives which attract more customers to our partner base.
We sell exclusively through the channel, and given the levels of technological innovation and the way in which businesses continue to evolve their use of IT, the relationships we have with our partners are more important than ever. This is why we also have plans to expand our network to bring specialist resellers on board which can offer expertise in specific areas, maximising opportunities in growing areas such as IoT and cloud – something that will become even more valuable as we continue to bring solutions such as Toshiba Mobile Zero Client to market.
ITPP: The company is clearly confident about the year ahead, but with analysts continuing to predict that the PC market will remain rocky, where do you see the main opportunities for vendors and their partners?
NB: We believe that vendors and partners can still generate significant revenue within the PC market. As companies try to adapt to changing working behaviours – for example with the rise of mobile and flexible working – they need to ensure their hardware meets the increased demands this brings, most notably in terms of connectivity, mobility and security. The device is the starting-point for any IT strategy, serving as the gateway to the data and apps employees need. Ensuring the product range meets these demands is essential, but beyond this, many companies are seeking guidance and consultation on how to integrate such solutions into their infrastructure, and further still, how they can future-proof their IT in what is a rapidly evolving landscape. Vendors and their partners can add additional value by ensuring their services and support cater to these evolving demands. This is again an area in which our closer relations with end-users will enable us to stay ahead of the curve, anticipating needs in advance and shifting our plans accordingly.
ITPP: Looking outside of the PC market itself, and towards the wider ICT market, do you see any areas of potentially substantial growth upon which vendors can capitalise?
NB: We believe that there is significant opportunity within the wider ICT market, with cloud and wider Internet of Things sphere certainly being two of the main areas where we anticipate major growth – and at scale. It is important that vendors continue to expand their product range in accordance with this and, again, this is where our focus on understanding client needs is extremely important – their insight is central to our research and development, and product roadmap.
All new solutions need to be targeted and tailored to where there are outstanding requirements within the market – if vendors can identify and align with these areas then there are certainly growth opportunities. Such an approach, for example, played an important part in the launch of our new Toshiba Mobile Zero Client, the first mobile zero client solution based on standard laptops that enables companies to perform all IT-based tasks with all data stored away from a set device. IT teams today need unparalleled levels of security and manageability, without hindering the functionality and mobility of products, and we believe solutions such as Toshiba Mobile Zero Client provide this.
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