One of the attractions of providing a facilities management service is that, in theory, you can reuse existing resources, such as products, staff and market awareness, to create a completely new business. The risks associated with entering this new business will therefore be relatively low, and the rewards potentially great: it all depends on whether these existing resources are redeployed and repackaged well enough to convince prospective clients that they are getting something more for the additional money they will be paying.
Jean-Paul Lale, in charge of Trend Datalink’s recently formed facilities management division, freely accepts this, and and firmly believes that Trend does indeed have the products,staff, and market awareness needed to be successful in this area. Trend was acquired by Telemetrix Plc last August (CI No 1,251), and the restructuring that followed saw the formation of four separate Trend entities: Trend Networks, Test, Data Products and Facilities Management. Lale stresses that his division will not be looking to provide facilities management in the area of data processing – that is, the provision of mainframes, minicomputers and software – but, using the products and services that already exist within Trend, will be aiming to take over the management of an organisation’s communications network facilities. One of Trend’s main spurs for moving into this field was the discovery that many of its customers needed more than just the product and after-sales support: the number of phone calls from bewildered users with a variety of problems concerning the running of all aspects of the network convinced Trend that it was more a question of supporting the customer than supporting the products, and that taking the hassle of running a network away from the customer could be very lucrative. And if Trend could get in right from the start by offering consultancy to an organisation with either an expanding network or no network at all, take that customer through the installation and running of the network and then offer facilities management, so much the better.
Typically, however, Trend’s customers will be using some form of network already, and for the push into facilities management, Trend has started contacting users of its own vendor-independent Panman network management system, which enables non-technical users to monitor and receive information on multi-vendor networks from a central location; indeed, Panman is really the key to the facilities management side of the operation. But Lale is particularly excited by the potential in offering the complete networking service to a new or expanding user of networks. For Lale, such a project would begin and end with consultancy. Trend would start by advising a company on what kind of network it needed, or what kind of improvements it could make to an existing one. –
By Mark John
Naturally, if appropriate, Lale would certainly offer Trend’s own range of communications equipment, including a range of in-house developed testing instruments as well products to which it has the distribution rights – such as the David ExpressNet local area network equipment launched at Networks ’90 lastzmonth. But Lale reckons that part of Trend’s appeal will be that it is not perceived as a product maker, and therefore has no axe to grind as far as products are concerned. The consultancy stage would lead through project management and commissioning to the installation of the network itself. After this, a number of possibilities exist. Trend could offer such services to the user as network configuration management or inventory management, where a database would record the serial numbers and status of network equipment in the company. On top of this, a service and repair contract could be signed calling on Trend’s 25 field engineers over the UK. But what Lale envisages as the most attractive area for Trend, and the one it is intent on moving towards, is the total management and servicing of the network. Ideally, this would involve using Panman to manage the network e
ither on-site or remotely, while taking over the maintenance of all of the network equipment from other suppliers. Lale admits that in practice this is quite tricky to do, because it requires back-to-back agreements to be signed with these suppliers, but given the right conditions Lale believes that the customer can put pressure on its suppliers to enter into such an agreement with Trend on its behalf, and that many smaller equipment suppliers would find such agreements attractive anyway. With Trend managing and servicing the network, the next and final step would be statistics generation: this effectively closes the facilities management loop by handing back network control to the customer in the form of reports that can be used to make wide decisions on the effectiveness and optimisation of the whole network.
Trend’s facilities management services are particularly aimed at small to medium-sized firms with little expertise in networking, as well as multinationals that need a network for their UK arm but don’t have a strong data processing team in the UK; organisations with offices spread over the UK, such as travel agents and car rental firms, are also targeted. Lale reckons that the UK market for pure communications facilities management is worth around UKP10m a year, and that Trend will be competing with much larger companies such as Case and Racal for custom. Here though, he is convinced that the comparatively small size of Trend will act in its favour – people like the personal touch thing. But the main question is that of convincing the potential customer that it is safe to hand over the running of his network – and hence the running of a significant part of its business – to an outsider. Here, on-going contracts with the Department of Trade & Industry to provide a nationwide X25-based network linking job centres and with the Telepoint consortium BYPS Communications, for whom Trend is providing a network management system, suggest that Trend is already relatively skilled in the art of persuasion.