Nestled between the rivers of Missouri and Mississippi, in the suburbs of St. Louis, World Wide Technology (WWT) stands tall as a titan of industry in America.
Co-founded by David Steward and Jim Kavanaugh in 1990, the privately-held business - labelled by Forbes as ‘The Secret Tech Mecca In America’s Heartland’ - exceeds revenues of $11 billion, houses more than 5000 employees and counts over 70 per cent of Fortune 100 companies as customers.
From such humble beginnings almost three decades ago, WWT’s empire now extends beyond the mid-west to the Americas, EMEA and Asia Pacific.
Cutting through the International Date Line, more than 15,000km from St. Louis, Singapore acts as the epicentre of Asian operations, billed as a key growth region for the technology provider.
“Our expansion into Asia started from a focus on large complex technology projects,” recalled Matt Horner, senior vice president of Global Enterprise Sales, WWT. “Our enterprise customers have deployments across the world and because they find what we do attractive, they have allowed us the elasticity to expand into other parts of the world.
“Our methodology is centred around creating a boring predictability in terms of delivering the same levels of customer experience across the world. We’re conscious that customers expect the same quality of service in Asia as they do in the US.”
Asia represents a $700 million business for WWT, a sizeable return following 10 years of commitment and growth in Singapore and Hong Kong especially, complemented with rising ambitions in India, Japan and Australia.
Speaking to Channel Asia from regional headquarters in Singapore, Horner acknowledged that in the early days, US multinationals acted as “angel funding” in allowing the business to expand globally.
With solid foundations now in place, the provider is actively pursuing targeted accounts in Asia, striking a balance between local and global customers.
“We have a different approach in that we’re not asking customers to contractually bind themselves to WWT, they can walk away from the engagement at any given time,” Horner added. “We believe this approach drives the right behaviour and ensures we continually exceed expectations.
“If you look at the competitive landscape, whether it’s a consultancy firm such as Accenture, one of the large Indian outsourcers or a DXC-type business, they are looking to take a customer’s operations team, move them into their own organisation and contract them for a five-year period.
“This sounds good financially at the point of transaction but this approach stifles innovation and doesn’t allow businesses to be agile. They have to stick with that play for five years, even though technology is changing every six months.”
According to Horner, being “handcuffed” in this manner doesn’t reflect the ever-changing dynamics of the market today, a market favouring flexible consumption terms and quick-fire technology refreshes.
“IBM is still aggressive with this approach, they are very savvy financially and take over completely,” Horner cautioned. “But it’s a trap and generally, these types of agreements end early via legal means. Then the customer finds it’s behind the competition because it hasn’t been moving at the speed of innovation.”
In taking a wider view of the reseller ecosystem in Asia, and the rest of the world, Horner said some providers continue to “draft off” original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), barely hanging on to market growth through a “dying approach”.
“You can’t make money being commoditised in that way,” he added. “These resellers aren’t aware of how the market is changing, they haven’t invested in software development, cloud or data science. Instead, they are drafting off OEMs which isn’t a life of growth.”
Methodology and approach
In Asia Pacific, WTT - recognised as the largest global partner of Cisco, Dell Technologies and F5 Networks among others - is located in Singapore, China and India, alongside representation in Japan and Korea.
Operating within competitive local markets as an American business can be difficult, but according to Horner, the creation of a unique business model is how WWT stands out from the crowd.
“We are students of complexity having worked with government agencies and large Fortune 1000 and Fortune 500 customers,” he said. “We’ve been doing this for 30 years and have learned along the way in terms of where the traps are.
“Why do deployments take so long? What causes projects to become more expensive than necessary? Where does innovation get handcuffed?”
Horner said WWT assesses the deployment lifecycle to determine how customers can leverage technology to advance business aspirations, delivered through the provider’s Advanced Technology Center (ATC).
“It’s becoming harder to determine which technologies to choose because there’s so much choice in the market and every choice sounds as good as the other,” he added. “Customers go on this journey of evaluating so many different technologies and potential offerings, then they move to a pilot phase but they haven’t yet made a decision, even though the business is pressuring them to move forward.
“We see organisations taking longer than required to make a decision, and usually they end up making an emotional decision. ‘I like James because he’s been my vendor rep for years’, and they make a call.”
In response, WWT has shrunk the decision-making cycle from “months and months” to “days and weeks” through a hyper scale lab environment, billed as the “Disney World of Tech”.
Costing north of $500 million investment, the facility is available to customers and vendor partners to provide a “safe environment” for evaluation.
“This isn’t a sales centre, but a chance to assess what the technology looks like and how it works from a scale-out and security perspective, for example,” Horner said. “This allows customers to make an intelligent decision about technology, shrinking the time to make a decision and allowing businesses to move at the pace they need to.”
From product comparison to benchmarking and testing, the lab - housed at company headquarters - offers design validation services, functionality testing and proof of concepts across key technologies such as cloud, software and security, in addition to modernised infrastructure, mobility and networking solutions.
“This allows customers to move quicker because we have already carried out the evaluation through more than 1000 engineers,” Horner explained. “Whatever a customer wants, chances are we’ve already delivered that a dozen times already.
“That way we can demonstrate the offering from an advisory perspective, while tailoring the final 15-20 per cent uniqueness to their business.”
Taking the engagement further, Horner cited WWT’s approach in enhancing the production process of technology through ensuring equipment is ready to be deployed at the point of arrival.
“The legacy approach to production has focused on ordering the equipment, shipping it to local sites and getting engineers to go and build the technology,” Horner explained. “But there’s always lots of problems such as defects on arrival, equipment shortages and engineers not showing up. This then creates a very long and expensive build cycle which isn’t what was originally intended.”
To combat such delays, WWT leverages its Asia Integration Centre (AIC) facilities, housed in Singapore and most recently, India.
“We can ship equipment to our locations, assemble the technologies and ensure the process runs smoothly for customers,” Horner said. “Whether it’s data centre, collaboration or network refresh deals, hundreds of pieces of equipment arrives and they are never going to be perfect.
“We process and assemble millions of dollars worth of equipment and our rate of error is eight per cent. Through the conventional approach, equipment is either short, wrong or double shipped - all these problems slow the process down for customers.
“Customers don’t want expensive engineers sitting on their hands waiting for the final piece of equipment to show up. We finalise all of the equipment and leverage the right labour category of resources to ensure skilled engineers are working on the actual implementation aspect of the deployment.”
In essence, Horner described the approach as “business to business, plug and play”, aligning to a consumer-like approach in that products are ready to use at the point of purchase.
“We test it, turn it up and ensure everything is operating as planned,” he added. “Then we use shock absorbent fabricated kit which can transport equipment across the world.
“Through our work with the US military we have packaged data centres and dropped them out of C-130 aircrafts into deserts. If you can do that, you can do the same for a large enterprise customer. This approach drives down costs, improves quality, shrinks cycle times and de-risks the entire process.”
In looking ahead, Horner cited India as the provider’s fastest growing market in Asia, with Australia and Japan offering “great prospects”.
“Singapore and Hong Kong have been at the heart of our success,” Horner said. “India is emerging rapidly and we see potential in Australia through banking and mining sectors. We’re chipping away in Japan and continue to be respectful of the local market conditions - we’ll be there for the long-term.
“Our organisational behaviour is highly collaborative through adopting an agile approach. We are constantly checking whether we are doing things right in the market both culturally and organisationally - it’s not a perfect science by any means.
"Our executive and international teams are in constant contact to ensure we adapt to the conditions in Asia without losing sight of what we need to achieve. Asia is very diverse which means we adjust our business model depending on the market."