Phil-Data Business Systems is turning the unpredictable and challenging impact of Covid-19 into a positive, prioritising digitalisation amid a return to market growth in the Philippines.
Supported by a “huge spike” in PC notebooks sales as well as Microsoft Teams activations during lockdown, the value-added reseller is ramping up efforts to embrace digital technologies both internally and externally, motivated by a desire to enhance customer experience capabilities.
Central to such efforts will be a revamped go-to-market strategy in recognition of changing end-user dynamics, super-charging growth ambitions in the process.
“Covid-19 has made us rethink our strategy,” said Rudolph Ng, CEO of Phil-Data. “All the more, this pandemic has served as a catalyst not only to our customers but to us as a reseller. It has accelerated the need for customers to be mobile and to have efficient work-from-home capabilities.
“A business must also be digitally optimised through some form of online capabilities in order to support work-from-home. As resellers, another aspect of our new role is how we can quickly enable our customers to support complementary services such as remote virtual meetings and remote collaboration.”
Since starting out in 1982, Metro Manila-based Phil-Data has built a market-leading reputation across the Philippines, with the ability to support regions and locations across more than 7100 islands.
In housing over 250 employees, market reach spans all company sizes - from large-scale enterprise to mid-market and small to medium-sized business (SMB) levels - backed by expertise in business process outsourcing (BPO), manufacturing, telecommunications, retail and utilities among other sectors.
“We have been in double digit growth year-over-year during the past five to 10 years,” Ng added. “Aside from growing our top-line revenues for 2020, our priorities have always been focused on delivering the best experience to our customers. And the challenge has always been how to enable the business transformation of our customers through digital transformation using IT as a tool.”
Speaking exclusively to Channel Asia, Ng said the Phil-Data initially embraced digitalisation to help prepare the workforce for the influx of millennial and Gen-Z employees, before pivoting quickly once Covid-19 hit.
“Nobody could ever be 100 per cent prepared for something like Covid-19 or the major lockdowns that we have experienced during the past few months,” he acknowledged. “The lockdown has made our customers as well as our own workforce appreciate the value of having a digital-ready business with remote work capabilities.”
Prior to Covid-19 however, digital foundations were already in place to ensure Phil-Data remained at the leading edge of the Filipino market.
“For many years our email was already running on Microsoft Exchange Online and we use Office 365 extensively for our office applications which has allowed our workforce to be truly mobile,” Ng explained.
“During the past several years, most of our major internal processes have been ported to digital platforms, including CRM, ERP, HRIS and our Customer Care Help Desk, as well as small applications such as time management and reimbursement. We still see room for improvement as some of these applications remain in separate silos.”
In assessing the evolving market landscape - alongside the uncertainty of lockdown measures, government stimulus packages and customer budgets - Ng cited digital transformation as the main driver for both short- and long-term growth across the Philippines.
Technology-savvy businesses will also increase investment in online B2B and B2C sales and ordering capabilities, added Ng, triggered by a “rapid shift” to mobile computing and remote collaboration.
“Priorities are shifting to remote and work-from-home computing where we see a sudden surge in demands of laptops and notebooks,” he outlined. “We have customers that come to us and tell us that they would buy any notebook of any specification as long as stocks are readily available.
“For most customers, infrastructure IT projects have been postponed in favour of mobility and remote computing projects. In other words, the ‘nice-to-have’ projects have been postponed in favour of ‘need-to-have’ projects.”
In response, Ng expects heightened end-user interest in work-from-home and digital collaboration tools, supported by high adoption rates of cloud-based applications and devices.
“For personal systems, we will see the start of a merger between consumer and commercial models, both from the buying behaviour and usage standpoint,” he added. “From what used to be purely selling commercial models to corporations, we are now starting to see work-from-home staff buying PCs online or through a retail channel.”
Despite the direction of travel being clear - and the shift to digitalisation underway - Ng acknowledged that future customer investment priorities will depend primarily on company size and sector.
“SMB customers in general are the hardest hit,” he said. “Survival is the main priority and cash flow is more important than ever. Enterprise and large corporate customers face a different challenge during this pandemic however. Most are only allowed to have 50 per cent workforce so the name of the game is how fast can these enterprise businesses mobilise their workforce from on-premises to work-from-home?”
During the pandemic, Phil-Data joined a select group of resellers which remained operational during both the start and peak of the lockdown in the Philippines.
“We immediately realised that our business needed to support the essential industries,” Ng said. “Our people continue to serve our customers despite the continuing challenges.”
Phil-Data shifted most critical operations to work-from-home mode from the outset of the lockdown, backed by a customer support team which remained active and online 24/7.
“This pandemic has allowed our customers to realise the importance of investing in IT infrastructure and personal systems,” Ng summarised. “For so many years personal systems were taken for granted, and now all of a sudden, this has become an essential item - an item that is key to the productivity and survival of our customer.”
All-in with HP
Phil-Data’s deepened industry focus coincides with the launch of HP Amplify, a new program designed to overhaul traditional channel practices in response to increased levels of digitalisation, setting fresh partner expectations amid a sizeable shift in go-to-market strategy.
Billed as a ‘first-of-its kind’ for the technology giant, the overhaul centres around providing consistency, deepened capabilities and enhanced levels of performance and collaboration across the ecosystem.
Standard ambitions perhaps, but beneath the surface lies a strong statement of intent to change conventional behaviours through a streamlined framework that prioritises digital engagement and insights over age-old deal making.
“The launch of Amplify resonates very well with our priorities in delivering the best customer experience possible,” Ng added.
Housing a combination of transactional, contractual and hybrid selling models, the structure of Amplify spans three core pillars: performance, capabilities and collaboration.
While the new program will continue to reward partners based on goals and volume, a new measurement and reward system will acknowledge “strategic efforts” deployed through the sales process, from registration volume to average sales value and account retention.
Beyond sales revenue, rewards will be offered to partners building new skills in digital, service delivery, e-commerce, omni-channel and secure data collaboration. Furthermore, the more capabilities around secure data collection, routes to market, services and specialisations, the more access and benefits partners will receive.
“Amplify provides a platform for partners to share customer insights with the aim of delivering a more positive customer experience for everyone,” Ng said. “Amplify is also designed to reward partners not just on business transaction volume but also on value-added services and new capabilities, as well as digital preparedness of the partner.”
Through Amplify, plans are also in place to convert data analytics into deeper insights capable of supporting partners in the creation of new go-to-market strategies. To achieve this, HP will “collaborate closely” with providers to hone digital skills - such as automated quotes and ordering - to provide a “more consistent customer experience” across multiple channels.
“In the past, we did not share customer information with HP, not even the customer name,” Ng acknowledged. “As business progressed over the years, we gained mutual trust and this has allowed us to be more open and collaborative about sharing customer insights.
“We firmly believe that partners that are more open and collaborative will receive a higher level of commitment and hence these partners will be in a better position to serve the customer."
Operating as an HP partner for more than 28 years, Phil-Data carries the entire PC and print portfolio, with plans in place to develop contractual print opportunities alongside optimising compute business capabilities through device-as-a-service (DaaS) in the coming months.
“Our other unique position is that we are the only partner in the Philippines with a dedicated HP team,” Ng added. “This allows us to be 100 per cent focused and aligned to HP’s go-to-market strategy.
"Over the years, our collaboration with HP has also significantly improved. From a simple supplier and reseller relationship, our close collaboration enables both parties to share strategic information on how to better expand and improve market share.”
More broadly speaking, Phil-Data offers an end-to-end portfolio of computing solutions and products, ranging from client products, servers, storage, networks and cloud technologies.
“We enable digital transformation through diverse IT solutions,” Ng detailed. “With us, customers will always have the choice of on-premises or off-premises computing as well as a hybrid configuration."
Channel Asia Advance is a centralised editorial resource designed to help partners access forward-looking content as the ASEAN and Indian markets attempt to reposition for growth.