Zones CEO: 'We're Accelerating Our Services Push'

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Zones is stepping up its services business under new CEO Murray Wright.

Wright, a longtime distribution executive who previously served as president of Tech Data's Americas region, joined the solution provider in August. In an exclusive interview with CRN, Wright outlined his plans for the company as it looks to grow beyond its core hardware and software reselling business. Specifically, he talked about the big investments Zones is making around its services and solutions business, as well as new markets like cloud. Here are excerpts from the conversation:

What's your vision for Zones? Where do you see the company fitting into today's IT channel?

The most common question I've been asked over the last eight weeks has been, 'Why'd you join Zones?' and the reason is closely tied in with the vision for the company. And as I've said to the management team here and in a variety of town hall meetings, I didn't join Zones to just manage the existing business. There's an exciting opportunity here and there are many investments that have been made within Zones over the last 18 months that we really need to capitalize on. And taking the company from its current position in the marketplace and growing it -- and even doubling that business -- is the exciting part for me.

We've made big investments not only in [internal] systems and tools to help build that foundation, but we've also spent a great deal of time attracting resources to the company to really round out our portfolio as a solution provider. I think all of it comes back to the fact that we've got a great technology portfolio, and the company is very focused on execution. So the vision is accelerating the overall business with the strengths we have and expanding in new solutions areas.

Will growing the IT services side of Zones be part of the strategy?

Absolutely, 100 percent. It already is part of the strategy today. We've made investments, added talent, opened solutions centers and offices around the country to be closer to our customers and have our system engineers and solutions architects closer to those businesses. All of those investments have already been made, and we're going to continue to make more through the balance of this year. And then we're going to try to make sure we shift a little bit to focus on utilizing those assets. So we're well-positioned to provide a lot more solutions to our customers that include not only the technology products but the services that put it all together.

In terms of people, what kind of investments have you made on the services side?

We've got coverage around the country of about 150 people that are focused on providing technology support and services, and that doesn't include our software licensing business. That's a separate business, and you need to be pretty savvy on the solutions and services side today with [software] licensing because that weaves everything together.

What about cloud services? Will Zones have a presence in that market?

Yes, absolutely. We're still trying to figure what our role should be in the cloud. I'm confident that we won't be building our own data centers [for cloud hosting]. But we want to make sure that we're in an excellent position to provide our customers with solutions, whether it's public, private or hybrid clouds. We've got the resources and infrastructure for the cloud. It's one of the five strategic areas for the company -- data center, mobility, software, security and cloud -- so we'll absolutely continue to invest in the cloud, but I'm not quite sure what it's going to look like in two years.

Are you getting cloud demand or interest from existing customers?

I've had limited exposure so far to our customers, but I'd say, so far, it's mixed. I wouldn't say that basically on my exposure, so far, that every client call we go into, people want to talk about cloud. I haven't seen that yet. There's curiosity about cloud. And customers are always asking questions about how they can become more efficient and productive; those conversations are fundamental. And sometimes cloud solutions enter into those conversations, and sometimes they don't.

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