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How WWT's Investment In Software Portal, Technology Centers, App Development Created A $7.4B Powerhouse

To drive revenue through its various technology facilities spanning the globe, the solution provider has built a software portal and platform accessible to engineers around the clock, CEO Jim Kavanaugh tells CRN.

Jim Kavanaugh

World Wide Technology, a $7.4 billion solution provider, is growing at breakneck speed this year as strategic investments in software, innovation centers and employees are paying off significantly, said co-founder and CEO Jim Kavanaugh.

After hiring 2,200 new employees over the past three years while growing annual revenue by more than 15 percent, privately held WWT is taking what it means to be a solution provider to the next level.

"We are truly moving into that trusted adviser position," said Kavanaugh in an interview with CRN. "Customers are coming in and asking us for a level of independent opinion on different products, different solutions and how they work in their specific environment, and we help them use our labs to test out and vet those solutions. That's how customers want to buy in today's market."

[Related: WWT CEO On 'Strong' Cisco Partnership, Dell-EMC, And How Smaller Solution Providers Should Evolve ]

Ranked No. 12 on the 2016 CRN Solution Provider 500, St. Louis-based WWT has invested millions in building integration labs and its Advanced Technology Centers -- which house hundreds of different hardware and software products -- giving customers and employees hands-on experience with a vast variety of solutions from different vendors.

To better drive revenue through its various technology facilities spanning across the globe – including Advanced Technology Centers in Amsterdam, Singapore and St. Louis – WWT built a software portal and platform accessible to engineers around the clock.

"They get into the sandbox environment and these demo environments and these proof-of-concept environments that allow us to scale out, whether they're in Singapore, New York, St. Louis, San Francisco, London, " said Kavanaugh, one of CRN's 25 Most Influential Executives Of 2016. "This ecosystem has been created not just to demonstrate products for customers, but to train and develop our engineers -- and train them across different products and against different platforms."

The software was needed to accommodate the speed of today's market, according to Kavanaugh. WWT's goal is to connect the dots for organizations whose IT decisions are no longer being made by IT departments, but by top senior executives.

WWT plans to thrive in this fast-paced market by building out a robust Application Developer Group, with help from its 2015 acquisition of Asynchrony, which specializes in application development. With the on-boarding of Asynchrony's team, WWT now has close to 400 people inside its Application Developer Group.

"I don't believe anyone else in our space from a VAR, traditional systems integrator [perspective] is doing what we're doing from an [application development] perspective," said Kavanaugh. "I don't see any slowdown for us in that space."

WWT's most strategic vendor partnership is with San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco, in which it collaborates with the networking giant on many fronts. For example, engineers from WWT and Cisco work together to fix bugs in products that are in beta.

WWT was Cisco's Global Solution Innovation Partner of the Year in 2016, one of 11 awards it earned from the networking leader this year.

Nirav Sheth, senior director for systems engineering and architectures for Cisco's Global Partner Organization, said WWT is a channel innovator when it comes to being a trusted adviser for customers.

"Our customers' enthusiasm for WWT's vision and strategy demonstrates its ability to adapt to market transitions, and drive the right culture required in this era of digital transformation," said Sheth in an email to CRN.

Although Cisco is WWT's top vendor, the solution provider has been growing its ecosystem of vendor partners and products "significantly" over the past few years, said Kavanaugh.

The company's EMC sales, for example, are expected to balloon to upward of $700 million this year. Other key strategic partnerships include VMware, NetApp and Pure Storage.

"We're going to continue to invest an incredible amount around Cisco … but over the last five years, we've brought on a whole cast of ecosystem partners that are growing at a very rapid rate," said Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh said the largest investment in his 26-year rein at WWT has been in the culture inside the company. For five consecutive years, WWT has been selected for Fortune's prestigious list of 100 Best Companies to Work For, placing No. 38 in 2016.

"Our culture is so important to me. It's something I and our executive management team spend an incredible amount of time on," said Kavanaugh.

"Whether it's somebody who's receiving products in the warehouse or it's a senior executive, we expect everybody to treat each other in the same way with the same level of respect. But don't be confused -- we're a very hard-charging organization," he said. "We're pushing every day aggressively, but you can do that in the right way."

Looking to top $8 billion in revenue this year along with an army of 4,000 employees, Kavanaugh expects WWT sales to continue to expand through the hiring of top-notch employees and reaching farther globally with its innovation centers and labs.

"We're in a great position right now and we're not slowing down," said Kavanaugh. "Our mission is to be a highly profitable growth company that is just a great place to work."

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