Unisys shrugs off ACC contract loss

Unisys is signalling it has a significant client win in the pipeline

Far from bunkering down after the loss of a major contract with the Accident Compensation Corporation, Unisys is signalling it has a significant client win in the pipeline and increased investment in infrastructure.

The impact of losing ACC won’t be felt this year, says Unisys managing director Brett Hodgson.

“In fact, they’ve had to come back to us with some pieces of work that can’t be delivered by the incumbent [Gen-i],” he says.

Hodgson is in a bullish mood. A particular reason for this is the company’s ongoing contract negotiations with an unnamed large multinational. “It will be to maintain Australia and New Zealand but largely driven out of New Zealand. We’re in final negotiations, but we’ve got a letter of cover so we can begin to hire,” he says.

“It’s an IT outsourcing deal.”

Some play has also been made concerning TelstraClear taking back in-house services that Unisys previously provided. But Hodgson says this was a re-announcement of a deal factored-in a year ago. That said, Unisys did try, in the interim, to change TelstraClear’s mind.

Hodgson also acknowledges that the PAL project, for the Parliamentary Counsel Office, has cost the company money. “But at the end of the day, government is a large client of ours, so we stayed with it. It’s gone live internally and the website will follow. It’s been audited by a US authority, which says it is world class.”

The company is in the process of doubling the size of its Kapiti datacentre, having recently installed one of the biggest generators in New Zealand. Hodgson says it’s a big investment, which will be completed in April or May next year.

“Our current client base needs more capacity. We’ve also had new business inquiries and we expect the centre to pretty well fill-out in 2008.”

Unisys is also looking at building a datacentre in Auckland, probably with partners. (Computerworld understands Eagle Technology has also entered into a partnership with an un-named party to build a large datacentre.)

Hodgson says that as Oracle and Microsoft re-do their licensing, to suit online delivery, the Application Service Provider model will become more workable. “The investment in the datacentre is a recognition of that. In 2008, ASP will start to get some traction.”

Unisys has done a lot of renewal work this year, he says. This has included roll-over contracts with MAF, TEC, NZQA, IRD and ASB Bank. “We’re just about to sign at Westpac, too.”

The company has a tight focus on four areas: IT outsourcing (but not where it is commoditised); business-process outsourcing; datacentre services, and security credentiality.

Its first major project in the latter area was for the Ministry of Social Development, which delivered 45 tonnes of postal product in a tight time-frame — Winston Peters’ gold card for senior citizens.

“Security and biometrics are an area where we have done very well worldwide, and we’ve proved ourselves in New Zealand,” Hodgson says.

Staffing remains an issue. The company has around 550 permanent staff and contractors, but at any one time has between 5% and 10% of jobs outstanding.

One new appointment is an Auckland leader, in recognition of the fact that financial and commercial institutions are largely driven out of Auckland. He’s Jeremy Bolton, who previously ran Sun’s operations in South Australia. He begins work this month.

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