The IT services giant, which employs over 2000 staff and claims revenue of about $350 million, used to consider $10 million its cutoff point, Ellis says, but is now keen on what it calls “tier two” work. “Now I’ll get excited about a two to three million-dollar project.”
Ellis accepts that the market has changed and matured. “The big ones are not there any more. There are only so many projects the size of Landonline or a [early EDS NZ acquisition] Databank or government computing takeover. We’ve got to change the way we face the market.”
Similarly, EDS locally will no longer have such a strong preference for the “end-to-end” project and the prime contractor role. If all EDS can successfully bid for is the applications development part of a deal then it will take that, says Ellis.
Billing systems will be a significant vertical market in its plans. “We’re developing a value proposition for power companies, local authorities and other bodies that need to send out regular bills.”
EDS is also strong in the contact centre space, he says. It has already chalked up some successes in this area, and there are promising major projects in the future.
“I’m talking about technical contact centres, in the business of solving problems for the staff of major customers,” he says. This is definitely “knowledge-economy” work demanding highly skilled staff, as opposed to a “call centre”, which is simply in the business of processing transactions, he says. Ellis sits on the Knowledge Wave Advisory Trust Board, advising the government.
Another major element of future business for EDS NZ is applications development for international customers, largely through the wider EDS organisation. EDS has increased local applications development forces by 100, and has contracts with the UK government and Coors brewery in the US.
Ellis has returned to the IT fold after positions at the top of the Ansett NZ airline and TVNZ. Before that, he was in senior positions at Wang in various countries, having earlier headed the independent Wang NZ (now gen-i).
He sees the move as a return to his roots “and to a more fertile ground for opportunity”. The airline and broadcasting businesses have few global players in the New Zealand market, while IT is full of them, he notes.
“I had to decide whether I wanted to be back in a corporate role or continue with directorships and consulting on the side.” As much as he enjoyed the latter, he says, he considers it perhaps a little early in his life to back away from the coal face, “to be purely in governance; I still wanted to be where I could make things happen.”
He has always had an international and mobile outlook and has worked comfortably in Australia and the UK.
So for how long will New Zealand hold him? “I look to take each year as it comes,” he says.