Quandry for Qunara

It’s a difficult time to head a major IT services organization, but these days it’s especially hard for Nick Curry.

As president and chief operating officer of Qunara Inc., the Winnipeg-based integrator and managed services provider, he’s keeping a close eye on the federal election. Qunara’s

Ottawa office is the company’s biggest and the outcome of the June 28 vote may weigh heavily on its future.

“”Living or dying with your largest office participating in a market that is government-oriented, and in a city that has 12,000 unemployed IT professionals, is a challenge,”” he admitted.

“”Everybody would like to diversify,”” he said, but added “”you must go where the business is.””

Wearing his other hat, as a vice-president of Qunara’s parent, Manitoba Telecom Services (MTS), he’s also watching its proposal to buy communications solution provider Allstream Inc. for $1.5 billion, scheduled to close just before this issue went to press. If the deal goes through it could substantially increase Qunara’s business.

Allstream’s Montage and DMC divisions do similar work to Qunara, especially in Ottawa. “”There will be something there,”” he said, “”but it’s premature to say what.””

MTS got into Ottawa in 2001 by buying The Exocom Group and merging it a year later with Qunara. Security and integration have long been its strong suits, adding Internet data centre managed services to the mix two years ago.

In addition to offices in Ottawa and Winnipeg, there were offices in Toronto, Halifax and Calgary with a head count of about 240. But the Calgary office closed last year and now the company has only 180 workers.

The Alberta office was closed because there was no business, Curry explained, a decision made just before he was hired in August. “”We have focused ourselves on our core strength, our security capabilities, and we want to remain focused on that as our growth strategy.

“”The focus was not clear in Calgary.””

Edmonton possible

Still, he hasn’t given up on Alberta, suggesting an Ed-monton office might dovetail with Qunara’s security and healthcare specialties.

An example of the later is Qunara’s partnership in Ontario’s Smart Systems of Health project, which is building and IT infrastructure to connect the province’s healthcare systems.

Before joining MTS Curry had been CIO of Great West Life Assurance Co. and then a chief information consultant consultant. What brought him out of private practice was “”a very interesting challenge”” from MTS.

“”It’s an organization that recognized IT and change were fundamentally connected,”” he explained. Hence his title: VP of business transformation and information technologies, in addition to his responsibilities at Qunara.

When he took over that division it had been struggling like other IT services companies with the downturn in spending. “”We have come through in relatively good shape,”” he said, “”although it is a tough year.””

Revenues for 2004 are predicted to be between $28 and $30 million, which he described as “” modest growth.””

For the first time the largest chunk of that will be from security work as the private sector becomes more conscious of the need to protect data.

That’s enabled the company to begin recruiting for those with skills in marketing and integrating security-related solutions.

Perhaps that’s why despite the election and the Allstream deal, he remains resolute about the future.

“”If you look at the areas we focus on we believe the Internet will create the opening for those services to be integrated by one provider, more so than today, driven by the ever-increasing security threats.

“”We believe we can be a leading Canadian company operating in that market against the biggest and the best, and winning our share of business.””

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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