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Sensing an opportunity as companies scale back IT

SHI growing as more clients embrace a mobile workforce

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    SHI's growth is powered by a rise in bring-your-own-device policies, says Thai Lee.
    SHI's growth is powered by a rise in bring-your-own-device policies, says Thai Lee. - (AARON HOUSTON)

    SHI International operates like an information technology supermarket that's constantly restocking.

    And two trends have those supermarket shelves in constant need of replenishment: the dwindling IT staffs at many companies and the rising technological demands of an increasingly mobile workforce.

    That means fewer in-house staffers to manage more threats, as employees are encouraged to "bring your own device" — smartphones, tablets and laptops — into the company's network.

    It's huge for SHI. In the last five years, revenue and employment have doubled, and it's projecting $5 billion in revenue this year.

    "Things are moving around, more difficult to keep track, difficult to keep secure," said CEO Thai Lee said. "Security becomes even more important. There are a lot of additional solutions we can provide as technology changes."

    SHI helps clients install and manage hardware and software upgrades, plus cloud and mobility services. And with so many mobile devices in play, the days of using almost exclusively on traditional desktops seems simpler by comparison.

    Communications manager Ed McNamara said downsizing trends combined with the evolving nature of information technology increases reliance on providers like SHI. McNamara said the company's customers are busy enough focusing on their core business.

    "Since most IT departments are thinner now than they have been in any time in the last 10 or 15 years, any value-added help they can get is a plus," McNamara said.

    Observers said these needs are increasingly common at companies adapting to new technological environments without the benefit of IT gatekeepers.

    Maxine Ballen, CEO of New Jersey Technology Council, a nonprofit that advocates for the state's tech companies, said increasing mobility corresponds with greater reliance on cloud computing. She said it makes sense for smaller companies, especially those employing 50 or less, to seek outside help in transitioning to this new era.

    Reductions of IT staffing have increased the demand for SHI International.

    "Definitely, more companies are subcontracting out," Ballen said. "With the cloud, you don't need as much in-house staff. It's the new normal."

    That new normal also is creating opportunities for upstarts seizing to take advantage. Breakthrough Technology Group, a Morganville provider of cloud and IT services, has turned to acquisition mode to support growth generated by changing habits of the workforce.

    "Mobility has huge impact for me as a business because IT departments can't handle the influx of all the new devices and how to manage it," BTG CEO Jeff Kaplan said. "That's no knock on them. IT departments have been getting pummeled by layoffs. They're just trying to keep the lights on."

    The privately held company doesn't disclose revenue, but has about 1,000 clients across its divisions, growing at an annual clip of about 20 percent, Kaplan said.

    At SHI, more demand is going to the tablet. The company, which also reformats and resells devices customized to the requirements of its clientele, has seen a jump in demand for iPads and similar devices.

    SHI figures to stay busy managing that transition, atop already constant demand for everyday IT services. The company doesn't rule out the possibility of acquisition, but said it mainly expects to grow in accord with customer needs.

    In other words, its shelves are stocked for the foreseeable future.

    "At some point, we will run out of new customers," Lee said. "I don't think we want to rule out any options. It's very difficult to actually project what we'll look like 10 years from now. But so far, our strategy of maintaining organic growth has worked for us."

    E-mail to: tomz@njbiz.com

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