Small Talk: Dicom overhauled by new chief after a tough year

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The Independent Online

Big changes are afoot at the technology company Dicom Group. After a tough 2007, the business is set to overhaul its management, refocus its target business and change its name.

Dicom appointed a new chief executive, Reynolds Bish, in November, and he immediately launched a review of the company's strategy, structure and branding. The results were announced on Friday

The group said in an announcement: "Following this review it is clear that certain additional measures are now needed to accelerate progress with Dicom's stated strategy of focusing on the software licences and services portion of its business."

The company is to change its name to Kofax, which is one of the best-known product lines of the group. It said the various brands used by the business have caused confusion both internally and externally, and Kofax "clearly emerges as the brand with the highest awareness among stakeholders".

The move was backed by several analysts. Kevin Ashton, an analyst at Landsbanki, said the decision was a "clear sign of where Mr Bish intends to take the company". Investec also backed the move, although Panmure Gordon, which welcomed the restructuring package, said it was "unsure about changing the company name to Kofax – the legacy product".

Mr Bish is set to overhaul the group's management and sales into a more centralised structure and its business will now focus on the software licence and services side.

The restructuring and efficiency drive involves 50 redundancies and will cost up to £3.8m in exceptional charges. Management expects it to provide "significant annual cost savings".

As part of the change, Dicom's chief operating officer, Urs Niederberger, is set to leave the company next month after 10 years.

The group is scheduled to announce its interim results in next month, and said it expects trading to be in line with expectations.

Mr Ashton welcomed the statement "as we believe the share stock-price correction has been in anticipation of an earnings miss". He added: "We view the announcement as positive, and just the start of a sea change in the way Dicom is managed."

Torex on the mend

Here's further evidence that Torex is on the mend after a horrendous 2007 when it teetered on the brink of collapse. The software developer, now jointly owned by Cerberus and General Atlantic, has won a major contract to supply Martin McColl, Britain's largest independent cornershop owner, with point-of-sale systems.

The deal runs for eight years and is worth £19m to Torex, which will deploy the system across Martin McColl's 1,300 UK convenience stores and newsagents. The POS system will be compatible with digital CCTV cameras as well as electronic catalogue systems. It can detect suspicious transactions and automatically capture digital video on the CCTV cameras or even allow the central office to watch live footage of incidents from within the shops. Torex will also provide hardware in the form of HP POS retail processors which have touch screens.

Under its new management team, led by Mike Greenough and Graeme Cooksley, Torex has worked hard to restore its credibility, internally and externally. Despite its competitors lining up to remind customers of the company's turbulent recent history, Torex has started winning new business again. The company has turned around its losses and has a healthy cash balance.

The real coup came last week when it won a new deal with McDonald's, a key reference customer for Torex and a contract that helped to distance it from the accusations and allegations aired during 2007. The global deal with the fast-food giant will see Torex's new POS system deployed across 35,000 restaurants and provided a "tremendous lift" for the company, according to Mr Greenough.

With two major contracts under its belt, Torex is well on the way toward regaining its position as the T Rex of the retail software sector.

Crimson Tide hits the slopes

The IT group Crimson Tide is getting piste this week, after securing a deal with the Ski Club of Great Britain to provide a handheld bit of kit to help streamline the operation around the world.

The Ski Club has been around since 1903 and has 31,000 active members. It is a non-profit making organisation, set up to help UK-based skiers travelling to resorts worldwide. The technology will be used to send daily and weekly reports on ski resorts into a central database.

Crimson Tide listed in the summer of 2006. It provides services to companies including Marks & Spencer, which has commissioned a mobile reporting system for cleaning contractors, and the estate agency Knight Frank.

The AIM tiddler is hoping to build momentum in its mobile data business. It has reported that pre-tax losses widened from £51,000 to £241,000 in the first half of 2007 after a surge in expenses. Yet it said the second half had enjoyed good growth, with the executive chairman, Barrie Whipp, saying the "pipeline of new business is very exciting".

After Small Talk flippantly asked if Crimson Tide had anything to do with the submarine thriller of the same name starring Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington, the answer was surprising.

Mr Whipp is a huge American football fan, and named his company after the University of Alabama's team. As coincidence would have it, the submarine in the movie was the USS Alabama, giving the name Crimson Tide to the film. So now you know.

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