SUN Microsystems New Zealand country manager Peter Iodine says that this time last year, his company effectively didn’t have a channel operation in New Zealand.
“Less than 10% of our business was done by companies other than SolNet. We’ve been focused on changing that over the last six to nine months,” he says.
Duncan Bennet, Sun’s sales director for Australia and New Zealand, says internationally the company is very partner-centric. “There are varying splits between the channel and direct sales in different countries. Some are exclusively channel-based. In Australia, the channel business has crept up to the point where about 60% of the company’s sales are through partners.”
Iodine says this number may or may not be the right number for New Zealand, “It can be skewed either way by a few big transactions. For us it’s more about building the right model for New Zealand than reaching a particular number.”
However, Sun’s local operation has been moving to push more business through the channel. “We’re not going to hire salesmen when there’s a channel that can do the job for us,” he says.
“From December through to January and February we had a few transactions go through the channel. By the end of March 2004 we were starting to see a lot of transactions, but by the second quarter this had doubled and it doubled again in the third quarter,” Iodine says.
Some of this activity has been “pent-up demand”.
Iodine says his biggest challenge over the last year has been to cope with the number of people wanting to do business with Sun, “we certainly don’t want to compete with our channel in New Zealand.”
Sun now has eleven accredited business partners in New Zealand - that number excludes the company’s global partners.
The list includes Eagle Technology, Datacom, Fujitsu, Computerland and Axon. In addition, Iodine says there are another “five or six who add niche value”.
Iodine says the key is finding organisations that can add local value. “This varies dramatically. Some partners have very deep relationships with key clients; others are extremely good in particular industries.”
He says Sun has also managed to re-engage some of its global partners in New Zealand.
Overall, he says things have gone so well that he has needed to engage a new person specifically to “build, manage and nurture the channel”.