A quick glimpse over the horizon unearths a new era for the channel, an era pushing partners to the edge transformation.
But in truth, transformation is merely just a word, yet another overused and hyped-up phrase flowing down from corporate marketing departments worldwide.
For the Australian and New Zealand markets to truly make sense of such change however, partners must close new deals in new ways, better utilise distribution and vendor resources and change business models.
“Be it in the advancement of technology, new entrants to the market, or challenging the traditional dominant players in the industry, the pace of change can be quite threatening,” said Dell director of Enterprise Solutions, Chris Kelly, when speaking at ARN and Reseller News’ annual channel destination conference EDGE, held on Hamilton Island.
“A future-ready partner should think about the new ways that they can bridge the gap from legacy infrastructure to a flexible, agile capability that gives a company the chance to be reactive to change."
In drawing up a blueprint for the future-ready channel, Kelly said the industry needs to “challenge the status quo” through differentiation and being more than “just a traditional provider”.
Built around the need to better understand the modern day requirements of the customer, Kelly challenged partners to essentially think outside of the box, while incorporating “new and evolved” commercial models.
“Customers need help with their business decision making,” he observed. “It’s not just about moving to a subscription model, it’s about delivering turnkey solutions with added value wrapped around it.
“From a business perspective, there’s also a need for partners to execute on a thought-out strategy in terms of staff rehiring, re-education of the workforce and enablement if necessary.”
As partners adjust and tweak accordingly, vendors are also changing in parallel, reflecting a seismic shift in the local industry.
Traditionally, channel engagements across the world were operated through a one-way stream of communication, coming down from the vendor and onto the partner community.
Yet conversations starting with ‘this is our brand new and shiny product’ are no longer spoken in the corridors of channel conferences, with partners now armed with greater vendor and technological choice.
Consequently, global tech giants are beginning to acknowledge that change - in whatever capacity - also remains equally crucial to the survival of a vendor in a highly competitive market.
“As an industry, we’ve flipped and every aspect is changing,” Dell channels and alliances leader, Geoff Wright, added. “We’re now very particular around the delivery of technology with new business models.
“We need to look at what is agile, new and how customers want to pay and consume, and transform our businesses accordingly.
“From our perspective, this will help us help partners on their transformation because there is no one size fits all and partners should have trust in a vendor.”
In addressing a jam-packed audience of 250 leading Australian and New Zealand channel figures, Wright said that going forward, Dell aims to ensure it cements its position as a channel vendor that delivers “consistency” to its partners on both sides of the Tasman.
“We’re not perfect,” he acknowledged. “We’ve gone up and down in how we operate and now, we’re bringing clarity to it.
“We want to drive a culture of consistency and enhance collaboration with communication. We will keep doing that until the channel has trust in us.”
Core channel pillars
A key indicator of Dell’s changing tactics is already playing out in the numbers, with 50 percent of the company’s global revenue now coming through the channel, up from 40 percent a year ago.
Closer to home, Dell has doubled its channel revenue across Australia and New Zealand during the past year, as the vendor moves away from its traditional direct model, allowing partners to capitalise on the company’s refocused go-to-market strategies.
“Consistency, competitiveness and commitment represent the core pillars of our channel strategy in Australia and New Zealand,” said Dell managing director of Australia and New Zealand, Angela Fox, echoing Wright’s comments.
“For us to have the impact that we have in the market and serve our customers, we need to keep showing more commitment. Two years ago this became a key priority and we’re continually striving to work on that commitment.”
From a Dell perspective, Fox said channel success is “about staying the course”, ensuring that partners see predictability from a vendor with a chequered past of partner relations.
“The reality is, as vendors, none of us get it 100 percent right,” Fox acknowledged. “But how we are judged is how we deal with it. No single vendor has the answer to everything.”
In light of the vendor’s upcoming acquisition of EMC - which is expected to close within the coming weeks - Fox stressed that from a structural perspective, the channel “shouldn’t be worried” about any impacting changes to channel order.
“Our channel strategy doesn’t change,” Fox reaffirmed. “With the closure of the EMC transaction very soon, I see that as a strengthening of our commitment to the channel.
“Partners won’t see dramatic change occur in the next six months, but more so the working together of both parties. We want to set the tone at the top and see how it plays out in the field.
“There’s definitely a role and place for all of us and the challenge now lies around staying on our course and having that consistency.”
With the theme of collaboration running through four days of conferencing, the role of distribution also took centre stage in Hamilton Island, as partners edge closer to the pulse checkers of the channel.
“Utilising distribution and partners is key to success for the channel going forward,” Dell country manager of New Zealand, James Arnold, added.
“Flexibility and agility underpins a strong distribution partnership and there needs to be a good partnership between both. As vendors, we need to understand what our distributors and partners are delivering to customers and what outcomes are they trying to achieve.”
In Australia, Dell is represented by Avnet, Dicker Data, Hills and Ingram Micro, while in New Zealand, Ingram Micro holds sole distribution rights across the country.
“As a vendor, we’ve invested in a lot of resources but we need to know what our partners are trying to achieve,” Arnold explained. “It’s about knowing the needs of the customer and delivering a return on investment.”
Despite acknowledging how cloud has altered how the channel operates, Arnold accepted that there’s still a place for the traditional purchasing model in the market, but warned that such a model is starting to dissipate, and no longer represents a long-term strategy for partners.
“Partners are offering deeper services through cloud, and that’s where the real value lies for partners,” he explained. “There is still a role for the reseller in the traditional sense of the world, but the market is changing dramatically.”
Highlighting the power of partnership at a local level, Oscar nominated Rising Sun Pictures collaborated with Dell partner VInet Solutions to boost its movie visual effects capability, through the deployment of a high-performance computing (HPC) platform, built on Dell converged infrastructure.
As a South Australian owned and operated managed services provider, VInet Solutions utilised a blend of Dell services and hardware to reduce IT complexity and maximise stability, allowing artists to deliver a deeper level of storytelling through improved visual effects and virtual reality.
As explained on stage by VInet Solutions managing director, Stuart Davis, a collaborative relationship goes to the heart of driving technology outcomes to customers.
“No model is perfect but the advantage that Dell provides is having open roads of communication,” he added. “That has helped shape our relationship with Dell.”
EDGE is designed to bring the Australia and New Zealand channel together in a collaborative and educational environment, providing vendors, distributors and partners with the competitive advantage necessary to bring continued success in 2016 and beyond.