When Lenovo’s datacentre group (DCG) gave Dicker Data its exclusive New Zealand distribution rights last February, the distributor’s CEO, David Dicker, said it would deliver a “substantial change in strategy” and create a “unique go to market”.
Nathan Knight, Lenovo DCG’s general manager A/NZ, said it would put customers at the “centre of our world” with Dicker Data providing an end-to-end go to market to create the best relationship with partners and end users.
There was quite a lot to unpack in that because it clearly pushed the boundaries of traditional distribution, even “value-added” distribution.
Over a year later, Lenovo DCG’s A/NZ head of channel, Frank Eagleton, told Reseller News the deal had created momentum and established a strong team of 12 people on the ground in New Zealand.
Sam Taylor, ex-Symantec, was in place as country lead, Dicker Data marketing manager Laura McKenzie providing marketing services, and Dan Wehner as partner manager.
If you check the LinkedIn profiles of all those people, they are part of an exclusive group within the distributor, the Lenovo DCG business unit at Dicker Data NZ, driving activity for Lenovo among both end users and partners.
While doing that, it also delivered year-on-year growth through the acquisition of multiple flagship accounts from various verticals, Eagleton said.
The structure has also fostered closer collaboration with tech partners such as VMware, Nutanix, AMD and Microsoft and with channel partners, such as Focus group, NSP, Bearena and Belton to name a few.
“Where we’ve seen the success in our DC group, it’s been mainly in our SDI [software defined infrastructure] portfolio, hybrid cloud, and our technology-led strategy where we partner very closely with Nutanix, VMware and Microsoft,” Eagleton said.
“We’ve seen quite a spike in that and that could be on the back of some of our easy-buy programmes that we have in the market today.”
The structure has broad coverage and allowed the resellers to have an “easier conversation” about SDI products, Eagleton said.
“The other spike that we’ve seen in the market is in our storage portfolio, where we’ve had some significant wins on the back of some good flagship deals that we’ve won recently.”
So how exactly does it work?
Knight said Lenovo DCG doesn’t really look at Dicker Data in New Zealand as distribution.
"We look at Dicker Data as our footprint in New Zealand,” he said. “It’s really a strategic alliance and partnership that we have with them.”
To do that, two things normally kept quite separate in traditional channel models have ben brought together: Lenovo DCG’s end user sales organisation sits within Dicker Data and has channel capabilities.
“The key objective we wanted to achieve through this partnership was to provide a co-selling mechanism, so business partners can engage with Lenovo at a partner relationship level but then also leverage our technology and sales capability in terms of positioning new technologies,” Knight explained.
The opportunity that’s represented for channel partners comes in the hybrid cloud space.
While with public cloud, partners can resell the capabilities of the large hyperscalers, in hybrid cloud business partners really want to be delivering much more: managed services capability, professional services and delivering solutions,
“So what we are doing is giving them industry leading technology solutions at the cutting edge and providing them with the skills and the capabilities to be able to clearly articulate that to their customers and to be able to deliver the solutions that sit in behind that,” Knight said.
“It's not a traditional distribution ‘cost plus three’, here’s your output,” he said. “It’s an integrated sales motion."
All of the people Lenovo and Dicker Data had invested in came from an enterprise sales background.
“We have solution consultants, quote desks, end user sales teams and channel teams that all have enterprise pedigree.
“When you are a business partner looking for new technologies you need to have the capability and the resources from a partner organisation to be able to support you on that.
“That’s where we are looking to build our point of differentiation.”
All of that begs one big and very old question: who owns the customer?
The Dicker Data Lenovo team couldn't be seen as a distributor, Knight said. They were an extension of Lenovo.
“The reason we did the partnership with distribution and not a systems integrator is because we have a legacy of channel business partners across NZ. If we’d dropped ourselves in system-integrator land we would have undermined that capability.
“The reason we have that relationship in distribution is it gives us the channel coverage and also allows us to have local representation, local credit facilities, local warehousing where we have a couple of million dollars of inventory to support product that sells through at a volume level.”
The ownership of the customer?
“We jointly sell at the end of the day. We understand and build plans with our channel partners to accelerate their business but we also have relationships directly with the end users.
“When we have those relationships directly with our end customers the intent of that is all of that transacts via the channel, whereas our competitors own those relationships but also choose to transact direct.
“What we want to do and our motion in this is to repatriate that direct business back into the channel.
“We believe there is a level of support we will get from the channel as a result of that.”
On the numbers provided, that appeared to be working.
“We anticipate we should be able to do one and a half times the business we did last year,” Knight said.
“We have the organisation in place to allow us grow at scale. The busines plan over a five-year period was for a plus three times increase of revenue.”
That, of course, implies a significant increase in market share.
Knight said that was absolutely the aim and anticipated, but another measure was growth within the business partner community and watching the numbers increase among a small, selected group of business partners.
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