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Challenge the Channel – Staying Relevant Today and Tomorrow By Warren Powell, Data Centre Channel Director, DataSolutions

The distribution model continues to evolve. Being aware of any changes and learning from them, accordingly, accords us the necessary confidence for both today, and tomorrow. My own personal experience in distribution spans many years now, and I have seen all manner of changes and developments. It is true to say that a significant number of distributors now concentrate on volume-driven business – very transactional without adding much value back into the channel. My perspective on this is that the partnership model requires proper support and skills from distribution. We compete alongside large organisations with global reach. Considering our size, we remain a very specialist distributor, competing strongly with our peers. There is a perception of distribution that you operate like the invisible man, staying hidden in the background or that you are merely middlemen who simply send kit along its journey. However, on the basis of all of the positive feedback we are getting from our partners, I believe that demand can be driven when you engage more robustly with the channel, adding some true value.

 There will always be new vendors and new products being released. Newcomers to the market can bring about plenty of opportunity. The challenge though, is that it takes time to build up the brand and also people’s confidence in the product. It’s actually a bit of a minefield out there for partners to identify all the new products that are being released, which is where distribution comes in again. We do play a big part; we do focus a lot on new and emerging technology. We try to constantly weed out the good from the bad, the ones that will last and the ones that are gone tomorrow.

So, whilst we see brilliant new technologies emerging, the bigger brands still have something to say, those who have been around for a long time. These guys are constantly developing their products and changing accordingly. Looking at Citrix, they have taken on challenges in the past and they’ve adapted – for example, moving to a cloud-based licensing model. The cloud, (and all the interest in all things cloud) has certainly driven demand. This is all part of the value-add proposition. Our line card is relatively small – in the UK alone, we’ve only got five vendors on the data centre side and four in our security division. We believe that it’s about focusing on those vendors that we do believe are an advantage to our customers. We have had a lot of opportunities to sign up a new vendor – however, it’s not about the number of vendors a distributor has, it’s about the relevance to their partners and their customers. If it’s not, then we’re all wasting our time.

 Industry trends are changing so much, and with the emergence of COVID, businesses are having to reduce their staff and their costs. Distribution needs to play a more active role in the education of these salespeople, supporting them through the opportunities that they uncover. Make things simpler for the partner to understand and what they can position when dealing with their customers.

These days you have less people having to do more within the partner environment – they are having to cover more vendors whilst trying to maintain relevant messaging around each of them – failure looms if not. Vendor’s products and licensing models have changed or are changing, and partners need to be updated on a regular basis to ensure they remain relevant to their customers while retaining their margins – if they’re not going to make a decent margin, they’re not going to sell the products. Education here means making sure that the partner (or the actual salespeople) understand where they are going to solve the customers challenges whilst maximising their profits through the different discounts available.

 Something that has certainly become a factor is the increased volume of vendor products as well as the complexity surrounding vendor licensing. Some vendors are moving increasingly towards a cloud-based licensing model, whilst the traditional is still required by so many customers. Changing licensing models introduces more complexity and therefore a greater level of understanding required by partners. They need to be able to relay information forward to their customers and concisely articulate what the changes are and how their businesses might be impacted. This is a perfect opportunity therefore to add value back into your partners.

 The current pandemic has affected businesses of all shapes and sizes and in every industry. Obviously, the channel has seen staffing challenges with so many people working from home, but every cloud has a silver lining. COVID is going to massively impact the way all businesses work. But I think it creates an opportunity for our resellers to actually position technology / technologies to future proof their customers’ businesses. The opportunity requires resellers to be positioning the right products from their suppliers. Future proofing the business is always going to be key.

Technology never stops moving. This changing landscape provides challenges and opportunities galore, so those of us who do business in the channel need to keep adapting our tactics, our services, accordingly. If we focus on this strategy, then tomorrow will be another great day to do business.

www.datasolutions.co.uk

 

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2020