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The changing role of vendors, distis, resellers

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Kathy Gibson at Fujitsu Forum, Munich — In the digital world, the way distributors work with end users, vendors and resellers has to change if these organisations are going to remain relevant in the future.
“There is a role for distribution in the future,” says Dave Hazard, vice-president and head of channel and sales operations: EMEIA product business at Fujitsu. “But it is going to change a bit.”
Hazard points out that, just two or three years ago, distributors were mostly broad-line; filling warehouses with products and selling those products on to resellers.
“What we didn’t have enough of is value-add distributors helping resellers to provide solutions — either through product or technical support; or even collating solutions in one place,” he says.
“Fujitsu has been working with a number of distributors to add value, and they have a role to play in training or in bringing the solutions together.”
In the digital world, broad-line distributors also still have a role to play, he adds.
“We will still need products, and they will still be sold in the way they have traditionally.”
From a purely logistical point of view, distributors are able to manage more reseller partners than the vendor can, Hazard says.
“I have 9 000 resellers across Europe, and I need someone to provide credit, warehousing and other logistics. There will always be a role for distribution in this environment.”
It’s not just distributors that need to change the way they do business: resellers and vendors have to make a switch too.
The technology that goes into digitalisation is completely different to what was around just a short time ago, Hazard points out. IoT, security, cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) are all hot topics today; and they all require massive amounts of compute and storage.
“The channel has had to embrace the digital transformation that is happening,” he says. “Today it’s not about buying and reselling hardware or software; but talking to customers about what they need and creating solutions. It’s about making sure everything fits together.”
Fujitsu has been changing its partner programmes to make sure they fit the new channel business imperateive.
“The vendor’s responsibility is to enable digitalisation, to take our channel partners on a digital enablement journey.”
But resellers have to change as well, Hazard says. “Resellers need to consider how to specialise. To do this, they can either try to grow organically, acquiring skills, building resources and gaining knowledge; or they can do it through mergers and acquisition.”
Vendors need to lead the way in this process, he adds. “We also need to develop skills. At Fujitsu, we are investing in training. We are helping people to sell PrimeFlex offerings and training our own people in security and cybersecurity, big data/analytics and more. Then, when we have trained our own people, we need to help our channel partners to go on the journey.”
The new skills involve more than learning about the products themselves, but how to sell them to customers.
“The customers’ decision point is changing,” Hazard says. “It is no longer the CIO or CTO making technology decisions; projects are being driven by point managers or line of business managers.
“So channel partners need to help in getting into the organisation and selling to lines of business.”
The other thing partners need is to become the trusted consultative adviser to their customers, he adds.
“To do that they have to have some understanding of the new technologies IoT, big data/analytics, security and cloud. The sales people within the channel partner have to be aware of all the different dynamics: they need an overall, high level understanding of the whole environment, with specifically skilled people in certain areas.
“There is a skills gap: there aren’t enough people around that know about these things, so we all have to train them.”
Central to the world of digitalisation is the concept of “everything-as-a-service” (XaaS), and Fujitsu is keen to work with channel partners: with Fujitsu providing the infrastructure hardware and software, and the partner adding services.
“We have seen that customers want a data centre to do things like data analytics, but they don’t have a capital expenditure (capex) budge for new IT,” says Hazard. “But they do have operating expenditure (opex).
“Companies want the benefit of the solution; and over five years they are prepared to pay for it out of opex so they give the benefit back to the business.”
Fujitsu has partnered to allow customers to consume a solution without having to pay for it upfront.
The vendor has also changed its Select Partner Programme to help resellers to deliver complete solutions.
“We have introduced 10 new accreditation programmes where we are not just teaching about the hardware and networking, but about the virtualisation, cloud or security story,” Hazard says.
“What we are doing with the accreditation is to introduce those vertical skills sets to be able to deliver solutions.
“This is how our relationship with channel partners is changing.”