Adapt or die – the changing landscape for channel partners

Adapt or die – the changing landscape for channel partners

The world is changing in terms of how businesses view and deploy technology and this is creating both challenges and opportunities for our SELECT Channel Partners. There’s a new breed of partner adapting to this change, undertaking their own digital transformations as they help their customers digitalize. Richard Plottier, responsible for Strategic and International partnerships at Fujitsu SELECT partner Econocom, discusses the changes in the company’s evolution.

Econocom started in the technology business more than forty years ago as a leasing & brokerage firm. At that time, the technology channel was very focused on selling boxes and finding a competitive leasing solution. We’d be in touch with a company’s IT manager and we even used to bring flyers about technical specifications to customer meetings to outline different pieces of equipment. Once selected, we’d go ahead and pick up the relevant equipment from our warehouse or hardware partner and install it.

Things today have really changed. For a start, there continues to be an incredible amount of innovation, while the price of equipment has dramatically reduced. Another major change lies in what customers want. The customer relationships we have now are more often than not with the C-suite (top management executives). As a result, the conversations are different, too – these business leaders don’t care about the underlying technology infrastructure, they want flexible solutions to their business problems. Of course, we haven’t used those flyers in years!

Over time, we’ve also seen a significant change in the financial relationship we have with our customers. Twenty years ago, just like the rest of the channel, we still had a big warehouse where we’d keep a lot of inventory. However, as manufacturers started selling directly we turned our focus increasingly to the financial side of things. That meant, that even if we didn’t resell a product, we were able to make money by handling the finance and servicing. We decided to have equipment shipped straight from the manufacturer or distributor to the customer, but many others quickly followed. Now, most of our customers are moving away from investing in infrastructure – they want to pay as they go. As a result, Econocom has gradually transformed from being a leasing company to a solution company. In fact, we now consider ourselves to be a digital company.

Another major shift we are seeing is that customers know that they need to digitalize, and they want to see all the solutions they hear about. But most companies aren’t yet investing enough to achieve what they want. Much of this is down to confusion about which path to take, which new trend to invest in. They are looking for guidance as they navigate the digital jungle to find the right solutions. As a result, we’ve created our own consultancy arm – Econova – that allows us to work with customers to help them define their own digital strategies and how to implement them. Working alongside customers in this way, we’ve become a trusted partner rather than a supplier.

One technology that has been heavy on discussion but light on implementation is IoT. Businesses want to implement it but they aren’t investing yet. But we’ve seen that the opportunities for these sorts of deployments are in vertical sectors – and we’ve been working very successfully with organizations in retail, education and healthcare. We have also branched into lighting solutions – something we’d never have anticipated a few years ago. Fact is, all businesses need lighting – and there’s an increased demand for green solutions. We anticipated this interest and have invested to be able to deliver green lighting solutions to our customers.

A great deal of our recent change was driven by the vision for our company as outlined by our CEO five years ago, with our previous Strategic Plan. This provided a blueprint for how we would shift our focus from traditional IT to the digital world. This process is still underway as it affects every part of the business, from staff training to the solutions we deliver, to who we work with and how. So far, it has been successful: we’ve achieved double digit growth and have been able to attract new talent to the business.

The companies we work with today are also very different to those we started out with. Not only have the players changed dramatically, but so has the entire ecosystem – now several of the organizations we work with are also competitors in some fields. And as we continue to try to anticipate changes in the market, we’ve had to evaluate the vendors and partners we collaborate with. Those that have become strategic partners for us are the companies that can deliver innovative solutions. The ability to deliver in scale across borders has also become very important as our customers increasingly demand international solutions.

Looking to the future, we see a great opportunity in cloud based business – after all, almost all products now create an overwhelming amount of data – all of which has to be in the cloud for businesses to extract insights and make decisions. We’re looking at the Fujitsu Cloud Service K5 with a great deal of interest – because we think it’s the future of service delivery.

Looking back to the start of Econocom, we’ve come a long way. Much has changed in the industry around us, and this change is accelerating. I believe that the secret to our success to date has been the fact, that we’ve been able to remain focused on where the technology is going, and have been flexible and agile enough to adapt and respond as the market has changed. We are still in the process of our own digital transformation, but we are well placed to continue to help our customers as they, in turn, digitalize. Working hand-in-hand with Fujitsu to develop solutions such as PRIMEFLEX Integrated Systems and ETERNUS Flash Storage that are tailored to the present and future needs of our shared customers, we are still only just scratching the surface of the possibilities presented by the latest technologies. We look forward to many more cloud deployments for our customers in addition to delivering solutions for IoT.

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