Businesses are turning increasingly to digital technologies, not just for applications, but for their entire enterprise infrastructure as they strive to increase agility while maximizing existing investment in technology. Many are undertaking digital transformations and completely rethinking how they approach and deploy technology. This trend presents the channel with a significant opportunity, not only in terms of selling new solutions but also by potentially increasing the value of existing customer relationships. Furthermore, the sweeping digitalization is bringing with it an era of co-creation, where channel partners can position themselves as trusted partners, working in tandem with end customers.
However, as businesses transform, the channel also needs to evolve to address this significant opportunity. This means pivoting from an industry that has been primarily focused on selling boxes, to one with an entirely new business model and way of working. Mike Trevor, Global Business Development Director, at the Cutter Group, joined me at a roundtable debate during the recent Fujitsu Forum Munich to discuss how channel partners can make the leap to digital. Cutter is uniquely positioned to be able to share first hand insights – the UK based partner was the recipient of the prestigious 2016 SELECT Innovation Award, in recognition of its work using disruptive technology to change people’s lives.
According to Mike, his experience at Cutter is a testament to the fact that digital transformation presents a wealth of opportunities for the channel. He believes that those channel partners that can adapt to address the new environment will benefit significantly. Cutter has never been a very traditional reseller, having focused on value adding services from the outset, however the business has still experienced pressure to adapt to the new world. The team has witnessed a trend of customers demanding ever more support from the channel. Now, enterprises are looking to partners to provide a level of expertise that hasn’t previously existed to support them in their digital transformations. As a result, the Cutter team now regularly takes on the role of trusted advisor for virtualization projects – their area of specialization.
A positive side effect of this change is that Cutter now rarely works on projects alone. These are now generally undertaken as part of a channel ecosystem that sees multiple channel partners working collaboratively to deliver projects. This new approach has also enabled the relatively small Cutter team to work in 18 countries, bringing expertise to places where it currently doesn’t exist. For example, The Oxford Partnership in Saudi Arabia selected Cutter to design and deliver a cost-effective IT infrastructure that would bring an international standard of vocational education for young women in Saudi Arabia. To deliver this project on the ground, Cutter worked with a Fujitsu-recommended fulfilment partner in Saudi. This collaborative partnership delivered excellent benefits to both partners and the customer received a highly effective and transformative solution.
How is Fujitsu supporting partners in this transition?
Not all partners have the skillset, talent and resources to support digital transformations. Fujitsu’s role is to help them to bridge this gap. While our partners are highly diverse, all share some common challenges – such as the shortage of time, money and resources – so we strive to make it as easy as possible for them to sell solutions rather than just equipment. For example, we keep the process of registering as a partner simple, and make it easy for them to take the step towards becoming a SELECT expert partner. We also try to maintain a straightforward process for our partners to receive training or accreditation in different technologies. We consider our channel partners to be an extension of our own sales force, so they have access to the same product training as our own employees.
Another part of the solution is ‘sales enablement’ – that is providing end-to-end connected solutions and helping partners more successfully sell appropriate products in addition to helping them engage in higher level conversations with their customers. For example, we have invested a great deal of effort into creating solutions playbooks –where we take a series of topics relevant to digital transformations, for example security, and break each down in a way that will help our partner to sell. With our help, many are now having higher level business discussions rather than discussions about technology.
Another key aspect that we are very proud of is the Fujitsu approach – we take the time to understand a partner’s business to identify how best to support them. Cutter has found this particularly beneficial – we listened to their feedback regarding customer needs, and then worked collaboratively to co-create the right solutions to address them. As part of this process, Cutter was invited to participate in the collaborative development of our PRIMEFLEX vShape VDI. The valuable input based on their work delivering virtualization projects helped us design an integrated system whose performance, availability, security, flexibility and efficiency were optimized to meet their customers’ requirements.
Our advice to our partners is to recognize that change is coming.
They should work to understand what customers now need and identify their own strengths and weaknesses to ascertain which areas they should own, and which could be better addressed by another partner. The market is competitive, but by working collaboratively within a channel ecosystem and by identifying those vendors who will work collaboratively and support their journey, the sky is the limit. Borders are disappearing and customers are globalizing. There’s never been a better time to implement change, not just from a technology perspective but also social change as new technologies create opportunities for people. Don’t get left behind!