The era of so-called “box shifting” channel partners has gone.
Just a few years ago, when the IT industry looked quite different, vendors created products that were delivered and installed for customers by channel partners. Hence channel partners earned the nickname “box shifters”.
Today, digital transformation is changing the very shape of the technology industry as customers increasingly demand more complex, far reaching solutions, and the lines between vendors and the channel start to blur. At the recent Fujitsu Forum Munich, Fujitsu EMEIA’s Vice President and Head of Channel and Sales Operation, Dave Hazard, met with Pascal Bonnau from leading solution provider Econocom, , to discuss the impact of how this is also changing dynamics for the channel.
Hazard highlighted that the solutions demanded by customers today are significantly different to those of just a few years ago. Today, customers want IoT, security, artificial intelligence and cloud-based solutions to help transform their businesses – all of which require a significant amount of compute and storage capabilities. These more complex undertakings mean that, according to Hazard, it is no longer just about reselling hardware, it is about working with customers to co-create value-adding solutions and ensuring that they fit seamlessly into their existing businesses.
To deliver these increasingly complex solutions, Fujitsu increasingly frequently acts as a trusted advisor, bringing its expertise in hardware, infrastructure and applications to customers. But the channel also plays an increasingly prominent role, as partners are well placed to build the complex ecosystems that are required to build and support complex technology projects, particularly when it comes to emerging technologies such as blockchain.
In the face of this disruption, it’s crucial for partners to be agile to respond to the changing demands that are placed on them. Bonnau agrees. He says customers increasingly ask Econocom to deliver global solutions that will get them up and running more quickly. Econocom has responded to this by establishing a unique “One Galaxy” business model. This places Econocom with its core offerings as the planet at the center, surrounded by multiple small satellite capabilities – mostly the result of strategic acquisitions – that deliver emerging technologies or ad hoc services.
For most complex projects undertaken by Econocom, Bonnau says a close working relationship with vendors like Fujitsu is preferred. This allows the firm to bring together complementary skills to co-create solutions for customers. Together, they take on projects, for example in IoT or big data, to deliver the solutions by combining pre-configured infrastructures and digital services that allow companies to quickly tap into their own data gold mines to extract meaningful insights. This approach also means customers have just a single point of contact for a global solution.
Another change Bonnau is seeing is that customers want relationships that extend beyond the lifetime of individual devices. This ensures a high level of consistency, for example in ensuring security. It also ensures co-development on more innovative solutions with its customers. Once core systems are in place, customers can afford to be more creative in terms of other value adding ways to use technology. One example Bonnau cited was a customer in France that was using augmented reality via tablets to enhance the user experience of visitors to a castle by enabling them to see what rooms looked like in the past.
Bonnau is also seeing greater demand for a pay-per-use model for technology solutions, as customers increasingly want to limit their up-front investment in infrastructure. This actually plays very much into Econocom strengths – as the company started out focused on financing IT assets. The key to success now is helping customers transition their technology from capex to opex spending. That means providing the hardware and software that a customer requires with an attractive financing package. Fujitsu also supports this model by providing global pricing for all integrated systems and by offering more cloud-like pay as you go financing.
While large-scale channel partners like Econocom have significant IT skills at their disposal, for many there’s a skills gap to address. As technology solutions become increasingly complex, customers expect their IT partners to be able to do far more than just deliver a product – they want trusted advisors, able to deliver full pre-sales capabilities through to solution delivery. Hazard explained how Fujitsu is helping partners who do not have that expertise in-house by offering new accreditation programs focused on delivering complete solutions. Just like Fujitsu’s own teams, partners have access to a wide variety of training programs, enabling them to sell cybersecurity, PRIMEFLEX Integrated Systems, Big Data solutions, virtualization and more. As the customer interface is also changing, partners are also able to receive training to help them sell to business leads or into different verticals.
Hazard concluded by emphasizing that the one thing we do know about the channel is that it will continue to change – and must continue to adapt to meet its evolving demands. The opportunity for smaller resellers will be to specialize – to focus on delivering niche technologies, like Econocom’s satellites. Large partners, like Econocom itself, have opportunities to coordinate these satellites and provide a single point of contact for customers. And for all of them, Fujitsu supports them all the way, by enabling them to sell a portfolio that is changing with the times to reflect customer needs, backed by the training they need to sell, configure and deliver solutions.