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The channel in a data-centric world: you’ll never walk alone

Main visual : The channel in a data-centric world: you’ll never walk alone

I recently took on a wider leadership role in the European Channel team at Fujitsu. What timing – just as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. It’s certainly been a baptism of fire. The initial challenge has been to identify how to best support our Channel partners in the face of constantly changing hurdles. 

The pandemic accelerated the need to pivot business models away from “box shifting” towards a more sustainable business model, which has shortened the transformation timeframe.

The short-term impact of this on many channel partners has been heavy, and that’s why we recently announced a series of stimulus packages to support our Fujitsu SELECT partners  through these challenging times.

We launched this initiative because SELECT partners continue to represent more than 80% of our product business. Longer-term enhancements to our partner offering give our channel partners new ways to deliver value to customers, and present opportunities for business growth.

Data-focused strategy

If you’ve been following our data-driven transformation strategy blogs, you might be familiar with how organizations can only be as successful as the data they capture and integrate into their operations.

Even the smartest artificial intelligence (AI) is only as good as the data it ingests. Businesses need accessible, high-quality data to deliver the insights needed for disruptive business decisions. This data is distributed across hybrid environments, which makes managing, protecting and securing it while also extracting value is a difficult exercise that nobody can master alone.

Consequently, we’ve recently realigned our strategy to better serve our customers, enabling them to not just tame but to effectively harness their data.

Data-driven strategies are now the norm, but every deployment is different. Every business has unique situations and objectives to be taken into consideration to maximize chances of success.

This has two implications. Firstly, customers are increasingly seeking advice about how to create business value from technology investment. Most organizations find it difficult to source and retain high-level strategic skills and logically turn to external advisors to fill this gap.

The second implication is complexity. Today, no single vendor can provide a complete solution. To deliver value to our customers, technology and channel partners come together to co-create and implement entire customer solutions. We understand that to achieve this, our channel partners need a different kind of support – not just the infrastructure and partner services that we traditionally provided, but also a common go-to-market approach.

Co-creating new partner ecosystems

Unlike other vendors, Fujitsu is looking at all types of partners - beyond pyramid tiers – based on their skills around buyer types, sub-industries, geographies, sectors, segments, customer size, and the technology stack.

We’re working to bring together the right combinations of partners to address each customer’s unique needs and create the right partner ecosystems with more ease. This is achieved by integrating the contributions of large and small organizations, and aggregating capabilities into an ecosystem. Partners are then empowered to collaborate effectively to realize emerging market opportunities and create business value.

The role of a partner varies in the ecosystem and in the new world; any engagement role isn’t just bound to one: the same partner might be active in different roles. This creates four critical potential roles for partners, each with exciting revenue and profit opportunities:

  • Innovators: It would be impossible for Fujitsu to provide solutions to our customers without the support of strong software partners such as Nutanix, VMware and Microsoft, as well as new partners like SPLUNK and hardware/software partners including NetApp. ISVs play an important role here as well by supporting integration to provide full end-to-end solutions for our partners and customers. We’re taking a much broader approach to bring new innovators on board, to ensure customers can get value out of their data.
  • Scalers and service champions: Customers are looking for a trusted advisor with comprehensive expertise and a substantial ecosystem of partners. This knowledge usually comes from channel partners, who add value beyond the capabilities of in-house IT departments.
  • Integrators: An increasing number of customers are shifting to ‘as-a-service’-based solutions for software and infrastructure. This is enabling channel partners to develop a stream of predictable recurring revenue. The Fujitsu ecosystem gives integrators access to a much larger range of partner solutions.
  • Influencers and referrals: We also work with organizations that complement Fujitsu’s offering and provide specific consultancy or expert advice and implementation in a specialized area. By creating access to a broader ecosystem that can fulfil all customer requirements, Fujitsu helps influencer partners expand their reach.

The partner ecosystem

Creating and maintaining an effective ecosystem takes a lot more than words and we’ve developed a multi-pronged approach to help partners:

  • Going to market together, creating a network with a multiplier effect.
  • Creating an ecosystem hub – the source of the multiplier effect – where partners can further develop industry-specific solutions.
  • Introducing Human-Centric Experience Design (HXD) – the acclaimed Fujitsu co-creation methodology, which focuses on the human-centric experience.
  • Leveraging uScale – Fujitsu’s flexible consumption model that builds a recurring revenue stream for a crucial, new cash-flow scenario.
  • Providing access to specialized Fujitsu experts and consultants.
  • Opening vast resources of different data transformation solutions, services and training from Fujitsu and ecosystem partners, to create the right skills for our partners.
  • Cooperating with clear processes and models.

Co-creation workshops

I fully recognize that just tagging something as an ecosystem doesn’t magically bring business through the door. Fujitsu’s Human Centric Experience Design (HXD) methodology places the complementary skills of an ecosystem in the context of a customer’s challenge. We’re now extending access to our co-creation workshops, supported by an international network of Digital Transformation Centers. This is a powerful tool for partners which gives access to the resources that normally only the largest organizations can command.

Creating the right skills for our partners

Another vital prong in our approach is to assist partners in developing different service models and technical capabilities. Expertise was always at the center of our SELECT Partner Program by offering the right expertise and a personalized training approach for the SELECT Circle.

As part of the enablement, we developed TechCommunity, enabling leading EMEIA channel technologists to unleash the full potential of digital transformation for their customers.

At the heart of the updated approach is a new partner-centric training initiative, which is currently by invitation only. This equips partners with the skills needed to take a solution-based sales approach and act as digital trusted advisors. The new training strategy combines classic sales methodology with an intensive education on the Fujitsu data-driven transformation strategy. It’s delivered via a combination of e-learning, virtual instructor-led training, and practical exercises. With a focus on results, the training also includes several months of individual follow up via personal coaching.

Fujitsu uSCALE pay-as-you-go model

More and more businesses are moving to an asset-light approach, which means a move from buying and running their own on-premises infrastructures to using off-premises, hybrid and cloud environments.

Service providers and their customers rely on the availability and scalability of their hardware and software infrastructure, but the digital era is creating fluctuating customer demand, which can rise or fall on a daily basis. This makes it difficult to plan capacity, leaving service providers with the challenging task of balancing growth opportunities and investment risk, while also meeting strict service level agreements (SLAs) and preserving healthy profit margins.

Fujitsu uSCALE is focused on helping service providers balance this risk and cost by better aligning supply to demand. It allows SELECT partners to offer their customers deals that:

  • Optimize the balance between cash flow and upfront capital expenditure.
  • Flex costs on a pay-per-use basis.
  • Provide a ready-installed buffer allowing for sudden bursts in consumption.

I’m proud Fujitsu has the solid foundation of a strong partner ecosystem in place. Together, we’re well positioned to help customers truly harness their data. We’re also well-placed to help our channel grow by standing with each partner as a trusted advisor, offering as much or as little support as they need.

None of us can do this alone – but we’re stronger together. If you’d like to join me on this journey, or to explore the potential benefits of a co-creation workshop, get in touch with me.